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World’s longest sandstone cave
Krem Puri was discovered in 2016, but its actual length was found during an expedition by the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) in 2018.
The world’s longest sandstone cave at 24,583 metres in length has been discovered in Meghalaya, the northeastern state known for its complex cave systems hidden under its undulating hills.
Called Krem Puri, the cave was discovered in 2016, but its actual length was found during an expedition by the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) to measure and map it between February 5 and March 1 this year, said Brian Daly Kharpran, a founding member of the organisation.
This underground cavern is more than 6,000 metres longer than the world record-holder, the Cueva Del Saman in Edo Zulia, Venezuela — a quartzite sandstone cave measuring 18,200 metres. “This sandstone cave has also become India’s second longest cave in the general category after the limestone Krem Liat Prah-Umim-Labit system measuring a little over 31km in Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya,” said Kharpran, a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2002.
Besides delighting speleologists and cave enthusiasts, Krem Puri near the village of Laitsohum in the Mawsynram area of East Khasi Hills district also has features that attract paleontologists.
The cave system has fossils of dinosaurs, especially the Mosasaurus, a giant reptile that lived 66-76 million years ago.
EXPEDITION BY MMA
The 25-day expedition by the Meghalaya Adventurers' Association was carried out by a team of four Italian scientists from La Venta, 30 experienced cave explorers from UK, Ireland, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, and the rest of the members from MAA.
This expedition, which took place from February 5 to March 1, 2018, explored almost the entirety of Krem Puri. Only a few leads have been left open.
The expedition team comprised 30 seasoned cavers from the UK, Ireland, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, members of MAA, and four Italian scientists from La Venta.
The scientists were invited to give their insight about the structure and genesis of krems, which in the Khasi language means cave, in Mawsynram — known as the wettest place on earth for its record-breaking rainfall. The 25-day exploration mapped almost all of Krem Puri, with little leads left open, Kharpran said. That apart, nine more partially explored and new caves were mapped. “Overall, the 2018 expedition explored and mapped 22.8km of new cave passages,” said Kharpran, who has been exploring and mapping caves since 1992.
MEGHALAYA IS HOME TO 1650 CAVES AND CAVE SYSTEMS
The whereabouts of more than 1,650 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya, of which over 1,000 have been explored or partially explored. According to official data, the state has 491km of surveyed caves. And many more are waiting to be discovered.
The North-Eastern Indian state of Meghalaya is renowned for its complex cave systems underneath the many hills. It has more than 1650 known caves and cave locations of which 1000 have been partially or fully explored. Official data says 491 kilometres of caves have been already surveyed while many more remain to be explored.
There are so many cave systems in Meghalaya located in the areas of Cherrapunjee, Shella, Pynursla, Nongjri, Mawsynram and Langrin, that the explored caves amount to only five per cent of the total caves in the state.
General Secretary of MAA and founding member, Brian Khapran Daly, informed HT that 22.8 km of new cave passages were mapped in this expedition leading to the exploration of the world's longest sandstone cave, which included nine more partially and newly explored caves.
Khapran has been exploring and mapping Meghalaya caves since the early 90s and also received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2002.
Dinosaur fossils, complex maze
Setting a world record at 24,583-metre (24.5km) — which is almost three times the height of Mount Everest, Krem Puri in Meghalaya is 6,000-metre longer than previous record holder.
Setting a world record at 24,583-metre (24.5km) — which is almost three times the height of Mount Everest, Krem Puri is 6,000-metre longer than previous record holder Venezuela’s Cueva Del Saman 18,200-metre (18.2km) long quartzite sandstone cave in Edo Zulia.
Not only is the cave rich in flora and fauna such as frogs, fish, spiders and bats, but dinosaur fossils — especially of a giant aquatic carnivorous reptile Mosasaurus that lived 66-76 million years ago — have been found. While the cave had been discovered two years back in 2016, it is only recently that a team from the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) led by Brian Daly Kharpran – who is a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2002 – explored the complex maze of passages and corridors inside.
What’s more, the sandstone cave has reportedly also been named India’s second longest cave in the general category after the limestone Krem Liat Prah-Umim-Labit system, which measures a little over 31km in Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya.