Malaysia 23rd January 12th February 1998


By Roger Gullidge (edited by Alan Gray)

23rd January � 12th February 1998

Purpose of the Expedition

The purpose of the 1998 expedition was to explore the known major resurgence in the vicinity of Wang Ulu Cave, close to Kangar, Perlis. This resurgence was located on the previous 1996 November/December expedition. Uncharacteristic weather conditions in 1996 forced the team to abandon further progress into this cave when they were caught in a flood pulse. This gave all involved a very healthy respect for the power of water.

In addition a further search for new caves would be made of the immediate locality. The position of these caves would be accurately recorded with the aid of satellite navigation (GPS).

Expedition Members

Roger Gullidge #Expedition LeaderMartin Rhys #Expedition Co-ordinatorPaul Hodgeson #Surveying Co-ordinatorKaren SwannExpedition DiaryDean WestlakeRopes and RiggingDuncan HooperFirst AidMatthew NicholsonTechnical AdvisorLiz Price #Resident in Kuala Lumpur/Translator

  1. - Members of the 1996 Expedition


It was originally intended to carry all equipment with us based upon the previous expedition excess baggage allowance. Unfortunately this years allowance was severely restricted, which in turn necessitated us forwarding 75kg of equipment by airfreight to Penang. A useful note for future expeditions, forward planning saves money; shipping by sea is far cheaper than airfreight.

Personal Allowance - 30kg each International Flight

25kg each Internal Flight

EQUIPMENTQUANTITYNOTESRiggingSpits and Wedges100Hangers50Mallions and Krabs60Slings (Tape and Rope)10Bolting and Driver Kit2Kit Bags6RopesStatic46m44m35m30m29m10m x 2Dynamic50m20mSRT EquipmentPersonal SRT Kit7Climbing Rack1Pitch Hauling Kits2Filming KitHi-8 Camera and Battery1Lights and Battery3Chargers1Diving KitRegulators and Oct sets31st Stage, Reg, SPG, Depth gaugeAlternative Regulators2Alternative SPG2Diving Masks3Dive Lights9MiscellaneousSurveying Kit2Water Purifier1Radios3GPS1First Aid Kits2BDH Containers (Large)4Used for First Aid & Food DumpsCharger for all lights1Shovel1Cable TiesMany

Animals and Insects Noted

Yellow Kneed SpiderOrange and blue Horseshoe SpiderWhip Scorpions (Sarax brachydactylus)Mahogany SpiderStriped SpiderWasp shaped Spider (about 2cm long)Cave GeckoCave Cricket (Diestrammena gravelyi)Praying Mantis (A Mantid) � about 1800 species in the worldForest Millipede (6cm long)Hornets � about 20,000 species in the worldBats � about 100 species in MalaysiaCave FishTurtle (Cyclemys dentata) Asian Leaf TurtleOtter (Cave) 4 species in Malaysia � Small Clawed (Amblonyx cinera), Hairy Nosed (Lutra sumatrana), Smooth Nosed (Lutra perspicillata), Common (Lutra lutra)Millipede (in shower)Frogs (Cave)CrabsLizards (various)Monitor LizardMonkeys � probably macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Although we could also hear gibbons calling, but didn�t see them. Gibbons are apes not monkeys.KingfishersKitesMynah BirdsGrass Snake (Bright green)ViperRed AntsSpotted Gecko (langkawi)Cave Flase Scorpions (Dhanus sp.) Cave Ants (Pheildole javanica)Cave Long Legged Centipede (Scutigera decipiens)Porcupine � which probably made the tracksTicks � about 3,000 species in the world



Tuesday 27th January 1998

There was a noticeable difference in water levels from the previous expedition, this year being one metre lower. Another entrance was noted. There had been a suspicion that this had existed on the previous expedition but was not apparent due the higher water levels. At the duck, where difficulties were experienced due to the flood pulse in 1996, a safety handline was installed between a bolt, which was put on one side of the duck and a natural belay on the other.

