Belfry Bulletin

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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover: The Treasurer, Blitz, sketched by REG.


1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor



What I want to talk about this time is car thefts.  There have been an awful lot of them recently - several BEC members have been 'done'. At the Belfry there is a notice pinned up from the local police listing various car numbers you should beware of. These are so called 'community cars', that is, cars which have been stolen and hidden and are then used by the thieves or their associates for ram-raids or breaking into caver's cars or for perpetrating other crimes.  These people do not waste any time, it's a case of smashing the car windows and making off with whatever they can grab.  Malcolm Davis was very upset when he came out of Tyning's Barrows and found his windows smashed and some clothes missing in spite of the fact that he had left his boot unlocked!

I suspect most of the perpetrators come from Weston or Bristol although there may be some local, copycats.  The only defence there is, is to either have someone stay in the car (which could be dangerous!) or to be chauffeured to the cave site and picked up again at a pre-arranged time.  Thefts most commonly occur in the Charterhouse area and Burrington Combe although at least one has happened in Pelting Drove.

Club Business

The AGM and club dinner will, as usual, be on the first Saturday in October.  The venue for the dinner is changed this year.  Details will be forthcoming shortly from Mr. N who is producing a short news sheet.

There will be an election for the committee again this year.  Nominations should be sent to the secretary as soon as possible, please (I shall not be standing).

One of the three club survey kits has gone missing.  If anyone knows where it is please could you try to get it returned!

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of the Bristol Exploration Club Held at the Belfry on October 3rd, 1992

The meeting was convened by the Secretary, Martin Grass, there being a quorum at 1035.


Martin Grass, Chris Batstone, Nigel Taylor, Glenys Grass, Bob Cork, Mr Wilson (Senior), Hilary Wilson, Mr Wilson (Junior), Kev Gurner, Chris Smart, Richard Payne, Babs Williams, Jeff Price, Richard Blake, Trevor Hughes, Dave Aubrey, Terry Earley, Dave Turner, John Watson, Nick Gymer, S J McManus, Andy Middleton, Tim Large, Ian Caldwell, Rob Harper, Chris Harvey, Colin Dooley, Barrie Wilton, Dave Yeandle, Phil Romford, Dudley Herbert, Alan Turner, Dickfred, Brian Prewer, Robin Grey, David Ball, Sarah Macdonald, Henry Bennett, Pete Hellier, Dave Glover, Greg Villis, Graham Johnson, Clive Betts, Alan Downton, Ian Gregory, Ted Humphreys, Jeremy Henley and Les Williams.

Non Members:

Kirsten Turner, Florica Cowie.


Dany Bradshaw, Lavina Watson, Jim Smart, Dany Bradshaw, J'Rat, LiI Romford, Ruth Baxter, Loopy, Angela Garwood, Nick Cornwall-Smith and Andy Sanders.


Bob Cork was elected Chairman.


Hilary Wilson.    Pro. Nigel Taylor.           Sec. Blitz.

Babs Williams. Pro. Mac.                      Sec. Blitz.

Brian Prewer.     Pro. Nigel Taylor.           Sec. Batstone

Members Resolutions:


Minutes of the 1991 AGM:

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the 1991 AGM minutes by the meeting.

Proposed: Mr Nigel. Seconded: Phil Romford. Carried with two abstentions.

Matters arising from the minutes:

  1. Long Term Plan: Tim asked for the Long Term Plan the Committee was instructed to produce.  Various discussions ensued.  The Committee reported that a meeting was held although the minutes had not been published in the BB.  Tim asked that the minutes with current updates be published.

For 26, Against 0, Abstentions 2

  1. Rob Harper asked for the Tackle Warden to publish a list of current tackle available.  Sec. Blitz.

For 28, Against 0, Abstentions 2

  1. Phil Romford asked how the discount on early payment of subs had worked.  John Watson replied "Quite well."
  2. BCRA Insurance:  The NCA had looked into this and the Treasurer reported that the new BCRA scheme was an improvement.  We will stick with this for the immediate future.
  3. Phil Romford asked if regular checks were made at the Belfry to see who was staying.  Martin Grass replied that this was on an informal basis but seemed to be working.

Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Phil Romford asked about the vandalism mentioned in the report. Martin replied that this appeared to have stopped.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Nigel Taylor. Seconded: Greg Villis
Carried unam.

Caving Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Trevor said he could obtain epoxy resin for the stal repairs.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large Seconded: Chris Batstone
Carried unam.

Hut Warden's Report:

Given verbally to the meeting.  (To be published in the BB).  Mac suggested that the Hut Warden's job is a thankless one.  A vote of thanks was then proposed by Nigel Taylor, seconded by Blitz.

For 35, Against 2, Abstentions 1

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mike Wilson. Seconded: Rob Harper.
For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Hut Engineer's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Nigel said he wished to thank all the members who worked on the hut on the working weekends. Martin Grass asked when the new showers would be installed.  Nigel said that he had left this to next years Hut Engineer.  Nigel asked that a book be kept in the Library by the Hut Engineer detailing work carried out and locations of any pipe work/wiring run. Tim asked whether the Central Heating would actually heat the hut or be used as background heating.  It was reported that the latter will be the case.

A vote of thanks was then proposed by Blitz, seconded by Robin Grey. For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

A vote of thanks to Pat Cronin was then proposed by Dick Fred and seconded by Blitz.  Carried unam.

It was suggested that the Secretary write to Pat expressing the BEC's thanks.  For acceptance of the report by the meeting

Proposed: Mac. Seconded: Slug

For 37, Against 0, Abstentions 1

Membership Secretary's Report:

Previously published in the BB. Colin Dooley asked if we had looked at Direct Debit arrangements. Jeremy Henley explained that this was very expensive.  John Watson said more people had played early this year probably as a result of the discount system but several people also chose to pay at the very last minute.  Dave Turner said we must get people to realise what they get out of the club and that we should have a regular BB full of member’s articles.  Much discussion followed regarding how to get early payment of subs!

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large.
Seconded: Dave Turner.
Carried unam.

Tackle Master's Report:

Previously published in the BB. Rob Harper asked how much use the club SRT rope gets.  Mike replied "Very little."  Rob Harper proposed that the fixed tackle be removed from St. Cuthbert’s Swallet.  Trevor seconded the proposal.

For 5, Against 32, Abstentions 5.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Phil Romford. Seconded: Richard Blake
Carried with two abstentions.

BB Editor's Report:

Previously published in the BB.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Henry. Seconded: Robin Grey.
Carried with three abstentions.

A vote of thanks was then proposed by Phil and Romford seconded by Dick Fred.

Carried with one abstention.

Hon Treasurer's Report:

Handed out at the meeting. Mac suggested that we look at the possibility of coin meters for electricity.  Much discussion then followed.  Mac then proposed, seconded by Rob Harper that non strategic electricity be put on a coin meter.  For 7. Against 31, Abstentions 8.

Tim Large proposed that the Committee review hut fees for mid week use and look at the possibility of differential rates. For 39, Against 1, Abstentions 3.

Les Williams asked that we look at energy efficient/saving appliances when are due for replacement.

Tim asked as to our BMC membership.  The Treasurer undertook to rejoin.  Jeremy Henley proposed that anyone using the BMC facilities during the next year inform the Treasurer so that we can decide whether or not our continuing membership is justified.  This was seconded by Rob Harper and carried. For 26, Against 9, Abstentions 8.

Mac asked the Treasurer if subs or hut fees should be increased.  Blitz said that hut fees were raised last year for guests but not for members.  Martin Grass said that we should look at putting subs up annually so as to avoid large jumps every couple of years.

Dave Turner proposed £22 subs, seconded Mike Wilson.

For 34, Against 8, Abstentions 2.

Discussion then followed regarding the early payment discount scheme.  Nigel said that he would prefer a late payment surcharge rather than the early payment discount scheme.  It was then suggested by Mike Wilson, seconded by Trevor that we have a base rate discount of £18.  An amendment was proposed by Tim Large, seconded by Jeremy Henley that the base rate discount be £20.

For the amendment 31, Against 14, Abstentions 2.

For the original proposal 31, Against 6, Abstentions 2.

Trevor asked that it be minuted that a 25% subs increase is not normal.

The Treasurer proposed that the non discounted subscription be £24.  This was seconded by Jeremy Henley.  An amendment of the non-discounted subscription at £25 was proposed by Dave Turner and seconded by Dick Fred.

For the amendment 14, Against 24, Abstentions 7

For the original proposal 38, Against 2, Abstentions 1

Rob Harper proposed that the Treasurer comes to the AGM next year prepared to state how much the subs should be raised.  He or she will need to look at future income and expenditure and make an educated guess.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Phil Romford. Seconded: Les Williams.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Auditor's Report:

The Auditor stated that the Treasurers accounts were a true representation of the finances of the club. Barry also said the club must look at raising the money to meet the St Cuthbert’s pledges.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Tim Large. Seconded: Mac.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund Report:

Previously published in the BB.  Graham Johnson thanked the IDMF for the money given to the Philippines expedition this year.

A proposal was then made by Mac that the BEC do not transfer any money to the IDMF this year. Seconded: Nigel Taylor.

Votes for the proposal Carried with 3 against and 3 abstentions.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Proposed: Mac. Seconded: Mike Wilson.
Carried with two abstentions. Nil against.

Librarian's Report:

Previously published in the BB.  The Secretary read out a letter from the Librarian saying that he is happy to continue. Martin Riddle has loaned the club a word processor.

For acceptance of the report by the meeting.
Carried unam.


The tellers reported that 81 members had voted as follows:

Martin Grass              69
Nigel Taylor                68
Chris Smart                64
Ted Humphreys          63
Mike Wi1son              61
Jeff Price                    59
Tim Large                   48
Chris Harvey               43
Graham Johnson         42
Ian Caldwell                32
Angela Garwood         31
Trevor Hughes             29
Richard Blake             16
Jim Smart                  14

1991-92 Committee:










Hon Treasurer

Caving Secretary

Tackle Master


For Mr Wilson 34

For Tim Large 4

Hut Warden


For Zot 25

For Tim Large 10

Martin Grass

Chris Smart

Jeff Price

Mr Wilson

Tim Large



Chris Harvey

Tim Large

Les Williams


Rob Harper


Rob Harper



Mr Nigel

Mr Wilson

Jeremy Henley

Nigel Taylor

Alan Downton

Nigel Taylor





Robin Gray

Rob Harper raised a point of order on the Chairman's comment that we put History behind us.  He said it was always behind us.

Hut Engineer


For Tim Large 36

For Mr Nigel 2

BB Editor


Tim Large

Mr Nigel



Ted Humphreys

Nigel Taylor

Dick Fred




Alan Turner


Mike Wilson

Chris Smart



Les Williams

Kevin Gurner

Nigel Taylor said that he could not do the job very well if elected but would do his best.

For Ted Humphreys 33
For Mr Nigel 5

Possible commercial interests/conflicts of interest were then asked to be revealed.  Chris Smart declared that he was the Treasurer of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs.  Mac said that he objected to this.

Membership Secretary


For John 24

For Mr Nigel 12

Joh Watson

Nigel Taylor

Tim Large


Jeremey Henley

Jeff Price

Non Committee Posts:




For Trebor 37

For Jim Smart 4

Barrie Wilton


Jim Smart


Rob Harper


Jeremey Henley



Members Resolutions:

1. County Membership.  Nigel Taylor proposed, seconded by Mike Wilson that this AGM forms "a Country Membership or Retirement Membership, that would have to be applied for by bone-fide members who would assure us that they would who longer cave."

Much discussion followed. Brian Prewer, as an OAP said that he would be offended to be offered a lower sub or special status.

For acceptance of the resolution by the meeting.
For 3. Against 24. Abstentions 10

Nigel undertook to publish in the next BB a note regarding this Country Membership/Retirement Membership.

Any Other Business:

St Cuthbert’s Report.

The Treasurer drew the meetings attention to his report.  The Secretary said the Report was available in most caving shops and that copies are available at the Belfry for leaders to sell to tourist parties. Nigel Taylor said that he will organize a box at the Belfry to be locked with the Cuthbert’s lock so that all leaders can get access to copies.  Colin Dooley reiterated that when we sell all the reports we will make a very respectable profit but that we need to push the sales.  Robin Grey suggested that we sell to caving clubs at one third discount. Rob Harper said that it was a dead duck from the outset and that we should get out and cut our losses now. Colin Dooley asked how many people were going down Cuthbert’s each week.  Phil Romford proposed that he look at setting up a deal with Cordee to sell the Cuthbert’s Report.  Accepted with one against.  Phil also offered his services to sell the Cuthbert’s Report.  Accepted unam.  Nigel Taylor will liaise with Joan Bennett to explain that Phil will help her as Sales Officer.

Martin Grass said why not pay back some of the pledges now and send out a letter requesting an extension to the loan.  Chris Smart said that he would request his money back on time.  He explained his action saying that he thought it a very poor show that 22 people were being asked to carry the 200 strong membership of the club.  The AGM noted last year’s resolution that the money needs to be repaid at, or before the 1993 AGM.  Les Williams proposed that the Belfry be used as security for a bank loan if necessary so that the pledges can be repaid on time.

