As international teams of cavers enter the 10th year of documenting lava tubes and pit crater features in the Galapagos Islands, significant new discoveries are still being made. In August 2019, locals guided a small team to a new tube system that has now been surveyed over 4 km. Survey totals from the March 2020 expedition have now revealed that Sistema Silvana is now the longest known lava tube in South America.
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng (PNKB) is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam, situated roughly halfway between the cities of Hanoi and Da Nang. The park was created to protect a vast area of karst and the accompanying forest ecosystem in the north central coast of Vietnam. PNKB is home to several caves of world renown, including most notably, the Hang Sơn Đoòng Cave System, which contains the largest known cave passage by volume.
An international team of cavers from Myanmar, Germany, Britain, and America journeyed to East Shan State in Myanmar from late December 2019 to early January 2020. After 3 days arranging permissions and permits, the team met with great success by documenting the longest cave in the country. Som Hein Cave near Monghpyak is well known in the East Shan region for spiritual reasons. Cavers had only 9 days to survey and photograph the complicated cave system.
Five cavers from the USA, Netherlands, and Germany spent 3 weeks circumnavigating the island of Taiwan, documenting the caves. Forty-five caves were surveyed, for a total of 2.2 km. The presentation gives an overview of the caves that were visited.
We are living in an extraordinary era where machines have begun to replace humans, initially in highly structured settings such as manufacturing and now in more complicated real-world settings such as self-driving vehicles. This presentation goes beyond that—tracing the roots of fully autonomous exploration in 3D unstructured and ultimately completely unknown environments. Cavers have always known the special sensation of exploring completely unknown places. Would it actually be possible to replace a caver with a robot?
The Batu Katak village in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, is located in the Batumilmil formation, a paleokarst that consists of dark gray to reddish gray limestone. A group of scientists from the University of Puerto Rico and Harimau Conservation explored the neighboring karst forest and mapped five caves as a conservation action, to help protect the karst forest and its geological importance.
Most of the meltwater on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet flows in rivers and streams that eventually end in moulins, which are giant holes in the ice that carry the water to the bottom of the glacier. Once meltwater is beneath the ice it can lubricate the bottom of the ice sheet, lift up the ice, and cause the ice to move faster.
The fifth expedition to Sultan Kudarat, the Philippines, was another fun and productive trip to the island nation. More than 8 kilometers of new cave passages were mapped including several large rooms and passages. Most of the survey was in well-decorated river caves. The team has completed many maps of caves of the area, is working on a book project for the caves of the region, and looks forward to a sixth expedition in the future to return to the many leads.
Presentation of the results from the 2017 Ukranian expedition to Krubera-Voronya, Western Caucasus Mountains, Abkhazia.
Fellow Colombia explorers Dan Straley (USA) and Jesus Fernandez Auderset (Switzerland) open the presentation. The film begins with Jesus Fernandez Auderset re-enacting the past 11 years exploring throughout the Rosablanca formation in the Colombian Andes.
The Mulu 19 Expedition continued the British exploration of the caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Borneo. The expedition took place between April 18–May 12, 2019, with primary aims to connect caves within the Gunung Mulu massive, specifically within the southern peninsula of Gunung Api. Attempts were made to connect Cave of the Winds, Racer, and Easter Lagangs Caves into the already extensive Clearwater Cave System, which would have resulted in a new system >150 miles in length.
The first organized American effort to survey caves in Panama took place last December (2019). Building on the work of American caver Keith Christenson and British caver James Cobbett, our small team mapped about 2 kilometers of cave passages in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago on the country’s Caribbean coast. It is a lovely area with lots of potential for more caves and caving.
Castleguard Cave has been featured in speleological writings since modern exploration began with Dr. Derek Ford and his team in the late 1960s. At 21 km in known length, it is Canada’s longest. Although this length pales in comparison to many longer caves in the world, its alpine setting, unique formations, biology, and terminus underneath the Columbia Icefield combine for an extraordinary landmark. This presentation will cover highlights of the exploration history of Castleguard, the current exploration projects, and challenges.
Sistema Huautla is the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere, tied to the meter with a cave in Austria as the world’s ninth deepest cave, and is the 28th longest cave in the world as they are now known. It is 5,517 feet (1,560 m) deep, 55 miles (89 km) long, and has 29 entrances. The Proyecto Espeleologico Sistema Huautla (PESH) is an official project of the NSS.
Computer programs that can automatically identify landscape features are extremely useful for environmental study, conservation and resource management, and natural hazard identification. I am developing a machine-learning computer program to find unmapped cave entrances under forest canopy using Python, GIS, and LiDAR imagery. Such a method can be applied to any landscape feature with distinct morphologic characteristics, even features obscured by vegetation.
Coastal carbonate rocks in Australia and New Zealand, with ages ranging from Oligocene to Pleistocene, contain numerous flank margin caves. In Australia, flank margin caves were found from near modern sea level up to elevations of 300 meters in eolianites of Pleistocene age and marine subtidal carbonates of Miocene age. Caves were explored in Victoria, southeastern Australia; Kangaroo Island, southern Australia; Rottnest Island, southwestern Australia; and Cape Range, northwestern Australia.
This is a tale of good intentions and high hopes. This is story of good men and of bad men, of ruthless criminals, and of fear. It is narrative of big borehole cave, deep friendships, and sad outcomes. It leaves to us to question the balance of our desire to explore caves and our involvement and effect on the local population.