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Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Part III

Synopsis of 1998 Expedition to Meghalaya, North East India - by Simon Brooks (Orpheus CC) March 1998

Between the 11th of February and 8th March 1998 a team of eight cavers from the UK, five from Germany, a Swiss caver and members of the Shillong (N.E. India) based Meghalaya Adventurers Association completed another successful expedition to the State of Meghalaya in North East India.

During the course of the expedition a total of 27 new caves were explored and several existing caves extended to yield a total of just under 26 km of new cave passage, taking the total length of surveyed cave passage in the State of Meghalaya to 95 km.

The expedition divided its time between four separate areas, namely: Cherrapunjee and Nongjri in the East Khasi Hills; Lumshnong; and the Lukha Valley in the Jaintia Hills.  In the Nongjri area, Krem Lymput, partly explored in 1997, was extended to 6.5 km in length, establishing it as India's second longest cave.  Several other smaller caves were also explored.  In the Lumshnong area, Krem Kotsati-UmLawan was extended by another 2 km to 21.2 km in length, further reinforcing its status as India's longest and deepest cave.  To the north of Lumshnong, in the vicinity of the village of Musianglamare, significant extensions were made to Umsynrang extending it from its 1997 length of 1.7 km to a new length of 4.8 km.  In the same village, Synrang Pamiang was extended from 1.6 km to just over 6.2 km in length, making it India's third longest cave.  The current end of Synrang Pamiang is wide open, being a canyon style stream passage some 5m wide and up to 30m height with considerable potential for further extensions.  However, the cave is beginning to present logistical problems in that it is now 5 hours of hard caving from the entrance to the end of the surveyed passage.

Following the brief reconnaissance made to the Lukha Valley in 1997, the area was revisited, revealing considerable speleological potential.  One of the main finds here was Piel Theng Puok which proved to be a fantastic resurgence river cave, situated in a small gorge at the head of a 50m high tufa waterfall.  This stunning cave is characterised by huge, square-sectioned river passage up to 20m wide and 30m in height and never less than 10m by 10m.  The passage is punctuated by massive calcite gours/dams of up to 6m high.  These latter features create large lakes and necessitated over 500m of swimming in the first 2.5 km of passage.  With the huge catchment area, the impressive size of the passage at the final point, numerous unexplored side passages, and the fact that only one third of the distance to the assumed sink has been found, the potential for extending the system is considerable.  Piel Theng Puok is definitely one of the most impressive Indian River caves found to date.

As has been the style of previous expeditions to Meghalaya, equipment (including surveying instruments) has been left with the Meghalaya Adventurers in order to assist them with further cave exploration.  Plans are already being made for a return visit by two teams in January/February 1999 and February/March 1999.