At the end of the next chamber a sump was discovered under the left-hand wall. We attempted to find a way on up a mud passage about 10 meters long which became too tight. Dean made an attempt to climb this mud passage but came to the decision that he would have to try later after dumping his kit. Backtracking, an upward trench, which led to a stream, was found. The water went off to the left a short way and then sumped, whilst an eight metre climb above closed down. More exploration is required to discover whether the second sump is free diveable. In all an additional 60 meters of further passage was added to this cave. Turtles, fish and a large spider hanging on tree roots were observed in the cave.

Thursday 29th January 1998

We returned to the cave with the filming equipment. Roger filmed with Martin and Paul following with the lighting. Duncan also filmed using his personal video camera.
After filming we bolted through the main passage and installed a handline. Dean meanwhile attempted to push up through the squeeze at the end of the muddy slope. There was a 10-metre climb up through the squeeze into a chamber approximately one metre wide, 2.5 meters long and three metres high. In the roof above there was a 200mm hole, surrounded by flowstone, it was to small to continue. The first sump, which now had an air gap of 50mm due to the drop in the water level, was dived. Roger led with Duncan taking a handline through.

With the sea and sea diving light Dean looked under the water of the second sump and could see that the other side opened out. Using a hammer the hole was enlarged by about 75mm to enable them to pass through with greater ease. There appeared to be an air bell on the other side, which was visible at a depth of 1� metres, and looked about 3 meters north from where we were treading water. Concern was expressed about the height in the air bell, but after a couple of attempts Dean reached it � another duck followed immediately. Dean freedived through attached to a three-meter safety line. Using goggles and the sea and sea light he could see that underwater there was a large wide duct. He went a short way in and then returned for a longer safety line. He then continued the freedive until the next airspace (approximately two meters), shouting back that there was a way on. Dean then returned to the others and began bolting whilst Roger went back for the handline used at the first sump. The sump was then dived and a handline attached. The exploration continued and the passage went on for approximately 50 metres ending in a large chamber measuring 10 to 12 meters high by 12 meters long. There was no visible way on with the terminal end of the chamber sumping; it looked very deep. This passage runs north and parallel with the original passage.

Sunday 8th February 1998

By the time we returned to Wang Ulu Cave the water level had again dropped by about 0.3 meters, a large terrapin was spotted in Terrapin Chamber. We walked through the original duck, which was now easily passable, to the dry landing at the end of the passage. The original sump was now a simple duck. The team filmed through the flooded passageway to what was thought to be the terminal chamber and sump. On closer inspection of this sump and under the water an airspace was seen behind a rock flake. Roger freedived through with everyone else following. We entered a rift running parallel to the terminal sump. This also sumped, was very deep and not freediveable. Dean investigated another way forward, which tapered down to about 125mm airspace in the highest level of the cave and then narrowed down at an angle to the water level. This continued for five metres and appeared to turn right, it was tight all the way. Dean could not get through this restriction and we realised that we had pushed this part of the cave to its limit; diving equipment would be required for progress further. Any slight increase in water level would be very serious. The team surveyed out to the original sump.

Wednesday 11th February 1998

We returned to Wang Ulu Cave on the last day of the expedition to complete the surveying of Terrapin Chamber.


Martin visited Malaysia in March 1999 (at the height of the dry season) and looked inside the Wang Ulu Cave entrance. He spotted wet flood debris in the roof. This indicated that there had been a very recent flood pulse of similar proportions to that experienced on the 1996 expedition. If a flood pulse struck during the explorations of the further reaches of the cave (25 January 1998) the whole team would have been drowned as retreat would have been impossible. It is suggested that the only safe way to continue exploration of Wang Ulu Cave would be to find a higher level entrance that leads to passages where you would not be affected by a flood pulse. To summarise exploration of Wang Ulu Cave via the resurgence should not be considered.


Wednesday 28th January 1998

We worked our way along the cliff faces exploring the resurgences that had been discovered on the 1996 expedition. At the first entrance we were met with the pungent odour of decaying flesh. Further inspection revealed a dead Monitor Lizard swathed in a heaving mass of black flies. The way on from the cave entrance was to the left but looked extremely muddy so we decided to return at a later date with wet suits. A GPS reading was taken.

After a long search the second entrance was located. Pipes entered the cave and an old pump was present. Further back a derelict generator was also spotted. On first inspection the passage appeared to be about 30 meters long with a pool of water at the end which sumped. It was then found to bear to the left and continue for another 10 meters.

