By Mike and Andrea Futrell
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.
The first kilometer of large passage is an extension of the monastery and is regularly visited by pilgrims and meditating monks. It contains numerous Buddha images, stupas, and religious constructions. Many large and beautifully decorated side passages were surveyed. A smaller passage links the main trunk to a complex serious of seasonal stream passages that carry monsoon flow. One downstream trunk led to a boulder choke that yielded a small second entrance. The year-round active river that sinks nearby was not found and remains a mystery for future exploration. Som Hein was surveyed to 11.6 km, almost doubling the previous record for the longest cave in Myanmar.
Many passages and leads were left for Myanmar and international cavers to return to for further exploration. Myanmar caver Nyi Aung was an integral member of the team. He is a leader among the in-country caver and climber community and coordinator of the Myanmar Cave Documentation Project. We were also joined by Myoe Lwin, who is a fixture on Myanmar expeditions, and his van, providing transportation, translation, and untold logistical support behind the scenes. Without our in-country friends, the project would not have happened.