Team member Phil Bence (caver, climbing and canyoning instructor), talks about his recent expedition to Papua New Guinea.
The "Wowo 2012" expedition just ended, and was part of a long line of major cave explorations in Papua New Guinea that have contributed, over the last 30 years, to the discovery of legendary caves and sinkholes such as the Naré, Kavakuna, and Minyé sinkholes, as well as the well-known Muruk cave (the first and only cave in the Southern Hemisphere more than 1000m deep).
During our expedition in 2010, we succeed in linking 2 vast caverns and pushing the exploration further and deeper into the main drainage chamber of this extensive cave system. Due to time constraints we had to stop, 580m down, in a large gallery with an underground stream running through it. Strong air currents beckoned us towards higher, yet-to-be-explored, galleries. This is why we decide to return to this captivating landscape in the heart of the Nakanaï Mountains.
A French-Swiss team of 13 cavers, made up of a core group of regulars and a few new faces, got together for the expedition, eager to once again explore the Papua New Guinean frontier. After 2 months of travel, 1 spent in the forest, the 2012 FFS (French Caving Federation) national expedition ended up being a great success. Whether it was exploring beyond the siphon or climbing through the higher network of galleries, the documented Wowo cave system now extends through more than 21 km of caverns, and is the longest known cave system in New Britain. It can now be considered a part of the exclusive club of “major caves” in the Papua region. At a depth of 660m, it is the second deepest cave in the Papua region, after Muruk.
We discovered and explored a number of other caves in the area, including "Khou", a nice little swallow hole that is 423m deep. After many days of hard work we finally reached the powerful resurgence at the bottom of the gorge that turned out to be impossible to get through, so for now their secrets will continue to elude us. In the end, our team discovered almost 11 km of new galleries in the Matali cave area, adding to our knowledge of this fantastic range.
Whether caving in France or on an expedition in a far away land, the desire to explore remains the reason why cavers cave. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to discover virgin terrain, to be the first to explore an area, to draw the map, to name a cave and its features. Each generation of cavers has continued to reveal this hidden world. The subterranean environment is a fantastic place for discovery, for adventure, and for learning; we are certainly lucky to be able to enjoy exploring it!
Climbing, canyoning and caving instructor
Director, EXPLOS Film Festival
The expedition team :
Jean-Paul Sounier, Florence Guillot, Phil Bence, Barnabé Fourgous, Tristan Godet, Guillaume Capgras, Ambroise Arnould, Bruno Hugon, Bruno Guiter,
Damien Linder (CH), Gary Bernier (CH), Matej Fresard (Ch), Christophe Meyer (Ch)
VIDEO - Wowo caving expedition
To descend even further