Exploration Club, The Belfry,
Editor: Ted Humphreys
- 1 Editorial
- 2 New Members
- 4 Some Caves and Characters in the Eastern U.S.A.
- 6 Caving Under The Thames
- 8 Windsor Great Cave Trelawny – Jamaica
- 10 Daren Cilau
- 12 On The Oregon Trail
- 14 Direct Debits For Payment Of Membership Fees
- 16 Three Unrecorded Sinks At Priddy
- 18 Speleo Reconnaissance, Antique Province, Panay Island, Philippines
- 19 Letter From The Philippines
- 21 Club Matters
- 23 The Bowery Corner Song
More of a ramble really, as I write anything that comes to
mind that I think might be of interest to the membership.
This Belfry Bulletin is late and small because of lack of
material. Members keep asking me when
the next one is coming out but very few actually contribute anything. Please, please send me your articles. They don’t have to be about great new
discoveries or even about caving just about the adventures, travels,
explorations and so on, of the members. Articles about well known caves would be appreciated as well, maybe
pointing out features not mentioned in the guide books.
For example: –
G.B. is a well known cave, or is it. At the end of Bat Passage, or at least where
the sumped old dig is, the obvious onward continuation is in the roof about 7
ft. up. This can be followed to the end,
passing two ways down into tight rifts which end in chokes, or do they? However, at the 7 ft. climb, looking the
other way it can be seen that the continuation passage doesn’t go back down Bat
Passage but goes into the right wall (looking down-cave). A hole at the top of the muddy bank can be
entered and leads to a parallel phreatic rift at least 20 ft. high. It is not obvious from the bottom whether
this peters out at the top or whether it slopes over. Does it lead to an unknown passage? I haven’t yet chimneyed up it and don’t know
of anyone who has. Perhaps you know
There are similar instances in most caves, as well as more
in G.B. If you know of any, write about
The day after I wrote the above, Jim Smart’s article arrived
so the BB is not as short as I feared. His letter also enclosed the newspaper clipping, the card you may have
seen at the Hunter’s and a note to me. I’ve included part of the note (edited highlights!) between his article
and the clipping.
On the digging front, Bowery Corner is progressing
slowly. Daren Cilau quickly and Welsh’s
Green not at all. I hope to have surveys
of all three for the next BB. B.E.C.
members, and others, have been busy producing them.
The news from Bowery Corner is that the sump mentioned in
the last BB has been passed, over the top, and so has the second one. The end now is tight and very wet but, for
the first time, the sound of falling water can be heard from ahead. The end is
also well past the point that dowsing indicated that the passage should turn
right and is continuing in a straight line. Perhaps it turns back on itself at a lower level.
There are quite a few new members. Those listed below are the ones that have
been given membership numbers, that is, have paid their subs. I’ve included Jim Rands and Gwyn Timson again
as they hadn’t been given numbers in December.
1109 Jim Rands,
1110 Gwyn Timson, Rumney,
1111 Graham Johnson, Wells,
1112 Catherine Wood,
1114 Peter Bolt, Cardiff
1115 Robin Mark Taviner, Whitchurch,
1116 Stuart Lain, Yeovil,
1117 Peter Christopher Alan Hellier, Chew Stoke,
Some Caves and Characters in the
Following the reconnaissance trip by Trebor, Mac and Stumpy
(BB 445) the main expedition – J’Rat and Jane arrived in the U.S. of A. on 8th
September, after eventually negotiating the dreaded immigration and the large
photo of Ronnie welcoming all AIDS – free tourists to the
an attractive old town where we managed to find a proper pub, a 1933
“Caverns of Virginia” and a supply of camping gas. Our cups runneth over.
The first show cave visited was just out of town, at the
start of the boring
an extensive phreatic system carved from very light grey, chalky limestone and
possessing very little in the way of normal formations but famed for the
hundreds of large anthodites or “cave flowers” in one short section
of the tourist route. The other
attraction was the young girl cave guide full of sparkling wit and repartee and
wearing white ankle socks! Where were
you Snablet? A further novelty was a
tape recorded recitation on the Glory of God who had created this magnificent
underground marvel. Fair enough, I
thought, but he also created Hunter’s Hole. Parts of this cave also suffer from poor coloured lighting and algae
growth though it is still worth a visit. The anthodites are advertised as unique in the world but those who have
visited Napp’s Cave at Ilfracombe will know better!