Having passed through the narrow entrance passage we came to an area that was about six meters high with upper extensions which seemed to be draughting. The passage continued at a low level requiring ones head to be turned parallel to the water to fit between the pipe, that continued through the cave, and the passage wall, in order to keep your nose and mouth clear of the water. After passing through the low-level section Dean stood on the pipe to enable him to view the upper part of the small chamber. In doing so he managed to trap Paul by the head in the duck. The passage continued for some distance in the same vein with the odd enlargement where standing up was just possible before dropping back into the water. The water bore around to the left to what appeared to be a sump. The way on was to the right up a two-metre climb. Two drops were encountered each of two meters down into liquid mud with narrow tree trunks across them, the first collapsing as Dean stood on it. This led to a large chamber where a chain winch was found. Pipes and electrical cables ran the whole length of the passage leading us to the conclusion that we were not the first explorers. Boreholes were also apparent along the passage. The way on was very tight and silted and further exploration was prevented. Surveying was carried out as we departed from the cave. The upper extensions were investigated but they closed down. We named the cave Gua Pam (Pump Cave).


Thursday 5th February 1998

The trail began to the right hand side of Gua Pam (Pump Cave) heading in a northerly direction up towards a valley that was just visible from the main road to Wang Ulu Cave. The trail took in four Wangs dropping down into each and climbing up and out on the other side. The first Wang was the steepest of the four. The terrain was very hard going; sharp limestone with thick vegetation. The limestone had been eroded by an acid secreted by a bacterial that lives on it, creating steep sided pockets with extremely sharp ridges. The descent into the final Wang was down a very steep boulder slope, this Wang had no other exit and was surrounded by cliffs on all sides of between 45 to 60 meters in height. The most distant Wang was approximately three kilometres from the start of the trail and took two hours to reach. This Wang was explored in a clockwise direction investigating five or six holes seriously and taking a quick look at several others. All cave entrances were situated at the lowest part of the Wang.

The muddied leaves on the trees indicated a water level mark of six metres, indicating that the water backed up during the rainy season. Most of the caves explored at the lower end of the Wang only went a short distance before closing down to a mud-choked passage. A few contained small static pools. The higher end of the Wang consisted of a large boulder ruckle, which due to time factors has yet to be investigated, but this may have possibilities. What appeared to be the main sink was explored and can only be described as being a typical but exciting Mendip dig. Paul and Roger decided to move a few boulders and a large centre boulder dropped about 100mm. Enough was enough, we gave up and looked for another entrance.

Some caves were spotted on the sheer cliff faces, these would be extremely difficult to reach from below. Locating the entrances from above, using a rope descent would require two teams in radio contact, which on this occasion was not practical.

Friday 6th February 1998

The next day we returned to the Wang. The expedition split into two parties each team carrying a bolting kit, rope, rigging and SRT gear to enable limited exploration of any interesting leads. Radios were also carried for communication between the teams. One team began backtracking, investigating all openings noted on the journey up to the far Wang, the other continued on over the Wang with an exploration time limit of one hour. The second team continued over two small depressions. To the left a garden (because these Wangs tend to be sinks they contain deposits of soil. This allows various flowers, shrubs and small bushed to grow which is different to the vegetation in the jungle areas. Thus these Wangs were called gardens) was found which descended steeply and consisted of sharp boulder ruckles with parallel vertical walls of 50 metres high. A free climbable gully led to an eyehole in the left-hand wall (this has now been named Bridging Cave and was not surveyed due to its small size). It went horizontally for 10 meters with a sharp left-hand turn with pretty stal formations, which continued for about 15 metres before choking. The lower end of the Wang was checked for any possible leads. Dean went on to find a way out of the Wang. The way on was a clear path with very little rubble but due to time constraints the team had to turn back. As they began their return journey Duncan found an entrance beneath a large flat boulder. A chamber was found which contained many formations, this led off left, down into a second chamber which also contained formations and flowstone, through a squeeze

bearing left and slightly downhill to a boulder choke. Dean went on three metres over the boulder choke but could not progress as it required digging, he decided to name this Cricket Squeeze due to the three crickets residing there. On return to the surface radio contact was made with the other team.

