EuroSpeleo 2016 Sessions

Crocs, cocks and karst - caving adventures in East Timor

Session code: OE31

Oral / Exploration, Main EuroSpeleo Conference

Mr Pete Talling


East Timor has a troubled past, and potential for major cave systems. After being invaded by Indonesia in 1975, it gained independence in 1999 after a bitter struggle. It has large areas of unexplored karst, some crashed helicopters, and is now opening up for travel. Its biggest river disappears into a large-crocodile filled pool at the foot of the Paitchau Mountains. This talk summarises trials and tribulations of one of the first caving expedition to visit this distinctive country, charting the expedition's fluctuating morale. Initially, the expedition gingerly contemplated the crocodile filled sink, before mapping tasty bat filled caves in the nearby Paitchau Mountains. Following a solid meal of freshly-washed fried possum entrails, the team explored caves that could house 1,000 (rather small) people. Ancestors failed to open caves in the high limestone mountains, where guerrillas had made their last stand. After getting lost on an optimistic short cut, the team arrived at a cave entrance that had been filled in 30 years ago. Morale teetered on the brink. Then on the final day, a hole in the ground was spied. It led down 140m of pitches into large ongoing passages; left with a 60m disto leg into blank space.


This talk on East Timor was inspired by a presentation by Liz Price (via Becca Lawson) in the last Eurospeleo, which caused us to organise a small expedition to this country. [Note this talk was given at Hidden Earth in 2015, but may be of interest to a wider audience.


Ben Wright, Fleur Loveridge, Chris Densham, Andy Chapman, Jeff Wade, and Carlito Alves.