Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 23 Feb 2018


Expedition details (GPF2018a-004)

Expedition Name (& Club): Puncak Jaya Expedition to West Papua (UBSS/ Red Rose / OUCC / York /)
Country: Indonesia
Region: Puncak Jaya Plateau
Leader: Prof. Pete Talling
Lat: -4.05 Long: 137.416667 Elevation: 3500-4000 m

MEF funding: none
Expedition dates: 26th Aug 2018 - 23rd Sep 2018
Duration (days): 29
Man-days in field: 131 Man-days travelling: 44
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

This is the first caving expedition to a high plateau of limestone to the east of the highest mountain in Oceania (Puncak Jaya or Carstenz Pyramid), which is located in West Papua (ex Irian Jaya). This plateau has an unusually high density of river sinks and resurgences visible on Google Earth satellite images, and over 2 km of depth potential to the south. The terrain is often open grassland or simply bare limestone, rather than the dense jungle associated with lower elevations in Papua New Guinea or West Papua. This more open terrain allows sinks and resurgences to be seen on satellite images, and will assist with accessing them (although it will still be arduous and at high elevations). This is an initial exploratory trip, which will involve ~8 UK cavers. We believe this is one of the major areas of karst worldwide yet to be visited by caving expeditions, and it has >2 km depth potential.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

This will be the first trip to the area, as far as we are aware. There are a series (over 20) of major river sinks clearly visible on the satellite images. Some appear to feed a major resurgence located 6-12 km away near to Illaga. This is an initial exploratory trip, which will involve 8-9 UK cavers. This is one of the major areas of karst worldwide yet to be visited by caving expeditions, and it has >2 km depth potential. The GPF support will be targeted to allow those on lower incomes to take part. Incidentally, we are actively seeking younger (student) cavers to join the trip. If you know of interested parties please put them in touch. But so far, the cost (at least £2k per person) has been prohibitive. We believe that this is one of the major areas of karst, with world-class depth potential, that is yet to be explored worldwide. We hope this will be the basis for future UK expeditions, and we build on past UK expeditions to the island, such as to the Baliem Valley.
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.

Overview: This is the first caving expedition to a high plateau of limestone to the east of the highest mountain in Oceania (Puncak Jaya or Carstenz Pyramid), which is located in West Papua (ex Irian Jaya). This plateau has an unusually high density of river sinks and resurgences visible on Google Earth satellite images, and over 2 km of depth potential to the south. The terrain is often open grassland or simply bare limestone, rather than the dense jungle associated with lower elevations in Papua New Guinea or West Papua. This more open terrain allows sinks and resurgences to be seen on satellite images, and will assist with accessing them (although it will still be arduous and at high elevations).

This high (> 3000 and up to 5,000 m) limestone plateau extends ~70 miles on either side of Puncak Jaya, from Illaga to Wanghete. It has a depth potential in excess of 2 km, and we believe it is one of the major remaining targets for cave exploration worldwide. The density of sinks and resurgence is exceptional, and they are visible on satellite images due to the lack of dense jungle at such elevations. The peak of Puncak Jaya lies about half way along the plateau, near to the Freeport Mine that is the world’s second largest copper mine.

Primary aim is western part of plateau: In this expedition we primarily seek to explore the western part of the plateau that lies between Puncak Jaya and Illaga. This area was chosen for initial reconnaissance, because it lies on the established trekking route from Illaga to Puncak Jaya. We feel that being close to this established route will help with permits. We have been corresponding regularly (watsapp etc) with the owner of Trekpapua (see trekpapua.com), who can arrange access from Illaga. He regularly runs trips to climb Puncak Jaya from this route. Reaching the area will involve a charter flight to Illaga, and then a ~20km walk (with 1500m ascent) from Illaga, which typically takes 2-3 days. We would have a base camp, from which we will make day trips.

We will first focus on 3 big river sinks (and numerous other small sinks) that lie almost on the trekking route. These sinks appear to feed a large resurgence that is 400 m lower, and up to 12 km away, located in a gorge closer to Illaga. We will also visit this resurgence and gorge.

We will then visit a series of 6 major resurgence and sinks that lie further to the west and south, which are clearly visible in the open grasslands and bar rock on satellite images. Reaching these locations will involve walking up to 15 km (round trip) from a base camp. If they look good, we may have satellite camps.

Finally, we would visit a second area on the far (eastern) side of the resurgence-gorge, where there appear to be a number of very large sink holes. This can be done on the return walk to Illaga.

We have a team of 8 people, and 10 days in the field to achieve these aims, so we will see how many can be achieved. The area is at elevations of ~3500m, so we will need to acclimatise; and the temperature can reach freezing at night. But the terrain is open, and not the dense jungle seen elsewhere. So it is more feasible to reach and find targets. We will employ a local guide, who already knows some cavers we see on satellite images. A second trekking company is gathering entrance photographs for us, of places they know, one of which they describe as a gate to hell (….). The more obvious targets contain rivers, but not of the scale seen in other expeditions. But water levels may be an issue, although our initial target here is mainly reconnaissance. We will carry a relatively small amount of rope (< 200m) and a hand bolting kit. We have two qualified expedition doctors.


