Mulu Caves 2011 Expedition will depart on 13th February. Preparations have gone very well so far including the welcome arrival of the permit from the Sarawak authorities. The expedition is very grateful for the support shown by the authorities and the generous assistance offered by our sponsors during these difficult financial times. This has helped to ease the increased burden on our mostly self financed expedition.
Under the leadership of Tim Allen, the expedition has a number of ambitious ‘cutting edge’ objectives. During the first two weeks we shall be based close to the Melinau Paku valley from where we can gain access to ‘Sarawak Chamber’, the largest natural underground chamber on earth. The chamber was surveyed by traditional methods during the discovery in 1980 with a maximum cross section of 700×400m, but now it is hoped to go one better. Kevin Dixon will attempt a complete laser scan of the chamber in order to produce an accurate 3D model. This has never been attempted in such a large and remote cave before. If the laser work is successful we will be able to see just how many jumbo jets really do fit across the chamber.
While this work is continuing, photographer Robbie Shone, will capture a new image of the great chamber with modern digital techniques and ideas. These have progressed significantly since Jerry Wooldridge first captured the chamber on film in 1984. The rest of the team will support these projects and investigate a few exploration and survey projects of their own.
Once these objectives are complete the team will move up to Camp 5 at the northern end of Gunung Api. The main objective here is to continue the exploration of Whiterock Cave, the northern part of the 176km long Clearwater System. At the end of the 2009 expedition the 3km long Whiterock River was discovered. This was only partly explored in the time available and wide open passages await this year’s explorers. We shall also attempt a radio location fix at the northern end of the cave. This will help to confirm the depth of the underground river which appears to be some considerable distance below the surface river at the gorge. An accurate survey fix here may open up many possible new development theories. This work may also assist in the discovery of a ‘northern entrance’ which would considerably reduce the twelve hour round trip to this end of the cave.
Away from northern Api, another significant objective is a hole in the Benerat cliffs. Up until 2009 this entrance was unknown because it could only be seen from one particular place on the opposite side of the valley. It will be a unique challenge to gain access to it as it is 400m up the treacherous cliffs. We shall approach from above and abseil down into it as we have done to ‘Hole of the Moon’ in 2009. However, the pinnacled ground above the cliff has been described as “the most difficult terrain known to man”…..
So, challenges await the Mulu Caves 2011 expedition across a variety of disciplines, but the team looks forward to them, as well as the prospects of great discoveries and real excitement.
The team will have 17 UK members, although only a few will be in the field for the duration of the trip. It is expected that members of the Sarawak Forestry Corporation and National Park staff will also join the seven week long expedition.