For acceptance of the proposal by the meeting.
For 28, Against 13, Abstentions 1.

Phil asked the incoming Committee to consider calling an EGM if finances looked bad.


It was agreed to burn the voting papers.

Vote of Thanks:

A vote of thanks to Nigel Taylor for organizing the AGM food and Dinner was proposed by Alan Turner and seconded by Rob Harper.  Carried unam.

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 15.50.



Dear Ed,

I have been a member of the BEC, off and on, for the last 25 years and have always found a great deal of pleasure in caving and socialising within the club.  I returned to the club in earnest a couple of years ago and have since become a 'Cuthbert's Leader'; the cave has always meant something special to me.  Needless to say I spend a considerable time down St. Cuthbert's Swallet, digging (my dig is near Plantation Junction), exploring and leading tourist trips. Obviously I still visit other Mendip caves and so think that, with about three trips a week, I can still consider myself fairly active!

The above leads me to my next comment which is that I am really "pissed off" with Bob Cross. Bob and myself go back many years and hopefully will for many more.  As members are aware (BB 467) Bob fired a salvo, with some venom, at the running of the Belfry which was suitably replied to in the same BB.

However the crux of my moan to you Bob, is: -  Is the Belfry to be used by active cavers and non active members of the club with still a genuine interest or by people such as yourself who, in recent times, have done nothing except criticise either the Belfry or the members.

This came to a head for me last Saturday (12th June '93).  I, with other members of the club plus a guest, had an excellent trip down Cuthbert's.  Unfortunately, as we were coming out, the guest became very tired so I returned to the Belfry to collect the various bits of tackle required.  When I walked into the Belfry I met Bob, no one else was present. Bob and I had a conversation about the whereabouts of Zot and generally passed the time of day.  I then collected all my tackle from the tackle store and the changing room and was about to leave when Bob became very aggressive, shouting "Look at the mess you've left" and as I was going out of the Belfry door  "What about turning the fucking lights off", I thought, ignore it, bearing in mind I was thinking more of extricating a tired caver from Cuthbert's. Afterwards, however, I thought those brief comments were, to say the least, upsetting!

I feel sorry for the need to write this letter but I believe and always will that the BEC is a caving club. If any members do not agree with this basic philosophy and do not wish the noise or mess associated with an active caving club but wish instead to have a quiet time (unless there is a "free barrel" about) they should, perhaps, spend their nights at an alternative hostelry.  I believe the New Inn can be very quiet and clean.  I think the Wessex would, nowadays, be too noisy for them!

Oh, by the way, if Bob ever wishes to visit Cuthbert’s again I would be more than pleased to take him.

Many thanks for publishing,

Dudley Herbert.


China 93

How it actually came about I don’t know as I had never really considered going to China before and there I found myself planning a trip.  Actually, I originally chose China because I heard it was a fairly safe place to travel on your own.  As I started to research locations, I realised that this could easily be transformed into a caving trip as all the areas I wanted to visit were the limestone regions of China.  Being an avid caver this appeared an opportunity too good to miss, so holiday plans were brushed aside and a caving trip with the odd city excursion was planned instead.

The first problem that I had to overcome was that I couldn’t cave on my own, so who could I persuade to come caving in China with me?  After asking around at college and gaining several replies of “I’d love to but….”  I changed tack and asked around the Hunters instead.  This proved more profitable and by Christmas I had tentative plans to meet Nick Hawkes in China.  The only problem being that he lives in Australia and I live in England.  However, corresponding with his father, Chris, arrangements weren’t too bad to organise.

Caving partner found, flight booked, travellers cheques arranged, I set off for the wilds of China via Hong Kong. As all cheap flights go, I travelled the direct route of Bahrain-Bangkok-Hong Kong.  This wasn’t too bad and the landing at Hong Kong airport was an experience I will never forget. Have you ever been in a plane that flies between skyscrapers and banks right down the middle of a street?  I hadn’t and it proved quite entertaining.


Hong Kong itself was quite a wondrous place, but not exactly relaxing. However, it was a good place to meet up with my caving partner Nick.  Upon his arrival we sorted out visas and planned our route into China.  The cheapest option was to take the train to Wu Lu the border town between Hong Kong and China, and walk through customs.  This only takes a mere two hours with numerous queues and forms to fill in, but not as bad as we had heard it could be!

After walking across a very smelly river (the border) we arrived in Shenzhen where we received our first big culture shock, everything was written in Chinese.  I know this might not surprise some of you, and we had expected it, but it suddenly made us realise that travelling or just doing anything could pose a major problem as neither of us spoke a single word of Chinese! After this initial “What have we done?" we wandered around and stumbled across the bus station where we were grabbed and placed on a bus that we were told was going to Ghangzhou (Canton) the capital of the province where further transport could be found.  Unfortunately the bus wasn’t going there and we had to continually change bus to reach our destination.

Eventually we were dumped on a busy road and told “ Canton”.  This wasn’t very helpful but we found the railway station and got our bearings. Next stop was the ferry dock and an attempt to buy tickets to Wuzhou.  Trying to read a ferry timetable is another entertaining experience, especially when one word looks exactly like another in Chinese.  Alas we had missed the last ferry and instead had to buy a ticket for the following day.

The ferry trip had two large bunk rooms with a 6m by 2m space each, that was your seat and bed for the 20 hour journey.  At least it allowed us an opportunity to see the Chinese way of life and practice a few phrases on the locals with the use of a phrase book that I had remembered to bring!!  Sleeping was only possible because I was already tired, and it meant I slept through the onslaught of cockroaches who were the local residents on the ferry.

The Chinese way of life on the river was interesting and very busy.  We passed many barges transporting goods around the Pearl River Delta and several small fishing boats (or rafts) with the owner using lines to catch the fish.  All of these rafts had their own resident cormorant which sat on the edge of the raft waiting for fish to appear.  Apparently a cormorant can match three capable fishermen.


After docking in Wuzhou we departed with the masses and were pointed in the direction of the bus station. Here we discovered that we had missed the morning bus so instead bought a ticket for the night bus going to Yangshou. With a day to waste we went on a tour of the town.  The first stop was the animal market, where almost any animal could be bought to eat. We were offered turtles, snake, cats, porcupines, monkeys as well as many other unusual and weird animals. This gave us a good insight into the Chinese life and some of the cultural differences with which we would have to become accustomed.  However, we declined any offers of tasting these exotic delights.

The local cuisine took some getting used to.  At first the overall smell of the food was enough to make anyone lose their appetite, but eventually you become accustomed to it.  The food proved most edible.  We ordered by pointing at what we wanted and then crossing our fingers and hoping it would be alright.  In all, the Chinese cuisine was excellent even if at times you weren’t sure what you were eating (there was strong possibility of dog on the menu).

The bus journey to Yangshou took about 3 hours but at least travelling at night meant that it was fairly cool.  It would have been unbearable in the day time.  The monsoon season made the weather incredibly hot and humid with the odd thunderstorm thrown in for good measure.  This made achieving anything an extra effort in the extreme heat.

Having arrived at night we saw little of the area except eerie views of tower karsts silhouetted against the night sky.  This meant that in the morning the view was quite spectacular.  Everywhere we looked, we saw tower karst rising out of the flat land and the village of Yangzhou was tucked into the base of three limestone outcrops.  The Lijiang River was also an amazing site.  As you travelled upstream on a boat the karst became more and more spectacular.  The river life incorporated wallowing water buffalo, children playing, people fishing on rafts and numerous tourist boats all intermingled as rice was grown in the surrounding fields.

Once settled we went in search of caves.  Armed with our China 85 guide and a couple of bicycles we rode off in the direction of the cave known as LOTEN.  The book showed a massive entrance which should have been easy to see from a long way off, but after cycling across numerous paddy fields we still could not  find it.  To clarify that we were in the correct area we decided to ask a local. Naturally speaking little Chinese we asked, “DONG” (cave) and pointed a direction, whereupon the farmer would say, “DONG”, nod his head and point the way we were going.  Reassured we continued and found a gated entrance to a small cave, not exactly the massive entrance we were expecting.  So we continued to look for LOTEN,  After asking more locals we realised that the information they were giving us was useless as whichever way we pointed they would say, “DONG”, not exactly helpful for finding a specific cave.  Eventually, numerous paddy fields later and about 20km of cycling we saw the entrance to LOTEN across the valley, but by this time we had to turn round and start the 20km cycle home.

Transport proved to be our major constraint.  I suppose it was inevitable that there would be no public transport direct to the cave entrances, hence, we had to rely on bicycles and were limited to the distance we could travel.  To solve this problem we headed off to Guilin, which proved to be a fairly run of the mill city where you had to continually watch that you were not being conned.  Here we went to visit two show caves; Ludi Yan ( Reed Flute Cave) and Qi Xing Yan ( Seven Star Cave).  Both of the caves were badly lit by multi- coloured fluorescent lights which flashed on and off, not exactly natural lighting effects!  We also had to pay a foreign tourist price for entry to the cave which was 5 times what the local people had to pay.  The caves themselves were fairly large with lots of formations and well worth a visit although the hazards of tourists distracted from our enjoyment.

Whilst visiting these caves we stumbled across another cave entrance so went in for a look much to the bemusement of the locals.  The cave wasn’t very 1ong and we soon arrived at the sump pool to find a great many bats and to my horror ... spiders!  On sight of these I exited the cave very quickly without looking back, much to Nick’s amusement.

After Guilin we had the pleasure of an 18 hour train journey sitting on the floor before reaching Guiyang where the International Caving Conference was being held. However, we arrived too late and the people had (10 of them) gone caving to Anshun.  We decided this was a good idea and got on a bus going to Anshun ourselves.

Anshun proved to be a delightful place to visit, off the well beaten tourist route so it was much less affected by tourism.  In the five days that we were there we saw no other western tourists much to our relief. The town itself is a fair size and is the original home of the Batik factory and many items were available for sale. We found several interesting eating places on the streets and had a marvellous meal with beer for 35p each. In all, Anshun proved an ideal location for cavers. The transport was good as there were many local Chinese buses visiting the tourist caves in the area which were in close proximity to the caves that we were intending to visit.

The first problem we encountered was that once on a bus how could you tell where it was going?  On two occasions we had got on a bus intending to go to one place and arrived somewhere completely different.  This proved to be a lucky mistake as it introduced us to areas that, we didn’t know existed which were well worth a visit. We visited the Huangguoshu Waterfall (the largest in Asia at 68m high and 84m wide) which was very impressive especially as it was the wet season, and Star falls, a beautiful and quite tiring walk by the river in out of caves and over Waterfalls.  Then we went in search of some caves.  The first one we visited was Longgong Cave (Dragon's Palace).  This was one of the major scenic spots in the province and consisted of magnificent karst river caves and waterfalls.  The tourist trip takes you through the cave by boat and brightly coloured lights marked the way.  The cave system is 15km in length, but as it appeared to be a swim the whole way, we took the boat instead.  At the upstream entrance it was, possible to pass through the scenic cave of Hxue Dong and up a huge cascade to the end of the tourist trail.

At this point we wandered off up the hill despite much protesting noises of a local trader, but we pointed ignorantly to our cameras as we were only going to take a photograph. Walking quickly away we found the path and wandered through corn fields and banana trees to reach several huge cave entrances.  The roar of the water could be heard so we knew we were in the right place.  The most impressive entrance led to a sump pool with fast flowing water so we took the dry entrance into Yemma Dong.  On arrival here I had to become accustomed to the thousands of bats which were redsiding in the cave.  Having never caved outside of the UK before this was quite an experience.

Yemma Dong itself consists of high level walking and scrambling passages with a very active and roaring streamway in its lower levels.  We knew that it was possible to do a short 1km through trip in the cave so we set off keeping as far away from the river as we could.  We scrambled over boulders and up ancient gour formations and located the exit.   Having found this we made our way to the river clambering over the debris.  It was quite an impressive sight as the power of the water coming from a blue sump pool was, incredible and it had splendid gour slopes coming down to it.  The stench of the bats meant that a brief look was plenty and we headed off out of the cave.

The following day was to be our last in Anshun and we had planned to visit the lesser know tourist caves (well it wasn’t in China's Lonely Planet Guide) Zhijin Dong.  The only way to get there was to travel by bus for three hours through extensive karst scenery and  hundreds of massive cave entrances:.  Throughout the journey we were both itching to get out of the bus in order to investigate some of these giant holes, but unfortunately it was impossible to leave the bus.  The journey was, however, most enjoyable and did give us another insight into Chinese life.

