Caves vs Caverns: Whatן¿½s the Difference?

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Caves and caverns are two words that seem to go hand-in-hand, but they actually represent two very different types of subsurface habitats. The majority of people will be more familiar with the word ג€_x009c_caveג€_x009d_ than the word ג€_x009c_cavernג€_x009d_, so letג€™s take a closer look at the differences between these two structures before we move on to the specifics of caving in general.

What are caves and caverns?

A cave is a natural cavity formed by the collapse of a roof or roof layer in the earth. The walls of a cave are smooth and generally devoid of any visible bedding planes. In contrast, a cavern is an often-branching structure which forms when water dissolves or erodes away soluble rocks and leaves behind insoluble resistant strata. Generally, there will be sedimentary strata visible within caverns.

What makes a cavern a cavern?

In order to be classified as a ג€_x009c_cavern,ג€_x009d_ the structure must be found at a depth of between 600-1,500 feet below ground level. The word comes from the Latin ג€_x009c_cavernaג€_x009d_, meaning ג€_x009c_shaft,ג€_x009d_ which was used by Roman geologists to describe deep mines that were believed to have been dug out by ancient peoples.

Is it cavern or caverns?

A cavern is a subsurface habitat within the earth, while a cave is a tunnel-like space in the earth with natural or artificial openings to the outside. So, if youג€™re looking for a habitat like this on Earth that can be found on a trail, your best bet would probably be to visit a cave.

Are caves bigger than caverns?

The answer to this question is no. Caves are the smaller of the two, with a wide range of sizes spanning from a few hundred square meters to several kilometers in length. Although, caverns can also be very small, and some have been found to be as deep as 3 kilometers.
Caves can also refer to natural structures that exist on Earth or man-made structures that are created within caves. For example, a cave-like ice house is one type of structure made inside a cave. They were used by ancient populations for food storage during the winter months and typically take up less space than an icehouse built outside in frigid conditions.
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Beth Kent

Beth Kent

Hi, Welcome to my caving world!
I've been caving for the past 23 years, and through these years, I have learned so much about caving life and its techniques. I genuinely believe that caving is one of the most fascinating activities out there, and if you haven't tried it yet, you should!

About Me

The exploration of natural or artificial caverns from casual trips to caves with well-established trails to expeditions into remote and largely unexplored caverns is a great passion for me for the past 15 years. Sharing it here with you is my new hobby so I hope  you enjoy :)

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