The
Bristol
Exploration Club, The Belfry,

Wells
Road
, Priddy, Wells,

Somerset
.
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
general

Editors Ramblings

and gleanings from the comers of the Hunters Lodge

Congratulations to Rich and Leslie Blake (nee Sibley) on
their wedding at Shepton Registry Office on Sat 11th November.

Christmas is nearly upon us and all that goes with it;
caving trips with hangovers, caving trips wearing tinsel, the lunch at the
Belfry and a whole day of drinking (hopefully) in good or bad company.  As the years pass there is only one thing
that you can rely on and that is the caving. Whether caving abroad or in the heart of the Mendip Hills, I hope that
you all enjoy the festive season and the caving that you are now free to do in
the short break before the return to work-don’t forget to write the
articles!  All the best to all Belfryites
– Ed

Recent news from the AGM was that Tony Jarratt has been
elected as an honorary life member for services to the club.  See picture.

The BEC nearly get into space!  Ben Ogbourne of Westbury sub Mendip is
currently training as part of a team of three people who have won a place in a
European Space Agency project.  Just
think where will members get to next!

Thanks to Dizzie Thompsett – Clarke for the recent donation
of several Mendip maps to the club library.

 

Tony Jarratt with life membership and a large cider mug from
Chas.

A big thankyou to all who sent articles in for
publication.  Once again, I am indebted
to the few regulars, so all readers out there, pick up your electronic pens and
write something.  I would PREFER articles
in Word format as the easiest for ME to deal with.  If you are working in other formats, changes
to your article are very likely!!

I am happy to type out non-word processed pieces of interest
so long as they are about a page – with pics even better.  So, get writing, next issue out around April
time. Ed

 

The Bildon’s Mole Project

by Dave Yeandle (Pooh)

In 1978 I was living in
Yorkshire
and rather low on funds.  I had been
trying to get a job in oil exploration but had been rejected on the fairly
reasonable grounds of having no qualifications or relevant experience.  Perhaps it would be possible to make some
money out of caving?  After some thought,
I came up with a scheme.  I would survey
Swildons Hole on the Mendips.  Then I
would publish it and sell copies at a profit. I reasoned that the only available survey of Swildons was out of date
and as this was such a popular cave, then my survey would sell very well.  I needed an assistant for this project and
started to scout around for somebody suitable.

To my delight Geoff Yeadon agreed to come along.  I stressed to Geoff that this was a serious
business venture.  I further explained
that I had calculated that if we went down Swildons two days out of three and
averaged trips of ten hours then we could expect to have the survey completed
in two weeks.  Of course we would have to
make sure that we stayed out of the pub as drinking would result in a loss of motivation
and seriously jeopardise the project. Geoff agreed to all this and made a suggestion.  “There is a need for secrecy here
D.W” he said with a perfectly straight face.  “Why don’t we code name this excellent
plan of yours “The Bildons Mole Project”

Why not indeed!  We
slipped away from the Dales and headed south. We stopped off at Buxton and
purchased a compass and clinometer from Caving Supplies.  This cost me £55.00, so my scheme was already
running at a substantial loss.  I told
myself that this was actually a very sound investment.  We later heard that our appearance in Caving
Supplies had started several rumours in the Derbyshire Caving world.

When we arrived on Mendip we immediately set off down
Swildons.  I had decided that this first
trip should be a long one in order to make a good start.  I reckoned that we should survey Black Hole
Series, Saint Pauls and as much of the streamway out from sump one as we could
all in one go.

We made rapid progress to the end of Black Hole and started
to survey out.

Now it all went rather slowly and I started to remember that
there are quite a few rather unpleasant side passages in Swildons and all these
would have to be included in the survey. We had surveyed about half of Black Hole Series when I noticed a side
passage, about the third one already. The previous ones had been horrid. I pretended not to notice this uninviting hole and carried on down the
main route.  Geoff was not letting me get
away with this.

“D.W. Yeandle, get up that passage immediately”.

“I’m sorry Geoff, what side passage are you talking
about?” I replied dishonestly.

Laughter, “You know as well as I do, get along it at
once!”  Groans, as I disappear along
a squalid tube.

After a while we emerge from the side passage.  My wetsuit was in shreds and I’m bruised,
muddy, cold and rather pissed off.  I was
having second thoughts about “The Bildons Mole Project”.  I really didn’t want to continue but also did
not want to admit this to Geoff.

“I’m really enjoying this Geoff I lie, “How about
you?”  “Never been so happy,
D.W. old chap”

“I think this is going to take us longer than I
thought” I ventured.

“As long as you are happy to continue, I will not let
you down”

Typical!  “Geoff,
I don’t want to do this”  Laughter,
“Thank goodness for that” said Geoff jovially.  “I expected you to give up this mad plan
long before this!  I was wondering how
much more I had to put up with”.

We headed rapidly out of the cave. “Bildons Mole”
was over.

So there we were on Mendip and neither of us had a job, we
had no real plans for the future.  For
several days we hung around Mendip, spending rather too much time in the
Hunters Lodge.  After a conversation with
Martin Grass, we regained some sort of direction.  Martin, along with Martin Bishop was diving
the coming Saturday in Wookey Hole. “Would we like to join them.” Good idea, I also suggested that Geoff and myself survey Wookey 20.  It had not been surveyed accurately and I
felt I should at least put my new surveying equipment to some good use.

We had an enjoyable dive to 20 in superb visibility; the
only slight mishap being a large slab being dislodged when one of the divers
was climbing out of the sump pool in Wookey 20. This unfortunately resulted in the last section of the shallow route
line being buried.  After a quick look
around the two Martins set off out leaving Geoff and myself to do our
survey.  It all went rather smoothly with
only one small argument temporarily spoiling the proceedings.  This occurred when Geoff insisted that I
grovel into some disgusting passage in order that the survey would be complete.

“This passage is horribly tight, and half full of muddy
water,”I protested.

“D.W don’t be such a poof!  You have recently navigated 500 foot of
underwater passage and I’m quite sure you can manage this”.

Geoff as usual was right, and muttering I entered the
offending passage.

Once we had finished our survey we set off back out through
the sump.  It was by now evening and the
show cave was closed.  This was not a
problem until we had exited the cave and found ourselves confronted with a
large metal gate, with spikes on the top, barring our exit from the show cave
grounds.  I climbed up to the top of the
gate and while precariously perched, Geoff started to pass diving gear up to
me.  This operation was interrupted by
the arrival of the manager of

Wookey
Hole
Caves
.

Suspecting burglars he shone a torch at me and demanded an
explanation.

I started to try to explain, but fortunately the gentleman
now recognised Geoff from a TV film that had been made at Wookey.  He was now very friendly and kindly opened
the gate for us, after I had climbed down.

We then attended a very enjoyable bad taste party at the
Priddy Village Hall.

Martin Bishop turned up wearing only a jock strap.  Phil Colette turned up as me.  One lady dressed in tight black leather and
brandishing a whip, insisted on chasing Geoff and myself around the dance
floor.  A Rolling Stones record was being
played loudly (Sympathy for the Devil) and when Geoff wasn’t jumping out of the
way of the whip, did his rather realistic Mick Jagger impersonation.

The next day we went back to
Yorkshire.  Geoff started work on the Keld Head film, The
Underground Eiger.  I continued to look
for a means to make some money. Christmas week 1978: I’m back on Mendip for the festive season and
decided to do a pushing dive in Swildons sump 12.  What follows is an extract from the Martin
Grass’s log book.

Swildons Hole. 30. 12.
78           Self and Dave Yeandle

Aim: Yeandle to dive
sump twelve with 40 cu. ft. bottle and 150ft. of line reel.  I was to be support diver.

After spending four
hours trying to find carriers, two lads from the M.E.G. gave us a hand to take
gear down to sump two via the

Wet
Way
.  The
water was high and very cold.  At this
point Dave decided not to do a pushing trip and to leave some of the gear,
fins, line reel etc.  Then his main bulb
blew so he continued on Aqua -Flashes. We dived sumps two and three and continued to my first dive of sump
four, which was a lot easier than I had thought.  Once through we met two lads on their way
back from free diving to sump nine.  When
we reached sump five we could not find the airspace (water level rather
high).  Dave following the line but it
led to an underwater mud bank.  At this
point my light started fading so we decided to abandon the trip and make our
way out on two Aqua-Flashes.  When we
reached sump one the two lads who had gone to nine plus some friends helped get
our gear out.

When we were at last
out there was a hailing snow blizzard and everything iced up (hair, ladder
etc.).  A pleasant, but frustrating trip
to sump five.

After a really huge session in the Hunters on New Years Eve
(I am trying to remember if this was the year that Fish and myself collapsed in
a ditch on our way back to the Belfry and had to be rescued by Liz, but no,
those brain cells seem to be gone) I returned to Yorkshire and finally got a
job.

Dave Yeandle

 

Alaska 2000

By Rob Harper

It’s true confessions time. Many years ago when the earth was young and we still called SRT
“abseiling and prusiking” (and other people called it a suicidal cult
that would never replace ladders) I was a

Wessex
member.  Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe but I
was.  I still occasionally go to Wessex
Anonymous meetings.  However I digress.  In those days I caved with a fellow by the
name of Paul Hadfield who left
Britain
in 1980 to take up residence in

British
Columbia
and become, eventually, an avalanche
technician.  He got married to Dooley
Walsh (also

Wessex
)
and over the years we kept up an intermittent flow of correspondence about two
rungs above the once-a-year-Christmas-card level.  His caving days seemed to be over by the end
of the 80’s.  All his letters and
telephone calls kept urging us to “get our arses” over there to do
some “serious ski touring”. Certainly when we visited him in the early 90’s he confirmed our worst
suspicions.  There was apparently too
much fishing/canoeing/climbing/skiing to do.

The first inkling that this situation had changed came not
from Paul himself but from J’rat who casually remarked to me in the Hunters one
day that Paul had telephoned with an order for caving equipment.  My curiosity was aroused and at our next
contact I asked about it.  Apparently he
had been bitten by the bug again after hearing of cave discoveries on Prince of
Wales Island in the
Tongass
National Park in

Alaska
. This island is only about 100 miles, as the crow flies, from his abode
(at that time) in Stewart.  By the
standards of caving in that region that’s closer than Cuthbert’s is to the
Belfry.  He went across one year and has
been going back for about a month each summer ever since.  Eventually we succumbed to his tales of misty
forests and virgin cave on every trip (and his lies about no bears!) and this
summer Helen and I plus Keith Sanderson from the
Wessex
travelled over to meet him and Dooley on the
Island.

Time now for a bit of background on the area and the caving
politics.  Prince of Wales Island is one
of an archipelago of karst islands that lie a few miles off the coast of
British Columbia but actually belong to Alaska. Together with a small area of the mainland they make up the

Tongass
National Park
.  The whole area is densely covered with
temperate rainforest.  POWI itself is the
third largest Island in the USA at about 120 miles long and a maximum of 50
miles wide and aligned in a NW-SE direction (see map).  Currently caves are have been located in
small clusters at locations all over the island.  The caves are almost certainly far more
widespread.  However due to the immense
difficulty of moving through the forest once a cave is located there tends to
be fairly intensive investigation in the immediate vicinity.  Hence the clusters.

The forest is potentially a source of enormous income for
the local people most of whom are ethnically Native Americans/First Nation –
it’s not very PC to call them Indians these days.  So they want to log it.  Before they can log it the Forestry Service
need to produce an environmental impact assessment.  Are you with me so far?  Concentrate because it starts to get even
more complex in a moment.  Also, in the

USA
, they have
something called the Cave Protection Act, which as the name implies confers a
degree of protection on any cave system. In order to assess the importance of a cave system and thus its level of
protection it needs to be explored and surveyed.  To comply with these regulations the US
Forestry Service has funded an exploration programme each summer in which they
provide free accommodation, food, transport and group equipment in return for
exploration and survey work by any cavers who turn up.  However conservation groups (AKA
“tree-huggers”) are convinced that the Forestry Service survey
programme is not good enough in a number of respects.  Therefore they have banded together and
obtained grants to fund an independent exploration and survey project known as
the Tongass Cave Project – henceforward referred to as the TCP.  The main agenda of the TCP is not exploration
of caves but collection of information to use to try and preserve the primary
forest in the region.  We were caving
with the TCP rather than the Forestry group. According to Paul they are slightly less regimented.  Also we were told that the newly appointed
liaison officer with the Forestry Service had not managed to organise a
schedule this year and thus there was no official exploration programme.

