Team leader Kieran McKay at the connection point between Nettlebed and Stormy Pot caves. He dug the crack from two inches wide to a point that was just wide enough to get through. Photo: Jonathan Ravens.

NZ’s deepest cave found near Nelson


New Zealand’s deepest known cave has been discovered near Nelson, but it’s fallen just short of being the deepest in the Southern Hemisphere.

A team of four cavers made the connection between the Nettlebed and Stormy Pot caves on Mount Arthur last week, confirming it was one cave and at a total length of 1200 metres.

But it falls just short of 1264 metre long Meruc Cave in Papua New Guinea.

Team leader Kieran McKay says the discovery was only a matter of time. “We found Stormy Pot in January 2011 and within a few months we’d explored 10km of the cave and when we put that map on the same map as the Nettle Bed system we realised that the caves were actually the same so we just had to find a way through the rocks.”

On the last day of their five day exploration, the team found a small chamber with a small crack that had a draught pouring from it. Kieran worked away trying to clear the rock and make the hole big enough to crawl through. After several hours he found his way into the Nettlebed cave, into a place that was used as a urinal at one of the Nettlebed campsites. Kieran says the find is hugely significant.

“It’s the top, it’s incredibly significant, the only other big thing is to find a cave that’s over 100km long and that will come soon too. We are very excited, it’s been a long time coming and it’s a dream come true really.”

The four man team also included Gavin Holden, Jonathan Ravens and Nelson’s Bruce Mutton. Bruce says there was a big cheer when the discovery was made. “It’s one of the things that cavers strive to do, connect the dots between the caves at the top of the mountain with the caves at the bottom of the mountain.

“It’s great to solve another piece of the puzzle really. There was a bit of a cheer and we all squeezed through the connecting hole and we all had a brew of coffee and chocolate.”

The region is also home to New Zealand’s longest cave, Bulmer Cavern on Mt Owen, south west of Nelson.