Zhijin cave itself was said to be one of the biggest and most peculiarly shaped caves discovered in China at present.  It extends for about 10 km, the broadest part being 173m reaching a height of 150m. The tourist trip took 2 hours and involved walking up and down hundreds of steps carved into the calcite formations.  It made a nice change to have the cave illuminated by white, not the not the normal fluorescent lights.  The cave was massive, comprising a phreatic shaped passage which had only a few side tributaries leading from it.  The formations were also good in the cave.  There were huge columns, massive stal. and even some helictites.  In fact the cave is said to have over 40 types of karst precipitation forms.  The trip around Zhijin cave was well worth the visit and the area itself holds great potential for further cave exploration in the future.

Finally we visited the city of Kunming in the south west of China and the famous stone forest.  Kunmimg was like any other cities, full of money changers, bicycles for rent and tourist temples.  However, it is the only place in China where you can get cheese because the Chinese do not eat dairy products, but in Yunnan province they do produce goat’s cheese as a delicacy. The Bamboo Temple was the most impressive temple that we visited that day, despite the fact it had no connection with bamboo whatsoever!  It had a display of hundreds of clay sculptured Buddhas surfing a great wave on various animals.

The stone forest was an amazing display of karst scenery.  Huge blocks of limestone all in different shapes rising from the ground, but it has suffered from being a major tourist attraction.  We made the effort to leave the main forest area and walk into the more distant stone forest.  This allowed more interesting exploration away from the thousands of tourists who arrive in bus loads every day.  There was also an amazing thunderstorm that lit up the entire area spectacularly. Edible specialities included the steamed Yunnan duck, cooked in a clay oven over a bed of pine needles.  It was a bit bony, but for £1 for an entire duck we were not complaining.


This ended our tour of China.  We flew back to Canton ( a choice between 3 hours in a plane or 3 days on the train) and left on the ferry via Macao for some rest and relaxation, eventually arriving in Hing Kong to await the flight home.

In summary, China was a wonderful experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The main problem with travelling in the country is that doing absolutely anything is an effort, even buying a drink.  However, the people more than compensate for this as they are all very friendly.  As for the scenery and the caves, China will be difficult to beat, especially from a cavers viewpoint.  Karts is everywhere in the southern areas and is well worth a visit.

I would like to thank Mike Palmer and Sett for their support in providing a donation towards my expenses from the Ian Dear Memorial Trust.  I hope that this article will inspire other BEC members to go travelling and caving in China.  If anyone would like any more information please feel free to contact me at the BEC.

Rachel (Bob) Gregory


Caving in Aruba

During a recent business trip to the Caribbean I spent a few days in Aruba and managed to visit three of the major caves and get some diving in as well.

Aruba is the second largest of the three ABC islands.  (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) in the Netherlands Antilles, just off the northern coast of Venezuela.  All the caves are in low lying limestone close to the sea.


Huliba Cave: This is also known as the tunnel of Love and is a 200 metre through trip.  Lads at the entrance hire out helmets and lamps but do not give guided tours as the cave has no other lighting.  The cave is a series of medium sized chambers with a steep boulder slope out of the lower entrance which is surrounded by large cactus plants.

Guadirikiri Cave: This is an incredibly hot and humid cave being only a few metres below the hot desert above.  A series of chambers with two daylight shafts and lots of bats.

Fontein Cave: The cave has some old Arawak Indian drawings at the entrance and one had a gate to protect them.  The cave is different to the other two as it has lots of old stal. columns in the entrance chambers.  These lead to a low wide crawl between stal. columns to a final chamber where I saw lots of bats and a white hermit crab.  An interesting cave but like the others tiring, because of the heat.


Antillia - A German freighter.  This wreck off of the North West end of Aruba is not only the largest wreck in the Netherlands Antilles but in all of the Caribbean.  It was a U-boat supply ship.  When the Netherlands entered the war the Dutch seized the ship.  However before they could board the ship the Captain blew it up.  The officers were sent to the prison on Curacao for the duration of the war.  At the end of the war, using their savings sent from Germany, they bought the prison and turned it into a hotel and became millionaires!

The wreck is in good condition and the main deck and some holds can be entered.  There are loads of fish and some big Groupers.  The top mast is just out if the water and the bottom is at about 17 metres.

Martin Grass


GPS + Surveying in the future


GPS or Global Positioning Systems use a hand held receiver to talk to an interlocking network of 24 dedicated satellites.  By a lot of magic and by computing time delays to and from four satellites the receiver's position, in latitude, longitude and height on earth can be calculated.  The military have been using GPS for many years now and will admit to achieving positional accuracies in the order of about a metre.  Their satellite signals are however specially scrambled and the best that the public can have access to is about three metres.  In recent years these have become in frequent use with the sailing fraternity.  Their use there for position fixing is obvious but they are very expensive.

The receivers work in the GHz frequency range so will be of no use underground and until a few days ago I was not sure that anyone has seriously considered their caving use for accurately position fixing entrances.  (I may be very wrong on this as I have a nagging memory of recent use on an expedition that says Irian Jaya? China? Russia?)  This would be of particular use in areas lacking adequate map cover.  I was therefore very interested to read on the Cavers Computer Internet Forum that GPS had been successfully used in November 1992 in the Colorado Bend State Park (CBSP) research project.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is buying GPS equipment for one of their survey teams and Bob Burnett of TPWD, who is a long-time caver, was invited to attend a GPS seminar.  While there, A&M told him they would be willing to loan the equipment for research purposes.  Apparently the equipment is so automated that, without any need to understand how the equipment works, you can learn to use it in about ten minutes.  In one weekend coordinates were obtained for 27 cave entrances.  The electronics company, A&M, is working on new algorithms to enable the data to be corrected to within an absolute position of one foot.  Even more mind boggling is the fact that there are designs in the works that will increase this accuracy to within one centimetre or even less.

As it is possible to buy USGS digitised topographical maps on computer disc these maps can be transferred to a computer-aided design system and GPS cave locations and underground cave survey data can also be plotted on the map with a very high degree of accuracy.  This will then save hours of photocopier reduction by trial and error and evenings of retracing.

It was with this in mind that I was interested to read on the Internet Forum that a company in the States called Damark is listing the Sony Pyxis for US$599.99.  This is a handheld GPS unit that runs on AA batteries. Unfortunately accuracy is traded off against price and is only 30 meters although the unit can store 100 entrance stations.

A UK company, Trimble, market a GPS called Flightnav at £550.  This apparently has extra functions to do with flight navigation, but is cheaper then the basic model.

But before you ask ....... No, we can not afford one:


Forget your notepad and pencil because….

Automatic Cave Surveying is Here!

Another little gem from the Internet Cavers Forum concerns a "Laser Rangefinder"  This would appear to be the cavers long dreamed of complete digital cave survey instrument.  The device is a laser rangefinder which can measure distances up to 2500 feet or 750 metres (some passage length!).  It doesn't even need a special reflector but works using rocks, poles or trees as targets.  At the maximum distance it has an accuracy of plus or minus 15 inches or about 0.4 metres. Unfortunately the accuracy at shorter distances wasn't given.

The digital bearing display reads between 0 degrees and 359.9 degrees with an accuracy of plus or minus 0.5 degrees and the vertical range is also given.  It can be connected to a computer to download the data.  It runs from a 4 hour battery pack.

Sounds too good to be true? Well hang on to your note pads and pencils for a few more cave surveys as it costs US$8300!  The alternative, if you're still looking for something to do with the small change, is either a digital clinometer at only US$99.95 or a digital geological compass for US$2290.

But to repeat myself – No, we can’t afford one!

And to the future.... Will we see a motorised self levelling and self recording instrument that will rotate through 360 degrees creating a detailed slice survey of the cave.  We would still have to move the instrument through the cave station by station but at the end of the trip instantly download the data in a computer and use this to produce a near perfect 3D model of the cave.

This would then put us into the realms of Virtual Reality Caving: Just think about it.  All the pleasure with none of the pain, none of the wet, none of the mud or none of the cold with a simulated walk and crawl through the cave.  It would never catch on would it?  Will it be possible to buy Virtual Reality Survey discs from Bat Products.  Will Wigmore become a best seller?  Will the novices still be knackered on the twenty? Will I still get lost in Cuthbert’s?


The Waist of Thyme - White Pit

Since the breakthroughs at the bottom of the 1st Pot on 4th and 30th November last year no further digging had been carried out in the low, wet and muddy crawl leading on down-dip below the entrance shaft and some 10ft before the top of the 1st Pot.  During January and February this year the writer concentrated on building a cement and stone wall in the cave to hold back talus slope below the entrance pitch.  Once this job was completed the way on was clear to restart the dig in the hope that it would either connect with the top of Prophesy Pot or possibly go over it altogether on its way to the Swildon's/Wookey missing link!  Evidence of major development here was indicated by the phreatic roof tube going straight into a mud wall at the end of the dig. The way on appeared to be in a low tube to the right heading back towards 1st Pot.

On 10th February work recommenced here and on the second visit, with Chris Castle and Andy Dennis, a breakthrough was made directly ahead into some 10ft of mud and rock floored crawl with a clean washed phreatic ceiling and a slight draught.

Trev Hughes, Rich Blake, Vince Simmonds, Ivan Sandford, Estelle Sandford, Brian Murlis and Chris Tozer assisted over the course of the next four trips and a vast amount of rocks, boulders and clay was excavated and hauled to the surface.  The dig was now some 25ft long, including a small chamber with a decorated 15ft long inlet.  A way on could be seen continuing down-dip but blasting was necessary to gain access.

Four trips later, with the help of Brian Hansford and a passing car thief, we were ready for the next breakthrough.  On 21st February a large calcite boulder was blasted and Vince squeezed through into a 10ft diameter phreatic chamber with a spectacular display of white and yellow flowstone, straws and stalactites adorning the far wall equal to anything in Talus IV, the "upper series" of the cave.

To avoid despoiling the chamber work now started on trenching out all of the dig and excavating a choked bedding plane to one side.  Several hundred skip loads of spoil were sent on their way to daylight and the passage became some 3ft square and heading steadily down-dip with windows on the right hand side into the grotto.  At a point some 50ft in we decided to dig both to the left, across the debris filled bedding plane and to the right towards and under the end of the grotto. An open and draughting hole was found partly blocked by boulders of limestone and solid calcite.

A couple of sessions here revealed a dodgy looking hole through a partly calcited boulder choke directly below the flowstone cascade above.  Tim Large squeezed through into a solid and roomy section of passage with a view into more cave beyond.  This was entered after another half hours work and followed down-dip in a 6ft high, clean washed and scalloped bore tube for some 60ft.  Halfway along a 12ft pot dropped into a 15ft long pool and at the end a mud choke blocked the way on.  The total extension was some 100ft.

The pool has since been checked with diving gear by Vince but there was no outlet.  Trev Hughes created an outlet by digging UP into it from the rift leading to Prophesy Pot in the lower series!  He picked a day when the pool was 5ft deep and after poking a crowbar into the roof of the rift he got the lot on his head!  Trev was damp but his enthusiasm wasn't and he was delighted to have proved his survey correct.

Meanwhile, above, the continuation of the phreatic tube was dug through sticky clay and sand.  The passage cleared was some 2ft diameter with a couple of small holes on the right hand side giving a view into a clean washed but very small parallel bedding passage.

On 8th April, Andy Dennis, Andy Legg and Alex Gee opened up a small airspace some 20ft into the dig, but despite being able to see into a small decorated "chamber" they ran out of time and it was up to the writer and Andy Legg to push this dig on the following day.  An hour or so of awkward digging revealed the underside of a flowstone floor which was broken up to allow access into a 4ft diameter chamber with some 10ft of phreatic rift passage heading up-dip.  This choked and the way on was a tiny airspace in the down-dip direction.

Work has stopped here temporarily until Trevor opens up the pitch between the lower and upper passages. Spoil can then be dumped down into the loose ruckle below Masters' Hall and we can press on into the system which undoubtedly exists beyond the Waist of Thyme.  Trevor's pitch will also provide an easy way to the bottom of the cave.

The rest of the digging team were Andy Sparrow, Pete Hellie, Andy Sanders, Martin Ellis, Alison?, Matt Tuck, John Riley, Alison and Grant from Oz, Greg Villers and mates, "Trailer", Estelle's brother and Phil Romford.  The passage was named from the initial response of those who thought the dig would not go.

Tony Jarratt  May 1993


St Cuthbert’s Plantation Dig

Just to let members know I'm still having a go at this site.  As a lot realise the dig is in large phreatic tubing which unfortunately after removing lots of spoil is now in a somewhat nasty pool.  However, after a little persuasion, this has dropped in level a bit.  It's very tight but I can hear a small stream on the other side of a stal barrier.  I don't think we're looking at anything major but if anyone wants to have a look or help (I go down on Wednesday nights) please give me a call.

Dudley Herbert

Elphin Epics

This year's gathering of the clans of Mendip (and Devon) was surprisingly sober mainly because we couldn't get off the hills in time for a decent drink. Snatched pints of 80/- preceded late meals.  However this lapse in conspicuous alcohol consumption was of course due to our discovery of new cave which is what it is all about.  The divers thought they were going to score heavily but failed to deliver the goods although had a good time and some exciting moments in the process. The diggers muddy plodding really paid off.  Though although they had their moments, inquire of Tony Boycott whether you can borrow his compass and clino - from the far side of a crowded Hunter's.