Area 2 near Wanghete: Talling and a few others will spend a final week near Wanghete, which is a town from which the eastern part of the plateau is accessed. They will scope out plans for accessing this eastern area in 2019. They also aim to reach a particularly large river resurgence, which is at a relatively low elevation, just 3 km from a significant town.

Area 3 - Eastern Part of Plateau (reconnaissance for 2019): The area to the east of Puncak Jaya has even more sinks and resurgences on satellite images, but it is somewhat more difficult to reach (~30 km) and it does not lie on a trekking route that trekking companies know well. We enquired whether one could walk the full length of the high plateau from west to east. But it is also not possible to bypass the large Freeport Mine, around which there is fighting connected to the Free Papua movement. We would thus like to go to this eastern part of the plateau in a future visit, accessing it from Wanghete, potentially in 2019. But in 2018, we only have 3 weeks and can thus only explore one main area.

See attached document for more details and figures....
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.

Previous work in the area and key publications:
Previous expeditions to West Papua (Irian Jaya) have gone to entirely different areas. They have often focussed on the Beliem Valley near Wamena, such as in the spectacular UK Caves of Thunder expeditions and other French, Dutch, and Italian expeditions. Previous UK and Italian expeditions visited the Puncak Trikora area, whilst Italian cavers recently found very large river caves in the dense jungle of the Bird’s Head Peninsula. But we are aware of no previous expeditions to the Puncat Jaya (Carstenz Pyramid) plateau.
Publications, Web Sites and Expeditions:

1984 UK reconnaissance expedition – see Cave Science 13, 25.

1985 Indonesia Expedition (Wanuga) – Caves and Caving No. 29.

1988 Caves of the Cloud Mountains Expedition – Cave Science 17, 39 (Trikora, Wolo, Illugwa, Pugima, Pauli, Usilimo, Koropun and Lake Gulanggun).

1990 Japanese expedition to Trikora and Illugwa

1990. UK High Trikora expedition – Roo Walters et al. (Aleya, Lake Gulanggun, East Baliem, Wanuga, Wanema) – Caves and Caving 52.

1991 Spanish Expedition to Wolo area

1992: Boothroyd, et al., 1993. Caves of Thunder: Irian Jaya Expedition 1992.

1999 Italian Expedition to Baliem Valley Italians: www.boegan.it/lattivita/estero/nuevo-guinea/1999-irian-jaya/

2000 Italian expedition (Gruppo Speleologico Bergamasco le Nottole) to Puncak Trikora and Baliem Valley: 2000 Italians www.nottole.it/naturali_oltrefrontiera_papua.html

2003, 2005 French expedition to Baliem Valley

2017-15 Italian expeditions to the Bird’s Head Peninsula, and previous expeditions to Seram Island: http://darknessbelow.co.uk/news-exploring-large-river-caves-in-west-papua/
http://www.acheloos.it/
The leader of this expedition Andrea Benassi has been in touch.

I have also emailed Al Warild, Dave Gill, Andy Eavis (who may have some aerial photos) et al.
Total UK cavers: 8
Total non UK cavers: 0
Total Cavers: 8
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0

Expedition Finances

Travel

Travel plans:
Travel arrangements: We will fly from the UK to Bali in Indonesia (£650), and then take an internal flight to Jayapura (£100). Trek Papua will then arrange a charter flight from Jayapura to Illaga. We will pick up provisions and a local guide in Illaga, before walking ~20 km to the west to camp in the caving area. We will return via a charter flight from Illaga, and then a flight from Jayapura to Bali, and then the UK.


# from UK: 8 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £7,600 International flights: £650 per person from the UK to Bali (total £5,000)

Internal flights: £150 per person (total £1,000)

Charter Flight: £200 (total £1,600)




# from outside UK: 0 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £0 none

Travel total: £7,600 Travel p.p. from UK: £950
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0

Subsistence

Total: £11,520 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £1,440 Cost of Guiding and Permits from Trek Papua $1,500 (£1,100) per person: (total £8,800)

In country expenses: £20 per person per day (total £2,720)

Gear

Total: £490 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £61 200 m x 8.5 mm rope = £220

Hand bolt kit = £90

Spits and cones, hangers and maillons = £180
Exped Total: £19,610 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £2,451
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £2,451

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
None.
Total shortfall: £19,610 Mean shortfall per person: £2,451

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: High experienced expedition caver and diver....

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Dr Hilary Greaves
Affiliation: OUCC

Reason: One of the best expedition leaders we know - led Picos and China expeditions.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Peter Talling