Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: John Williams

Cover: An
Original pastel drawing of St. Alcitites Hall, White Pit.  By Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley

1994 – 1995 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel


Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden            
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer           


Membership Sec.    

Richard St
B.B. Editor               John Williams



Well, it’s BB time again … seems like only weeks since the
last one, probably because it is!  As you
will see from the table of contents this one is packed with goodies and my
thanks go to all those who have contributed. As ever I would plead with you, the membership, for more articles as my
supply is running short and the BB is only as good as you make it.

Since the last issue I can tell you that an amount of work
has been done at The Belfry, including the installation/erection of a new porch
(Thanks to Nick Mitchell and Mike ‘Shut-up Mike’ Willet …. or ‘mousetrap’ as
he is known to some, for reasons I won’t go into here.)  The bunkrooms have received the once over and
no longer smell like a toxic waste dump … I have it on good authority it’s
actually safe to sleep in them now … well health wise anyway.  Thanks go to all of you who turned up on the
day but especially to Andy &

for their stirling
efforts and organisation.  The working
day was rounded off with Belfry Olympics, including Gladiators events and much
drunkenness …. nothing new there, apparently a good time was had by all.

I know that there is a lot of caving going on too, some of
which is reflected in the articles in this here rag.  For my own part a knackered shoulder has put
paid to a lot of my subterranean activity, but I’ve still managed to get down
and have a look at the new stuff in White Pit and well worth it was.  See also article by J-Rat including photos.  As I understand it Estelle and Trevor are
continuing to dig there.  The slightly
better weather will hopefully see more activity on the digging front and I hope
to print details of what’s going on in the next issue.

Recently the Belfry Boys were requested to sing at the MCG
dinner and provided a ½ hour after dinner spot in their own inimitable
style.  It seemed to go down quite well
despite the none too veiled insults (albeit in song) to various ‘luminaries’ of
aforementioned club.  It was noticed,
however, that Mr ‘N’ beat a hasty retreat before their set.  I daresay they’ll fix him at the 60th dinner
this year though!

A subject of current discussion at committee meetings at
present is this years Wessex Challenge (or whatever the bloody hell its gonna
be called this year!)  If anyone is
interested in helping out with this – and help is needed – perhaps they can
contact me or another committee member to offer their services.  It’s currently set for the weekend of July
1st with an Indiana Jones theme.  Plenty
of scope for fun and games there I feel.

That’s about it for now I think, so on with the show
……… Jingles.


Jingles the world’s first diving dog can be found exploring
the underwater world around Grand Cayman in the
Caribbean.  He uses his own custom made helmet and oxygen
pipe which is attached to his owner, Dwane Foilsom.


St. Alactite’s Hall – White pit.

This article follows on from “The waist of Thyme –
White pit” (B.B.468, August 1993) which described the dig and open
sections of cave discovered between the entrance and the short inlet passage on
the bend some 30 feet beyond the Forty Backs Pitch.

Due to problems with bad air this dig tended to be left
alone in the summer and worked for a couple of months during the winter.  Over January and February 1994 some 300
skiploads of spoil were dragged from the dig and tipped down the Forty
Backs.  Both siphoning and the use of
compressed air cylinders were experimented with but failed to noticeably
improve the up to 3.5% C02.  A length of
conveyor belting was installed in the first section of the dig which made skip hauling
in the atrociously sticky conditions much easier.  During this session Vince, Jake and Matt
broke into a small but well decorated aven with an attractive crystal floor
which was left hanging as they tunnelled beneath it.  From the bend the passage was now some 15
feet long and was a roomy, descending phreatic tube which had been in-filled
with clay and the occasional small rock. Small plastic buckets were used as spoil containers and a democratic
system evolved whereby everyone had a turn at digging, hauling, tipping, etc.

The next short digging period was in September 1994 when 110
loads were dumped and the passage length from the bend increased to 25 feet.

The final burst of enthusiasm took place in January and
February 1995 – mainly due to the very wet weather keeping us from our other
digs.  Air conditions allowed for about
two hours digging and just before the breakthrough things were becoming
intolerable.  It was planned to install a
battery powered vacuum cleaner to pump the C02 down the Forty Backs but luckily
this was not necessary.  Digging sessions
took place on Sunday afternoons, Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings and a
total of over 400 skip loads were added to the spoil heap giving us a new
passage length of 40 feet.

