16
December - 2017
Saturday
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This expedition was planned as a small scale affair to tie up various loose ends in the southern part of the National Park.  In fact the scientific and photographic programmes were completed with the exclusion of Nasib Bagus and Sarawak Chamber which due to an unavoidable reduction in field man hours and high water levels could not be included.  Most of the surface surveying was done as per plan; a total of over 15 kilometres of surveying.  Inevitably as is the case in Mulu new cave was discovered, in total over 2 ½ kilometres of new passage surveyed.

Looking back towards the entrance to Green Cave. Photo © Robbie Shone

The Deer Cave massif and Southern Api were the objectives for a small team based at the National Park headquarters.  The plan was to tie in as many cave entrances as possible  with conventional surface surveying techniques combined with a few GPS readings and the existing cave surveys.  In addition, a scientific programme was planned plus a substantial amount of new photography to update the pictures of the caves, many of which have not been photographed since the original exploration up to 30 years ago.

On Saturday 1st May the advanced party of Gina Mosley and Andy Eavis left Britain, arriving in Miri the next day and after a spate of frantic shopping flew to Mulu on Monday 3rd May.  Gina and Andy partook of the hospitality of the National Park and were delighted to be using the excellent scientific quarters and work room.

The entrance to Daniels Cave. Photo © Andy Eavis

On Thursday 6th May, Matt Kirby and Hugh St Lawrence arrived. For the next couple of days the four team members re-established  some of the tracks to the caves that had not been visited for many years.  The entrances of Langans, Drunken Forest and Cobra were visited and the surface surveying started between Deer Cave, Stone Horse and caves of the Paku Valley.

On Sunday 9th May, Pete Smart arrived to help Gina on the scientific side of the expedition.  The next day, Brian Clark the National Park Manager had a grandson Alex, born to the wife of his son in Miri.  The same day, Robbie Shone arrived but not in quite such dramatic style!

Black hand passage. Photo © Robbie Shone

A trip through Paris cave into Fern Rock cave gave access to entrances high above the Paku river, where obvious markers were left to tie the entrances into the surface survey.

A completely new cave was found next to the Stone Horse rear entrance, this was called Black Hand as there were a number of hand prints some distance inside the entrance which are almost certainly modern and related to graffiti that unfortunately has been done by the birds nesters.

Stone Horse, Paris, Black Hand and Deer Cave were all photographed and scientific samples taken.  Quartz samples for cosmogenic burial dating, speliothem and sediment samples were all taken in small sample sizes in strategic places.

A head scarf blowing in the strong draught at the Green Cave exit. Photo © Robbie Shone

With Tim Allen’s arrival on the 14th May the team was complete.  Veno our local organiser also joined the team for a few days, in particular he accompanied a group through  Green Cave to the Melinau Paku, this was used as a reconnaissance for a big photographic trip later.

Andy and Pete spent time surface surveying and prospecting for entrances on the southern side of the Paku.  One of their main objectives was to rediscover Daniels Cave which proved to be  elusive.

There was a considerable amount of rainfall and coupled to  the fact that personnel were limited, it was decided not to attempt the Sarawak Chamber photography but to leave that for the next Expedition and hopefully to do it in conjunction with a 3D laser scan.

Surface survey in the rain with the disto laser. Photo © Matt Kirby

Pete, Andy and Rambli Ahmad from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation went with locals, Chris, Lucy and Manny to spend a couple of nights in Camp 1, to continue work looking for entrances and Daniels Cave and also tie in the surface survey.  During this period, the rest of the team completed the surface surveys through Deer Cave and into the Garden of Eden, tying in both Green and Snake caves.  The isolated Batu to the south was also visited and three small caves surveyed.  These were new to the expedition but well known to the National Park staff.  Robbie and his various assistants completed a number of big photographic trips into Green Cave, Deer Cave, Racer Cave and Cave of the Winds.

A break from surveying in the Garden of Eden. Photo © Robbie Shone

The Camp 1 team although hampered by serious floods eventually found Daniels, high above the Paku Valley and to the south west of Green Cave’s northern entrance.

A new cave high up in the Southern wall of the Melinau Paku was also found.  At a height of 230 metres, this was surveyed and tied into the surface survey as was Daniels Cave.

The arrete climb in Green Cave. Photo © Matt Kirby

A planned trip into the higher levels of Clearwater was made all the more interesting by very high water levels, the only practical way in was via Cave of the Winds and the connection passage.  For the last few days of the trip, Gina, Pete and Andy visited the highest levels to collect samples.  Tim and Matt guided the way in to Armistice and rigged one of the climbs – a compass, survey and luck guided the way out the following day after a lightweight overnight camp.

Gina, Pete and Andy succeeded in getting samples right up to Heavens Gate and Secret Garden in the process they discovered a number of very tight squeezes shown on the surveys but not marked as squeezes.  A suggestion was the early explorer surveyors were too embarrassed to write the word “squeeze” on the survey.
25th May things were wrapped up, packed ready to go home. Most objectives had been completed.  15 kilometres of surface survey, many scientific observation and samples taken.  Without really trying 2 ½ kilometres had been discovered and an interesting archaeological site found.