Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 – 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Stuart McManus
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson


Apologies to those who did not get their May BB’s until
July!  This was due to me being out of
the country (the


and I will write it up!) and nobody could find my mailing list.

On my return I found lots of articles, not all of which I
could get into this BB.  Please keep them
coming, more will be needed for the October and Christmas BB’s.

The biggest recent news is that Wigmore Swallet has
‘gone’.  See article and survey, pages 12
to 25.  I was hoping to have a colour
picture of Wigmore on the cover of this BB but the cost was prohibitive!  Much more is expected soon, possibly the
Mendip ‘Main Drain’ and, who knows, maybe eventually, a through trip from
Wigmore to Bowery Corner!

On the subject of the cover. Its about time the picture changed was. Has anyone got a black and white print I could use?  Preferably of somewhere on the Mendips.

The St. Cuthbert’s report is at the printers!  I’ve seen a couple of sample pages which were
tremendous.  It sets new standards for
caving reports and will certainly become a collector’s item.  The report is due to “hit the
streets” in mid-September, in time for the BCRA conference.

The only other item (I didn’t know where else to put it!) is
that the IDMF is giving Jake £100 for the

expedition.  See Jim’s begging letter on page 19.


Membership List Amendments

We welcome one new member, who is:-

Robert Taff. Erdington,


We also welcome one member who has rejoined: –

870  Gary Cullen, Southwater, Nr. Horsham,

There are also five address changes, as follows: –

1144  Sophie Crook.        Batheaston.
1116  Stuart Lain,            c/o


1128  Vince Simmonds,  Wells.


1154  Karen Turvey.      



683 Dave Yeandle.         Eastville.


A.G.M. and Dinner, 1991.

The Annual General Meeting of the BEC will be held at The
Belfry on Saturday, 5th October at 10.30 a.m. prompt.

You are reminded that nominations for the 1991-92 committee
must be submitted in writing to the Secretary no later than 7th September
1991.  All nominations must have a
proposer and seconder.  Present members
of the committee are nominated automatically if they wish to stand for
re-election.  There are some vacancies
this year, however, as not all the present committee wish to stand.

The Annual Dinner of the BEC will also be on Saturday the
5th of October.

The venue this year is again the “Webbington
Hotel”, Loxton. The tickets are £15 per person and are available from
Nigel Taylor.  With this BB you should
get inserts detailing the arrangements that have been made for the evening,
sample menus and an order form.  Please
order as soon as possible.

Proposal for A.G.M.

Proposer Nigel Taylor. Seconded B.E.C. Committee

“That the A.G.M. consider the creation of a membership
category of “Retired” or “County” membership and that this
be on a cost only basis”

Working Day

There is a working day at the Belfry on Saturday 24th of
August. Lots of jobs need doing!  Mr. N
is planning a barbecue for the evening.


Congratulations and best wishes to Tav and Gen who were
married on Friday the second of August.


The BEC sends its congratulations to Steve and Fran Milner
on the birth of their daughter, Sian Elizabeth, who weighed In at 8 lbs. on the
21st of May.

and to :-

Chris and Liz Batstone on the birth of their second son who
weighed in at 8 lbs 12 ozs on the weekend of 13/14th July.

A space-filler

from Alan Thomas

‘When I wrote an article on nicknames a few months ago I
said that I had never had one.  To bring
it up to date I am now (thanks to Barrie Wilton) known as “Big Al”‘.


Steigl Boot Boys On Tour

Xmas 1990 – 91
“What do you get if you cross Snablet, Richard Blake. two pairs of skis
and several bottles of Steigl?”

We set off with the great intention of pushing last years
find, Bleistiftspitzerschacht (Pencil Sharpener Shaft), hopefully to a depth of
-400 metres or more and of leaving the place wide open for the big summer push
when we would know a little more about the place, but things didn’t quite work
out as planned!

The idea for going out to Austria for the second time in one
year came to life at the BCRA conference over a pint or six whilst waiting for
the boring lectures to finish and trying to decide between which one of the
four interesting lectures to go to (the expeditions that have found kilometres
of cave) that were all on at the same time.

It turns out that Tuppa of the NCC has pushed Verborgen
Hohle (Hidden Hole) above Orkan Hohle (Hurricane Hole) to -250 metres which is
a must for going deep next season and he is dead keen on going down Bleistiftspitzerschacht.  The others sitting around the table are
fairly interested too.  Plans for the
summer are afoot but we can not wait that long as there may be access problems.  Hallstattersee Caving Club are planning to
initiate an access system similar to that of the Salzburg Gruppe Caving Club
and although we have sent letters. reports and surveys to the Austrians we
don’t know if this has worked.

A short time later at a stomp in the Hill Inn a Xmas date
was decided on.  All we needed was a
strong enthusiastic BEC team to push the cave. We thought that this would be no problem as everyone was saying, after
the last Xmas trip, “It sounds like you had a great time, count me in for
a trip sometime next year”  So the
word was spread and in true BEC fashion the huge party of Richard Blake and
myself constituted the expedition …. What’s wrong?  Don’t the BEC like going down caves any more?
or could it be people remembered the famous Blitz and Harper winter drinking
expedition to


back in the dim and distant past. However help was soon on the way in the guise of the NCC.  So it was that the team of Richard Blake,
Steve Brown, Ruth, Paul Ibbertson, Mark Wright and me (Snablet) was formed.

After a long train journey only broken by a long ferry delay
(Apparently P & O, had forgotten to put any oil in the engine at Oostend
….. Viva la tunnel!) saw RB, PI and Snablet arrive in Halstatt.  It took no time at all for us to down our
first statutory pint or two (or was it a litre or three) in the Diver’s Bar and
to stagger up the road to our five star hotel. We awoke the next morning in the Seilbahn hut nursing sore heads and
with a distinct feeling of deja vu.  It
was however a great feeling seeing our kit disappear up the mountain by
Seilbahn.  In fact almost as good as a
helicopter but the photos aren’t quite as spectacular.  What was most spectacular was a certain Mr A
Nerd’s beer being carried up by Seilbahn at the same time (Remember him from
Caves and Caving?).

Mountaineering skis were hired from Dachsteinsport for our
journey to the Wiesberghaus as some b*st*rd had thoughtlessly left one and a
half metres of snow everywhere.  There is
a knack to ski mountaineering.  Once you
have got it then you can go anywhere and everywhere.  It obviously helps if you know what you are
doing and we found that we had to learn the hard way.

Richard had what can only be termed a crash, and I mean
crash course in downhill skiing from the Krippenstein to Gjaid alm huts from
Paul Ibbertson and me.  Then the
interesting bit began, the uphill struggle. We slapped the skins on the skis and set off uphill cross country in the
direction of the Wiesberghaus.  It was
dark by now. Within 500 metres of Gjaid alm RB had lost his second skin and had
resorted to walking the uphill sections. This may well sound like a good idea to you but as anyone who has been
to the Dachstein in winter will tell you, the neck deep powder snow makes life
just that ever so little bit tedious. The powder snow meant that his forward motion soon became a crawling
exercise and unfortunately it wasn’t long before the rest of us had joined
him.  Its really good fun crawling out of
Barengasse pushing your skis in front of you and with a rucksac on your back at
nine o’clock at night in temperatures of -17 degrees Centigrade!