Richard Blake (Gobshite), Malcolm Stewart and myself arrived on Mayday but the others having arrived a day earlier were already hard at it caving digging and GSG hut building.  The following day the diggers headed towards Lower Traligill and two divers headed towards Ardmair Bay and the lobsters seen the previous evening by Pete Dowswell.  A long surface swim across the bay got us to a cliff face in 6 metres of water but no lobsters.  Peter Glanvill decided to go deeper and introduce Malcolm to our new staple diet - the scallop.  After a 30 second identification session we started filling the bag.  The fin back was cold!

Meanwhile back at Lower Traligill Pete Mulholland (Speleochef) was trying to gain his laying spurs in Lower Traligill Cave.  With lowering water levels and reasonable visibility he spent 25 minutes sorting out a new line in this seemingly awkward sump which has repelled Pete Dowswells repeated attempts to pass it since he got through briefly in 1988.  After this lengthy spell communing with the trout all seemed clear for the big push that afternoon and having warmed up from our sea dive Malcolm and I made our grovelly way into the cave late the same day. Pete dived first again advising us to wait ten minutes before following.  After a suitable pause I followed a beautifully and tightly laid line down to a junction and off horizontally upstream.  Suddenly the vis. dropped and I found the line slackly looping all over a variably wide bedding which surfaced at last in a tiny oozy air bell!

Peter was still fully kitted much to my surprise but it turned out he had such an epic with the line that he had only just arrived.  We looked around - didn't take long - and found we were in an air bell with a low tube exit emitting the roar of a stream.  A de-kit proved it impassable.  We then sat shivered and waited for Malcolm.  After 30 minutes of developing hypothermia we left having had to belay the line to a rather dubious boulder.  Back at base we discovered our belay prevented Malcom for getting through! A retreat and regroup was called for and the air bell was dubbed Scotch Mist Airbell mainly because we had expected to surface in somewhat larger passage.  Over a pint of 80/- Pete Dowswell's reputation as an accurate recorder of information was severely abused!  We then returned to the hut and a fine meal of scallops.

Meanwhile the diggers were hard at it between the rising and Lower Traligill digging out an insignificant hole named Disappointment Cave had been known for years to issue tantalising sounds of running water.   The Mendip nostalgics were happy ‘Death by Chocolate' was tight sh*tty and dire but it was a goer!  Julian Walford meanwhile was inspecting Uamb Ard (the sink 900 feet above the Fuaram rising) and hoped to persuade some idiots to pump the sump or worse.

After the usual trip to Lochinver by the route – airfill, listen to Jim Crooks yarning, stock up with pies from the delicatessen - Malcolm Pete and Pete went to dive in a small rocky cove at one end of Clashnessie Bay. They spent 40 minutes being whirled around kelp fronds the size of small palm trees.  Peter Glanvill went verdant with envy when he discovered that Pete Mulholland had photographed a creature that sounds like a Belfry game (the lumpsucker).  This is a very 'kit friendly' site in that one can walk out of the cove over the road and dive immediately into a fresh water lock for instant rinsing.  The loch life was non existent - acid rain?

Gluttons for punishment, we returned to the hut, picked up bottles (and kit except for the more sensible Glanvill) and walked up to the Claonite shakehole.  We then walked over to Anus where Pete Glanvill wanted to take piccies.  This photo session was a dreary flop (as were all subterraneous photo shoots this year) so we soon left for the Inch and more 80/-. The diggers were full of it Death by Chocolate had gone to 100 metres of roaring streamway with up and down stream sumps.  They were now haying a go at Tree Hole.  Unfortunately for the divers Death by Chocolate could only be negotiated by flat chested dwarves (and certain Belfryites).

The dry weather continued and after the Lochinver run, a small team of diggers and divers went and did a very dry Claonite.  This was the day sump 6 was going to go - or so we thought.  Goon had been in on Mayday and with Mike O'Driscoll a wandering Oz cave diver providing support had carried a gigantic line reel in and dumped it by a son of slot in the roof.  We all had forgotten the dreadful carry between sumps 3 and 6.  This took an hour with 6 bottles and kit before Pete could be pushed into an almost static sump 6.

He emerged a few minutes later to announce that a) goon specialised in Schwarzenegger sized line reels and b) the hole Goon thought we could pass was an eye level underwater squeeze through a letter box.  With the deathless line "You have a go" he handed me Malcolm's reel and off I went.  I decided to look at the bedding I had followed last year which happened to contain the old washed in line.  This was a mistake: after squeezing up an ascending ever tightening underwater crawl with lowering visibility I chickened out and had to reverse out onto a slackly belayed main line which wrapped itself around my bottles.  I emerged cheesed off and chastened.

Apart from the diving sump 6 fiasco the photography did not go too well either and culminated in my doing wiring changes with Swiss army knife to get some kind of working flashgun. Meanwhile Malcom had very sensibly gone off exploring and found more than either Pete or I had done.  The trouble was we did not know which bits were new or where they were in relation to any other known bits.  This area is down for an above water blitz with digging tools next time.

A look at the watch then confirmed the inescapable truth -: the sherpas would have left the cave. The carry out was as vile as we expected and then there was the carry out from the near side of Sump 3.  An hour's struggle saw 3 divers 6 bottles and kit back at the entrance.  Then it was roaming in the gloaming with a bottle by your side as we trudged down the hill at 10 30 pm.  We just made it to the Allt for closing time.

The next day dawned sunny with wisps of vapour slowly rising from the hilltops.  A migration to the hills took place.  Pete and Gobshite walked to the Coluinn waterfall and others footled off somewhere else.  Malcolm and I did CuI Mhor.  After an hour we were down to T shins in the blazing sun.  Wraiths of orographic cloud drifted across the summit ridge as we rambled to the end and a glorious view across to Stac Pollaidh and Suilven.  We munched apple cake the silence only broken by the distant call of a cuckoo and the unrelenting buzz of a chainsaw half a mile below on the shores of a loch.

At the third summit we lay down and drowsed in the afternoon heat among the tufts of dwarf spruce. Sheer heaven and nobody else in sight except a lone and eccentric walker making his own route up the hill.  A leisurely stroll down the hill and we were back at base.  Time for phase 2 of the day - hut building.  The new GSG hut is now liveable although the shower and bunk block needs completing.  We spent a happy hour or so painting on fire retardant paint while waiting for Pete Dowswell to come out and dive.  We picked the site on the Drumbeg road where the salmon cages had been moved.  This site, apart from the carry down the bank, is splendid at high water.  You can swim straight off the rocks without struggling with seaweed.  We surface finned along the shore for a while before finally submerging and landing almost immediately on a dogfish.  I was able to introduce Malcolm to the brilliantly coloured feather stars which abound here while we grabbed as many scallops as we could spot.  Meanwhile Pete who in true Grampian style was diving with no ablj or contents gauge on his bottle had managed to lay his hands on more scallops and an edible crab.

A good meal was had by several of us that evening.

The next day was a Traligill day (we had to try and erase the memory of that Claonite trip).  Pete Mulholland decided to attack down stream Lower Traligill while Malcolm wanted to dig at Waterfall rising and dive Main Rising.  Waterfall proved to be discouraging in that the silt excavated last year had mostly washed in again so the site needs a concentrated burst of effort for real results. We then walked up to main rising in which Malcolm had dived solo into new cave about 3 years earlier.  The crawl, fully kitted, up the bedding to the sump is low snagging and unpleasant.  The line was tied on and Malcolm squeezed into the low sloping gravel floored bedding which is the start of the sump.  Several 'bloops' later he emerged to say it was tighter than he remembered and would I like to try.  More underwater moling by myself and my legs and lower half were through.  Taking the reel I slid into a decidedly murky sump. After scrupulously belaying the line to a large cobble to enable me to renegotiate the squeeze I set off upstream. After I had collided with a soft murk producing mud bank I lost all enthusiasm for the sump and just as things started to improve my undone belt dumped my battery onto the sandy bottom.  Dumping the reel and clutching everything else I torpedoed back to base emerging sans battery and nearly minus a bottle.  The crawl to get to the sump had clearly been mischievously undoing belts on the way.

Time for retreat and regroup.  With a battery and line reel in the sump.  I had to go back.  More apple cake and a canter to keep warm were called for so we went off to see how the others were getting on.  Tav who we met at Lower Traligill solved the mystery of the gloomy vis - the diggers had been surveying Disappointment, that is, until the compass and clino threw themselves into the streamway when Tav was looking the other way.  That was the end of the Grade V survey.  J Rat was stufffing Pete Mulholland into lower Traligill as we turned round and headed back for Main Rising.

Slightly warmer and with a full bladder to empty at the appropriate moment I headed back to the sump.  A short dive got the battery back and then it was action stations.  The now pleasantly clear sump now fulfilled Malcolm's earlier description of being a descent to a roomy ascending tunnel and a minute after picking up the reel I was breaking through the turbulent surface of the streamway. A quick de-kit and off the to boulders which were the previous limit.  After crawling round these I could stand up: unfortunately in a boulder chamber where suspended death abounded.  Ducking out of the other side I followed the passage for a short distance to the inevitable next sump.

Feeling well pleased now I made an uneventful journey out.  I could tell Malcolm was keen to get his own back on the sump which he did the next day by passing it, transporting all his kit to the far end and diving the next sump for 15 metres.  Hopefully this will link with that in downstream Disappointment Cave with the prospect of a further dive linking that to Tree Hole creating a sort of Traligill Traverse.  The final dive exchange will be a thin man job though so be warned.

What of everybody else? Well Jake and Estelle had found a new dig up valley and Tony Boycott and Julian Walford were busy either finishing off Uamh Ard or starting the new dig at Damoclean dig which lies between Anus Cave and Claonite and which Tony describes as looking like an Eastwater entrance.  More drinking in the Inch followed by what I think was a musical evening when Nike Williams 'Mr. Gadget' linked his CD player to 2 FX5's and gave us doses of the Battlefield Band.  It was about this stage in the week when with declining food stores we would give Speloechef the chance to range free over everybody's food boxes and cook some indescribable gastronomic delights.  Pete is booked for next year!

The next day saw Pete Mulholland doing some complicated things with manifolds and bottles to avoid going to Lochinver for air.  The diggers departed for Damoclean Dig - I think some went to look at Smoo and after a scenic wander around Lochinver Harbour the Traligill diving team assembled at Glenbain cottage.  The two Petes went off to Lower Traligillieaving Malcolm to Main Rising.

Due to some major damming and excavating by Pete the day before the water level in Lower Traligill had dropped.  Pete pushed me into the sump first.  I felt happier carrying a 50 which proved to be major overkill.  In crystal clear water the first part of the sump with Pete's beautifully laid 1in was a doddle.  Beyond here it was clear what needed to be done.  The main route is on the right of sump going in and the line could be pulled down and 'hand railed' under chert ledges on the floor.  At Scotch Mist a new line was belayed to Pete Dowswells old one and shortly after I emerged into a vast thrust plane passage sloping upwards at 30 degrees into the darkness.  The stream thundered along the base of the rift.  Pete soon arrived but found his lights rapidly failing so after running the belayed line to a high level we rapidly explored beyond the Dowswell limit and decided to call the whole section we had entered 'For Pete's Sake' to record the fact that it had taken 4 years to get in here and that so far only people named Pete had been there.  Ascending the bedding for 20 metres or so led to a cobbled crawl.  At the far end the passage became a slight descending trench.  To the left at the top of the thrust plane were some low bedding plane grottoes filled with straw pillars and helictites.  The descending trench dwindled to a squeeze along the plane.  I left at this point and found Pete in the dark. When we had both got to the far side of the sump I discovered his only light had virtually packed up in the sump. Now we know why cave divers have supposedly redundant systems!

We had one more day to go. The return to Claonite was postponed for a final exploratory push on Lower Traligill especially as Mike O'Driscoll, a likely looking thin man had appeared.  While Pete Mulholland headed for Lochinver, Malcolm, Mike and Pete G. headed up towards the Bone Caves for the bottles dumped from our Claonite epic earlier in the week. Bottles retrieved we headed for Traligill.  The white horse no longer galloped up to meet us cavers were no yielding touch for food as he had learnt over the last week.  The familiar shuffle into Lower Traligill, following the red paint flakes from Pete's bottles led us back to the sump. Soon I was back doing some trout worrying and retrieving Peter Dowswells original diving line plus belaying our two new lines together.  After a long wait Mike appeared shivering violently - thin Oz cave divers get cold easily in Scottish sumps- and we set off to explore the unknown.  Mike soon passed the previous limit but the new bit -'for the love of Mike' got too tight after twenty metres or so.  As Mike had vanished from sight on the other side of an impassable squeeze with no helmet and only one light I was glad to see him return.  He had reached a point where the bedding width had diminished to something no wider than my dive torch.