That’s enough of that – now back to the narrative.

Continental Airlines (not quite the cheapest but it felt
like it) got us to
Seattle via

Newark
in 18 hours; arriving at 11:35pm local
time.  The 11-hour wait until our onward
flight to

Alaska

was passed by scouring the airport for somewhere quiet and deserted to kip
down.  A couple of hints – go to the
mezzanine floor, as it’s quiet but don’t sleep on the baggage trolleys as
someone turns up at 5 am to claim them. A 90 minute hop with the world’s most amusing airline, Alaska Airways,
and we were in Ketchikan in time for a couple of pints (Alaskan Amber –
excellent) lunch and a long dozy afternoon before catching the 11pm ferry for
POWLI.  This utilitarian vessel dropped
us at POWI ferry terminal at Hollis (two huts and a car park) at about 1:00am
and after a quick search for something better it was out with the mats,
sleeping bags and bivibags and off to the

land of
Nod
.  Helen claims that a crowd of people turned up
for a 6:00am sailing but we only have her word for it as Keith and I slept
through.  We awoke to a bright and sunny
mid-morning – in fact for the bulk of our stay POWI had a freakish spell of
warm dry weather.  Two brews of tea later
our transport arrived in the form of Val White the partner of Pete Smith (they
are a local caving couple who are one of the mainstays of the TCP).  We piled into the old pickup and headed
towards

Whale
Pass
a small community in the North of
the island stopping en route to do food shopping at the last supermarket and to
view some old totem poles.



Map of Northern USA to show the location of  Prince of Wales island

POWI is a bit like being in a mega-version of Stock Hill
Plantation.  Miles and miles of dirt
roads through rolling hills covered by trees, trees, more trees and yet more
trees punctuated by the occasional lake brought us to a sign hanging over the
road saying, “Welcome to Deliverance”.  Thus we came to

Whale
Pass

a scattering of forestry tracks, dwellings and abandoned vehicles in the forest
tucked at the end of a long inlet from the sea. Val took us for a tour of the sights, both of them, the shop (a locked
Portacabin) and the post office (a wooden bus shelter with shelves).  Then it was back to our accommodation a half
built wooden house – even half built it was vastly better than a lot of caving
huts.  This house belonged to Kevin
Alldred who has been the major figure behind all the cave exploration in this
region.  We dropped off our kit then
headed around the corner to Pete and Val’s for food.

Pete and Vas’ place was a self built wooden house – two
living rooms over a large workshop with a spare room downstairs and an outside
toilet.  An aerial wooden walkway led to
a second workshop just big enough for three or four lorries.  Pete and Val had designed and built this all
themselves starting by selecting and felling the trees!  They are fairly heavily into self sufficiency
so we also admired the solar panels, hydroelectric generator etc.  Besides trapping, killing and preserving the
local wildlife Pete also makes fuel for the lorries from leftover cooking
oil!  We were left feeling a bit lazy and
inadequate.

Back in the house there was fresh salmon for tea. I only
mention this in passing.  It sounds great
but I do have to say that at this time of year in North Western America you can
get a bit fed up with fresh salmon.

After an extremely short session of small talk Pete sat
back, fixed us with a gimlet eye and asked, “Can you sketch?”  It took a few questions to sort out exactly
what he meant.  I had to translate for
Keith, as his
Essex accent, unsullied by
quarter of a century of living in the Dales, was unintelligible to the
Alaskans.  Apparently in the States the
person on a survey team that we know as the “recorder” is known as
the “sketcher” and there was a serious sketcher shortage in the
TCP.  Because Helen (the obvious choice)
was not going underground at all, Keith had never done any surveying and
Hadfield was still on his way to POWI.  I
became, by default, the new sketcher on the block.  Which meant that Keith had to learn to be the
tape/compass/clino man.  Next we were
handed a printed sheet of detailed instructions for producing a survey to the
satisfaction of the TCP and sent back to our accommodation to learn it ready
for a test in the morning.

Next morning Pete drove us about three miles into the woods
and en route we had our first bear sighting. While on POWI we were to average one bear encounter per day (thanks
Hadfield) but these all consisted of the bear running away at high speed.  Pete’s first lesson was tree identification
followed by emphasizing to us the dangers of this area.  Unlike tropical rainforest the fallen trees
in temperate rainforest take decades to decay. Therefore the “ground” is often a layer of dead and rotting
wood up to three metres in depth. Combine this with the dense new growth of conifers which restrict
visibility to about a metre or so and it means that you can easily walk over
the edge of a shaft without noticing it for the few nanoseconds before gravity
kicks in.  Suitably impressed with the
couple of examples he showed us we were then rounded up, loaded back into the
vehicle and taken off for some cave surveying practice.

The chosen cave,

Whispering
Canyon
Cave
,
was only about 70m from the track where we parked.  Carrying full kit we thrashed through the
undergrowth, teetered along fallen tree trunks and traversed past an
intimidating eyehole into the 50m entrance shaft of the next-door cave (

Thunder
Falls
Cave
).  Whispering Canyon was a short winding vadose
passage that led after 80m or so to a sump. Keith and I blundered through our first few survey legs
(“shots” in American cave-speak) and slowly built up a reasonable rhythm.



Pete, Rob and Keith at entrance to Whispering cave

 At least we thought
it was reasonable.  Since Pete is one of
those people who habitually wears an expression that suggests that a close
member of his family had recently died it was difficult to tell what he
thought.  Several points were discussed
at length including the metric vs. imperial argument, which had already been
thrashed through the night before. However it was re-opened when, all prepared to work in feet and inches;
we were presented with a tape marked out in tenths of a foot!

We must have done something right because next day we were
allowed to go solo on a survey of

Starlight
Cave
.  This cave was much more spectacular.  A 20m abseil over poised logs down one wall
of a 50m-diameter collapse shaft ended on a floor of logs and scree (“talus”
or “breakdown” in American cave-speak).  Left was a spectacular 20m x 20m x10m chamber
leading to a short scramble over ice blocks and up a scree slope into a canyon
passage varying from 15m x 10m to 4 x 4m and ending in 2 daylight avens after
about 100m.  A short side passage ended
in a silt choke.



Rob Harper at the entrance of

Starlight
Cave

Right from the bottom of the entrance led to a boulder choke
where we stopped at a squeeze due to lack of time.  Back at base Pete scrutinised our efforts and
announced, with the air of a man who obviously felt that beggars could not be
choosers, that we had done sufficiently well to be allowed to do some real
surveying.  Suitably pleased with
ourselves and fortified by yet more fresh salmon we stumbled back to our
accommodation only to be awoken by the Hadfields arriving in the middle of the
night complete with dog and cat.

Next day the weather was still fine and, so far.  There was dearth of seriously biting insects
– even the locals felt that this was all a bit spooky.  After a leisurely breakfast, several brews
and a catching up on Mendip gossip we headed around to Pete’s place.  There were cavers everywhere.  As well as Keith, Paul and myself we were
joined by Dave Lodge (TCP caver) Pete Smith and Pete’s two sons (Jedediah and
Kina – yes those are their real names, they’re that sort of family).  We all piled into Pete’s cooking-oil-fuelled
ex-US Army truck, threw the caving kit and dog in the back, plugged in our ear defenders
and headed off up into the hills.  Six or
seven miles of ear battering and bum-numbing travel along forestry tracks and
we pulled off in the bottom of a steep-sided valley.  All out, packs on and quarter of an hour of
sweaty thrutching through dense undergrowth and up steep gullies got us to a
large gully cum small gorge (“solution trench” in American
cave-speak) at the bottom of which was the entrance to “Kamano
Cave”.  Here we left Keith, Dave and
Paul who had been instructed to reclimb and rerig an aven that Pete had bolted
the year before.

Pete and I and his sons then spent another happy twenty
minutes searching for another cave entrance (“Snow on the

Ground
Cave
“)
which the boys had discovered while out ski-ing but which had not yet been
descended.  Eventually this was found.

 

Descending into Starlight cave

Yet another gully/gorge this time with a small stream in the
floor which sank into an entrance at the bottom of a small doline type
collapse.  A rope was slung around a
convenient tree and Pete descended into the doline.  After clearing the loose logs and rock he
disappeared from view amidst much crashing. The boys were next and then myself. The 3m-diameter entrance shaft dropped about 8m to a ledge and then on
down a further 4m or so to a cobbled boulder floor in a 1m x 15m descending
rift.  The limestone was originally very
light almost white but had been heavily stained by tannins from the undergrowth
above.  The rift soon entered a muddy
bedding plane with a vadose trench in the floor, which meandered around to a
‘T’ junction.  To the right the bedding
plus trench ended in a 10m aven and left the bedding disappeared and the trench
could be followed to a small stream passage, which still continued.  All this was surveyed.  A small passage that appeared to be a stream
overflow at the downstream end was pushed for a short distance with no
conclusion.  Probably no more than 50m in
total and all fairly small.

Out and down to

Kamano
Cave
to wait for the
others and then back down to Pete’s place for large helpings of lasagne (made
using the last of the bear meat!).

Once again next day was bright and sunny.  I felt that I ought to complain.  This really was not good enough. We had been
promised miserable rainy weather. However we just bore it with typical British fortitude, daft hats and
masses of insect repellent.  Today’s
objective was the survey of the inlet in

Kamano
Cave

that the others had re-entered the day before after an epic of bout of climbing
and falling and climbing again. This time it was just Paul, Keith, Dave Lodge
and myself (plus Paul’s dog “Vlu”).


Kamano
Cave
turned out to be
very pleasant.  A short crawl led to a
winding vadose rift very reminiscent of many of the
Yorkshire
entrances, which dropped in 3m steps to a short bedding plane passage with a
slot in the floor.  After about 40m we
arrived at a 10m-diameter chamber with a Swildon’s sized stream falling from a
passage high on the left and disappearing down rift on the right.  The streamway was accessed via a series of
bolts on the wall of the chamber, which did not give the best of hangs.  However everyone managed to struggle to the
top to reach a spectacular little streamway with deep pools and cascade climbs
to a cobble floored rift passage.  Paul
and I surveyed from the floor of the chamber and Keith and Dave went to the
“end” (or at least were it got down to a low crawl in the water but
still going) and started back and we met in the middle.  This came to about 80m in total.  Going back down the waterfall we were
supposed to put on another rope as the original had nearly frayed through –
don’t believe anyone who tells you that Bluewater is totally
indestructible.  I led off and managed to
find a deflection that at least meant we were not in the full force of the
water but at the rebelay I found that the existing rope was tied into a
screwgate krab that couldn’t be opened. So I cut the rope off it.  Much
grumbling from Pete when we got back!

Next day was a lazy sort of day.  I spent a lot of the morning expanding my
survey notes and drawing some extended plans and profiles to try and help the
person who would actually be drawing them up. The others packed up the vehicles in preparation for a move to a camp up
in the forest where we would be based for exploring a cave known as

Zina
Cave
.  The camping party consisted of the three

UK
based cavers
plus the Hadfields plus Bruce White (a TCP caver).

Now ALL Alaskans are a bit odd but even they thought Bruce
was a bit weird.  He was a science
teacher, part-time radio religious broadcaster who had an obsession with Barbie
dolls (right down to having a caving Barbie complete with her own helmet,
light, sit-harness and full set of SRT kit) as well as having a dozen machine
guns with ammunition buried at various locations in the USA/Canada/Alaska
“just in case”.  He says he is
coming to

England

in a few years – we suggested that he stay at Braida Garth and give a
Caving-Barbie lecture at BCRA Congress.