It was a six hour epic to reach the Wiesberghaus and the
Steigl went down particularly well that night. All ideas of hard expedition pushing caving were filed in the bin for
the while and we settled down to enjoy the Xmas festivities.  The Christmas dinner of

Red Deer
was particularly enjoyable.  The next couple of days were spent in skiing
lessons from Elfie and an Austrian family who were staying at the Wiesberghaus
such that we acquired some basic skill. However Richard still found it easier on occasion to head for the
nearest snowdrift as a means of stopping.

We met up with MW, SB and Ruth at Gjaid alm on December 28th
to make sure that they didn’t have the same problems that we had.  A mega session was had by the six of us and
Hans, our personal ski coach. Sixty five Steigls, some Schnapes, some wine and
any free drinks that came our way left us wondering with the few brain cells
that we had left between us if this was to be a sign of things to come.

We were awoken the next morning at 6.30 am! by Hans with the
idea of going up the Dachstein.  The six
of us in perfect unison told him where it was that he could go!  However in the twinkling of six hours later
we got up and practiced skiing in the general direction of
Bleistiftspitzerschacht but we failed to get there.  A discussion followed and a decision to give
up caving for the remainder of the visit was made unanimously.  We however noted some good ice flows on the north
face of Oxen Kogel, the south face of Niederer Grunberg and the east face of
Hirlatz and considered the possibility of some winter ice climbing.

The following day we visited various entrances.  Orkan Hohle was only draughting slightly,
this suggested to us that the majority of the air movement was coming out of
PL1 (Polish numbering system), its presumed higher entrance.  Wies alm Hohle was draughting strongly and
was a lot easier to find in winter. Magnum Hohle had no wind whatsoever. We returned to the Wiesberghaus and found that skiing the path from Wies
alm to the Wiesberghaus was a lot easier to do than walking it.

A quiet night was had in the Wiesberghaus that evening and
we had all crashed out by 12.30 in preparation for a 6.30 start up to the top
of the Dachstein.  Believe it or not we
managed to get up at the correct time. We had breakfast in the Simony Hutte while the weather cleared.  The skiing to the glacier only involved two
major steep uphill slopes, both of which caused major epics.  In general we were not doing too badly
despite a lot of falling over which we found a little unnerving when one is
traversing just above a large cliff. Indeed the glacier was a lot steeper than I remembered it!  We got to Niederer Dachstein and the weather
closed in completely.  We soon reached
the Bergschrund of Hoher Dachstein and yet another expedition discussion was
held.  It was decided that discretion was
the better part of valour and we decided to jack it on the head.  It was beginning to get dangerous as the
weather conditions were deteriorating, we were losing sight of people in white
out conditions and there wasn’t a lot of daylight left.  All in all a case of bad weather, bad light
and very steep slopes stopping play.  One
of the main factors in our deciding to wimp out was seeing the trouble that the
very competent local skiers were getting into!

Its quite exciting skiing down a 50 degree slope littered
with crevasses in zero visibility but the journey down was easier than the one
up except for the steep bits.  Indeed we
had nearly as much of an epic going down as going up!  In fine BEC tradition we stopped for a
celebration drink at the Simony Hutte and found ourselves benighted.  Skiing at night is simpler than skiing during
the day as you can’t see the gullies or the cliffs to fall over!  We arrived back at the Wiesberghaus at 5pm
and proceeded to continue with the celebrations. It was Sylvester, the Austrian
Festival for the New Year, and we were forced to celebrate through the night
for the next 12 hours.  Its great being
abroad at New Year as you have to celebrate it twice.  The only problem is that I’m waiting to have
the photographs developed to find out what actually happened!

New Years day didn’t exist, well not much of it anyway, but
we got up just in time for the evening session. Elfie prepared a massive spread for us as it was our last night as we
had to go off down the mountain the following day.  We had spent virtually all our money and a
huge bar bill each for New Years Eve night hadn’t figured in the calculations.

The morning we left to go down the mountain, we said our
goodbyes and had one customary leaving schnapes, two more for the road and
three more for the gutter.  All this
before breakfast left us slightly unstable for the journey home.  It only took us one and a half hours to Gjaid
alm – much more respectable than our first efforts.  Another couple of schnapes (Cheers Hans) and
a bite to eat put us in the right frame of mind to descend the 11 kilometres to
Obertran, apparently the longest ski run in
Upper Austria.  We considered it as a fitting end to a
fortnights skiing.  Hans was a great help
in ferrying the six of us and our gear to Robert’s house.

Robert. an ex-guardian of the Wiesberghaus, was in fine
form.  He is still as wild as ever and
instead of shooting his Magnum at German soldiers, he has taken to shooting at
Rotweilers that shit on his lawn!  A
night with Robert left the six of us pooling our remaining small reserves of
money to buy a crate of Steigl for the train home and the journey was spent in
an alcoholic haze.



– Summer 1991

There will a continuation to this saga in a few months when
the Steigl Boot Boys and friends return to do battle with crates of Steigl and
rounds of schnapps, oh yes and to push Bleistiftspitzerschacht (Pencil Sharpener
Shaft), and Verborgen Hohle.  We will be
taking a very strong team of hopefully 15 – 20 cavers but anybody is welcome
and the area is great for walking.  The
potential for Bleistiftspitzerschacht is good and a breakthrough is likely
(hasn’t every expedition to


said the same)!

Bleistiftspitzerschacht is at an altitude of 2000 metres and
is directly above Wilder Wester Series in Hirlatz Hohle.  Hirlatz Hohle is now a 50 kilometre long
system with a 988 metre vertical range (1987 figures) and we were told that it
has recently been connected to Kessel giving a lower entrance at 517
metres.  It resurges lower than that in
the lake so would give us the deepest through trip in the world!  Anyone interested in joining the Steigl Boot
Boys for their summer tour needs to contact either Rich Blake (BEC), Mark
Wright (NCC); Paul Ibbertson (NCC) or me, Snablet (BEC).


Ski Hire Tips.

Ski hire is quite a complicated business.  It consists of getting Wolfgang and Elfie to
phone up in advance letting Dachstein Sports know what exactly you need i.e.
type of skis and boots etc.  This
hopefully gets you a little discount as the shop then doesn’t consider you as a
run of the mill tourist – could they ever I ask myself?  Are we not that wild bunch who annually get
pissed up in the Diver’s Bar and throw up in the gutters in the early hours of
the morning while singing six different songs in eight different keys?

When you get to the shop wander in with as much tatty kit as
possible. i.e. ice axe, crampons, caving lights, tackle sacs etc as it looks
like you know what you are doing – again another possible chance of discount.

When asked if you are good at ski mountaineering answer
“YES”.  This means that you
will end up with a set of half decent skis and not a set of pine planks, i.e.
the cheap rubbish that they keep for beginners which are nowhere near fast
enough for the likes of the BEC.

Beg, borrow or ask them for a spare set of skins as these
come in exceptionally handy.  Then make
sure that you have got your full BEC discount and your long hire discount
before asking them how to ski!  Seriously
it is worth asking them to show you how to put the skins on as this involves
warming the skis and skins before putting them on.  This does however blow your cover as an
expert skier somewhat!


The Future Of The


Exploration Club!

A Committee viewpoint

The following is an article by Dave Irwin, known to most of
you as Wig.  It is published with the
knowledge and endorsement of the present committee.  It concerns a forthcoming questionnaire that
will be sent direct to you in the near future. It will probably be ignored by most of you as it is to do with caving
politics.  However if you have read this
far the committee would ask you to read on and not adopt the head in the sand
attitude of – “It doesn’t concern me”.  Some of you might remember a previous heads
in the sand time when the issue of SSSI’s and the NCC was ignored with dire
consequences.  Two of the caves closed at
that time have never been reopened.

