2007 Chimantá

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Tepuy - Expedition Chimanta

When we started the exploration of the cave at the Churi tepuy plateau of the Chimanta massiff at the Guayana Highlands that now bears our name; all of the explored caves at Auyantepui, Akopan tepui, Kukenam and the "Ojos de Cristal" caves recently discovered at Mount Roraima, followed cracks that streaked the surface of these mountains made of sand layers and other alluvial sediments deposited at sea level in the Precambric. Thus, long time before the appearance of organisms that could leave the print or fossils of their solid structures.

But after we had a one kilometer walk inside those vast galleries, so big that just one of its Chambers could have more than the whole volume of air that fills the famous Cueva del Guácharo at Caripe; we realized that that the size and content of this cave was going to change the history of speleology, mainly because these tunnels followed a different bearing that those of the cracks that splits the whole surface of this 8.000 ft plateau and more important even, because inside these dark spaces is the home of some stony beings that we named them Biospeleothems and are completely new for the World.

Since 1971, that is when we explored and discovered the caves at Cerro Autana in the southern part of Venezuela , we learned that this cave, the first cave reported from a tepuy, drilled its path throughout a rock of different origin and composition than those from the other caves of the world and that, due to quartz insolubility plus the thickness of the rock layers above it, we might not find the classic speleothems shaped as stalactites and stalagmites. But this has changed completely since in our 2004 first expedition to the caves at the Chimantá massif, when Federico Mayoral who had advanced a few meters in front of the rest of the explorers, reported that because of his scuba experiences, he would assure us that he saw some coral shaped structures growing up from the floor of the cave. So, from there on a wide trail for research has been opened in front of us. Its wandering path being treaded in eight expeditions only interrupted to recover ourselves from some caving illnesses and to organize our findings.
This urge to find new things is not a recent behavior and I recall that I became aware of this in the forties (1940), when my attention was directed by a nature stamps album that my mother had and when my father took me to his dental office to hear the explorers Gustavo Heny and Carlos Freeman talks about inviting him to see a lost city they they saw when flying with Jimmie Angel over the jungle. I didn´t know then that I should become a stoic and austere to withstand the effort and stress needed to lead an expeditions but, that I started to build up at sixteen when climbed all of the snowed peaks of our Andes range when a tent with a floor or a sleeping bag were not available. This stoicism that became a way of life with Gurdieff readings, was the same that Colonel Percy Fawcett had when he decided to search for a lost city in the Matto Grosso and never came back.
But it was after trying to find the lost city of Guirior with an expedition we led into the rio Paragua and after we had lived among the Yekuana indians of the Erebato river in 1961, when with the help and the airplane of pilot Cap. Harry Gibson, we seriously started the search for the elusive Ewaipanomas. Men with their face amidst the breast that we heard still wandered at the Caura river jungle, just as Sir Walter Ralegh was informed about the same issue more than four hundred years ago. We also tried to find some weird animal from Jurassic origin as the responsible for stirring the surface of Lake Leopoldo after it dived into itand captured this on a movie camera just as we flew above this lake that fills a sinkhole near the Cerro Autana but, we never found it. Only several years later, first Alexander Laime and afterwards the expolorers Armando MIchelangeli and José Miguel Perez mentioned that they had seen some kind of Plesosaurus swiming on top of the Auyantepui plateau.
At the begining we thought that some of the indians miths about flying monsters could have been started due to some time-staled Pterosaurus as the Tupuxuara or the Ananguera recently unearthed in Brasil; because those flying animals could have nested in the caves at the tepuis that where opened to the air much before the lethal meteorite impact the ended with the dinosaurus some 65 millon years ago. But now we think that maybe some giant bird akin to the New Zealand Moa could have started this of myth shared by different indian groups that live near the Tepuis.
