Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 29 Jul 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015b-003)

Expedition Name (& Club): Caves of the Kosua: International Caving Expedition to Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea
Destination country: Papua New Guinea
Region: Mount Bosavi, Southern Highlands
Lat: -6.5102 Long: 143.0797 Elevation: 174 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Stephen Macnamara
Total cavers: 16
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 0
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 11
UK/nonUK cavers: 5/11
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 10th Dec 2015 - 7th Jan 2016
Duration (days): 29
Man-days in field: 320 Man-days travelling: 144
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

In December 2015 an expedition team of 16 cavers will travel to the lands of the Kosua tribe in the remote village of Fogoma'iu in the foothills of Mt. Bosavi, deep in the jungles of the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. The expedition will build on a reconnaissance expedition of 2011, and push further up onto the formidable Darai Plateau, a densely rainforested, uninhabited karst plateau reaching 400 metres above sea level. The Kosuan people have again extended a warm invitation to us for our return expedition. During 3 weeks in the field, with their help, we will find, explore and document caves previously unknown to speleology. The area has demonstrated exciting potential, and we are hopeful that the plateau will yield a large and as yet undiscovered underground drainage system. Caves will be surveyed using modern digital mapping techniques, and finds will be documented through photography and video. In addition we will document the history and traditions of the tribe
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

The expedition has excellent prospects for finding and surveying new cave systems, and so matches well the aims of the GPF. A smaller expedition to the same area in 2011 found 24 new caves and surveyed 6.7km of passage. Numerous leads were left open due to lack of time, and the nearby Darai Plateau, not visited by locals for over a generation, presents even more potential for finding extensive cave systems. We have built good contacts with the local tribe, essential for a successful expedition. Transporting the team and equipment to remote Papua New Guinea involves chartering flights, and so is fairly expensive. Despite significant financial contributions from team members, the expedition will not be possible without the support of bodies like GPF. The team consists of cavers from Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. The findings of the expedition will be disseminated through the expedition report, articles in relevant publications, and talks at caving conferences.
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.

The primary objective of the expedition is the exploration of the Darai Plateau with the aim of discovering and exploring new cave systems. The plateau extends for at least 100 km in a southeasterly direction from Mt. Bosavi. It encompasses an area of well over 3000 square kilometres and aerial surveys show hundreds of sinkholes on the plateau, with immense potential for uncharted cave systems. The area is also part of the wider Kikori river basin which is on the tentative list for UENSCO World Heritage status. Any published material from our expedition will help contribute towards achieving world heritage status.

Detailed goals are as follows:
- Re-establish and build upon relationships developed with the Kosua tribe in 2011.
- Build on existing index of cave locations through knowledge of village elders and land owners.
- Establish base camp in Fogoma'iu (Kosua tribal village) and subsequent remote camp on the Darai Plateau.
- Conduct surface survey and reconnaissance of Darai plateau and push cave exploration into the plateau as far as possible with the resources available.
- Pursue unexplored leads from the 2011 expedition.
- Document overground and underground findings:
- Record GPS coordinates, maps, sketches and photographs of tracks, waypoints, cave entrances, karst features.
- Survey/map cave systems as they are explored, noting potential for extensions, noting any animals found, noting flood characteristics and airflow.
- Take photograph and/or video footage of daily expedition progress.
- Aiding the village: Our visit will provide assistance through basic medical assistance from our team, remuneration for guiding and hospitality services and the equipment that we leave behind for the village. We also provide spare seats on our charter plane to those in most need so that they can get to medical assistance in Mendi/Mt. Hagen.
- Report on completed expedition. Publish an expedition report including a summary of all of the above data and suggestions and priorities for future expeditions. Submit papers to at least 2 caving publications and present at two or more international caving conferences.

Should this expedition prove fruitful in terms of cave discoveries or ongoing underground exploratory leads, we plan to organise further expeditions to continue exploration of the plateau.