Chris Smart


Re-structuring for British Caving

Dave Irwin

As far as cavers are concerned politics is the last subject
they want to read in their caving magazine but I’m afraid that the situation
OUT THERE is past ignoring and that you read on – bored or not or, at least,
turn the page and read the last paragraph!


The argument that NCA needs re-structuring to reflect the
current interests of cavers throughout the country continues.  In all regions, including many of the
constituent members of NCA, it is generally believed that an overhaul must take
place.  Even the most conservative CSCC
(Council of Southern Caving Clubs) of which the BEC is a member, believes that
some form of change should take place. Others, already pre-empting the situation are calling for individual
caver membership and club membership.


Now for some indisputable facts.  In all the discussions I’ve been involved
with in the last couple of years there is a general agreement on the STRUCTURE
of a national body.  The constituent
bodies i.e. the regional bodies (CNCC, DCA, CCC, CSCC, CDG, BCRA, BCRC etc.)
will remain basically the same as now. The regional variations of cave access and other local difficulties are
best handled by regional bodies, perhaps with different geographic boundaries
to those existing at the moment, each having total autonomy but accountable to
the annual meeting of it’s own structure and, if necessary, to the annual
meeting of the national association. It is also generally agreed that the
executive should have the powers to act as an executive without the need to
have to refer everything to the constituent bodies before progressing the


Many of you will remember the questionnaires issued by the
NCA Working Party on the possible re-structuring of the Association.  The results clearly showed the requirements
of cavers and apart from a couple of issues all were currently carried out by
NCA. e.g. Sports Council Grants for expeditions (administered on behalf of NCA
by Ghar Parau Foundation) grants to maintain entrances, contact with external
organisations both national and international and NCA have almost completed a
third party insurance policy that is much better than BCRA’s and so on.  On the training front there is little support
for national training or commercial training. The second questionnaire clearly showed that the club was the best place
for this to be done.  That is not to say
that locally organised events by NCA is not out of the question – two such
events will be held on Mendip during the Autumn of this year.


The point of disagreement is HOW THE EXECUTIVE SHOULD BE
ELECTED.  Don’t let anyone try to persuade
you otherwise that the WHOLE structure requires overhauling.  It doesn’t and when protagonists of the
individual member system are pressed you will find only minor differences of
emphasis.  The electoral system is the
root of the argument.  There are two
basic structures being debated: INDIVIDUAL AND CLUB and on the other side CLUB
ONLY.  Basically the followers of the
individual caver membership believe that the CLUB HAS NO IMPORTANCE IN MODERN
MAKING THE CAVER INDEPENDENT OF CLUB TACKLE. The growth of the independent non-club caver, particularly in the north
is the core of the argument. They also believe that a NATIONAL CAVING CLUB should
cover the needs of the modern caver.  In
other words change its name to British Cave Research Association minus the
research element – though many will retort it’s not a caving club!  Some acknowledge that in certain areas of the
country clubs still play an important part in the caving scene but in
Yorkshire and Derbyshire we are led to believe that the
influence of clubs is fast fading from the scene.  The supporter of individual membership has
included the clubs in the voting structure rather begrudgingly but believes as
the individual membership grows the influence of the club will fall by the
way-side.  On the other-hand, even if the
club influence is diminishing in the north it certainly IS not in the south who
have the greatest number of cavers by far.

In my view, if the NCA was to suddenly change its membership
system and adopt an individual member structure, it would take a long time to
accumulate enough members to make the organisation a viable structure.  At least when the BCRA was formed it accumulated
the membership of the two bodies that merged to form that organisation
amounting to some 450 cavers.  What these
supporters want is an overnight transition which is clearly impossible; it
takes time to accumulate members – the caving world in

be left in a vacuum.  Whatever membership
system is adopted I feel that a phased transition is the only pragmatic
solution.  What the supporter of the
individual membership wants is to replace the NCA with the BCRA structure;
there is no other conclusion.

Readers of the last issue of Caves and Caving will have seen
an outburst from its editor – Andy Hall, inferring that the National Caving
Association is a dinosaur and that it must go. Presumably he means that the structure should be the same as the British
Cave Research Association – a monolithic and undemocratic structure.  Frankly how the BCRA and supporters can say
that individual caver membership is a more democratic voting structure than the
existing system when they only get some 30 or so members out of 1100 to attend
their AGM beats me – hierarchy rules OK. Further how the BCRA Council can have the nerve to state that BCRA
policy is to support a form of individual and club membership for the national
body without reference to its members beats me. This form of arrogance would not be tolerated in a club – but as only 20
– 30 members attend their AGM who on BCRA Council worries.  If this resolution ever comes before the BCRA
Annual Meeting then I suggest that the CLUB supporters flood the meeting and
throw it out.


The other side of the coin are those that support a CLUB
BASED STRUCTURE.  I firmly believe that
the basis of British caving is still the club. Loyalty to one’s club remains as strong today as it always was.  Club competition is still much to the fore,
even though groups of cavers from various clubs frequently cave together.  Further, who is involved with most cave
discoveries, maintain the entrances, sort out landowner problems etc. – in the
vast majority of cases THE CLUB.  How
clubs vote for the executive is a matter for further discussion.  FURTHER, IF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIP IS THE
are prepared to join the national organisation. At the moment you are represented by your club through your regional
body.  For those cavers that do not
belong to any formal club there is no reason why they cannot form themselves,
for electoral purposes, into a non-aligned body and join in the same way as
other clubs.

At the moment if you wish to have your say at national level
you can easily contact your club representative and get it passed through the
Regional Body direct to the NCA Executive. Try to persuade a national body comprised of individual members and,
unless there is support from the officers you’ll be a voice in the
wilderness.  The existing system is
unwieldy but it can be streamlined simply by enabling clubs to contact the
national executive directly for consideration of any points they wish to be
raised.  This allows you the club member
to have a say in the national body directly through your club.  This boils down to allowing clubs to vote
directly for officers and members of the executive and not rely on the Regional


Eight cavers who are known to be worried at the state of the
NCA arguments, now known as the ‘gang-of-eight’, were invited to a meeting in

during May to
discuss the problems associated with NCA. The idea was good and I fully support it if their findings can help to
resolve the current and seemingly endless round of arguments.  However, only one maintained that a club
based structure was the best solution for membership to NCA – me!  Let me make it quite clear that those who
support individual membership are very sincere in their beliefs and should not
be the, subject of flippant criticism. Take their views seriously. During the next few months you will be receiving another questionnaire
financed by the ‘gang-of-eight’ asking which voting system you would wish to
see for a ‘new type’ NCA.  I urge you
all, yes even all of us golden oldies, to spend 17p on a stamp and respond with
a firm reply in support of club based membership for the National Caving
Association and settle the matter once and for all.


Meets List

Sat 17th August                   Brirks Fell Cave,

Sat 24th August                   Otter Hole, Chepstow.

Sat 7th September               Box Stone Mines.  Leader Blitz.

Sat 21st September              Lost John’s,

Sat 16th November              

Sun 8th December                Peal Cavern, Derbyshire.

For further information contact Jeff Price Tel: 0272 724296


Cave Diving in the


Oliver C. Wells

The idea of seeing stalactites and ‘mites underwater has
been something of an obsession with me since seeing photographs of them in
Robert Palmer’s book “The Blue Holes of the Bahamas.”  I suppose it was inevitable that I should go
for a cave diving holiday in the


peninsula (May 3-10, 1991).

