|A caver in the Stormy Pot system.|
Fifteen cavers, including some of New Zealand's top cavers, surfaced recently after spending eight days exploring the Stormy Pot system. Cavers hope to link it to the nearby Nettlebed Cave system, which comes out at the Pearse Resurgence, in the Pearse Valley, Motueka.
Caver Kieran McKay said the co-ordinates of the areas the cavers had mapped on the eight-day expedition were entered into the computer once they were above ground. They were extremely excited to discover they had come within 20m of linking the two systems. Underground they had not realised how tantalisingly close they were. "It's big progress, but we don't quite have that connection yet."
Mr McKay said if the two systems linked the cave would be of national and international significance. Joining the systems could take the mapped cave to a depth of 1200m, making it the deepest cave in New Zealand, and one of the deepest three trips in the world.
It would be a three-day, two-night trip for cavers to follow the system from the top at Mt Arthur to emerge at the Pearse Resurgence, he said.
"It's very significant. It's a really big thing for us."
He was confident a way to join the systems would eventually be found. "It's a matter of going closer and closer. Every trip in there the more likely we are to make a connection."
Cavers discovered the Stormy Pot system, which they entered on the top of Mt Arthur, after seeking shelter from a mountain storm in 2010, Mr McKay said.
They had returned to search the system numerous times since then and over the past 12 months they had explored it to a depth of 700m and 14 kilometres long.
It was hard work to get to the first cave site in the Stormy Pot system, Mr McKay said. The camp site was 500m below the surface, and took between four and nine hours to get there. Getting to the camp site included a series of 29 abseils, a 500m descent and a 2km traverse and team members hauled equipment, some of it weighing 40 kilograms, to the campsite.
"It isn't easy even for those who do a lot of caving."
Once at the site the caving got a lot easier.
Spending eight days underground and the trip back to the surface had been exhausting, and on exiting the cave he said he had sworn he would not be going back for a while.
However, once the pain had dissipated the next day he was keen to go back and said he hoped to get back, this time exploring the Nettlebed system at Easter.
Inside the Stormy Pot system was amazing, there were some big rivers, massive caverns and beautiful rock formations, he said.
Source: Nelson Mail