An early start the next day saw us at the famous LURAY
CAVERNS near the town of that name. This
is one of the world’s great stalactite caves consisting of large phreatic
chambers packed with immense formations some of which divide the chambers into
smaller rooms. Their colour, variety and
profusion are incredible and there are some fine examples of the rare
“shields”. Not content with
their visual attractions the management allowed a Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle to
attach rubber trip hammers to a selection of stalactites operated from an organ
console. The strains of
“Shenandoah” echoing around the largest chamber, interspersed with
the tinkle of dripping water is particularly atmospheric. The Great Stalacpipe Organ, an awesome bit of
vandalism, should not be missed. (I have
a tape recording for those without the air fare). Other gimmicks here are the underground war
memorial, a huge notice board painted with camera lighting settings for the
snap-happy and, on our trip, a short and fat cave guide with some entertaining
chatter and a
As we were camping at the nearby ENDLESS CAVERNS it was only
fair that we went in them. Another
extensive solution system with superb pendants and formations – particularly
the “shields”. A young and
knowledgeable lad guided us and spouted the customary American show cave jokes
(“If that rock falls on you don’t worry about insurance – you’d be fully
covered” etc) and showing his one-upmanship over other guides by walking
backwards all the way out of the cave. To add to the fun of our visit there were plenty of active bats to upset
the lady tourists and a few narrow sections to wedge the obese ones (about 90%
). There is supposedly over 6 miles of
passage in this system. In the 1920’s
the Explorers Club of New York worked here and exploration is being continued
by the owner and his son, both cavers. A
further treat is the gift shop where rubber rocks, bat hats and lurid T-shirts
may be purchased (and was). Incidentally
the camp slate here is excellent.
Our next cave was further south near Keezletown. MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS was recommended by Trebor
(Thanks mate:) mainly because of the great character who owns it. Mr. Brad Cobb is an old time caver badly
crippled by a stroke and arthritis but who manfully guides tourists round the ¼
mile of paths on two sticks. It is not a
large cave but is extremely well decorated with thousands of straws, cone
shaped and bulbous stalactites. Mr. Cobb
would stop every few seconds to point out items of interest (“Weird, weird,
weird”) and to continually damn cave vandals (“Buzzards”). After fulfilling his main ambition of owning
his own cave Mr. Cobb has two more ambitions left – to live long enough to see
the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the cave in 1892 and to visit the
Mulu caves! I hope he succeeds in
both. ( See letter following this
We now temporarily left
and after violating the traffic rules in
en route to the FRIAR’S HOLE CAVE SYSTEM near Renick. Owned by another famous American cave man,
Gordon Mathes, this is a 47 mile long wild cave with five of its seven
entrances situated on Gordon’s 600 acre farm. Like Trebor and Co. we were fortunate to stay at the private caving hut
situated near the farmhouse – an old haunt of cavers world wide, none of whom
were around at the time. Our first trip
here was into the huge trunk passage of SNEDEGAR’S CAVE via the SALTPETRE
ENTRANCE, where Jane and I were accompanied for a time by two spelunking cows
sheltering from the outside heat! Negotiating the piles at breakdown was easy
enough but the plies of cowsh was a different matter. We followed this passage for several hundred
feet as far as a low section which leads to a sumped connection with the rest
of the system. Many bats, a crayfish and
our first cave cricket were seen en route.
While Jane then sunbathed and drank cold beer (a mandatory
American pastime ) I explored the adjacent NORTH ENTRANCE and after giving the
complicated Saltpetre Maze a cursory examination continued down the obviously
flood prone main passage until stopped by a wide, 15 foot deep pothole with a
slippery traverse ledge which I couldn’t attempt on my own and without a
rope. This is a very attractively water
worn swallet system and connects with Snedegar’s Cave via the Saltpetre Maze.
On our way back to the hut the huge, impressive entrance of
shaft and nearby sign warning SRT cavers that “Rats may chew the rope”!
Later that day
CAVE were visited. The former is a
Hole System. It was followed along 400
ft. of cricket infested canyon to the head of 50 ft. Toothpick Pot. Rolling
Stones was briefly looked before an imminent thunderstorm and the desire for a
gin and tonic caused a retreat. This
cave is not yet connected Friar’s Hole due to a constricted passage.