I spent the week with my wife Pamela and six cave divers in
the cenotes within a few miles of Akumal, which is about 100 km south from
Cancun.  The sea
level was about 400 feet lower than it is now during the last Ice Age, rising
to about the present level between 18,000 and 6,000 years ago.  During the Ice Age these caves were dry and
‘tites and ‘mites were formed in great numbers.

I found myself to be totally unprepared for how wonderful
these caves are.  Imagine a flat country
with impenetrable jungle on both sides of narrow, straight roads.  Here and there an unpaved road (if you can
call it such) or a path leads off into the jungle to a cenote, which is a pool
of water typically 50 yards across and 20 feet deep.  There may be an upstream cave underwater at
one end and a tunnel downstream at the other (who knows? JGC).

Everything is highly organised in cave diving these
days.  At the entry level is the
“cavern diver” who stays within sight of daylight at all times.  Typically this involves a large underwater
cave entrance sloping down to 50 feet depth, and with large stalactites on the
roof.  An impressive underwater notice in
two languages asks that people with no cave diving experience should go no
further than that point.

Permanent nylon lines with a diameter of perhaps 0.125″
start at some distance inside the dark zone. The dive leader lays a line from a belay point (plus backup) in the open
water of the cenote to the near end of the permanent line in the dark zone in
the cave, and reels it in again when it is time to leave.  The “main line” goes in along a
chosen passage with triangular plastic arrows at intervals to the closest exit
to air (there are numerous entrances and exits in most caves there).  In other words, these arrows either may or
may not help you to come out again by the same route as you went in.  Lines into side passages start at various
distances from the main line and can be reached with a “gap reel” if
you know where they are. “Decoy lines” guide visitors away from
places where the ‘tites and ‘mites are especially fragile.  The passage size inside the cave might be
twenty feet wide and high (sometimes larger, sometimes smaller) at depths
generally between 50 and 70 feet.

The halocline is at a depth of about 50 feet, where the
fresh water lies on top of salt water. Initially the interface is quite sharp, but it widens to a few feet after
divers have gone through.  Within the
mixed zone vision is blurred.  The most
curious thing is the way in which you must let air out of your buoyancy
compensator (BC) as you go down through the halocline, and put some in when you
come up.  This is as opposed to the
normal situation when you put more air into your BC from time to time as you go
down and let it out again as you come up. (You progressively lose buoyancy with depth in water of constant density
because the air bubbles in your wet suit are compressed.)

The other divers wore the standard

cave diving rig with twin
back-mounted 80 cubic foot tanks and a high capacity BC between the diver and
the tanks.  They did not wear helmets,
and one diver did not wear a hood (the water was quite warm).  Dive lights were in the range from 30 to 50
watts with the battery on the waist strap. Reels, dive computers, backup flashlights and other items were attached

I was surprised by the arrangement of the manifolds.  The two tanks were permanently connected
together with a separate valve for each of the two regulators. In other words,
if the rupture disk on the tank blows out, then the air supply is gone.  I mentioned that I had seen a diver lose all
of his air in this way in an open water dive a few years ago, but this
information was not too cheerfully received. One of the divers told me that he preferred a manifold with one
regulator on each tank and with an equalizing valve between the two.

I had two side-mounted 80 cubic foot cylinders with a
separate regulator and pressure gauge on each of them.  The use of totally independent respirators
avoids the problem mentioned above, but does not give access to the contents of
a cylinder if a regulator should go wrong. The reason for doing this (as recommended by the Cave Diving Group) is
that while carrying two completely independent bottles and regulators does not
give access to air in a failed system while the diver is underwater (between
sumps, yes!) it does however leave adequate air in the remaining working system
for a return to safety if ‘the rule of thirds’ is used correctly during the
whole dive.  (I describe this below.)

Obviously I am not intending to criticize anyone in this
article.  Redundant respirators of equal
size were first suggested, I believe, by Michel Letrone in 1955, and have been
developed in various forms since that time. They are in use widely in the North-eastern

, for example.  On the subject of rupture disks, Billy Young
writes: “Your concern over loss of air from blow-out disks is one that
cave divers have overcome by ‘double-disk’ installation.  This raises the safety factor

My greatest difficulty was in swimming on the surface of the
water across the cenote to the entrance of the cave.  The other divers with their high capacity
BC’s and no weight on the head floated cheerfully with head and shoulders out
of the water.  I had a small BC on the
chest and the weight of four flashlights on the helmet (two primary plus two
backup).  The result was that I floated
with my mouth about level with the surface of the water.  On the second day I took my snorkel tube and
the problem was solved.

Entering the water was a bit of an adventure at times.  For example at the Temple of Doom, a hole in
the ground about twenty feet across gives access through the roof into a
chamber containing water about 15 feet deep. The approved method of entry is to jump in.  In the event, I found the THUMP on arriving
at the water surface after a free fall of 12 feet with two side-mounted 80’s to
be more violent than I had expected, but survivable.  (Cave divers have been known to enter the
water from even greater heights than this.) A wooden ladder was provided to get out again.

My wife Pamela came for a swim at the

Temple of
being nibbled by the little green fishes when she was in the water and bitten
by insects when on the ladder (there were very few biting insects anywhere
else).  The instructor told us that in
some of the caves these fishes had learnt to follow a diver into the dark zone
where they eat the defenceless animals that live there.

On the checkout dive I swam slowly admiring the view, showed
the instructor when I changed to the second mouthpiece at two-thirds pressure
on the first tank, and called the dive when I was equally down on the
second.  It was becoming clear that my
objectives were different from those of the other divers.  I was there strictly as a tourist to admire
the ‘tites and ‘mites and I had no interest in going too far from the cenote if
I could possibly avoid it.  The other
divers had studied the cave surveys and had decided to visit the more distant
points.  In addition to the disparity in
objectives.  I did not have one of my
regulators on a long hose, which is considered to be essential for helping your
companion by the



The other divers were courteous and helpful but it was clear
that our aims were not compatible.  We
solved this problem in the obvious way. My companions swam along the line at their own speed and vanished in the
distance while I operated solo between them and the entrance.  Typically I would swim slowly for half an
hour or so at depths between 50 and 70 feet through the wonderfully clear water
and large chambers, admiring the ‘tites and ‘mites at leisure, being quite
enchanted by these places.  My procedure
was to swim in until I reached thirds, swim out again to the warning notice,
recalculate thirds, swim in a second time, and so on.

I am not worried by the idea of solo cave diving.  This is a decision that divers must make for
themselves.  You go into a different
mindset being more careful about everything and being much more willing to stop
where you are for minutes at a time if this is necessary to consider a question
that might have arisen.  I shall not tell
you how long I stopped at the line junctions and at some of the more intricate
belay points, checking the arrow out, looking along the lines this way and that
way, and examining the situation until I was sure that I could find my way back
to the cenote even if all five of my lights had failed.  (The “arrow out” may or may not
indicate the way that you actually went in and this can cause difficulties if
you overlook the fact.  In the event the
instructor explained the layout of the lines and the other divers held detailed
discussions of the line junctions also. This is a serious matter.)

My final dive was in “Carwash,” so called because cars
were washed there in the past (but fortunately not now).  This was unusual in having algae in the top
six feet which was therefore a brightly illuminated light green colour with a
visibility of about six inches.  You hit
colder (but still quite warm) clear water below this where you can see for tens
of yards below a bright green ceiling. By this time my companions had gone on
ahead, so I swam around in the massive cave entrance until I found their line,
and then on in.

