The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
Editor: John Williams


Cover:               Left:  Barrow rake and ‘that’ Vacuum cleaner.
                        Right:  A Dutchman in Wire Rift St. Cuthbert’s
                        Bottom:  Treebs and pal at Gour Hall St. Cuthbert’s

 

1993 – 1994 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Estelle Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Membership Sec.     Nigel Taylor

 

New Years Eve.

For the benefit of those who either weren’t there or were
there but can’t quite remember what happened (though Lord knows why that should
be!) what follows is a brief report on the festivities that were perpetrated at
The Hunter’s Lodge and The Belfry on the night of 31.12.93 – 1.1.94.  My informant wishes to remain anonymous as he
does not wish to be sued or beaten up as a result of this article, though the editor
may be persuaded to divulge his identity at agreeable price.

By ten o’clock the Hunter’s was in full swing, all bars were
open and pretty full, ‘speleology corner’ in the main bar had become a fairly
non negotiable people ruckle and great fun was had ‘groping’ my way through
it.  Most people, it seems, were in
fairly high spirits by this time, indeed there was not a great deal of
‘ebriation’ to be seen at all!

The majority of BEC members had congregated in the back bar,
the list of names and faces being far too long to detail here save to say all
the regulars and then some were there, even some Dutch cavers who had stayed at
the Belfry over Christmas had come back from Wales in order to share in the
fun.

About ten thirty sounds of harmonious singing could be heard
emanating from a corner of the bar; the ‘Belfry Boys’ were at it and before
very long this developed into a full fledged sing song with all and sundry
joining in.  Cries of ‘They Words’ filled
the air ‘twixt ditties and at one point the lights were turned off, presumably
as a request from the Landlord to keep singing’ they words’.  The highlight for me being a particularly
sweet and harmonious rendition of ‘The Exploration Club’ I haven’t heard it
sung so well by so many for a long time. Much Ale and snuff were consumed amid the sounds of singing swearing and
raucous laughter, and then suddenly it was time.  A disorderly exit from the pub preceded a
totally uncoordinated ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (I swear there were at least three
different versions going on at once) which was followed by that good old New
Year tradition the ‘Snogathon’!!!  It
would seem that any fears of intimately communicated virii went out the window
as most people got down to it in true style. (I went round twice and suspect I was not alone in this.)

Then it was back inside for the freebee beer and more
carousing.  During this time a whip round
for a barrel was organised and quite a lot of money was raised, funny that,
people wanting a barrel tonight of all nights?!?!?

The festivities continued till about one o’clock when in
time honoured fashion they were transferred to the Belfry.  (Presumably to give Roger and Jackie a chance
to put the pub back together.)

The assembled crew became more and more impatient as for
minute after minute the beer did not materialise, soon there was an angry
baying mob awaiting the arrival of ‘the Trevor’.  Had he not shown up when he did we would not
have been able to stop the lynch mob that was being formed for his benefit, but
to his credit he arrived and amid cheers and cries of ecstasy the barrel was
installed in its rightful place.

The effect of this was stunning,  I have not seen a fifty person beer serum in
some time and I can assure you it was a sight to behold.  From this point on things degenerated quite
well, people no longer walking and talking so much as wobbling and slurring,
lots and lots of kissing, groping and ****ing were going on.  (I can’t help but wonder if there were a few
red faces on Jan 1st).

By about three o’clock your reporter decided to retire as it
was getting close to the time when people start hitting each other for no
apparent reason.

Someone was having a good time singing the Novice Rap in the
snake pit (see lyrics in this ish …. ed) as there were definitely sounds of
rhythmic grunting and gasping emanating from the tents therein.

(Photo below ….. Estelle carves the turkey on Xmas day)

 

‘Nuff sed.  I think a
splendid time was had by almost everyone, I know I enjoyed myself and al though
I’m not going to mention names here I’ve got some great blackmail material for
certain individuals …..

For example a certain member had an interesting way of
losing his voice in that it appears to have become attached to a certain other
members tonsils during the course of the festivities, names may be revealed at
a future date unless money changes hands pretty quickly!!!

Apparently Babs left her camera at the Belfry and some very
interesting photographs were taken in the small hours, unfortunately Rich Blake
was so keen to see them that he opened the back of the camera before anyone
could stop him, so it remains to be seen what photographic evidence still
exists.

see you all soon …….

‘Spike’

 

White Pit

Minutes of a meeting held between the Bristol Exploration
Club and the Wessex Cave Club at the Hunters Lodge Inn January 2nd 1994.

Martin Grass read out a letter from the WCC to the BEC which
suggested the need for a meeting with reference to formulating a
management/access plan for White Pit.  He
then called for suggestions for a Chairman. Pete Hann suggested Martin Grass and this was accepted with no further
nominations.  It was accepted that this
meeting should only deal with White Pit. Apologies have been received from Phil Romford.

Tuska outlined the history of the site.  He had been informed that Cuckoo Cleeves was
for sale and made contact with Mr Masters. This was a most convivial meeting and permission was given to dig 18
Acre field and White Pit on the understanding that if anything was found there
would be a need for preservation/access agreements.   A meeting had taken place with Mr. Masters
at end of 1992 following discoveries in White Pit but no plan had been
formulated.  Some confusion re fencing
the site, dry stone walling, a stile, planting trees and spoil removal had arisen
with a lack of communication between different groups of diggers.

There then followed some considerable discussion as to
Tuska’ suggestions of an annual photographic record, liaison officers, digging
records and access arrangements.  Blitz
and Phil Hendy said it was essential that all agreements were kept as simple as
possible.  Martin Grass suggested that
essentiality we require one Liaison Officer and an annual meeting.  It was suggested that Tuska be the Liaison
Officer on the understanding that this was only in respect of White Pit with the
BEC and WCC, i.e. not a CSCC hat.  Tuska
accepted this and said that in early 1994 he hoped all the Major Mendip clubs
should have a Conservation and Access Officer and in future this might be dealt
with by the BEC and WCC + A representatives.

The following was then agreed:

ACCESS:  The cave will
be kept gated.  No Novices.  Party size to be a maximum of four plus
leader/guide.  This person will have
prior knowledge of the cave and appreciate the no go areas.

ACCESS CONTROLS:  The
leadership/key situation was discussed and it was thought that currently Tony
Jarratt has 2, Mark Helmore 1, Tuska 1 and Phil Romford 1.  J-Rat said that the MRO will need a key.  After discussion it was agreed that the WCC
and the BEC would keep two keys each on Mendip, the BEC keys would be held by
Tony Jarratt and Tim Large.  The WCC will
inform both Tuska and the BEC of the key holders.

TAPPING:  Done.                                   ROUTES:  Obvious.

DIGGING/EXPLOSIVES: Not a problem as it is covered by
Access/Access Control.

CARBIDE:  No carbide
to be used.

NOTICES:  One already
in place.  J-Rat to talk to Brian Prewer
about an MRO entrance sign.

PUBLICATIONS:  No
restrictions on publications.

CLEANING ARRANGEMENTS: Not a problem as it is covered by Access/Access Control.  Cleaning trips can be advertised in the BB
and WCC Journal.

FIXED AIDS:  Currently
rigged (Thanks to Bat Products). Entrance ladder to be removed.

PRESERVATION/MONITORING: Pete Hann will initially photograph the cave keeping a record of all
photographic details.  At each annual meeting
it will be decided whether or not this need repeating.  In any case it will be repeated at least
every four years.

COMMERCIAL CAVING:  No
Commercial trips to be permitted

Chris Smart        January 2nd 1994

 

Review of the

Swiss
Cave
Congress (1991)

By C.J. Lloyd.

 (I know this is well
out of date but felt it to be of interest nonetheless ……… Jingles)

In September 1991, Snablet & I attended the 9th Swiss
Speleo Congress in Charmey, Fribourg Caton. It was a two day affair of lectures/presentations, slides, movies, gear
and book sales and of course drinking and socialising, with two days of caving
excursions both before and after for those who could attend.  The whole thing was put on by a small but
energetic team from the local caving group – one of 39 clubs in the
country.  Accommodation of all types was
available with us chappies sandwiched into the camping area.  (A typical European camp site of postage
stamp sized piece of ‘grass’, wall to wall with tents!!)  Some were even cheaper. .. dossing in their
cars in the car park.  It was nice to see
that some things can be free in

Switzerland

and one of those taking advantage of that was the 76 year old former president
of the Swiss National Caving Association.

We arrived a day early after a few more than the standard
number of wrong turns – actually they were the right turns, just the wrong town
in the wrong Caton – but we were in the right spot for the first day of caving,
which actually left the parking lot on time at the un-caver like hour of 08.00.  This part of

Switzerland
is not blessed with
roadside caves so we had to walk up to the alpine hut below the cave, arriving
at 11 ish in time for lunch.  This was a
fully served soup and bread affair with wine (this being the French part of

Switzerland
)
and coffee in bowls.  Suitably stuffed
everyone moved a little further up the meadow to the caver’s barn where we
changed into our kit.  The cave was a
short hike up the talus with its entrances spread out over 150m of almost
vertical cliff.

Our group got to do a multi-entrance through trip in Reseau
de les Morteys which started with a rope climb up the outside of the cliff to
an entrance discovered only a few weeks previously.  A short way inside, a rope dangling onto a
big cone of snow led up a 100m pitch to daylight, which was now solidly in the
clouds.

An exposed traverse took us across to another entrance which
immediately took us down a series of nice 10 – 30m pitches in tight belling
meanders.  Then there was tight stuff in
which some people had to take off their vertical gear to get through, and
another spot where you wished you could but needed it to clip into a very
awkward pitch head.  Quite a sporting
cave which of course had to finish with 100m of frogging to get out.  The whole of the group wasn’t out until
10.00, which was not a problem as most of them were planning on sleeping in the
hut – which we must’ve missed hearing about. .. not speaking French.  So we had to tromp back to the car and bivvy
in the car park.

At least we saved ourselves the drive for the next day and
provided some amusement for the new arrivals, who discovered two soggy, wet
body bags when they tried to park their cars in our spots.  Knowing the schedule we didn’t rush up the
hill, but did arrive in good time to hook up with a group going into the same
cave again.  At 8.6Km and 300m deep and
going, with multiple entrances, numerous trip combinations were possible.  I took an easy option and went in to see the
Grand Salon, a room 60 x 60 x 50m high, which they had had to dig through a
sand sump to find. I really kicked myself this time for my lack of French as it
made communicating with my tall blonde beautiful guide quite difficult!

The next two days were busy running back and forth trying to
catch all the interesting talks and slide shows.  They had the whole array of presentations and
papers on Karst geology, hydrology, biology area reviews and new
exploration.  If they didn’t have slides
or overheads I didn’t stick around too long listening to languages I didn’t
know.  But I still saw lots of
interesting presentations, spanning literally the whole globe …. the Swiss
sure get around!  The main feature films
and multi-track slide shows were excellent with the film of the French diver with
five back mounted tanks and three on the front, and the Lechiguilia show being
particularly memorable.  (The Swiss
photographers were there as well, pushing their Lechiguilia book – which is
excellent).  There was of course the
customary banquet and drinking sessions where you could meet cavers from a
dozen different countries including
Russia
and

Romania
.  French was the host language but most of the
non French or Swiss communicated in English. I was approached by a German on behalf of an Austrian who wanted
information from the British on caves they had explored in

Austria
.  Almost too much to take in two days.  And if you still had money there was a good
selection of gear to buy including a bunch of titanium gizmos the Russians had
brought and more books on caving than I ever imagined existed.

One of the competitions they had was for the best produced
map, which was won by a Swiss caver (and congress organizer) and depicted their
latest and 1100m deep find in

Mexico
.  It was superbly done with artistic details
added to give a 3-D aspect to the big pitches and open spaces as well as big
blocks on the floor.  Simple things
really, but adding greatly to your visualisation of the cave.  They also had a mini -congress on mapping
which included practical sessions underground, on paper and on computer.  It looked like they have a pretty whizz bang
software package for mapping and plotting incorporating colour aerial photos,
3-D surface topography and map plots at any scale or rotation.

The following two days featured more caving trips for those
who could attend.  We signed up for the
longest, hardest rated trip which was limited to six people.  It was back in the same cave and very similar
to the first day’s excursion, but we finished the longer trip in less than half
the projected 12 hours due to a competent party.  Mind you it was telling who was used to
walking passage caving and those of us used to much squeezing and vertical
work.

A word of special mention and thanks is due to the
organizers who along with sorting out the weekend presentations, also had to
rig this and the other caves for us to do our sporting tourist trips.

The last day we finally went to a different valley and hiked
up to a new cave,

Cournielles
Cave
.  This one was mainly vertical and we were
quickly down to almost -200m.  The trip
was punctuated by a series of OKs, as that was the only way all the
nationalities knew that the rope was free. Afterwards

Pierre

regaled us with tales of 200 and 300m deep pushing trips that had produced his
award winning map.  And of course before
we all parted company we stopped in at the local cafe for a last beer
together.  Again I was amazed at how
small the world caving community is becoming when I found out that here in a
cafe in Switzerland were sitting people from three different countries who had
all been fortunate in visiting the hard to access Lechiguilia cave, which is in
yet a fourth country.

A very worth while and enjoyable long weekend.

 

The Novice Rap.

Sally Humphreys.

If you’re going down a pot-hole –

Then you’d better take care,
If you haven’t been before, oh,
Then you’d better beware,
There’ll be trouble in the tunnel,
There’ll be stress under the ground,
If you miss your hand or foot holds,
You’ll go down without a sound,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.

(sounds of rhythmic gasping!)

Don’t you moan or gasp or stagger,
‘Cos you know the rest’ll grin,
Don’t you grasp that shabby stal flow,
‘Cos you know that it’s a sin,
And you’re sliding down a rock face,
With your battery round your neck,
And there’s nothing gonna save you,
As you scream ‘oh bloody heck’ ,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.
(sound of rhythmic gasping, crashes and swearing.)

So you’re sitting at the bottom
Of a great big sodding hole,
With a bruise upon your tailbone
And a blight upon your soul,
And you think ‘what am i doing –
Down this dismal pit of fear?’,
But we recognise the symptoms,
You’ll be back within the year,

The novice rap, oh yeah, the novice rap.