Having bid a sad farewell to this great spot we continued on
our way via LOST WORLD CAVERNS – a superbly lit and fantastically decorated
show cave near Lewisburg. First entered
down a 120 ft. pothole in 1942 this large breakdown chamber boasts magnificent
pillars and tall stalagmites – all lit by 30 ft. high double lamp
standards. The tour is usually
Next on the list was
– the complete opposite of Lost World. Having over 40 miles of passage this is one of
longest systems with the main entrance and associated trunk passage as a rather
tatty show cave. With its wooden shack
ticket office, obtrusive electric cables strung with usually bare light bulbs
(though some have apparently ex jumble sale lampshades) on and sawdust covered
paths this place seems to be unchanged since the hey-day of the American show
cave in the 1930’s. The passages visited
are essentially two huge bore tubes forming a Y-junction with a smaller side
passage leading off and containing 37 wooden saltpetre leaching vats installed
in 1861 when Confederate soldiers worked the sand deposits for nitrates to make
gunpowder. The wood is still in
excellent condition. This cave has
little in the way of formations but the tour was made well worthwhile by the
“Deputy Dawg” southern drawl of the owner/guide and his fund of tall
tales. At one point a solution pocket
was pointed out as the mould of a dinosaur, now removed for display in an
un-named museum! Despite – or rather
because of its old-fashioned grubbiness this tourist cave is a must.
many have). At 325 miles surveyed so far
this is the world’s longest cave and roughly a mile a month is the going
exploration rate – a bit like Bowery Corner. From a selection of eight different tours Jane and I selected two that
would cover the most extensive and interesting regions without covering the
same ground. Our first trip was the
“Echo River Tour” and was led by a woman guide with a trainee male
guide in tow, both wearing smart “Baden Powell” uniforms. Our party of 44 was shepherded from the
Historic Entrance, through the Rotunda (saltpetre mining ) past the Giant’s
Coffin ( Indian gypsum mining artefacts) through Fat Man’s Misery to Relief
Hall (underground bogs!). From here a
roomy bore passage was followed to the Dead Sea and along a series of paths and
catwalks above Echo River – this last section being negotiated with all except
the guides wearing bright orange life jackets – theirs were National Park khaki! Everyone then boarded a couple of large punts
for a 50 yard boat trip before returning from whence we had come and out of the
cave via River Hall. Mammoth Dome and
Historic Entrance. My main impressions
of the cave were of magnificent flat roofed trunk passages and large, dry
tunnels. The lighting is discreet and
gives one the feel of actually caving – in fact, due to electrical faults,
Mammoth Dome was hardly lit at all! The
guides are well trained, informative and capable of dealing with any type of
questions – and at least one of them was much prettier than Chris Castle.
When in this area it is an obligatory caver’s duty to
indulge in a spot of morbidity and visit
where Floyd Collins was trapped and died in 1925. I explored the somewhat eerie entrance
chamber in a heavy rainstorm and found the cave passage proper to be sealed by
a welded iron grid. Denied a trip I
spent ten minutes photographing the hundreds of huge cave crickets hanging
upside down in various niches around the entrance chamber. Being alone in this atmospheric spot it was
difficult to visualise the 10,000 rowdy onlookers who gathered here to watch
the abortive rescue attempts over 60 years ago.
“Half Day Tour”, via Carmichael Entrance and along the mile long
– covered in gypsum crystals and flowers and giving some idea of the vast
extent of the system. This passage ended
abruptly in the Snowball Dining Room where an underground restaurant and more
bogs satisfied the needs of the 200 strong party. Our route march then continued along
reach Mammoth Gypsum Wall and yet more bogs after another 1.6 miles. Beyond here a large collapse is surmounted to
reach Grand Central Station where a lecture was given by Duke, the chief
guide. Another character, he has worked
here as a Ranger for 20 years and really knows his stuff. Anyone who can keep control of 200 assorted,
American tourists must be good. The
final part of the trip took us to the spectacular flowstone cascade of Frozen
Niagara and then out via the entrance of the same name. This had been a four hour tour and some of
the merry throng only just made it!
Returning to Virginia a couple of days later we camped at
NATURAL TUNNEL – an 850 ft. long, 100 ft. high and 100 – 175 ft. wide cave
passage used as a short cut by the Stock Creek and, more recently, the Southern
Railway. It is quite an experience to be
halfway through a cave when a hundred truck freight train comes through –
especially when the driver waves a friendly greeting. For more information on this cave see the
recent article by Tony Waltham in Cave Science Vol 15 No 1.
Nearby, across the border in
is the grotty town of
and its own BRISTOL CAVERNS. How could
we not visit this? Once used by Cherokee
Indians as a water supply and hiding place this is a well decorated show cave
with a fine streamway below the main chamber. What a place to be without a Bertie sticker!
