Expedition discovering the second deepest cave system in the Southern Hemisphere
In March 2007, Fourth Element sponsored an International Team of cavers and cave divers led by Jean-Paul Sounier. The team travelled to New Britain, in Papua New Guinea to explore cave systems in the Nakanai mountain region. In doing so, they discovered the second deepest cave system in the Southern Hemisphere.
Siphons Sous le Jongle
The Nakanai Mountains is an area of outstanding natural beauty. To the north the mountain range is dominated by a group of spectacular volcanoes. divides the Nakanai Mountains from the Whiteman Range. It is one of the last true wildernesses on our planet and is a Tentative World Heritage Site.
The objectives were clear.
1. To explore a system of caves and sumps which were the first in the Southern Hemisphere to be found to go below 1000m in depth. In doing so, the team aimed to discover the interconnectedness of several cave systems in the Nakanaï region.
During the expedition, 10 km of galleries were explored. 16 sumps were passed, with a cumulative underwater distance explored of 1217 m. The total dry cave explored beyond the sumps was 2866 m.
2. To obtain samples from sedimentary deposits at the bottom of the Arcturus Pit at a depth of 450m which will give clues as to the local weather patterns over geological time. Each time a cyclone hits this area, the resultant deforestation and flooding leads to a characteristic sedimentary deposit. Investigation of this deposit will allow scientists to determine the frequency of cyclonic activity in the area over hundreds of years, giving an insight into possible global climate change.
Other objectives which were not able to be achieved included locating the source of one of the major underground rivers, expected to be in the Albebaran pit region. Unfortunately, the destruction of the forest in 1994 by cyclonic activity resulted in the growth of a bamboo forest which was unpenetrable. This still leaves questions unanswered about this amazing area.
The team included divers and cavers of several nationalities: Belgium, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Canada, England. Many of these brought individual specialities to the team: photography, topography, climbing, scientific. The group also included a film crew led by Gerald Fauvre.
Fourth Element supplied the team with drybase, a fast wicking base layer for next to the skin. The additional thermal properties of drybase over standard base layers enabled the team to get he most out of it both above ground, where its moisture management properties were the most important and below ground where the temperatures were cooler.
“Most of us virtually lived in the clothing as it was very comfortable and ideal for evening use in the camps and long waits by sump pools.”
Joel Corrigan, team member and cave access specialist.
Expedition photography courtesy of www.speleo-photos.be