Exploration 1999

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project

Summary of the 1999 Expedition to Meghalaya, North East India

Between the 31st January and 28th of February 1999 a team of six cavers from the UK, six from Germany, an American 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 several new caves were explored and some existing caves extended to yield a total of just under 21 kms of new cave passage, taking the total length of surveyed cave passage in the State of Meghalaya to 125 kms. In contrast to earlier trips the caving was of a more technical nature and required longer walk ins to more remote areas.

The expedition divided its time between three areas, namely:; Lumshnong; and the Lukha Valley in the Jantia Hills and Sohra (Cherrapunjee) in the East Khasi Hills. In the Lukha Valley area, the massive river cave of Pielkhlieng Pouk, partly explored in 1998, was extended to 9.7 kms in length, establishing it as India's third longest cave. The main river passage of this fine cave is 4.5 km's from sink to resurgence and is caracterised by huge gour dams up to 8m in height. These create a series of lakes and canals necessitating over 3 km's of swimming on the through trip in river passage that is up to 25m wide and 35 to 40m in height.

In the Lumshnong area activities focused on caves just to the north of Lumnsnong, in the vicinity of the village of Chiehruphi. Here significant extensions were made to Synrang Pamaing which was extended from its 1998 length of 6.2 kms to just over 14 kms, making it India's second longest cave. This cave is caracterised by a very long canyon style main stream passage that is between 5 to 10m wide and up to 30 to 35m in height.

In the Cherrapunjee area several new caves were explored adding another 2.5 km's of new cave passage and the promise of more to come. The expedition also conducted reconnaissance trip to other areas in preparation for return trips that are planned in 2000.

The expedition also conducted some biological surveys in selected caves where specimen were taken. Specimens of particular interest were blind cave fish (first noted in 1998) that are believed to be a hitherto unknown species, and the first to be recorded in caves in India. Fortunately due to the presence of a biologist in the German team the fish were actually collected and recorded on this trip rather than eaten as happened during the 1998 expedition (oopp's!)

This expedition, as with those before it, was once again a pleasant mix of exploring fine caves, enjoying some excellent Indian beer and partying in the company of the Khasi ladies. Those involved are indebted to the Meghalayan Adventurers Association and the hospitality, co-operation and kindness of the Meghalayan people.

Simon Brooks - March 1999