Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 26 Feb 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015a-002)

Expedition Name (& Club): There and Back Again (Imperial College Caving Club)
Destination country: New Zealand
Region: Mount Owen
Lat: -41.5190 Long: 172.5613 Elevation: 1161 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Rhys Tyers
Total cavers: 9
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 8
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 1
UK/nonUK cavers: 7/2
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 2
Expedition dates: 2nd Apr 2015 - 24th Apr 2015
Duration (days): 23
Man-days in field: 126 Man-days travelling: 72
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

Discovery and surveying of new caves on the north aspect of Mt Owen, one of the Marble Hills in the Kahurangi National Park. Dye tracing between Bulmer Cavern, the longest cave system in New Zealand reveals a link to the Blue Creek resurgence 8km to the north. We intend to surface bash for new caves which may lead into the master system below, or to horizontal fossil passage above the master system.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

We have obtained funding of £1050 per person from the Exploration Board of Imperial College London. The Board requires us to provide a further £500 per person of funding from personal contributions or other grants. We are looking for additional funding to meet this requirement, and lower the £500 barrier to entry for young cavers. Our expedition is ideal for the GPF, as we have a high potential to discover new caves, we will gain valuable experience with cave exploration, we have excellent connections with local groups and we will benefit the sport as a whole by training the younger generation of cavers with the skills they need to lead expeditions in the future.

Imperial College has had significant success with the Slovenia expedition for the last 20 years, which is a mature and well run expedition. The proposed expedition will enable young cavers to experience the first steps of setting up a successful expedition in almost virgin territory.
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

New Zealand is home to the deepest caves in the southern hemisphere. In the last decade, Bulmer Cavern, on the south side of Mt Owen, has been surveyed as the longest cave system in New Zealand. Dye tracing indicates that there is an unexplored connection passingg under the north slope of Mt Owen, as the dye has been traced to the Blue Creek resurgence some 8km away. Some caves have been found on the Mt Owen massif in the period 1960-2000, but the exploration has been sporadic, and used older rope techniques. A thorough, focused expedition using SRT and modern equipment stands an excellent chance of discovering new caves in this practically unexplored region.

We will set up a base camp at around 1100 m, on the broad, unforested plateau that makes up the north aspect of Mt Owen. The terrain is broken and karstic, with plentiful streams for drinking water. The base camp will have solar panels for power, gas powered stoves for cooking and a tarpaulin to create a sheltered cooking space based around an overhanging rock identified as a suitable place by our local contact Kieran MacKay. Our equipment will be flown in by helicopter - our team will hike in along a well trodden track from the car park six hours to the north.

We will spend the first few days exploring the surface in groups of three, without caving equipment, geolocating potential leads using GPS, and marking them on topo-maps for consideration. We will then push any potential leads in teams of three, bolting using drills where necessary. Any lead longer than 100m will be surveyed to BCA grade 4-5 with compass, inclinometer and tape measure, and producing a centreline using survex. One group of three will remain on the surface at all times to provide back up, search for new leads and communicate with the outside world via satellite phone.

We hope to find vertical shafts leading to significant horizontal passage, either in the master system below the mountain, or fossil passage above the master system. We will preferentially push leads that contribute to this objective.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

The first cavern of Mount Owen to be explored in a systematic fashion is Bulmer cavern. In 1986 it reached its deepest point (-755 m). It is still actively explored and is the longest cave system in the country. Bohemia cave, the fifth deepest in New Zealand (-713 m) was pushed to its maximum depth in 1994. Other smaller caves such as Curtis Ghyll (-291 m) or Giant’s Staircase (-259 m) were quickly descended and explored in the 1960’s. In order to prevent exploration of caves by inexperienced hikers, the cave entrances do not appear on classic explorer maps. Our access to the cave entrance locations is through the Nelson Speleological Group. Exploration in New Zealand is generally organised around the availability of the cavers and expeditions are planned in advance and shared globally with the community. The latest development in the exploration of Mount Owen are related to the dye tracing experiments which show a connection between the far reaches of Bulmer cavern to the Blue creek resurgence.

The geology around Mount Owen is complex and still subject of active research. The Nelson district is comprised of rocks from all geological ages. The Alpine fault, a major tectonic plate boundary between the Indo Australian and Pacific plates strikes south westerly through the district and is causing the uplift of the Southern Alps. The Arthur Marble, of which Mount Owen is Ordovician in period (485-443 Ma) and is a heavily folded and faulted metamorphic rock derived from a pure limestone. It appears to have undergone an increasing metamorphic grade from low altitudes toward the heights. The limestone is believed to have undergone regional ( high grade ) metamorphism in the core of the range to which Mount Owen appertains. It is characterised by a series of folds, which have then undergone extensive brittle failure, hence the presence of major thrust faults, and fault propagation folds associated with them. It has since been uplifted and eroded by humid westerly winds of this particular latitude. The speleogenesis of the marble caves, of which Bulmer cavern is a prime example is mostly due to carbonic dissolution. Because of the high rates of uplift measured in this area of New Zealand, the karstification process is already well at work, leaving the potential for depth as well as horizontal development at depth. This potential is demonstrated by Mount Owen and Mount Arthur boasting both the three deepest and three longest caves in the country.

Structure, fabric, metamorphism of Arthur Marble in Pikikiruna Range, Nelson, New Zealand (David Shelley et al., 2010)

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Travel by air from London Heathrow to Christchurch, NZ via Guangzhou, China. Hire cars, and drive to Nelson. Equipment transported by helicopter from Nelson to base camp. Expedition members drive to a car park and hike for 6 hrs to the base camp.

# from UK: 8 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £10,312 £9352=8x1169 flights from LHR to Christchurch with South China Air
£860=2x430 car hire from Christchurch
£100=100x£1/litre fuel for driving (includes generous margin for emergencies)

# from outside UK: 1 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £700 £700=1x700 flight Singapore to Nelson
Cost of car hire/fuel does not increase with one additional person.

Travel total: £11,012 Travel p.p. from UK: £1,289
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £700


Total: £594 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £66 £0 for accommodation, wild camping is free and legal
£594=£3 pp pd for 9 people, 22 days.


Total: £443 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £49 £323=200m rope at £1.6/m bought in NZ
£40= 100* 40p 10x75mm masonry bolts
£80=4x£20 Binatone Terrain 750 walkie talkies
Other equipment will be from club stores.

Special 1

Total: £1,250 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £139 Helicopter for carrying up to 395 kg equipment from Nelson to designated basecamp on Mt Owen, and back.

Special 2

Total: £100 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £11 PAYG credit for satellite phones.
Exped Total: £13,399 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £1,554
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £965
Mean Exped cost per person: £1,488

Other Funding

Total: £9,150 Comments:
We have secured £9150 (£1017 per person) from the Exploration board at Imperial College, the maximum award possible. In addition, the exploration board will pay for our insurance and first aid training.

We are applying to the New Zealand Society of London, the Scott Foundation, the Mount Everest Foundation and the Transglobe expedition fund.

The balance of the expedition will be met by personal contributions.
Total shortfall: £4,249 Mean shortfall per person: £472

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Dr Lorraine Craig
Affiliation: Imperial College London

Reason: Chair of the Imperial College Exploration Board, which approved our proposal.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Dr Jarvist Moore Frost
Affiliation: University of Bath, NPC, ICCC

Reason: Experienced expeditionary caver and cave diver who has organised many expeditions to Slovenia.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Rhys Tyers