Exploration Club, The Belfry,

, Priddy, Wells,

Editor: Martin Torbett

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Joint Treasurers: Chris Smart, Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Martin Torbett
Caving Secretary: Rich Long
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Toby Limmer
Hut Wardens: Vince Simmonds, Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not
necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in

Club members should note: There is now a digital keypad as well as the key lock on the Belfry
door.  Please do not compromise club
security and members privileges by giving this number to non-members especially
those who may already have a key!!

Editors Plea

I would ideally like someone to assist with the compilation
of articles, collection of same from authors and help with the rolling
calendar.  Also all of you out there, it
is your magazine – thank you to all regular contributors but I need more from
you.  A small read through the log shows
that many trips take place but few get to my in tray!  If you can write, please send it in!  No articles, no magazine.  It’s up to you!

Editors Page

Like all editors in the entire world, I have been extremely
busy and have had little contact with the world of caving recently other than
to take youngsters down Goatchurch as part of my work at the Charterhouse
Centre.  I can often be contacted there
during the day on 01761 xxxxxx.  I do
have an e-mail address though and a lot of things come to me through that
medium.  First a message from GREG BROCK,
who has been hard at work on the club website.  Greg writes the following.  The new BEC website is now fully up and
running.  Please Log on and give your
comments on it so that it can be improved. Also please sign the visitors book. The address is 

You can contact Greg at the address below.  Greg@[removed]


Pete Rose has sent me a picture of the new entrance to

before it has been fully covered
over and profiled.  This seems worthy of
a caption competition to go with the photograph.  Best entries either suggested in the Hunters
Lodge or sent to me with judging by a totally partial panel.

From an e-mail received from Rob Harper.  As you may, or may not, know, there was a
trip by several BEC members to


during February.  I was just discussing
this with J’Rat in Bat Products.  Between
us we worked out that we were in the
Atacama Desert
while he was in Cherrapunji.  Thus the
BEC had the distinction of having club members at both the driest and the
wettest places in the world at the same time!

Also on a sad note, I publish three obituaries


(Sago) Rice died on Thursday 25th May – Full obituary to follow next
issue.  Ed


Graham Balcombe

Francis Graham Balcombe was born 8th March 1907 and died
19th March 2000.

Graham as he preferred to be called, was an engineer with
the Post Office, and spent a lot of time installing aerial systems around the
country.  He teamed up with a fellow
engineer, Jack Sheppard, the CDG surviving President, and they formed a
formidable climbing team.  They pioneered
and improved many climbing routes in the Lake District and

.  Graham was credited with a number of
unorthodox solo climbs, church steeples, office corridors etc., not always
appreciated by officialdom.  As their
prowess increased, their climbing activities were practised whenever they
could; and when working at the Daventry site on the AS, in good weather they
would climb a radio mast to eat their lunch on the top.  There is a story of a handstand being done on
the flat top of a mast.  While climbing
in the North, they met members of the Northern Cavern and Fell Club who were on
Great Gable.  In discussion they were
invited to try potholing (1932).  They
liked it and now spent weekends down potholes instead of up mountains.

Eventually they were sent to work on radio stations in

.  There they contacted the local caving expert,
Herbert Balch who introduced them to the leading caver of the area,
“Digger” Harris.  He was a
respected solicitor in Wells, but he broke out at intervals to drive the town
fire engine!  He introduced them to many
local caves, including Swildons Hole which soon became important to them.  This had been explored as far as a sump by
1920.  This sump they tackled by
conventional means, looking for a by-pass; but eventually they resorted to
explosives.  This was not entirely
appreciated by the locals as one charge had to be re-primed due to a misfire
and went off a bit late on a Sunday morning during the service in the church –
vertically above the sump, the congregation “felt the earth move” and
the vicar was not amused.

By 1934 they had decided to try diving and Graham
constructed a sort of snorkel part of which incorporated part of a ladies
bicycle frame. It had non return valves and was connected to a piece of garden
hose.  This was not successful firstly by
reason of physics and secondly by the attachment of the hose coming undone

On these first attempts they wore the caving gear of the
time–old clothes!


Graham balcombe photographed recently in Bat products

Cold was a vital factor. Jack went on to produce a complete dry suit fed by a football inflator,
and he used this to pass the sump. 1000ft further on he met a second sump but could go no further as he
lacked a pump operator.  Spurred on by
this Graham later attached a small oxygen cylinder to his device, and on a solo
trip, passed both the 1st. sump and most of the 2nd sump.  He used synchronised breathing with opening
the valve on the cylinder, and the gas ran out as he got back.  He nearly died of hypothermia on the way
out.  The sherpa party found him
shivering over a candle part way out of the cave.  In 1935 they were loaned and taught to use
Siebe Gorman standard diving gear.  Due
to its weight and bulk they explored Wookey Hole as far as they could drag
their hoses.  During and after the war
Graham built an oxygen re-breather and used it in various
caves.  His transport was a tandem and
trailer that his wife helped him to pedal push from
and other railheads.  By 1946 his diving
equipment had been supplemented by some commercial sets and a number of
enthusiasts met in
S. Wales in an attempt to
tackle a resurgence called Ffynnon Ddu. While there they decided to form a group.  The Cave Diving Group was born!  For several years Graham was Chief Diver,
Trainer, Secretary and Treasurer–and he was what one would call a benevolent
despot!  (Some were heard to refer to him
as the Fuhrer behind his back)

Eventually the strain got too much and a more conventional
committee took his place, and he was kicked upstairs as President, more or less
his words.

I first met Graham as a comparatively raw recruit, and I was
somewhat in awe of him, but found like a lot of rather abrupt people, his bark
was worse than his bite!  He must have approved
of me because we were diving partners on two dives before he handed in his gear
and “retired”.  On one of these
we found an air filled chamber and a lot of passage underwater.  Although retired he was always pleased to see
visitors and talk shop.  My wife was
amazed by the wide range of his interests and his persistently enquiring
mind.  I kept in irregular contact with
him and took him to diving functions and AGMs etc. until his recent
illness.  He will be sadly missed by his
friends and leaves a large legacy of books, reports and articles that will take
a lot of sorting and cataloguing.  He is
survived by his stepson.

John Buxton



On 25th February this year Richard Websell committed
suicide.  He was not a member of the BEC
but he was well known to many of the members.

Richard was born and raised in

and started caving while at
school.  Together with Andy Sparrow, Dave
Walker and others he founded the Salisbury Caving Group whose members
eventually joined mainstream Mendip Clubs. His academic years in


brought him into contact with SWETCC in the heyday of such characters as Aubrey
Newport, Trevor Faulkner and the unforgettable Brian Quillam.  This as much as anything influenced his move
into the


I first met him in the late 70’s.  Our views on caving and its ethics were
identical and together with Paul Hadfield we formed a very active caving
partnership during the exciting, and occasionally fraught days, of the
development of SRT.  We both joined the
CDG.  With Al Mills loaning equipment and
giving advice (“Don’t go below thirty feet those bottles are filled with
welding oxygen”) embarked on a series of “learning” trips – also
quite fraught on occasion.  When I
defected to the BEC we still carried on caving together on a regular basis.

His short stature and reserved manner tended to obscure the
fact that he was a very hard caver. Although primarily a tourist caver both in Britain and Europe he did
take part in original exploration – most notably in the pushing of Gough’s cave
in Cheddar and in Norway.  No underground
hazard or problem seemed to bother him and his sense of humour never seemed to
fail however grim the situation.  I
remember one occasion in Mangle when it appeared that we would both be trapped
by my inability to get back through the squeeze out of Aldermaston Chamber even
after stripping off my wet-suit.  Eyeing
my pink body apparently irrevocable wedged, Rich was heard to comment that it
was like stuffing a marshmallow into a piggy bank.

In his youth he had been a bit “wild” and his life
had not been without its problems. However we all thought that was behind him since he met Anne twelve
years ago.  He seemed settled and thus
the news of his death was a terrible shock. At his funeral the chapel was crowded and overflowing.  A testament to his popularity and not solely
within the caving world.

On a personal note. He was my close friend; a kind, funny
and totally dependable man who was always good company.  I still cannot believe that he has gone.

Rob Harper


“New Beer Warnings”

Club members may have problems
relating to this compilation of beer warnings-Ed

From an e-mail received from the former editor Estelle

Due to increasing products liability litigation, beer
manufacturers have accepted the Medical Association’s suggestion that the
following warning labels be placed immediately on all beer containers:

Consumption of alcohol may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

Consumption of alcohol is a major factor in dancing like a Wan*er.

Consumption of alcohol may cause you to tell the same boring story over and
over again until your friends want to smash your head in.

