Journal Article

News in the Kugitangtou caves exploration

Maltsev, V.A.

Record Number:
4577
Year:
1996
Journal:
Journal of Cave and Karst Studies
Pages:
212
Volume:
December 1996
Abstract:
Kugitangtou Ridge caves are atypical in all the senses. Speleothems are extremely variable, beautiful, and rare. Cave fauna age estimation contradict the known geological history of the area. Along with huge and beautiful chambers’ existence, all of the last 15 years of finds (including huge new areas) appear from extensive digging through narrow collapsed mazes that makes exploration doubly hard—both for technical and psychological reasons. Nowadays, the largest cave is Cupp-Coutunn Main, 61 km. long. Four more large caves (1.5 km, 3.2 km, 4.2 km, 8.5 km) share the same hydrological system. In the other 10-15 systems, no systematic exploration has begun, and only 1-3 km caves are known. The last scientific studies in the caves show very interesting things: how minor changes in the cave environment (digging through narrow passages) may cause speleothem dissolution or vice versa (fast new speleothem growth). The last expedition (April 1996) displayed two new ecological problems with the Kugitangtou caves, that are yet to be solved: a) As a result of great economic difficulties in Turkmenistan, the caves are again considered as a source of cheap “marble onyx” souvenirs—striped calcite from flowstones. A new mining project might start in about a year. b) The Provull cave, residence of the troglobitic loach (a unique troglobitic fish), is polluted. In spite of all the efforts for its conservation, declared by the Turkmenistan government, a new sheep farm was located nearby, and this spring several tons of sheep feces were moved by a mudflow into the entrance. It’s still unknown whether the blind loaches survived after it.
Times Cited:
1
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