After setting a world record of 24,583 meters which is almost three times the height of Mount Everest, Krem Puri in Meghalaya is now the world’s longest sandstone cave in the world.
Do the vaults in the magical world of Harry Potter books or the enchanted caves from the story of Ali Baba and 40 Thieves elate you? Have you ever really wondered if such mysterious caves could exist in real life also? Well, they are right under your nose in one of the northeastern states in India. The world’s longest cave has been found in Laitsohum village in Mawsynrum of East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. It has been named Krem Puri by the people in the local Khasi language. After setting a world record of 24,583 meters which is three times the height of Mt.Everest it is now the world’s longest fairy cave.
“If you get lost inside, you may never be able to find your way out,” warns Brian D Kharpran amiably, jabbing his finger at the unkempt entrance of a sinister-looking cave. Mr. Kharpran, a remarkably agile 71-year-old banker, knows a thing or two about caves. He has been discovering them for more than a quarter of a century in this hilly, rain-drenched state.
Cavers need to crawl on belly, hands, and knees on narrow short passages
Krem Puri is an incredibly complex maze of hundreds of short passages and long stretches of corridors that are interconnected in a big network. The pattern of the maze is unique and makes the cave a real labyrinth. It has some fine stalactites and stalagmites. There’s also abundant fauna – frogs, fish, giant Huntsman spiders, bats.
Mr. Kharpran spots a big spider on the wall and geologists also suspect the fossil of a shark tooth embedded in a rock which makes it rich in flora and fauna. “The Cave,” he says “holds many secrets”.
“It is a serious challenge to survey this cave,” says Thomas Arbenz a Swiss speleologist and Cave topographer.
A host of geological riches have been discovered in the cave
Caves like Khem Puri are also a key to understanding climate and fauna. “They are in effect time capsules that in the often stable underground environment preserve information about the past,” says Simon Brooks, chief coordinator of the Caving in the Abode of Clouds Expedition, that explores caves in Meghalaya. Scientists and cave explorers have found some shark teeth and some bones which can be related to marine dinosaurs who survived particularly 60 million years ago.
Inside Krem Puri the temperature is always 16-17 degrees celsius, no matter what the outside temperature is and there is no shortage of oxygen in the cave as there is always a flow of oxygen through small openings, cracks, and two entrances.
It is worth mentioning that Meghalaya is home to nine among the top ten deepest caves in India and reportedly as of now there are 1,580 caves and cave locations have been identified in Meghalaya, of which 980 caves have been fully or partially explored, for a total length of 427 kilometers (265 mi) caves explored.
The underground cavern of Khem Puri is over 6,000 meters longer than Cueva Del Saman in Edo Zulia, Venezuela, the world record holder, which is a quartzite sandstone cave measuring 18,200 meters. Kharpran, who also won the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2002, said that the cave had become India’s second-longest, the Krem Liat Prah-Umim-Labit system being the first which lies in the Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya and measures over 31 kilometers.