The first team had worked their way back down the trail and explored between 10 and 15 holes, all of which closed down or were choked with the exception of one. Matt climbed down and returned to say that there were some pretty formations. The rift cave descended about 15 metres with loose stones, choked at the bottom with mud infill; four metres from the bottom a small hole was entered in line with the main rift. This led to a smaller chamber containing ancient stal and straws. Ducking and crawling through the straws led to another high rift chamber with more formations in it this was also choked. Directly opposite the entrance to the first chamber was a hole that was explored for a further 12 metres but this was choked and would require digging to make any further progress.


Thursday 5th February 1998

On reaching the second Wang we found an entrance on the left-hand side at the bottom of the Wang which was draughting well. A second entrance was also found. The cave became a network of passages with many pretty and delicate formations being observed.
One team continued on for about 30 metres when a vertical shaft was found and Martin climbed down. Paul and Karen went to investigate an entrance about 30 metres around the corner and the two passages connected into one large chamber. It was noted that the chamber had a series of passages leading from it. Again it required further exploration and surveying. Large amounts of both giant and small snail shells were found near the entrance.

Friday 6th February 1998

Spend today exploring, filming and surveying the rest of the system. Liz and Martin made a connection between the two entrances creating one large cave system. Liz noticed a very long stalactite arrow shape of about 1.3 metres in length, which resembles a Malay dagger called the Keris. We spent five and half-hours exploring this system with about a third of a kilometre surveyed. It is a highly decorated system with stal, flowstone, gower pools and patterned mud floors; long straws uncharacteristic in Malaysia and also helictites. The most important element of this find is that it appears that we are the first people to have entered the cave system. Most of the entrances have climbs immediately or soon after the entrance which would almost certainly deter the locals and casual visitors from exploration. The surveys show the finer details of the system, but it has been likened to Goatchurch (on Mendip) in its character, although this cave is much more decorated and considerable larger.

The cave has now been named Gua Bintang (Star Cave) due to its shape, which can be seen on the survey. The chamber with the large elephant foot shaped formation was called Elephant Foot Chamber.


Sunday 8th February 1998

The entrance, which was next to a tree and required a three-metre descent using the tree roots to assist. We then entered into a small cave with a passage leading off to the left down a short narrow slope. Karen continued down the slope passage to explore further, which led to a low-level chamber containing a false floor. Further on, the passage narrowed and highly polished markings were observed on the floor as if something frequently passed that way. Liz informed us that the polished rock was quite common and was caused by the passing of

animals over many years � snakes, porcupines and small mammals. Martin followed a passage on to the right, which led to a large chamber containing a deep hole in the floor. The way down was very loose and it was decided to leave further investigation until a rope was available. Further passage on the opposite side of the hole could be seen. Meanwhile Paul began kicking through an obstruction to a draughting passage on the right hand side of the cave. Paul suddenly returned, highly excited, and following him back to his find we came to a huge chamber, which gave the feeling of being in a cathedral due to its height and width. It was enormous. A straw 1.5 metres long was found, and formations like old temple columns. At the end of the right hand side of the chamber a possible way on was noted up an exposed climb. Before leaving the cave a gecko was spotted on the low ceiling. It was unusual in that its skin was white in colour and almost translucent with pinkish eyes. Martin photographed this Gecko and sent the photograph to the National Geographic Society on our return to find out if it is a new species.

Monday 9th February 1998

On the next visit Dean led the way up the exposed climb and fixed a 10-metre handline to enable the team to ascend. The way on led to a small chamber and then through a very tight stal squeeze requiring helmets to be removed. A draughting small hole led from this chamber down a six meter long muddy rift. The rift continued for a short way under a flake of rock. A tunnel to the left led into another chamber, through another squeeze into a dead end chamber. We then returned to investigate the right hand passage, which dropped down two climbs each of six meters into a water worn passage, which headed down the Wang to a rift. We began investigating a large boulder pile at the end of the large chamber under a shaft that led to the surface and a way on was discovered leading to a continuation of the cave system