In spite that we have not yet found at the Autana caves or at the Sarisariñama sinkholes or in the new caves of Chimanta some eggshells from this evil-bird or evil-bat of overwhelming strenght and size; these dreadful creatures called Shári in the high Caura river, or Dimoshi near the Erebato river and known also as Maripa-den or Dede along the Paragua river; could have been the same animal identified as -Muchimuk- at the several meetings that were held by the indians that live at the base of Chimanta. A predator that owed the shadows that was killed by a sorcerer that disguised as a giant anteater. But back in 1961 we heard from the Macushi indians that lived near the Guaiquinima tepui at the Paragua river , that one of the den of this beast had been found in the scarp of this mountain after some villagers decide to capture this creature of unknown shape, because it always predated at night. To solve this mystery they decided to lure the beast with an old lady that tried to fight them off as they were lashing a red-hot charcoal to her leg and tied her in a river bank. But then, when this flying being took off carrying its aged prey through the air, the warriors could see in the night its sparkling track that showed as a night map the place of his den at the Maripa-tepui (The Bat mountain). When the men climbed into the cave they found this Maripa-den swinging in his little hammock and they arrowed it. Then this Maripa-den or Dimoshi went out through the back door of the cave and after a farewell to his sons and telling them not to eat more humans, he went away westward and flew badly wounded above a river were he defecated and thus, this river has been known since as the bat-shit river or Dede-wata (now Erebato river) where I lived among the Yekwana indians.
Because the time spent in the jungles our senses became more aware and in spite that the prehistoric egg shells have not been found yet, we consider that because our training of searching for things that no one cared about, we could find the caves that no one was looking after, collect hundreds of new species of frogs, insects, scorpions and plants that became new species for the world; find craters with magnetic meteorites, hold Megatherium molars from the Manapiare river (Amazonas State) and to have locate an extraordinary and yet secret archeological deposit amidst the jungle. But maybe the most important fact above this whole training to be able to understand immediately that, inside these caves we were discovering we shared the space with these Biospeleothem we mentioned, that are alive, but their origin, metabolism and Reign is still unknown. But they dwell in the interior of the tunnels that pierce the rock of this Chimanta plateau since hundreds of thousands of years, recording in their growing rings some information that when deciphered will allow us to know more about the length of droughts and glacial periods, understand the the tectonic changes due to the continental drift, the magma intrusions, the volcanic eruptions or the meteorite impacts that have etched in their rock tissues a very detailed paleoclimate record.
To end this short introduction and in spite I didn´t consider it at all necessary, I must use this opportunity to deny absolutely the idea that these caves that drill the entrails of the Lost World are at all related with the Akahim cave or northern gate of the great Akakor cave that the unfortunate Karl Brugger left wandering in the jungles mythology after his interview with chief Tatunka Nara, just before being murdered at Manaus. And I consider also this an opportunity to state that in these eternal darkness we have not found a table from the Ugha Mongulala culture that should now be considered a three legged item after we, accordingly to what Issam Madi, the former major of the village of Santa Elena de Uairén was told, decided to saw off the fourth leg in order to finance our expeditions.
As you must be aware off now, we have much to tell about our sightings and discoveries but also a lot to be silent about. This last thing due to a promise I made to Jose Miguel, Federico and my son Charles, just after I took them to see the place of the city of Manoa because, we know the quality and importance of the information we offer and wrote as a window pane to stimulate the restless, it could also be like the door of a crypt for the greedy.
To justify the photographs choosen among thousands, I must lean on the words said by the Pemón indian Leonardo Criollo after we finished a 10 day expedition he went with us to explore the cave we named Muchimuk: "There are no words in our language to explain what I have seen, because we can only talk about this while dreaming".