Consumption of alcohol may cause you to thay shings like thish.

Consumption of alcohol may lead you to believe that ex-lovers are really dying
for you to telephone them at 4 in the morning.

Consumption of alcohol may leave you wondering what the hell happened to your

Consumption of alcohol may make you think you can logically converse with other
members of the opposite sex without spitting.

Consumption of alcohol may make you think you have mystical Kung Fu powers.

Consumption of alcohol may cause you to roll over in the morning and see
something really scary (whose name and/or species you can’t remember).

Consumption of alcohol is the leading cause of inexplicable rug burns on the

Consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, more
attractive, and smarter than some really, really big guy named Franz.

Consumption of alcohol may lead you to believe you are invisible.

Consumption of alcohol may lead you to think people are laughing with you.

WARNING: Consumption
of alcohol may cause a flux in the time-space continuum, whereby small (and
sometimes large) gaps of time may seem to literally disappear.

Consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy.

Skittles Night

Craven Pothole Club joined

and BEC members for a
skittles match at the New Inn, Priddy on 27m May 2000.  I was a late arrival, but found the members
and guests in great form, both skittles and beer going down well.  On the scene reporter Greg Brock managed to
preserve the final outcome on his arm!  A
fun and enjoyable night was had by all. No formal competition was set up just a social event with prizes for the
highest scoring participants.  A £1 entry
fee was taken from each person and the profit of the event will be donated to
Sarah Blick to help her get to the Advanced base camp of
on the 26.07.00.  In amongst all the
social drinking the winners of the event were: –

Cliff – Highest male scorer.

Judy Clark – Highest female

Judie – 2nd highest scoring
female who won the boobie prize.

Don Mellar – 2nd highest scoring
male who won the other boobie prize


Stock’s House Shaft – The Spring Offensive

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BBs nos. 502, 504-506.

February 2000 commenced with the escorting of an MCG
Wednesday night tourist party around Five BuddIes Sink and the Shaft.  Needless to say they were then conned into
assisting with the dig and 50 bags were hauled out while, in the depths, vast
amounts of rock was being moved along the level.  Some of them even threatened to come again –
but haven’t yet!  During the rest of the
month and early March another 160 loads reached the surface and four more new
diggers were recruited.  Much of the work
involved transporting full bags and rocks from Heinous Hall to the Shaft.

On the 13th March the last two boulders from the Heinous
Hall collapse were banged and on 15th another 46 loads were hauled out.  Analysis of water samples by Roger Stenner
seemed to indicate that the Upstream Level inlet is fed by water from
Waldegrave Pool – as is the flow from the Treasury of Aeops.  As these levels went in different directions
this seemed odd.  Further water samples
were taken on the 19th, both underground and on the surface.

During the rest of March another 214 loads were laboriously
hauled out on the man winch but life improved considerably on 2nd April when
Ivan arrived with the newly fettled, trailer mounted hydraulic winch and
painlessly removed another 74.  The
following day, with the assistance of two press-ganged Grampian men, down from
Inverness, another 74 came out on the hand winch – in a
rapidly worsening snow blizzard.  Work
continued on clearing the Upstream Level on the 4th and the terminal inlet sump
was drained to enable an airspace to be felt beyond.  This was investigated further the following
day and found to be the continuation of the Level.  With high water conditions it was left for
the stream to excavate for us.  Another
75 bags reached the surface.

On 6th April the writer, digging in the floor of the
Upstream Level on a solo trip, was fortunate to find an almost complete and
nicely decorated clay pipe buried in the silt on the RH side of the passage
just upstream of the 5m aven (now named Pipe Aven).  Its fine state of preservation may be due to
its having been protected by wooden shoring along the Level wall – now rotted
away.  Being still intact and useable it
is postulated that the pipe may have been put down by its owner and fallen
behind the timbers.  The cherry-like
designs on the bowl are stylised tobacco plants and on one side is what appears
to be a church window or bishop’s mitre with a star below.  The circled W on the other side may be the
initial of the pipe maker.  Further
research is being done on the date and origin of this minor treasure and the
current “guesstimate” is late 1700s – possibly from the Oakhill
area.  It will eventually be displayed in

. A small piece of clay roof tile was also found.


On this trip the now drained sump was further enlarged to
gain access to another 20ft of level, bearing to the WNW under the road and
towards the ruined Stock’s House.  This
now added weight to Roger’s drainage theory. It was pushed further on 9th by the writer and Greg Brock who demolished
a small roof collapse to continue for another 15ft to a choke. Next day the
backfilled naturale (?) passage on the SE side of Pipe Aven was partially

Another 46 loads came out on the hydraulic winch on 12th
April and a set back occurred next day when a fairly major roof fall just
beyond Pipe Aven luckily happened while the writer was having a fag break at
the Shaft.  The 16th saw 74 loads out,
more water samples taken and the new collapse banged.  A follow up blasting project the next day was
curtailed by more raining boulders.

This is another example of the roof of the level coming down
when the supporting infill is removed. Bits of rotten timber and black staining
show that all these dodgy areas were previously timbered up by the Old Men who
were fully aware of the consequences of leaving them unsupported.

On 26th April Trev and team cleared most of this fall,
despite having to dodge more rocks, and hauled 30 loads out.  May started with 87 bags out on the 3rd and
the next few days were spent in lowering the floor of the Upstream Level to
gain access to the visible continuation. This was entered on the 8th May in high water conditions and found to be
aloft long section of apparently modified natural streamway with an attractive
section of scalloped grey limestone at the start.  51 more bags came out two days later. Three
clearing sessions were then done in the Level during which some natural/mined
alcoves were revealed directly under the road. These will be fully excavated at a later date.  The arrival of summer and associated problems
was heralded by the stealing of our modified wheelbarrow and the throwing of a
full bag of cement down the Shaft by some pathetic pratt.

The hydraulic winch was in operation again on the17th when
66 loads came out after considerable experimentation with tying-on
techniques.  Eventually a system was
devised whereby ten loads could be hauled up in one go.

The Scene on 3rd April at Stock Hill (you can just sees the

Andy Elson emerging from the “natural” section of
the Upstream Level.  Photo by John
Williams, 22nd April

Visitors from Kent Underground Research Group were shown the
workings on 20th May (and persuaded to shift a few bags) and the next day a
mere 3 loads were hauled out by Rich Witcombe who was excavating a trench
across the flat ground behind the winch to see if it could have been a horse
whim circle.  He found no evidence for this
so this ground can now be used to extend the spoil heap.  Down below work was continuing on clearing
the Upstream Level and on the 22nd the collapse at the end was poked with a
long crowbar to bring down another supply for our regular rockery customers.
Caveable passage could be seen above the collapse but it was deemed prudent to
leave it to settle – the healthy water flow continuously washing out the fine
silt and gravel.

An exciting evening was had on 25th when 87 loads came out,
generally a dozen at a time, on the hydraulic winch.  The weight caused the scaffold tripod to slip
– heavy bits of metal narrowly missing the unloading team.  At the Shaft bottom a couple of head sized
boulders had the same effect on the loading team as they ricochetted into the
two different levels where they were sheltering.  Valuable lessons were learnt for future
winching as having two thirds of the digging team wiped out in one go would be
counter-productive!  The last rock out to
surface contained a superb shothole section, 23mm in diameter and 116mm long to
the bottom of the hole – which still contained a greasy black deposit.  This was collected for possible analysis as
it is likely to be the residue of the burnt gunpowder charge.  The spring session ended with 104 bags to
surface on 31st May.  Hopes are now on
the weather drying up (some hope!) for a late summer push downstream.

This section will be walking sized when the floor spoil is
removed ..

Additions to the Digging Team

Wayne Hiscox, Arthur Spain, Greg Smith, Roger Wallington,
Mick Lovell, Brian Pittman, Viv Beedle (all MCG), Dave Boon (Frome CC), Barry
Hewlett, Danny Burnett, Steve Windsor, Fergus Taylor (ex Camborne SMCC), Mark
Estelle Sandford, Martin
Parsons, Ken Ansty (Blackmore CG), John Moorhouse (Soton DCC), Jim Conway
(Grampian SG), Dave Hodgson (GSG), Mike Merritt (SMCC), Chris Franklin, Ian
Butler, Dave Morgan, Phil Spice, Nick Smith, Peter Burton (Kent Dnd. Res.
Mark “Gonzo” Lumley.

Additional Assistance and Photography

Graham Mullan (UBSS), Lou Maurice (DBSS), Marek Lewcun (

Arch.Trust), Maurice
Hewins (WCC).

