Expedition discovers untouched rainforest inside dormant African volcano

2018-06-20 16:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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Aerial view of an ancient volcano with a rainfores

Satellite view of Mount Lico and its untouched rainforest. (Photo: Google Earth)

Many might believe that there's nothing left to explore or discover in the world, but scientist Dr Julian Bayliss is using satellite tech to find untouched forests that still exist in the world.

Five years ago, he perused Google Earth looking over Mozambique, where in 2013 he found the largest rainforest in southern Africa on Mount Mabu, and saw a patch of green inside the crater of an ancient volcano. Rising 700-metres above the plain, its sheer granite cliffs have protected the forest from any human interference.

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When Bayliss realised that not even the locals have ever been to the forest, according to the expedition's blog written by Tim Hounsome, it took him two years to get a crew together to confirm his discovery. The team was made up of scientists and climbers, becoming the first modern humans to set foot in this unknown forest.

The crew was made up of a variety of nationalities, from South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Brazil and the UK, as well as a photographer from The Guardian who documented the trip. Thirteen universities, museums and research institutions from three continents formed part of the expedition.

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They set up a base camp at the foot of Mount Lico, from where satellite campsites were set up in relic forests and at the top of the mountain after famous climbers Jules Lines and Mike Robertson secured a route up a 125-metre cliff, precipitated by an extremely steep walk.

When expedition leader Bayliss first made it to the top of Mount Lico, he was extremely excited.

“Julian to base camp. I’m at the top and it’s amazing. You’re straight into pristine forest. This is incredible. Beautiful!” said Bayliss over the radio to base camp, according to Hounsome.

One new species has been confirmed so far - a butterfly - alongside species of snakes, frogs, toads, birds, rodents, crabs and plants that are yet to be confirmed in the next few months, all from ten days of exploration.

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According to The Guardian report, the most mysterious find was ancient clay pots buried in the soil on top of Mount Lico. Locals have no memory or legends of anyone ever scaling its cliffs, and anthropologists from Mozambique’s Natural History Museum will be investigating their origins further.

A documentary team from the UK - Grain Media with SLV Studios - also accompanied the expedition to document the discoveries.

Writing for the blog, Hounsome had a profound realisation at the end of the trip.

"They [expedition scientists] are all unbelievably focused on what they are doing, and they all have an overwhelming urge to do their bit in describing and ordering the animals and plants of the world. Some might say; before it’s too late. It doesn’t necessarily follow however, that these people are also the ones to enact the conservation measures that are needed to save them. Nonetheless their role is crucial.

"They provide the evidence, the ammunition to allow others to carry that fight. In order to convince people to conserve you need to show them what they stand to lose."

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You can watch Bayliss's previous expedition to Mount Mabu in Mozambique below: