The latest news from China:
Breakthrough in Bottomless Pit
November 15, 2003 Wudi Dong (translation: Bottomless Pit) is a strongly draughting cave well placed to drop into hypothesized stream passage between two major caves in Caobo, Hunan: Haitang Dong and Yuhuang Dong. All three caves were explored by the Chelsea Speleological Society (China Caves Project) expedition in August 2003, but lack of time prevented them from pushing Wudi to a conclusion. As part of the HMG Caobo project Duncan and Erin rigged down an undescended 39m pitch to a chamber where they found a very hungry looking toad and a squeeze through to a narrow rift. The rift ended in a dig followed by a chamber and a further draughting dig in cobbles. The pair returned tools and made short work of a succession of three digs. Beyond the last was a boulder choke which led to a crawl in a small streamway and then more narrow rift. The cave was left unfinished at the top of a draughting 10m pitch. With no fewer than 7 constrictions in Wudi Dong's 340m of passage, further exploration may be slow going but it remains an interesting lead.
Surprising find in Liu Chi Ao Kou
October 27, 2003 Liu Chi Ao Kou (Xia) Dong has been the wild-card find of the Tian Xing 2003 expedition. With an entrance at 1234m it seemed sure to quickly lose depth though pitches, especially since it is less than 500m from both Qikeng Dong and Da Keng. Instead the cave went horizontal and small with constrictions, narrow rift and short pitch, the longest being 8m. Expectiations were that Liu Chi Ao Kou would continue in the same vein, gradually increasing in size as it collected inlets. On the last pushing trip of Tian Xing 2003, the cave unexpectedly intersected a 10m wide, 7m high well-decorated passage carrying a small stream. The large trunk passage runs parallel to Qikeng Dong's Keep The Faith, but is 700m higher in elevation--the first major horizontal development seen at this altitude in Tian Xing. The strong draft continued and the cave was left at -100m where there was a further junction with a similar sized passage. Clearly there's significant potential in Liu Chi Ao Kou and it's sure to be a top objective for Tian Xing 2004.
Kilometer potential near Qikeng Dong
October 22, 2003 Today three cavers from the Tian Xing 2003 expedition lucked out when their landlord showed them to Liu Chi Ao Kou (Xia) Dong--a small slot hidden by bushes which just happened to be strongly blowing warm, moist air. Less than 500m away from Qikeng Dong, this unassuming entrance is 71m higher and has potential to go a kilometer deep if it connects to Dong Ba.
Da Keng: Second deepest cave in China
October 7, 2003 Dong Ba has been relegated to third place as Da Keng takes the title of second deepest cave in China, with a surveyed depth of 658m. A recent camp down Da Keng surveyed almost 2 kilometers of mostly horizontal passage going off in several directions. Due to lack of time, a strongly drafting, well decorated 5m wide passage was left unpushed when it came to the top of a small pitch.
Da Keng breaks 500m
October 1, 2003 After much anticipation, Da Keng's impressive surface shaft has been descended for a whopping 284m to a 20m ledge followed by 219m deep shaft, bringing the cave to a depth of over 500m. Exploration has been hampered by drill problems and initially the rig on the 219 included a 160m freehang to save on bolts. Now the expedition plans to camp at -500m to push the extensive horizontal passage which goes off from the base of the shaft series.
Yan Feng Tuo Dong reaches 2km
September 19, 2003 In Tian Xing a new entrance found only this month has been pushed to over 2km and a depth of 183m. The cave, Yan Feng Tuo Dong, has a number of short swims and cascades and in places the passage was over 20m wide. Downstream ended in a choke, but upstream remains open, with good potential to intersect some of the shafts in the area .
First underground camp in Dongba
September 16, 2003 Bill, Brian, Duncan and Erin have returned from a three day trip on which they established the underground camp in Dongba. On the way to camp at The Chapel there were signs of flooding in areas which previously been dry. Giraffe Hall boasts a new lake which fortunately can be skirted for most of it's length along a mud ledge which was previously high above the passage floor.
Bill and Brian explored leads near Glycogen Chamber, stopped by lack of rope, while the others pushed northwards in Bit on the Side, narrowing the vertical difference between Dongba and Qikeng from 120m to 70m.
The camp was cut short when water levels rose overnight and there was concern that the campsite might be flooded. Subsequent enquiries at the hydro station revealed that the water in the dam will rise at most 0.5m a day, so there's no need to worry about being sumped in unexpectedly. Even more reassuring, the maximum elevation water in the dam will reach is 305m, which corresponds to 310m in Dongba, or well below the campsite.
Expedition to Tian Xing begins
September 5, 2003 With 49 bags in tow, 5 Hong Meigui cavers recently left Guilin bound for Tian Xing as part of the Dongba 2003 expedition. The three day journey to Tian Xing took a taxi, 2 trains, a truck, a bus, two three wheeled carts, a lorry and finally a big lorry with snow chains (for the mud!). Now the team is rigging Dongba in preparation for a series of underground camps.
CCP-Chelsea expedition to Hunan
August 24, 2003 A group of four Chelsea Speleological Society cavers led by Mel Reid recently arrived in China as part of a three week expedition to explore river caves in Caobo, Hunan. The expedition is the latest of many supported by the China Caves Project and assisted by the Guilin Karst Institute.
Summer Zhongdian expedition concludes, winter push planned
August 19, 2003 The 11 man Yunnan 2003 expedition to Zhongdian wrapped up with 7 caves surveyed and numerous entrances logged. Although none of the caves descended reached a depth of more than 75m, on the final day of prospecting Rich Gerrish and Hilary Greaves found a promising stream sink at an elevation of over 3900m. A return is already in the works for summer 2004. In the meantime, a small expedition has been planned to push upstream in Shui Lian Dong resurgence this winter, taking advantage of lower water levels in the dry season.