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:

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.