The last show cave of the holiday was DIXIE CAVERNS in
attractive lady guide. The ¼ mile long
trip through narrow passage and larger chambers was somewhat spoiled by the
coloured lighting. The novelty of this
visit came when the guide discovered I was a “spelunker” and I ended
up leading the party! Of some interest
here are examples of calcite “boxwork” and the rarely seen Dixie
Salamander, one of which was spotted atop a stalagmite.
The next week was dedicated to deep sea fishing, snorkelling
and vast alcohol consumption off the Florida coast and of little interest to
B.E.C. members though we did find America’s only drive in pub – “a six
pack and two pints to go buddy”. Clutching our beers we drove off into the night.
Save up your bucks – the States and the Yanks are a real
Have a nice day y’all Tony Jarratt
EDITORS NOTE The letter below was on nicely headed notepaper
but I’ve typed it because Mr. Cobb’s writing is not always perfectly legible,
probably due to his arthritis. It was
addressed to Dave and I’ve not altered anything.
Keezletown, Virglnia 22832
Oct. 6. 1988
Dear Dave Turner,
A few weeks ago, I received a second visitation, this year,
from the membership of B.E.C.
They were generous enough to bestow a copy of the BELFRY
BULLETIN for my somewhat sketchy library of things Speleological (Volume 42
No.3 Number 445 July 1988 ).
I was highly flattered to read your kind words about an
earlier visit by other members of B.E,C., in April. It made me feel as though my efforts to do a
good job of guiding was actually appreciated by people who know caves.
to have suffered greatly at the hands of the public. MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS, also, has received it’s
share of vandalism by the “Hands On” approach to collecting souvenirs
over the years. During the past third of
a century, I have tried to develop a modicum of concern in the minds of our
visitors. Sometimes Success!
It is an uphill fight and every good word is treasured. The cavalier treatment of all of our
environment is pervasive in countries through the world. This is rather short-sighted, don’t you
Bradford ( Brad ) Cobb N.S.S. 2513
Caving Under The
At the foot of
side of the river, next to the MONUMENT, is a building called REGIS HOUSE. It is the H.Q. of the A.A. as well as being
the home of CITIBANK N.A. where I work in the computer department. In the sub-basement is yet another downward
flight of steps leading to a locked door. On the other side of this door is what used to be King William St.
Station, which has been closed since 1912.
It was, however, used as an air raid shelter during both
wars and there is still evidence of this down there (Posters dating to
1941). As one wends ones way through the
labyrinthine network of corridors, one eventually comes to what can only be a
disused railway tunnel. 50 metres into this there is a concrete bulkhead – this
is so placed because at this point you are directly under the banks of the
other side of this – the formations begin. The tunnel runs parallel to
London Bridge Station. It also connects
with other access tunnels and eventually to the active Circle Line
terminals. There are two well decorated
tunnels – each approximately ¼ mile in length and containing some surprising
straw and helectite formations as well as a few columns although admittedly not
of the same calibre as those in OFD! These tunnels have been extensively investigated by Jingles and Stuart
Lain on several occasions. If anyone is
in the area and wants to have a look then I can take them down too!
Call John Williams to arrange a visit
Cave Trelawny –
From the Caving Log, with some editorial licence
Bob Bidmead (just in case anyone thinks I don’t cave any
more). Having been in
the 23rd of September with a hurricane relief team I at last managed a Sunday
off work. The original plan, to cave
with Ian Mason (Bradford P.H.C.) and Barry Poyser (Jam. Spel.) was unfulfilled
as the other two were working. Barry
arranged a local guide, however, so I went with Alphonse and the Sheriff – two
local lads from Sherwood.
The cave is a major resurgence, with the lower entrance
carrying a stream during the wet season, and drying for the rest of the year,
when the water rises through the river bed about 300 yards from the cliff
face. The human entrance is about 60 ft.
up the cliff face and represents an older level. The entrance series is much like Peak Cavern,
but with a narrower opening. Having left
the twilight zone the roof became covered with calcite tracery, making it look
like a church roof. The passage wound up
over a collapsed boulder ruckle, with the streamway a long way down, perhaps 120
ft. or so. The temperature was high – in
the 60’s and surprisingly there was a large population of insects, the usual
shrimps and hoppers, but also millions of very tiny flies, like fruit flies. These took to wing as soon as a light beam
struck the surface of the rock they were on, and were so small and so numerous
they got in eyes, mouth and nose. Not so
surprising were the colony of Rat Bats, so called by the Jamaicans due to their
small size and appearance. These
obviously had a built in food supply with the flies, and also took wing when
the light hit them. We ended up dodging
an aerial ballet of bats and flies which seemed to fill the chamber – about the
size of the main chamber in G.B.