 

Nobel Corner

It was with interest and appreciation that I read, in the
Christmas issue of the Belfry Bulletin, of the achievement of Richard Roberts
in winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. I know from my own work experience how important it is for sufferers of
a complaint that brings people together to share their experiences and for
which a journal is published regularly (keep it up Ed) to read of the success
that people make of their lives outside coping with the condition that afflicts
them.

I have been a member of the Bristol Exploration Charity
(BEC) for getting on for fifteen years and this is the first report I have read
of a person’s general success.  In the
past Editors have only published articles on how members have coped with the
condition from which they suffer.

For example we have had information on how to overcome the
trauma of discovering a cave system unknown to the natives of a remote

province of
Mexico
only to find that within 500 ft
of the entrance there is a 25ft overhang for which no ladder has been brought –
poor imagination.  Likewise there have been
reports on coping with the humiliation suffered when unable to find the
entrance to the cave currently being explored on an Austrian mountain after a
night in a mountain hut during which just a little too much recreational drug
has been consumed, even though the entrance is in sight of the hut.

I could go on endlessly – the sump reached without diving
gear; the 300ft pitch reached with 500ft of rope but no bolting kit – even how
to cope with the agony of living with having discovered fifteen kilometres of
cave passage under the Llangattock escarpment after years of digging, camping
and adulation.  Every issue of the
Bulletin has been filled from cover to cover with these articles on how it is
to live with the condition of caving.

I could like to congratulate the new Editor, young John, on
the change of editorial emphasis to the successes people have made of their
lives.  After the clutch of Nobel prizes
that I am sure he could find amongst past and present members could we have
articles on some of the other successes of the members of the charity (BEC)
such as:

“How I lived on the dole for ten years whilst holding
down steady employment”  “How I
lost a fortune in property development and recovered it by returning to what I
was doing before”  “How I made a
million from privatised Water Company inefficiency”  “How I retired early with a full company
pension and was then employed as a consultant earning more than I had ever done
when on the books”  “How I held
down a well paid job for twenty years without the qualifications for doing
so”  These and many more success
stories would show the members of the charity (BEC) that they need not spend
the whole of their lives worrying about the condition with which they are afflicted,
namely caving, but that when they overcome the stigma, social discrimination
and physical disability associated with caving, such as inebriation and sore
knees they can make something of their lives.

I am sure that regular articles in the Nobel Corner would do
more for our members’ self esteem than issues full of stories about the
condition from which we suffer.  Well
done again Editor.

Signed

Publicity and Promotions Manager

Bristol

Exploration Charity (BEC)

A charity promoting the cause of cavers and caving

As a result of the Nobel prize-winning BEC member some doubt
has been expressed as to the stories authenticity ….. You cynical people.

Turn this page and doubt no more.

Thanks to Angus Innes for providing the info ……. Jx

 

THIS WEEK

Sharp (left) and Roberts realised genes included “junk” DNA

THE DISCOVERY of the highly unusual structure of genes in
higher organisms has brought a Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine to two
British and American rivals.  The impact
of the discovery, made a decade and half ago, has been enormous: it helped to
fuel a revolution in cell biology, both at the fundamental level of
understanding the basic molecular machinery of cells and in certain areas of
medicine, such as inherited diseases and cancer.

The prize-winners are Richard Roberts, who moved to the
US in 1969 to work at Cold Spring Harbour
Laboratory in

New York
,
and Phillip Sharp, head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. Roberts is now research director at New England
Biolabs, in

Beverly,
Massachusetts
.  The two researchers worked independently, and
published their results within weeks of each other in the spring of 1977.

In an atmosphere that was more party than press conference,
Sharp commented on the length of time the Nobel Committee had taken to award
the prize for the work.  “There’s a
lot of research our there that warrants the prize,” he said.  “Naturally, I’m delighted that they
finally recognised our work, and the work of others.”  In fact, several recent Nobel prizes have
been awarded for discoveries that would not have been possible without the work
of Roberts and Sharp.

In the early 1970’s, molecular biologists’ understanding of
the structure of genes was based on research with Escherichia coli, a simple
gur bacterium that was relatively easy to study in the laboratory.  The picture of gene structure and function
that emerged from the work with E. coli was straightforward.  A gene was known to be built from a continu­ous
sequence of nucleotides.  The basic
building blocks of DNA.  This sequence
was copied into a stretch of RNA, known as the messenger, which contained
essentially the same genetic information as in the original gene.  Next, this genetic information was used to
direct the assembly of a protein molecule.

Molecular biologists assumed they would find the same system
in higher organisms, or eukaryotes.  No
one predicted that, instead of existing as a continuous sequence, eukaryotic
genes would be split into several pieces separated from each other by long
stretches of DNA that apparently contained no genetic information.  This is what Sharp and Roberts saw in early
1977.  “It was so unexpected that
you not only had to be smart to see it but also bold to- announce it,”
David Baltimore, of
Rockefeller
University in

New
York
, told New Scientist!  “Nevertheless, the insight made sense of
a lot of puzzling data.”

