Meghalaya: At over 24,000 metres in length, world’s longest sandstone cave found
Krem Puri was discovered in 2016, but its actual length was found during an expedition by the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) this year.
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.
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.
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.