Speleo 2017 New Zealand by Fay Hartley.

Speleo 2017 New Zealand by Fay Hartley


From 7th-14th August 2017, as part of Speleo 2017 based in Sydney, I joined two excursions in South Island, New Zealand, the Caves of Nelson and the West Coast Karst. In 2014 cavers linked Nettlebed to Stormy pot, a 1.2m deep system below Mount Arthur. The Green Link to Middle Earth system below Takaka Hill is getting closer to the Riwaka resurgence and has the potential to become the second longest system in NZ at ~34km, depth ~400m. It contains the awesome 120m Lighthouse pitch. The impressive Harwood’s Hole has a 176m abseil into Starlight Cave. A 200m rope can be hired from Nelson Speleological Group (NSG).

(Statistics New Zealand Speleological Bulletin Vol 11,No.212/213 June 2017 p265)

The international caving team comprised Emily Davis, Michael Warner (USA), Amos Frumkin (Israel), Arjan van Waardenburg (Netherlands), Tudor Tamas (Roumania), Alan Caton (Australia), Marie-Therese Majerus (Luxemburg), Alan Marshall, Trevor Faulkner, Fay Hartley (UK).

Kiwi leaders were Oz Patterson (NSG) and Alice Shanks (Canterbury Caving Group).

Nelson Area Caves.

7.8.17 After an al fresco picnic we saw the Crystal Pool of the Riwaka resurgence (Maori sacred place), then up a slippery slope using supplejack vines, down an awkward climb to Simply Sumpless Cave with beautiful igloo shaped stalactite cascades.

Simply Sumpless.

8.8.17 Guided by Bruce Mutton, entered the Middle Earth system via the tight Hobbit Hole, down through boulders, small SRT pitches to superb pristine white formations to the top of the 120m Lighthouse pitch with its mid-air diagonal rope and foot slings for traverses.

9.8.17 Commentary Cave via Monster Mouth entrance, saw glow worms. Hundreds of cattle awaiting milking at the field entrance gate.


10.8.17 Permission for Wet Neck Cave from a remote farmhouse, with arum lilies, 2 hours across grit tracks in the Kahurangi National Park, many pukekos (swamp hens) and dairy cows. Limestone, black streaked, (30 million years old) younger than carboniferous (340 million years old) in the British Isles. Palm tree at entrance, stunning formations, damaged my ribs on a body abseil. Moa (extinct flightless bird) ankle bone, through stalactites over a streamway to a fossil passage where colonnades showed horizontal cracks due to earthquake and re-calcification. Back to stream level and via an awkward traverse over a waterfall to daylight.


West Coast Karst.

11.8.17 Eggers Cave, found when a workman’s vehicle went over the edge of the forestry track. Iron stained stalagmite boss. Hagg Gill like streamway.


12.8.17 Metro Cave, long walk following train track along the Nile River, beautiful limestone cliffs. Lovely formations exit to superb “Garden of Eden” like Mulu. Further more arduous trip with Alice, exit from one entrance and back in via another.


             Te Tahi Cave-luxuriant vegetation, kiki, supplejack and bush lawyer. Lovely formations. Saw a fresh water crayfish then up a tight rift to find the backbone of a shark tooth dolphin whale (baleen whale precursor) straddling the passage. Dark on exit-GPS needed to locate route back to car. Mohawk (small owl) calling.


13.8.17 Charleston Motor Camp-thunder and lightning at night-too wet for Golf Course Cave so Hollywood Cave chosen. Abseiled entrance climb then awkward traverse for 15 minutes to streamway. Difficult climb to find Moa Pelvis (Elvis the pelvis!). NZ crossing of river in spate to see the natural rock arch.


14.8.17 Visit to breccias sea cave then on to Bullock Creek and Creek Cave South Resurgence where 14 people died in 1995 when a viewing platform collapsed. Visited the Punakaiki (Pancake) Rocks, then on to the Theatre Royal Hotel in the gold rush town of Kumara.


15.8.17 Return to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass over Southern Alps. Visited Cave Stream/Broken River –too wet for through trip.

Reference:- Exploring New Zealand’s Subterranean Wilderness by Neil Silverwood and Marcus Thomas.