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Abode of Clouds expedition discover 13,805 m new cave passage in Meghalaya, adding to a total of 551 km  

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Shillong, Mar 13: A total of 13,895m of new cave passage had been explored and mapped during the 2024 Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition, which took place from January 28 to February 22.

“This takes the total combined length of known cave passages that have been explored and mapped in Meghalaya since systematic cave exploration commenced in 1992 to 551 km in total. Evidence suggests that considerably more cave passage awaits exploration,” Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) general secretary Brian D Kharpran Daly said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

He said the expedition consisted of a week-long pre-expedition that focused on exploration in the vicinity of the village of Sakhain situated some 5 km South of Sutnga in East Jaintia Hills District. Exploration here took place from 29th January to 2nd February 2024.

This was then followed by a two-and-a-half-week duration main expedition that focused on the area around the villages of Tlang Moi and Muallian, both located on the Southernmost tip of the Shnongrim Ridge.

This part of the expedition took place from 3 rd February 2024 to 21st February 2024.

As has become the tradition with the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expeditions the multi-national expedition team included cavers from the UK, Ireland, Austria, Netherlands, Germany, USA, and India with cavers from the Meghalaya Adventurers Association and other areas of India comprising of 8 individuals and the team at its largest being 29 in number.

In the Sakhain Area, 10 new caves were explored yielding a total of 1,458m of new cave passage in total. Notable amongst these were Ur Selle with 373m of passage, Urluri with 346m of passage and Rong Kso 3 with 314m of passage.

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All of the caves were situated and the edge of the sandstone plateau on which the village of Sakhain is situated and were almost all associated with waterfalls at the base of which the streams running off of the plateau sank into caves. Exploration in this area is now more or less complete.

In the Muallian/Tlang Moi Area, the exploration built on the work of previous expeditions in 2020, 2022, and 2023 and focused on extending known caves and exploring new caves where in previous years entrances had been located but not entered.

In respect of the previously known and partially explored caves the magnificent river system of Krem Rynjang or Retdung Khur was extended from 20,445m to 23,219m elevating it from India’s 7th longest cave to India’s 3rd longest and the 2nd longest known cave in Limestone. The Pynnoh Um Sngad/Ram Khur System was extended from 14,951m to 20,459m taking it from India’s 8th to India’s 7th longest cave or the 6th longest cave in Limestone. Regretfully repeated attempts to physically link the Retdung Khur and Pyynod Um Sngad/Ram Khur systems to create a 45+km system in Meghalaya were not successful and despite the two systems being less than 150/200m apart and certainly hydrologically connecting, the remaining leads that were pushed in each either ended in draught-less boulder collapses or sumps. Attempts to physically connect the hydrologically connected Um Ladaw to Retdung Khur were also not successful either by digging or climbing avens.

However, the aven climbing added 143m of new passage to the Um Ladaw system taking it to 3,320m in length.

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Several significant new caves were explored in the Muallian Area such as Rebung Kung 2 which yielded 1,896m of passage and Rebung Kung Maul with 1,604m of passage. Both caves began with a series of entrance pitches that intersected beautifully decorated stream passages. In addition to this, another 6 new caves of lesser length were explored.

Some of the new caves explored were in the form of deep shafts. The deepest of these was Trevor Khur which had an entrance pitch of 152m depth and is Meghalaya/India’s deepest known single pitch to date.

Whilst just exceeding the previously known deepest (Zong Khur) @142m the new cave has neither the size nor stature of Zong Khur which remains as one of Meghalaya’s most impressive single shafts

Meanwhile, the association thanked the Meghalayan Age Ltd. and the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, for their continued help in supporting the documentation of the caves of Meghalaya which has brought about outstanding results.

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