The largest caves in Kyrgyzstan
There are over 300 caves that have been discovered to date in Kyrgyz Republic.
|The name of the cave and the
location of the region
| Length (meters)
|Pobednaya, Tuya-Muyun (Osh
|Kara-Unkur (Osh region)
|Sports (Naryn region)
|Jubilee (Batken region)
|Surprise. Tuya-Muyun tract
|Chil-Ustun, Osh gorki (Osh
|Fersmana. Tuya-Muyun tract
Kan-I-Gut, (local name is Zauk-Kur). This cave
is located on the southern slope of the spur of Jamal-Chul, 18 km west of
Samarkandyk village towards Shadymir tract off Sary-Too. It is situated
in Batken region.
A complex Kan-I-Gut expedition was organised in 1920. It comprised of
variety of experts in meteorology, zoology, botany, geology and archaeology.
This expedition lasted 20 days. There was a second entrance found into the
cave. A schematic longitudinal profile was built from the main entrance
to the left outside exit. There was a main pass-through and several side
branches added to the plan.
So far, this survey is the only most detailed plan of the underground
system of this cave.In 1976 and 1984, Vladimir Plosky, future academician,
has visited this cave. The discovery of 23 Fergana coins of square shapes
suggested that even in the late XVIII and the beginning of XIX centuries,
ore was still being extracted there. Numerous expeditions have failed to
get that far into the cave. A large amount of vertical lines, precipices
and complex mazes required technical and physical training.
The first speleological expedition that made a significant step towards
learning about this mysterious cave was organised in 1972. However, due
to lack of time speleologists failed to create an accurate topographic survey
of the cave. It was estimated that traversed part of the cave was more than
Their assumption was confirmed that the large rooms and a row of precipices
were indeed of a natural origin and associated with karst processes. The
cave has consistently been “worked” through by different processes. At first,
there were hydrothermal-karst cavities, partially or fully filled with ore
bodies of different compositions. Then, cavities appeared associated with
the cold waters of the karst. Afterwards, there was a man who cleared ancient
caves of the ore aggregates and changed it for mountain produce. The cave
has several entrances, where the Main, lower one, is situated just above the
dry riverbed of Zankur-Sai. The second, Top one, is about a kilometer away
from the first one. There is a vertical line of about 60 m between the two.
There are two windows - holes so called Light grotto and Bright chamber, which
are also considered to be entrances into the cave. There are no less than
2 man-made entrances - a tunnel under the Main entrance and a tunnel towards
the Grotto with a Camel. In addition to this, there are two mine wells in
the vicinity of the complex, 30 m and 60 m in depth, and a blind Central
mine shaft in the tunnel under the Main entrance around 30 m. All mine wells,
in the lower part, are covered with debris material, most likely deliberately.
The natural depth of the cave from the Top entrance to the very bottom point
is around 200 m. The largest cavities are First and Second holes, and Grotto
with a Camel. Below the Grotto with a Camel, under the bottom of Zankur-Sai,
lay drifts of modern works on three horizontal levels, connected by a number
of blind vertical shafts, wells and sloping passages - crosscuts. The total
length of the cave and wells is difficult to estimate. Suggestions included
from 300 km. The area of the cave is seismically active.
The name, Kan-I-Gut (meaning “mine death“) is associated with the Kokand
Khan, Khudoyar, when in his times those condemned to death were placed into
the cave in search of treasures and silver mining. They either all had to
die in mazes of numerous underground passes or find hidden treasures at the
bottom of those depths. If they came back without any new knowledge about
where treasures were, they were either killed or sent back to the underworld.
Fear of death and new challenges forced these poor people to invent the
most incredible stories, which were told upon their return. This may explain
stories about a sleeping camel, who had eyes made of precious stones; the
green plant; the silver bricks, which composed the underground fences; scary
witches who guarded fairytale underground treasures. Their stories took
on colourful hues, and more and more exciting interest and desire to get
that fairytale treasures of Transoxiana.
In VI-IX centuries, lead and iron were being extracted here. Ancient furnaces
have been found 8-10 km to the north-east. One of them is completely preserved.
This indicates the presence of several air vents so called “potduval” and
left over slag after melting the ore. Top
Pobednaya cave. It is situated on the right side
of Tuya-Muyun mountain. Its length is 1,017 meters. The cave was opened on
9 May, 1977. It is relatively cold inside. The temperature inside is around
10-12 Celsius and there is no water at all.