Diggers always welcome to
J’rat’s Digs (or the many others!) Especially welcome, thick arms and a natural propensity for grovelling
in waist deep mud!  Contact the diggers
at the Hunters Lodge Inn, Priddy any Wednesday evening.  Ed


Tales of a lesser known caver Part 2

by the Editor.

As no doubt many of you know, there are lots of cavers who
go climbing or walking up mountains.  I
know of quite a few.  Perhaps it is some
of the yearning to visit beautiful places, perhaps it’s the thrill. Whatever it
is, I was a relative newcomer to the climbing part of this scenario until quite
recently.  As part of my work, I needed
to attend a course in first aid and since others at the centre where I work
wanted similar training, a group of four instructors drove to
last year and booked up the Climbers Club cottage at Helyg
near Llyn Ogwen, Snowdonia.  On arrival
late on Friday evening, we were greeted by a terrible smell; similar to one
that used to lurk at the Belfry some weekends after a group had visited.  We fumbled around for light switches and got
the place warm by lighting the fire – coal supplied, and the smell gradually
faded.  Further unpacking took place and
then a fridge was opened and the smell came out and seized me by the throat or
was it via the nose.  Yes cavers, you
have guessed, it was a very former piece of chicken, still in its wrapper that
had been left in the icebox.  Later,
after gagging and cleaning the suppurating mess out of the fridge, I looked up
the date of the last group.  Two weeks
ago!  They had dutifully turned off all
the power and complied with the plethora of little notices, forgetting to empty
the icebox, but remembering to open the fridge door!  Nature had taken its course, but had been
frozen once again when we arrived and powered up the place. Appropriate notes
were left in the log!  Anyway, back to
the point of the tale.

Snowdon from Plas y Brenin
(many mines, few caves)

By now it is nearly 11pm and my comrades suggest a freshen
up outside.  Packing two full ropes and a
rucsac of bits, we are rapidly off up the road to stop at a blurry shape in the
dark.  “Milestone Buttress,”
Chris exclaimed, Off you go Torbs, it’s just like caving as it’s so bloody dark
you can’t see anything.  So, Petzl on, up
we go!  After about three pitches, I
arrive at something akin to the entrance of a cave. In I go only to find I am
snuggling up against a large boulder and a wall.  Well it felt safe, so on we go. More ropy
things, a traverse across into nothing and a haul up and I can see a glow
below.  F**k me it’s a bloody great
lake!  I am miles up!  Faint tremors of the legs are followed by
turning the light out.  Can’t see
anything so nothing to worry about. “Off you go Torbs”, so off upwards I go, finally reaching
somewhere called the top.  By now I
cannot see the bottom or the top so it is most cave like.  I can see I am on a ledge and there are a
couple of other lights, one above, one below, and then we are all
together.  “OK, time to get off and
to bed”, says Chris.  It’s now 1.30
a.m. and I am tired.  A long icy, wet
gully descends at a steep slope angle, far to slippery to do without a rope, so
tie on and down we go, good cave practice this! Soon I am on a flat bit, then on a path, then I see the road and we are
back, hot, sweaty and happy, just like a caving trip but in reverse (you go
down to get out).  Well that was all fine
and we are still alive so home we go.

About a year later, I am in
again doing some training and drive past Milestone Buttress.  I stop and go up to find the climb but
cannot.  Just like a cave you visit in
the dark with friends in foreign places, you can never find the entrance!


Extract from the Sherborne Mercury 1816. 

Sent in by Sett.


On Tuesday the 12th day of November, 1816, on the premises,
at Priddy Minery, in the parish of Chew-ton-Mendip, in lots:

Lot 1. A STEAM-ENGINE, with
a 16-inch Cylinder, Air Pump, and Condenser, standing in a wood frame, with a
wrought iron boiler, cast iron round top, 6 feet and a half diameter, nearly
new, with a grate thereunto belonging.

Lot 2.  A STEAM-ENGINE, with a 12-inch Cylinder, a
wrought iron boiler, six feet diameter, cast iron flat top, with steam pipes,
brass cock, and piston.

Lot 3.  Two 8 inch PUMPS, that lift about 30 fathoms
with buckets, clacks, and iron rods to the same.

Lot 4.  A LIFTING CAPSTAN, with cogs and nut,
standing in a wood frame.

Lot 5.  A STEAM-ENGINE, 6-inch Cylinder, worked with
a flywheel & crank, and a 4 feet wrought iron boiler.

Lot 6.  A 6-inch PUMP, that lifts about 15 fathoms,
with buckets, clacks, and iron rods to the same.

Lot 7. Sixty yards of
INCH-ROPE, nearly new.

Lot 8. Sixty yards of
Ditto,          ditto.

Lot 9. Sixty yards of
Ditto,          ditto.

Lot 10. A quantity of Hods.

Lot 11. Shovels, Sledges,
Mattocks, &c.
Lot 12. Iron Screws, Nuts,
and Pins.

Lot 13. A quantity of Iron.

Lot 14. Sundry Windlasses.

Lot 15. A quantity of

Several Servants Beds, Bedsteads, and Bedding, in lots.


to begin precisely at eleven o’clock in the fore-Noon.



By: Ted Howard,
manufacturing adviser and R.S. King C.Eng. Aerospace structural specialist.
January 1999

This summary presents facts about the design of karabiners


It is worth reminding ourselves about the function of
karabiners used with ropes.

A karabiner is a much used link in a chain of components
intended to provide a life support system
either potential, to guard against
inadvertent fall, or direct employed
in a rigged system intended for rescue, access or industrial use.

The potential life support system is only intended to be
used in case of a fall. The gear and its placement is more of a hindrance than
a benefit apart from its moral support once placed.  Some risk is accepted.

The direct life support system is gear used dynamically for
support as a controlled method with full knowledge of its characteristics.  Risk is not acceptable.

The acceptance of risk is the reason that recreational users
are content with less robust and lighter gear than the industrial user.

Fitness for Purpose

The choice of a karabiner in a given situation must be its
fitness for purpose.  When it is needed
it must work.  It must have adequate
strength and stiffness and continue to provide these in the working

It is not the purpose of this summary to give the
statistical results of tests readily available through the U.I.A.A., nor to
arouse the wrath of manufacturers, but some salient points are given in the
hope that they will aid selection of karabiners for specific purposes.


1.                  Many karabiners are made of aluminium alloy by
user demand in the pursuit of lightness and also to gain a competitive
retailing edge.  They have become lighter
and lighter.  Advances in manufacturing
and materials technology allow this but gradually the load carrying ability of
specific karabiners has decreased.

2.                  Given their working conditions, aluminium alloy
is probably one of the worst materials that karabiners could be made from.  Weight advantage has been gained by using
increasingly higher strength alloys. These alloys are one of the strongest materials on a weight to strength
basis that can be utilised currently for their manufacture.  However in the compromise required to achieve
higher strengths these alloys also have reduced ductility and tend to crack
more readily, with higher crack propagation rates.  This has the consequence that once a small
crack appears then because of the concentration of stress and the nature of the
material then the high tech. alloys can rupture easily, even under working

3.                  All aluminium alloys have approximately the same
low modulus of elasticity so that improvements to stiffness can only be made by
careful detail design of the overall shape and the shape of the local
cross-section.  Low stiffness means that
the gate can deform requiring a screwed gate to restore some strength by
providing a load path.  The size of the
pins limits the magnitude of the load that can be carried.

4.                  Aluminium alloys are highly prone to corrosion
which has given rise to a huge amount of effort devoted to the problem.  Aircraft in particular use these high tech.
alloys and are sometimes grounded for weeks while corroded parts are repaired
or replaced.  This means being aware of
the various types of corrosion.  These are
many.  Only three main types are
considered here;

a.                  Surface, is caused by an impurity exposed at the
surface making a small electrical cell in the presence of water.  The aluminium becomes an anode and
corrodes.  The appearance is a flaky
white powder.  The repair is to remove
this mechanically and polish the exposed surface until no black pitting
shows.  Restore the protective finish.

b.                  Sub-surface is caused by corrosion along the
grain boundaries, starting at an edge or a hole. Sometimes called exfoliation
corrosion, because the metal flakes, it is hard to detect in the early stages
when a simple repair might be possible. The undetected corrosion represents a loss of strength.  Usually the repair is to throw the affected
item away.

c.                  Galvanic corrosion is caused by dissimilar
metals in contact in the presence of water. For example steel hinge pins in aluminium, unless they are coated with
cadmium, will cause corrosion. Unfortunately aluminium will be the anode and
will corrode.  It then becomes another
throwaway job.  Water, particularly with
salts, is damaging.  The simplest repair
is to remove all corrosion but please note that both strength and stiffness are
reduced by material removal!