Rob “sketching” at

Whispering
Canyon
Cave

Packed tightly into two large 4WD Tesco-shopping type
vehicles (“sports utility vehicles” in American-speak) we drove for
fifty miles or so.  En route we stopped
for essential supplies at a small store. Having bought several boxes of beer and some crisps we left civilisation
behind and ground slowly up into the hills. A fallen tree across the track posed a problem for a while which, after
several ingenious engineering solutions were proposed tried and rejected, was
eventually solved by the simple expedient of unloading Paul’s SUV and taking
the obstacle at speed.  Thus we arrived
at the campsite, which was a small clearing in the forest at a fork between two
tracks.  Tents were pitched.  A dining shelter was erected.  Wood was collected for a fire.  Food was made and eaten.  A few beers were drunk.  Bruce showed us his handgun, (10mm stainless
steel Smith and Wesson revolver for those who might be interested).  Then we went to bed and lay there waiting for
a bear attack. Paul’s dog brushed past the tent sniffing loudly which was
enough to send our pulses up to about 300/min. Convinced that we were about to
be savaged by a large black bear we set about making ourselves safe by pulling
the sleeping bag over our heads!  No
attack came and over the next few days we became inured to the nightly canine
ritual.

Paul is an early riser so he brought us tea at 5:30am next
morning.  He felt that this would ensure
that we into the cave at an early hour but the rest of us interpreted it as the
cue for an extremely leisurely breakfast.

After Pete had arrived we ambled over to the entrance shaft
(approx. 50m away) at around 10:30am. Zina Cave apparently needed to be resurveyed as the original was not
good enough so Keith and Bruce became one party, Paul and I another while Pete
set off with a drill and some ropes to rig a traverse line to the head of one
of the pitches in the cave.  From the lip
of the 8m diameter entrance shaft a 17m steep slope cum pitch over mud, rock
and fallen trees drops to the floor of a chamber.  From here right leads to a series of steeply
sloping muddy tubes, which Keith and Bruce started to survey, and left to a
steeply sloping narrow high rift.  Paul
and I followed this rift until it became too tight after about 10m.  A large passage 3m up on the left wall led to
a 10m roped traverse to a single bolt at the head of a 13m pitch.  The rope on down the pitch from this bolt was
not joined in any way to the rope on the traverse nor was there any attempt to
protect it from any abrasion.  I stopped
for a moment or two to join the ropes together which at least gave us some
chance if the bolt were to fail and then headed down trying to ignore the
rub.  From the bottom of the pitch a dry
vadose canyon led after 70m to a slot in the floor and just before this the
other series of passages from the bottom of the entrance shaft entered on the
right.  Paul and I slowly surveyed our
way through to this point and stopped. Pete had been worried that this “squeeze” or another just
beyond it would prevent me going any further into the cave.  So just before we left I had a go at it and
found that I hardly touched the sides! Confident that it would be no problem we headed on out for beers and
food.

Another crack of dawn tea round from Paul and then he and I
spent the next day tidying up loose ends of our survey in the cave while Bruce
and Keith procrastinated long enough to put off caving for the day.  Paul and I also re-rigged the 13m pitch with
a rebelay, which did not entirely eliminate all the rubs but made it
considerably safer.  Out to find Dooley
waiting at the lip of the entrance shaft with a couple of bottles of beer.

That evening we are joined by Kevin Casey a Forestry Service
employee who is in charge of the only show cave on the island and has been
invited up by Pete to help with exploration of Zina.  When Pete arrives next morning he and Kevin
head off down and the rest of us follow half-an-hour later.  At the pitch we find that Pete has put it all
back to the old less safe situation including belaying to a single manky bolt
without joining it to the traverse rope (also using the same bolt) as a
back-up.  We catch up with him at the
slot where he is drilling some shot-holes to enlarge it and Pete and I have a
full and frank discussion about his rigging. Once the air has been cleared Pete used Hilti type charges to blow some
of the lip off the slot and we all follow him down.  A 3m pot leads to a 10m “T
-section” crawl to another 3m pot. The Alaskans think that this is tight but I find that it is easier than
say the Devil’s Elbow route into GB. From the bottom of this second pot an 8m-boulder slope led to the head
of a 20m pitch.  A deflection at the top
of the pitch gives a free-hang down the middle of a spectacular vadose canyon
between 3m and 4m wide.  At the bottom
Paul and I follow the stream for about 200m at various levels to another short
pitch where we stop.  Pete is somewhere
ahead of us but is stopped at a sump a short way beyond.  Upstream from the big pitch leads to a
free-climbable waterfall about 6m high to a small active streamway that
continues unexplored.  All out without
too much trouble although it is noticeable that the Europeans with a
“frog-type” rig have much less hassle than the locals who are using
3-point rope-walking rigs when it comes to deflections and awkward manoeuvres.  Pete and Kevin go straight home that night.

At last the next day is cold and misty and raining.  This is more like it.  Helen and I elect for a rest day in camp and
the others all go off to do a tourist trip in a cave about an hours drive
away.  I fester and read all day.  H goes berry picking in company with a
bear.  When the others arrive back they
come bearing a grouse that Bruce has shot – it took only three 10mm rounds to
bag it and this is a gun that he told us would stop a bear in its tracks!  A pleasant evening is spent under the dripping
awning covering the dining area.  As the
booze goes down taller and taller tales are told, old jokes brought out and
dusted off and we finish by grilling the grouse over the fire.

Another cold and misty day dawned.  Enthusiasm for going underground is noticeably
absent.  Eventually Bruce persuades me to
help him finish his section of the survey. Since we have to move out that day anyway I figure this will get me out
of packing up so I agree.  We spend a
miserable four hours but at last we get his survey tied into a known station on
mine.  As predicted just about everything
is packed away by the time I get out so it’s out of the kit, into the vehicle
and back to our home- from-home in Whale Pass not forgetting to pick up some
more beers on the way.

That was the last of the caving for this trip.  We whiled away a day or so on POWI fishing
and a few more days in Washington/Oregon sightseeing, drinking and eating
before flying home.

To sum up – my feelings about this trip are very mixed.  On a personal level it was great to see Paul
again and as always when you travel in good company we had a lot of fun.  However on the caving side the caves were
small, short and cold.  Despite the fact
that there is a lot of potential virgin cave out there it is likely that most
of it will be the same and we certainly had the impression that we were being
steered away from anything really interesting. The local cavers were fairly welcoming but they are very parochial in
their outlook.  Like the Mendip cavers of
the sixties and early seventies they give the impression that they feel that
their own little patch is a major caving area in global terms.  Possibly because, like their Mendip
counterparts of thirty and forty years ago, they are mostly home grown and have
done little if any caving elsewhere.

Would we go back? Well certainly not to POWI. However Hadfield has list of other sites in remote locations that need
looking at both in

Alaska

and BC which sound more appealing.  So
watch this space.

Apologies to Rob if some of the picture captions are
incorrect – Ed

 

Cartoon

by Chas



 

 

A Treatise On Subterraneous Rex

by Mr. Wilson

During my time as a caver I have had occasion to notice that
there is a strange species of animal (not listed in the Guinness Book of
Records) called Subterraneous Rex.  If
anyone wishes to observe this species in their natural Karst Habitat, first you
have to track them down “as they tend to congregate in dark obscure
places”, the best method is to follow the trails of curious white heaps
(carbide) placed at random underground. These are usually interspersed with debris such as old boot soles, bits
of rubber wet suit, batteries, flash bulbs, and marigold gloves!

If you can get really close to them, strange cries will be
heard (these are not to be confused with mating calls!) or birthing grunts when
the species are climbing rifts!  Closer
observation will reveal that these calls are designed to maintain the morale of
the group and boost the team spirit. Call the MRO, and my light has failed, are by far the most common.  Other calls tend to be interspersed with the
occasional swear word.  This Species
started life underground in Yorkshire and Mendip later spreading to
Scotland,
Wales
and

Ireland
.  Their habits have changed over the years, in
the early days dress tended to be grots, worn hobnail boots, and Miners
bathgate helmets with wee bubbies (carbide lamps).  Clothing then progressed to overalls and wet
suits, it is now not uncommon to have 3 types of clothing all-purpose made,
such is progress!  Brand name purchasing
is now the norm and no doubt in the future sponsorship and personal advertising
will step in.  I cannot wait to see
cavers with Marlboro Lights on their wet suits or may be Durex stencilled on
their helmets, some will welcome the Butcombe Brewery sponsoring their efforts,
and will no doubt will have to test the product thoroughly!  Please help me find the ultimate S. Rex, you
never know they may include caving in the next Olympics.



 

 

Shrimpbones, Mongooses & Porcupines

(What could possibly go wrong)?




Matienzo
Valley

Over Christmas/New
Year of 1989/90, a well-known village within the Cantabrian mountains of

Spain
was
witness to a small group of BEC cavers intent on exploration and merry making.

The aforementioned
foray into Spanish caving became infamous and is now firmly engraved in
Cantabrian and Belfry folklore.  This was
mainly due to a small incident involving a few San Miguels, half a pint of
Anise & Brandy, a couple of “empty looking” houses, a few cars
and the

Santander

Civil Guard’s riot squad.  However, a
lesser known aspect of the 89/90 expedition was the exploration of Shrimpbone
Inlet, situated deep within Los Hoyecka (Uzueka), Systema Los Cuatro Valles.  The trip extended Shrimpbone Inlet a further
700m, finishing in a chamber with a ten foot waterfall coming out of the roof.

Easter 2000, Matienzo was yet again the scene of an invasion
of cavers.  The annual cave and drinkfest
started early this year.  A small noisy
encampment of tents was located in the marsh behind Casa German (Bar).  A large collection of MUSS, NCC, Bolton,
Liverpool, TSG, CUCC, CDG, RRCPC, and of course BEC, were
responsible for this camp.  The BEC
contingent consisted of Rich Blake and Tony Jarratt, who had arrived by
“Talking Terry’s (I don’t do time) magical mystery tours” and myself,
who had arrived by the aid of a drunken taxi driver.  Our objective was to carry out some
unfinished business in Uzueka, namely to climb the aven at the end of Shrimpbone
Inlet.

However, as a starter we were invited, along with Andy
Pringle (RRCPC) Liam Wright (TSG) and Sam? (CUCC) to a new find at the top of a
30m aven to help with surveys and detackling. This was to be carried out via an undescended surface shaft that Mark
Wright & Martin Holroyd (NCC) had spotted from within their discovery.  With the surface shaft quickly located, two
10m ladders were swiftly dispatched into the hole.  RB descended the shaft to find that we needed
a third ladder.  Unfortunately, the third
ladder had been inadvertently left in the boot of the jeep.  This posed a small problem, as not everyone
had SRT kit with them.  The descent was
an entertaining abseil on the lifeline to a knot, to ladder change over, via a
small ledge.  After the inevitable faff,
the survey, exploration and photography took place without a hitch.  Unfortunately, the remaining leads fizzled
out, and the new passage was surveyed at around 150m long.  The team split into two with four having fun
and games detackling the 30m aid climb and the new entrance shaft by combined
tactics and one completing SRT kit, whilst L Wand myself (PM) detackled Abono’s
original entrance, thus a pleasant through trip.

We decided to carry out a gear carrying recce trip into U
zueka as far as the ‘Astrodome’, a huge missile silo type aven, 120m high,
which is about a third of the way in.  A
simple trip, we thought, to refresh our memory – what could possibly go
wrong!  A strong team consisting of RB,
TJ, MW, Sam, PM, (three of which had been in the cave several times before)
were unexpectedly side tracked by the Riano bar.  This resulted in a devastating failure of
internal compasses and route finding abilities. Many hours were spent wandering up dead-end passages and exploring
series we were not intending to visit. All in all, it took seven hours to find our way to the Astrodome and two
hours to get out.

