The latest news from China:
Triplophysa rosa named
December 31, 2002 Scientists from the Kunming Insititue of Zoology have named a new species of fish found in Dongba during the Qikeng Dong 2002 expedition. We're all thrilled that they chose the name "Triplophysa rosa" (Rosa is the Latin translation for Hong Meigui).
2 tiankeng found in Bama, Guangxi: possible expedition site?
December 28, 2002 South-west of Bama (site of the 1987 China Caves Project Expedition), Prof. Zhu has located 2 new tiankeng. The area looks to be an isolated block of limestone, seperate from that explored by CCP, and there are reports of a river system.
Hunan expedition proposed
December 24, 2002 Prof. Zhu Xuewen from the Guilin Karst Insitute has suggested a new area for exploration in Hunan. The Institute is involved in developing the beautiful fossil cave, Yueliang Dong (Moon Cave), as a show cave in Hunan. Nearby there is an active system which is currently unmapped. This could be an exciting opportunity for Hong Meigui to open up a completely new area for exploration. Initial plans are for a small team to recce the area for 7 to 10 days in late March/early April.
A new species of blind fish?
December 18, 2002
Leeches and dancing girls
December 16, 2002 We've returned to Kunming after a week exploring caves in Jiu Xiang. As promised, the area has a spectacular river cave--50m high passage winding in and out of the hillside, with a sporting streamway and lovely formations. Unfortunately we reached the cave about 10 years too late. Now it's full of tourist tat shops and dancing girls (I kid you not).
The undeveloped caves in the area were significantly less inspiring from a speleological standpoint, but they may be of interest to cave biologists. They were full of thick brown foul-smelling, leech-infested water. Our collective scientific assessment was "Yuk!"
December 9, 2002 We've been helping Liu Hong from the Yunan Institute of Geography map caves in his thesis area (Hai Yuan Si, a few kilometers west of Kunming.) In a few days we will relocated to Jiu Xiang, between Kunming and Shilin. Jiu Xiang is famous throughout China for its very successful tourist cave,which has two waterfalls. We will be mapping other river caves in the vicinity of the tourist cave..
Goodbye Tian Xing!
December 2, 2002 We've packed up 65 bags full of caving gear, and said our goodbyes to our home of 3 months. Today we shipped 320 kilos to Guilin, and we're taking an additional 24 bags with us to Kunming. It should be an exciting journey!
Connection gap closed to 2m!
November 29, 2002 We've just entered the survey data from our final trip down Dongba this year - according to the centre lines we were only 2m off getting a connection. Oh well. We hit a sump in what was almost certainly the same passage Duncan and Erin had pushed on their last trip down Qikeng and Duncan and I foolishly talked Erin out of attempting to free dive it. It looks like the bulk of the leads in Dongba will be well above the water level so there's plenty to go at for next year. There may even be a dry connection next year since the trend seems to indicate a connection somewhere above the Dragon's Mouth (the base of this pitch is going to be pretty much the new water level - assuming the dam level is 310m).
Duncan and Erin had an interesting trip finding the bulk of the near connection lead - a floor trench in the passage we had surveyed on the previous trip. After a lot of searching they found a way down and shortly afterwards a swim. Not to be deterred Erin stripped off naked and swam across. Since it went Duncan followed suit and the passage was named Naked Desire - draw your own conclusions. I joined them for the final bit of non-connection, Gooseberry - ditto.
Erin and Duncan also had a quick look at the Dongba streamway. Downstream sumped after not very long and upstream hit a boulder choke. We're pretty sure a side passage off the main fossil passage would have bypassed the choke but this is one of the bits which will almost certainly be affected by the dam.
The total Dongba depth is now 655m and Qikeng is 920m still. The combined survey length is over 13 kilometers.
Date set for Yunnan River Caves
November 15, 2002 The expedition to a river cave system south of Kunming will kick off on December 5th. It's planned for 10 days, with the option to extend if the caving is going well. According to Liu Hong, the area is very similar to Shilin, with the addition of surface large sinks and resurgences. The area has 150 to 200 meters of relief, "large chambers", and an estimated 7km of passage (we don't know how the locals arrived at this figure).
Dongba - Qikeng gap narrowed to 200m
November 13, 2002 In Dongba we've just surveyed 880m of large fossil passage heading south-east towards Qikeng . It's 100m above the fossil finds in Qikeng's Momentary Lapse of Reason, at the same level as the streamway above the Dragon's Mouth, and it's still climbing. There are several leads off, so it looks like we're going to be busy for a while here. This is excellent news for Tian Xing 2003 because most of the fossil passage in Dongba should still be above flood level when the dam is complete.