5.                  Weight.

Design is usually a compromise
between a number of conflicting requirements. The best link might be a closed steel loop tested safely at 100kN.  Anything less is a compromise but we are
obliged to compromise.  A gate is
required, that adds weight and reduces strength.  Weight is always a consideration if someone
has to carry it, but how light should we go? Constructional rigging and rescue work recognises more readily that the
strength of the links is paramount and in such situations weight can be tolerated
if adequate personnel are available. After all, lightness is of no benefit if it leads to failure!

In climbing or caving the choice
becomes blurred, with the decision being biased towards lightness in the
interest of success.  How often do we
contemplate falling off!  Remember too
that a direct belay or an abseil point where one or more lives are at risk can
be considered to be a direct life support system which needs higher security.

It is a useful exercise for a
climber to weigh a rack of twenty lightweight karabiners say 20kN rated, and
compare the difference in weight with a rack of twenty 28kN rated.  With due consideration it may be decided to
leave a bar of chocolate behind and take the stronger rack – unless chocolate
drives you on!

6.                  Material.

Steel is a much more robust and
reliable material than the high tech, aluminium alloys and the red rust of
corrosion is more easily spotted with less damaging effects.  Stiffness is a function of the material and
also of the detail design.  If we assume
that an aluminium and a steel karabiner have the same shape (or volume) the
following comparisons can be made. The steel unit will be about twice as strong
and three times more stiff but three times more heavy than aluminium.  So, for the same strength the steel karabiner
would be about 50% heavier.  You’d get
about 18 of these aluminium karabiners to the kilogram or 12 steel ones.  Steel is harder than aluminium and better
resists abrasion and impact damage.  It’s
your choice.

7.                  Detail Design.

Since the advent of competition
sports climbing, the availability of longer nosed karabiners, to aid fast
clipping of protection points, has increased. This may be why they feature prominently in shops and that there are so
many of them.  Are they fit for your

Karabiners are essentially like
crane hooks.  The load is intended to be
carried through the back which is shaped for maximum strength.  It is also designed for stiffness so that the
hook will not deform and allow the load to slip out.  A karabiner has to have a gate and modem
design makes it part of the strength but it is also a weakness.  It should not deform so much under static
load that it cannot be opened intentionally, in an emergency.

The loaded rope is reacted by
transferring a direct tension force across the link.  The sketch (fig. 1) illustrates this.  Any offset from the line between where the
load is applied and where it is reacted will cause additional, weakening,
bending forces.  The highest strength is
achieved by keeping the line of action of the load as close as possible to the
back of the karabiner.  This will give
the lowest offset bending.

Pull or tension tests to
destruction, are done with a karabiner mounted under ideal conditions.  Tests are done with the karabiner mounted
with twelve millimetre rods tucked tight into the corners of the back.  This gives the least offset and consequently,
the highest strength.  In practice extra
offset bending can arise because the loading geometry is different.  If the same test is done with a
twenty-millimetre tape in place of the rod then the point of application of the
load is displaced from the ideal position and has an extra offset which
significantly reduces the breaking strength (fig.2).  If the karabiner is jammed against something
so that it can react force sideways then the rope or tape can slip towards the
gate.  The offset is now far more than it
was designed to be.  In these
circumstances there is a danger of premature failure, (fig.3).

The figures illustrate the fact
that the greater the offset from the line of action of the load the less the
potential strength of the karabiner because extra bending forces arise from

8.                  Dynamic Performance of the Gate

A good ‘open-gate’ strength is
difficult to achieve.

Consider the gate design.  It is made so that the latching end of the
gate (as opposed to the hinge end) has its latching pin in a design distance
clearance to the receiving slot in the nose (fig A ).  This allows the back to build up resistance
as it comes under load.  The deflection
of the back then allows the gate to engage and start to offload the back.  This device delays the build up of strain in
the gate so that this weaker component can add its strength just before the
back starts to yield (or permanently deform) on its way to failure.  This gate feature greatly improves the
resistance of the karabiner.  However
because of the reduced stiffness of aluminium alloy with the resulting
deflection, avoid screwing up the gate when under load.  It may be impossible to unscrew it without
loading it again.

Dynamic testing, involving a
given load dropped through a specific distance, fastened to a rope running
through a karabiner gave some very interesting results.  These were analysed in slow motion and it
could be seen that as a result of the vibration set up in the karabiner the
gate oscillated open with increasing amplitude. This sympathetic response would significantly reduce the unit’s strength
should the impact occur with the gate open. It might also allow the rope to escape. Without a gate to help, the integrity of the unit can be compromised
making a sort of Russian roulette.  This
should be enough to encourage the use of screw gates, twistlocks or any other
gate locking device.  Again, more fuss but a reduced risk.


9.                  Care in Use

Where karabiners are made for a
specific purpose they are not necessarily fit for multi-purpose use.

Avoid linking karabiners
together.  They have a way of twisting
against each other, especially when on a ledge, getting a back against a gate
and opening it.  They can then slip
apart.  This has been recorded many
times.  It is a very real danger.

Lock the gate – against the rope
slipping out – against vibration and to improve strength.

A lot of thought and experience
has gone into the design and manufacture of karabiners.  They are made more and more for specialist
purposes which may not be compatible with your requirements.

Different features often arise
not as a technical improvement but as need to produce a new product and stay
commercially ahead. “A karabiner is a karabiner” is not necessarily


10.              Will they last forever?

No, they do not last
forever.  It is essential that any safety
equipment, including karabiners, be treated with respect.  Karabiners need cleaning regularly.

·        After use, especially near salt water, wash in
warm water with detergent, rinse in demineralised water, dry and lubricate with
a water repellent including the gate hinge pin. Remember that soft waxes (WD 40) evaporate and need regular replacement.

·        Check for distortion, bent gate pins, fractured
noses, surface damage such as indentations or cracks.

·        Check that there is a take-up clearance (fig A)
at the nose latch, particularly if the karabiner has had a shock load.  Lack of clearance may indicate that the unit
has permanently deformed and has a reduced strength.

·        Don’t forget that one long abseil on a rope
which is wet and dirty or covered in mud can scour a groove so deep that it
puts an alloy karabiner beyond safe use. Cut it in two and throw it away.

·        Guard against sympathetic vibration by checking
the spring resistance against the gate opening in comparison with a good
quality new one.  If in doubt contact
your supplier to have a new spring fitted. It is a simple job.

·        Karabiners are like any other mechanical
device.  They are prone to failure, need
maintenance and eventually are unsafe to use.

Choose your equipment carefully with its purpose in
mind.  If it is to be part of a direct
life support system where weight is not a problem then it is safer to use
properly maintained steel.


Meghalaya 2000

by Tony Jarratt

Tom Chapman and the writer were the BEC’s representatives on
this year’s expedition (Brian Johnson and John Whitely being the Club’s agents
on a separate Devon/Yorkshire trip to the south of the country which I am sure
they will write up for the BB!)  The rest
of the team consisted of our leader, Simon Brooks (Orpheus & Grampian),
Fraser Simpson, Dr. Kate Janossy, Roger Galloway, Pete Dowswell (Grampian), Mark
Brown, Dr. Kirsten McCullough (Sheffield Uni.), Kevin Garwood (Canada) and Dr.
Mandy Edgemont (S.W.C.C.)  The Meghalayan
Adventurers contingent were Brian Karpran Daly (leader), Donbokwell Syiemlieh
(organizer), Ronie Mawlong (token small boy), Bokstarland Franklin
(organizer/guitarist), George Nongkhlaw, Spindro Dkhar, Betty Chhakchhuak, Neil
Sootinck, Lindsay Diengdoh, Andy Tyler, Adora Thaba, Myrkasim Swer (chef),
Larsing Suklain (guide, caver and bigamist) and a host of cooks, assistants,
drivers, guides etc. Hospitality and entertainment were once again provided by
the ever popular Ladies of Shillong.

This trip had two primary aims: – 1) Continuation of the
work done by Wells Cathedral School C.C. (1999) in the Sutnga area, Jaintia
Hills, east Meghalaya (recced. by us in 1998 and 1999).

2) Recce. in the Garo Hills, west Meghalaya, following on
from work done by earlier expeditions.

Aim one was accomplished very successfully, despite a total
lack of surveys or information from the Wells team but aim two had to be
cancelled due to insurgency problems in the area.

The BEC contingent left Mendip on 9th Feb. after getting a
lift to Heathrow with Tony Boycott (who we had exchanged this year for three
young and attractive lady doctors – good swap eh?)  Here we met Simon, Kate, Kirsten, Mark and
Fraser and flew on to Meghalaya via
Amman (
and Guwahati (

).  A luxury coach then took us on the four hour
drive to the capital, Shillong, where we met Pete, Roger and the local lads at
the Embassy Hotel.