The bucket system was superseded by the now traditional
digging bags to the disgust of the “democratic” diggers who correctly
argued that this system led to people having to haul loads of bags filled by
other diggers.  Unfortunately due to the
length of the dig and large number of solo/two man sessions this was the most
logical working method and operated admirably. On 10th January conditions at the face began to change with shattered
wall rock appearing and the sand/clay infill giving way to calcited rocks and
breccia.  Several sessions were spent
painfully hacking at the face and ceiling of the dig in an attempt to break
through into the surmised airspace either ahead or above.  On occasions the foul air was somewhat
freshened when tiny gaps in the fill were opened up but most diggers suffered
aching lungs and bad headaches when recovering in the relatively fresh air of
the Hunter’s bar.

On 27th February the writer was digging solo at the face and
opened up two small, black holes reminiscent of the eye sockets in a
skull.  After several hours of desperate
hammer and chisel work (partly relieved by a lunch break!) he was able to
squeeze backwards through the body sized hole created and down 20 feet of
ladder belayed to a wedged crowbar.  The
dig had broken out in the face of a flowstone cascade at least 50 feet high in
a chamber some 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. The superb variety of pure white formations and date of the breakthrough
prompted the naming of the chamber as “St. Alactite’s Hall” – ask
Alfie Collins for details of this patron saint of cavers.

The floor of the chamber consists of a slope of boulders,
breccia and calcite and will need a lot of work to yield a way on but at least
the air is relatively fresh.

Above the breakthrough hole a superb flowstone slope was
later delicately climbed (in clean socks!) to reveal 65 feet of beautifully
decorated inlet passage -“Where Angels Fear to Tread”- including a 20
foot aven.  This is heading for Masters’
Aven but a connection will not be dug here and this area should be avoided to
preserve the formations.  It has been
surveyed by Trev Hughes and photographed by Pete Bolt.

On the second visit to the extensions Mark Lumley claimed a
“first” in this day and age by sketching the new chamber in
preparation for the masterpiece depicted on the cover of this B.B. Martin
Torbett and Robin Gray have photographed the place to death and Trev has
completed the survey – an adaptation of which is included with this article.


A Grotto in St. Alactites Hall.       Photo Robin Gray  5.3.95

On 11th March Vince dug for half an hour in the small grotto
below the pitch, through mud with a thin layer of calcite on top, to enter a
gently upwards sloping phreatic passage. This was some 3 – 5 feet in width and about 30 feet long with a fine
array of pillars, curtains, straws, flowstone and helictites.  It is only about 2 feet high and should also
be avoided to preserve it.  The passage
ends in a boulder choke that looks pretty hopeless and much damage would result
if it was dug.


Looking upwards towards “Where Angel Fear to Tread” from
Alactites Hall.  The breakthrough hole is
on the right.         Photo    Robin Gray    5.3.95

Work is continuing at the bottom of the chamber where a
muddy dig under the eastern wall may yield a way on.  The spoil dump below Forty Backs will be tidied
up and stabilised with boulders and various cleaning up operations are in
progress throughout the cave.  The dug
passage length from the bend is some 45 feet, over 850 skiploads having been
excavated.  This took around fifty
digging sessions each lasting about two hours and averaging seventeen skiploads
per session.


The total dug length of Waist of Thyme from its start near
the 1st Pot is 115 feet.


The regular diggers were Rich Blake, Matt Tuck, Graham
Johnson, Vince Simmonds, Ivan Sandford, Estelle Sandford, Tony Jarratt, Trevor
Hughes, Pete Hellier, Chris Duberry, Martin Torbett, Robin Gray and Davey
Lennard with many other members and friends assisting occasionally.

Tony Jarratt.  Vince Simmonds.   21/3/95

REFS:- White pit. BB 466, Dec 1992.   The Waist of Thyme – White pit. BB 468, Aug


Snablet’s Travels.

(Part Two)


A ridge of limestone mountains form the spine of the eastern

peninsula of
. They are set back about 10
from the southern coast.  These mountains
are very steep and covered in dense primary forest.  Streams resurge at the base of the mountains.  The limestone is rarely exposed to the
surface but the caves we visited were easily found (walk up the river, over
lots of gour pools and stal cascades, then enter the large railway tunnel at
the base of the mountains – it couldn’t be easier.)  The rest of the land down to the coast has
been deforested in attempts to cultivate it. The rock here is softer reef limestone.