The next trip into Uzueka was an overnighter, destined for
the end of Shrimp bone.  Heavily laden,
Sam, RB and PM proceeded through the first third of Uzueka in good time.  The additional gear was collected from the
Astrodome.  Our next obstacle was the
massive ‘Armageddon’ choke.  Luckily, we
managed to locate the road works bunting that marks the route through the
complicated choke.  The only problem we
had was locating the pitch at the end of the choke.  The 1975 ladder was exchanged for a slightly
newer one, then we continued down the extensive stream passage, interspersed
with the occasional boulder piles. Eventually, the next potential obstacle ‘Duckhams sump’ was reached at
about two thirds of the way in.

The roof of the 10m wide streamway lowers and the water
deepens to neck deep with a couple of inches airspace (if you’re lucky).  Although you can avoid the swimming and most
of the neck deep water by a sneaky right hand wall route, you can’t avoid the
final 10m duck/dive, in which you head for the sound of falling water.  Once found, you search for a hole in the roof
next to the waterfall and struggle in the deep water to climb into the passage
above.

A guide line was rigged through the duck and left in situ,
just in case.  A thrutchy rift led to the
start of the ‘Rocky Horror Series’.  At
this point, Shrimpbone Inlet enters from the right.  Shrimpbone Inlet is about 1.2 km long and
starts as an impressive small stream passage. After 200m, it degenerates into misery and hard work.  Alzheimer’s must have set in over the
preceding decade, because memories of formations, sculptured passages and
delicate false floors were quickly replaced by sharp jagged spikes, awkward
rifts and endless crawling.

However, the chert false floors were still there, albeit
pockmarked by caver’s feet crashing through them with shin-numbing regularity,
and a body-sized hole with a slight resemblance to the shape of a certain
Mendip caver.  The Alzheimer’s didn’t
stop there.  When we reached the final
chamber, we were dismayed to discover that the ten foot waterfall had increased
in height to nearer forty feet.  A brew
station was established, while we took turns over the next nine hours to
aid-climb up the overhanging waterfall. The waterfall issued from a letterbox, 10m above the deck, which was
eventually reached by RB, only to find that a stal rib prevented access into
the visible stream passage beyond.  Time
for a quick exit.  The majority of the gear
was abandoned and a fast five hour retreat was made.  We surfaced after a 21 hour trip just in time
to catch last orders at the Riano bar.

After a suitable period of rest (mostly spent prospecting
and sampling the occasional ale) a plan for a third trip into Uzueka was
formulated.  This time, the same team
armed with a lump hammer and chisel set off for another long trip.  The stal rib was swiftly dispensed with,
allowing entry into a decorated chamber. We surveyed up into the chamber and assessed the ways on.  Above led up through boulders towards
tantalising black voids.  This route
would require further bolting.  Straight
on, the stream cascaded 3m out of the roof over a delicate chert false
floor.  A passage could be seen
beyond.  The walls of the chamber were
completely shattered, and we initially thought we would have to return with a
maypole (a daunting prospect).  However,
after a short consultation and some precarious balancing, we managed to hammer
a hole up through the false floor, allowing access via a human pyramid.  With the ladder belayed to a convenient stal
pillar, we continued with the survey along stooping stream passage.  The passage eventually reached a fork, and we
decided to explore the left branch, as it issued the larger stream (both
draught strongly).  The passage
degenerated into a crawl and eventually reached a rifty squeeze, covered in
sharp crystal spikes – ‘The Porcupine’. The slot led through to a walking-sized rift, which in turn led to a
chamber at the base of four large avens. The avens disappear into blackness, and any further progress will
require a drill and a bivi.  A small
plastic mongoose (acquired from a local bar the previous evening) was left to
mark the permanent survey station. Carbide and time were running out, so an exit was made, leaving the
other two leads unexplored and still going. The two waterfalls out of Shrimp bone Inlet into the ‘Mongoose
Extensions’ were left rigged; a short ladder on the 3m waterfall and an old
climbing rope on the 10m waterfall with a rebelay to keep it away from the
water (The rope will need replacing by whoever visits next).  We exited the cave around 9 am, heavily laden
after a 19 hour trip, and promptly knocked up the Riano bar.  AJ accompanied by Talking Terry and Brian Davis
arrived a couple of hours later, to kindly give us a lift back to Matienzo, via
a Santander Blanco run.

Recovery from the latest Uzueka trip was again spent
prospecting with AJ, TT, BD.  Several
interesting holes were dug along the hillside on the road up to the Smoos
Bar.  The most interesting was a small
hole in the road cutting above Cueva Volvo. After a couple of hours of hammering, chiselling and collapsing boulders
on to the road, we eventually managed to break into a small decorated cave –
‘Cueva Roadshow’ – about 70m long, with a hopeful dig at the end.  A call for help came from a couple of local
farmers.  Firstly, a gate was needed on a
surface shaft, to prevent cattle from falling in.  Secondly, we were called out to rescue a foal
from the bottom of a 20 m shaft. Unfortunately, the foal had not survived its fall, but it did help to
further good public relations with the locals in Matienzo.  All in all, we had a superb time back in the
happy valley where time is never called.

by Peter ‘Snablet’
MacNab

 

Caver in campsite

 

Strange rituals involving caver and animal

 
 

 

 

Let Sleeping Bats Be!

By Vince Simmonds

As the winter months draw in we may find that we have to
share caves and mines with several other kinds of creatures, in cave entrances
we may see cave spiders and possibly another species of spider, Nesticus
cellulanus. Deeper into the caves common gnats and Herald moths may be found to
hibernate along with other species of invertebrates (having no backbone such as
insects etc.) and vertebrates (with a spinal column such as mammals etc.).  One of the most notable of these vertebrate
species are Bats.

Out of the top ten species of British bats we could possibly
come across eight species in caves or mines in the Southwest and

Wales
.  It should be noted that all species of Bat
are fully protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  The conservation status of most bats is
vulnerable and the Greater and Lesser Horseshoe are on the endangered species
list.  We have already lost the largest
of cave-roosting species, the Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis myotis) and some other
species are close to extinction on the
British Isles.  This is mainly the result of over-use of
pesticides in agriculture and the subsequent loss of insect prey, however, we should
do what we can to protect the species still remaining.

The Greater Horseshoe (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and Lesser
Horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros) can be recognized by their horseshoe
shaped nose-leaf which are fleshy lobes around the nostrils.  They are distinguished from each other by
size the Greater Horseshoe can be 55-75mm in length (excluding tail) and weigh
up to 35g, the Lesser Horseshoe is around 35-45mm in length (excluding tail)
and weighs between 3 and 9g.  These bats
are likely to be present in caves and mines all year round moving deeper in
during the winter where temperature is even and constant and it is
frost-free.  They can be seen either as
individuals which are usually older adults, or in groups which tend to be
younger bats and can vary in number depending on conditions.

The Brown Long-eared Bat (Plecotus auritus) is immediately
identified by, you’ve guessed, its long ears. It is 40-55mm in length (which doesn’t include its tail) and can weigh
about 15g.  They may also choose winter
sites close to the cave entrance and have been found with a body temperature as
low as 0oC.

Daubenton’s Bat (Myotis daubentonii) is a smaller bat with
rather large feet and velvety fur like a mole. Excluding its tail it is 45-55mm long and weighs up to 15g. Natterer’s
Bat (Myotis nattereri) has a fringe of short, stiff bristles along the edge of
the tail membrane and they also have longish ears, 40-55mm long (excluding
tail) and weigh 5-12g.

The Whiskered Bat (Myotis mystacinus) and Brandt’s Bat
(Myotis brandtii) are both small bats with dark skin and small ears.  They are not easily distinguished from one
another although the Brandt’s Bat may be redder in colour.  They are about 35-50mm in length, not
including the tail, and weigh possibly up to 109.

The Serotine (Eptesicus serotinus) can be recognized by its
large size possibly being 85mm long excluding its tail and weighing up to 35g.

Horseshoe Bats hang by their feet from projections on the
roof and walls and wrap their wings tightly around the body like a cloak.  Most of the other species of cave bats will
choose to crawl into narrow cracks and crevices and in amongst piles of rocks
and boulders possibly for several metres because of this they may not be easily
visible.

Try to avoid sites where bats are known to be hibernating
and if you do happen to come across any bats make every effort not to disturb
them, for example don’t all stand around with lamps gawking at them.  Remember none of us likes to be rudely
awakened from deep, drunken slumber at the Belfry.

Reference:

Cave Conservation Handbook; National Caving Association 9.4,
Bats underground, 9-9

Caves and Cave Life; Philip Chapman (New Naturalist series)

British Caving, An introduction to speleology; Cave Research
Group, x. Cave-dwelling bats, w.M. Hooper and J.H.D. Hooper pp 396-415

Complete British Wildlife; Paul Sterry (Collins)

Book of the British Countryside; AA

The Postcode Plants Database; The

Natural
History
Museum

 

Waldegrave Swallet

(ST/5473.5155) – also known as Balcombe’s Hole (note 1)

a brief history by Dave
Irwin



1 – Wheel (or Wheal) Pit after the loss of water,
undated.  Photo. HE. Balch [

Wells
Museum

Library}

The sites associated with the west side of Stockhill
interested cavers throughout the 20th century and continue to this day.  That streams were sinking in the area was
already well known from old mining records and this fact was first recorded in
caving literature by Herbert Balch.

Balch formed the opinion that the water sinking hereabouts
resurged at Rodney Stoke from a single observation following a flood early in
the 20th century.  On a dry summers day
the water at the Rodney Stoke Rising [Springhead Rising or Well Head as it is
also known] became polluted with’ … suspended sediments … , (note 2)
Shortly after this event Balch heard that a deep pond  (note 3) whose depth had been artificially
increased by the miners had suddenly emptied on the very same day.  The pressure on the bottom of the pond, Wheel
or Wheal Pit, had increased due to the greater head of water and caused the
floor to collapse allowing the water to drain away leaving an open hole. Today,
hydrologists doubt that there is any subterranean connection between the sink
and the Rodney Stoke rising and believe that the water travels underfound to
one or other of the two main Cheddar risings some six miles to the west. (note 4)

Waldegrave Swallet has been dug on at least three occasions
over a 55 year period, 1925-1926 and 1935-1936 by MNRC, and during 1975-1977
the workers were members of BEC and WCC but none achieved more than the MNRC
attempt in 1935.

MNRC Dig, 1925-1926

During the early 1920s water commenced flowing into the
depression known as Waldegrave Swallet and soon the site took a sizeable stream
under all conditions.  Cavers of the day
noted this change and in the summer of 1925 three MNRC members, J. Harry
Savory, Clement Richardson and Eric L. Bird on holiday at Priddy, decided that
the site looked sufficiently promising to merit an excavation.  Although the dig looked extremely promising
and a considerable quantity of infill was removed a collapse occurred
effectively fillin~ the excavated hole. The site was abandoned for the rest of that year.  Balch recorded  (note 5) :

During the summer holidays, Mr. Savory, Mr. Richardson and
Mr. [E.L.] Bird, (note 6) whilst staying at Priddy, took the opportunity to
make an examination, so far as was possible, of a new swallet close to the big
pond near Miners Arms. The water has here commenced to develop several new
cavities on and near the eastern end of the pond and one of these appears to be
so extensive that an entrance seemed possible. A considerable quantity of debris was removed by them and an open aperture
appeared in the rocks.  Towards the close
of the work however, a considerable fall of the side occurred and the effort
was abandoned for the time.

John Savory records that two photographs of the three
diggers exist and that they may have been taken at that time. (note 7)



2 – General view of the 1935 dig site. Photo.- F. Graham
Balcombe [CDG Library} [The bare hillsides are now thickly pine forested, see
photo. 7}

Digging was continued by Richardson and Savory in 1926 but
not to the extent that had been done the previous year though they succeeded in
reaching a depth of 20 ft. (note 8) Balcombe records that it was rumoured that another party ventured into
the dig and recorded a depth of 40 ft. He added’ … that the validity of this report is questioned.’  Balcombe was more forthcoming in his report
written on the 13th February 1935  (note 9)

Information has come to hand that
an excavation was undertaken on the identical spot some 20 years ago, by a gang
of navvies working for a fortnight, and that no “sizeable passage”
will be met with until 40 ft down.  It is
almost certain, however, that no excavation has been done on this identical
spot, for apart from any other indications (e.g. the nature of the material
removed during the present work) there is no trace of any timber whatsoever,
and an excavation without it would be frankly impossible.  Further, it is not considered possible to get
down 40 ft in twelve working days or so. The source of the information has not yet been examined ….