After five consecutive days of solo cave diving my breathing
rate was less than half of what it had been on the first day without my having
made any effort to improve it whatsoever. My buoyancy control was much better, and I had finally learnt how to
swim with my feet high to avoid stirring the silt.  Removing my ankle weights had been helpful
here.  I swam slowly admiring the view
for about 700 feet to a place known as Luke’s Hope where you can see a bright
green glow from an air surface.

Luke’s Hope was discovered by a diver who was lost and
almost out of air, rather in the way that Bob Davies discovered Wookey Thirteen
in December, 1955.  He surprised his
friends by taking a taxi back to where they were staying and greeting them long
after they had given up hope of ever seeing him again.

While I was looking up at the bright green glow from Luke’s
Hope I became aware that the newer of my two regulators was free-flowing.  Not very rapidly, but an unwanted bubble
every two seconds or so certainly clears the mind.  There was no line to the inviting green glow
up above and I had no idea whether it would be possible to get out at that
point.  I would have had to lay a line
from my reel if I had wanted to investigate that matter.  On the other hand, I still had 2,000 psi in
each cylinder, both regulators were otherwise working properly and the
free-flow was nominal.  This was one of
those occasions when I stayed where I was for several minutes to decide what to
do.  At one point on the way out the
delinquent regulator started to bubble away quite merrily, so I gave it a knock
and it settled down to its previous slow pace. Back at the warning notice it stopped free-flowing altogether.  I also dived twice in Maya Blue and once at

In our non-diving time we visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum
and at X-Caret.  Many thanks to Steve
Gerrard for organising the diving and for lending us his car on our day off, to
Tony and Nancy DeRosa and Shelley Baker for the other arrangements, to my
fellow divers and to my wife Pamela who has put up with this sort of nonsense
for so many years.

I would like to thank Peter Schulz, Kevin Wills, James Coke,
J. Billy Young and Michael Madden for their comments on early drafts of the
above, and JGC for his more detailed comments given below.  If you are qualified as a cave diver, then
you should not miss a visit to these caves should the opportunity arise.

Comments on the above by James G. Coke IV of the Akumal Dive
Shop, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77710:

(1)     Luke
Boissoneault made his historic dive on Nov. 21, 1985 in the company of two
advanced open water students and an open water instructor.  They planned to reach a slate attached to the
permanent line about 400 feet into the upstream section of Carwash.  I had explored that region originally 3 or 4
months prior.  The team of 4 (NOT trained
in Cave Diving) reached their goal and signed the slate.  I still have this slate in my
possession.  Silt flew at this point and
three divers exited in confusion while Luke went exploring in the wrong
direction where no one had been before. As he ran out of air he found the hole bearing his name; got out, cried
and thanked God; and walked out of the jungle carrying his equipment!  He caught a cab to his camp ground where his
initial hellos to the assembled group were treated like the salutations of an
apparition!  I still keep in touch with
Luke; he is a SCUBA instructor living in


The other three divers also had their problems. One of them ran out of air shedding his equipment in the cave.  Moments later his guide found him (after
assisting the other out of the cave) and brought him out.  He was resuscitated at the surface.

(2)     The
“little green fishes” that follow divers into the cave are Mexican
Tetras (Astyanax mexicanus).  They are
found in almost every cenote in this region. There are some colour differences between the fish occasionally, from
cenote to cenote.  They are very
aggressive and will take advantage of a cave diver’s lights when looking for
small and large troglodytes to eat.  They
will attack and devour the smallest to largest animals, including Typhliasina
pearsi (a blind fish that occupies these caves).

I have seen Tetras as far back as 2,500 feet from air and sunlight; either lost
fish or ones who have followed me in. BOLD little gaffers!!  This
behaviour appears to be confined to the cenotes that are the most popular.  Carwash, being the most popular site, has the
biggest problem with them. 

of Doom, Maya
Blue, Naharon etc. are less popular, so fewer fish follow a diver into the
cave.  So on the whole, the problem
becomes more widespread as the site becomes more popular!

Tetras cannot follow divers through the halocline because the lack of oxygen in
the lower salt water kills them. Amphipods and Isopods make short work of their carcasses should they
remain in the lower salt water for too long.

(3)     There
are areas of certain caves that have been declared sensitive; therefore divers
have been asked not to visit these areas if they are not engaged in a worthy
study of sorts.  For example,
less-than-perfect buoyancy control and bubble damage from open circuit SCUBA
plays havoc with fragile soda straw formations! Nobody likes to be told that they are not wanted, but what else can we

(4)     The
underwater warning signs in Spanish were donated by the Cave Diving Section of
the NSS.

(5)     The
halocline is shallower in caves that are closer to the ocean.  There is a lens of moving fresh water laying
on a static base of salt water, basically. At The Temple of Doom (TOD) (4.5 km from the ocean) the halocline is at
50 feet; the Carwash halocline (11 km from the ocean) is at 65 feet.  Often the interface is sharp; however there
is a mix zone in some caves where the fresh water flow strips water from the
lower zone.  Current-deficient areas such
as in the Madonna passage in TOD display a sharp interface.  A Line Maya shows a distinct mix zone.  I am studying these phenomena with U of New
Orleans currently.

(6)     The
wooden ladder out of the water at TOD was installed by Mike Madden.  He also maintains the guidelines at Nohoch
Nan Chich.  He installed the TOD cavern
circuit guideline.  I maintain the
guidelines in Carwash, Naharon and Maya Blue. All of the above have been surveyed (except TOD) with maps published;
except for Maya which will be in print by the end of this year (46,600 feet of
passage surveyed to this date with the Maya Naharon system — Sistema Naranjal).  Many others have explored in these caves

(7)     The
algae/tannic bloom in the top few feet in Carwash only occurs in the summer
months.  In winter, the entire pool is
clear.  The bloom is a by-product of the
man-made clearing around the cenote. The natural sponge of the jungle has been
removed; now all the rainwater washes tannic into Carwash.  Five years ago the cenote was clear all year


The Excavation And Exploration Of Wigmore Swallet

This article attempts to bring up to date the history of
this dig.  Several previous B.B. articles
have been summarised numbers 356, 357, 368, 371, 391/2, 393/4 and 406/7.

This classic swallet cave is located in a small wood at NGR
5571/5256 at an altitude of 880 ft ASL. It was originally dug from 1934-7 by the M.N.R.C. and in 1938 by
W.C.C.  The shaft was then abandoned at a
depth of around 30 ft.

When the B.E.C. arrived on the scene the shaft was filled
with rubble, bones and assorted rubbish to within 6 ft of the lip – the
position of the present concrete cap.

The dig commenced on June 25th 1977 (not the 21st as stated
in B.B. 356).  With the aid of the M.C.G.
motor winch and an assortment of technical digging equipment the shaft was
cleared out until a relatively solid iron ore and calcite vein partly blocked
the way on.  This was widened with bang
and on 12/12/77 Hesitation Chamber was entered, at a depth of 40ft.  Two days later the lower of the two 10ft
climbs below here was opened up and on the 24th, Christmas Crawl was
entered.  The squeeze into Santa’s Grotto
was passed on 28th December.  During this
period much work was done on “ginging” the entrance shaft and this
continued throughout the summer.  On 16th
September 1978 almost three tons of concrete was mixed on site and used to cap
the shaft.  A steel grating from the road
leading to the
Isle of Skye was eventually
delivered to the site!

