Exploration 2014

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project

Synopsis of the cave expedition to Meghalaya, North East India

3rd to 27th February 2014

The 2014 Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition took place between the 3rd to 27th February 2014, returning to the Jaintia Hills Area to re-visit the Umkyrpong area and begin exploration in a new area in Kharkhana/Umlatdoh in the South Jaintia Hills.

This year, the now traditionally International Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition Team comprised of 22 cavers drawn from Austria, India, Eire, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and the UK. In addition to this the expedition team was accompanied by 5 associated scientists from India, Switzerland and the UK who conducted ongoing bio-speleological studies of the areas.

The 23-day exploration period (February 4th to 26th) in the Jaintia Hills was divided into 2 phases with the first being a week (3rd to 8th Feb) in the Umkrypong Area where 2 known caves were extended and 2 new caves located, one of which was completed and the other in which exploration is ongoing. Following this the second phase (9th to 26th Feb) comprised of the main expedition which focused on exploration in the Kharkhana Area (South Jaintia Hills) encompassing the adjacent areas of Lama, Lakadong, Predengshakap and Umlatdoh. Here 31 news caves were located and explored. Overall the expedition mapped 12.8 kms of new cave passage.

The main achievements of the 12 strong Pre-Expedition Team based at Umkrypong in the Jaintia Hills were:

The main achievement of the 26 strong team that formed the main part of the expedition in the South Jaintia Hills (Kharkhana, Lama, Lakadong Predengshakap and Umlatdoh) were:

Alongside the exploration two associated Indian Zoologists from Acharya Nagarjuna University, a Zoologist from Lady Keane College in Shillong, two team member/biologists from the UK and Romania and a bat expert from Switzerland continued the bio speleological sampling started in 2011 and 2012. With a strong focus on bats some 220 individuals were netted or captured in harp traps placed near entrance of the caves, or in surrounded forests. These captured bats represented 23 species, including 6 pteropodids (fruit bats), 6 vespertilionids (plain-nosed bats), 5 species of rhinolophids (horseshoe bats), 4 hipposiderids (round-leaf bats), 1 molossid (free-tailed bats) and 1 miniopterid (long-fingered bats). Significantly one of these species is the first reported in Meghalaya (Megaerops niphanae), whilst another, critically endangered in India (Otomops wroughtoni), was discovered in good numbers in two roosts.

To date (February 2014) the whereabouts of over 1,540 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya of which 925 have been explored or partially explored to yield in excess of 411.4 kilometres 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 22 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
2014 Expedition – Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Project, Meghalaya, India.