April 23, 2005

Call of the Abyss Answered by Cavers

by Nick Montfort · , 7:32 pm

A Ukraniam team of cavers has descended 2,080 meters (6,822 feet, or about 1.29 miles) to the deepest point ever explored within a cave. The group of nine plunged into the deepest known cave, Krubera, near the coast of the Black Sea. They were part of the Ukrainian Speleological Association’s Call of the Abyss project, funded by the US National Geographic Society. The May issue of National Geographic features spectacular photographs from the expedition.

In case the connection to new media is obscure: Will Crowther created the first version of Adventure, modeling the setting of this first work of interactive fiction (and first adventure game) after Mammoth Cave, which he had explored. While earlier games (e.g., Hunt the Wumpus) and later games (e.g., Zork) would involve more fanciful caves, this critical step in new media history was the creation of a serious, experienced caver seeking to simulate a real cave.

The connection between computer gaming and caving was certainly not lost on the Call of the Abyss project’s record-breaking team. After struggling just short of the 2,000-meter mark they they hoped to surpass, the team found a way to bypass a sump through a narrow, steep, 100-meter passage which they named “Way to the Dream.” They then named the final chamber that they reached in this expedition “Game Over.”