11th Feb. was a shopping and equipment sorting day followed
by party number one at Brian and Maureen’s house.

12th Feb. hangover number one was suffered on the coach to
Cherrapunjee (Sohra) where we went for a day trip to a proposed holiday resort
owned by Brian’s friend Denis Rayen.  Its
spectacular location near the
Laitkynsew gave views of the
towering escarpment cliffs of Meghalaya which were as impressive as looking at
one wall of the Grand Canyon – greatly enhanced by the endless flat plains of


below.  The nearby sandstone

cave of
Krem Wah Sang
was explored and surveyed
by Simon, Tom and Mark to a length of 106m and depth of 32m.  Meanwhile, above, the rest of us sat around a
bonfire drinking and listening to Roger playing Irish and Scottish folk tunes
on his tin whistle as dusk fell over the plains below – we’d arrived!

Next day we left by coach for the five hour journey to
Sutnga taking with us Betty (of the unpronounceable surname!) and Kevin – a
travelling Canadian who expressed an interest in caving and, more importantly,
was a computer programmer (we had two lap-tops with us).  On arrival we established HQ at the village
Inspection Bungalow, some 3/4 hours drive from the main limestone block of the
Nongkhlieh ridge.

The 14th saw the whole team pushing leads left by the Wells
students though the lack of information from them was to frustrate us
throughout our time in this area.  Near

village of
, on the north side of the ridge,
the horrific boulder maze of Krem Sniang was surveyed for 90m length and 47m
depth to the head of a probable 10m+ “pitch”.  Any attempt to descend this would have meant
dislodging keystones holding up the 47m of boulders above!  It was abandoned in disgust as the strong
draught indicated a big cave below.  The
name, ”

“, relates to an aberrant
porker rescued from the entrance pit before providing sustenance for a village

The nearby Krem Umsohtung was also visited and a pitch
descended and surveyed to the head of a second pitch.  We later discovered that this had already
been done more lack of information.

Today’s best find was Krem Mawshun where a split 20m pitch
(left un-descended by Wells C.S.C.C.) led to an extensive horizontal system –
see later.

The 51.5m deep Krem Kdong Moomair was bottomed in one pitch
by Tom, Mandy, Kirsten and Fraser to a choke. The long snake skin at the top of the shaft caused the explorers,
especially Fraser, some concern as to whether its previous occupant was
awaiting them below!

On the following day, after a long drive in our Mahindra 4WD
pick-up, we arrived at Litien village where a couple of local lads were found
to guide us to Krem Wah Sarang (

).  A dry entrance above a small resurgence led
to a fine 200m long, 3m wide and 4m high stream passage to another entrance on
the far side of a ridge, near the sink. Other small caves nearby were investigated but found to be choked or
sumped.  As our pick-up had gone back to
HQ we were forced to hitch a lift home in the diesel soaked back of a monstrous
4WD Shaktiman truck – driven by a lunatic who was obviously late for his
tea.  This was the most exciting part of
the day!

Continuing our recce of this area next day, we went in
search of Kut Sutiang – a hill fort with stone-barricaded caves which was
stormed by the British in 1862 to eradicate the last of the Jaintia
“rebels”.  With the hill in
sight we made a courtesy stop in Shnongrim village and had tea with the
headman. Unfortunately he had previously been approached by the Jaintia
Adventurers Assn. – a breakaway group from the Meghalayan Adventurers – and
they had requested that the area be reserved for them only. Having experienced

‘s first
case of “caving politics” we beat a diplomatic retreat after bribing
the headman with Polaroid photographs of his family.  This short sighted action by the Jaintia
cavers will do little to further serious exploration as they have practically
no equipment, no vertical experience, no survey kit and very little intention
of actually doing any serious caving. They do have a great interest in seeing their names in the papers and
encouraging sponsorship though!  This
problem will be resolved by next year as we have “friends in high

On February 17th-18th survey teams worked in Krem Mawshun to
map several hundred metres of impressive streamway and a maze of wet tubes and
boulder chokes leading to a large flood resurgence entrance in jungle covered
pinnacle karst.  This system’s total length
was 3.3km.

The 19th was a rest day and we were invited to the village
church/school fete very like a typical English one with folk dancing, hoop-la,
tea and cakes etc. but with the exciting addition of a couple of fighting bulls
let loose in the crowd and no safety fences!! Fortunately no-one got gored and the local bull was champion of the day
so the villagers were in fine form, especially after celebrating with the
traditional rice beer.  That night
another party and sing-song developed.

Scenery above Krem Wah Ryngo

Next morning, late, the whole hung over team travelled by
bone shaking Shaktiman for two hours to the remote

village of
.  Here we were shown the dry flood resurgence
of Krem ah Ryngo (

).  With a name like that it was just begging for
passage names with a Beatles theme.  On
this first trip about 1km of impressive, walking size and up to 10m wide
tunnels were surveyed and at least eight main ways on left unexplored.

We returned the next day replete with camping gear and cooks
and established ourselves in a deserted coal miner’s settlement consisting of
several bamboo framed huts devoid of roofs or walls. While the cooks rebuilt
the place we returned to “Ryngo” and split into two teams to survey a
further km or so including a huge, well decorated and sparkling chamber, Lucy
in the Sky With Diamonds, and an attractive Gothic-arched phreatic tunnel-Abbey

That night the jungle resounded to the joyful sounds of yet
another party – this time with a roaring camp fire.  The departed coal miners would have been
impressed as their ghost town sprang back into life for a brief period.

The morning of the 22nd saw the team breakfasting off baked
beans, rice and bananas to the accompaniment of monkeys howling in the
forest.  Another km was surveyed in
“Ryngo” and a short but impressive shaft to surface climbed by
Tom.  This was the dry main sink
entrance, situated on the south side of the Nongklieh ridge above the
camp.  In a plantation here we met three
local rice planters who gave us tea, betel nut and biris (Indian fags).  In return we gave them Wills cigarettes and
demonstrated the joys of lighting lumps of carbide.  Luckily we had George, a Meghalayan caver
with us, who spoke to them in Khasi as they admitted that they were ready to
run off and hide on first seeing the strange white men appear from
nowhere!  We returned to the camp through
the cave and completed a long closed loop to

Abbey Road
en route.

That evening four of us and the two cooks opted to stay for
another night while the others returned to Sutnga.  A huge bonfire and limited rum and fag supply
kept us going as we fondly thought of the body-destroying Shaktiman ride our
colleagues were suffering.

Corned beef hash, noodles, oranges and bananas set us up for
the day and while George and the cooks decamped Tom, Roger and I mapped another
300m of fine passages, loops and a large chamber – The Magical Mystery Tour –
which fortunately led back to known cave after a committing climb down in its
floor.  A low and wet route upstream from
Lucy in the Sky was left unsurveyed due to lack of time and we came out via the
top entrance to walk on up the ridge to the dirt road above.  Here we met George and the cooks who had
built a roadside fire and prepared tea and biscuits.  As night fell and the strains of Roger’s
whistle soothed the savage beasts in the surrounding jungle we saw the welcome
sight of the pick-up’s lights in the distance. Bung, our faithful off-road driver arrived bearing fags and beer and
took us back to Sutnga – tired but happy!

Meanwhile big things were happening at the nearby Krem
Shrieh (


Mark had rigged the gobsmacking 97m deep entrance shaft to
enter a huge stream passage with lots of fossil galleries leading off.  In the adjacent Krem Um Sngad Fraser, Larsing
and team had found over a km of streamway, fossil passages and a large
downstream sump.  This cave eventually
yielded 2.4km.

On 25th four of us drove for, surprisingly, only one hour to
our old stomping ground of Lumshnong village. Here a fruitless recce. was done to try and find the resurgence of

‘s longest
cave – Krem KotsatilUmlawan.  A shaft
reported by local caver Spindro Dkhar was also not found.  The lower altitude here resulted in tropical
temperatures and clouds of multi-coloured butterflies which made up for our
lack of discoveries.  The plateau above
Krem MaTom (Mf. Tom’s Cave) was also looked at and the top of the impressive
30m+ Yorkshire Pot aven (found last year) was located on the surface – shown to
us by immigrant colliers.  After tea with
the villagers in Thangskai, where we had to arrange guides for the next day, we
returned to Sutnga to find that Krem Shrieh had now grown to 1.6km with no sign
of an end.