From the

village of
a 3km walk
north to the base of the mountains, through forest.  A large stream resurges from behind
boulders.  10m behind the resurgence a
small dry entrance opens into a stream passage. The stream way (average passage dimensions 4m x 5m) is clean and
flowing.  A major stream inlet enters
from the left.  This inlet has only been
partially explored for over 200m to a fork in the passage.  Exploration had to cease because we had a bus
to catch back to Luwuk.  Further up the
main stream a small passage leads off to the right which ends in an unpleasant
sump.  A short distance further up the
main stream several high level roof passages can be seen.  The main streamway continues on for over 400m
until eventually the roof lowers and the water deepens.  A short swim leads to a small archway (0.5m x
1m) with 2cm of air space.  Ducking
through the archway takes you into the terminal chamber where a large and deep
sump drops straight down beneath your feet. We surveyed the main stream, its length totalled 845m.

Surveyed by: J. Smart, A. Becher, P. McNab. Dec 94.


From the

village of
, follow the
main road south for approximately 2km.  A
footpath to the left leads away from the road and descends steeply through the
forest to the “Sangai Biak” (river). The path crosses the river and follows the smaller tributary upstream
for a couple of klicks.  The stream way
is very calcited.  There are a couple of
small resurgences along the banks of the stream, they were all very small with
lots of water coming out (un-entered). The stream way eventually leads to a hill with a large cave entrance 4m
high x 3m wide) appearing from within the ivy. The cave winds its way up into the hillside.  The white rock is very sharp and brittle and
the stream flows fast down small cascades and swirl pools.  A 3m waterfall has to be climbed to gain
access into the final bat filled chamber, then onto the terminal sump. Approx
500m long and 30m vertical range.

A.Becher, J.Smart, P.McNab. Dec 94.

(In Search of) GUA

We were awoken early in the morning by a small
earthquake.  Unfortunately our early
start was wasted, due to lots of red tape and bureaucracy at Kintom police
station and army barracks.  Eventually we
were able to set off.  We walked for 5km
up river from Kintom to Lobang Boa, where 30m high calcited waterfalls cascaded
into the river.  (We had asked to see
caves with stalactites and a river inside – they showed us rivers and
stalactites, unfortunately they were not underground).  Large limestone boulders, double-decker bus
size, were in the river bed.  The gorge
itself looked to be some sort of conglomerate. The water coming down the falls had a very high calcite solution
content, evidence of this could be seen where recently fallen leaves were being
calcited to the flowstone.  Goa Babi is
apparently a days walk through the forest from this spot.

We had some bad luck on our way back to Luwuk which put a
stop to any further caving for a few days. The driver of the Bemo we were travelling in managed to roll the Bemo on
a straight road.  Luckily we were in the
very back of the Bemo so we were slightly protected from being thrown out of
the door when it rolled, or through the windscreen when it hit the wall, we
were lucky to get away with only minor cuts and bruises.  An ambulance arrived on the scene in no time,
the badly injured were loaded on, then loaded off, then some villagers got on
and were rushed off to the fish market before it shut!  Indonesians have a strange sense of

Some other caves in the area that we found out about or only
partially visited –


1km north of Asaan on the road to Pagimana there is a small
field on the east side of the road.  At
the base of a limestone knoll at the back of the field there is a cave
entrance. A 2m climb down to a ledge gives you an ideal bolt placement site for
the next 6m pitch into what looks to be a chamber.  There are two possible routes for descent.

A.Becher, J.Smart, P.McNab.


Reported to be a cave with
fossils and water in it.


Reputed to be a cave with stal in
the forest near Sangai Lamba.


A cave used by the Japanese
during WWII 3km north of the village.


A cave our guide for Gua Betan
was going to take us to.


Told of by our guide for Gua
Betan.  There is also reputed to be a
cave above the hills of Batui.  Also
reputed are caves at Liang (which is local dialect for ‘cave’) on


Practicalities and

Accommodation in Luwuk is not a problem.  There are at least 10 Hotels, Wismas and
Losmen and in the country there is always someone willing to put you up.  Carbide is readily available in the hardware
stores in Luwuk.  There is also a
photocopying shop which can copy A1 and A0 size paper – very handy for drawing
up surveys.  There is cold beer available
in a couple of restaurants as well as Dragon Whisky in a couple of shops.  (It’s half the price of the beer!)  There is a coastal road and a road that cuts
across the spine of the peninsula.

