Robbie Shone @shonephoto

Photographer / Explorer Committed to creating unique images of exploration from our extreme subterranean world. @natgeoimagecollection @NatGeo

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After the water levels recede and the sediment on the floor begins to dry out, cracks appear. They form unusual and fascinating shapes, just like a flagged patio of crazy paving. Here an American cave explorer admires an amazing cracked mud formation on the floor of a passage in the lower section of Gai Dong (cave) in China. #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #China #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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What is exploration? For me, it’s discovering an uncharted world that was previously unknown to us all. Finding Xiao Dong, and being in the first group of people to explore it was truly an honour and a privilege. There are very few places left on our planet where you can be the first to set foot. As cave explorers, we often say that more people have been to the Moon than inside some of the caves we explore. Here, an American speleologist climbs high on a boulder to get a good view of the passage in Xiao Dong, China. #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #China #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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North of the Wujiang River in Wulong county, China, the mountains that surround the small town of Tongzi are riddled with immense cathedral-like caverns and deep vertical pits that seem to go on down forever. This vast area of limestone awaits any intrepid explorer. Light shines all around an American explorer (pictured) as he climbs the rope he installed in the centre of this epic cave shaft known as Xinu Attic. Over the next week, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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This photograph shows the nature of the cave immediately beyond the skylight in the photograph I uploaded yesterday. In this picture, one of our team looks up through the mist and fog back to the skylight. We continued our exploration and scrambled down the giant slope of rocks and boulders. We spent the whole day underground and discovered 3km (1.8 miles) of previously unexplored cave passages. Over the next week, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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In rural China, the local villagers are always more than happy to help us search for caves. They have worked the land all their lives and often can guide us straight to cave entrances. Pictured here inside Dong Wan Dong, one farmer admires this spectacular giant skylight bursting in from above where a wonderful ray of sunshine illuminates the darkness. I remember he was very keen to lead us through to this spot where the skylight shaft was, but went no further as the cave dropped away down a giant slope of rocks and boulders. He stayed behind and let us go on ahead to explore the blackness. Over the next week, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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Most of the caves we have explored in rural China are surrounded by gardens and fields farmed by local villagers like Chen Guo Zi, as seen here sowing seeds. Often cloaked in thin mist and fog, this beautiful karst landscape is situated immediately outside the entrance of San Wang Dong (cave). Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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The food is a really important aspect of every expedition. If the team don’t eat well, it can lead to ‘hangry’ people! On our last expedition in China, we stayed with a wonderful family in Ranjiagou, who looked after us really well. The food in rural China is a real cultural experience too. The same on every expedition around the world. These photographs show the typical scene every evening in the family’s farmhouse. Dou Ximei’s cooking was the highlight of the expedition on top of finding so many new and amazing caves. Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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American speleologist and cave explorer Erin Lynch peers over her shoulder and down into the giant void of Cloud Ladder Hall. The fog gathers and remains trapped in the roof of this giant room and although the floor is out of view and can not be seen because of the cloud, her echo reminds her that it is over 300m (1000ft) below. This really is a very lofty location to be suspended from a single rope. Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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The limestone in this region of China is so strong, it can withstand such giant voids like Cloud Ladder Hall. Eventually though, over time, the weight of rock above will become too great and it will collapse, forming a giant sinkhole or Tian Keng, a huge hole open to the surface. This gigantic cave that has never seen the light of day is a tough photography target under clear conditions. But this one posed an extra challenge: it's so large and so isolated that it has its own weather – including clouds. Weather makes its way in, but it can't make its way out. For this photograph, I had three accomplices: one standing out of frame with a large single-use flash bulb, one standing on the rock to the left shining her headlamp at the cave wall, and a third dangling from a rope hundreds of metres away. Although the shutter was open for only 30 seconds, the whole operation took four hours, with the team communicating via walkie-talkie because the echoes made shouting unworkable. Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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A quick break from exploring the caves of China. Before I was a @natgeo photographer, I was a member of the @natgeoyourshot community. My photos caught the eye of the Your Shot editors and to my joy, this one was featured as National Geographic’s Photo of the Day. I remember how I felt when this happened. I was so excited and so happy. Finally, my photographs of caves had been recognised by the “right” people. It gave me that extra bit of hope and determination to push ahead. That’s why I am so keen to help with Your Shot, because I was once a community member, and I fed off the enthusiasm gained from reading more detailed comments by proper Nat Geo photographers! It was so encouraging and gave me the confidence to continue with my dream. Good luck to you all. | Go to https://natgeoyourshot.com to join Your Shot, National Geographic’s photo community and participate in my 24-hour assignment for your chance to receive a portfolio review as we celebrate 10M Your Shot photos. Submissions close May 18, 2019 at 8 a.m. EDT.

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Suspended on a thin rope, engulfed in cloud and lost in time, a tiny figure in red is dwarfed by the sheer size on a monumental scale of Cloud Ladder Hall. The beam of light cast by another explorers headtorch pierces the fog yet illuminates nothing. This room is so large it has it's own weather system going on. From the central ridge overlooking the cathedral like Cloud Ladder Hall, towering up into the fog, figures add scale to this gigantic cave. High up in the distance, the roof remains unseen to the explorers. However, estimates in it's size show that it must cut through many levels of cave development along the way. This is the fourth largest cave chamber ever found in the world today. Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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As evening descends upon the outside world, two cave explorers enter Er Long Dong and begin a long journey through the cave to the gigantic chamber known as Cloud Ladder Hall. This is one of three known tunnels into the cave leading to the big hall, but probably the easiest to negotiate. Over the next week or so, I will upload a photo a day from China’s hidden underworld. Stay tuned for more. #China #cave #explorer #speleo #speleology #landscape #expedition #explore #exploration #caving #caver #letsexplore

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