This news report below appeared in The New York Times on September 25, 1998. A substantial portion of the the Tibetan province of Kham lies outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and has been annexed into the Chinese provinces of Yunan and Sichuan.
BEIJING, Oct. 21, 1998 -- (Agence France Presse) Chinese adventurers have set off to remote southern Tibet to conquer the world's largest and most inaccessible canyon on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra river, the China Daily reported Wednesday.
The 40-strong team plans to make the first full exploration of the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, which is longer than the United States' Grand Canyon and deeper than Peru's Colca Canyon, but was only positively identified by satellite measurements in 1994.
"A great many of the world's wonders are expected to be discovered during the expedition and we will share the data with the world," team leader Gao Dengyi told the newspaper.
His 50-day expedition involves botanists, zoologists, geographers, cartographers and environmental scientists who expect many new discoveries in the untouched canyon.
"As the first exploration, we expect to find many new plant and animal species which will provide precious materials for the study of the Tibet-Qinghai Plateau," said Yang Yichou, a geographer with the team.
According to satellite calculations, the canyon is 5,382 meters (17,800 feet) deep, a significantly larger incision into the earth than the Colca Canyon in Peru, which is 3,200 meters (12,600 feet) deep.
It is also 496.3 kilometers (310.2 miles) long, some 56.3 kilometers (35.2 miles) longer than the Grand Canyon in Colorado, and has several fast-running rapids where water flows at up to 84 kilometers (53 miles) an hour.
Initial surveys of small parts of the canyon indicate it is rich in tropical and sub-tropical bio-resources. Many "living fossils" or species already extinct in other parts of the world are expected.
"The discovery of the canyon is a very important event that contributes to mankind's knowledge of nature," said Gao.
"No one has ever gone through it on foot and no one has ridden its turbulent current...so this is just the beginning," he added.
The river that created the canyon -- known at the Yarlung Zangbo in Tibet -- originates at 5,590 meters (18,500 feet) above sea level near the border with Nepal and flows southwest through Tibet before completing a 180 degrees turn in the canyon and dropping off the Tibetan plateau into India where it becomes the holy Brahmaputra River. It then flows through Bangladesh and into the Indian Ocean.
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)