One of the puzzles was that the nuclei of eukaryotic cells
are often awash with long strands of DNA that are far too big to be messenger
molecules.  These could be explained by
the discovery that the initial DNA transcript of the gene contains both the
coding units of the gene (known as exons) and the non-coding sequences between
them (introns).  Most genes are built
from just a few exons, but some have more than fifty.  The true messenger molecule is made by the
removal of the introns and the splicing together of the exons (see
Diagram).  Although some of the details
of the splicing process have been worked out, much of it remains a mystery.

Sharp acknowledges that had neither his team nor Robert’s
team the discovery when they did.  Others
could have stumbled on it within a few months. As it was, considerable rivalry developed between the two teams.  The result was nearly a dead heat.  Sharp recalls that the importance of the
discovery was “obvious to anyone”, and laments that he and his
colleagues did not have longer to savour it. ”I’d worked ten years on this problem, and within two months of solving
it, everyone was running around saying ‘Oh Yes, we’ve found split genes too’.

The fragmented structure of eukaryotic genes has
far-reaching significance, and brings problems as well as benefits to higher
organisms.  One conse­quence is that
errors in the splicing process may lead to disease.  About a quarter of the 5000 known inherited
diseases, such as beta-thalassaemia, result from mutations that arise during
splicing.  Errors in splicing can also
lead to certain forms of cancer, such as chronic myeloid leukaemia.  The splicing mechanism is also known to have
occasionally transformed normal genes into cancer causing genes, called
oncogenes.

Organisms benefit from splicing in several ways.  For instance, a gene that is made up of
several exons may be “edited” in different ways during the splicing
process to gener­ate different proteins. This allows a more flexible and creative use of genetic material.

In the longer term, evolution may be speeded up as a result
of the existence of split genes.  If
several exons from different sources are brought together in a novel
combination, this may instantly produce a new gene coding for a new
function.  This is potentially faster
than the slow accumulation of a long series of mutations in an existing
gene.  This evolutionary scheme, known as
exon shuffling, was proposed by Harvard biologist Walter Gilbert within a year
of Roberts and Sharp’s discovery, and is now supported by a lot of experimental
evidence.

The origin of introns is a puzzle.  Were they present from the very beginning of
life, but were trimmed out of simple organisms as an act of molecular
economy?  Or are they a form of molecular
parasite which has infected eukaryotic cells but not those of simpler
organisms?  Proponents of both ideas have
some evidence to support their views, bur neither side yet has a convincing
case.

Roger Lewis. 

Boston

 

A minor Mendip Centenary

a snippet by Dave Irwin

Excuses for celebration amongst cavers on Mendip are never
very difficult to find and as we all know are frequent occurrences; caving
celebrations though are slightly less common. However, in 1994 we can celebrate the centenary of the incised ‘T. W.
1894’ that can be found in Cave of the Falling Waters in Lamb Leer.

Lamb Leer Cavern is one of The Mendips’ earliest known
caves.  It was discovered by miners and
was first explored about 1675 by John Beaumont of Ston Easton. 
Beaumont
published a full description of the cave as far as the

Cave of
Falling Waters

in 16801.  After this date interest in
the cave dimmed and by the early years of the 19th century the cave entrance
had been lost.  Following an intensive
search in 1879 the cave was re-located and a full re-exploration of the cave
took place by McMurtrie who, in 1881, had published an account of the cave
together with the first survey2.  Several
trips followed during the time when the cave was being considered being opened
as a public show cave.  Several visits
were made to the cave soon after its re-opening including a correspondent from
the Times newspaper3 in 1882 and the monks of Downside Abbey in 1883, the
latter publishing a report on their visit in 18844.

Cave exploration on Mendip was then in its embryo stage and
one of the early enthusiasts was Thomas Willcox, manager of the Priddy Minery,
who with the young Herbert Balch, descended the cave on a number of occasions
during the remaining years of the 19th century. On one of these visits, during 1894, Willcox engraved his initials5 into
the stalagmite bank in the

Cave of
Falling Waters
.  This event is well known to most Mendip
cavers from the 1934 photograph6 .

By 1897 Herbert Balch had become one of the acknowledged
cave explorers in the district and together with his regular caving companion,
Willcox, accompanied a party of individuals from Wells and the surrounding
area, including Frank Sheldon, Mr. Selemann and Mr. H. Willcox, into Lamb Leer
Cavern, near
West Harptree.  The local paper7 published the following
account [slightly abridged] which must have typified many that Balch would have
led at this time.  The account is
interesting in that it gives the reason why Willcox made the inscription and
details of the improved tackle arrangements on the pitch from the windlass into
the Main Chamber:

1.                  Beaumont, J., 1681.  An Account of Okey Hole.  2 Philosophical Collections, No.2, pp 4-5.
Published: Royal Society,

London
.

