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The karstic massif of Vaida Mountain is located in Smirnykhovsky district. Vaida Mountain (the Japanese used to call it Okada-yama) is Sakhalin’s largest reef formation and is a part of a larger massif of limestones. The massif is located 12 km to the southeast from Izvestkovy (“lime”) settlement in the Vitnitsa riverhead; it is about 4.5 km long. The two-headed mount Vaida (the northwestern peak is 846 m and the southeastern peak is 948 m high) is one of the commanding heights at the inter-stream area between the Melkaya (“shallow”) and Vitnitsa Rivers (this is the way the riverheads of the Rukutama River up to its merger with the Golubikha River are called). The limestone body is cut by major fractures into four separate blocks. Vaida Mountain is unique because of its intense cavernous porosity. As of today, 24 karstic caverns in its depths are documented and present a special interest for geomorphologists, biologists and archeologists. Vaidinskaya cave is considered the most spectacular cavity in the Far East and Kaskadnaya (“cascade”) mine is deemed the deepest one (127 m).
Kaskadnaya mine is laid out by the vertical cracks system and poses a cascade of five sheer wells clogged by rock plugs and interconnected with holes that are difficult to get through. The vertical slot-like “skinner” passage that leads from the hall of Blocks to the third well is the hardest one to pass. The head of Holmsk speleologists D.N. Seryogin that had discovered Kaskadnaya mine estimated its supposed depth as 700-800 meters. According to Yury Bersenev, once the block debris is cleared, it may be possible to get into the cavern part underneath, however, it is unlikely that its actual depth exceeds 350 meters. The cave holds the title of the deepest cavern of the Far East.
Vaidinskaya cave (64 m deep and 287 m long) is one of the most beautiful caves of the Far East. It falls into the category of multi-storey gallery caves and consists of three tiers. The cave’s halls are richly “adorned’ with unusual speleothems — stalagmites, coralloids, gours (rimstone dams) and stalactites. In the remotest part of the mid-tier, stalactites have fused together and formed a multi-layered structure crowned with calcite and coralloid and resembling a giant celebration cake. Because of their grandeur and luster, some of the cave’s halls are sometimes compared to the quaint churches of the Naryshkin Baroque epoch. The “ceilings” of the halls are decorated with long and thin “organ pipes”. The cave’s lower tier consists of three passageways connected at the basis, vaulting of which is adorned with coralloids and accumulated shields (some lacunas and encrustations here resemble ear conches and bunches of grapes). White lime deposits on the descending passage walls look like whale ribs, as if you were in a sperm whale’s stomach. The lower tier is the longest and most beautiful part of the cave. In one of the halls, small (30-40 cm) brilliant white stalactite “icicles” hang from the ceiling and underneath, each of them is matched by a gently sloping hillock of stalagmites with an indentation for the liquid dripping from above.
The Cave of Bear Tragedies. Numerous bear skulls and hunting tools of the prehistoric man of Mesolithic period were found. In 1982, two slot daggers (68 and 59 cm long) made of walrus tusks were found in a hall in the cave’s northern part, amidst a score of bear bone debris. In 1989, a dagger with slots for silicon inserts and a bone spear were found in the same cave. According to archeologist S. Gorbunov, the Cave of Bear Tragedies served as a place for performance of cult rituals dedicated to the bear celebration that was widely popular with the northern peoples of Asia.
In addition to the karstic caverns, the surface forms of karst, such as original karstic relics that are often quaint-shaped, present an undeniable interest.
The amazing Perevalnoye (“mountain pass”) Lake survived 2 km to the south from Vaida Mountain and 50 meters below the dividing ridge between Vaida and Komandnaya (“command”) mountains. The lake’s dimensions are about 60 by 100 meters; the basin appeared due to a landslide and the banks are formed by lasting peat bogs.
The freshwater flora and fauna of the lake are quite common; nevertheless, this is probably the only large perennial lake within the bounds of East Sakhalin mountains.
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