Footpaths and horse tracks service the rest of the
land.  River beds are also good for
getting inland.  It is always possible to
find someone willing to guide you to local caves for around 500RP per day.  Very little English is spoken on the Eastern
peninsula so you have to learn some Bahasa Indonesian, especially in the


A bus service exists between Poso and Luwuk, which runs on a
daily basis.  There are also weekly buses
from Palo and VIP.  Several Bemos run
daily between Pagimana and Luwuk.  Bemos
and buses constantly service the coastal villages on the road.


Ships come from Bitung and Kendari every two weeks.  A ferry runs between Gorontalo and Pagimana
every other day.  Regular cargo vessels
and boats travel up and down the coast on a regular basis and take passengers.


Luwuk has a small airfield with regular flights to

and VIP.


The Southeast peninsula covers 38000 sq Km, an area the size
of Ireland, a large percentage of which is reported to be limestone, this
hopefully gives a bit of scope for cave exploration.  The main road cuts the peninsula in two, the
majority of the limestone hills are to the North and this area is fairly
inaccessible.  A road is still under
construction linking Wa???? to Asera then on to Tambua, so far the road is
still very bad, we had to get out and push the Bemo on the steep bits!  Asera to Tambua road is still only passable
by foot.  These roads are being
constructed to service new transmigration sites.




The cave is situated approximately 60m from the road.  A small path leads to the first
entrance.  A low stooping passage leads
off but soon enters a bat filled chamber with lots of Guano.  A passage to the right leads steeply up to a
second entrance.  There are a few small
side passages but all soon choke with mud and boulders, 150m long.


Located 20m North of GL one, at the same altitude.  A dry Guano covered entrance reveals a
pleasant walking passage, which leads to the main drag to the right
(downstream).  An extremely bat filled
passage leads to a second main resurgence entrance.  To the left the roomy passage soon
deteriorates into a wet stoop.  Past a
spacious chamber on the left through a low stony scramble into an unpleasant
crawling passage strewn with flood debris.

A U tube is encountered leading into a very pleasant passage
with large calcite bobbles.  To the right
approximately 4m up, a small passage enters above a flowstone (so far
un-entered).  A rope and protection would
be handy for the ascent.  To the left a
fine passage continues to a short climb. After an awkward thrutch through a window, you end up in a well
decorated chamber.  (A howling draught
comes out through the window).  In the
chamber there are two high level passages. The right hand side aven was climbed but to no avail.  The left hand side aven requires a bolting
kit and Etrieres.  We presume the draught
comes from this aven, it is also the only promising lead we saw in the
cave.  Survey length 330m.


We hired a Johnson for the day from a Mr Hatta in
Wawalalindu, as the only way to get around this area is by boat on the river
Lalindu (no roads!).  A 2½ hour boat
journey to Desa Dinolnojo.  Padalere our
guide could unfortunately, not find the cave (Gua Tanggesa).  We did have an impressive ride up a limestone
gorge, approx. 100m high, with limestone mountains towering above, sporting
large white cliffs and covered in primary rain forest.  According to our not very accurate Nelles map
the Matarombeo mountains reach a height of 1551m.  The peaks are very jagged and look like
limestone tower karst.  (But it would be
impossible to tell without hacking your way through the jingle with a machete
to get there!).  We noticed three large
entrances and one small one in the cliffs but it would take much effort to
reach them, unfortunately our guide didn’t know the way and lacked enthusiasm,
plus no climbing gear.  It looked a very
interesting area.  The limestone
resembles that found in Beteleme (Ref 1989 cave reconnaissance, C.Boothroyd.
C.Sulawesi.) except here there is another 1000m of mountain towering above,
which also looks like limestone.

Approximately a 2 hour back down stream, we took a tributary
for 2 hrs.  A very large entrance in the
mountain can be seen.  This is called Gua
Tawalarondo in Desa Lamonai (Landawe). From the village a ½ hour unpleasant walk through a swamp followed by a
½ hour climb hacking up through dense forest and limestone cones and
pinnacles.  We found ourselves completely
lost.  We eventually came across a
largish entrance which didn’t have much in the way of cave within it … Stal
choke!  Our guide tried to tell us that
this was the entrance that we had seen from two miles away.  It was not. You could hardly see out past all the trees and it was a tenth of the

This area looks really good, lots of limestone with high
cliffs and high mountains. The Matarombeo would be an ideal site for an
expedition bit it would need to be well funded as the only mode of transport is
by chartered boat (Johnsons).  The locals
know of lots of caves around their villages, but the majority of the area is
uninhabited and covered in forest.  No
English is spoken.  We spoke to the local
English teacher and we could speak 10 times more Indonesian than he could


As with Luwuk, Kendari is a major port and easily
accessible, with plenty of accommodation and hostelries.  Bemos run from Kedari to Asera (5 hour
journey) or boats run from Kedari to Wawalinu and Tinobu once a week.



