The Fengshan 2004 expedition in Oct /Nov was a follow up to the earlier China Caves Project expedition in Feb/March of that year.
Following the notable success of the earlier expedition in the Jiang Zhou system, and realizing the potential of this cave and the attractiveness of the surrounding karst features, the Fengshan local government had decided to put forward the area for designation as a national “geopark”, and commissioned the Karst Institute in Guilin to complete a survey of the caves and study the karst in the area.
The prime objective of the expedition was to carry out this work for the Institute and Fengshan County and build on the successes of March trip.
The idea of a geopark is to afford some degree of protection to important geological sites which do not have the benefit of World Heritage Site status or some other form of protection.
The umbrella organisation, the “Global Network of Geoparks” established under the aegis of UNESCO, has set a target of establishing 300+ global geoparks, adding about 20 new sites every year. At a national level China currently has 44 geoparks, 8 of which are on the global list and all of which are of national importance where tourism and scientific research are encouraged.
This was a China Caves Project expedition drawn mostly from the YRC and other northern clubs who have been exploring the karst in the north-west corner of Guangxi Province for the past 5 years.
The expedition was conducted over a period of a month with some of the team (11 UK members in total) there for the full period and others joining half way through the exploration.
The Jiang Zhou system was extended from its Spring 2004 limit of 7.5km to a new length of 29km, making it the longest cave in Guangxi and the third longest in China.
The cave system straddles Fengshan and Bama Counties in the Duyang Shan hills of Guangxi Province, about 24km south-south-west of Fengshan Town and roughly 50km to the west of the Hongshui river. The multi-entrance system lies under a typical tower karst landscape, with individual limestone towers rising to about 800m and the surrounding alluvial plains lying at about 300m. The main entrances and the fossil sections of the system lie between the 450 and 650m contours.
The nearest large village is Jiang Zhou, about 2km from the south-west edge of the system. One of the entrances to the system is within a few hundred metres of the village of Long Huai and another is just to the north of the scattered hamlet of Dalue.
The explored system comprises mainly very large fossil passages and chambers, the floors of which are often strewn with massive boulders or decorated with flowstone or stalagmite formations. The typical passage is 30-50m in width and of a similar height. Underlying the fossil series is an extensive active cave system which can be accessed at various points from the fossil passages. The underground river passages, however, frequently sump and an extensive section of river passage has yet to be discovered.
The sheer scale and volume of the passages is awe inspiring and sporting trips to the far reaches of the cave involve 16 km return trips – not once having to revert to knees!
Other caves in the area were also explored, looking at the potential for system to the north and west of Jiang Zhou. Ma Wang Dong, explored in 1989 by the China Caves Projects, was revisited but a potential link to the relatively nearby Green River Cave eluded the team. The sinks and resurgences of the Qaioyin river system south east of Fengshan were also examined. At one point this system reveals itself spectacularly as Chuan Long Dong (Factory Cave) in Fengshan Town.
A return trip to the area is planned for this year. The expedition was supported by the Yorkshire Ramblers Club and the Ghar Paru Foundation.
Team Members were:-
YRC - Bruce Bensley, Ged Campion, Alister Renton, Graham Salmon, Ernie Shield, together with Jane Butler.
Craven Pothole Club - Emma Porter and
Cleveland Speleo Group - Tony Harrison. Scarborough Caving Club - Mike Peters. Gloucester Speleo Club - Dave Appleing.
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