2.                  McMW1rie, James 1880 On the Lamb Bonom Caverns
at Harptree, Somerset. Proceedings of Somerset Archaeological Natural History
Society Vol. 23 ii pp 1 – 16, (1881); annotated survey inset between Parts i
and ii : copies may be viewed i” Wells Public Library reference section.

3.                  The Times, 10th August 1882

4.                  Anon, 1884 A visit to the
Mendip
Caves at East Harptree,

Somerset
; on July 17th
1883. Downside Review Vol. 3 pp 102-107.

5.                  The date was added by Balch in 1895.

6.                  Ashworth, HW.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal,
Vol. 2, No.1, 58pp [upper photo. opp. p.16]

7.                  Wells Journal. 2nd December, 1897. The author is
unknown but it is probable that Balch wrote it himself.  For many years local papers relied on
individuals to submit news items relating to their activities; the editorial
staff merely tidying up the text where necessary.

On Tuesday last, under [the] guidance of Mr. H.E. Balch
visited the furthermost recesses of the great cavern of Lamb Lair … A
preliminary inspection of the upper parts of the cavern had been made a week or
two since, and workmen employed to repair the windlass and platform which were
in bad condition.  The beautiful
stalactitic forms of the upper cavern being duly seen and admired in the
searching light of the magnesium lamp, a halt was called at the entrance to the
large chamber, to which access is only to be obtained by a drop on a rope of
some 60 feet.  The old style of lowering
with its terrible swinging and spinning was vastly improved by a heavily
weighted guide rope which proved an inestimable boon, and so with much lowering
and raising of men and of chattels, the whole party soon stood at the bottom of
this great chamber, which whilst surpassing all others in its inaccessible
position, also still more surpasses them in its grandeur and its beauty.  Time flies swiftly underground and by the
time all had merely looked around it was time for tea, which was gladly
partaken of.  Next the several parts and
beautiful passages, without the addition of mud unlimited to the already mud-bespattered
clothing of the party.  At 5 p.m. after
one or two photographs had been attempted, the party moved on by slippery
ladders and narrow and muddy ways in the beautiful chamber which lies still
further beyond, where stalactite and stalagmite of exquisite beauty rewarded
them for their pains.  Here it is, that
what may be in time to come, a measure of the rate of deposit of the
stalagmite, has been cut in the huge bank which comprise one side of the
chamber: ‘T. W., 1894″ cut by Mr. Willcox … Perhaps a century hence some
visitor who is hardy enough to penetrate to this depth will find it still but
little changed in such an infrequented spot, should be sufficient basis for a
perfectly accurate estimate of this rate of deposit on this huge bank of
stalagmite, which by the way, reaches some 50 feet in height.  Tired out, through the smallest passages and
difficult of ways, the party slowly made their way to the waiting windlass once
more and hence burdened and tired to the upper world again, which was reached
at 9.35 p.m., Wells being reached at 10.30 p.m ….

The party of eight had been in the cave a total of eight and
a half hours – considering their clothing and lighting – a remarkable
achievement.  On a similar trip to that
reported above Balch accompanied Lady Waldegrave and her companions into the
caves – such was the interest in caves at that time.

The photographs taken on this trip may well have been used
later by Balch in his later accounts of this cave.  It is worth pointing out that the cost of
taking a photograph at this time was prohibitive for most people and so the
case for a re-take would be generally out of the question.  Several pounds (£)9 would have been spent on
each shot; bearing in mind the average wage of a man at the late 19th century
would have been between 60p and 75p per week, thus in real terms today the cost
would be about £500 – £600 per photograph!! Perhaps in 1994 someone ‘ … who is hardy enough … ‘ will find time
to have a look and determine how much stalagmite has been deposited since 1894,
with the landowners permission of course, and publish their results in the ‘BB’
…. and, what about a drink on ‘Tom’ Willcox and ‘Herbie’ Balch for their
pioneering spirit.

Ashworth, H.W.W., 1965 Lamb Leer 1. MNRC Journal. Vol. 2,
No.1, 58pp [lower photo. opp. p.16]

Wells Journal, 3rd February 1898

*****************************************

I was going to use this space to print a particularly
incriminating photograph of two of Mendips native creatures, the ‘Biffo’ and
the ‘Wessexus Bonkum’ engaging in what can only be described as ‘fraternizing’
on New Years Eve, but am unfortunately unable to do so for two reasons, one
being that Babs won’t give me the photo and the other being that I wish my
testicles to remain attached to the rest of me for the foreseeable future!!