The descent into the cave is complex. The winding, narrow, stepped “gut”
extends from the surface up to 100 meters deep. After crossing this area,
even with minimum clothing or without cargo, clothes turns to rags. It is
a much bigger task to drag hundreds of kilos of cargo through this route.
Most parts of the path has to be done either crawling or on all fours. The
rooms in the cave are spacious with a rather dry and flat flooring. Top
Surprise cave (Of geologist Petrov 220/-80m).
It is located on the right side of Dangy canyon. It is a complex three-dimensional
cave with a lower part reaching underground karst waters. It has an amazing
creations. Hydrothermal deposits are rocky-rhombohedral calcite, homologous,
and apparently ore marble of the Fersman cave. Top
Chil-Ustun. The cave is situated in Osh mountains,
3.5 km from the village, Aravan, in mid-rivers of Aravan and Ak-Buura in
small mountain range of karst type. They are composed of sedimentary rocks
of Paleozoic period, 350 million years of age. The top of the Chil-Ustun mountain
rises above the valley at 425 meters.There is a huge entrance into the cave
in the form of an arch with a height of 15 m and its base length of about
25 m, in the rock massif almost perpendicular to the wall (the height below
the bottom of sai is 65 m) at an altitude of 1,100 m. In order to reach the
entrance, on a steep sloping rock, a certain skill is required and a climbing
insurance would help.This cave has been known since ancient times, which
is evident by the Arabic inscriptions on the walls.
Chil-Ustun cave has a length of 380 meters and consists of three spacious
rooms connected by narrow corridors. The third room is very impressive, which
can only be entered by crawling through a narrow manhole. The length of
this room is more than 100 meters, the height is more than 20 meters, and
the width of some separate sections reaches up to 50 meters. The room is
supported by, glittering from moisture and light, columns. The walls are covered
with crystals and stone laces. From a gentle touch, crystals begin to make
sound. Calcite sinter forms (stalactites, talagmites, stalagnates (columns)
reach 50-meter height). Sinter cirques of bizarre shapes of different colours,
from white to dark brown, create a unique interior of the room. This cave
has received a name “Forty columns”.Pilgrims moved to Chil-Ustun. “If the
sins are heavy, they will be swept away into the abyss” - says the legend.
-”All is God’s will. But Almighty is merciful, and if a traveller goes through
the rocky steeper and returns to the mountain foot unharmed - he will be
forgiven all sins. And the crushed stone brought from Chil-Ustun will cure
any disease.”At the very edge of a precipice, at the entrance of plane tree,
the branches of the tree lower mouldering strips of cloth. A little further,
there is a sacrificial Buddhist mortar carved out. Above it, there is a barely
discernible ligature of Sanskrit. Nearby, are the latter Arab writings. There
is a trefoil symbol at a nearby stone, typical to those of earlier period
in the history of these places.
Development of Ashhon cave. An entrance to this cave is
65 m down the slope from the entrance to Chil-Ustun cave. This cave itself
is a part of the ground floor of Chil-Ustun cave block. The entrance is an
arch-shape, 0.4 m high and 0.6 m wide. The cave has a 45 m long hollow-slope
cavity. Its width reaches 10-15 m and its height is 2.5 m. The temperature
in the far end of the cave is + 15 C and humidity levels are 85-100%. Top
Fersman (4580/-219 m). It is located approximately
2 km west of the Dungy gorge. River Aravan deeply cuts through Tuya-Muyun
mountain with a canyon, on the left side of which, is the deepest cave -
Fersman abyss, 240 m.
A developed radium mine, in common parlance - Fersman cave - is a dark
smoked out dungeon with the interplay of tunnels, drifts and natural cavities.
Continuous spans reach 200 meters. This cave was exploited as a deposit of
radium, and then uranium in the beginning of XX century. By the end of 1950s,
it has been completely used up and eliminated ( entrances have been blocked
and blown up). The total length of the ancient karst cavities and artificial
excavations in the Fersman system is 4,130 m. Top
Big Barite (114/-56 m). It is situated on the
southern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif. It started as a 20-meter vertical shaft
(but is now an open adit). The walls of the cave were almost completely covered
with a strong bark of hydrothermal calcite crystals (between 30-45 cm in size)
as well as barite crystals. Barite envelops the walls of an enormous cave
in the form of clusters, cornices and large sparkling crystals. With the
use of acetylene lamp, huge accumulations of barite crusts in the tens of
tons of weight can be observed. At this time, the cave is almost completely
Adzhiadar-Unkur (Dragon cave 80/-26 m). It is
situated in Aravan on the southern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif above the Barite
cave. Hydrothermal deposits have been limitedly developed and presented by
dense masses of calcite cymbals. At a depth of one hundred and ten meters
from the surface is the only colony of bats in the country. Top
Chon-Chunkur (60/-35 m). It is located on the
steep northern slope of Tuya-Muyun massif. The walls of the cave are covered
with corallites belonging to the youngest phase of mineralisation. In the
room near the entrance is a two-meter layer of loess of Aeolian origin.