Back at stream level we pushed upstream for about 30 metres and although the stream could be seen and heard pounding down the passage ahead there was no let up in the flat out crawling. At stream level the place is very claustrophobic and should only be attempted again in settled weather and low water conditions.  At present prospects look poor for further extensions and it may be better to concentrate on diving the downstream water slide sump, - armed with a lump hammer. It all seemed a poor reward for the man hours put into re-passing the sump which is however the best tourist dive in the valley found so far.

And that really is it. Lots of leads left to follow up and promising digs to continue.  A week is almost too short.  Maybe we will see you there next year.

Peter Glamill


Recent Discoveries At Uamha A' Bhrisdeadh-Duile And Tree Hole.

Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile was an 11m long, dry cave situated in a small cliff at the side of the generally dry Traligill River between the Rising and Tree Hole.  It was discovered in October 1975 by D. Storey and other members or Aberdeen University Potholing and Climbing Club who dug into a small chamber and impassable inclined bedding plane, with the sound of the underground River Traligill echoing temptingly somewhere ahead.  It may at one time have been a resurgence and probably still becomes active in flood conditions.  It was first visited by the writer in August 1978 and again in April 1991, having to be re-dug both times to gain access.  It was one of the projects for this year's invasion of Assynt by the Grampian Mendip Section (BEC, DSS. UBSS, etc.) to drill and blast along this bedding plane during the course of the week on the off chance of reaching the stream and filling in a bit more of the Traligill Basin System survey.

On May 1st Julian Walford, Tony Boycott and the writer fired the first charge of what seemed to be a hopeless task.  On clearing the debris the upward section of the passage was examined more closely than previously and it was thought to be worth an attempt at squeezing up.  Being the skinniest, the writer managed to get through the squeeze after 4m to reach a tighter, horizontal squeeze of 3m into a small chamber with a tiny inlet and pile of collapsed boulders above the impassable bedding plane below.

The following day Rich Blake and Robin Taviner also passed the squeezes but Tony B. failed at the first fence.  Pete Mulholland later got through the upward section but was defeated by the horizontal squeeze.  It was named 40" Squeeze that being the maximum chest size to get through.  Digging now commenced behind the boulder pile in a continuation of the bedding completely full of peaty mud with the colour and consistency (but luckily not the smell!) of baby shit as Tav assured us. After four hours of hard work we had gained 3m and had enough.  The sound of the stream increased as we progressed and we estimated that another half hours work would see us in.  Exhaustion, cold and cramp drove us to the Inch.

On May 3rd enthusiasm was low but three pints of Murphy's in Lochinver worked wonders and we were soon back at "Death by Chocolate" with a plastic skip. Exactly half an hour later Rich, digging upside-down in the rift and looking like the contents of King Kong's nappy, plopped through into open cave in an outburst of obscenities.  A bit more digging along the bedding was necessary before the three filthy but jubilant explorers clambered down to the open streamway below.  We had reached the underground Traligill River where it sumped after flowing along the bottom of a 10m high inclined thrust plane - the continuation of the entrance bedding.

Following a desperately needed wash we headed off upstream, generally having to squeeze through at mid level and after some 50m reached a decidedly dodgy boulder choke.  Halfway along the thrust plane the river had emerged from a sump pool but could be heard again beyond the choke.  At floor level a way through was noted and the writer gingerly crept through into a low crawl in the river for some 3m to a section of 2m high streamway ending in a duck and upstream sump after 10m.  The noisily cascading river and loose boulders rolling underfoot made this an impressive spot and certainly not the place to be in flood conditions.  Highly pleased with ourselves we squirmed back out through an avalanche of slimy mud and headed for Tree Hole to bang the end choke found in April 1991.

Water conditions being low we reached the end easily and whilst Rich went back for the bang (from an overlarge Tony Boycott!) the writer took a second look at the horrendous choke and spotted a possible way through between a couple of nasty looking "Henrys".  A very tight 0.5m squeeze led up into open, loose thrust plane typical of the rest of the cave.  Rich reappeared with the bang and also squeezed into the new stuff.  Comments to the effect that "the twat who said it needed banging wants his head read" were received icily by the writer who was the twat in question!  At Tav's suggestion the extension is now "Twat's Temple".  From the squeeze a descent over boulders led to a downstream sump pool, some 20m of streamway and a large mudbank-lined upstream sump.  A higher level oxbow passage was also explored.  Total length is about 35m.  The extension was not surveyed or visited again during the week but a foray was made to the 1991 extension where Rich hammered and chiselled his way upwards through the 2m waterfall to gain a view into 1.5m of impassably low streamway and an undiveable inlet sump.  His disappointment and fury was only equalled by the pain of the gash in his leg caused by a rock dropping on him not a unique experience for the dear lad!  It was noted on returning through the flat out squeeze in the stream that a considerable amount of water sank to one side possibly accounting for the waterfall which may not after all be a separate "main river".

On 6th May the three "thin men" returned to Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile with intentions of carrying out a grade 5 survey but on the fifth leg Tav earned the undying gratitude of Tony B. by dropping his Suunto compass and clino. into the sink below the choke.  This was an expensive error but the cause of the naming of this bit "The Compass Sucker"!  The tape measure survived so we were able to get a reasonably accurate length of 119m for the cave, 108m of which was new stuff.

These two extensions have filled in a lot of the gap in the lower part of the system.  Short dives should link Traliglll Rising through to Tree Hole.  With the diver's extensions to Lower Traligill Rising providing a way upstream the missing link in this part of the valley may be gained via Lower Traligill Flood Sink.  An accurate surface/underground survey of the valley is now needed, as are thin cave divers and dry, settled weather.

Tony Jarratt


Uamha a' Bhrisdeadh-Duile

Storey, D. (1976) G.S.G. Bull. 2nd Series 1 (4), p.15.

Lawson, T.J. (1988) Caves of Assynt. G.S.G. Occ. Pub. No. 6 p.31.

Tree Hole

Ford, T.D. (1959) C.R.G. Trans. 5(2) p.139.

Jeffreys, A.L. (1972) G.S.G. Bull 5(1) p.24.

Jarratt, T. (1991) G.S.G. Bull. 2(1) p.12



What grade of caver are you???

I thought it would be interesting to list what the various coloured bezels denote on an Oldham cap lamp.  These NCB codes are strictly adhered to, both above and below ground.

WHITE.  Trainee not allowed to go unsupervised underground.

YELLOW.  Completed training but not allowed within 20 metres of a working coal face.

RED.  Completed basic coal face training but has to work a period of time before he is considered finally coal face trained.

BLUE.  Craftsman, allowed anywhere.

GREEN.  Persons driving roadways but not allowed at a coal face

BLACK.   Allowed at coal face or driving roads.  Completed full coal face training and roadway training.

Martin Grass


Climbing For The Over Forties 

By Dave Yeandle

1971: A rainy day at Stannage.  I lead up the route with difficulty.  I get in four runners, I've no confidence in any of them.  Sixty foot up and almost there.  I lunge for the top hold, miss and fall off.  Three runners come out and I'm certain I'm going to hit the ground. To my immense relief and surprise the last runner holds and I find myself one foot off the ground being held by Mart who is shouting something about my total incompetence and why I shouldn't be allowed near a crag.  He lowers me to the ground.  I untie the bowline around my waist, and rant about how there is no way I'm going back for the one remaining runner.  At this point it falls out anyway and we both get enveloped in coils of rope.

This sort of thing has been happening a lot.  I decide on the spot to give up climbing.  And I do.

1992: Another rainy day at Stannage.  Steve and I have been invited by Rachael on a weekend of caving, climbing and partying to celebrate Sue's twenty first.  I have little intention of caving and no intention of climbing (after all I gave this up more than twenty years ago!)

I'm trying to think of something to do to get out of climbing.  A fell run maybe or perhaps a walk.  I look up at the crag and remember the last time I was here, so long ago. Perhaps it will be fun to just hang around and watch.

Sue leads up a V diff. Some way up she decides she doesn't like the look of it.  This seems pretty reasonable to me as by now it's raining heavily.  She reverses back to a ledge.  To the left I notice a chimney, I'm sure I can climb it easily. "Ahem Sue I wouldn't mind a go at that route to the left, can I tie on and lead on through?"  Sue says O.K.

I tie a bowline around my waist and climb easily up to Sue.  I don't have much trouble getting up the chimney, after all it's a bit like caving and only some moderate anyway.  As I pull myself over the top I look down.  The view is marvellous: rock below my feet, the moorland below the crag giving way to lovely Dovedale, where the sun is trying to shine a bit.

I feel ridiculously pleased with myself, getting into it now I go looking for Ian so he can take me up something harder.  We do a v diff and getting really excited I decide to go for a severe.  No problem, some of the lads have rigged a top rope on a severe, Yeandle can have a go.  Most of the group have finished climbing now and have been watching each other attempt the top roped severe.  As I tie on with a bowline people try to get me to use a harness.  Not interested in such new fangled nonsense I refuse.  Steve says something about would Sir Edmund Hillary please hurry up and do the route so we can all get out of the rain?  So I start, determined to give my all.  The climb starts as a corner which I manage with a desperate sort of shuffle using as many points of contact as possible.  The next bit’s a hand traverse which I somehow manage with much flaying of legs and uncoordinated lurches.  Still I don't fall off.

It's really raining hard now so it's decided to go back to Sues' via The Foundry  What's the Foundry?  An indoor climbing centre.  Whatever next.

Having no real climbing gear I don't climb at the Foundry, only watch from the spectator area in the balcony, amazed by the whole thing.  Climbers swarming all over the walls, doing very hard looking things. They seem to have no fear of falling off, and do so frequently and I soon realise in total safety.  It occurs to me that I could train like this and get to be a better climber than I had ever imagined I could be.  I start to dream.

We all get drunk at Sue's and Steve and I decide to become a team.  I vow to give up all pleasures of the flesh and devote myself to leading extreme rock climbs.  Well yes, one can get carried away on occasions,  Still we do manage a few routes at Froggot, the next day.  We're pathetic though.

The Bristol Indoor Climbing Centre has just opened and I decide to join.  I quickly get over my prejudices against chalk, harnesses, sticky boots and things in general invented since 1972.  I start to use cool words like "FLASH" and "DYNO".  I offer accommodation to top visiting sports climbers from Sheffield when the British National Indoor Climbing Championships are held at St. Werbergs.  A really great group of guys and girls.  I'm rewarded by being allowed to escort the competitors to the toilet during the competition.  No really, somebody has to make sure they don't sneak off and watch other climbers on the route.  Inspired I enter a friendly competition at E1 level.  I don't even come last.

But am I getting any good? No not yet!  A day with Snablet.  A typical example of an early Yeandle lead.  Gronk a V.S on the Sea Walls.  Snablet has been borrowed from the Hunters.  The first two pitches pass with only moderate fear, as I manage a modicum of protection.  On the third pitch I wander off route onto a route called Terror Firma, which is, sadly, E4 and several grades above Yeandle on a good day.  I realise I'm off route when I'm twenty foot above Snablet who is belayed to a rusty peg and I've failed utterly to get in any protection. The rock is overhanging a bit and I haven't a single hold I like.  I realise I am unable to move up or down and that I'm getting weak.  Does my whole life flash through my mind at this moment of mortal danger?  No, but I feel a bit like Arthur Dent about to be thrown out of the Vogon Space Ship through no real fault of his own.  Also I'm sure Snablets' Mum is going to be really annoyed with me as he has not been long since his last hospitalisation brought on when Quiet John fell on him at Split Rock. I announce to Snablet that I'm falling off.  He's not impressed by this and suggests I consider another approach to my problem. I desperately look around for a gear placement and manage to get in a tiny No 2 R.P. before starting to slip. It holds and I manage to climb back down to Snablet with the rope in tension.

Back on route we make good progress, move flows through to move in an effortless progression and time, exposure and fear cease to be barriers!  We reach the hand traverse over the two hundred foot drop, I'm feeling unstoppable now; and then Snablet informs me that he won't put up with any more of this and refuses point blank to go across the hand traverse and wouldn't it be a good idea to leave the crag in one piece via the last pitch of Morpheus (a V Diff) and he isn't feeling very well and I'm a nutter anyway!

Steve is more understanding and we slowly tick off Severes, VS's and the occasional well chosen  Hard VS.  The big day arrives when we will attempt our first Extreme.  The Baldest at Portishead Quarry. El 5b, 90ft.  This is delicate balance climbing up twin blind cracks offering not much protection.  I don't take much gear, knowing I won't get much in.  I climb confidently to about thirty five foot, wasting time and energy putting in a runner I don't trust.  Never mind I can see what looks like a good placement a little bit higher.  As I move towards this it starts pissing down with rain!  Very quickly I have no friction; fortunately I'm in a position to traverse hastily right to an easier route.  After much gibbering I'm off the slab, and refusing to do any more climbing that day under any circumstances.  We now have an argument as Steve doesn't want to give in so easily. In the meantime the rain stops and a fresh wind dries the rock.  Plan B emerges!  Yeandle will go straight for the good placement at about forty foot to conserve energy.  After some consultation we have to admit that we will not be able to claim an on site flash for this climb as we now have prior knowledge of the route.  Could we claim a beta flash though or would we have to be content with a mere redpoint accent!  Such moral dilemmas!  In any case "the good placement" turns out to be crap and it's not until more than half way up the climb that a bombproof runner is placed.  Happy now that he won't hit the ground Yeandle stops complaining about Redwood "distracting" him and Redwood stops calling Yeandle a Poof.  The rest of the route goes easily.  Steve follows with no drama and all that's left for us to do is to sort out the gear and to accuse each other of stealing each others equipment.