Tuesday 10th February 1998

We resumed the exploration where we left off on Monday and the passage divided into two. The left-hand passage continued for 90 meters reaching an awkward climb of six meters. The passage then continued for a considerable distance to an exit opening out onto the cliff face overlooking the Wang in which the original entrance had been located. On returning to the rest of the party, as arranged, it was agreed that we would continue to explore the left passage whilst the others followed the right passage, surveying and filming as they went. We then discovered a way on above the left passage near the new exit. This opened up to the tree line and monkeys could be seen in the treetops. A second exit on the cliff face was found at a level half way between the first exit and the top of the cliff 20m height. At this point a large passage was found measuring some seven meters wide and at least 12 metres high, which was found to be blocked at both ends with boulders. It was situated directly above the lower passage from which we had entered. If time had permitted the boulder ruckles would have been explored to find a way on. Meanwhile the other team having followed the right hand passage for a short way also found yet another exit on the cliff face. The way on for the first team continued past the first cliff exit following a passage about four metres wide up to six metres in height. This led to yet another exit in the cliff face on the same level as the first. The drop below this exit descended vertically into a large, dark and inviting hole some 30 metres below. It would have made an excellent abseil but time was running out and so we had to leave. At one stage Karen stood at the first exit, Paul at the second and Roger at the third calling out to each other along the tree clad cliffs although we were not visible to one another.


Sunday 8th February 1998

Drove to Wang Ulu Cave and worked our way back from the cave searching for other cave entrances. The entrance to this cave commenced with a 30 metre deep pitch and whilst Paul looked for suitable bolting points Karen and Martin found another way down through an entrance on the opposite side of the hole. This was easily climbed using the sharply eroded limestone as good hand and footholds. Paul joined the other two as he was fed up with the plague of sweat flies that had congregated around him. Once at the base of the entrance hole there were three way leading off. One passage ended in sump and it was obvious from the shape of these passages they had carried water during the wet season. A very tall, narrow meandering passage, rather like �Crab Walk� in Giants Hole, was followed for some distance until it reached a vertical climb. The rock was very friable in places and the flowstone was covered in mud, which began collapsing under our weight. The climb led to a larger chamber 25 metres long and around four metres high but with no way on.

It was decided to call this cave Gua Lorong Ular (Snake Alley Cave) after the winding passage and extremely large tree roots that were burying themselves into the passage floors. These had strange markings on them and resembled pythons.


Friday 30th January 1998

An early start, at 6am and a twenty minute drive to the Wang Mu miner�s trail. Trekked up through secondary jungle after having first drenched out our footwear with Baygon, a household insect spray. The walk up took an hour and forty minutes. Although very hot the temperature wasn�t too unbearable. The scenery was incredible and occasionally gibbons could be heard calling to each other in the distance. After reaching the entrance to Foh Thye Mine we stopped to eat a light lunch. Here we encountered the first leeches of the expedition, for some reason they seemed attracted to Liz, one having to be burnt off her shirt. Paul and Dean went on ahead to check on the bolts installed on the previous expedition and to rig the two pitches for SRT. On entering the cave, which had obvious signs of mining activity, a pool of water was found. This was a relief as there had been concern that we wouldn�t be able to fill the carbide generators.

As we left the stream way and began to bear left Liz began to feel strange, light headed and �spaced out�, she felt very uneasy and kept remarking that there was bad air. We continued on , dropping through an eyehole in the floor on to a short but awkward climb down over flowstone. At the top of the first pitch Liz became really uneasy and wanted to return to the surface. Roger followed her back to the climb and then rejoined the rest of the party. Dean and Paul had completed rigging the first pitch (about 17 metres) and had continued down to the second pitch whilst we kitted up and followed on down. It was noticed at this point that Paul had become very pale. At the bottom of the second pitch (roughly 18 metres) Paul�s condition rapidly deteriorated. Mat was becoming dehydrated and began using the water filter in one of the shallow pools of water. Paul meanwhile had become almost totally dysfunctional, he was extremely white, eyes dilated and had very red eyelids. He sat hunched in a corner and when Roger asked him how he felt he could not get a sensible response. Reasoning with Paul Roger finally convinced him that he needed to return to the surface. It was pitiful to watch him putting his SRT gear back on. Matt ascended first to assist Paul from the top of the pitch. Paul then ascended with great difficulty. Matt then ascended the first
pitch in the mine and Karen helped Paul top begin his second ascent. The rest of the team, who were suffering no ill effects, continued onwards to look at the sump. Duncan then ascended the first pitch and helped Paul up the flowstone. By the time the team had reached the streamway Paul began to feel better. The rest of the team derigged and made their way out, met halfway by Duncan who had returned to help with the kit. At the surface we met Liz and Paul who had both recovered although Paul still looked very pale. It appears that they had both suffered from lack of oxygen.