All caves of Tuya-Muyun massif feature a rich mineralisation inherent
only to this area. There are different colours and shapes of crystals that
decorate the surface of the majority of underground rooms and passages. This
district has been entered into the geographical literature of “Osh Hills”
(from Osh town).
This massif is famous for metallic and non-metallic low-temperature hydrothermal
paleokarst. It is a widely elongated block of carboniferous sediments of
up to 600 m. The surface of the massif is slightly tilted to the north with
an average altitude of 1,400 m. To the west, its surface sinks beneath the
Palaeogene-quaternary sediments. River Aravan cuts this massif through in
its central part creating a narrow canyon of Dangy of about 300 m deep.
An open karst of the massif developed on the area of 2,500 x 250 x 600
m. It is in the form of cracks, which were widened by dissolution and small
niches (Tafoni). Large underground forms represented by five caverns, as well
as small fragments of cavities, partially or completely covered as a result
of mountain-geological work of Tuya-Muyun mine.
Only a few people know that in 1899, there was a geological exploration
carried out here, followed by extraction of one of the rarest naturally
occurring radioactive elements - radium. Birthplace of Tuya-Muyun is well
known to geologists and scientists as it was being developed since the beginning
to the forties of the last century. It was here, where the very first grams
of this very necessary chemical element #88 were extracted. The total amount
that was extracted here was around 5,000 tons of ore containing 1 gram of
radium in 250-300 tons of ore.
Local people have long mined copper here, and in the Middle Ages, this
mine was actively used by Chinese. A mountain engineer, L. I. Antunovich,
began his exploration and uranium ore mining in 1904. Since 1908, he organised
for works to be carried out by “Fergana Society for the extraction of rare
metals”. This extraction continued until World War I. There was 820 tons of
ore extracted, most of which were transported to Petersburg and recycled for
products of uranium and vanadium. In 1922, there was an industrial extraction
of ore organised in Tuya-Muyun. The reserves of the birthplace were estimated
at 15-20 grams of radium, 60 tons of uranium and 120 tons of copper.
It was found that the birthplace presents a system of tubular and cavernous
cavities of karst type made by the ore body. During the expedition search,
a large deposit of antimony was accidentally found in Shakhimardan district.
Kadamjai antimony plant was built here. The extraction of birthplace was
carried out underground and was stopped due to abundance of underground water
at a depth of 220 m.
Nowadays, “Academic” mountain hides a maze of ancient miners, mines and
drifts of radium mine, of natural karst cavities. There is one of the adits
of the cave that leads to “Fersman” cave. All this attracts speleologists
At the entrance to the gorge of Aravan-Sai, from Naukat side, there is
an open entrance to the former drainage adit of the cave. The level of exposure
of gamma radiation on the dumps ranges between 60-100 mR / hour, gamma ray
background inside mountain extractions does not exceed 30-40 mR / hour. Top
Are the caves radioactive?
There is no unequivocal answer to this question. In nature, radioactivity
is mainly associated with igneous, intrusive rocks, uplifted to the surface
from the depth of the earth’s bowels (subsoil). Sedimentary rocks including
limestone, in which the caves are predominantly laid in, have insignificant
natural background in comparison to granites for instance. But it is not
so simple. Caves are often associated with large tectonic breakages, which
allow hot solutions, rich in minerals including radioactive, rise from the
depths of earth’s bowels. They can form not only underground cavities (known
as hydrothermal karst) but also fill them with mineral deposits. Even deep
igneous rocks infiltrate into the thickness of limestone deposits. Caves may
be located within the zones of their contact. However, the most common carrier
of radioactivity in caves is radon gas, the source of radiation. This gas
is widely spread and is found not only in caves. It is often a part of the
air of artificial caves including cellars and basements, it can penetrate
into the lower floors of buildings. Radon gas can be saturated in groundwater.
There are spring keys surfacing from the ground , water which contains radon.
The healing properties of radon waters have long been known. However, what
heals can also cause harm. Small doses of radon are beneficial to the human
body, but significant doses can be a health hazard. Top
Speleologists motto: "Do not take anything out of the cave
expect photographs and do not leave anything behind other than your own footsteps"