At the top of the ruckle the roof came down, and a strong draught
indicated the way through. Unfortunately
at this point my two local guides chickened out – no way were they prepared to
carry on through 2′ by 3′ crawls or duck under the obviously stable boulders. It transpired they normally took rich
American tourists on grockle trips, which was unfortunate. The thought of being 30 miles from the coast
and having a Land Rover with hiccups did not encourage me to continue alone, so
the day was curtailed after 1½ hours. Great cave though, and a return is a must.
Several smaller holes were looked at during the work period,
but obvious commitments to the restoration of electricity to the island
precluded any further detailed trips. If anyone has a free air ticket I have
free accommodation available – offers please!
Bob Bidmead – returned 2.1.89
Another week long
camp in December by
Gwyn and Jake (Graham Johnson) resulted in Snablet and Andy pushing Shit Rift
for a further 90 metres. The passage is
currently Anorexic Whippet sized, draughting and heading south.
A lot of work was done on other sites in the
extensions. Friday 13th boulder choke
was worked on and now looks promising but not for the faint hearted as the
keystone of the massive choke is now cracked in half and right in the firing
line. Gwyn unfortunately sustained a
minor skull fracture when the roof of one of the ‘Sand’ Digs collapsed on
her. She opted for the relative comforts
of the camp rather than a painful, premature trip out.
Shit Rift was revisited by Snablet and Nick Pollard over the
Christmas period. Jake and Andy took
Fred Davies down on a tourist trip (Fred’s first visit to the cave since his
and Boone’s breakthrough back in the 60’s)
Next camp 10 – 19 Feb (I’m too late again – Ed.)
Hundreds of feet of new passage were discovered on this
camp. Daren is now very close to Aggie
Sump 4, Gothic Passage and to
full report will appear in the next BB.
As a change from Butcombe, I nipped off to the Pacific
to have a few Budweisers – and also a bit of walking in the Cascade and
Olympic mountains and along the
coast. Superb walking, especially in
fresh November powder snow. The place is
a backpacker’s paradise, particularly in the summer. Unfortunately there is not a great deal of
speleological interest at this time of year, except respectable caves on
sense at all.
One aim was to travel down the central spine of Oregon, the
Cascades, to look at lava tubes, fossil beds, Crater Lake and other morsels but
unusually severe snow prevented me from getting even remotely close, let alone
a look-see, I did have however get ‘underground’ three times.
** In the late 1890’s,
sewage system whereby the gentry on the hilly parts slopped their stuff
downhill in hollowed out tree trunks. The mess then settled un-firmly on the lower parts which had been
re-graded and built up out of mud and sawdust from the thriving lumber
business. Muck and sawdust do not make
good foundations so various events, primarily a bit of a blaze, prompted the
almost complete re-building of the city in the early 1900’s – 12 ft higher than
the previous level. You can thus descend
into the depths and walk along the old streets, see original shop fronts, walk
through an old speak-ezee cinema etc. Irwin and Knibbs would call it an easy
stroll with no technical difficulty, no specialist knowledge or equipment.
** Hailed as the biggest sea cave in the world (some hope –
what about Fingal’s) this one in the wilds of the
sea lions. Technically it is a littoral
cave (formed by wave cut action). Access
is by the ultimate SRT experience, a lift down 250 ft into a Semtex blasted
passage that would put Bowery to shame. There is no problem with route finding – you just follow the smell and
the noise. The smell really is
overpowering, very much like the Belfry bunkroom after a Saturday night
barrel. You don’t stay down there for
long – a bit like Jim Smart’s caving. The sea lions push and barge, honk and wallow in the mud. reminding me
instantly of Chris Castle. “Moderately Interesting” on the Irwin/Knibbs scale.
** An island of the Pacific coast is now the proud owner of
the most secure BEC sticker – under the bunk bed of cell 48B. Alcatraz in
out of the
or the Hunters. In 1963 four inmates did
a wondrous bit of digging and squeezing to get out of their cells through
enlarged ventilation grills. I couldn’t
even get my head through, not that that’s saying much. Needless to say they perished in the
swirling, treacherous streamway known as ‘
and one hell of a sump outside” is how Irwin & Knibbs would have it.