The May expedition of 2009
Our decision to make another expedition to the northern side of the Churi-tepui that we had already visited in January of this same year, was triggered mainly to the threat that a foreign group of speleologist that seemed to work as some "paparazzi" or "wheel suckers", as we term those cyclist that lean to the rear of the leaders to save the energy. Nevertheless and due to recent letters that show that they where not completely guilty of this strange behavior; these foreign speleologist of high rank that came to explore a cave in the place we had been working continuously in the last five years and thus, where initially considered by us as some kind of speleological piracy at least; but we learned later that this was not necessarily so because, these high qualified explorers had been flown into this completely unknown area by someone that we will not identify but, that it seems not to have understand at all the kind of research we have been doing in this mountain.
When we started our expedition on May 13th, we knew that we were way into the rainy season and thus aware of the risk of exploring caves where the guest rivers that pour into them from the summit, had shown us how dangerous the explosive floods could be. So, the elite group of Czechs, Slovak and other explorers that we invited to share the exploration, asked us to bring an inflatable boat in order to use it to avoid been trapped again by a cave tsunami, as it happened in our expedition of May 2004. Also the flashlights and the general gear should be waterproff and packed to stay dry and afloat. Nevertheless the unexpected drought of this year was to our advantage and every one of the proposed objectives were fulfilled in spite of some events that undermined the patience of someone; as the case of an explorer that got stuck under a roof and could not be cleared out of the ropes for an hour; or that the most experienced spelunker got lost inside the new cave for two hours; or that the peanut butter was left back at the Base camp; or that we did not find water near the camp where we lived at for seven days, so to clean part of ourselves we had to use the water trapped inside the Brocchinia bromeliads or in our deep tracks in the mud. About this last condition I must say that none of the team felt the smell we had developed due to the constant sweating and our lack of cleaning and our only concern was that when we returned to Caracas our friends would notice that we had not changed our clothes or he socks, neither bathed while in the expedition.

Before showing the results of the expedition I consider important to state that all of the members that took part in it were older that 40 years except Karen Brewer that became 21 on the last day of the expedition; so we had a team with great experience in many fields and the team of 9 choosen to explore the new caves had an extraordinary physical conditions that permit us to overcome the extreme land topography that was found inside and in the outside of the caves. Considered the general health of the team, we had some imbedded thorns that came easily after several days of infection; several cuts and bruises made by the sharp edges of the quartzite rock; the dislocation of one finger; some complication from an inguinal hernia; three swollen knees that must have surgical intervention and the fact that all of us may have been reinfected with histoplasmosis.
After these anecdotic introduction about the general conditions of the team, it must be explained that the expedition plan had to be split in three sections and the field activities could not be started in February because a delay in the budget, so all the members had to change their air tickets several times, or their work schedules and their time in the field. Notwithstanding, all of the objectives we planned in this expedition we called MUCHIMUK because this entity of the Pemón mythology could have lived in any of the caves that we were to explore, were attained beyond our plans and the main activities that we accomplished were the following:
1.- We settled the Base Camp at Yunek, a Pemon indian village at 880 masl and just al the base of the Akopán-tepui. There we otained the permit to explore the mountain and a group of men were recruited to help the photographer in the area. Besides the evangelic Pastor Leonardo Criollo and its nephew Rene Alvarez from this village were invited to join the expedition to discover the new caves wee explored in the north wall of the Churi-tepui (one of the ten plateaus that rise above the Chimanta massiff).
2.- In the first 6 day of the expedition some large format pictures of the Akopan-tepui plus some large pictures of some halls of the Charles Brewer cave were obtained. These images were made by the famous photographer Mathias Kessler backed up by Andreas Fitzner, Thierry Bal y Peter Tooke that completed his team and with the help from Javier Mesa, Igor Elorza and eigth indians from the Yunek village.
3.- A long interview for GEO magazine of Germany was made by Roland Schulz connsidered member of the expedition.
4.- The study of the age of several of the Biospeleothems from the Charles Brewer cave were made by Prof. Joyce Lundberg and Don McFarlane assisted by Karen Brewer.
5.- The photographic record of the several shapes, families and colonies of Biospeleothems found in Cueva Charles and the caves that we have temporarily named Eladio, Colibri and Muchimuk, were registered mainly by the photographer Javier Mesa.
6.- Four different films accordingly to their interest, quality and size were made by four photographers . One by the famous author Pavol Barabas (the most ambitious) and the other three that are shorter, were directed by Peter Tooke, Federico Mayoral, and Miguel Yabrudes. This last one supported by Mrs. Roberto Brewer and Alfredo Chacon.
7.- An aerial research registered with oblique air photographs yield new cave areas at the Murey-tepui, Tirepón-tepui and the Eruoda-tepui, all in the del Chimantá massiff. This exploration flight piloted by Cap. Ben Williams was directed by Charles Brewer-Carias with Branislav Smida and Pavol Barabas. This flight yielded important sightings that will be shown after their discovery is made. Of main interest is a cliff that has been temporarily named -Las Cuevas del Queso- (The caves of the Cheese) because one can spot at least 16 dry caves where there is no running water, showing that the erosive activity maybe was mainly drilled by underground streams inside phreatic tubes that maybe were draining these sediments and strata as these were been lifted up from their initial position at sea level.
8.- Some big format caves photographs lightened with powdered magnesium flashes that can be appreciated in full 3-D were peformed by Marek Audy and Richard Bouda to document the new caves, waterfalls, rivers and lakes that we discovered in the north face of the Churi-tepui.
9.- The genetic material that might identify the organisms responsible of the different shapes and distribution of these biospeleothems was collected and prepared by Charles Brewer and Karen Brewer so its DNA could be studied by Prof. Klaus Jaffe and Luis Marquez from the Universidad Bolívar and the IDEA institute of Caracas.
10.- When we were stationed al the camp at Cueva Charles and later at the northern cliff of the Churi-tepui, some snails, insects, scorpions, frogs and plants were observed for the first time and these could be new species. Their photographs and collection were performed mainly by Karen Brewer (in the Charles cave) and also by Javier Mesa, Federico Mayoral, Marek Audy, Richard Bouda, Pavol Baeabas and Charles Brewer-Carías at the Churi northern cliff.
11.- Publications.- The drawing of the maps to illustrate the topography of the new caves and the links that relate these with the caves that were studied previously, will be published in specialized periodicals as soonest possible and will be also published in a table book that we are writing with Marek Audy and Branislav Smida and will be published in Caracas by Carlos Capriles and Alfredo Guadarrama, with the definite support of José Luís Colmenter (El Morocho).