Though Balch in his 1926 Annual Report to MNRC was
enthusiastic about the work and added that’ … there is great hope of results
being attained …. ‘  (note 10) no
further progress reports were given and it can be fairly assumed to have been
abandoned.  However, because of the
‘promising situation’ Balch convinced the Street Council Engineer, Mr. T.
Jones, to carry out a water trace at the swallet by pouring nearly 250,000 gallons
of water into the sink and arranging a careful watch at all the main risings .

… Though there was great
discoloration at the swallet and chemical tests were employed, and day and
night watch was kept at each possible outlet, no trace of this great volume of
water was to be found anywhere …. ‘

None of the resurgences showed any sign of discoloration of
their waters to which Balch assumed that there was a great deal of dilution and
settling between the sink and the rising.

2nd MNRC Dig, 1935

Following his work in Swildon’s Hole, Balcombe turned his
attention to Waldegrave Swallet.  There
appears no reason given why he should have chosen this site but in January 1935
digging with other members of MNRC commenced. Before seriously commencing to
work at the site he invited a Westbury-sub-Mendip water diviner, Mr. H. H.
Dennis to investigate the site.  Balcombe
recorded that the  (note 11)

… line of action now being
pursued is excavation from the swalIet back towards the Pond, a shaft then to
be sunk into the boulders and a heading driven as necessary along the stream
course.

Fig1 : H.H. Dennis’ dowsing map, c. January 1935.  Original 25cm x 17.5cm.  Copy drawn by Balcombe 29th November
1935.  (BRCA Library)

The course of the stream has been
approximately traced through the favour of H. H. Dennis Esq [sic] of Westbury-
sub-Men dip, by the method of water-divination. Five points have thus been obtained and should work at the swallet prove
fruitless, it is proposed to sink a shaft at the fifth point …

Helped by Bufton, C. (Digger) Harris and Baker, a new shaft
was commenced which lay in the location of the diverted streamway carried out
by Savory during the excavation a decade earlier.  Because of the potential damage to the earth
sides of the shaft opened by the Balcombe party it was thus decided to divert
the stream back to its original route – in doing so it  (note 12)

… will not have any undesirable
effect, but in any case wilI provide interesting and perhaps valuable
information …. ‘

Balcombe added that if the diverted water created
difficulties then it would be piped into the swallet.  It was one, though not the first, of the digs
to employ the use of explosives as a major digging tool.  During January 1935 the diggers used over 21
lb. of explosives in the form of 2 oz shots; ‘Rupert’, a 2 ton boulder, was
removed with the help of equipped sledgehammers’ … ‘  (note 13)

By the end of January, sometimes digging under the light of
a paraffin flare, the dig had reached a depth of 32 ft.  Two features were uncovered but led nowhere :
a narrow creep, heading ESE, and a 10 – 15 ft. long rift, heading NNE.  Though the rift became too narrow for further
exploration several diggers aired the view that

… 15′ to 20′ was visible,
opinions differing on the final direction assumed

A variety of side passages were investigated including the
rift but though

… various obstructions were
blasted away, and the passage-ways cleared [it was found] that this also peters
out in a small basin of about 18 inches diameter, and 12 inches deep, in
boulders again, but unworkable and in any case without prospect. … The
acquisition of a rock-drill and compressor for such work is being considered.

Shoring the dig now became a necessity and by the 4th
February the job had been accomplished. By this time Balcombe and his fellow excavators had come to the
conclusion that the shaft was but a section of a large rift which peters out in
the ESE Creep but as it widened considerably towards the NE wall it was
concluded that it was the way forward even though it comprised a very
unconsolidated infill of loose boulders and as Ba1combe succinctly put it

… and further more the
excavation under this wall will present a problem of some delicacy

Small cavities appeared as they lowered the shaft floor but
none gave any new passage though they were encouraged when they found that the
rock in the lower sections of the shaft was in limestone though  (note 14)

… the Geological Survey
indicates that the Limestone does not occur within a quarter of a mile of the
swallet, it is gratifying to meet it at a depth of only 10 to 20 ft below the
surface.

 

Fig. 2 : Sketch
survey of dig site produced by Salcombe, 4th
February, 1935. Original: 25 em x 18 em. [BCRA Library]

The deeper the shaft was driven the greater the instability
of the shaft sides.  This gave much
concern but gradually the shaft was shuttered.

The greater interest of diving at

Wookey
Hole
Cave
caused the diggers
to abandon the site until later that year. Ba1combe was not too enthusiastic about the possibilities of digging for
large caves in the central Mendip area and, further, because of the heat of the
summer sun

‘ … and surrounded by hordes of
excursionists, the work was markedly distasteful…..’

However, returning to the site after the Wookey diving
activity the diggers had to spend a great deal of time repairing the damage
done by weathering and by interference from the general sightseer including
damage to the lifting tackle.

… Of the former, the principle
is the wrecking of the counter-weight which, falling down the shaft, knocked
out some of the timbering and resulted in minor falls from the walls; burial of
the accumulation of beer bottles and other trippers rubbish thereby will call
for careful work when re-excavating ….

Work continued during the Autumn of 1935 but was dogged by
slippages and general instability of certain sections of the shaft.  To ease the extraction of the rubbish from
the site the hoisting gear pulley system was improved enabling a man to lift
about half a ton single-handedly and ‘ … work is possible with quite a small
party.’  (note 15)  A diagram of the arrangement was published
with Balcombe’s Report No. 11. (note 16) A second, lower section of shuttering was installed and by the middle of
November it had been completed between the -10ft to -20ft levels to enable work
to resume at the bottom of the shaft.

Fig. 3: Sketch survey by Salcombe, dated 29th October, 1935,
carried out before shoring of the upper sections of the shaft was undertaken.
(BCRA Library)

Eventually by mid-December 1935 the dig was to reach a depth
of 50-55 ft revealing only small cavities under the upper rift feature  (note 17)

… which here had dwindled to a
small crack, and the sound of falling water was audible.  The work of  driving  a heading through to this was absorbingly interesting but was doomed to
disappointment, the cavity was small, only a few cubic feet; the water was a
mere trickle running in from the wall and disappearing again under a floor of
fine detritus ….

Digging results were far from encouraging and by the 24th
December 1935 the site was backfilled. Balcombe wrote that though the rigging
had been a good exercise in removing material towards the end of the dig the
equipment was of little use but

… undoubtedly added to the
interest of the task.  The efforts below
proved unsuccessful; the hole was closed down, the excavated material
discharged round the timber core, and the surrounding fence closed up to complete
the protection of the site.  The hole is
accessible to anyone sufficiently interested to remove the nailed-down lid, but
although everything was sound and safe when left, please remember the notice on
the fence :  “Persons entering do so
at their own risk,” and also remember to fix the lid again securely.


3 – [left) Starting to shore the 1935 shaft.

4 – [right) – Shoring the upper ection of the shaft.

Both photos. : F. G. Balcombe (Album B1 in CDG collection)
CDG Library)

The site received little more attention until the 1970s
consequently the shaft and its shoring fell into disrepair and became a danger
to the casual visitor.  C. Howard Kenney
reported that during 1950 they had to fill the dig site. (note 18)

Owing to the large number of the public
visiting this spot and the unsafe nature of the entrance shaft, the Estate
agents considered its protection or closing essential.

A days work with spades,
explosive and Mr. Devenish’s jeep with bulldozer blade completed the task.  A full report was made on the excavation by
F.G. BaIcombe in 1936 on behalf of the Society,. and it may be examined on
request.

Digging Teams

Getting a regular digging team together is generally a
struggle today but it was no different during the 1920s and 1930s.  During the time that Balcombe was
enthusiastically working the Waldegrave site he often nudged fellow members of
MNRC to help out with the heavy hauling work. To ensure that his helpers knew of the digging arrangements he printed
headed note paper for correspondence and circulars and produced cards which
gave the times of the forthcoming digging sessions.  Balcombe circulated a letter dated 25th
November 1935 to MNRC members bemoaning the fact that support from ‘clubmen’ is
‘practically negligible.’  He continued:

… caves in the Mendip area are
not to be found by turning up a stone, and walking in.  The broken nature of the strata, and the wide
covering of Mesozoic [sic] deposits make their discovery a matter of hard and
continuous labour.

Waldegrave Swallet is a hole of
great promise, but the goal will not be won without much hard labour …. The
job is elegantly equipped with tackle, no pains spared to assist the work of
excavation.  The job has cost on £200 in
workers time and in hard cash.

… What are the club-men
doing?  Hibernating.  With a sleep so deep that even the spring or
the summer will not wake them.

Wake up! … At Waldegrave, where
even bucket hauling is a fine art requiring many weeks of practice, bucket
hauling is not the only thing to do.

Can you shore up a face, or prop
an awkward boulder?  Can you say just
where a face will slip?  Can you place a
shot and say this and this will go, say that and that will not be touched?  Can you recognise the fossils, or say just
how the new met phenomenon occurred?  Can
you tell a good prop from a dud?  Do you
even know the quickest way to fill a bucket?

I reckon not!  Take a load from the men who do not need a
club to lean on!  Do a bit of work, get
tough and let your fellow club-men lean on you!

Those that did attend more or less regularly form a list of
many of the best known cavers from this period. Their names have become almost immortal in Mendip caving circles:
Atkins, Baker, Douglas Bovertson, Joe Bowsher, Braithwaite [of Weston- super-Mare]
Bufton, Frost, Gibbons, Harris, Humphries, Murrell,
Needham,
Robertson, Sheppard,

Taunton
,
Tucknott and not least Penelope Powell.

Although Balcombe seemed to have great enthusiasm for the
dig he considered the
Central Mendip area to
be a barren zone for the discovery of new cave passage.  He identified the main problem that diggers
would encounter – limestone interbedded within the limestone shales which would
enable small bedding development which would be subsequently choked with the
disintegrated shale.  That coupled with the
fact that the catchment area associated with each site was small would yield
little or no cave passage.  History has
shown that several large caves were to be revealed in the area in future
decades which included Mendip’s second longest cave system, St. Cuthbert’s
Swallet; the only cave in the area that could be associated with Balcombe’s
thesis would be Welsh’s Green Swallet opened during the 1980s.  Balcombe philosophically summed up their
efforts at the site in a report published by MNRC in 1930. (note 19)

 … The odds against success in this venture
had been realised for some time and this realisation has helped in no small
measure to soften the final blow. Waldegrave has been a great task, and has
given much joy and satisfaction to those sharing in it. Though no cavern has
been found it has served as a training school of no mean severity and for this
alone it has been well worth while ….



Fig. 4: Hauling systems used at Waldegrave Swallet, 1935.
(CDG Library)



Fig. 5: Letter headed notepaper. (BCRA Library). Size:
Quarto



Fig. 6 : A digging invitation card produced by Ba/combe for
digging sessions on the th and 8th December, 1935. Dimensions: 14cm x 9 em.
(BCRA Library)

Mossy Powell’s Poem

The famous expression ‘Pump, you buggers, pump’ that caused
the plug to be pulled during the BBC Broadcast in July 1935 of one of the
Wookey Hole diving ‘expeditions’ was immortalised in a little known poem by
Penelope Powell (Mossy) during the Autumn of that year.  Obviously she wasn’t going to let Balcombe
forget that he couldn’t dive at Waldegrave Swallet and his faux-pas! (note 20)

Waldegrave Swallet

By Mrs Powell.