To be continued.....


Caving Without A Roof

Babs Williams

Our holiday this year was in the Ordessa National Park, which is home to the highest limestone mountain in Europe.  Mount Perdido.  We stayed at a small, picturesque mountain village called Torla, only 4km from the mouth of the Ordessa Canyon.  We camped at a site on the river ArIa which had excellent facilities, a fantastic view of the mountains and (most importantly) a bar!

I had known for some time that the area boasted having some excellent canyons.  I have always wanted to try canyoning so we drove down to Ainsa (the nearest large town) to check it out.  Sure enough, a visit to the sports shop and the trip was arranged for the following Sunday at 10.00am.

The Ordessa equivalent of Andy Sparrow duly arrived at 11.00am.  (Bastard, could have had another hour in bed!) together with four Spanish lads, up for a day's canyoning.  We were kitted out with a wetsuit. Wetsocks, sit harness, a figure of eight and a rucksack, then it was off in his "Tin Box on Wheels" (not a Landrover) to a small and ancient alpine village called Buerba which was full of Norbert Casteret look-alikes.  We were instructed to wear just shorts and boots (I wore a swimsuit to show a little decorum unlike me I know!) and to carry the gear in the rucksacks. After an hour's gruelling walk in the noonday sun, we arrived at a small bridge.  Here Fernando, our guide, produced a bag of prunes and a bag of wine. Interesting fare I thought and then dreaded the consequences that this would have on Jeff's notorious bowels! We donned our kit, set off downstream and soon reached the pitch at the canyon mouth.  The walls of the canyon were only about eight feet apart and about eighty feet high, so it was very dark beyond and promisingly "cave-like".

Fernando had previously rigged the pitch with an 8mm bolt in which he used 10mm Cousin rope and on which we abseiled down 10m to a small ledge.  This was where the fun began, as for the first of many times, we launched ourselves off into the deep, green water.  Descending the canyon took two hours and involved sliding down white water chutes, a lot of swimming and 14 kamikase leaps into pools.  It was truly fab.  The water is crystal clear and refreshingly cool but not cold at all. The canyon varied from 4 - 30 feet across and much of the time was so dark that we might have been in the green canal in Dan-yr-Ogof!  When it widened sufficiently for sunlight to penetrate, it was covered with rich green vegetation and many beautiful alpine flowers of which "Ramondia" was one and is the name Fernando has given to his business.

Eventually the canyon widened into a small river and the trip, sadly, was over.  A killer walk followed.  Back up the mountain in that bloody heat, to Buerba and a delicious spread of bread, local sausage and plenty Vino Tinto (much to the amusement of the locals).

All in all it was an excellent day which I would thoroughly recommend.  The day was expensive, but without local knowledge and a good command of Spanish, I doubt that we would have found the canyon alone.

The rest of our holiday involved walking and climbing Pyrenean peaks, looking for caves using local maps (not very helpful) and pissing it up with Dutch people!  The scenery and waterfalls in this area are stunning.  This was our fourth trip to the Pyrenees and was certainly the best so far.

Holiday Bible: The Pyrenees-The Rough Guide

Paul Jenner & Christine Smith


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover: Chairman of the AGM, Bob Cork, sketched by REG.


1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor



Well here we are again, eventually!  Most of this BB consists of 1ists of one kind or another, all of which are as up-to-date as I could make them.  Please let me know if there are any errors.

I seem to be becoming accident prone!  We can't let Snablet have all the fun.  I twisted a knee falling from Long Chamber to Annexe Chamber, tore a thigh muscle free-climbing down the 20 in Swildon's and broke a wrist falling off a step ladder. Perhaps I'm getting too old for these adventurous pursuits!


The following letter was received by the Club from the parents of Suzanna Fellowes.  Suzanna was killed recently following a car accident at the end of the Belfry track.  She was a member of the Westminster Speleological Group.


Dear Bristol Exploration Club Members,

We thank you for your kindness and beautiful floral tribute on the sad occasion of Suzanna's funeral.

            In appreciation,

                        Richard & Christel Fellowes



Dear Sir

I wrote recently complaining of the state of the Belfry and explaining my actions in staying at Upper Pits in preference to the Belfry.

My '93 sub's are due. A sum of £20.00.  Can anyone on B.E.C. Committee justify to me why I should have to fork £20.00 to remain a member of a club that still goes offering thoroughly sub-standard, filthy accommodation? 

It's about time you reviewed the crummy, unsanitary state the Bunk rooms are in.  I've tried hard to reconcile myself to the Belfry crowd, and feel at home in the place but I'm afraid I'm on the point of chucking it all up and resigning.

Why cannot you fork out for some decent canvas and wooden bunk frames that will not attract damp and filth, and will be easily recoverable, and whilst on the subject it's high time a new fire door was fitted to the end bunkroom, and some curtains or shutters would not go amiss!

Why don't you spend the money on something practical instead of blooming coloured mug shots on the B.B. cover!

Some proper cooking stoves would not go amiss either!  The kitchen is so bloody useless; I have to spend money down the Café.

Come on, get your act together and spend the money, or you can kiss goodbye to my sub's!

Yours Bloody well exasperated!

Bob Cross


Reply to Bob Cross letter.

Dear Bob.

The members elected the committee last October.  It’s function is, as you are no doubt aware, to organise the running of the club on behalf of members.

Being a member, however, means much more than just paying your £20 subscription.  Whenever work becomes necessary or improvements desirable, at the Belfry - two factors have to be borne in mind - money and the voluntary help of members.

The committee is also charged with resolving the outstanding matter of the pledges for the St Cuthbert's report.  We have still to find about £2000.  At last the Cuthbert's lease with Inveresk has been completed and a sum of £700 has recently been paid.

So you can see the club has to work within very tight financial constraints.  Many projects around the Belfry and site have been identified but unfortunately several have been shelved, certainly for this current year. However, some work has been undertaken which includes: - the installation of central heating; new cooker units; the painting of the main room and currently another shower unit is in the process of being fitted.  Next on the list is the renovation of the changing room.  All this work requires money, but most importantly it requires voluntary help from members.

Considering the size of our club this voluntary group is very small.  The same dependable members attend working weekends or do odd jobs when they can, but more could be done if more members actively supported the club by helping.

The Belfry needs to be cleaned, especially after a busy weekend, and it is up to members and guests to ensure this happens along with a few reminders from the hut warden.

It is proposed to hold two or three working weekends this year and the committee would welcome your assistance at these occasions.

            Yours sincerely.

                        The Club Committee.


Dear Member,

If you have an * by your name in the following membership list then, according to my records. you have not paid your B.E.C. subs for 92-93.  If you think you have paid please inform me by ringing: - 0749 670191.  If you have not paid, subs are £24 single or £36 joint if you wish to continue membership and receive your B.B.

If you do not wish to continue please could you return your Belfry key and your deposit will be refunded.

            Yours sincerely,

                        John Watson (Membership Secretary)


Bristol Exploration Club - Membership List 06/04/93

* 828 Nicolette Abell                  Faukland, Bath
* 1157 Karen Ashman                Depden, Bury St. Edmonds
987 Dave Aubrey                       Salisbury, Wiltshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 David Ball                         Billingshurst. West Sussex
1151 Ruth Baxter                      Billingshurst. West Sussex
1024 Mile Barrington                  Clutton, Avon
1145 Roz Bateman                    East Harptree, Bristol Avon.
818 Chris Batsone                     Tynings, radstock, Avon
* 1161 Jane Baugh                    Aberchirder, Huntley, Aberdeen
1079 (J) Henry Bennett              London.
1100 (J) Sarah Bennett              London
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire.
* 1125 Rich Blake                     Priddy, Somerset
731 Bob Bidmead                      West harptree, Bristol
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
1137 Robert Bragg                    Odd Down, Bath, Avon
751 (L) T.A. Brookes                 London, SW2
1140 D Bromhead                     Worlse, Avon
1082 Robin Brown                     Woolavington, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1108 Denis Bumford                Westcombe, Shepton Mallet
* 924 (J) Aileen Butcher             Priddy, Wells, Somerset
* 849 (J) Alan Butcher                Priddy, Wells, Somerset
 * 201 John Buxton                    Flitwick, Beds.
956 (J) Ian Caldwell                   Redland, Bristol, Avon
1036 (J) Nicola Caldwell             Redland, Bristol, Avon
* 1091 William Curruthers          Holcombe Bath
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
* 1062 Andy Cave                      Old Mills, Paulton
902 (L) Martin Cavender             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Somerset.
* 1048 Tom Chapman                Cheddar, Somerset.
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
620 Phil Coles                          Totterdown, Bristol
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Litton, Somerset
1175 Ali Cooper                        Brighton
* 727 Bill Cooper                       Totterdown, Bristol
862 Bob Cork                            Wells, Somerset
1121 Nicholas Cornwell-Smith    Oldham Common, Bristol
* 1042 Mick Corser                    Cringleford, Norwich, Norfolk
* 827 Mike Cowlishaw                Micheldever Station, Winchester, Hants.
* 890 Jerry Crick                       Leighton Buzzard, Bucks
896 Pat Cronin                          Knowle, Bristol
* 1144 Sophie Crook                  Batheaston, Bath, Avon
680 Bob Cross                          Knowle, Bristol
* 1158 Geoff Crossley                Horsforth, Leeds
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
1165 D Cunningham                  Old Town, Eastbourne, East Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
1166 Arron Davies                     Prietsleigh, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
1167 Malcolm Davies                 Prietsleigh, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
815 Nigel Dibden                       Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (J) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
1038 Alan Downton                   Headingley, Leeds
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
996 Terry Earley                        Wyle, Warmister, Wiltshire
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1133 Stephen Ettienne            Hayes, Middlesex
232 Chris Falshaw                     Crosspool, Sheffield
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Stone, Staffs
469 (J) Pete Franklin                 Stone, Staffs
1159 John Freeman                   Paulton, Bristol, Avon
* 1142 Angela Garwood             Talskiddy, St. Comb Major, Corwall
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1098 Brian Gilbert                     Chingford, London
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
860 (J) Glenys Grass                 Wookey, Somerset
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Wookey, Somerset
1009 Robin Gray                       Meare, Somerset
1123 Ian Gregory                       Bedford
* 1124 Martin Gregory                Clapham, Bedfordshire
1155 Rachel Gregory                 Wells, Somerset
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             St Annes, Lancashire
1156 Brian Hansford                  Weeke, Winchester, Hants
999 Rob Harper                         Wells, Somerset
581 Chris Harvey                       Paulton, Somerset
4 (L) Dan Hassell                      Moorlynch, Bridgwater, Somerset
* 1160 Nick Hawkes                  Westbury-sub-Mendip, Wells, Bristol
1078 Mike Hearn                       Draycott, Cheddar, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnet thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
952 Bob Hill                              Sultanate of Oman
691 Dudley Herbert                    High Littleton, Bristol
1174 Kevin Hissey                     Twerton, Bath, Avon
* 905 Paul Hodgson                   Burcott, Wells, Somerset
* 898 (J) Liz Hollis                     Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
* 899 (J) Tony Hollis                  Batcombe, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
* 1094 Peter Hopkins                 Keynsham, Bristol.
* 971 Colin Houlden                   London
923 Trevor Hughes                     Wells, Somerset
855 Ted Humphreys                  Wells, Somerset
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Peak Forest, Buxton, Derbyshire
* 1026 Ian Jepson                      Beechen Cliff, Bath
51 (L) A Johnson                       Station Rd., Flax Bourton, Bristol
* 995 Brian Johnson                  Ottery St. Mary, Devon
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
* 884 John King                         Wisborough Green, West Sussex
1105 Joanna Hills                      Wisborough Green, West Sussex
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
* 946 Alex Ragnar Knutson        Bedminster, Bristol
* 1116 Stuart Lain                     Old Mills, Paulton
667 (L) Tim Large                      Shepton Mallet
1162 Joc Large                         Shepton Mallet
1171 Rich Lewis                        Weston-super-Mare, Avon
* 1129 Dave Lennard                  Wells, Somerset
1137 Bob Lewis                        Odd Down, Bath, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol
* 1043 Andy Lovell                     Templecloud, Bristol
* 1072 Clive Lovell                     Keynsham, Bristol
* 1057 Mark Lumley                  Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1022 Kevin Macklin                   Clevedon, Avon
651 Pete MacNab (Sr)               Cheddar, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jr)          Cheddar, Somerset
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Bristol, Avon
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, dorset
1044 Any Middleton                   Yeovil, Somerset
* 1053 Steve Milner                   Broadview, S.A. 5083, Australia
1172 Sean Morgan                    Clevedon, Avon
1053 Steve Milner                      Broadview, S.A., Australia
1172 Brian Murlis                      Weston-super-Mare, Avon
* 936 Dave Nichols                    Camborne, Cornwall
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Sidcup , Kent
22 (L) Les Peters                      Knowle Park, Bristol Avon
1134 Martin Peters                    Chew Stoke, Avon.
1107 Terry Phillips                     Denmead, Hants.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
944 Steve Plumley                    Burrington, Bristol
337 Brian Prewer                       Green Hill, Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1085 Duncan Price                    Exhall, Coventry
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1109 Jim Rands                        Stonebridge Park, London NW10
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
1126 Steve Redwood                 Banwell, Nr. Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
662 (J) John Riley                      Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs.
1033 (J) Sue Riley                     Chapel le Dale, Ingleton, Via Carnforth, Lancs
985 (J) Phil Romford                  Shepton Mallet, Somerset
986 (J) Lil Romford                    Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Crediton, Devon
240 (L) Alan Sandall                  Nailsea, Avon
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Peasdown St. John, Bath, Avon
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Avon
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Munchley, Nr. Langport, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   St. Jean Cap, Ferrat 06230, Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Harpendon, Herts
237 (L) Dave Shand                   Rhiwbina, Cardiff
*1128 Vince Simmonds             Wells, Somerset
881 Alistair Simpson                 Yarley, Wells, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1041 Laurence Smith                 Priddy
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
* 1163 Robert Taff                      Erdington, Birmingham
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford Lane, Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
348 (L) D Thomas                      Little Birch, Bartlestree, Hereford
571 (L) N Thomas                      Salhouse, Norwich, Norfolk.
699 (J) Buckett Tilbury               High Wycombe, Bucks
700 (J) Anne Tilbury                   High Wycombe, Bucks
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Nyetimber, Bognor Regis, Sussex
1177 C R Tozer                         Worle, W-S-M, Avon
* 382 Steve Tuck                       Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
* 1023 Matt Tuck                       Dousland, Yelverton, Devon
* 1136 Hugh Tucker                   Westham, Wedmore, Somerset
1066 Alan Turner                       Chippenham, Wilts
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
912 John Turner                        Tavistock, Devon.
1154 Karen Turvey                     Tonedale, Wellington, Somerset.
635 (L) Stuart Tuttlebury            Boundstone, Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Uphill, Weston-super-Mare, Avon
175 (L) Mrs. D. Whaddon           Taunton, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Somerset
973 James Wells                      Loisville, Kentucky, USA
1055 Oliver Wells                      Yorktown Heights, New York, USA
553 Bob White                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1118 Carol White                      Glasshouses, Pately Bridge, N. Yorks.
* 878 Ross White                      Cotham
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, S. Devon.
* 1031 Mike Wigglesworth          Greenfield, Oldham, Lancashire.
1087 John Williams                   c/o Babs
* 1146 Les Williams                  Priddy,
1075 Tony Williams                   Radstock, Bath
* 1076 Roz Williams                  Radstock, Bath
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
1153 Mike Wilson (jnr)               Whitchurch, Bristol
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
* 813 Ian Wilton-Jones               Llanlley Hill, Abergavenny, Gwent
721 G Wilton-Jones                   Watton, Thetford, Norfolk
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chilington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Greenbank, Eastville, Bristol.
1169 Chris York                        Thames Ditton, Surrey


