Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 27 Aug 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015b-005)

Expedition Name (& Club): Southern Shan State 2015
Destination country: Myanmar
Region: Southern Shan State
Lat: 21.1500 Long: 96.4571 Elevation: 1216 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Dr Ben Wright
Total cavers: 5
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 0
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 1
UK/nonUK cavers: 4/1
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 19th Dec 2015 - 10th Jan 2016
Duration (days): 23
Man-days in field: 85 Man-days travelling: 36
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

The team plan to returning to a large limestone plateau around the town of Ywangan in Southern Shan State, located in central-east Myanmar. We previously explored and mapped the longest (4.8 km) and deepest (165m) cave in Myanmar in this area, located to the east of Ywangan. We know the limestone units on the plateau are highly karstic.

This year we plan to go the west of Ywangan, and visit the more remote edge of the karst escarpment. Our new area has up to 1,200m depth potential (and consistently over 1 km) in limestone. Local villagers reported cave entrances to us in this area during a reconnaissance day at the end of our last expedition in 2013/4. Large cave entrances (one > 50m wide) and three interesting looking resurgences have been spotted on Google Earth in this new area.

If there any problems with local access or finding entrances, we have a backup plan to return to the caves we previously explored around the village of Linwe, to the east of Ywangan.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

As transport and logistics within Myanmar are incredibly expensive due to the need to hire a private vehicle and guide and due to the delicate political situation, trips to this country are usually fairly expensive. Any funding the team receives from the Ghar Parau Foundation will go toward mitigating some of these costs and making the trip more affordable.

Due to the remote nature of this expedition the team hopes it would also receive funding from the Mount Everest Foundation as it has in the past.
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.

Our overall objective is to explore for cave systems to the west of Ywangan in a more remote area than previous trips, which has 1000-1200m of depth potential. This area comprises a 5-8 km wide limestone plateau situated immediately west of the town of Ywangan, with a steep west-facing escarpment then dropping down to the plains. As in previous trips we will hire a guide (hopefully Mr So who came with us 2 years ago) and a driver with 4-WD vehicle.

Our aim is to:

(1) Approach the base of the plateau from the main road south of Mandalay, and stay in local villages at the foot of the escarpment (e.g. Ingon or Kanze). We have not stayed in these villages previously. Satellite images show three significant resurgences at the foot of the plateau, together with a very large arched cave entrance that is > 50m wide. This cave entrance is located ~1.2 km away (and 500m higher) than one of the northern resurgences. Further south, the other two resurgences are located below the highest part of the escarpment with up to 1200m of relief. We wish to reach the large cave entrance, and the three resurgences, to see if they demonstrate the potential for large and deep systems here.

(2) We will then travel back to the town of Ywangan (1 day drive) on the top of the plateau. We will explore west and north from Ywangan, to look for entrances on the top and edges of the plateau. We spent one day on this side of Ywangan at the end of our last trip in 2013/14, and a local villager reported cave entrance ~2 hours walk away. The near side of the plateau is farmed and more easily traversed, but the far (west) side of the plateau is more heavily vegetated. We have requested permits to camp out in this area, if we find going entrances. The area has numerous dolines and closed depressions on maps and satellite images.

(3) As a back-up plan – we will also ask for permission to go back to the caves we explored near to the villages of Linwe in 2013/14. These include 2 of the longest 3 caves in the country. There are some leads remaining, and we could also search for new nearby entrances.

These three areas are numbered 1-to-3 on the attached pdf map. We also append a satellite (google earth) image of the large cave entrance seen to be near the northern resurgence.

We also have two more general aims. The first is to make contacts in Myanmar that help cavers gain permission to visit other karstic areas of the country in the future, notable where very large rivers sink to the east of Lashio. The political situation in Myanmar is changing, and new areas may open up in a few years. We also aim to add our new cave entrances and surveys to a web page on Myanmar caves hosted by Joerg Dreyboldt, with whom we collaborate. We will also make the usual presentation at Hidden Earth in 2016.
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.

Team members have participated in expeditions to the Southern Shan area in 2012, 2013 and 2014 where they explored a number of fairly major caves. These included Stone Cave (the deepest and longest cave in Myanmar, 4.8km long and 165m deep), Stone Spring Cave (1.9km long), Dragon Cave (1.7km long) and Skylight Hole (0.9km long and 133m deep). A report from the 2014 expedition can be found here:

The team also explored caves further south in the Southern Shan State in the Taunggyi area.

Furthermore there has been two trips lead by Joerg Dreybrodt to the Kayah area in Southern Myanmar and a report (in German) can be found here:

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Fly from London to Yangon, then internal flight to either Mandalay or Heho. Then overland by vehicle to South Shan State.

# from UK: 4 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £4,000 Flight form London to Yangon: £800
Internal Flight: £200

# from outside UK: 1 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £400 Flight from Kunming to Yangon: £200
Internal Flight: £200

Travel total: £4,400 Travel p.p. from UK: £1,000
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £400


Total: £1,100 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £220 Hotel Accommodation for 10 nights: $500
Restaurant food for 10 days: $700

Local village accommodation and food for 10 nights: $500

Total: $1700


Total: £550 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £110 Most of the groups equipment is already out in Myanmar, but the team plans on buying the following:

Drill: £350
Rope: £100
Thrubolts: £50
Miscellaneous equipment:: £50

Special 1

Total: £2,300 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £460 Vehicle hire with driver, guide and fuel at $200 per day for 18 days
Exped Total: £8,350 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £1,790
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £1,190
Mean Exped cost per person: £1,670

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
Due to the remote nature of this expedition the team hopes that they would also receive funding from the Mount Everest Foundation as they have in the past.
Total shortfall: £8,350 Mean shortfall per person: £1,670

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 Tony Seddon
Affiliation: NPC

Reason: Tony Seddon has a huge amount of experience and has attended several major caving expeditions all around the world. He also knows the team members well and therefore we feel he makes a perfect reference.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Ms Imogen Furlong
Affiliation: BPC

Reason: Imogen Furlong has a lot of experience caving in the area and has participated in two of the previous trips to Myanmar, as well as trips to China and India. As she also knows the expedition members well we feel she makes a perfect referee.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Ben Wright