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Orda Cave Is One Spot In Russia You Never Knew You Wanted To Visit (PHOTOS)

01/13/2014 02:35 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST
Barcroft Media via Getty Images
URAL, RUSSIA - UNDATED: EXCLUSIVE Cave divers from the Orda Cave Awareness Project explore the beautifully transparent Orda Cave in Russia's western Urals region. A team of daring cave divers have produced an incredible photo-reportage of the longest underwater gypsum cave in the world. Gypsum is a mineral that can form into clear crystals and is responsible for the amazingly transparent mineral water and eye-popping natures of the gullies and rock formations. The Orda Cave in Russia's western Urals region is three miles of eerily dramatic natural channels created by water so clear divers can see over 50 yards into the deep. Over a period of six months the intrepid team led by underwater photographer and journalist, Victor Lyagushkin, 40, from Russia explored the water filled cave tunnels at temperatures barely above freezing. Together the divers documented their journey into Orda Cave as part of a project to raise awareness of the beauty and fragility of this little explored natural wonder. Even air bubbles can damage the ceiling of the cave - which meant Victor's team had to construct an underwater funnel to take their air bubbles safely to the mouth of the cave. In France Gypsum was commonly ground up and used as plaster in construction - which is where the name 'plaster of Paris' is thought to have come from. (Photo by Victor Lyagushk / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

All eyes may be on Sochi, Russia for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games but adventure-seekers tired of the Olympics can still find plenty of amazing spectacles.

They just need to look down. Like, deep down. And probably don a diving suit.

cave of crystals

What you're looking at is the Orda Cave, located in Russia's Urals regions, some 2,430 km northeast of the Olympic host city.

In total, the cave spans 5.1 km long, with 4.8km of it stretching underground. If caves had their own Olympic category, the Orda Cave would probably own the podium. It's the longest underwater gypsum cave in the world and one of the longest underwater caves period.

As for the gypsum factor, it's what makes exploring the Orda Cave so unique. The mineral comes in the form of transparent crystals which allows for phenomenal photography, with some divers reporting roughly 45 meters of visibility.

cave of crystals

The gypsum is also what makes the vibrant hues of blue found in the rock formations, as these 2011 photos from Victor Lyagushkin, an underwater photographer and journalist, illustrate.

cave of crystals

Lyagushkin is part of the Orda Cave Awareness Project, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the cave's fragility. Even something as minuscule as air bubbles can damage the cave's roof, forcing Lyagushkin and his team to funnel air bubbles to the mouth of the cave where they can be safely released.

crystal caves

cave of crystals

cave of crystals

Exploring Orda Cave is no easy feat. The water temperatures range from - 3 C to -20 C according to the International Business Times, provided that adventurer-seekers can find the entrance in the first place.

Fortunately, Lyagushkin has published a book documenting photos of the cave along with diving techniques and the knowledge needed to explore the area. And for the armchair tourists in your life, there's even an online panorama of the cave for those who prefer to stay dry.

crystal caves

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