No land routes to the rest of


Daily flights from U/P.


A daily ferry runs from Bone to
Kandlo.  Ships run to Bau-Bau and Kendari
on a regular basis.



More ramblings in the
Caribbean 1993.

By Martin Grass.

During 1993 Martin, Glen, Tony and Jane Jarratt returned to


for their annual holiday.   Glen spent
most of the time on the nude beach, joined by Jane after she and I had been on
our daily dive.  In addition to this
somewhat relaxed mode of lifestyle (Tony was drinking Pimms while we
dived!)  Tony and I did manage to look at
a number of cave sites.  We spent the
first week on the north coast at

and the second week
in Negril.  For those planning a trip to

, the
north coast is by far the best place to stay for cave exploration.


These 2 caves are situated in the parish of St Anne, about a
20 minute drive from

.  Thatchfield cave is over 4500 feet long and
is the longest single passage in

.  A low arch and crawl lead to a climb down
into a large passage filled with stal and bats. After a few hundred feet a large daylight shaft of 80 feet leads to the
surface.  From here a steep slope leads
to more passage and a low crawl.  Beyond
this the passage again reaches an impressive size and after about 3000 feet
ends in a 200 foot blind pit.  All of the
cave including the only side passage is full of large stalactites and
stalagmites as well as thousands of bats. Progress is normally made in ankle deep guano.  Like all caves in

, Thatchfield is very hot
and a light overall is all that is needed plus lots of bottles of water.

Old Thatchfield cave is connected by a tight crawl to
Thatchfield cave but also has its own entrance full of swiftlets.  The cave is a few hundred feet long and is
full of stal and bats.  The rock is very
crumbly and a small climb at the bottom of the entrance slope needs a little


Named by Tony this is a 4 foot long cave in the grounds of
Noel Coward’s house, Firefly.  It is said
that it leads to the sea and was used by pirates.  The usual tale, I know, but it is very near
to a 300 year old house known to have been used by pirates.  Food for thought.  (Or a tropical dig site.)


Situated in the parish of

and away from other known
caves.  A show cave consisting of a
series of decorated chambers (with bats) to an artificial exit.  About 250 feet long.  Our guide was a very pregnant young lady.


We wanted to look at this world famous cave so set out early
one morning from

.  As it turned out we found it only took us
about an hour and a half on reasonably good roads and through spectacular
limestone scenery.  We called at the
local police station to ask if they knew of a big local cave.   They said that they did and that due to
local drug growing problems we were liable to be shot!!  So joined by 2 policemen and a hanger on, we
proceeded to the cave (in an orderly fashion? …. ed).  One was armed with a hand gun, to add to the
fun.  We put a handline down the steep
slope leading down into a massive depression. From here the whole team followed the river downstream to the first
pitch.  J-Rat went down this, found the
water out of depth and tried to avoid drowning. (He must learn to swim!!).  He
went as far as the second pitch.  Having
looked at a few side passages we exited. We had a real Jamaican lunch with the policemen in a tin shack with a
few Red Stripe beers and then returned home.


This is on the main coast road between
Bay and
.  You can’t miss
it.  A local Rastafarian takes you in
with no lights and proceeds to explain about the history of

.  He then climbs some boulders and proceeds to
swing off vines growing in from the roof. At this point he is about 40 feet off the ground!!


Tony and I visited the show caves, which are full of bats
and a bit nondescript, on our second day on the island.  What did make them better was the reggae band
playing in the cave and 2 topless Swedish girls swimming in the lake.  I joined them but unfortunately as J-Rat
doesn’t swim, he had to stay in the boat with a group of Americans …. Oh


J-Rat and I canoed into these, no dry passage.


(Ron’s rock top cave.) This cave is situated at Cousin’s Cove and Ron extracts guano to sell
locally.  For lighting he uses a milk
bottle full of petrol with a rag in it!! With our lights he could see the full extent of his cave, which is quite
interesting with some stal and a deep green pool which may be worth digging as
it could lead to the sea.  We left Ron
and his kids with a lamp and a pair of boots.


