There and Back Again: An ICCC Expedition


The expedition first appeared as an idea at the 2014 Imperial College freshers fair. As we convinced and coaxed, cajoled and coerced the latest batch of Imperialites into a life of mud and darkness we were approached by Dr Lorraine Craig, chair of the Imperial College Exploration Board. She told us that they were inviting clubs to apply for support from the board. They wanted us to run an expedition, something novel and challenging. The reward was a generous amount of funding.

Immediately we set to work. Our ideas ranged from China to Iran, Peru to Turkey. In the end language barriers, high altitudes and lack of support in the regions narrowed us down to one choice. New Zealand! With bountiful, beautiful, and accessible karst, friendly English speaking locals, and a well organised rescue service New Zealand was perfect for our expedition.


We first looked for local contacts to advise and help us. Not only is local knowledge invaluable for any expedition, but there are often permits and permissions to acquire, both officially, and to be polite. We contacted the Nelson Speleological Group as they were local to a large amount of karst and had a large active membership. They put us in contact with Kieran McKay (check out some of his videos).

As luck would have it he was in London, giving a talk at the RGS on his recent cave exploration. We met up with him in the IC Union bar, where all good caving plans begin, and this initial conversation proved to be our major motivation for the beginning of our expedition.


On the advice of the NSG and Kieran we set a location. Our expedition is to be sited on the North aspect of Mt. Owen in the Kahurangi National Park. This is on the less developed South Island of New Zealand. Nelson is the nearest large town, and is where we will be briefly based at the start and end of our expedition.


The expedition has a number of aims:

  • To discover, descend and survey new caves in New Zealand
  • To give new members the opportunity to experience exploratory caving
  • To allow more experienced cavers to lead a caving expedition
  • To make contacts in the New Zealand caving community
  • To give our members the opportunity to present their exploration to a wider audience

The rest of the site will detail our preparations and subsequently our trip. Read on!