We had difficulty in taking a GPS reading due to the high cliffs, and we needed to move 120 metres away from the cave entrance before a reading could be taken. A slow treck back to the van was made.


Saturday 31st January 1998

On the previous expedition the locals speculated that Foh Thye Mine linked with Gua Kelam at the lower lakes. This particular area is worthy of filming and so this visit was to capture the atmosphere on film and also search for the link between the mine and the cave.

We entered the cave through a man made horizontal tube overlooking the commercial Gua Kelam cave site. The lengthy tube entered a natural chamber with lakes. Rotten wooden platforms stretched across the lake to a landing. A section of plank gave way under Roger�s feet, luckily the camera that he was carrying remained dry although it proved unreliable for the rest of the trip.

Liz led the team down towards the lower lakes. The easy going was interrupted by a tricky traverse and descent to the main streamway. Following up stream the cave gained considerable height then closed down to some sporting sections of stream passage. Rotted wood and twisted, rusting metal mine relics helped, yet added an element of danger to the teams progress. A couple of short swims were negotiated concluding at a free climbable waterfall. Another short swim led to a section of level passage only negotiable by balancing on partially submerged rail tracks. These tracks were suspended from steel wires fixed into the vertical limestone sides of the cave. The combination of unknown depth of water and considerable track movement caused nervous progress. A seesaw effect on one particular section evoked bad language problems.

On reaching the lakes we set up to film, unfortunately the lights started to fail and the camera auto zoom developed a mind of its own. After a swim in the first lake it was decided to abort any further exploration for the link.


Sunday 8th February 1998

We had difficulty locating the resurgence that Liz had last visited five years ago. After asking advice from the local people the cave entrance was located. The cave had a very deep crystal clear pool at the entrance. Very impressive! On the opposite side a low tunnel about 18 metres long continued with formations (a large curtain on the right and bats. Roger and Dean swam across to the passage, which was very deep, and onto the sump, which Liz had spoken about. With the help of a diving mask we freedived to assess the caves direction and the possibility of diving this sump. A flake of rock on the left-hand side, about one and a half metres underwater, proved to be the way on. It was a dark blackness and very inviting and extremely large, appearing to go up; it would entice anyone interested in diving!


Difficulties were experienced using GPS due to jungle foliage blocking the signal and also to the close proximity of cliffs. However the maps of the areas explored are very poor and in some cases unobtainable, thus GPS is the only method of plotting the cave location. It should be noted that the accuracy of the readings is probably only within 100 meters since only one reading was taken at each location.


All the team members were involved in taking the survey readings. On the return to UK Paul then input the data into the computer program �Compass� and obtained a silhouette printout of each cave. Due to this style of printout no cave feature details were visible, so Alan Gray scanned these images and using the computer program �Corel Draw� electronically traced each survey and added BCRA approved cave symbols. This was a laborious process but worthwhile as a quality survey was produced.


Wang Ulu Cave was extended, only by some 52 metres before hazardous sumps were encountered. Four unexplored caves were surveyed providing a total passage length of 1628m. Unusually for Malaysian caves Gua Bintang (Star Cave) had many formations. A very successful expedition.


Undoubtedly there are other cave systems that are inactive (old) and undiscovered in the jungle area behind Wang Ulu Cave. This conclusion is based upon the ease of discovery of two cave systems Gua Bintang (Star Cave) and Gua Puing (The Ruins) which provide a total passage length of nearly 1� km. On the other hand with both Wang Ulu Cave and Foh Thye Mine large volumes of water were experienced and further exploration upstream could only be made with diving equipment which would be hazardous due to flood pulse conditions. A practical solution would be to explore these active systems from the upstream entrances; these have yet to be found and are most probably over the border in Thailand. A recce to try and locate some of these cave entrances in Thailand has been planned for February 2000 with an expedition scheduled for November 2000.


Very many thanks to Hymeir (World Wide Fund for Nature) for his invaluable help and advise.

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