After getting to a very small village and being introduced
to some local lads in a bar, they arrived with some machetes and took us to the
cave.  It is a complex flood prone system
with 4 entrances.  Some flood overflow
passages were full of mud and old flood debris. Some good stal and some crawling with lots of nice cockroaches and, of
course, bats.

This was the end of our caving except that whilst in

we tried to find Anisfield
cave.  The write up in


underground says it is unexplored beyond a low pool.  We could not find the site but it sounds very



During a recent business trip to
I managed to get hold of my old friend Ercilio Veado and he arranged a trip to

in Vanadeo.  This system is about 5km long and is situated
near the Bellamor show caves in


province.  Ercilio and I were joined by
Maytle Cuay (a sort of urban Estelle with lumps in all the right places!!) we
found the main entrance no problem and changed inside.  It was here that I found that Ercilio always
carries a gun during his caving expeditions. The cave is very dry with some good formations.  Parts of it are being built in as an
underground shelter for the locals, however the rest of the cave has not been
spoilt.  One chamber contains about half
a million bats and the smell and heat is intense.  The cave changes from being a series of large
interconnecting passages to one long passage which changes from rift to
breakdown chambers to crawls.

A very interesting system.

Martin Grass.

Point of Interest.

This mainly to fill up this bit of page rather than waste
space ………… !

In her article Emma mentions the winch meet at Gaping Ghyll
and I’m sure many of us have been up to this event over the years.

Just in case anyone does not already know, this year marks
the centennery of Martel’s descent of the main shaft.

I know there are several members intending to go up and
abseil it.  This is an experience not to
be missed I am told.  It takes place the
weekend of May bank holiday and is organised by Bradford Pothole Club.


Caving in the

By Emma Porter.

Sitting on the ferry to
I felt very nervous as I sat listening to various Shepton and

members talking about their
caving experience (Ha Ha Ha … ed) and expeditions abroad.  There were just six of us, Graham Bromley,
Martin Ellis, Dom Sealy, Mark Simms, Ed Waters and myself.  I felt extremely out of my depth, having only
been caving seriously for nine months, only done 12 SRT trips (most of which
had been a couple of pitches), never having caved abroad and suffering recently
from a confidence knock in Meregill … so bad I found myself thinking for the
first time ‘why the hell do I go caving?’ But here I was stuck on a ferry in the middle of the sea; there was no
getting out of it.  What was worst was
that I’d just been made an honorary man and an honorary

… what insults!!

After hours of travelling in some ridiculous temperature,
buried under gear (most of which admittedly was mine) we eventually reached our
base for 2 weeks – Caniac du Causse, in the Lot region of

.  The campsite was in the middle of nowhere but
had showers, bog, drying room and as much electricity as you wanted – all for a
quid a night.  Bargain!

Our caving in this area was based on some short articles by
various British clubs and a few French surveys. However, a lot of this area does not seem to have been explored too much
by British cavers, well definitely not written up.

Monday 25/7

My first foreign cave.  Immediately a problem was created when the
rest of the team banned me from using my harness.  Okay, it looked a bit used, my friend having
given it to me (being a poor student I’d not been able to afford a new
one).  Instead I was lent a new one, not
used by the owner as it was so uncomfortable, but identical to mine – I too was
soon to discover how painful a Petzl Rapide harness can be!

After studying the survey of IGUE DU PENDANT, I decided a
wetsuit might be useful as there were some long unpleasant looking ducks.  However everyone else put on dry gear.  I soon regretted my decision due to 50m of
entrance pitches and ducks that were barely puddles.  At the bottom, one passage led to a sump but
bad air prevented us from continuing. The main way on was quite impressive, with a large passage and canyon
but disappointingly ending in a small muddy stream.

Shopping, beer, food and GROTTE DE LA DEVEZE.  In the process of finding this, managed to
scare off what M.E. thought were funny looking sheep, later realising that they
were in fact goats.  Only a 5 minute
trip, nice roof pendants and what looked like an archaeological dig.

Got back to the campsite, still full of energy and
enthusiasm, managed to persuade G.B. to go and find some more cave.  Walked from the village to an area of
forest/scrubland but night time caving trips were soon abandoned, when in the
still of the night, the silence was shattered by something howling.  I don’t like dogs (especially after being
bitten by the Alsatian at the Hill Inn ……. (Sadie to her friends … ed)
but this sounded evil and there was more than one!  We legged it to the relative safety of the
road.  Yet another lesson learnt that day
– don’t cave at night cos of wild dogs and Boar!

