Exploration 2013

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project

Synopsis of the cave expedition to Meghalaya, North East India

2nd to 23rd February 2013

The 2013 Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition took place between the 2nd to 23rd February 2013, returning to the Jaintia Hills Area to focus on and complete exploration in the Larket and Khahnar Areas.

This year, the now traditionally International Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition Team, was somewhat smaller than in previous years comprised of 17 cavers drawn from Austria, Germany, India, Ireland, Romania, Switzerland and the UK. In addition to this the expedition team was accompanied by 2 associated scientists from the Bucharest Museum of Natural History who conducted a detailed Zoological study of the area.

During the 16 day exploration period (February 5th to 19th) in the Jaintia Hills 4 previously known and partially explored caves were extended and 22 new caves were explored to yield at total of 9.1kms of new passage.

The main achievements of this year Expedition Team based at a camp within the forest near to Khahnar in the Jaintia Hills were:

  • Krem Khung in the Larket Area was extended from 5,120mto 7,349m in length to become India’s 7th longest cave. In contrast with the previous year’s exploration most of the new passage consisted of seasonally active joint controlled canal passage that lay beneath the large passages found in 2012. Prior to the expedition there were high hopes that this cave would continue in fine style to emerge on the far side of the Larket/Khahnar ridge in a similar fashion to many of the other large caves in this area. However, this proved not to be the case with the large relic passages terminating in boulder collapses and the lower seasonally active passages in a sumped zone.
  • Krem Labit Kseh in the Kopili Valley was extended from 6,390m to 7,282m in length. The main extensions this year were in an area of the cave known as ‘The Never Ending Story’. Sadly this year it did end but despite this Krem Labit Kseh is amongst India’s finest caves consisting of a mix of stunning river passage and dry relic passages with marvelous gypsum and aragonite formations and it is now India’s 9th longest cave.
  • Krem Tyngheng/Diengjem currently India’s 3rd longest cave and the Indian cave with the longest continuous exploration period (2004 to 2013 and ongoing) was extended from 21,250m to 21,358m by the exploration of more passage at the Diengjem resurgence end. With more open passage remaining in this cave it is highly likely in future years to overtake the Kot Sati/Um Lawan system, currently 21,530m in length and India’s 2nd longest. This caves ability to turn up new passage year after year has earned it the nick name of ‘the never ending cave’ and although at the end of 2012 it was considered completed, this year proved that one again it is not completely finished.
  • New caves located and explored included Krem Sahiong 1 at 1,801m in length, Krem Khung Back Door Not, so named because it was initially believed to offer a shorter and more direct way into the far reaches of Krem Khung. Sadly this did not prove to be the case yet despite this it still yielded a respectable 662m of passage. Krem Poh Lakar at 593m, Krem Khla at 377m and Krem Rapblong at 328m in length.

Alongside the exploration the two associated Romanian biologists, our team biologist and their Indian counterpart from the Lady Keane College in Shillong continued with the study the documentation the fauna in the area. Whilst the two associated scientist studied and documented fauna outside of the caves the others continued the bio-speleological sampling started in 2011 and 2012. As a result of this biological and zoological work the evening ritual of entering of survey data onto the laptops in the evening proved to be very different experience this year when compared to previous years, as not only were the team members sharing the ‘office space’ within the camp accommodation with their fellow cavers but also with a remarkably varied selection of the local wildlife, some of it looking very wild indeed.

Other caves found and explored were of less than 300m in length and although often having impressive entrances on exploration they proved to be through caves that quickly reached other entrances or terminated in collapsed or sumped areas. Many of them being abandoned fragments of formerly longer relic caves. As a result of the 2013 exploration this area of the Jaintia Hills is now considered quite well worked out and the focus for 2014 will be on one of the other, as of yet unexplored, karst areas within Meghalaya.

On return to Shillong members of the expedition and the Meghalaya Adventurers Association attended the inauguration of the Biospeleology Section of the Zoology Museum at Lady Keane College, Shillong, Meghalaya (India). The link between Lady Keane College, the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) and the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project will further enhance the study and understanding of the biospeleology of Meghalaya. Building upon the bio-speleology that has been an aspect of many Caving in the Abode of the Clouds expeditions since the late 1990’s. To date (February 2013) the whereabouts of over 1,500 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya of which 892 have been explored or partially explored to yield just short of 400 kilometers (398.6 to be precise) of surveyed cave passage, with much more still waiting to be discovered.

Much of the cave that has been explored in Meghalaya over the last 21 years consists of impressive river cave mixed with massive and often richly decorated relic passage along with magnificent clean washed shafts that create cave systems equal in size and beauty to those found elsewhere in the world, maintaining Meghalaya’s status on the world-caving map as a significant caving region.

In the achievement of the above the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project is indebted to the help and support it has received from: The Meghalaya Adventurers Association (Shillong), the Government of India Tourist Office (East and North East India) Kolkata; the Meghalaya State Tourism Department; Officials and Government Departments within Meghalaya, The Grampian Speleological Group and, most importantly, the People of Meghalaya.

Simon Brooks and Thomas Arbenz
2013 Expedition – Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project, Meghalaya, India.

Last modified: 14 Nov 2015 14:14