Direct Debits For Payment Of Membership Fees
The committee has been instructed by the membership at the
1988 AGM to investigate the possibility of using Direct Debit as a procedure to
collect membership fees. This procedure
is fraught with difficulties and liabilities and really, as a club we are too
small an organisation to make it worthwhile. Some points to consider:
As we are not a corporate account, the committee members
(and the trustees) would be responsible in the case of a claim against the
club, be it from payers or a bank. An
unlimited indemnity must be arranged.
Strict rules must be adhered to. A mandate must be produced, printed and sent
out to the membership. When completed,
the records must be kept on computer and the discs submitted to the bank in the
format required to instruct the debiting of an individuals account. (We would originate the DD. the bank doesn’t
get involved, hence the unlimited indemnity).
A fee of approximately £50 p.a. is involved (assuming 200
members) and then there’s the cost of the printing of the mandates etc etc.
It is better to use the Standing Order method of extracting
money from people, there are fewer problems. It is proposed to Instigate Standing Orders for membership fees as from
next years AGM. Instructions will appear
in a future Belfry Bulletin along with the Standing Order Mandate in plenty of
time for next years fees!
Three Unrecorded Sinks At Priddy
This brief article is purely to place on record the
existence of three well known but – to the best of the writer’s knowledge –
previously unrecorded swallets, two of which have been eyed greedily by
factions of the digging fraternity for some years. The third is a less obvious dig site but as
the writer lives almost directly opposite it he has had plenty of opportunity
to notice its propensity for taking water in wet weather. Descriptions conform with those in ”
of altitudes which are in metres . Please note that the first described is not
the one that Mrs. Dors washes the empties in!
HUNTER’S LODGE INN SINK CM 5494 5012
At 250m. Priddy, SE end of the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, adjacent
to the wall at S corner of “function room”. Wet weather drainage from the crossroads and
inn car park sinks in a waterworn rift occasionally blocked by rocks and
silt. Once took drainage and effluent
from the inn stables. At present being
cleared by the landlord. Dowsing
indicated a minor streamway heading towards Hunter’s hole.
HUNDRED ACRES SINK CM 5419 5012
At 248m. Priddy. On
the S side of
opposite the cottage at the end of the drive leading to the
“Belfry”/Underwood Farm. A
large wet weather stream sinks here after draining from the road. Presumed to drain into the St. Cuthbert’s
Swallet system. Permission to dig has
PELTING DROVE SINK CM 5273 5048
At 248m. Priddy. On
the SE side of Pelting Drove opposite cottage “The
dewpond, takes a considerable amount of road drainage in wet weather which
fills up the pond and depression but does not overflow and is presumed to sink
away below the dewpond into the unknown further reaches of Swildon’s Hole.
NOTE: A fourth sink in
searched for in vain. This area needs
visiting in wet weather.
If anyone knows of any similar, unrecorded sinks, digs or
caves please write them up for the B.B.
Tony Jarratt 27/1/89
Prior research of the speleo literature available in the
apart from two caves marked on a tourist map:
in the north and an un-named cave near San Remigio in the south. I had no plans to visit
but the vagaries of Philippine shipping schedules brought me and Rhona Lacsinto
to Antique, both of us island hopping in whatever small boats were
available. We were trying to get to
shipping for a month. We never got to
Jeepney – Utilitarian pickups, originally converted
army Jeeps now mostly Ford Fiera. Able
to transport an unbelievable number of passengers and personal effects.
Rebel-country – There is a very serious insurgency situation
the death-toll is colossal, and includes the civilians who are caught between
the two sides.
Bgy = Barangay – The smallest official socio-political unit
with an elected administration, usually a village. A Sitio is a smaller section within the bgy
region – e.g. a nearby hamlet.
Tuba – Palm Wine. It
Friday Jan 20, 1989.
Early evening arrival at Libertad after a scorching day
aboard Aida 1, a large outrigger pumpboat.
Sat Jan 21.
4 am. jeepney to San Jose de Buenavista. No one here knows when a boat will be leaving
(“maybe next month”) but we do get some information on the cave at
San Remigio. We decide to visit it
Sun Jan 22.
Heavy thunder rain; trip postponed.
Mon Jan 23.
Rhona’s birthday – i.e. a day to relax. Change to a lodging house with better vibes,
e.g. “Rule 4: Observe silence and cleanliness most of the time”. In the evening our Bistro meal is interrupted
by a boozy journalist who writes me up for the local rag. (see paper clipping –
Tues Jan 24.