We will survey/map all explored caves using GPS, compass, clinometer and distance finders. Surveys will be produced to BCRA Grade 5. Water is scarce on the Darai Plateau due to the karst nature of the landscape (water sinks underground through the limestone) and we will utilise methods such as rainwater harvesting and pumping water from caves to provision water to the team on the plateau. On our expedition we have a professional photographer who specializes in cave photography using the latest lighting and composition techniques. Axel Hack has been featuring in numerous high profile caving publications and is an established photographer. We will film our experiences and keep video diaries with interviews to record key events.

As well as cave exploration, we also want to tell the stories of the Kosua tribe and interleave our experiences of living with them:

- Hunting methods: The Kosua hunt flying foxes with giant 'fly swatters' made from bamboo and thorn bushes - we want to document this.
- Historical significance: Cave art relating to folklore and creationism can be found in numerous caves in the region. The tribe are very spiritual and their poignant 'Sing-Sings' are songs symbolic of historical occurrences in their tribe, both joyful and sorrowful, and can last for hours throughout the night in purpose-built houses of prayer. At mountain passes, our guides would let a chilling wail out to the spirits of the land asking for permission to enter their domain.
- Bosavi and the Volcano: The Mt. Bosavi crater is regarded as a special place to all the tribespeople. The spirits within the crater are angered by commands, actions or descriptions of animals in the Kosuan tongue so this necessitates the need for a specific spirit language spoken only in the crater.
- The arrival of the Western world: Logging and mining companies are creeping into the local ecosystem and tribespeople are offered lucrative payments for their lands and with that an option to educate and provide for their children outside of the jungle. Others realise the value of preserving their lands and want to prevent the arrival of logging and mining companies wherever possible. Mobile phone reception is now available in some inhospitable parts of the jungle due to mining companies in the vicinity.

An expedition trailer can be viewed at:
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 definitive work on cave exploration in Papua New Guinea is "Beneath the cloud forests" by Howard M Beck (2002). This book charts the history of cave exploration in Papua New Guinea between 1962 and 1998, with a brief mention of further trips in the postscript. The majority of the expeditions described in the book were to New Britain, including the 1998 French exploration of Muruk Hul, the first cave deeper than 1000m in the Southern Hemisphere. On the mainland of PNG the most successful expeditions were to the Muller range of mountains in the Southern Highlands, where Australian teams explored multiple caves with very extensive development. The longest of these is the 54,800 m long Mamo Kananda. Only one expedition mentioned in the book looked at the Darai Plateau and explored the Darai doline. They describe overland travel as very difficult. The doline itself has a volume of over 150 million cubic metres, but the bottom did not lead to a cave system.

The recent history of cave exploration in the Bosavi region began in 2009, when Tim Fogg visited the area with the BBC’s "Lost Land of the Volcano" television series. This expedition saw a team of naturalists, a television crew, and their associated safety entourage, descend upon the village of Fogoma’iu near the extinct volcano of Bosavi in the Southern Highlands province. They spent six weeks here as guests of the Kosuan people, recording the rich wildlife as part of a three-part television series. The series included cave exploration on the island of New Britain; however, Tim also had spare time to visit some of the nearby caves in the Bosavi area with the locals. On this expedition the potential of the area for a dedicated exploratory cave expedition became clear, with numerous cave entrances within a days walk of the village.

Inspired by Tim's tales, an Irish lead expedition returned to the are in December 2011. Over the course of the next month, they surveyed 24 caves totaling 6.7 kilometres in length, over a 14km wide area to the east of the village. The caves were mostly horizontal in character, with 100m of rope sufficient to explore the deepest cave. Excellent relations were built up with the Kosuan people, who provided invaluable assistance in locating caves and traveling through the rainforest. This expedition did not visit the Darai plateau due to lack of manpower and time. A basic aerial reconnaissance was made from the plane on the flight out, but dense forest coverage meant that dolines or cave entrances were not definitively identified on the short flight. The findings of the expedition are documented in full in the expedition report, available at

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Expedition members will assemble in Brisbane, Australia on 11th December, flying with various carriers from their respective countries. From there we will fly with Air New Guinea to Mount Hagen (with a stopoff in Port Morseby). From there we will travel by road to Mendi, and from there we will charter flights to Fogo village. For the outward grip, two charter flights will be required due to the food and equipment to be carried. For the return trip, it is envisaged that one charter flight will be sufficient.