This expdition was possible mainly thanks to the support that LOPCO de Venezuela, Calidrat C.A. and CORRECCION VISUAL C.A., gave to the Fundacion EXPLORA, and part of it´s financing was the reult of the personal interest of Dr. Enrique Suárez, Sr. Horacio Velutini, Sr. Carlos Reitze , Sr. Alfredo Chacón and Sr. Andres Mata with the important support of Federico Mayoral.
Most of the airplane transportation was organized by the the pilots Octavio Colson, Roberto Brewer and Alberto Tovar and the helicopter transportation was made by pilots Raul Arias and Ben Williams. The security support with pulleys and Petzel equipment for 11 mm ropes was organized by Javier Mesa and Igor Elorza.
The institutional support from the Sociedad Venezolana de Ciencias Naturales was coordinated by Mr. Farid Ayaach and Arq. Mario Gabaldon.
I want to acknowledge the support that I have received from my wife Fanny and my sons Ñuñu, Carla, Chayo , Karen and John, because is because of that that I have been able to continue exploring and discovering.

April 27th, 2006 As was told by Julio Somera and Claudio, living at Santa María de Wonken.
At Tramen-tepui and Upuigma-tepuy used to live a "Tiri-tiri" or" Muchimuk" and also in that time there was a very powerful Piasán (Sorcerer) called "Apichawai" that decided to kill the animal that was eating his people.
This Piasán lightened his cigar and when he went to sleep he was able to see the shape and the place were this Muchimuk lived.
Then this Piasán disguised himself with a dress he made with the skin of a giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactila) that he filled with cotton so the claws of this giant bird could not hurt him. He also took along the stone "Waktok" he used for lighting fire and some threads of "Asadek" (Ceiba pentandra) that could use for fuel. He also carried along a very sharp stone ax and went towards a place near the Tramen-tepui (south of Yunek and Wonken), that is a mountain near the place where the travelers stop to sleep when they go by land towards Urimán village at the Caroní river.
One day while the Piasán Arichawa was waiting inside his disguise, the Muchimuk bird took and carried the Anteater with the Piasan hiding inside and took him above Akopan-tepui and other plateaus; and every time that the bird tried to go down to rest and eat, the Piasán pushed his belly with the stone ax. So this bird went on flying for several hours carrying the Piasan in its claws and flew above the Apaurai-tepui (east of Yunek) and finally went with his load to the Tramen-tepui that is were it had his nest, but the bird was very tired and could not take off again, so the Piasán Apichawa killed with a blow delivered with his stone ax on its shoulder blade and aftewards cut it into pieces.
MUCHIMUK: Should be the name of the place where Muchimuk lived and Tok-datak could be translated as the pecise place of the den or cave.

Charles Brewer

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