Tianxing 2004 Expedition Prospectus

Prospectus:

Introduction

Tianxing is a mountainous Karst area which contains the three deepest potholes in China: Qikeng Dong (-920m), Da Keng (-658m), and Dong Ba (-655m). We will establish a camp in Da Keng to push downstream in a strongly draughting lead which has a further 100m of depth potential. We will also continue exploration in Liu Chi Ao Kou, a cave found in 2003 which has an entrance 70m higher than that of Qikeng Dong and was left ongoing at -100m in draughting 10m wide passage. Additionally, we plan to expand the project area to the southeast by bolting up a large waterfall resurgence, to search for new entrances on higher ground to the south where depth potential exceeds 1km, and to collect biological specimens as part of a continuing collaboration with Chinese zoologists.

Overview

The Landscape around Tianxing is dominated by two major rivers: the Wu Jiang and the Furong Jiang draining to the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) at Fuling. Tian Xing village straddles a ridge, with farms overlooking the newer centre. It lies on a shale layer amid limestones. The high land retains some ancient cone karst (fengcong) topography but the margins are deeply incised by several cycles of fluvial incision and the area NNE towards Wen Fu is occupied by large closed depressions. The structure of the Cambrian limestones consists of folds with north-south axes, associated reverse faults, and major joints trending east-west. This means that water must flow across the geological structures to reach base level in the Furong Jiang resurgences. There are also resurgences into the Wu Jiang, indicating deep and complicated phreatic systems. There are 98 cave related sites currently catalogued which include Chinaıs three deepest caves

This area was first visited by the expedition leader and others of the UK China Cave Project in 1994. Since then there have been seven further expeditions, each increasing knowledge of the area. Each expedition has found more caves and karst features to enter into the shared database and many kilometres of underground passage have been surveyed. During this time the caves have become deeper and the logistics necessary to explore them have become more complicated. In addition earlier assumptions about the area have been challenged and more questions raised about cave formation in the region. This expedition will draw together the results of previous expeditions and result in a detailed report into the caves and karst landscape surounding Tianxing, providing evidence to address some of the questions that have been raised about the development of the landform.

Method

Mapping and Survey

Continue exploration and survey of Da Keng

Two massive pitches from the surface of 284m and 215m (one of the deepest natural shafts in the World) lead to over 2km of horizontal passage. Several strongly draughting inlets require bolt climbs, but all the draught funnels into one huge downstream lead, which remains unexplored and is heading into an area which was unexpected. This will require an underground camp.

Continue exploration of Liu Chi Ao Kou

Our highest going entrance, with 991m depth potential. Found late on 2003 expedition, a small entrance and 600m of narrow passage leads to 10m wide trunk passage, all draughting strongly. Within 500m of Qikeng Dong and Da Keng, which are both very vertical. So far Liu Chi Ao Kou has only lost 100m of elevation - will it go vertical? Main passage in Liu Chi Ao Kou, if it continues in the same direction, will pass over the line of the presumed continuation of the Qikeng stream beyond the upstream sump.

Mi Dong, Da Xiao Dong and Dan Wan Dong

Three large dolines containing Œgoingı caves to explore

Surface work

Continue mapping area around Tianxing and higher ground to the south-east known to contain several entrances

Photography

Continue photographic record of caves and karst features. This year we plan to return with better equipment and video.

Speleobiology

As part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists at the Kunming Institute of Zoology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology in Beijing, we will collect biological specimens in the caves. Since the specimens will remain in China for study and identification, we have been assured that no special permits are required. Thus far this collaboration has yielded a new species of loach (Triplophysa rosa) and an interesting blind spider.

Survey and mapping software

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis and Matt Ryan (mathematicians and computer scientists) are continuing to write survey, mapping, database and web software to enhance existing applications. The expedition websites are models of excellence for up to date and detailed cave expedition reporting: http://www.hongmeigui.net. http://homepage.mac.com/brianjudd/cavedive/ and http://www.mdryan.net

Equipment

We will be using local maps and GPSs to map entrances and caves as well as lap top computers to draw up and record data. This expedition will continue development of computer software, as previously detailed, to aid recording of information. (With back up hand written log book and data!) We will continue to produce high grade surveys and reports.

We will use specialised equipment for underground including; surveying instruments, photography equipment with flash and slave units, SRT (Single Rope Climbing) rope climbing equipment, underground camping equipment, underground food, rescue equipment, underground clothing and LED electric lighting.

