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Speleology in Kazakhstan

Shakalov on 11 Jul, 2012
Hello everyone!   I pleased to invite you to the official site of Central Asian Karstic-Speleological commission ("Kaspeko")   There, we regularly publish reports about our expeditions, articles and reports on speleotopics, lecture course for instructors, photos etc. ...

New publications on hypogene speleogenesis

Klimchouk on 26 Mar, 2012
Dear Colleagues, This is to draw your attention to several recent publications added to KarstBase, relevant to hypogenic karst/speleogenesis: Corrosion of limestone tablets in sulfidic ground-water: measurements and speleogenetic implications Galdenzi,

The deepest terrestrial animal

Klimchouk on 23 Feb, 2012
A recent publication of Spanish researchers describes the biology of Krubera Cave, including the deepest terrestrial animal ever found: Jordana, Rafael; Baquero, Enrique; Reboleira, Sofía and Sendra, Alberto. ...

Caves - landscapes without light

akop on 05 Feb, 2012
Exhibition dedicated to caves is taking place in the Vienna Natural History Museum   The exhibition at the Natural History Museum presents the surprising variety of caves and cave formations such as stalactites and various crystals. ...

Did you know?

That branchwork cave pattern is 1. a cave system that has been formed by the intersection of tubular or canyon-like conduits as tributaries in the down-flow direction. 2. a dendritic cave system of subterranean watercourses having many incoming branches and no visible outgoing ones [10].?

Checkout all 2699 terms in the KarstBase Glossary of Karst and Cave Terms

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Exploration Spotlight. This page presents the latest discoveries and achievements in the areas of Karst and Cave Research as well as Sport Caving. The underground world is last black spot on the map of the Earth and these are the latest news from there:

Close Kuzgun Cave and its Context: the first super-deep cave in the Aladaglar Massif, Turkey

Cave Search and Exploration in Aladaglar: Approach, Methods and Progress in 2001-2004

Search for caves

The core part and the first stage of speleological investigations under the project was a search for caves, and their standard documentation. A search strategy was developed to account for the above-mentioned specific characteristics of the Aladaglar high mountain karst. It included the following basic principles:

1) Thorough and systematic total search on an area-by-area basis, with special attention to small openings and cracks that have more chances to remain unplugged than large eye-catching entrances (Photo 17).

2) The search should be focused on specific geomorphological situations favouring to preserve caves unplugged and hence accessible, e.g. on tops of ridges and their edges, internal prominent rock hills (roches moutonnes) within glacial trough valleys and other places aloof from debris flows, in the vertical rock faces, etc (Photo 19, Photo 19 and Photo 20). Search focus on "hydrologically functionless" areas confronts the conventional caver's wisdom but it accounts for the specific effects of glacial scouring and subsequent periglacial conditions.

3) All openings, including sinkholes and blocked pits, should be checked for air draft. Strong and cold draft, even if it blows from a seemingly impassable boulder choke, is a good indication of the connection to a large system and signifies that the obstacles should be further negotiated using special efforts and methods (digging through fillings boulder chokes).

4) Search for caves should be accompanied by a complete documentation of inspected objects and their tie-in to a large-scale map.

5) Special geomorphological and structural investigations and mapping, aimed to reveal factors that favour cave location and accessibility, should accompany search efforts to give directions to areas of closest attention.

Cave inventory

This strategy has proven its efficiency. The expeditions in 2001, 2002 and 2003 resulted in exploration of almost 150 caves with the total depth of 5240m, not counting the deepest Kuzgun Cave. Of them 32 caves are deeper than 50m and 12 caves are deeper than 100m. Fifty-seven explored caves are located above 3000m altitude, the highest entrance being located at 3410m. The cave inventory is managed using the SpeleoBase program and the cave data are geocoded and integrated into GIS "Aladaglar Karst". The 3D models of Aladaglar that illustrate this article and show locations of caves, are outputs of this GIS (see DEM-view-from-East and DEM-view-from-South). Cave locations on the models are shown by small dots of violet, red and yellow colour.

A thorough and systematic search, exploration and documentation of caves laid a basis for the Aladaglar cave inventory, which serves to various scientific needs as well as to the task of revealing of deep cave systems.

Breaking to depth

Systematic exploration of caves in Aladaglar has revealed several problems, specific to high altitude karst, in accessing deep systems. Some of them were foreseen while others were realized in the course of the work.

The first set of problems is attributive to pits and shafts opened to the surface: their heavy blockage by debris plugs formed due to the high intensity of contemporary physical weathering, and by ice plugs formed due a long term accumulation of snow. Another typical case of blockage is plugging of open pits by show-ice accumulations (Photo 19). The variance of the above problems is plugging of pits by a kind of cemented diamicts deposited from melting at the base of accumulated ice columns that contained weathering clasts. This is a newly recognized type of cave deposits that deserves a characterization in a separate paper. Single pits of varying depths constitute a majority of documented caves because of various types of blockages at their bottoms. The above-mentioned focus in the search strategy on the specific geomorphic situations that favour to preserve caves unplugged, helped to find several caves among the many explored where it was possible to go farther than the first pit.

The second problem is that inclined passages ("meanders") between pits at depths up to approximately 200m in larger caves are commonly critically narrow and not penetrable. This is because flow concentration in such depth interval is not sufficient to develop wider meanders. In result of rapid uplift of the Aladaglar massif during Pleistocene, cave streams downcut quickly forming high (few to 20-30m) but narrow (10-30cm) meanders. In this situation, breaking into a deep system is possible only through a hard work on enlarging a passable way through such narrow passages in most promising caves.

After two expeditions devoted to the systematic search (in 2001 and 2002), several caves have been selected as targets for special efforts during the expedition of 2003 to free up narrow meanders and break to depth. In the Kemikli trough valley such caves were 185m deep Gulcitay Cave with the entrance at the altitude 3050m (Photo 20), and 125m deep Kosmodrom Cave located at 3010m. Two weeks of hard digging efforts gave slow advance in both caves but in the middle of the expedition another large cave has been discovered and captured all attention.

The cave, named Kuzgun (=Crown's cave in Turkish), had been found on a small ledge near the top of an elongated rock hill in the middle section of the Kemikli valley, at the altitude of 2840m (the location is indicated by a large red dot on the DEM-view-from-South, see also Photo 02 and Photo 18). The cave was a complex structure consisting of several generations of cavities. It provided an easy access to depth of -180m where narrow meanders suspended the exploration. The remaining two weeks of the 2003 expedition had been spent to free up these meanders. The major breakthrough had been made two days before the end of the expedition. During the remaining very last day the cave was explored in a single trip to the depth of -400m. Greater dimensions of the deeper part of the cave, several effluences and tributaries left unexplored, strong air draft and the open continuation with a large pit ahead - all suggested that one of large cave systems of Aladaglar had been eventually opened. Further exploration of Kuzgun Cave had been left for the subsequent year.