Back to Thangskai the next day for a long recce. in the
forest with local guide Moon Dkhar (who we decided got his name due to his arse
hanging out of his trousers) about 1 1/2 hours walk from the main road.  The first, Krem Pui Pui (pic above) was found
by following a dry river bed downstream to what the non-English speaking Moon
seemed to indicate was a small hole

Simon going over the edge at Krem Pui Pui

As we stood, suffering from vertigo, on the edge of an awe
inspiring shaft, 34m deep by some 40-50m in diameter we realised that our
interpretation was not correct!  With
only 10m of ladder and a short length of rope we left it for another day and
went to look at the second cave, Krem Thloo Mawriah.  At a mere 13m deep by 25m diameter this was a
baby but still too much for our feeble amount of equipment, despite valorous
attempts to lasso the top of a tree growing up from the base of the shaft in an
attempt to shin down it to the floor. The third cave, Krem Khlien Wah Shyrtong, was reached after a long trek
through dense undergrowth.  A small
entrance in a cliff led to a 10m+ pitch which Simon found to be capped with
loose debris and again needing more tackle than we had with us.  These three pots were formed by breaching of
the thick sandstone cover and being in a previously unvisited area held great
promise for potentially large cave systems filling in the gap between the
Lumshnong and Sutnga karsts.

With the arrival that night of the party-loving Ladies of
Shillong, plus a few more Adventurers, the inevitable happened.  Gorged on beer, betel nut and Beatles songs a
few hardy souls were suddenly surprised to find that it was daylight.  After staggering off to bed at 6am it was not
long before we were up again and on the road to Lumshnong where Brian and I
visited the extension in my dig in Krem Umkhang/Kharasniang.  This was to confirm Tony Boycott’s report of
last year that it was too tight to push further without more banging or awkward
hammer and chisel work.  Four other party
survivors managed a Krem Kotsati tourist trip.

On 28th Simon, Fraser and I were back at Krem Pui Pui with
plenty of rope, SRT kit and a video camera. Simon abseiled first into this mini “Lost World” followed by
Fraser, our cameraman.  I joined them to
find that the only way on was a sink passage almost completely choked with
trees, boulders and bamboo.  I managed to
dig through some of this to reach a blind 4m aven and then down through the
floor into a most unpleasant section of draughting, spider-infested crawls over
rotting vegetation which would need a considerable amount of digging to
progress further.  A similar result
occurred at Krem Mawriah where the pitch was laddered to reach a boulder choked
draughting hole in the floor of the main shaft which would be a suicidal
dig.  We had no time left to descend the
third cave and our hopes for the potential of this area now having been
drastically reduced we headed back to Sutnga to find that the others had had
more success, Krem Shrieh now being over 5km.

29th February -St. Alactite’s Day.  To celebrate this rare event I joined the
Krem Shrieh team on a survey trip.  As my
last SRT trip had been a year previously in Synrang Pamiang I was a bit rusty
on the changeovers on the 97m entrance pitch so had plenty of time to admire
the view and ridiculous amount of exposure!

At the pitch bottom we first mapped 120m of low inlet
passage containing a couple of small animal skulls.  Tom then noticed a complete and very dead
racoon-like creature curled up in a nest of leaves and still with all it’s fur
intact.  How did it get here?

On downstream to survey a series of large oxbows and smaller
inlets for another 1.5km leaving several huge upper levels unlooked at.  These were in the Orang Utan Series, the cave
having a “monkey” theme.  The
prusik out in the dark was even more of a “ring clencher” than the
descent as tiny spots of light signified colleagues on the chamber floor and
lower ropes.

The next day Kate, Fraser, Tom and Mark continued with the
survey – three of them opting to stay in overnight to make the most of the time
available.  Another 2km was added to
bring the final total to 8.66km and the title of

‘s fourth longest cave, a just
reward for the effort and enthusiasm put in by them.  There is still potential for a few hundred
metres here by surveying various small inlets.

Brian, Simon, Kirsten and I, led by Larsing, had taken the
easy option and returned to Litien village to continue the survey of the
impressive Krem Iawe – a river cave partly explored and mapped by the Wells
team.  Our only information was a good
thumbnail sketch by Kate and a write up in Caves & Caving.  A search by Simon and co. the previous day
had failed to reveal the cave and it had become a matter of honour to finish
the job.

The redoubtable Larsing took us straight to it and,
resisting the temptation to go off looking for another wife to add to his
collection, accompanied us underground in dry grots.  We had read the poor description provided and
wore life jackets and wet suits!

The deep entrance pot was entered halfway down by a crawl
from the surface and a steep slope then followed to a short climb and huge
river passage.  On the LH side, facing
upstream, we surveyed over 200m of labyrinthine, dry, phreatic passages ignored
by the Wells explorers.  Leaving Larsing
and the fag supply on a bit of dry ground we then commenced surveying upstream
in a waist deep canal.  As we progressed
the canal passages multiplied to become a fantastic flooded maze with the
chilly water held up by a series of bright orange rimstone dams.  A very large black bat insisted on sharing
the same airspace as ourselves and at one point missed the tip of my nose by
the thickness of an After Eight mint. With 188m in the bag the maze became even
more complicated, time was running out and we were all cold so we left the
place with scores of ways on in an underground reflection of the street-like
grykes in the pinnacle karst on the surface above.  There will be a few more kms in this place
yet and we haven’t even looked downstream! The shivering Larsing was collected on the way out and in true form had
a bonfire raging at the entrance within seconds.  It’s a wonder that there is any forest left
in Meghalaya with the amount of fires visible at night from any high
ground.  A surreal walk back across the
flat paddy fields in the dark was followed by tea and shortbreads at the local
chai shop and the usual Polaroid donation.

March 2nd was our last day in Sutnga and Fraser wanted some
video footage of local coal miners. Adora accompanied us to one of the nearest workings to the LB. to act as
translator – the miners being immigrant Nepalese. They were delighted to be
filmed and much of the medieaval methods of mining such as hauling coal carts,
filling baskets etc. was recorded.  We
then crawled underground with them to film a collier hand picking a shallow
coal seam.  In return they were given
Polaroid snaps and lent our Petzl helmets – probably the first head protection
they had ever worn!

Later that day we returned to Shillong via the hundreds of
impressive, ancient monoliths at Nartiang village.

On 3rd March a day trip to Cherrapunjee (now once again
officially the wettest place on Earth) was made to tidy up the survey of the
Krem Lumshlan/Rong Umsoh/Soh Pang Bniat system. In three teams we mapped over 700m of ongoing passage in the two main
arms of this complicated cave network. Some fine, superbly decorated streamway was found leading to yet another
maze of low passages.  Mark had a nasty
fall when a bamboo maypole we had persuaded him to slide down snapped under his
weight.  We later realised that it had
been used as a canopy support over an active limekiln and had subsequently been
baked brittle!  Moral – always use green

The weekend was booked for a coach ride, ferry trip and
beach party to the
River, near the

border.  With the Ladies of Shillong in charge and
several crates of beer on board it promised to be a memorable occasion!  We took the scenic road via Mawsynram and
eventually reached the river at dusk. This was just enough time to board the ferry for a short voyage to the
nearest upriver sandbank where camp was established, huge bonfire built, chef
put to work, chicken sledge hammered,
food eaten and beer drunk.  The usual
sing-song was dampened by heavy showers which necessitated crowded tents of
revellers and the omnipresent, whistle playing Ronie.

We awoke to a fine, hot day and chicken curry for
breakfast.  A Garo fisherman was hired to
take some of us across the river to look at an impressive rock shelter, Lieng U
Blei (Gods’ Boat), the legend being that the gods were building a vessel but
were interrupted by a cock crowing and left it unfinished, upside down -which
is exactly what it looks like.

Gods’ Boat

Two wooden canoes and their Garo oarsmen were then hired to
take us 1 1/2 hours upriver to the first river junction.  It was here that we found out that the caves
and limestone were actually at the second river junction, two days paddling
upstream!  Making the best of it we spent
the day festering, swimming, drinking and admiring a couple of working
elephants which appeared from the side valley dragging huge tree trunks.  One also carried Mark and the dreaded Ronie
as the mahout had offered them a lift. One of the boats had returned downriver and on to the


border post to buy more beer at double the usual price as it was a Sunday.

On the way back to Shillong that night Fraser, Mark and I
got dragged into a “shebeen” in Mawsynram to sample the delights of
rice beer.  This is sold in a poly bag
and looks like a fairground prize without the goldfish!  It was apparently good stuff as none of us
went blind.

On 6th March the last caving trip was made to Cherrapunjee
where Simon, Kirsten and Mark added 100m to the Umsoh system survey and the
rest of us recced the hills above the cave. Some small but interesting sites were found for further investigation
next year.