So instead I would like to use the space to say thank you to
all of you who have contributed to this and other issues of the B.B.  Please don’t stop writing … your articles
are the lifeblood of the journal and it can only be as big and/or as good as
the articles I receive.  Keep it coming
….. Jingles.

Well now I’ve managed to fill up another half a page …. on
with the rest of it ….

 

Radon in Caves

An article from the New Scientist magazine concerning Radon
in caves.  12 September 1992

Cavers risk cancer from underground radon.

Radon gas in British caves is exposing thousands of
potholers and other cave users (what?. .. ed) to levels of radiation up to 800
times the official safety limit in homes. Radon increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.  The Health and Safety Executive is
considering what action to take after a survey team recorded the world’s
highest radiation reading for a natural limestone cave in

Britain
.

In a letter to New Scientist this week, Robert Hyland, a PhD
student and a member of Manchester Polytechnic’s Limestone Research Group,
reports the conclusions of a year long survey of

Britain
‘s caves. Hyland found the
average level of radiation was 2900 Becquerel’s per cubic metre.  The limit at which

Britain
‘s National Radiological
Protection Board recommends action to remove Radon from homes is 200 Bq/cu.m.

The highest figure averaged over the year was 46000 Bq/cu.m.
for Giant’s Hole in Derbyshire. 

Readings
at this cave
peaked at 155000 Bq/cu.m., during the summer when airflow is reduced and Radon,
released by Uranium in rocks, remains trapped underground for longer.

This figure is the highest ever recorded for a natural
limestone cave.  By contrast the highest
figure for a limestone cave in the

U.S.
is about 54000 Bq/cu.m.  Hyland wants all cavers to know the risks
before they go underground. “Children and people on management training
courses are not always told of the risk”, he says.

The 1985 lonising Radiation Regulations limit workers to a
dose of 15 millisieverts a year.  Such a
dose increases the chance of contracting lung cancer by 0.05%.  This is about four times the annual risk of
being killed in a road accident. With radioactivity of 155000 Bq/cu.m., a caver
would pick up this dose in around 1 3 hours.

Over a year, keen potholers can clock up hundreds of hours
underground.  Dave Edwards, chairman of
the NCA’s working party on Radon, cut his time underground from 200 hours per
year to about 26 hours in the past year as he has become aware of Radon’s
effects.  He sees no reason for anyone to
stop caving entirely, but says “We are changing our habits.”  He has advised outdoor centres using

Britain
’s 20000
caves “to quietly find out about Radon levels and informally change the
caves they use.”

The Health and Safety Executive, still waiting to see the
full results of the survey, is considering whether employers who send people
underground are liable for any health problems caused by radiation.

Local education authorities may be at risk for the
schoolchildren they send caving on trips and holidays. The Department of
Education has provided no guidance and most education authorities are unaware
of the risk.  Derbyshire County Council,
however, recently stopped school parties from visiting caves while it checked
Radon levels in the peak district.

Installing fans will reduce Radon in caves, and the HSE is
satisfied that the installation of fans has averted any problems at tourist
caves with high levels of Radon.

 

News from the

Philippines

….

Jim Smart has written (to Trebor) from
Iloilo
City in the
Philippines
on his two month jaunt which includes a brief excursion over Xmas to
Australia and

Tasmania
. After having been side tracked by the delights of
Manila
for ten days, he made his way to the
province
of
Aklan on the
island
of
Panay to suss out some promising
stuff touched upon in Speleo

Philippines

’92.  Unfortunately, he found his
exploring companion in Aklan riddled with sickness, possibly Typhoid.  A few weeks were spent nursing his companion,
in and out of hospital, but some exploration was done and some caves found – a
few 700m long caves in the Guimaras region, one with a 50m shaft to a second
un-descended pitch.  Jim has been
hampered by heavy rain in late November/December, although this should get
better in the New Year.

I am informed that he is due back some time in February, so
I hope publish more of his exploits then.

 

Cartoons 

 

 

 

Blasts from the Past .

.. . some excerpts from the club log from years gone by …

31 .7.71 Goatchurch.

Bill Cooper + 3 …

Only went to beginning of drainpipe as I was just wearing
swimming trunks!!  1 hour … Bill
Cooper.

2.11 .76 Eglwys Faen

Bob Cross, Mr N., Garth, Dell, Ross White, Batspiss …

After wandering around the Llangattock escarpment, arrived
at cave entrance.  The party being well
equipped with a cigarette lighter, proceeded about 100’ into the cave before
giving up and returning to the surface. 5 mins.

16.7.77 Conning Tower & Hillwithy

Batspiss, Ross, John King, Claire, John T. ,Chris Smart.

The hut warden threatened to go caving, so we went along to
make sure he did.  It’s not surprising
that these holes are not locked, when Batspiss takes people caving he makes
sure they never want to go with him again. Lovely grovels in the mud & slime. N.B. the mud is good for sticking on caving lights so you can’t see
where you are going … it seemed better that way!! J.K.

