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New underwater cave discovered off Onna Village

Date Posted: 2003-04-26

An Onna Village diving shop owner has discovered what turns out to be the largest underwater cave in the nation off Manza-mo cliffs in Onna Village.

Dive shop owner Toshiaki Hirobe says that he first discovered the entrance to the cave in 1998, but it has taken him five years to map the cave and inspect its safety. Hirobe says there are no plans to begin tour dives into the cave. "The entrance is very narrow and it is difficult to pass for even very experienced divers. For a beginner it would be impossible," Hirobe says.

According to Hirobe, the cave stretches at least 640 meters from the entrance. "The cave seems to continue even further, but that's how far we have gone," Hirobe says.

That makes it far longer than the 487 meters of the "Bidenchi Gama" underwater cave of Kume Island that has thus far claimed the distinction of being the largest of its kind in Japan.

According to Ryukyu University Professor Masaki Kimura the cave has already yielded new specimens of shrimp, crabs and other life forms. "This cave is great. No one actually knows how far it continues. We have now take measures to protect the cave and research it thoroughly," Kimura notes.

Hirobe says the cave may prove to have been inhabited by humans sometime in the distant past. "The entrance of the cave seems to be shaped by human hand to some extent. We have to do some excavating in the future to see if we can find artifacts or other relics that can tell us about the cave's past," Hirobe said.

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