Oh, Graham as you know by now,
Is seized with notions queer,
He’s diving on the Mendips,
And there ain’t no Water there.
Ah called his troops together on
The Waldegrave Dump,
And announced his new intentions,
Shouting
Pump, you boogars, Pump.

He covered up his box of tricks
With canvas pure and pale,
Then tootled down to Cheddar,
And got Mossy out on bail,
“Now you and Ting must guard my store,
Or you’ll have cause to jump,
So keep the frogs and lizards
Out of
Pump, you boogars, Pump.

He won a lovely diving suit,
From distant

London
Town
,
And tried to catch the tadpoles
As they wriggled up and down.
Then he moved off to Wookey Hole,
Where Captain got the hump,
for Graham bust the telephone,
With
Pump, you boogars, Pump.

Some fat men came to B.B.B.,
What Graham meant to do,
And brought their wire entanglements,
And left them there on view.
The gang produced the diving gear,
And stacked it in a lump,
Then Graham promptly shattered mike,
With
Pump, you boogars, Pump.

Continued interest

In the first volume of the Shepton Mallet Caving Club Log
Book, Fred Davies entered (5th April 1955) that the excavated shaft had’ …
run in, some ofthe shoring still visible. Also found swallet at the SE comer that showed evidence of having been
shored up but no accessible opening there now …. ‘ The latter site could
possibly be one of the swallets that were opened by the slaggers during the
1850s and 1860s to drain the overflowing ponds. Ten years later Paul Allen (SMCC and SVCC) and Peter B. Smith (SMCC)
visited the site after reading Davies’ log note. An entry in Allen’s logbook
records that [April 11th] (note 21)

.. , Only one stake of the
original shoring is visible and the entrance is well and truly filled in.  Pete Smith returned to the hut [SMCC] for
digging tools whilst Roger [Biddle] and myself damned [sic] the stream. Once
Pete returned we set to work clearing rubble. Almost immediately Roger nearly lost the crow-bar [sic] down a hole
which opened up!  A little more
scratching and the hole could be seen to continue for a few feet. Roger and
myself were all for putting a couple of sticks in the boulders and having a big
bang – Pete, unfortunately, was loathe to part with the jelly, and so we
retired.

The swallet is quite impressive,
and its chances of “going” must be rated pretty high.  It takes all the drainage of Walde grave Pool
(when the pool contains enough water) which in turn takes the drainage of the
hills near Priddy Nine Barrows by a well defined stream valley.  Now that some of us are showing a definite
dislike for Priddy Green we could do far worse than transfer our attention to
this sight [sic].

No further activity followed this visit.  Reopening the site 1975 – 1977

Re-opening the site 1975 – 1977

During 1975 several BEC and WCC members decided that another
attempt at Waldegrave Swallet was on the cards.        To establish the acronym for the
digging teams’ name, as was then the habit of other inter-club groups, e.g.
ATLAS, the team became known as the Priddy Institute for Scientific
Speleology.  This becomes a vulgar
acronym!  However, the team projected
their energies into relocating the Balcombe shaft.  Initially large chunks of limestone were
removed and several large boulders had to be manhandled.  Some weighty lumps of limestone were
described as being of ‘hernia’ size and the larger blocks were known as,
succinctly described by Phil Hendy, ‘ … a two hernia boulder was a fearsome
lift indeed …. , (note 22)

Work began on the 27th April 1975 and was spearheaded by
Chris Batstone, Martin Bishop and Richard Stevenson of the BEC and Phil Hendy
and Adrian Vanderplank of the WCC.  After
a few weeks of toil pieces of rotten wood began to appear and the team knew
that they were now in the Balcombe shaft. However, the broken nature of the side walls made the process extremely
dangerous and shoring was once again installed in the shaft. Hendy wrote  (note 23)

… All this while, the stream
sank well but indeterminately; digging was easy, being mainly a matter of
lifting boulders of varying sizes, and carefully rescuing the newts and
dragonfly larvae from the mud … progress was fast, and a depth of about six
feet was rapidly achieved.  By June 1st, wooden
shoring became necessary … While fixing this, the top of a rift was
uncovered, with limestone on the left, and conglomerate on the right. …



5 – The site before the wooden shoring was installed, 1975.
Photo. Phil Hendy

Though the rift was about eight feet deep the whole area was
unstable’ … being roofed with loose infill, so the cavity was closed with
shoring.  Later that same day a hole
opened having an estimated depth of about 20 ft. (note 24) – this was the rift
noted in 1934 by the Balcombe team.  With
that discovery the diggers established a permanent entrance and introduced the
use of explosives to remove the larger boulders.  Good progress was made in the next few weeks
and the dig face was progressing eastwards. Work stopped for the summer expeditions to the
Pyrenees
and Picos and digging was slow to restart. A visit by Hendy in October of that year found that a massive collapse
had occurred’ … resulting in a jam of boulders, wood and scaffold poles in
the floor of the depression.’  Later that
month, cementing the walls enabled the diggers to have a roof of sorts and have
sufficient room at the shaft floor to manoeuvre the excavated infill.  (note 25) On one such trip Hendy recorded
that though stone walling had been successful and a few feet of infill removed
from the shaft floor’ … More diggers and concreting needed.’  Enthusiasm waned and an ill located charge
destabilised the roof and the site was subsequently abandoned.  The spoil heap was transferred back into the
shaft to make the whole site safe.



6 – Adrian Vander plank (WCC) working on the installation of
the shoring, 1975. Photo. Phil Hendy

Following the success of the BEC at extending a cave in
conglomerate at Wigmore Farm – Wigmore Swallet, the WCC felt that there was
sufficient justification to reopen the Waldegrave Swallet again but little came
of their efforts except to install a strong, lockable gate.  Digging commenced just after the Easter
holiday and continued regularly until the end of May when activities were
abruptly brought to a halt due to heavy rain. Hendy commented that  (note 26)

, … The following day I had a
look at the site to find a heavy stream flowing out of the pond.  It was too voluminous for the normal stream
channel, and flowed as a sheet over the old spoil heap … and directly into
the shaft.  I am not looking forward to
our next digging trip, as it is likely that the underground scene will not be a
pretty sight. … ‘

No further work was done at the site and a year later
repairs had to be made to the entrance gate when it was noted that though the
gate was well repaired by Glyn Bolt, the’ … same … cannot be said for the
sides of the dig!’  (note 27) By 1986 the
site was’ … much collapsed … ‘ since when the site has been backfilled. (note
28)

Acknowledgements:

My thanks to Tony Jarratt for reading the manuscript and the
Trustees of Wells Museum for the use of Photo. No. I from the Balch photo.
albums; Martin Grass, Librarian of CDG for use of Photos 2 – 4 from the
Balcombe collection in the CDG Library; Phil Hendy for access to his
photographic collection and the PISS logbook; Roy Paulson, Librarian of BCRA
Library. for permission to reproduce sketch surveys and illustrations from
Balcombe’s Waldegrave reports Nos. I -12, formerly part of the BSA Collection.

Dave Irwin, Priddy.
Somerset. 28th September 2000



7 – The fern filled depression [foreground) of Walde grave
Swallet in 1997 (looking east). digital photo. Dave Irwin

REFERENCE

Price, Graham, 1980, Caving News, Mendip. Cer SS Jnl
10(2)67(Mar/Apr)

Mine found at
East Harptree;
New MCG Hut destroyed; Lamb Leer Cavern, Manor Farm Swallet

TRANSCRIPT:

Balch:

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE REPORT  (note 29)

On the hills interesting work has been done.  Mr. Harry Savory and Mr. Richardson have carried
on the attempt to open the new swallet by the big pond on Earl Waldegrave’s
estate on the old British road near Miner’s Arms, and there is great hope of
results being attained.

An indication that this group of swallets feeds the stream
at Rodney Stoke led to a great experiment carried out by the Street Council
Engineer, Mr. T. Jones, on my initiative, when nearly a quarter of a million
gallons of water were discharged into this swallet in twenty-four hours, and a
careful watch kept for results.  Though
there was great discoloration at the swallet and chemical tests were employed,
and day and night watch was kept at each possible outlet, no trace of this
great volume of water was to be found anywhere.

These experiments were repeated, and in no case has a test
material put down a Mendip Swallet been traceable at either of the risings of
Wells, Wookey Hole, Rodney Stoke or Cheddar. The dilution of course is very great and this accounts in some measure
for the difficulty experienced.

References :

Jarratt log books: 20-21 Apr. 1976 – Digging and removing
boulders

Tony states that one BEC member, Pete Lord descended the dig
and was promptly buried by a collapse. He was dug out and the site abandoned

Notes

1.                  Oldham, Anthony D. et ai, 1963, Not in
Barrington – or
Oldham.
WCC Jnl 7(90)199-207(June)

2.                  Balch, Herbert E., 1937, Mendip, its

Swallet
Caves
and Rock Shelters. Wells: Clare,
Son & Co., 211pp, iIIus .. figs, surveys [po 174} and 1947, Mendip – its
swallet caves and rock shelters.

London
:
Simpkin, Marshall (1941) Ltd., [vi] + 156pp, surveys, iIIus. [p.137-8]

3.                  Possibly Wheal [Wheel] Pit (ST/5477.5 143).

4.                  A new trace is planned to be carried out in the
near future.

5.                  Balch, H.E., 1926, Mendip Nature Research
Committee Report for 1925. MNRC Rep (18) in WNHAS Report for 1925, p.44-46

6.                  Possibly Eric Bird that was associated with
Tratman in the UBSS and accompanied him on the Balch trips into Swildon’s Hole
during the last half of 1921.

7.                  Savory, John led], 1989, A man deep in Mendip.
The Caving Diaries of Harry Savory 1910-1921. Gloucester Alan Sutton, xviii +
150pp, maps, illus., figs, surveys. [po 142]

8.                  Balcombe, F. Graham, 1936, Waldegrave Swallet,
Somerset. Lon. 2 degrees 38′ 55″ Lat. 51 degrees 15′ 35″ Wells: WNHAS
& MNRC, i + 5pp, fig (17-6-1936) [po 2]; reprinted in WCC Jn 114 (168)
125-127 (1977)

9.                  Balcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No.6, 13th February
1935 [in] Reports Nos. 1-12.  Not
published. 14 pp Fcp mss, map, surveys, illus. [BCRA Library]

10.              Balch, H.E., 1927, Mendip Nature Research
Committee Report for 1926. MNRC Rep (19) in WNHAS Report for 1926, p. 27-30,
illus

11.              Salcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No. I, 9th January
1935 [in] Reports Nos. 1 – 12. Not published. 14 pp Fcp mss, map, surveys,
illus. [BCRA Library]

12.              Salcombe, F.G. 1935, Report No.2 17th January
1935 [in] Reports Nos. 1 – 12. Not published. 14 pp Fcp mss, map, surveys,
illus. [BCRA Library]

13.              Balcombe, F. Graham, 1936, [as above]

14.              Balcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No.2, [as above]

15.              Balcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No. 10, [undated
but written after 29th October 1935 and before 26th November 1935 [in I Reports
Nos. I – 12. Not published. 14 pp Fcp mss, map, surveys, iIIus. [BCRA Library]

16.              Balcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No. II , [undated
but written after 29th October 1935 and before 26th November 1935 [in] Reports
Nos. I – 12. Not published. 14 pp Fcp mss, map, surveys, ill us. [BCRA Library]

17.              Balcombe, F. Graham, 1936, [as above]

18.              Kenney, C. Howard, 1950, Summary of work, 1950.
MNRC Rep (43) in WNHAS Report for 1950, p.7-8

19.              Balcombe, F. Graham, 1936 [as above] [p, 4]

20.              Balcombe, F.G., 1935, Report No, II [as above]

21.              Allen, Paul, 1965, Caving Diary, 1965. Vol.
3″ 26-27, map

22.              Hendy, Philip G., 1977, Waldegrave Swallet –
thirty years on. WCC JnI14(170)169-l70(Nov), illus.

23.              Hendy, Philip G., 1977, [as above]

24.              Jarratt, Anthony R., 1974-1981, Manuscript
Caving Log, Vol. II [photocopies in BEC Library and Wells Museum Library]: T he
entry given in this log book is dated 1st June 1974 where Jarratt found: ‘ …
that M[artin] B[ishop] & Co. had opened up the top of the open rift – some
20-30 feet deep.’