The amount of work done in 15 months was remarkable, even
for a Mendip cave dig; scores of members and friends being involved, including
many overseas visitors.  (A
Wessex man, meeting a Dutch caver in the
Pyrenees was once asked “How iss Vigmore
going?”).  Digging tales of this
period are legion – a notable one being the free-fall descent of a lager keg
full of spoil which missed Trevor Hughes by 1/4 inch! (our aim was not good
that day …. ) .

The surface work being completed it was noticeable how the
number of enthusiasts suddenly decreased. A survey to B.C.R.A. grade 5C was undertaken and digging in the floor of
Santa’s Grotto started during early 1978. On the 17th October this “went” and Pinks & Posies was
entered.  Work was then concentrated on
enlarging this passage to crawling size until the Smoke Room was reached on
9/12/78.  Many months were spent digging
here but all was in vain due to continuous roof collapse and this area was
abandoned on 6/2/82, being used from then on as a spoil dump for the new dig in
the floor Blitz Passage.

On 3/3/78 the stream was dye-traced to Cheddar Risings with
a flow through time of approx. 42 hours. This gives us a depth potential of 980ft to the bottom of Sump 3 in
Gough’s Cave arguably the deepest cave in

!  The distance from sink to rising is over 5
miles.  The Blitz Passage dig occupied
our time for some 5 months until the discovery of West End Series in Eastwater
Cavern lured us away – the last visit here being on 16/7/82.

Work resumed on 17/5/86 and continued unabated for the next
seven months.  A lot of hard digging,
blasting and shoring was involved including the use of the Acro Jacks which
have given their name to a small chamber. The last working trip of this session was on 6/12/86 before the delights
of other digs in Hunter’s Hole and Bowery Corner Swallet caused an eighteen
months break.

On 31/7/88 work recommenced but ceased on the next trip of
6/8/88 Bowery Corner proving to be marginally more attractive!

A four month session from 26/6/89 – 2/10/89 saw more work in
the foul conditions of the lower part of Blitz Passage where huge fallen marl
slabs and a quagmire of red mud seriously delayed progress and put off a lot of

The present bout of enthusiasm began on 10/9/90 and was
heralded by the purchase of a Bosch cordless drill.  Using this magnificent tool the offending
roof slabs were converted to handy sized lumps and dispatched on their long,
slow journey to the surface via a series of plastic dragging skips.  After some nine trips a breakthrough was made
on 20/2/91 and the small chamber now known as

was entered.  This relatively comfortable spot marked the
end of the notorious Blitz Passage but below it a similar bedding plane crawl
led tantalisingly onwards with the usual howling inward draught.

This crawl was vigorously attacked with all the available
tools and after a further nineteen digging trips the next “open” bit
of cave was reached.  This took the form
of a 5ft deep open rift just wide enough to get a boot into.  It stretched right across the crawlway and
seems to have acted also as an inlet. Several trips were spent digging and blasting along and down into this
rift as a wider section seemed to exist at its base.  On 24/5/91 a small, blind chamber (Ghandi’s
Pyre) was entered above this rift.  Work
now concentrated on deepening the rift and on 31/5/91 some twenty feet of tight
open passage was entered ending in collapsed wall slabs.  Two charges were fired on this blockage and
on 3/6/91, after 1/2 ton of shattered rock was hurled into space (!) the cave
proper was entered – almost 14 years since the start of the B.E.C. dig.


After the long, muddy man-made crawl from the entrance and
the tight and awkward Sheep Dip it was almost awe inspiring for A.J. (Tony
Jarratt) and R.B. (Richard Blake) to be suddenly confronted with a roomy 20ft
pitch some 15ft across and 4ft wide.  An
easy free climb down Blackbird Pot (named after the current residents of the
entrance shaft) led to some 30ft of “WALKING” passage and the head of
another, larger pitch – Vindication Pot. In high spirits the explorers returned to the Hunter’s to celebrate and
gather all available Monday diggers, six in all, for the afternoon push.

The second wave of explorers descended full of adrenalin and
Butcombe to bottom Vindication Pot at 35ft. Below this a dangerous boulder choke in the floor was excavated to
reveal a loose 25ft pitch which was descended by V.S. (Vince Simmonds), A.J.,
T.H. (Trevor Hughes) and R.B. leaving the cripples (G.J. (Graham Johnson) and
P.M. jnr. (Peter Mcnab to attempt an extremely hairy traverse over the top of
Vindication Pot.  The third pitch, Hernia
Pot, ended in a strongly outward draughting rift with a short and muddy inlet

Meanwhile, above, P.M. had conquered the traverse by using
fragile calcite finger holds and after 30ft or so had reached a large chamber
beyond the pot and christened it “Don’t Feed the Ambulance” (We may
never know why!).

The floor of the chamber consisted of a wide crater and a
30ft deep free-climbable pitch blocked at the bottom.  Beyond this the impressive washed-out mineral
vein continued to a 10ft high vertical mud wall which defeated the climber’s
attempts to scale it.  The smugly
grinning team then left for the delights of even more Butcombe.

The following day the draughting rift was banged and on
5/6/91 a five man team returned to survey the cave from Santa’s Grotto and
continue work at the end.  The first
project succeeded admirably but the latter suffered a setback when it was found
that Hernia Pot had collapsed!  The whole
floor of Vindication Pot had dropped some 5ft and filled the chamber
below.  Several rolled ladders were
luckily rescued from the mess but a bag of tools was lost.  Despite our disappointment it was evident, on
consideration, that the best thing had happened, the collapse could all too
easily have occurred on the first descent when four people were directly below
the tons of boulders which had moved.

Our next plan was to continue with the exploration of
D.F.T.A. in the hope that it would drop back down to the far side of the
terminal dig.  While trying to scale the
mud wall R.B. received the full benefit of a two foot long rock on the head but
despite this he was still usable as a stepladder to enable A.J. to reach the
top.  A short boulder slope led to a
blocked crawl which was soon cleared to reveal a huge black space beyond. Named
Drake’s Hall in memory of the late Hillgrove Swallet digger, Bob Drake, the
chamber now entered was very impressive for Wigmore.  Some 50ft long, 25ft high and 15ft wide it
has a breakdown floor and ends in a massive choke.  Two roof inlets exist here, one of which was
later climbed but ended in a hairy choke after 10ft.  The inward draughts from the entrance and
bottom dig both go up into these inlets so there could be extensive but choked
passages at a higher level, possibly corresponding with the choked rift below
Hesitation Chamber and the postulated passage above the Smoke Room.

When the survey team arrived a further bit of useful work
was done by digging out a short and muddy by-pass which connects the bottom of
D.F.T.A. with the bottom of Vindication Pot – avoiding the traverse.  A climb in a rift behind the pot led down to
a small chamber which was chiselled open into the pot to provide a free
climbable but awkward by-pass.


Construction work now began by the insertion of a
scaffolding frame to support the Hernia Pot collapse.  This was accomplished over a few trips and
access regained to the terminal dig. A tight upward squeeze was passed directly
above an impassable 20ft rift. Beyond the squeeze a short length of rift with
two side passages was entered one choked after 15ft and the other partially
blocked with mud but with a tremendous echo and the sound of what seems to be a
large stream.  This was particularly
encouraging considering the very dry nature of the other Mendip caves at the
time.  Another minor discovery at this
time was some 20ft of loose passage heading upstream from the top of Blackbird
Pot.  (The three baby Blackbirds in the
entrance shaft had now left the nest, one having to be manually assisted from
the bottom of the shaft!).

