Mount Arthur, Kahurangi National Park

Stormy Pot, New Zealand’s Exciting New Cave System

May 6, 2011 / New Zealand, Oceania

While on an expedition this past February to explore the Ellis Basin cave system in Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand, the four member Extreme Cave Team led by Kieran Mckay wound up taking shelter from the weather in a random small cave after their encampment was destroyed by a storm. Their small muddy refuge on the western side of Mount Arthur turned out to be quite an important discovery.

Following the cave, it’s small entrance led to a wider, higher system that eventually extended to a length of ~2.5 kilometers (~1.5 miles) and a depth of 470 meters (1542 feet). The team stopping only because they encountered a 10 meter (33 foot) waterfall.

“We were in a long canyon, about 30m high, when we went around a corner and the water shot into blackness.” – Kieran Mckay

A recent second expedition to visit the cave, fittingly named “Stormy Pot”, has resulted in a surveyed length of 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) and a depth of 575 meters (1886 feet), with expectations that it could reach 1200 meters (3937 feet), making it the deepest cave in New Zealand.

A large spring 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away at an elevation 600 meters (1968 feet) lower, is the suspected to be where the cave leads. The cave seems to act as the main drain for the northern side of the mountain.

“The system was made up of deep vertical shafts, silent galleries, chambers and a large river they have called the River of Clowns” – Kieran Mckay

Besides finally getting past the original 10 meter (33 foot) waterfall that stopped them on the first trip, the team had to bypass a second waterfall that was 50 meters (164 feet) high. The expedition also encountered large round tunnels and huge chambers, rare formations of crystal and cave spiders.

Last year the team broke New Zealand’s depth record for a cave while exploring their initial target, the Ellis Basin system, which went down to 1024 meters (3360 feet). The Ellis Basin system extends 33.4 kilometers (20.75 miles).

The hope is that Stormy Pot will connect with the Nettlebed Cave which is at the beginning on the Pearse River. It has been explored to a depth of 890 meters (2920 feet) and is 23 kilometres (14 miles) long.

The team plans to return in June to continue exploration of the River of Clowns. While we’re waiting for next expedition results, take a look at the following short video exploring Stormy Pot.

Cavers near record depth [Nelson Mail] /
Caving team returns [Nelson Mail]

Photo by j0055

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