Personnel from the WKU Department of Geography and Geology and Center for Human GeoEnvironmental Studies (CHNGES) and Cave Research Foundation’s (CRF) International Section were invited to the island of Tongatatu, located within the Kingdom of Tonga, to provide resource management expertise for Anahulu Cave, the island’s premier show cave. The cave, located on the east coast of the island, is extensively decorated and is most noted for its large, freshwater lake.
Dr. Pat Kambesis (CHNGES), Dr. Rick Toomey (CRF) and Dr. Elizabeth Winkler (CRF) conducted detailed cave survey, photodocumentation, resource and biologic inventory, and impact assessment of Anahulu Cave. They also instigated a clean-up of the commercial section of the cave system. Based on their field work, they determined that Anahulu Cave is flank margin cave. These types of caves form on limestone coastlines at the interface of a freshwater and saltwater lens.
During the survey the team documented a new section of the cave system which increased it’s known length and making it the longest cave system in the Kingdom of Tonga at 750 meters with a vertical extent of 18 meters. The new area contains an additional series of deep freshwater lakes. The cave is significant because it is a local drinking water source.
The team will be returning to Tongatatu to continue the survey and resource inventories and will also include a hydrogeologic assessment of this significant coastal cave.