The CUCC expedition begins this Monday (25th July), after a two-year hiatus. Over 5 weeks, we’ll see 40+ people congregating in Totes Gebirge, Austria, to continue exploring caves on the Loser Plateau. We’ll be reporting the progress of this year’s expo on this thread and (hopefully) sharing all the exciting new finds and pretty photos.
The expedition’s main cave system is the SMK (Schwarzmooskogel Höhlensystem) system. It is currently 136 km long and 1125 m deep, making it the 2nd longest cave in Austria and the 17th longest cave in the world. It is also one of only five caves in the world that is >100 km long and >1,000 m deep. It is therefore an immensely exciting system to explore. Further adding to the excitement of this expedition is the fact that Austria’s longest cave (Schönberg Höhlensystem) is also on the Loser Plateau, ~3 km away. Connecting these two systems would make one of the longest caves in the world; This is a long-term goal of the expedition.
Exploration this year will continue in Balkonhöhle. Exploration of this cave began in 2014 and was connected to the SMK system in 2015. It represents the northernmost part of the SMK system. Exploration over the last few years has yielded a lot of exciting finds; a 130m long, over 40m wide and up to 100m high chamber (“Galactica”) and a 200 m deep pitch series (“Mongol Rally”) to name but two. In 2019, much of the exploration in this system was concentrated on a series of phreatic passages ~50m up from the bottom of Mongol Rally (~400 m deep in the system), called “Pitstop”. Numerous leads were pushed here (with names like “Medusa’s Maze”, “Hades’s Rift”, “Where’s the milk”, “Custard Cavalry”), but very few were killed. There is a lot
of leads still waiting to be explored in Balkönhohle, including 42 A leads (the most promising ones), 44 B leads and 44 C leads. Many of these leads will extend the system northwards into unexplored space.
The other main focus for this year’s exploration is Fischgesicht (or Fish Face) and Glucklich Schmetterlinghöhle (Happy Butterfly), two closely located caves that were discovered in 2017. They are located ~ 500m west of the SMK system. Their location on the plateau, good drafts and the complexity of their passages means there is good potential for these caves to connect with the SMK system, and with one another. The connection between the two caves is thought to have been found in 2019, although not confirmed. In 2018, extensive phreatic cave was discovered at -250m in Fischgesicht, trending northeast towards SMK, towards a part of the SMK (“the Subway”) where a lot of unexplored leads remain. Connecting these caves into the SMK system would extend the system significantly westwards and towards the Schönberg Höhlensystem.
We’ll also be giving updates of the expo on out Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/cambridge_uni_caving_expo/?hl=en
) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CUCCEXPO
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Expo - UK Caving Blog figures and photos
Blog Author: Sarah P
Here's some figures and photos showing the SMK system, Fischgesicht and Balkonhöhle:
Overall SMK system:
Schwarzmooskogel (SMK) system (right) shown in relation to the Schoenberg-Hohlenen (SH) system. 264 = Balkonhohle, 290 = Fischgesicht, 291 = Glückliche Schmetterlingshöhle. Credit: Nat Dalton.
Location of Balkonhöhle (1623/264) and Tunnockschacht (1623/258) in the SMK system, coloured by elevation (a.s.l) in top left and year of exploration in bottom right. Credit: Nat Dalton.
Number of unexplored leads in Balkon, by depth in the cave. QMA: more promising leads, to QMC: less promising leads. Credit: Rob Watson.
Hades' rift, in the Medusa's Maze region of Balkonh
öhle. Photo credit: Harry Kettle.
Phreatic passage in Medusa's Maze. Passage beyond was unexplored at the end of the 2019 expedition. Photo credit: Harry Kettle.
Location of Fischgesicht (290) and Glückliche Schmetterlingshöhle (291) in relation to the SMK system. Also shown is Homecoming (359), a cave explored in 2018 and 2019.
Number of unexplored leads in Fischgesicht, by depth in the cave. QMA: more promising leads, to QMC: less promising leads. Credit: Rob Watson.
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