Subterranean structures in Malaysia

Going underground: British explorers map out ‘never-ending’ cave network underneath Borneo jungle.

These incredible images show British scientists on an expedition to map a ‘never-ending’ cave network in a project that dates back more than 30 years.

The twisting network of caverns underneath Gunung Mulu National Park, in Sarawak, Borneo, contains the largest cave chamber in the world, the largest cave by volume and what is believed to be the largest cave passage.

Scientists carry out bi-annual visits into several caves and have so far mapped out an incredible 186 miles of the underground network.

malaysian caves

Making a splash: Expedition leader Tim Allen inspects the ‘Shower Head’ – a calcium-formed funnel which transports rain water from the surface into caves underneath Gunung Mulu National Park, in Sarawak, Borneo

Using lasers and other equipment they measured the dimensions of different sections of the numerous caverns stretching throughout the UNESCO World Heritage site and feed them into a computer to build up the map.

Working with Borneo’s National Parks authority, the team of Brits also began mapping the area above the caves to help tourists trekking between the cave mouths know where they are.

Sarawak Chamber is the world’s largest, the Clearwater Cave system is the largest by volume and Deer Cave is believed to be the biggest passage.

More than 30 years ago the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) led the first expedition to the cave system, which current team member Andy Eavis, 62, was part of.

Other members of the team – all British – included leader Tim Allen, 49, Dr Gina Moseley, 26, web designer Hugh St Lawrence, professor Pete Smart and cavers Matt Kirby and Robbie Shone.

The expedition saw the team camping for periods below surface during a three-week trip in May.

caves in malaysia

Leaving a mark: Andy Eavis compares his hand size to ancient prints left in Black Hands Cave

Cavernous: Deer Cave is home to more than three million bats and is believed to be the largest cave passage in the world

Mr Shone said: ‘The work being done by the team will probably never be completed in my lifetime and maybe not for two or three generations after.

‘There are new caves and parts of the network being discovered all the time so it seems to be a never-ending story. But caves are the planet’s final frontier.

‘Caves are one of the last areas to be chartered and I think that’s what gives us all a thrill.

‘To be part of a British effort to try and systemically record what is done here is something special.

‘And of course we are all getting to spend time in this incredible network which is one of the world’s most stunning.’

Vast: The north entrance of Deer Cave – which measures nearly 390ft wide and more than 900 ft high – is just one of a network of 180miles of caverns

caves in malaysia

The team also took samples of sediment around the caves which will be taken back to the UK for analysis.

Black Hands Cave features ancient paintings of human hands dating back hundreds of years.

And these images also show Racer Cave’s bizarre ‘Shower Head’ – a natural calcium-formed funnel running from the surface deep underground which lets rainwater fall into the cave.

Mr Shone added: ‘It is always good to know what the weather is doing on the surface, especially in the tropics when it rains.

‘However, it is also nice to have available water supply to drink from as the temperatures can exceed 25C inside the caves.’