Leading up to the premiere of Explorer: The Deepest Cave, a documentary following an exploration team’s journey into what could be the deepest cave on Earth, National Geographic invited Dorkaholics to interview the feature’s director of photography and experienced cave explorer Kasia Biernacka.
Neil Bui (NB): What was that like for you being involved and seeing this journey underground that spans multiple days?
Kasia Biernacka (KB): So, I’ve been doing this for years. It was not the first time for me. And it’s my passion. Caving is my biggest passion and filming is my second biggest passion. So, they came together in this case. I’ve been involved in the exploration of Cheve Cave for 20 years. And the longer the expedition, the better for me – I love being down there. So, it was pure joy. Of course, there were some hard moments. It was not totally free of any issues, but it’s what the adventure brings. You know they have some obstacles to get around and you have some great moments and some lower moments when you have to fight your way through.
NB: That’s great to hear. I’m curious from your perspective what really makes the Cheve Cave different from past caves that you’ve explored or done in film on?
KB: I would say the dimensions make it different and more challenging. Everything is bigger in Cheve. It’s a mighty, mighty cave. The huge head wall, which is just above the entrance, is one of a kind. You go through the entrance for 20 to 30 minutes. You’re entering this huge tunnel and then it goes deeper and it’s beautiful at every corner. It has waterfalls and huge passages. It also has very small sections. They are tough because it takes a whole day to go through, but then it opens up again and you have very big rooms. You don’t see the ceiling at all. You don’t see the walls. It’s just pure blackness because it’s so big. The dimensions make it significant. Last year we explored more than 20 kilometers of new passages. And with all these new sections, the cave is now much longer. So, before last year’s expedition to get to the very end of the cave, we needed two days. Now we need four days. It’s an extreme effort to go all the way in which doesn’t make it easier for filming either and the dimensions of the passages also make our lives harder in terms of filming. And you know the tight passages, they were especially challenging for going through with the loads and with the filming gear. Yeah, it’s not an easy case, but we don’t like that thing being easy. Easy is not interesting. Exploration is about being tough and about going through some hardship.
NB: As you just touched on Cheve is a difficult experience for anyone no matter how much experience they have exploring caves, how did you prepare for this difficult journey?
KB: I knew this cave already because I was there a few times before. The previous experience is a very good thing to have before you go. You can visualize the difficulties. For filming, I also knew what kind of gear we would need, so I was prepared mentally and of course I had to prepare myself physically for it. I bike a lot. I go running a lot, but nothing can really prepare you for a three-month expedition. Like always, the first couple of weeks are very tough because caving is physically challenging. So, we need two weeks to get in caving shape and then it’s easier. So, at the end of this three-month long expedition, I was in the best shape of my life.
KB: Yeah, I spent 62 days underground, not in a row but total. It’s challenging mentally and physically, but I like it. This is actually very, very fun.
NB: What do you hope viewers take away from watching the documentary, The deepest cave?
KB: I would like people to appreciate the caves more and to learn more about caves and caving because they are an important part of our planet and yet we know very little about them. And there are so many caves that can still be discovered and that’s where our water comes from. So, we have to protect them. I hope this message will get to the public.
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