# from UK: 7 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £12,852 Flight to Brisbane: £940 per person
Flight Brisbane to Mount Hagen: £470 per person
Outbound charter flights: £255 per person (2 flights x £2040=£4080 for 16 people. 8800 PGK per flight)
Return charter flight: £127.50 per person (1 flights x £2040 for 16 people. 8800 PGK per flight)
Road transport Mt Hagen to Mendi (return): £43.5 per person (3000 PGK = £696 for 16 people)
Total: £1836 per person

# from outside UK: 9 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £17,064 Since other expedition members are traveling from Ireland, Germany and USA, the travel costs are very similar.
Flight to Brisbane: £1000 per person
Flight Brisbane to Mount Hagen: £470 per person
Outbound charter flights: £255 per person (2 flights x £2040=£4080 for 16 people. 8800 PGK per flight)
Return charter flight: £127.50 per person (1 flights x £2040 for 16 people. 8800 PGK per flight)
Road transport Mt Hagen to Mendi (return): £22 per person (1500 PGK = £348 for 16 people)
Total: £1896 per person

Travel total: £29,916 Travel p.p. from UK: £1,836
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £1,896


Total: £3,708 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £232 Costs for food and accommodation are based on costs from the 2011 expedition, scaled up for the increased size of the expedition and inflation.
Accomodation Mount Hendi (out): (300 PGK/room of 4 = 1200 PGK) = £278
Accomodation Mount Hendi (return): (300 PGK/room of 4 = 1200 PGK) = £278
Accomodation Mendi (out): (300 PGK/room of 4 = 1200 PGK) = £278
Accomodation Mendi (return): (300 PGK/room of 4 = 1200 PGK) = £278
House rental Fogo 16 people x 21 days 3000PGK = £696
Food purchases


Total: £1,532 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £96 Cooking kit, canvas, string, soap, etc. £200
First Aid/Medical supplies £200
Generator £150
Petrol £50
Rope 400 m x £1.30/m £520
Crobar Obligatory £10
Survey kit (e.g. notebooks - most to be borrowed) £40
Local simcards+credit (x2) £50
Satellite phone (hire+call credit) 2x voice + 1xcredit €450 = £312

Special 1

Total: £2,090 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £131 Local guide costs 6000PGK = £1392
Donation to village (gifts, school/medical kit) £350
Cave access fees 1500PGK £348

Special 2

Total: £4,049 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £253 We are employing Paul O'Dowd as a guide, translator and fixer. Cost = AUD$350/day x 21 days = £3477 + £572 travel/subsistence costs (travelling from Cairns)
Exped Total: £41,295 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £2,547
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £2,607
Mean Exped cost per person: £2,580

Other Funding

Total: £18,000 Comments:
National Geographic Global Exploration Fund €20,000 (applied for. Have passed first round - decision pending) NB, if we received this we would have to use a large amount of the award to hire additional photographers/film makers.
Transglobe expedition trust - applied for £2000
Speleological Union Ireland - applied for support. Received approx £2000 in 2011.
Note - no funding is yet secured! Team members will also fundraise by e.g. organising public lectures on caving expeditions, holding a fundra
Total shortfall: £23,295 Mean shortfall per person: £1,455

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: Mr Tim Fogg
Affiliation: SUI / Rope access specialising

Reason: Tim visited PNG while filming with the BBC's "Lost Land of the Volcano" TV program. He visited the same area the expedition visited, and noted the excellent speleological potential of the area. He has experience of working and living with the Kosuan

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Tony Seddon
Affiliation: NPC

Reason: Tony is a very experienced expedition caver having caved all over the world. He knows many of the expedition members personally.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Steve Macnamara