Bristol Exploration Club – Exchange/Complimentary List 06/04/93

Axbridge Caving Group
BEC Library – 2 copies
Bradford Pothole Club
Cerberus SS
Chelsea SS
Craven P.C.
Croydon Caving Club
Devon SS
Dr. H. Trimmel, Obere Donaustraase, Austria
Grampian SS
Grosvenor Caving Club
Hades Caving Club
Mendip Cave Registry
Mendip Caving Group
Northern Pennine Club
Jock Orr, Lincoln
Plymouth Caving Group
Red Rose CPC
South African Spel. Assn
The Florida Speleological Society Inc
Tony Oldham, Dyfed
Wells Museum
Wessex Cave Club
West Virginia Caver
Westminster SG


St. Cuthbert’s Leaders

BEC April 1993

Chris Batstone                     Joc Large

Ian Caldwell                         Tim Large

Chris Castle                         Mike McDonald

Andy Cave                           Stuart McManus

John Dukes                         Mike Palmer

Pete Glanville                       Brian Prewer

Martin Grass                        Chris Smart

Chris Harvey                        Andy Sparrow

Pete Hellier                          Nigel Taylor

Jeremy Henley                     Dave Turner

Dudley Herbert                     Greg Villis

Ted Humphreys                    Mike Wilson

Dave Irwin                            Bassett

Kangy King                          Brian Workman

If people want leaders for trips down Cuthbert’s they can do it through me or contact one of the above leaders directly.    Jeff Price – Caving Sec.

St.  Cuthbert’s Guest Leaders

Ric Halliwell  (CPC)

Graham Price  (CSS)

John Beauchamp  (MCG)

Malcolm Cotter  (MCG)

Tony Knibbs  (MCG)

Miles Barrington  (MEG)

Alan Butcher  (SMCC)

Mark Sims  (SMCC)

Tony Boycott  (UBSS)

Ray Mansfield  (UBSS)

Alison Moody  (WCC)


Meets List - 1993

The following is a list of trips already arranged by Jeff.  If you want to go please get in touch with Jeff as soon as possible (Tel: 0272 724296)

Birks Fell Cave, Yorkshire. Saturday, 19th June

Notts Pot, Yorkshire. Saturday, 31st July

Charterhouse Cave & Reservoir Hole, November (date undecided)

If you want to go to these or to any other cave not mentioned, get in touch with Jeff and he will try to arrange access.

Cave Rescue Practice

Saturday.  15th May.  Venue to be decided (possibly Cuthbert's)

Anyone interested please contact Alan Turner or Phil Romford

Saturday, 30th October. MRO practice rescue.  St. Cuthbert’s

If interested contact an MRO Warden!

Bec Cave Leaders

DYO, S.Wales

Martin Grass, Mike McDonald (Trebor), Basset. Tim Large, Richard Stevenson, Rob Harper.

OFD1, S.Wales

Martin Grass. Richard Stevenson, Basset. Dave Irwin (Wig). Brian Prewer. Greg Villis. Tim Large.

Note  We hold a yearly permit for OFD.  If we need a mid-week key ring the SWCC the weekend before.

Craig a Fynnon (Rock & Fountain), S. Wales.      Martin Grass.

Reservoir Hole, Mendip.                                     Jeff Price. Martin Grass. Basset. Dave Irwin.

Blackmoor Flood Swallet, Mendip.                       Steve Redwood.

Charterhouse Cave, Mendip.                               Jeff Price, Chris Smart (Blitz).


Pen Park Hole

Southmead Estate. Bristol.

Over the past five years Graham Mullan and Linda Wilson of the UBSS have been pursuing an access agreement with Bristol City Council to gain entry into Pen Park Hole.  As of January 1993 the BEC, WCC and UBSS are able to offer trips into the cave.  The three clubs chosen were by way of historical exploration of the cave.  If you're interested in a trip get in touch Chris Smart or myself.

Jeff Price.

Pen Park Hole Access Notes/Rules.

When visiting this cave, certain requirements of the landowner, Bristol City Council, must be adhered to :

No more than two cars are to be parked at the site.  It probably best, therefore, to arrange to meet your leader off site, and travel together.

No changing at the site. The most that can be allowed is the pulling on and off of an oversuit, over a DECENT furry suit etc.  Remember the site is in the middle of a residential area.

Remove oversuit and boots etc. in the road, behind your car.  Don't leave mud all over the footpath, or on the park gate.

The collection of geological specimens from the cave is STRICTLY forbidden.

The limit on the trip is five people plus leader.

No carbide is to be used in the cave.

To pay for maintenance costs etc., a tackle fee of £1.50 per head is levied, payable to the leader. This is not payable by BEC, WCC or UBSS members.

Tackle requirements for the main pitch: 20 metres of ladder, long spreader (or two 1 metre tethers), 50 metres of rope for double lifeline, krabs.  This pitch is NOT suitable for SRT.

BEC Leaders : -   Jeff Price.  Chris Smart.

WCC Leaders : -  Mark Helmore.  Rob Taviner.

UBSS Leaders :-  Steve Cottle.  Paul Harvey.



Sadly we have two, which are in memory of Ted Mason who joined the BEC in 1947 and Bob Davies who joined in 1950.

Edmund J. Mason

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Ted Mason.

A chartered surveyor by profession Ted devoted himself to archaeology and speleology in the Bristol, Somerset and South Wales areas.  He was archaeological advisor to the Bristol Folk House Archaeological Society and for a long time president of the M.N.R.C.  He was always full of kindly encouragement and I am glad I served on the M.N.R.C. committee under his leadership.

His cave excavations include Ogof yr Esgyrn in Wales where he worked with W.F. Grimes of the National Museum of Wales and Minchen Hole, Gower, on behalf of the Royal Institution of South Wales and the South Wales Caving Club.  He also took a leading part in the formation of the Steep Holm Trust.

Caving well into his seventies, Ted was forced to give up after a stroke a few years ago, but he never lost his enthusiasm for caves and cavers.

He was always ready to listen to even the youngest and most inexperienced cave explorer and I owe much of my own prolonged love of caving to his understanding.

Robin Gray.

Robert Ernest Davies.

August 17. 1919 - March 7 1993.

Members of the caving, diving, mountaineering and scientific communities and their friends will be saddened to hear that the well-known caver and cave diver Bob Davies died from a heart attack while taking an after-dinner walk in Golspie in Scotland on Sunday, March 7, 1993.

This was during the spring break of the University of Pennsylvania where he was an Emeritus Professor.  He had planned to climb in the Cairngorn Mountains on the following day.  His wife Helen Davies tells us that he used his hand-held video camera an hour before he died and that there was no shake or any detectable shortcoming in the images whatsoever - which shows that he was living in his usual active and energetic manner right up until the last moment.

Bob's last visit to Mendip was to attend the 50th Anniversary Reunion at Wookey Hole Caves in October 1985.  He also gave a rousing presentation at the Annual Dinner of the Bristol Exploration Club a few days later.

Concerning his contributions to cave diving, Graham Balcombe, Dan Hasell, Luke Devenish and John Buxton can give much better accounts than I.  In Cave Diving Group Newsletter number 11 (June 1948) Graham Balcombe writes: "Welcome to R.E. Davies, member of the DS" (Derbyshire Section).

In the 1940's cave divers quite simply could not afford to buy equipment and rent cars to the extent that is sometimes the case today.  Graham Balcombe, Jack Sheppard, Penelope Powell, Wyndham Harris and their friends had set the process in motion in 1935 at Wookey Hole Caves supported by Sir Robert Davis of Siebe Gorman and Co. (who provided the equipment and an instructor free of charge) and Gerard Hodgkinson (later Wing Commander Hodgkinson) who was then the owner and manager of Wookey Hole Caves.  Starting in the mid-1940's Graham Balcombe obtained vast quantities of Government surplus oxygen re-breathers, diving dresses and similar equipment at a very low cost.  Bob Davies played a leading role (along with Don Coase and others) in applying this in caves.

I first met Bob Davies to help carry his diving equipment in Swildons Hole on June 26, 1954 when he dived with Graham Balcombe in Sump Two.  This is the cave where Jack Sheppard (in Sump One) and Graham Balcombe (in Sump Two) had set successive cave diving records 18 years before. Oliver Lloyd was the overall organiser and this was the beginning of his own very significant career in cave diving. Bob Davies had earlier trained John Buxton as a cave diver.  John now has the longest active cave diving record which proves once again the value of Bob's many contributions.

I had been interested in cave diving for some time.  In those days there were only four or five active cave divers in England and no scuba shops anywhere - you had to latch on to an active cave diver and try all sorts of diplomatic procedures to obtain the required equipment and training.

Bob persuaded Jack Thompson to train me as a cave diver.

I rode on my motorcycle for many hours from Cambridge to Sheffield several times to become acquainted with the mysteries of the art.

The only time that I dived with Bob in a cave was on the celebrated occasion when he vanished in a cloud of bubbles in the totally submerged eleventh chamber at Wookey Hole, was given up for lost and then caused universal astonishment when he reappeared looking very much alive several hours later (December 10/11, 1955). I had finished my basic training with the help of John Buxton (who had encouraged me to jump from what had seemed to be a great height into muddy water in the River Avon) and Graham Balcombe (who had taken me on the mandatory training trips to Wookey Seven).  I was the junior employee during that event (John Buxton was the other diver).  I could so easily have saved Bob from getting lost in the (by then) muddy water by holding on to his elbow while he worked away on his line reel just in front of me on the edge of Eleven, but I did not have the intelligence to do so.