Once again a magnificent time was had and some world class
cave explored and surveyed – 20.34 km in all which was well up to standard
considering that there were fewer cavers than last year, much more travelling
to the caves was done and there were several unprofitable but necessary recce
days.  With the 3.8km (snigger, snigger)
found by the Devon/Yorkshire team the Meghalayan total is now well over 150km.  Who said there are no significant caves in


Our undying thanks must go to the Meghalayan Adventurers –
especially Brian and Maureen, the Boks, Rose, Swer, Neil and Betty, Barri and
all the cooks, drivers, assistants, Ladies, chai shop owners and beer suppliers
(in the words of Fraser “swally wallahs”).

REFS:- Edmunds P. “Earthquakes, cobras and marsala
tea” Caves & Caving no 85 (Autumn 1999) pp21-23.

Various expedition reports, articles in the BB and
International Caver and MSS Logs (A. Jarratt)


New Scientist Radon

A recent article in New Scientist (5th April) warns about
the exposure to Radon that cavers could be subjecting themselves to.

“Researchers from University College Northampton and
Hospital in Swindon measured Radon in
a popular system of caves in the Mendip Hills in

. They found that cavers who spent just 40 hours a year underground could
receive a radiation dose of as much as 4 millisieverts – four times the annual
safety limit for members of the public recommended by the UN ….. Guides and
instructors spending 800 hours a year underground could receive as much as 120
millisieverts five times the safety limit for radiation workers”  (Journal of Environmental Radioactivity vol
49, p235).  Worried cavers should read
the article!

White Pit

A new entrance lock has been fitted to the cave as the
intellectually challenged have been dropping stones down the entrance
shaft.  If you were a previous keyholder
either call on Tony Jarratt at Bat Products or contact Rich Long (the caving


Following an act of vandalism in this cave, the access
controller, Charterhouse Centre, Near Blagdon, BS40 7XR on behalf of Somerset
County Council the landowner, have further restricted access to the cave.  The lock has been changed and the key will
only be available via Charterhouse Centre as before.  In future, all visitors will be asked to fill
in a log.  Further work on strengthening
the lid, retaping sensitive areas and recording formations will take
place.  This work will be carried out by
Cheddar Caving Club under the guidance of CSCC/Charterhouse.  No novice groups, leader plus six members


West Australia 2000

by Mr. Wilson

Rich Long and myself, plus our respective wives decided to
W Australia in March 2000.  The plan was to visit the various relatives,
go walking and fit some caving in.  Rich
was going to stay somewhere near Rockingham (south of
and we were staying with Hillary’s sister at Yanchep (north of

).  As it worked out I never did find out where
Rich and his wife managed to stay but I am sure that they really enjoyed
themselves!  Hilary and I plus Pat and
Neville went down to the

and camped at the
only site there.  I managed to fall foul
of “JOYCE” the idiot site owner who seemed to think that customers
were there to be patronised.  This was a
shame because the site was in a good location in a National Park (hence the
monopoly).  Her name was not Joyce but
she reminded us of Joyce Grenfell of St Trinians fame.

Hilary, Neville (the brother in law) Pat (the sister in law)
and myself managed to ascend two of the major peaks.  Neville did really well – he just took two of
his live longer pills and then proceeded to climb (Bluff Knoll 1073m and
Tolbrunnup 1052m) Tolbrunnup was the hardest of the two.  These mountains are very much like the
Snowdonia range in

but they have their own eco system which is totally opposite to British
mountains.  The approach walks are fairly
dry and featureless but as you get to the 500m mark the undergrowth starts to
sprout, getting more and more lush until the top is reached.  This is due to the cooler temperatures and
cloud and rain around the top of the range. It is possible to have difficulty pushing through the thick lush growth
on some of the lesser-walked peaks!  This
range stands alone in the south west of OZ as the highest points, but 60k south
of the Stirlings lie the Porongorups which resemble the Malvern hills, these
hills have many more roads leading to the start of the routes and have several
camping and caravan sites on or nearby. The region is basically a farming area, mostly cattle on a grand scale
probably like the small American ranches.

We liked this area and would have been happy to spend a
couple of days more exploring the soft and accessible hills, in the end we
managed to ascend two routes here, Castle Rock a super route with a boulder
finish and good views, and a short Karri Tree walk through the forest towards
Devils Slide.  For those who have an
interest in forests the Karri tree walk in

is a must, you walk 30m up on a
walkway high in the treetops, we really enjoyed our afternoon there.

Having toured the south coast a little, Hilary and I visited

on a private tourist trip.  This is a stunning cave, very well decorated
and well worth a visit.  There are many
caves nearby which I visited later. North of Perth in a National Park is Yanchep, a caving area (mostly
small caves similar to Burrington). Hilary and I went on a very good walk in the National Park which
encompassed most of the caving area (we also found a really superb bunkhouse in
the middle of the bush, which would make a good base for cave exploration, see
photo).  The major caves in the region are
for the tourists, that is
Crystal and

, not overly long.  There are 500 caves in all, mostly
numbered.  The principal explorer of the
region, Lex Bastian told me that it would be impossible to name all the sites
and caves, so you have this quaint situation where someone says we are going to
visit no. 54 today, meaningless to anyone else, but very practical!  For example


(yn 485, the largest cave in the area to date from my map would be 260m 027deg
magnetic from yn 484.  This cave is a
short distance out from the western foot of a fairly steep ridge, the entrance
being the largest solution pipe in the centre of a solution doline with several
exposed pinnacles.

The Western Australia Speleo Society were very helpful to me
and I managed to spend a busy long weekend with them at Margaret River, the
principal caving area at the moment with 300 caves listed at this time!  Their shed is big and roomy but has no water
or sanitation plus no lighting, this means every thing has to be brought with
you (it also has these quaint tree squirrels that run up and down the tin roof
at night – very noisy)!  The toilet
consisted of a spade and a beer crate with a toilet seat attached to the top,
the plan being to walk as far away as possible, dig a large hole, place the
crate on top, sit on the seat and perform, backfill hole and return to shed
with crate under your arm.  “No one
would possibly know where you have been.” The club took me to the flat roof extensions in

a totally wonderful place with floor to ceiling pretties everywhere.  The cave itself is a fairly easy trip but the
high humidity and CO2 levels can make it seem hard going, the series is about
40m deep and in total 3k long.  The water
table has been dropping for about 12 years now and there is a great deal of
discussion as to what is the cause (it is now a good metre lower).  Our next visit was Moondyne which is an
“adventure cave”.  It was also
well decorated and contained some extremely good cave coral, it used to be

for many years but
has now reverted back to its original name. The cave would not put anybody to the test but is worth a visit.  It has fairly high CO2 levels and is only
approx. 400 m long.  The next day I

. This was the highlight of my trip (I have subsequently discovered that
this is the most well decorated cave in

).  We spent some time wandering in the bush
trying to find the entrance.  This is not
surprising as the cave is only open 4 times a year to parties of 4 (very tight
access).  I was privileged to get a trip
on this visit many thanks to WASS.  It is
a superb cave, stunningly decorated, 2k long and about 40m running depth.  There were some small lakes and ducks, but
the steady drop in the water table has made the trip easier and dry with a
lovely draught.  We have nothing like
this in

Great Britain
15 to 16 degrees temp and 80% humidity. There is more beauty lying on the floor than in the whole of GB cave on
Mendip; the crowning glory being the LEMON, a wonderful rounded stalagmite with
a reddish coloured base.  Apart from the
10m entrance ladder pitch and several dry crawls the trip was not hard as we
know it.  I sincerely hope that the tight
access arrangements keep this cave safe from mindless idiots.  Deepdene was my next cave which involved a
walk in the bush but we found it first time. WASS have been doing access checks with little trigger machines powered
by batteries.  This was basically a trip
to help them retrieve the kit.  The
person who is conducting this survey is a WILLET CLONE right down to beer pot
smile and general build, I couldn’t believe my eyes so I head butted him and
got a Willet result “GRUNT GIGGLE hit me again.”  This guy John is Willet’s doppelganger!


Hilary Wilson in the hut at Yanchep

We had a look at the cave which at one time must have had
some really superb gours they have now all dried up.  The whole system was only 160m long.  Years ago people used to light fires to
illuminate the formations (in the 1890s it was common practice to illuminate
the King’s Chamber with burning rushes. They would then retire from the cave and watch the smoke drifting lazily
from the entrance!).  Luckily this
practice has died out now!