It’s only about 30 km. from
two jeepneys and more than four hours to get there. The cave is known locally as
and is located behind La Reunion Elementary School. It is well known locally everyone saying it
has “many rooms and goes deep”. So I was rather disappointed with the grubby little rift entrance we
found, and further disappointed when Rhona announced she’d come down the cave
with me (she dressed in all her snow-white finery). Thus our exploration was perfunctory and we
crawled barely 60 m. into the muddy hole, Rhona insisting that I leave candles
every few metres. I decided to leave the girls at home in future.
Wed Jan 25.
I’d been told of some interesting caves in the mountains
near Valderama. This is rebel country
but most people thought I’d be “fairly safe”, so I set off early and
by noon I was in Valderama and had secured the services of a guide and porter
for the 12 km. walk up the river to Bgy San Augustin. After lunch we set off, me wimpishly clinging
to the hand of my 60 year old guide as we crossed and re-crossed the swiftly
flowing River Cangaran.
San Augustin is extremely impoverished: no work and nothing
for sale. I’d brought my own food and
this was prepared for me alone. I’d eat
before the gaze of the entire population of about 150 people. When I’d finished, my leftovers would be
triumphantly carried away by my host to share with his family, and everyone
else would go home for about thirty minutes to eat. This was the only opportunity I got to be
Thurs Jan 26.
Although I’d made it clear that I was only paying one guide
about a dozen people set off to
steep climb away. This was the cave I’d
heard about several times in
and Valderama. It was reported to be a
long cave ending in a shaft that no-one had descended; you can hear running
water down there, they said.
That’s as maybe. When
we arrived there was a swarm of bees at the entrance and the visit was
No problem though. Someone knew of another cave higher up the side of the valley:
river near sitio Datag. A 4 metre limb
was hacked off a nearby tree to facilitate my descent and the entrance pitch
was bottomed to reveal a small steeply descending cave ending with a draughting
squeeze negotiable with a lump hammer. I
had no lump hammer, length 10 metres.
We headed back to San Augustin waded the river (hold hands)
crossed a few low grade rice fields and began the steep ascent towards sitio
Boho where two caves were reported to be located. My entourage of kids and old men infuriated
me, laughing and talking and shouting at each other while I could hardly catch
my breath or keep up with them.
About one hour from San Augustin in a tumble of deeply
weathered limestone boulders and hidden by trees we found our first cave:
I. The larger of the two entrances was
the only one negotiable without equipment; even so it was a bit of a nasty
climb. Someone kindly provided a piece
of thick string to aid my descent . About 15 metres below the surface I gained
the floor and was immediately hit by the horrid smell of batshit: my flashlight
revealed their scarey orange eyes. Within 15 minutes six brave souls had joined
me at the foot of the shaft and we commenced exploration, one light between
seven of us.
Although the passage was large (say 4½ m. wide and 10½ m high
average) the bats were so numerous that we were successfully forced back by
them: they flew into us, pissed on us, dropped ticks on us and were generally
quite beastly. I pondered
histoplasmosis. We took refuge behind a
rock. Shall we go now?, my companions
asked. No, we’ll give it one more try.
Only two men accompanied on my second attempt and we got to
a point where the passage shrank to about two metres square for a few
metres. There was an almost solid tide
of bats flowing through here. My
companions started swiping at them with sticks, making great sport of the whole
adventure. The carnage was sickening: I
called a halt to the attempt. Length 100
metres and still going; depth 12 metres.
On the surface we all had a good laugh about the bats, drank
tuba, and proceeded to another cave nearby in the same about clump of trees (
BOHO CAVE II ). A short descent led to
45 metres of crawling maze; depth c. 9 metres.
We returned to the river to wash and then home to San
Augustin for lunch ( more eyes, more leftovers). No one knew of any more caves within safe
walking distance (remember the insurgence ) so we clowned and festered away the
rest of the day.
Fri Jan 27.
With my guide and porter I set off back to Valderama at 6
am. I was in
sitting on her luggage and hoping for a boat. No news yet, she said, so I said goodbye, abandoned all thoughts of
Palawan, and by evening I was enjoying the sultry air and bright lights of
Other Caves of
Information has been received on other caves in Province
Antique, as follows:-
A cave mined for guano located
about 4 km. north of Libertad and 4 km. Inland near a river.