 (I must repeat John’s
remarks & say how eternally grateful am to Mr Batstone for taking me to
such pretty & interesting caves … I shall certainly go with him to
another cave … if I’m lucky … Claire.)

Easter ’79
South Wales

23 BEC, 2 WCC, 3 NWCC, 6 Pegasus, 1 GSG, 2 TSG, 8 Eldon,
Countless NCC etc …

There were no winners … Only survivors!!!

Dec ‘83

(Following 2 entries made by Q????ers)

… We can all learn a lot from ‘Quackers’, anyone who can
sum up 3 hours of caving in 6 lines, and that includes his name and the date,
all written in Sanskrit (with a Somerset accent? !?!) – can’t have all his
marbles!!!  Anon.

2.1.94 Upper Pitts Hole, High Moral Ground series. 

Trevor, Dickfred, Jake, Estelle + 3CCG + Joan the sec +JR
MCG.  Jingles at The Belfry as callout.

At 01.00 the party set off in miserable weather conditions,
very wet underfoot, with the intention of surveying the Upper Pitts kitchen for
an alleged barrel shaped formation. Unfortunately in the entrance series they met with an impenetrable
barrier, since named Ebboracum (sic … check your Latin … Ed. ) which
prevented any further progress.  The
barrier spoke in granite (or limestone) tones, “This is a private function, the
BEC are not welcome” it said.

We came, We saw, We were refused ……

But the High Moral Ground was ours!!!

Time 20 mins ……… Rating P.G.

 

 

Odds & Sods …

Address Change … Doug Cunningham has moved, his new
address is as follows ….

Doug Cunningham (Brighton Explorers Club),
Withersea
Beach,
East Sussex.

*****************************************

Blitz (Chris Smart) has asked me to point out that the
telephone number published last month, for him on the Cuthbert’s leaders list
was incorrect.  The correct number is as
on page 1 of this journal.

*****************************************

Of possible interest to those living locally is ‘Folk in the
Bath’, a folk club hosted by Pete and Anita Mcnab, held on Sunday nights in The
Bath Arms in Cheddar.  It is regularly
attended by quite a few BEC members; indeed it seems to have become something
of an unofficial gathering.  An act
appearing in the near future is ‘Fred Wedlock’ and I can highly recommend this
as a grand evening’s entertainment. (Unfortunately this may have been before you receive this B.B …..
never mind.)

*****************************************

BERTIE BAT…. Ever wanted your very own Bertie, for a
badge, or for your tankard???  ‘Dave the
Box’ will make them to order a ‘Bertie on a Barrel’ comes in three
sizes……..

I must apologize to Dave for having lost the price list, but
you can check with him in The Hunters if you are interested.  (They are original copper pieces and quite
distinctive ….. Ed)

*****************************************

From Dick-Fred … further to the meeting at the Hunters on
1.10.93, concerning the growing number of thefts from cars, the feeling of
those that attended was that some form of Mendip Hillwatch should be set
up.  The first meeting is to be held at the
end of January.  I am attending as the
BEC rep. and will report back to the committee so that the membership can be
informed as to the results. Hopefully we will be able to formulate a plan to
help reduce all crime on Mendip.

*****************************************

Related to the above, Les Davies has provided me with the
recent crime figures, these may be of interest.

Theft from motor vehicles …                    Burrington: (General)      92

The link:                        11

Goatchurch:                 
8

G.B.:                            12

Total                             123

N.S. The Burrington general figure will include cave parking
sites, but have not been specified by reporting officer I we can therefore
assume that the individual figures for The link, Goatchurch etc …. to be
higher!!!

*****************************************

Also from Les, as previously published, it was proposed at a
meeting of the Burrington Conservators that the following steps should be taken
….

1)       The
closure of Goatchurch car park with a soil bank close to the road, this would
prevent access for fly tipping and deny a secluded car park to the car thieves.

2)       The
closure by soil banks of the small unofficial pull ins that have been created
on the North side of the Combe, again these sites have been targeted for
vehicle related thefts.

3)       A
Bat Grille to be installed at Fox’s Hole to prevent access by unauthorized
persons who have been using the cave for parties etc.. and causing considerable
damage.

*****************************************

AND FINALLY … (MIS) QUOTES OF THE MONTH!! both overheard
at The Belfry on the night of January 1st/2nd (in the wee hours … so called
cos by then Trevor is usually so pissed all he can do is ‘wee’, often over some
other poor unsuspecting belfryite … !!!) by your dutiful reporter (sic) ….

T.Hughes: “We are here to chastise The Wessex …. Not
to eulogise!

Joan (MCG Sec.) to J.R. (MCG) ……”Put it away john …. I
don’t want that up my nose …. !!!”

*****************************************

See you all for more fun and frolics in the next ish!
(Hopefully late Feb) … Jingles.

© 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.