25.              Anon, 1976, From the Log WCC JnI14(l63)2(Feb)

26.              Hendy, Philip G., 1979, Waldegrave Swallet –
another chapter in the saga. WCC Jnl 15(l77)156

27.              Anon, 1980, Council of South em Caving Clubs AGM
Report. WCC Jnl 16(l81)33(May)

28.              Anon, 1986, From the Log WCC Jnl 19(211) 17(Dec)

29.              Balch, H.E., 1927, Mendip Nature Research Committee
Report for 1926. MNRC Rep (19) in WNHAS Report for 1926, p. 27-30, illus.

 

Cave Divers From
Somerset Establish New
Record in the
Dordogne

sent in by Clive Stell

 

Clive Stell of

Bath

A team of British cave divers have beaten the depth record
for Dordogne caving at the Grand Souci in the Commune of St. Vincent sur I’
isle.

The team consisted of divers Tim CHAPMAN, Sean PARKER and
Clive STELL, all of the Bristol Exploration Club and the British Cave Diving
Group, with Andrew KAY of the Speleo-Club de Perigueux and the Wessex Cave Club
acting as logistics and surface Controller. The record breaking descent went to 107 metres below ground level, and
the bottom of the cavity has not yet been found!

This was not cave exploration as visitors to the underground
tourist sites of the departement probably imagine it, for 102.5 metres of the
site are under water.  Obviously in these
circumstances not only does progress require a quantity of expensive equipment
and meticulous planning, but also nerves of steel.  The reward for the cave diver is knowing that
he has been to a place where no one has gone before. As a favourite expression
goes, “more people have been to the moon”!

The Grand Souci is a geological enigma for the region.  Most caves in the
Dordogne
are predominantly horizontal, and until now, the deepest known was the Trou du
Vent in Bouzic, at the extreme southern border of the departement.  Only further probes into the Grand Souci will
help to explain its origins: at present it is considered to be a
“relic” of a massive and ancient under ground system formed millions
of years ago, before the verdant hills and valleys in the area even existed.

For the technically minded – the ‘point’ dive, made by Clive
Stell of Bath, took 2 hours and 47 minutes, of which only 18 minutes were for
the descent and exploration, the remainder the ascent and respecting the
previously scheduled ‘decompression stops’. Special computer programs had been used to calculate the mix of gasses
to be breathed by the diver, because at such depths pure oxygen or even
compressed air, become fatally toxic. The mixture used is known as ‘Trimix’, comprising oxygen, helium and
nitrogen all mixed into the dive cylinders in precise quantities with different
mixes used at different depths.  It is
not cheap: each cave dive to these depths costs £100 in gas alone, not to
mention the equipment to use it.

Clive decided to be prudent and turned around two minutes
earlier than his maximum scheduled dive time permitted.  In the dark, hostile world of a flooded cave,
it is better to play it safe.  At a depth
of 94 metres the visibility dropped to a point where Clive could not seen his
gauges despite bright dive lights but he continued on laying the dive line
linking him with the world above until any situation became too dangerous.  In these conditions, it is easy for a diver
to become disoriented.  His mission was
accomplished: the deepest cave in the
Dordogne
at 107metres!

By Andrew Kay – La Chassenie, 24390 Chervieux-Cubas,

Dordogne,
France
.  Note: The official deepest cave dive in
Britain is 67.5 metres at Wookey Hole in

Somerset
.

 

What! More Armchair Caving for the Alcoholic?

by Ray Mansfield

I was delighted when the Chief Bat gave me a copy of the
Belfry Bulletin which included his article on bottle labels and associated
ephemera.  There was a catch in this
kind-hearted gesture as it was followed by the comment “I expect you can
add to this and produce something for the next BB”.  Well here goes:-

Beer

I can only add one beer label to Tony’s list but it is
probably the finest cave related beer label I have ever seen.

Pabst Brewing
Co.  An early 1900’s coloured label showing a
group of tourists in

Mammoth
Cave
enjoying a glass of
beer.  This was one of a series of 8
topical labels produced by this Milwaukee Brewery, which were also published in
booklet form for advertising.

Spirits

Krugman, Attendorner Hohlentropfchen from Sauerland is not a
beer as Tony suggests in his list but a 32% Schnapps advertising the show cave
Attendorn Tropfsteinhohle.  This item was
on sale at a number of Sauerland show caves in the early 1970’s.

Zmajeve solze, Dragon’s tears homemade plum brandy
(Slivovka).  Once upon a time there lived
a frightful dragon in the

Postojna
Caves
.  In fear of the roaring monster, the people of
the region used to throw their sheep, goats and even calves into the
caves.  The insatiable monster
represented an ever-growing danger to the local people.  A clever herdsman called Jacob happened to
live nearby.  When the inhabitants of
Postojna asked him for help, Jacob hit upon a very good idea.  He told the people to throw the dragon a calf
stuffed with quick lime.  They did as
they were told.  The greedy monster devoured
the bait instantaneously and afterwards drank water.  The lime began boiling and the dragon started
roaring, raving and raging with pain. Finally it threw itself on its back, cut at a cave wall with its mighty
claws so strongly that its traces can still be seen, – and it was done
for.  According to their good old custom,
the locals drank to this great event, toasting each other with homemade plum
brandy.

This slivovka could certainly be bought at concession stalls
outside Postojna Jama in the early 1990′ s but I do not know if it is still
available.

Bacardi rum.  The bat
trademark of Barcardi & Company Ltd is claimed to be the most famous bat in
the world.  A 16pp booklet published in
1984 will tell you why.

Dew of the Western Isles, Old Highland Whisky.  An early 1900 bottle label reproduced on a
postcard in 1986.  The whisky was
produced by Train & McIntyre Ltd of
Glasgow
and the label shows
Fingal’s Cave.

Mammoth Cave Brand straight bourbon whiskey.  Tony records the 1940’s label from the Stitzel-Weller
Distillery but there are others. Probably the earliest is a late 1800′ s or very early 1900′ s bottle
with a multi-coloured enamel picture of the historic entrance to

Mammoth
Cave
with white enamel lettering Mammoth
Cave Whiskey.  One of these rare items
recently sold for well in excess of $200.00 in a recent auction.  A half pint label dating from 1916 shows a
similar picture to that used in the 1940’s, but the distillery was then solely
owned by W.L.Weller & Sons.  This
1916 bottle is of considerable interest as it has another label which is a
caution notice about mis-using the bottle and its contents, and the neck tax
stamps have a bottling date of 1916 and a made date of spring 1911.  It claims to be 100 proof.

Jack Daniel’s Whiskey. The California Caver of June 1980 carried a copy of an advertisement for
this famous bourbon.  It shows three
people at the entrance of the cave and carries the following text.  Of the 2,531 caves in
Tennessee,
this one in

Moore
County
is particularly
prized.  It’s fed, you see, by an
underground, iron-free spring flowing at 56 degrees Fahrenheit year round.  Mr Jack Daniel, a native of these parts, laid
claim to the cave in 1866 and from that year forward, its water has been used
to make Jack Daniel Whiskey.

A full description of this cave and a survey can be found
in:- Thomas Barr – Caves of Tennessee. 1961. pp.334-337.  I visited this distillery on 18th June 1974
with Martin Webster, Martin Mills and Bob Mehew to find that the water from the
cave was really used to make the whiskey but we did not get a free sample as
the distillery is in a dry county, most disappointing.

Wines

Tony suggests that serious students should consult the
Belgian published bulletin collections (now defunct).  He is quite right in saying consult it, but
it is not defunct.  It stopped at number
40 in December 1994 but Guy de Block must have relented and started again with
number 41 in September 1999 and the last issue number 43 came out in May 2000.  Numerous labels (mostly wine) have been
described and illustrated and check lists have been produced by Philippe Drouin
in the following issues:-

Number 29 pp.12-13 (February 1991).  Number 31 pp.13-16 (December 1991).  Number 40 pp.11-23 (December 1994) and Number
41 pp.3-10 (September 1999).

Quitapenas Malaga.  A
sweet wine purchased in the last five years with a label showing some cave
formations in the Cueva de Nerja, Spain.

Cueva del Granero 1987. From La Mancha region of

Spain

does not have any cave illustration, just in the name.

Tautavel.  Cotes du
Roussillon Villages 1995.  Label shows
three Palaeolithic hunters from the site Caune de l’ Arago,
Pyrenees-Orientales, an archaeological site renowned for the discovery of

Tautavel
Man.
  Some details on this site and this wine appeared
in the Oddbins winelist for Winter 1995.

Grottes des Tunnels Merlot 1992.  From a show cave in the Ardeche visited by
Martin Mills and family in 1994, this label shows a stylised cave
entrance.  His comment was that the wine
was undoubtedly better than the cave.

Moc Chau 989, Speleo

Vietnam
.  A 1996 Cotes du Rhone showing a caver either
prussiking or abseiling off a map of

Vietnam
.

Renski Reisling. Produced for Postojnska Jama 1818-2000. The label is taken from a Schaffenrath print of 1825.

Valvasor penece vino. Similar to champagne produced in

Ljubljana

in the early 1990’s.  The neck label is a
portrait of J.W.Valvasor, explorer of caves and underground sources in the
latter part of the 17ih century.  The
bottle cork also carries his name.

Soft Drinks

Agua de Cuevas.  No
cave shown on the label but from a cave spring in the Cantabrian Mountains of
Spain.

Schweppes.  A German
advertisement from Enzyklopadie des Schweppens lists Homo Schweppiens showing a
frieze of prehistoric animals and a prehistoric hunter holding a bow in his
right hand and a bottle of Schweppes to his lips with his left hand.

Tobacco

Just one item which is a brown cardboard

box 5
l¼ high x 6½ wide x 8¼ inches
long.  All four sides are marked Mammoth
Cave Twist Sweetened.  The box contained
2 dozen packets from the Scott Tobacco Company of

Bowling Green,
Kentucky
.

I am deeply indebted to Tony Jarratt, Martin Mills, Trevor
Shaw and Jan Paul van der Pas for awakening my interest and providing many
hours of amusement.

Ray Mansfield. July
2000.

 

Nostalgic Wanderings (Two)

by Roger Haskett

A Fishing Interlude,

Gamtoose
River
,
Eastern Cape,
South Africa

Where to start? Around 1980, I joined Pick ‘n Pay supermarkets and was given their
branch in

Commercial Road,
Port Elizabeth
, as a butchery
manager.  Seeing as I had come down from
the
Transvaal, a management meeting was
called, and I was introduced to the other three managers in the area.  After a few canapes and many Castle lagers,
the chat came round to the local scene and fishing in general.

Well, fishing or caving, I don’t care which.  So there! I hit it off with the guys straight away, and was immediately drawn into
this crazy

eastern Cape

angling scene.  It’s mad down there.  Everybody goes; it’s a way of life, everyone’s
hooked!   Except.

Two of the blokes, one from the Hypermarket, who shall
remain nameless.  He liked to stray away
from home, so the two times he came with us he brought his wife along (clever
bugger he were).  He used to throw his
line in with no bait on, so, obviously he never caught anything.  Well, his Misses soon got bored with that and
stopped coming.  Guess what?  So did he. Dirty swine!

The other bloke, Marc Jackson, he just reckoned fishing was
a waste of time.  However, myself, Ted
Rogers and Colin Smith (a guy from a rival firm) palled up together and went
fishing most weekends.  We used to take
the families, girlfriends and the Bar Be Que and have a whale of a time.

Now Jacko, he got to thinking that he was missing out, so he
started creeping around, asking silly questions.  Like; How much did a rod cost?  Etc., Well, we kept him on a string for a
bit, and then one day, we asked him if he would like to come with us?  This, of course, was what he was after.

