The 31st international cave expedition under the project ‘Caving in the Abode of the Clouds’ took place between February 6 to 24 in the area of Muallian in East Jaintia Hills District.
The team comprised cavers from the UK, Switzerland and Ireland, who are also members of the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association.
The focus of this year’s expedition was on Krem Rynjang (RetdungKhur), Pynnoh Um Sngad and Ram Khur.
Krem Pynnoh Um Sngad was extended from last year’s length of 5,295m to 7,831m, and further shown to connected to Ram Khur, making the cave system (Pynnoh Um Sngad-Ram Khur system) 14,951 metres in length, and placing it seventh in India’s rank of longest caves.
Many side passages remain, including a massive relic passage (The Barren Lands) which is 50m wide and 29m high ongoing in a north-easterly direction.
Krem Rynjang has been extended by a further 4,117m taking its length to 20,445m, and thus the fifth longest cave with still many side passages left to be explored.
The expedition this year was much harder and more technical, as all the caves in the area are vertical with over 85m-deep entrance shafts.
Further, as exploration gets deeper into the cave systems more than 3.5 hours are spent in reaching the last point of survey from the entrance.
General secretary of the Association Brian D Kharpran Daly said that, overall, the 2023 expedition explored and mapped 6,635m of new cave passages.
As of February 24, 2023, the whereabouts of just over 1,700 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya of which over 1,100 have been explored or partially explored, he said.
Kharpran said, with this year’s expedition, the total cave passage explored and mapped in the state of Meghalaya has reached 537.6 km, with much more still waiting to be discovered. This solidifies Meghalaya as a top caving region in the world.
Much of the cave that has been explored and mapped in Meghalaya over the last 31 years consists of impressive river caves mixed with massive and often richly decorated relic passages 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 worldcaving map as a significant caving region. Besides, these caves offer a rich diversity of cave life, he added.
Meanwhile, the Association expressed its sincere thanks to the Directorate of Sports & Youth Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, and the Meghalayan Age Limited for their continued support, without which the documentation of the caves of Meghalaya would not have been a success.