Tuesday 26/7

IGUE DE PICASTELLE. This had been left rigged by WCC but was hard to find, especially in the
boiling heat and with M.E. running off with a net to catch butterflies.  There were some very large patches of
flattened land, probably wild boar – I wonder where they go in the daytime?

90m of pitches with not much at the bottom, except a large
lizard which M.E. trod on and rescued along with a toad.  I fed the lizard some orange juice, which it
seemed to like at first but then it attacked the straw – I decided not to help
lizards again.

Tried to get down IGUE DES COMBETTES but access seems
impossible due to a very big fence with warnings.  Went to the entrance of IGUE DE SIMON but it
didn’t look very inspiring.

For our evening trip we went down IGUE DES CORBOUS.  Access was difficult and confused, no one
speaking English.  We were directed to
the farmer’s house, who didn’t seem too happy but we got permission. (This may
be denied sometimes judging by his reluctance) 60m of pitches, of course I got
into a mess by talking too much and abseiling into a rebelay (surely not ….
ed), but the bottom was disappointing.  A
sort of scree slope leading to a big chamber with loads of bones and black
sheep matter …. yuk.  The survey showed
a supposedly pretty chamber, but it isn’t pretty at all!

Wednesday 27/8.

IGUE DE PLANAGREZE. This is a bit of a tourist attraction with a large sign and a survey
outside.  Pitches go to -190m, where the
sump, dived to -270m, is reached.  I was
very nervous, the deepest pot I’ve done but once on the rope I enjoyed it,
except for there being an adder on a ledge (which M.E. managed to tread on, he
obviously likes reptiles!)  The next few pitches
were more technical but after all my problems, everything was running
smoothly.  On the return, my prusiking
was dead quick … the influence of a certain adder on a ledge.  This was well worth going down, being the
best trip so far.

Thursday 28/7.

IGUE DE L’AUSSURE. Left rigged from the previous day by the WCC when they ran out of
rope!  It was an amazing pot, spiralling
down in the most fantastic way ever.  It
consisted of vertical pitches mixed in with slopes of 70 – 80 degrees and was
extremely technical, rebelay after rebelay, using a ridiculous number of
bolts.  We reached the point where the
WCC had run out of rope and put a new bolt in, jumped over the edge for about
9m into a sump!  They’d been Ghar
Parau’d.  We wondered if the sump had
been dived, it looked extremely deep, a dark turquoise almost black
colour.  The worst aspect of this cave is
that there were no horizontal ledges, nowhere to take pressure off your
harness-it was agony.  This 6 hour trip,
of a very approximate depth of -270m was top of my list for this area.  The way it had been formed was incredible and
it is well worth a trip.

Friday 29/7.

I felt a bit harness sore, so had an easy morning and
visited PECHE MERLE showcave, famous for cave paintings of animals.  (But requiring a lot of imagination.)

IGUE DE VIAZAC. Entrance pitches were 30m, 30m and 80m with some impressive formations
for this area.  One way had a wire
traverse, Gibbs ascenders required (apparently the point where most people wimp
out!), leading to an 81m pitch.  I did
half the traverse to the point where I’d been told it was very difficult and
lots of arm strength was needed.  My arms
were dead and I couldn’t be bothered to wait hours for them to rig the next
pitch, so I explored in the opposite direction and exited out to IGUE DE
PAIZATS.  This took 1 hour to find, 1/2
hour to do and wasn’t worth it!

Saturday 30/7.

While looking for caves we spotted some cars and found the
first evidence of active cavers we saw all fortnight in this area.  Descended IGUE DE DIANE with them, 30, &
6m, and I got a jolly “tres bien” as I whizzed down their 9mm
rope.  Formation wise, pretty impressive
with smart columns (reminding me of parts of

). Got info from them and I generated much interest with my
Oldham lamp.

Sunday 31/8

IGUE DE CARBONIE. Recommended by the French.  Pitch
of 16m to junction, followed the main route to 10m pitch (don’t use a 90m rope
on this like we did, it is not recommended) but it didn’t go far.  Continued on the main route, climbed over
large stal boss to end.  Exited to worst
hailstorm ever!  Looked at LA PESCALARIES
resurgence and small grotto, then IGUE MATHERIN.  Once past two short pitches, very pretty with
many helictites but blackened and spoilt by use of carbide.

Monday 1/9.

IGUE NOIR.  Descended
30m pitch.  10m climb up with extremely
impressive view of shaft.  A small climb
led to pitches, becoming tight, ending in a chamber which was a scene of mad
panic to remove my SRT kit because I was desperate for a wee. (Men don’t
realise how easy they have got it!)