The following weekend we had organised a little competition
with one of the local Angling Clubs, so we invited him along.  He was made up like a dog with the proverbial
two …. !  We had arranged to meet this
other club in Patensie, at 6 am where we would draw lots for where we were going
to fish.  We had fished the Gamtoose up
there many times before, but never in the section which we drew that day.  So, we didn’t know that stretch (very
profound Roger).  However, nary a daunt,
we are going to give it our best shot. But first, we have got to get Jacko tackled up.  So we find him a rod and reel, tie some hooks
on – you are allowed to fish with two hooks in S.A., bait him up and cast his
line in the river for him.

Now think to yourself, it’s 6.30 in the morning, just
getting light.  There is a miasma rising
from the water and it’s still quite chilly. We’ve drawn a small swim where the four of us can only just fit along
the bank.  Either side of us are banks of
bulrushes and tall reeds.  Jacko’s got a
line in the water and the rest of us are turned away on the bank tackling up.

All of a sudden the silence is broken.  This first time bloody fisherman, Jackson,
has hooked into a monster Carp.  Within
minutes of being at the river, this “Groot Vis” is trekking upriver
like an express train, Jackson’s screaming his head off, and the fish is
heading into our side of the bank about forty yards up stream.  Clever Dick Smith tells him,” Hey Jacko,
you are going to lose that fish in the reeds if you don’t get in the river and
play it!”  So Jacko jumps in!  Now here’s the punch line – nobody told us
that the river was eighteen feet deep here. When we looked around, all we could see was the tip of Jacko’s rod and
his cap floating on the surface, Ho! Ho! Ho! He could have drowned, but we couldn’t help him, we were laughing too
much.

What a baptism!  He
eventually managed to get himself into shallower water and landed a fine 12 lb.
Common Carp.  Shame, the poor blokes been
hooked ever since!

Hope someone will find this story amusing, Roger Haskett

Roger Haskett with a large Common Carp

 

Stock’s House Shaft – Winter Draws On.

by Tony Jarratt

Continuing the series
of articles from BB’s nos. 502, 504-508.

“Now we descend
into oblivion or we enter the great book of history”.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the film) – 1959

On the 6th September 2000 a distinct hint of Autumn in the
air spurred the team on to drop the downstream water level before the onset of
the rainy season.  In an attempt at
economy Quacker’s generator was tried a couple of times to power the pump but
was not “man enough” for the job. In the meantime all full bags were dragged back to the Shaft and
clearing of the Upstream Level and Shaft bottom continued.  Three visiting cavers from Meghalaya assisted
on the 11th and now know why we go to their country to walk into huge, open and
warm river caves!

On 13th September 125 bags reached the surface with another
108 coming out on the 20th – the fuel crisis and B.C.R.A.  Conference putting an effective halt on the
intermediate weekend digging.  The level
of the terminal choke had been lowered enough for the standing water surface to
have dropped considerably.  This enabled
it to be pumped “dry” using the hand pump during generator
problems.  An infestation of tiny flies
added to the fun at the working face as diggers with pooh-covered hands felt
them settle on their noses.

Work continued in both the Upstream and Downstream Levels
and the outlet from the submersible pump hose was used to good effect to wash
mud off the walls.  On the 24th 62 bags
were hauled out and the following day the writer, on a solo trip, pumped out
the water and succeeded in bringing down the terminal choke with the use of
Trevor’s long garden hoe handle – “the Chokebuster”.  It made a pleasant change not to be underneath
it at the time.  A stream issuing from
the Treasury of Aeops heralded the onset of an early “monsoon”

The planned major assault on the 27th was defeated by
continued heavy rain but despite two good sized streams entering at the Shaft
bottom (where Alex had earlier that day heaped up boulders from a clearing
session) the end was eventually pumped out and a few rocks removed before the
sudden noise of the pipe bung being blown out of the dam caused a minor
panic.  Amidst general cursing pumping
was recommenced and more rocks later removed from the choke.  It was then possible to scramble up over the
collapse into a standing sized, solid roofed “rift chamber”.  This may be natural, mined out or created by
roof collapse during the driving of the level and had been used as a convenient
stacking space by the Old Men.  Despite a
very strong inward draught there was no obvious outlet from this rift to
indicate the way on.  It is assumed that
the level continues below this rift and the excavation of the floor here would
have been the next priority if the weather had not shat on us.

The 1st October saw 83 loads out and the welcome return of
our German friends Helmut and Michele Potzsch of the Basque caving club Ziloko
Gizonak.  All the removed rock is now
being taken to the Mineries Pool for future repair work on the dam and the
bagged tailings and mud are being used to build a temporary barrage in the
gully behind the main sink.  By this
means we have diverted most of the Treasury of Aeops water into Five Buddles
Sink but the source of the Upstream Level water needs to be found before that
too can be diverted.  The Treasury water
did one good thing by washing away debris obscuring two borer holes driven
towards the Shaft and indicating that the Old Men had mined inwards to here
from the surface sink, probably following a natural streamway.

The temporary surface dam was commenced by Alex Livingstone
and Pete Hellier on October 4th – with Lindsay Diengdoh doing sterling service
wheelbarrowing spoil across the road from the Shaft.  Another 104 loads were hauled out and the
in-washed silt behind the temporary Upstream Level dam was removed and
bagged.  Further visits on the 6th, 8th
and 9th continued this work in ongoing wet conditions.  A small section of clay pipe stem and a tiny
piece of china decorated with blue spots were found.

Another major session occurred here on the 11th with
activities being videoed by Neil Wooldridge (W.C.C.) who has been conned into
producing a film of the dig.  It has been
decided to call the huge boulder presently blocking the Upstream Level
“Rupert Jnr.”  A historical
precedent had been set by the late Graham Ba1combe who named a two ton boulder,
in his dig at the nearby Waldegrave Swallet, Rupert.  See the article by Dave Irwin in this BB and
the forthcoming Speleo History Bulletin – copies available from him – essential
reading for Stockhill and cave digging enthusiasts.

A considerable amount of trenching and banking was done on
the surface by Trevor, resulting in a good flow of water into Five BuddIes Sink
and a reduction of that entering the Treasury of Aeops.  Half a small bronze horizontal bearing liner
was found near the excavated buddle pit – doubtless part of the ore washing
machinery.  It bears evidence of
“load lines” due to excessive wear (see appendix).

Over the next two days about a hundred bags of spoil were
filled in the Upstream Level and a large amount of rock was dragged back from
beyond “Rupert Jnr.” by careful manipulation of the long crowbar.
Another tiny fragment of grey and blue decorated china was found.  By inserting drain testing dye (fluorescein)
into the surface stream we were able to prove that the Upstream Level sink must
lie south east of the old tramway to the Waldegrave Works – the water on the

north west
side only
entering the workings via the Treasury of Aeops.  Further testing in this area has so far
failed to reveal the actual sink.

121 bags came out on the 18th and about fifty bags were
filled from the silt traps in the streamway. Next day a shallow shaft-like feature about forty feet south of Stock’s
House ruins was excavated to a depth of six feet.  Probing in all directions with a crowbar
failed to hit any solid rock or ginging so this site was abandoned as a
possible alternative entrance to the Upstream Level.  106 more loads came out on the 25th when Neil
W. was kept busy dragging them to the Shaft, hooking them on and videoing the
operation at the same time!  Further
clearing was undertaken over the next two days and on the 30th – when the writer,
digging out the floor of Pipe Aven, was distressed to find lumps of wet clay
sporadically dropping from the ceiling. The drone of a Forestry J.E.B. grading the car park somewhere above did
not help his composure and so a retreat was made to H.Q.  A mighty waterfall was found to be thundering
down the “wheel pit” entrance to Five BuddIes Sink.

On the 2nd November, following an hour spent vainly trying
to keep the winch running properly, hauling plans were abandoned and Neil U.
set off below.  He returned fifteen
minutes later in a state of depressed shock to report that a large roof fall
had occurred at Pipe Aven and that the rest of the Upstream Level was now
inaccessible.  All went down to view this
tragedy and note the ominous series of cracks in the SE wall of the Level which
gave warning of further, imminent and catastrophic collapse!  The accessible tools were rescued leaving
three spades and two crowbars interred beyond the fall and the place was left
to sort itself out.  A large quantity of
fallen clay had added to the silt problems in the streamway and so work
commenced on bagging this up – a project which will keep us going over the next
few weeks.  We were fortunate that no-one
had been crushed by, or trapped beyond this fall.

Bob Smith’s birthday was on the 6th November so, as a
special treat, he was allowed to hook on 100 bags for removal to the
surface.  Another 117 came out two days
later – courtesy of Alex, whose birthday it wasn’t.  Further work on clearing the Pipe Aven
collapse was done on the 13th when the writer, supported by Alex, also dived
for some 15-20ft downstream to reach the flooded terminal choke but did not
feel confident enough to squeeze up past the stemples into the assumed limited
airspace above.  With lower water conditions
this is still a feasible diving/digging proposition but the great amount of
silt creates zero visibility and makes things generally unpleasant.

During a major silt bagging session on the 15th November
more of the Pipe Aven collapse was gingerly removed and shoring was commenced
with the placement of a long Acro-prop. Two days later a couple of short Acros were installed, more rock cleared
and the choke gingerly passed beneath in order to rescue the tools from beyond.  A major shoring project is now required here.

To be continued; (Due
to the current high water levels the ground plan of the Shaft bottom cannot be
done and will be left for a future article.)

Appendix – A Timewaster in Five Buddles Sink and more on
the clay pipe saga.

On 9/2/98, at the base of the Cornish Shaft in Five Buddles
Sink, a wooden spatula-like tool was disinterred. It was assumed to be a
scraper for cleaning mining equipment. The recently published “The Copper & Lead Mines around the
Manifold
Valley,
North Staffordshire” by Lindsey Porter
and John Robey has a photograph of an almost identical artefact on p.141.  This was found in the Royledge Mine and
probably dates from the 1850s.  It is
described as a” …. ‘timewaster’, a tool for removing clay from
boots.” It’s Mendip cousin and the bearing liner found on the surface are
shown below – drawn to full scale.  Both
are destined for

Wells
Museum
.

Bob Smith, via David Cooper (a clay pipe maker at
Amberley
Chalk
Pits
Museum,
West Sussex) has contacted David Higgins of
the Society for Clay Pipe Research.  He
was very excited by the drawings of the decorated pipe and writes as follows:-

“Many thanks for your letter
and most interesting enclosure which arrived this morning.  I have had a look through various
publications for the area and cannot find any good matches for this unusual
pipe.  The bowl form and style of the
leaf-decorated seams suggest a date of around 1740-90 for this piece, but the
other decorative elements are very hard to match.  Most of the

Bristol
area products were plain until
towards the end of the C18th and so this looks like an early example.  There does not seem to be anything quite like
it known to date!  The W in a circle
looks like a typical cartouche mark as used in the Bristol region, but
extending up as far as Gloucestershire and down into Devon and Cornwall.  It is slightly unusual to have a single
letter rather than a two letter mark. Marks with dotted borders like this occur on pipes of c 1700-50 in

Cornwall
.  Given the combination of form, mark and
decoration a date of somewhere around c1750-75 would seem most likely for this
piece.

Given the rarity of this design
it would be useful to get a note of it published.  Would your contact be prepared to write a
covering note describing the pipe and saying where it was found to go in the
SCPR Newsletter?”  (This has been done.)


Additions to the Digging Team

Brian Kharpran Daly (Meghalayan Adventurers, N.E.India),
Lindsay Diengdoh (M.A.), Gregory Diengdoh (M.A.), Mark “Shaggy”
Howden, Brian Johnson, Liz Kitts (Southampton U.C.C.), Michele Potzsch (Ziloko
Gizonak), Mick Barker (
Lincoln Scouts C.C.),

Adrian
Burrows, Matthew
Higgins.

Additional Assistance

Dave Carter (Show Power), Dany Bradshaw, Mike Wilson, David
Cooper (clay pipe maker), David Higgins (S.C.P.R.).

© 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.