EuroSpeleo Project: Winter cave reconnaissance in northeast China
Northeast China is known to have karst caves as well as volcanic caves. However, contrary to the spectacular karst in southern and central China, virtually no speleological investigations have taken place in NE China so far. Consequently, the area was targeted by a small team of Chinese, Russian, Dutch and German cavers between Christmas 2018 and 10th January 2019 for a lightweight reconnaissance expedition. The karst along the Hunjiang River and its tributary valleys in Jilin province, as well as the Jingpohu Volcanic Geopark in Heilongjiang province were visited.
A number of karst caves were explored around the Hunjiang River, the longest of which was Xian Ren Dong, about 400 m in length. Several show caves were also examined, amongst them Tonghua Yunxia Dong, featuring a succession of impressively large chambers and passages, reportedly 4 km long.
In the Jingpohu Volcanic Geopark, where only a touristic foray was made, several interesting lava tube caves were visited, including a show cave called “Lava Tunnel”.
Northeast China has very harsh winters with temperatures dropping at night to -28o Celsius. Daytime temperatures were between -12o and -8o. This was a challenge, but winter resembles the dry season in NE China with continuous sunshine, making the cold bearable. The fact that even large rivers, including the Hunjiang, freeze in winter also allowed easier access to some of the caves.
Many hibernating bats were observed in those caves which were free of frost. The bat fauna in NE China is very similar to northern Europe, with the Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and presumably the Pond Bat (Myotis dasycneme) being dominant in the caves that we have seen. Our observations are now being shared with bat specialists.
The expedition was supported by the European Speleological Federation (FSE) in the framework of its EuroSpeleo Projects as well as by Scurion/Switzerland.
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