BEIRUT: After last week announcing the discovery of a new room and tunnel at Jeita Grotto, the administration Friday premiered a film detailing the work that went into the breakthrough.
The entrance of the waterway was first detected in early 2004, and a team of volunteer divers have since been working to unearth the path of the tunnel, under the direction of MAPAS, a German company tasked with rebuilding the cave network after its destruction in the Civil War.
The all-Lebanese team, some of whom are professional divers, had to first widen the entrance of the tunnel in order to gain access to the latest room to be discovered at Jeita, one of the top tourist sites in the country.
Battling low temperatures and poor visibility, the team, comprised of Joe Khoury, Joseph Sharbine and Habib Haddad, used the latest technology to investigate the new cave room, and ultimately created a 3D map of the waterway, the first time such a task was completed in the Middle East.
The filming, which eventually led to the short video displayed Friday, of the expedition was itself a first for the region, underwater filming of a cave network having never before been accomplished in the Middle East.
The Jeita Grotto cave complex is a competing to become a New Seven Wonders of Nature, the results of which will be announced on Nov. 11.
Contenders include Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon in the U.S. and the Galapagos islands in Ecuador.
Dr. Nabil Haddad, general manager at Jeita, believes this new discovery will help Lebanon’s success in the international competition. “We have discovered a new submerged detail. It’s a wonder of nature every time you find something new,” he said.
He believes that in the future there will be even more discoveries, and said that the research team will continue to work on finding out more about the underground network beneath the Nahr al-Kalb valley, a key source of drinking water in Lebanon.
In terms of becoming one of the latest New Seven Wonders of Nature, Haddad believes Jeita Grotto has a strong chance, but that it faces fierce competition from the nearby Dead Sea, located in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. “We hope we have a good chance, as we are one of the 28 finalists. But we still need a lot of support from Lebanese, both inside the country and across the diaspora, as it’s such small country.”
You can vote online for Jeita Grotto at http://www.new7wonders.com/.