3 km. from PATNONGON
Two caves reported here:
3. CAVE, Bgy BUENAVISTA, BELISON
A cave mined for guano. Deep water “You have to swim the in
Jim Smart Feb. 1989
This is an extract from The Daily Start in the Philipines.
A member of the Bristol Exploration Club, affiliated with
the British Cave Research Association based in
Britishs speleogist James Smart, 40, has 25 years of’
experience in exploring caves.
Smart, in a DAILY STAR interview, yesterday, Smart said he
is in charge of the foreign section of the B.E.C., which was founded in 1935
and has about 280 active members at present.
Tourism Staff Officer Edwin Gatia is supplying Smart with
information on the, locations of caves in
Smart, who has explored caves all over Europe said that the
he said, the Latipan-Lokohonmg cave system located in Sagada,
is officially recognized as the deepest at 163 metres, with a length of about
3,975 meters, while the
longest cave system with a length of 8,200 meters.
Smart said he intends to visit some caves in the south of
Negros, particularly those in Mainit and Konog-Konog in Candoni, Kabankalan,
Hog, Cauayan and Hinoba-an areas, and in Escalante and
His research work on Negos caves will be published in the
“Cave Science Magazine” circulated in
Smart has also visited some of the cave systems found in
Antique. GR Gumban
Another snippet said: –
That Somerset County Council road signs do not disappear they
merely go underground in pot-holes near Priddy.
Letter From The
If you think the enclosed news clipping is a bit off the
mark, this is the second rag to give me coverage. Furthermore the 7 o’clock
news the other morning went something like .llong-go, llong-go. llong-go ….
Breestol Explortion Club sa
….long-go, llong-go …. Professor Jims Smart llong-go …. etc.” for
FIVE MINUTES. Lord knows exactly what
was said but I gather I’m leading an expedition! Also apparently I’ve been in the “Towns
Talk” column, but I’ve not seen it. I can’t imagine what I’m doing there something about discos or music I
Lotsa caves here on
but all the ones I’ve visited have been small. Travel is naturally slow here and I have to tread cautiously both to
satisfy the locals’ curiosity and also because of the military situation. Things are VERY heavy and I can see caves
that it would be suicide to walk to. For
my sanity I like to retreat to a city a couple of nights a week to mellow out
(= get pissed) and relax (= have my nails manicured).
This is a list of items that the committee have asked me to
put in the BB, dating from the December, January and February meetings. Some may now be irrelevant!
1. Hut Bookings – These must be done through the
Hut Warden (Snablet). Anyone else must
check with Snablet first. We’ve had
double bookings and aggrieved people!
2. Kindling and firewood are always in short
supply. It would be nice if all members
visiting the Belfry could bring a sackful with them.
3. The general behaviour of BEC members and/or
guests is causing concern. We must
maintain good relations locals as access to some caves might depend on it.
4. It is important for prospective members to turn
up at the meeting during which their application for membership is discussed (7.30 pm. on the first Friday of the
month). If they don’t bother, their
application is likely to be turned down.
5. Members are reminded of the availability of
I.D.M.F. funds for expeditions etc. Young members don’t seem to apply any longer.
The Bowery Corner Song
(to the tune of Old Man River)
Belfryites dig in de Bowery
Corner. Belfryites dig while de Wexxes
Pulling dese sledges from de dawn to sunset, gittin no beer and gittin no pay:
Don’t get squashed and don’t dare drown ‘cos that’ll make de Diggin’ Boss
Shovel out all dat gravel and glass an pull dat rope or he’ll kick your arse.
Let me go way from de Bowery Corner, let me go ‘way from dat poxy sink.
Show me dat pub called de Hunter’s Lodge dat’s where I’ll drown myself – in
Bowery Corner, dat Bowery Corner, it must go somewhere. but ain’t gone nowhere.
It just keeps going, it keeps on going a-long —It ain’t got chambers, it
ain’t got pitches.
It ain’t got limestone, it ain’t got pretties;
That Bowery Corner, it jes keeps going a-long —-
You an’ me, we sweat an’ strain. Body
all achin’ an’ racked wid pain.
“Carry det det! Shift dat
tamp”, lie down in de streamway ’til you die of cramp.
Ah gits weary an’ sick of shale. Ahm
tired of diggin’ an’ want my ALE.
But Bowery Corner, it just keeps goin’ a-long!
words by Uncle Tom J’Rat. With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Paul Robeson and
(printed music and cassette of Paul Robeson’s version
available for anyone desperate enough to want to sing it!)