Photographs fron the 1977 British Speloeological Expedition to the Zagros Mts, Iran.
Very few Westerners had been to this area - Judson's explorations of a few years earlier of Ghar Parau had been some way away - as far as we knew, only a couple of French cavers had been to this plateau and I doubt many people have been there since. This was 1977, just before the Shah's demise - and this area is very close to the Iraq border, quite close to the area of the horrific germ killings to follow - I recognised many place names from the newsreels to follow.
Even now, a search on the Net for Palangan gives just a couple of obscure references of remote geological or archeological surveys - apparently there is an Assyrian stone edifice at Palangan somewhere up in the gorge ! When we were there we were more interested in the flowing fresh springs and fresh walnuts growing on the banks. Unfortunately this place was 7000 ft lower than our mountain camp and four miles away - but was often in our thoughts.
It was a crying shame we did not go here with a film crew - but our concerns were very much for the caves and remote filming was much more of a problem then, equipment wise - but it could have been sorted. I shot a good deal of slide film ( I'm amazed it survived the conditions - we had 170 farenhite in the bus stopped in East Turkey - eventually it was a damp house in East Bristol, drinking, curry and slide shows that caused them damage - mostly fungus spots in the emulsion.
Fortunately, with the advent of digital imaging , I have been able to scan all this material and digitally clean it - so thought I would put together a brief visual account of the trip - even if it was twenty six years ago. Better late than never !
We found many caves on the plateau, including a spectacular 1000ft shaft - but all seemed to bottom out at about this depth - though the potential to the risings at Palangan is tremendous.
It was the last cave we found, a week before having to leave the mountain, that was 'the one' - we thought we were in - broke through to a huge stream passage 150ft high - then it was suddenly blocked to the roof by a collapse from above. We had a couple of days to try to dig across the top - it could not have been more than thirty feet of blocked boulder fill - but had little in the way of digging equipment. Can you imagine trying to drive to Iran with explosives - even though several of us had licences - hmm. !
Anyway - there is one hell of a deep cave here - deeper than anything, anywhere. Trouble is, do you fancy a trip to near the Iraq border - I foolishly thought it was getting better, given that Iran was getting a little easier - maybe it could have been done with a joint Iran Army team or something - but now it plunges back into doom again. It's a terrible shame - these are tremendous countries, full to the brim with the feel of the history behind all of us, ethnic, religious and intellectual.
One day in the future, maybe. Not sure when though.