All used in previous expeditions.

Logistics

Travel

Most people flying from abroad will land in Hong Kong, cross the border at Shenzhen on foot (thus saving £100 each way compared to flying from Hong Kong) and fly from Shenzhen to Chongqing. Those coming at the start of the expedition will cross the border by foot at Shenzhen, catch a bus to Guilin and then help move the expedition's equipment from the gear store to Chongqing by train (which avoids costly shipping). Individuals who live in China will travel by train to Chongqing. From Chongqing all members will travel to Wulong by public bus and then on to Tianxing.

Emergency preparedness

We will be taking an underground stretcher, several underground rescue medical kits (including splints, pain killers, etc.), pulleys, rescue rope and hauling gear and will have a comprehensive overground first aid kit. Underground rescue dumps will be established in the deeper caves, including food and shelter in addition to the medical kit. All team members will have basic underground and personal first aid kits and teams will know what steps to take in the event of an emergency. The expedition will aim to be self sufficient as far as underground rescue is concerned, although we will be able to enlist local aid if needed near and on the surface. Underground rescuers could be flown in and arrive within two days as local cave rescue is not developed. This really would only be in a case of dire extremis and unlikely, but we have made arrangements with cave rescue organsations should all else fail.

Once above ground it is relatively easy to take casualties to good local hospitals and doctors and there are good communications. Tianxing is connected to Jiang Kou (and doctors) by road about one hours drive away. Large hospitals are in Fuling and Chongqing , 3 hours and 6 hours away. Medical evacuation could be made from Chongqing airport.

Insurance

All team members will have travel insurance to include caving and the necessary innoculations for the area.

Medical

All expedition members have undergone basic first aid training. These expedition members also have specific underground first aid/rescue experience and training: Matt Ryan, Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Taco van leperen, Chris Densham, Mandie Edgeworth and Brian Judd. In addition Mandie Edgeworth is a qualified medical Doctor

Permissions and permits

Tianxing is part of Wulong Karst National Geological Park. We have been invited to return to Tianxing by the Huibang Corporation, which owns the nearby Furong Dong show cave and is developing the Geological Park for tourism. Additionally, Mr. Yao, and other local officials from Wulong County and Chongqing have been very welcoming. This expedition has been approved and encouraged by the Guilin Karst Institute, and Prof. Zhu Xuewen, Chairman of the Chinese Committee on Speleology.

Timing

Within six months of return the final report will be completed and sent to Sent to RGS, British Cave Research Association, Wulong County Government, Huibang Corporation and Guilin Karst Institute.

Publication of results

We intend to publish articles both in western caving magazines and in popular Chinese magazines, to promote cave conservation amongst the Chinese public. More articles will appear in the UK cavers magazine "Descent" and Zhang Yuan Hai's book "Cave Exploration", published in Chinese. Detailed documentation in the form of maps, photos, survey data, surveys, cave descriptions and logbooks will all be made available on http://www.hongmeigui.net. In addition to the this site, Brian Judd and Matt Ryan will document the expedition on their websites (http://homepage.mac.com/brianjudd/cavedive/ and http://www.mdryan.net)

Chen Xiao Yong from the Kunming Institute of Zoology and Prof. Li of the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Zoology will be responsible for scientific papers on the speleobiology of Tianxing. The expedition will provide them with maps, data, text on the geology of the area, etc. If possible such papers will be published in English.

Risk assessment

Travel on mountainous roads carries a certain risk (although this has reduced as the road to Tianxing has improved.) Avoidance of motorbikes, unroadworthy vehicles and drunk drivers will reduce the risk to a further degree. Once in the area we will travel on foot ­ much safer!

The main risks underground will be from flooding, falling rocks and a person falling. Flooding risks can be assessed on a cave by cave basis and we have good experience of this. Our judgement is aided by up to date weather reports obtained from our internet connection in Tianxing and by following local advice which has proved reliable. The expedition will be undertaken at the best time of year according to the weather data. The rock in the area is usually very sound and the most likely cause of a rock falling is human activity. This and the risk of falling can be reduced by care and good practise.

The area is quite healthy for general living with good water and reasonable food. (There is no malaria) Most previous expeditions have suffered nothing worse than colds, virusıs and a few tummy bugs. Exhaustion is the main cause of days off. There is a vey slight risk of snake bite. Boots, care placing hands and easy access to serum make this a negligble fatal risk.