Tuesday 2/8.

Spent 2 hours looking for a cave in the midday sun, wearing
full SRT kit plus over & undersuits. Got bad heat exhaustion and was completely lost and disorientated and by
myself in a forest – it was scary!  It
was ages before I found anyone & I was feeling very unwell.  Visited GROTTE DE LACAVE (Showcave.)

Wednesday 3/8.

Ran out of local potholes, so did tourist trips in the
Dordogne. GOUFFRE DU SAUT DE LA PUCELLE, near Gramat was
a large scale Swildons, very popular with the French until they get wet.  Many small pitches, swimming – definite
wetsuit trip.

GOUFFRE DE REVILLON, 2nd largest entrance in


– amazing!  Old show cave, only went as
far as I could in shorts, handtorch and canvas shoes.

Thursday 4/8.

PADIRAC showcave, well worth a visit and the GROTTE LA
PRESQUE (Showcave).  This was our first
rest day, went to GROTTE DE REVILLON again and for the first time all holiday
… got pissed!  (Cos the passage was
sumped.)  Also did THEMINES.  I didn’t like this, bad air and dirty canals
to swim in.

Friday 5/8.

Travelling back, still fitted in GROTTE DU GRAND ROC.  This has the most amazing helictites!  We ended up in the speleo museum.

Saturday 6/8.

Home. Rest.. . .I needed another holiday to recover.

This trip definitely opened my eyes to caving abroad and
gave me more confidence in SRT. Abseiling GG main shaft at the winch meet seemed nothing compared to
what we did in

.  (At one point I used to hate heights and
wouldn’t even abseil 30 feet!)  What was
hard was getting used to British caves again – cold, tight, wet and small.

This area is well worth looking at and doesn’t appear to be
that well visited, it does seem to have a lot of potential.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was
that it was too hot and I lost the challenge to M. E. – that I could do more
caves than he could catch butterflies. He won by eight (but then he did seem to spend most of his time catching

Emma Porter.


WHITING HOLE, Baggy Point,
North Devon

by Dave Irwin

The Saturday before Christmas 1975 (yes, 18 years ago!)
conditions were right to make an attempt to enter Whiting Hole at the foot of
the slate cliffs at Baggy Point, near Croyde in
.  In a previous paper
the Graham Wilton-Jones and the writer had published details of the sea caves
at Saunton Sands and
Bay (BEC Caving Report No. 16 Cave Notes 74 pp.12-17)
entitled ”

at Saunton and
Baggy Point”.  At the time of that
visit the tide was high and it was impossible to reach the cave.  However on this sunny but cold day in
December 1975 low tide was about mid-day. On our arrival (Graham and myself) the sea was calm, and little wind to
push the sea above its low tide level. Armed with wetsuits and ladders we plodded the couple of miles from the
car-park along the cliff path.  On
arriving at the headland we were pleasantly surprised to find the tide was so
low that we needed neither wetsuits nor ladders to aid the descent of the

Scrambling over large rounded and sea-weed covered boulders
we made our way to the massive entrance of Whiting Hole – 80ft. high and 30ft.
wide, developed in thin, near vertical beds of slate.  A local legend is attached to this cave in
that smugglers used the cave to delivered the ‘swag’ via a subterranean passage
from the cave to Putsborough Manor about a mile inland near the southern
reaches of Woolacombe beach.

Well, the legend has been broken!  Whiting Hole is barely 200ft. long ending at
a solid rock face in which is a tiny crack too small even for midgets.

The cave is a large, single passageway gradually reducing in
height and width, the walls of which are quite smooth and polished by the
endless succession of tides, swirling stones and sand.  The tide levels are well defined by banks of
sand and pebbles near the far reaches. To be cut-off here by the tide would have the explorers facing an
impossible task of attempting to swim against the large rolling waves as there
are no ledges of any size on the south wall and the north wall slopes inwards
suitable only for spiders.

About 50ft. south of the entrance to Whiting Hole is another
parallel, un-named, cave hidden from view from the clifftop by a large
projecting rock flake.  Smaller in cross
section than Whiting Hole this cave is slightly longer at about 230-250ft.
long.  The cave ends in a similar way to
Whiting Hole.

Neither cave is significant and they will never cause a stir
in the speleological world but this note is simply a record of two more of the
many thousands of sizable sea caves that abound on our coastline.




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