My last cave visit was Brides, a 50m deep hole doline with a
small cave at the bottom right hand side. There used to be a wooden ladder / staging which served as access, but
it burnt down in a bush fire (probably the same fire that demolished the first
WASS hut).  Perhaps this was the same
fire that burnt the BEC hut down!  The
access is now a 50m abseil via some bollards – quite pleasant.  This concluded our tour of West Australia and
I drove back to


in the borrowed 4 – wheel drive Nissan Patrol. (Thanks Neville I could not have managed without transport).  We intend to return in the near future and go
north where there are even more caves and good walking.  I cannot thank all the Western Australia
Speleo Society cavers enough for their efforts and the Retirement Rellies who
we sponged off for four weeks (so they say!).

Mike Wilson.

NB I am going to buy some of the brother in law’s livelong
pills just in case they work.

Ross (WASS member) in Easter cave

Mike Wilson’s Map of the area visited in

Western Australia

 (Apologies for the
quality – Ed.)


Male Pin-ups?

Some Pin-ups for the female club members – all in

St. George’s
in Assynt. 

Photos by Peter Glanville.



by Peter Glanvill

The following comments were prompted by features in the last
2 BB’s.  First of all with regard to
Wig’s article on lost caves (BB Dec. 99 Vol. 50 No 12) I would suggest that the
cave Trevor Knief found on Cothelstone Hill which was subsequently dug at and
photographed by myself and Tony Boycott is that mentioned in 19th century
writings.  The cave we found consists of
a large chamber about 10 metres long and 2 metres wide the entrance of which
had been obscured by a cliff fall which has now slumped into it forming a scree
slope which obscures the natural height of the chamber – probably 2 metres
plus.  When we dug at the end we found
the remains of a clay pipe.  I know this
doesn’t prove habitation but does suggest the cave has been open in the past.  The size of the cave suggests extensions may
be possible and there are choked side passages but they would need quite a bit
of digging.

Elsewhere on the Quantocks we have

.  I have visited the area and you can see the
engine house in a field – a little piece of Cornish landscape on the
Quantocks.  Of more interest is that Nick
Chipchase’s research revealed that the mine was closed but mothballed and the
shafts capped.  The adits remained but
have all slumped in except for one.  This
opens into a lane in the Dodington area and is invisible to the casual
eye.  Unfortunately this low drainage
adit was bisected by a brick lined water extraction shaft.  This presented an obstacle to exploration up
the adit until local cavers chiselled away a course of bricks either side of
the shaft to enable progress upstream. Unfortunately when the site was visited in 1987 the diggers were
chagrined to find after another 5 metres that some of the stone lintels roofing
the adit where it ran under the field above had collapsed blocking the way
on.  Further digging just produced more
collapse.  This would be an ideal site
for a Hymac dig at the point in the field where the adit enters solid rock and
would allow access to a perfectly preserved mine (and the cave of course).  Nobody has visited the site for 13 years.  If you want to know more contact me or Nick

See – Men and Mining
on the Quantocks by J.R. Hamilton and J.F. Lawrence 1970


Rob is to be congratulated on re-inventing the wheel with
regard to the caves at Beer.  These were
originally mapped, listed and surveyed and the descriptions published by Chris
Proctor in The Caves of East Devon. The cover has a nice drawing by the author
of the largest cave.  I have got photos
of some of them but cannot find them at present!  I did try to match up all the names but Chris
has listed more than Rob and the grid refs are more detailed.  He lists over 40 caves, the longest of which
is known as the Hall and runs through the point north of Beer Head.  Another cave nearer
Beach is known as


and has about 67 metres of passage with several levels.  I strongly recommend visitors check tide
times before having a look here.  It is
possible to traverse the entire distance from
Beach to the


(the beach below the Hooken Landslip) on a low spring tide and then walk back
over the top of the cliffs.  Visit on a
falling tide for obvious reasons.

Finally, on the next page, for those looking for curiosities
take a look at the adit running off the beach just to the east of
Sidmouth.  It lies about 100 metres along
the beach from the river mouth and may be obscured by cliff falls.  The tunnel was driven from somewhere inland
reasons unknown.  The entrance to the
adit was visited in February 98 and at that time there was an easily negotiable
grille over it.  You will probably find
notices telling you not to use the beach if you go there.  I haven’t been down the adit – the fact that
it is in red marl is just a teensy off putting but it is down for a ‘nothing to
do on a wet day’ visit some time.

Sidmouth Adit

Looking out of Sidmouth Adit


From a Belgian magazine given to J’rat detailing articles on
Priddy Green Sink.

Het beste uit andere

Doorsteek Priddy
Green – Swildons Hole

Vincent Coessens vertaaide voor u dit artikel met de
‘officielle’ versie van deze doorsteekm vorsachen in de ”Belfry Bulletin”  Het is zowat het meest scabbreuze dat ooit
ib Spelerpes vewrscheen.  Lees ouk het
virige artikel en heb medelijen met de Belgische speleo’s die zich lieten

The best from other

Through trip Priddy
green – Swildons Hole

Vincent Coessens translated the official version of the
explorations that led to the through trip from BEC’s  Belfry Bulletin.  One of the darkest tales Sperliepes ever
published .  Have a look at the
previous article and feel sorry for everyone who has ever been there!

Flash sur les autres

Traversee Priddy
green – Swildons Hole

Vincent Coessens a traduit pour vous cet article qui est
la version officielle de cette traverse.  C’est vle texto le plus scabreux ayant jamias paru dans la
Spelerpes.  Lisez aussi l’article
precedent et ayez pitie de ces pauvres speleos beiges qui vse sont fait



Pages From The Belfry Log

15/4/00             Swildons

John Williams and Andy Smith

Down to sump two and back: Met a party on the 20 whose lifelining technique was similar to fly

16/4/00             Swildons

Down to sump, in via the wet way with high level detour to
avoid a large group.  Once through the
sump we left our tackle bags at the turning for the Black Hole and continued
down towards sump 2.  We climbed up to
the Landing and continued on up to the Troubles.  We ducked through quite a few ducks until we
got to the one which appeared to be the last of them all, and certainly the
worst of them all.  JW sumped it, but me
– no way!  After a quick baling session
on the other side, JW returned then we went to what appeared to be Vicarage
Pot.  On the way back passed what seemed
to be the descent to NW stream passage? Got back to the bottom of the landing and looked at some very muddy
passage that didn’t go far – thankfully, then back to the tackle sacks where
both our batteries ran out!

After changing to fresh lights we went up Approach Passage
and then came back and went up Howard’s Dig crawl instead!  At the T junction we turned left down Mayday
Passage and then headed back up towards the Black Hole.  My battery turned out to be not so fresh, and
so the Black Hole remained black (for me) and we turned around and headed back
out, never having used any of the tackle we’d brought with us!  A cool trip, which finished off even nicer


produced some hot food for us. Cheers!

16/4/00             Wigmore

Vince and Greg

An excellent sporting trip down to the upstream and
downstream sumps.  My first time in the
cave and I was impressed.  I’m sure I
will do it again (Greg Brock)


Mike and Tim’s silly Northern Adventure

We did playing on string and other silly games in:


Cowpot (Easegill),

Gaping Ghyll,(dihedral route)

Tatham + Vin (Northern Bird 1)

Bore Hole and Split Sinks + other
silly hole in Easegill Beck


+ Liz (Northern Bird II)


+ Liz

Marble Steps + Liz

Alum Pot + Liz

Had a top time even though most of the entrances took many
hours to find.  Best trips were Dihedral
route – amazing exposure and great views; once Mike ran back to Clapham to get
his helmet! and

(we found it at 7.30

22/4/00             Ogof

Vince, Bob Smith, Mr.Smith, Dave Fear, James Adie

Down to Megadrive for a bimble!


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details
–  Contact

June 10-11                 Cavers
Fayre Priddy

16-18                         BCRA

18                              Pwll
Du CMG meet: 10.30 Gwesty Bach, Brynmawr

July 7-9                      NCA
Cavers Fair, Pindale Farm, Derbyshire

14-18                         1st
NAMHO International Conference,


August 1                    BCRA
research fund deadline

25-28                         ISSA
Yorkshire Dales – Robin Gray

27                              Columns
Open Day, OFD

31                              Ghar
Parau foundation grant application deadline

Sept 15-17                 Hidden
Earth 2000, NCC Bristol

Oct 20-22                   Issa
Workshop, North wales


January 1                   Columns
Open Day OFD

12-14                         ISSA
Workshop and AGM, Mendip

New members

Welcome to the club and meet soon in the “Hunters”

Ian Matthews, Frome, Helen Hunt,

, Philip Middleton, Nailsea James
Weir, Wells, Dave Fear, Wookey.


© 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.