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26 July, 2012  ▪  Vladyslav Vozniuk

Eight Days Under the Surface

The Ukrainian Week travels to Ozerna Cave in Ternopil Oblast.
Gallery: A Pearl of Underground Ukraine (photos: 19)

Ozerna, or, the Lake Cave, is a pearl of underground Ukraine. It lies under the fields near Strilkivtsi, a village in Borshchiv County, Ternopil Oblast. Its name comes from the numerous crystal clear lakes hidden deep within it. Ozerna is one of the most beautiful speleological mazes in Ukraine, stretching 128 km. Living conditions during expeditions are next to extreme, as tourists have to carry their food and equipment on their backs. Wet things simply do not dry while hanging in the cave because of its 100% humidity, therefore clothes dry while being worn. The water in the underground lakes is quite hard and bitter, yet is drinkable when made as lemon tea. However, doctors do not recommend drinking it on a regular basis as the excessive amount of lime sulfur can cause kidney stones.  

We stayed at Koma, one of the underground camps. From our base, we went on long tours to the parts of the cave we found most interesting. We had to creep on all fours through the corridors above the water, crawling through piles of stones. Every part of the cave the flashlight catches through the darkness is made of one of the three basic materials here: lime, water or clay. Other than that, the caves are exhaustively dark and quiet. Perhaps, that was why the brain generated unusually colourful pictures in our dreams. When our tour was over, we surfaced after eight days of full isolation from the outside world. The surface hit us with the smell of ozone: it is certainly much more concentrated on the surface. Now, we have a whole year to look at the data we collected before our next tour. 

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