1,000 metres and falling

Inside Nettlebed Cave, one of the caves in Mt Arthur

Inside Nettlebed Cave, one of the Mt Arthur caves

New Zealand’s leading cavers have, for the first time, linked up two previously separate parts of the Ellis Basin cave system, making the cave more than 1,000 metres deep in the Mt Arthur area near Motueka.

It is not, contrary to a TVNZ report, the deepest cavers anywhere have got. Getting more than 1,000 metres down is a momentous occasion for New Zealand speleologists, but it only puts the cave among the world’s deepest. The deepest is the Krubera Cave in Georgia, which has been explored to 2,191 metres.

Still, it is a massive achievement that has built upon decades of earlier exploration. One team of cavers working upwards eventually met another team working down. Among them was Kieran McKay, who knows the system very well – he was also rescued from nearby Bulmer Cavern on Mt Owen after suffering a fall in 1998.

The discovery will mean that we will have to update our caving entry, and will probably have to do so again as the cavers are confident of linking it up to another system 300–400 metres higher up Mt Arthur.

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