On 22/6/91 – a Saturday evening! – a team of six forsook
their beer to break into the huge extensions expected beyond the muddy crawl at
the bottom.  Some desperate digging and a
tight squeeze enabled A.J., pushed by G.J., to enter the new bit.  BIT was the operative word as a 4’ wide rift
leading off into the distance was revealed! So much for the booming echo.  The
stream could still be heard in the distance …. At least we made it out for a
few beers.

Since then work has concentrated on blasting the roof off
the muddy U-tube/crawl – known affectionately as Butch’s Arse and in widening
the rift in the floor below Hernia Pot.

This was blasted out and descended for some 20ft to where it
became too narrow and choked with debris. Digging continues. The siren like
stream still echoes ahead and the diggers are confident of a lot more cave to
come; even if it takes another 14 years.

Tony Jarratt.


Assynt Antics

“Ye’re all doomed”, “Is that so?”  Comment and riposte the catchphrases of this
year’s Sutherland trip.  The first
delivered by Pete Rose as a rising eldritch shriek whenever a diver entered a
sump and the second in the soft Tannochbrae tones of Willy Morrison from behind
the bar at the Inchnadamph Hotel, usually in response to some breathlessly
sensational outburst from a member of our party.  One hilarious post pub session was spent
delivering ever more unlikely tales to be completed by this unlikely punchline.

But what of caving you cry? Ah, the caving.  Well, we did do
some – and some cave diving as well so this article will stretch over the
page.  Peter Glanvill’s enthusiastic
descriptions of the glories of Assynt resulted in double the number of visitors
to the GSG hut this year.  More came from
Devon and Mendip and the result was a
minor explosion in digging and diving activities.

For the first two days Pete Rose survived on a knife edge,
his odd Scottish accent winding up certain Grampian members (up for the
weekend) to a fever pitch.  The only
thing that kept him from dismemberment was that they could not really believe
he existed!  Things improved as the hut
numbers shrank to manageable proportions for most of our stay.

On the first glorious morning Pete Rose and Tony Boycott
were dragged off to

by yours truly who
for, the past year, had convinced himself that there was a viable dig at the
far end.  10 metres up the vertical
jetwash which is Firehose, Pete (“caving is a cheap sport”) Rose’s
wetsuit began to act like a reverse colander and he opted out of playing insey
winsey spider.  Tony would have left as
well only I was behind him with a crow-bar.

We struggled to the top and I took what must be some of the
very few pictures of Firehose in existence. The dig proved to be a dead loss particularly as after an inspection of
the roof at the end of the cave – where it gets quite roomy we realised that
apart from one wall it was in cemented breccia.

Meanwhile Brian Johnson and Pete Dowswell tried to dive
Lower Traligill again. I will draw a veil over this episode. Other bods did tourist trips in the Traligill valley in the process
visiting Tree Hole.  In the prevailing
dry conditions Tony Jarratt forced a downstream bedding squeeze into 60 metres
of new cave (surveyed later in the week) which contained the main stream
inlet.  Further prospects exist here and
the squeeze is now passable by average sized cavers who do not mind an intimate
acquaintance with underground streams. Waterfall Rising which looked good for an underwater dig was excavated
by Vince, Jake and Tav (BEC) but despite spasmodic work during the week it
never became passable for a dive – worth more digging tho’.

The next day was our Durness day with the prospect of
another bash at looking for Tartan Holes and digs at Ach a Chorrain on the
way.  A leisurely journey up via
Lochinver and the Drumbeg road gave us superb coastal views.  Thankfully dumping Peter Rose with the
diggers for a few hours Petes Glanvill, Mulholland and Cox plus unfashionably
named Brian Johnson headed for Smoo. Another sparkling sunny day although with a cold wind blowing so no
sun-bathing this time.  The Petes all
went down to Smoo Geo while Brian concentrated on chatting up the local
coastguard and doing a bit of spuddling about in the Smoo pools.  It was low tide and we were able to walk a
long way down the geo before starting our dive. The mini resurgences seen last year were high and dry.  We finned out on the surface past my point of
entry in 1990 and submerged to follow the eastern wall at a depth of 10
metres.  The marine life encrusting the
geo walls became more prolific as we got deeper and diving was a real pleasure
in the 15 metre visibility.  When we had
got into about twenty metres of water things got really interesting.  The limestone walls smothered in a five
o’clock shadow of brittlestar arms, hydroids and anemones were prowled by
nudibranchs starfish and orange sea urchins. The odd small cave inhabited by shy navy blue lobsters could be
seen.  On one rock ledge was a proper
cave though – only 15 metres long it penetrated the cliff and seemed to be
solutional in origin.  A few fin strokes
further on and, like some magnificent cathedral nave, daylight streaming
through its kelp fringed apex, reared a 20 metre high arch. It is at times like
this that the weightlessness of scuba diving can be truly appreciated as one
swoops from floor to ceiling with a couple of flicks of the leg.

All good things come to an end and regretfully I turned for
home indicating to the other two that I had used up half my air.  The endless fin back on the bottom and the
surface kept me warm in the chilly sea. The Petes made the mistake of surfacing early – they discovered we had
been nearly 400 metres offshore.

Meanwhile, back at Ach a Chorrain, Pete was demonstrating
how we dig in
Devon.  Over 30 metres of passage was discovered and
explored – spread over 5 caves just like
Devon.  Still it isn’t often you can discover and
explore so many caves at once.

The day finished with an abseiling session at Smoo and a
visit to local hostelries where Pete R. started his “Good Pubs to Shave
in” guide – publication date from Pete. After a brisk walk back to Smoo from the final pub most opted for a
night’s kip in

while Pete R. and I
opted for a tent over the entrance in the company of nesting Fulmars.  The next day the chuckling birds woke me and
I found I could peer through one of the skylight entrances to Smoo onto Tony Boycott
snoozing 25 metres below.  A brew-up soon
had us all loosening up our sleep stiffened limbs before the journey back to

While various team members surveyed Tree Hole, Brian decided
to dive the Waterslide at Traligill where the stream disappears on its way to

.  With help from Julian Walford, Pete Cox and
others we humped gear down the steeply inclined and, in its lower sections,
awkward bedding to the sump.  This trip
was jinxed. Pete Mulholland saw one bottle take the fast way down when it
slipped out of his harness, shattering the nerves of those below this novel
bouncing bomb.  Then various valves began
playing up and bottle pressures seemed to have strangely dropped as Brian put
kit together.  A collection of glum faces
including “Ye’re all doomed” stared at the scum coloured pool.  At last a whip round got Brian into the
sump.  He emerged briefly to sort out a
gag before returning to the fray.  He
explored 30 metres of passage which ended at 4 metres depth in an area of break
down.  Using the remains of his air I
went in for a look losing the line reel in the process – habit of mine!  We will return.

That night, it must have been night cos I must have been
drunk to have volunteered, Julian Walford, the master of ANUS cave, arrived and
assured us that the number one Scottish cave diving site lay in his domain i.e.
upstream ANUS.  With charts, diagrams and
tales of wondrous caverns his silver tongue beguiled us and Pete Mulholland and
I found ourselves volunteering to push the sumps I had least expected to
visit.  A trip to Lochinver for air the
next day was called for.  Jimmy Crooks at
the harbour nonchalantly pumped our collection of midget tanks while regaling
us with diving anecdotes. He even fixed the damaged pillar valve on the Waterslide
bottle.  The three diving Petes then
stopped for a dive on the Drumbeg road on the way back. Scallops for the
evening meal plus two dinner plates were brought up.  Long evenings mean you can pack a lot into a

The stroll to ANUS was pleasant with minimal kit and a host
of sherpas.  Stripping in the chilly
breeze was not quite as nice.  The carry
to the Pit where the upstream sump begins is short and easy although the
traverse down to the sump appears daunting to the first time visitor.  Soon, with the help of YAD (“ye’re all
doomed”), we were ready to dive. Suddenly a loud bang punctuated the quiet gurgling of the stream.  Pete Mulholland’s high pressure hose had
ruptured.  The option was to scrap the
entire trip or for me to do a tourist dive through sump one.  The temptation was too great.  Waving goodbye to a seriously disgruntled PM,
I gently pushed my head into the sump.

Clear water and good lighting made the dive along a gently
meandering tube quite delightful.  At one
point an inlet on the right could be clearly seen.  In low water conditions the wallow between
sumps 1 and 2 was rather muddy while sump 2 was just a low duck.  At last I could dekit in a nice roomy stream
passage and off I went to visit sump 3. Not having read the survey very carefully I was rather surprised to see
a stream cascading from an aven near sump 3. Closer inspection of the aven suggested it would be a fairly
straightforward climb so up I went. After 8 metres of back and footing I emerged in a sort of chamber (named
Sotanito by Farr) formed where a section of partially filled horizontal upper
passage had been washed out and enlarged by the stream inlet.  To the left beyond a delicate scramble over a
mud bank the rumbling of a distant waterfall which I guessed was Thunderghast
led me to a dodgy looking climb.  I
turned back and looked at the right hand passage which ended in a sandy crawl.

Calling it a day I reversed the climb and rekitted.  A high pressure leak meant a rather unnerving
single bottle return through the sump in low vis.  Elation greeted my discovery especially when
I thought I had discovered a major sump bypass. The big put down came from Julian when it was pointed out that the aven
was discovered by Martyn Farr 15 years ago. The only new thing I had done was actually use the route which in fact
removes most of the hassle in getting to sump 4.

Over the scallops that night Julian persuaded us it was our
duty to survey the downstream section of upstream ANUS to establish the link
point with known cave.  Brian Johnson was
dragged reluctantly away from a planned dive in
and the morrow saw a team of BEC diggers and cave divers
shiveringly donning soggy wet suits outside ANUS.  The trip was uneventful apart from minor
light failures.  The survey was
accomplished, sump 4 reached and many acceptable pictures taken.  Meanwhile back in the main cave YAD was in
digging frenzy mode.  I predict it will
not be long before there is a dry way into upstream ANUS and we have

second mile long cave. Surface digs also could make the breakthrough.

The next day it rained – all day.  The three Petes went to Kylesku (pronounced
Kile – Skew) and bravely kitting up in the vertical water entered the
horizontal salty version lapping the south ferry slip.  Pristine clay pigeons littering the sea bed
testified to the local hotel owner’s lack of marksmanship while in deeper water
and in a slacker current than last year we were able to explore a near vertical
wall smothered in multicoloured feather stars. The whisky and Chicken Tikka in the pub afterwards were equally as
good!  The evening was spent in a soggy
fester with YAD again in digging mode trying to excavate a minute resurgence
low down in Traligill.

The last day dawned bright and sunny.  It was go for it day at
.  Brian and I
decided to go down unaccompanied while everybody else dug at ANUS or went down
Claonite.  While I was taking a snap of
Brian outside Traligill a fully grown male otter leapt out of the plunge pool
and sleekly scrabbled past me to lunge into the Traligill flood sink.

The water level seemed ominously high at the entrance but we
pressed on regardless with a small amount of kit.  Bitter disappointment struck when we found
the diving line was submerged beneath 3 metres of peat stained water.  The jinx was still operative.  We spent the rest of the afternoon taking
pictures and gorge running down to Firehose.

Pete Mulholland returned to base in the evening very
satisfied with his day’s work.  He had
made a detailed survey of ANUS sump 1, spending so much time underwater that
the sherpas had begun to worry. Now plotted, this survey confirms that a dry
link should be imminent.

Sadly we had to leave the next morning.  It was an extended farewell as we stopped
periodically on the Ullapool road for pictures in the clear rich morning
light.  We will return.  Finally if I have left anyone’s activities
out, my apologies – you can write it next time.

Personnel: Peter Glanvill (DSS,CSS,CDG,BEC), Peter
Mulholland (DSS) , Peter Cox (CSS), Peter Rose (CSS,BEC), Tony Jarratt
(BEC,GSG,CDG), Brian Johnson (BEC,CDG), Vince Simmonds, Rob Taviner, Graham
Johnson (all BEC) , Julian Walford (GSG,UBSS, CDG) , Tony Boycott

Peter Glanvill June


Tree Hole

Situated in the

, Sutherland, this
cave was 80m. long until our extensions of 28th and 30th April, 1991 brought
the passage length to 120 m.  The cave
has formed across the dip of the Main Treligill Thrust plane and carries part
of the underground

, entering from a
low sump (7) at the upstream end and disappearing into a roomy downstream sump
which would be a worthwhile dive.

The writer entered the extensions by passing a flat-out
squeeze in the stream not far from the entrance (Section C on the survey).  It was not realised then that the attractive
walking-size streamway beyond was new stuff! After a hundred feet or so the passage narrowed down to a tight rift
with the stream roaring into it.  The
water was now augmented by what seems to be the main flow of the

pouring into the extension from a
slot in the roof, creating a superb 5ft high waterfall.  On a later trip the terminal rift was pushed
for 15ft to a clear, diveable sump below a dangerous boulder choke with black
spaces visible beyond – a dodgy digging site!

The whole cave was later surveyed by Tony Boycott
(BEC/UBSS), Julian Walford (UBSS/GSG) and the writer (GSG/BEC) hence the
credits on the survey.  There is
potential here for links both up and downstream with other caves in the valley.

Tony Jarratt





Exploration Club’s Third Caving Expedition To The


Supported by the
Sports Council

Please reply to:



July 11, 1991

Dear Ted,

A couple of points for the next BB please:

  1. Please
    note my new address above – I shall be here until October.
  2. As
    many members will already know a small group of us – namely Trebor,
    Snablet, Jake and myself – are off to the

    later this
    year.  The expedition was planned as
    a low-key affair with members of the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club with whom I
    explored and surveyed the country’s fourth­longest system last year.

Things have escalated since planning commenced and we ~ now
in full partnership with the National Mountaineering Federation of the

.  Our equipment requirements have expanded to
meet the stature of our new partners and, like all serious expeditions; we find
that we have to resort to sending out begging letters.

We have promised the NMFP that we will provide them with
four sets of personal SRT rigs – i.e. harnesses, jammers, descenders, crabs
etc.  I wonder if any of your readers
have any of these items surplus to their requirements?  For example, they may have recently up-graded
their gear but the old stuff is still serviceable, or maybe they have simply
got too old to need it.  Whatever, Speleo


is after bargain-priced and free gear and donors will be rewarded with the
knowledge that they have helped and encouraged enthusiastic cavers in an
under-privileged nation.

All expedition members will be happy to supply further information
to anyone who feels they can help us. What might just be an old crab to you
will be a prized possession in the





LEADER Karen Reina

© 2024 Bristol Exploration Club Ltd

registered in England and Wales as a co-operative society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, registered no. 4934.