After Bob left England for America in 1956 he continued to help things along - for example, he sent us information on mixed gas diving from the public domain in America at a time when the identical information was still classified in England.  I shall always remember Bob Davies as an energetic, helpful and cheerful person. His custom of ending letters with the words “All the best” says it all.

I have been greatly helped in writing these notes by a newspaper cutting sent to me by Professor Lee Peachey, one of Bob7s colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania ("The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, Tuesday March 16, 1993, pp. lA and 4A).  This describes his work in biochemistry, in student affairs and on the mountains.  It tells us that Bob climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Grand Teton in Wyoming, Fujiyama in Japan and the flagpole at the University of Pennsylvania.  The final paragraph:

Biochemistry Professor Bernard Shapiro proposed an appropriate epitaph for Professor Emeritus Robert Davies at a reception honouring him in 1991: “Here lies Robert E. Davies, under the only stone he ever left unturned.”

 (Oliver Wells. April 8, 1993.)


Stock Hill Mine Cave

Some observations after a year of digging.

An initial description of this site was given in B.B. 461 (Oct. 1991).  It is now a suitable time for an update, being just over a year since the dig commenced and also the temporary shutting down of operations due to flooding.  (This article was received in the autumn of '92 - the cave is still flooded!  Ed.).

During the year a total of 3203 loads of spoil have been hauled out of the entrance shaft - around 50 tons!!!  This has been tipped in adjacent depressions and landscaped.  On 2nd September all digging kit and ladders were brought to the base of the entrance shaft to escape the gradually rising water levels in the lower mineshaft and natural sections.

Since the last report a tremendous amount of work has been done clearing out the completely in-filled natural passage intercepted by the Old Man halfway down the mine­shaft. This is a steeply descending and amply proportioned phreatic tube dropping vertically to the present dig. The infill is a red/brown sticky clay in a partly mineralized joint.  Apart from the clay there are also patches of fine silt and water worn pebbles of sandstone up to 2" across.  Variously coloured clays, sands, iron ores and tiny pieces of galena were also found - as were hundreds of six-sided calcite "dogtooth" crystals up to 1" long and christened "Stock Hill Diamonds".

Tiny (c. 2" diameter) roof tubes have formed on top of the infill and eroded the limestone ceiling. These tubes are lined with fish-scale like tiny calcite crystals the like of which are unknown to the writer. Larger, in-filled roof tubes or anastomoses have also been uncovered - these pre-date the clay infill.  No bones or organic remains of any type have been found and there are no formations or calcite deposits on the cave walls (though a large lump of stalagmite was found in the debris halfway down the mineshaft). This would suggest that most of the cave was either water or sediment filled but never air filled.  All limestone surfaces have a dusty grey patina when exposed and are smoothly eroded with phreatic pocketing but no scalloping.

The size of the passage and angle of dip would, if projected back to the surface at c. 856' A.O.D., indicate the existence of a major catchment area at one time, predating the St. Cuthbert's valley (and cave system) and being at least 75' above the present bottom of the St. Cuthbert’s depression.  It is thus likely to have been an early drainage route of the original St. Cuthbert's stream - this may have been fed by water from the once higher ground to the north of Priddy.

Now emptied of infill the dimensions of this passage are impressive and indicate an extensive phreatic system, though undoubtedly choked for some distance.  A draught issues from small open fissures in the lower mineshaft giving some encouragement to the possibilities of open passage.  Unfortunately these cracks are not conducive to digging.

The cave is on the boundary of the Lower Limestone Shales and Black Rock Limestone and heading towards the nearby Stock Hill Fault.

Drainage is presumably to Wookey Hole Cave and/or Rodney Stoke Rising, though if the system is as ancient as suspected it could have fed springs now buried by alluvial deposits. It is possible that the cave formed in early Pleistocene times.

The writer would welcome any more enlightened thoughts on his theories!

The lower part of the mineshaft has also been cleared to an apparently solid floor with a small choked rift below, The blocked level has been partly excavated and may be worth more work. Mining artefacts discovered while digging are illustrated on the next page and will be presented to Wells Museum.

The list of diggers over the last year is too long to publish but suffice it to say that many members and friends have taken part.  Special mention must be made of Martin Riddell who provided the magnificent scaffolding head frame.  Trevor "Mr. Enthusiasm" Hughes and bang man Tony Boycott.  It is hoped to resume work, here when conditions are drier or a heavy duty pump is obtained.  In the meantime do not despair ­there are lots of other digs which need your help!

Tony Jarratt


With reference to mining artefacts (see next page) I have following abstract - Ed.



Country News

Among the public benefits produced by the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall, is the introduction of an alloyed Tamping-bar, instead of the common iron bar formerly employed by the Miners, which promises to be as efficacious in preventing explosions in the Mines of that County, as Sir Humphrey Davy's safety lamp in those of the North.




Wigmore Update - Only Another 5.75 Miles to Cheddar!

This article attempts to carry on from Tony Jarratts mega up-dating and consolidating piece in BB 460 (Aug 91) and covers the passing of the final section of inlet passage to the streamway and diving operations both up and downstream.  By its nature this piece is a bit stodgy, so incorporated is a more human article by Ross White (if "human" is the right word for Ross), describing some of the downstream explorations.

As Tony said in his piece in BB 460, the Wigmore Swallet entrance is at 880ft above sea level and as Goughs' Sump 3 is close to 200ft (62m) deep, this gives a vertical range of just under 1,000ft (313m).  Wigmore would thus be, at present, the second deepest cave in the country.  Also, its proven resurgence at Cheddar is some 5.75 miles (9.2km) away as the Aardvark trots so Wigmore would be the longest on Mendip by far.  This is all incentive enough.

Tony's piece ended, appropriately enough, at Butch's Arse, a tight V-tube. In late summer 1991 this was dug, banged and passed to some 7m of tightish, awkward flat-out passage to the awkward head of a 7m pitch, with water audible ahead.  The pitch drops into a chamber some 305m long with a short crawl of some 5m leading off to the head of another pitch, some 5m deep. This also drops into a small chamber some 3m long, the current diving base.  At the far end of the chamber a waterfall enters in wet weather, this being the entrance water last seen sinking into the bouldery floor of Vindication Pot.  A doorway out of the opposite end of the chamber leads directly into the sump pool of downstream Sump 1 and the main streamway, some 1.5 - 2m wide, running from right to left.  This was a tremendous sight after years of painful, dedicated digging by scores of BEC members, et al. Vindication indeed. Here was the upper River Yeo.

From the meeting of the inlet passage with the main stream, downstream was blocked immediately by a sump. Upstream, could be followed for about 47m or so until it too was blocked by a sump.  On August 18th 1991, a large team descended to try and pass both up and downstream sumps.  The downstream sump was probed a short distance only by Peter Bolt and Graham Johnson, while Vince Simmonds on his first cave dive passed the upstream Sump 1 (205m long) to a 3m diameter airbell.  Peter Bolt, Graham Johnson and Tony Jarratt dived to join him.  Tony then dived Sump 2 (5m) and the other three then joined him after a classic free-dive.  Some 46m of aquatic, sewer passage followed to Sump 3, still being sporadically dived by Keith Savory.  Various little tubes and inlets before Sump 3 were investigated, but nothing significant was found.

Later in the autumn, Dany Bradshaw attacked the downstream sump and after two dives passed it after 22m at about 2.5 - 3m depth to 18m of passage with an ascending inlet on the left, not explored at this time.  Sump 2 followed immediately.  Lethargy, inertia, other digs on Mendip and activities abroad brought a cessation of activities until late 1992 when Ross White and Trebor McDonald renewed the assault.

Ross White takes up this gripping story ..............

Grunting and thrutching around I wriggled to a halt halfway through Butch's Arse and stopping for a breather I contemplated the roof from my nose.  I was pushing a laden tackle bag and a diving bottle was clenched between my feet.  "Ok, Ok", said a little voice in my head, 'What gives?  You've been down this horrible hole four times in three weeks, so what the hell gives?"  I hadn't been caving for a year and Wigmore had received a veritable assault of trips. On 27th November 1992 I arrived at downstream Sump 1 ready to dive, my trusty and stalwart companion, Trebor McDonald, in support. I approached it with some trepidation having picked Dany's brain about the sump and having dived upstream myself earlier in the year. Expecting the worst conditions imaginable I could only be pleasantly surprised.

Despite the strong flow the vis in the sump was zero and the occasional nudging of roof pendants caused a complete blackout.  However, following Dany's line was easy enough and I was through before I knew it. Crawling out of the sump I found Dany's old line reel so, placing it to one side, I approached Sump 2.  Tying on, Sump 2 was passed after 5m to an airbell, some 5m long, 1m wide and 1m high above the waterline.  Tying onto a roof pendant, Sump 3 was passed after 6m, surfacing in Wigmore 4.  A wonderful sound of cascading water ahead led to 24m of pleasant passage some 105m wide and 3m high with a cascade 2m high halfway along.  Unfortunately, Sump 4 loomed up immediately.  The sump pool was a little gloomy and covered with a fair depth of dirty froth.  Eyeing the sump warily, an inspection of my line bag revealed a limited amount of line and I felt that this sump would go deeper.  However, I decided to go as far as I could.  Constructing a small cairn to tie the line off, Sump 4 went deeper as expected, perhaps similar to the first part of Swildons Sump 9.  However, it quickly levelled out and after 15m of zero vis the line went tight with the surface visible above.  Careful not to pull on the line too hard, I rose slowly to the surface, just managed to get my head into airspace and tied on to a dubious nodule. Wigmore 5 looked rather grim; a narrow, rift inclined at 45 deg. heading off for 10m apparently closing down, although I couldn't see for sure.  Moving forward meant de-kitting and effort.  Checking my watch I'd reached my deadline agreed with Trebor.  Time to return.  A rough survey on the return to meet a cold, patient Trebor.

On 12th December, we were both back with two sets of kit; a 28 cu ft and a 15 cu ft mini bottle each, in anticipation of a restricted Sump 5.  An easy dive into Wigmore 4, a luxury after the hard carry thus far. De-kitting, I crawled forward through a constriction and further into the bottom of the rift where the water runs in a V-shaped channel.  Waggling my feet in the water suggested something may be on.  "Time for the mini-bottle, Treebs, it might go". So, shuffling back and forth I had a go, hand-holding the mini-bottle, the rift constricting my chest and back. It was very tight up high but opened up a bit by my feet.  As I slid lower my mouthpiece jammed so I turned my head sideways.  Then my torches jammed.  Surfacing with a few oaths I took one light off and tried again.  I knew if I didn't do it this time we would have to come back again, but this time it was easier.  Committed, with no line and no vis I shuffled feet first further into the Sump until it widened out slightly and more comfortably after 3m or so.  I was ok without a line as long as I could feel both walls - time to go get a line. Instead of rising where I had descended I kept very low, on towards Trebor and surfaced.  Collecting the other bottle from Trebor, he base-fed me back into the sump and after 6m I was able to turn around and passed the sump after 20m, rising thankfully into quite large passage.  Tying off I staggered and crawled down rift passage, 'The Cat Crawl", up to 4m high and about 0.5m wide for about 50m to the inevitable Sump 6. Cold and out of line I returned to a cold Trebor, taking two attempts to negotiate the upstream constriction in Sump 5.

De-briefing a patient Trebor, and extolling the virtues of the passage in Wigmore 6, he decided stoically to have a look at Sump 6.  He had a couple of goes at entering Sump 5, then disappeared apparently passing it with some ease.  He dumped his hand-held bottle and went forward to Sump 6, tied on and passed it after 4m into low, sewer passage with pendants everywhere.  Going forward, he swam into a series of very low ducks which opened out after 5m into larger passage with the stream cascading away. Hypothermia, low air and knowing I was freezing on the right side of Sump 5 prompted a return.  These ducks are now lined as they are easier to dive and can essentially be called Sump 6A.  It was a curious feeling watching his lights appear near the surface of Sump 5, almost break through and then disappear again, knowing he was trying to find his way through the right slot.  With much grunting and commotion he flopped into Wigmore 5.  "The whale has landed" he said, before de-briefing me. Wigmore 5 is now named "The Whale has Landed" and Sump 5 is "The Rubie Sump".  A successful day, 8 hours underground, most of it spent in water with only an ordinary wetsuit.

On 27th December, Peter Bolt put in an excellent solo effort to pass Trebors' last limit beyond the Ducks into 30m of walking and stooping passage, down a cascade or two and thus to Sump 7.  He penetrated the sump for 22m at a depth of some 7m until his line ran out.  He managed to pass Sump 5 wearing twin kit and he still maintains he had 2m vis - poor deluded fellow.  Had he really been down Wigmore!

On 6th January 1993, Trebor and myself returned, a total of 8 trips so far including carry-ins. (They're like carry-outs, but not so much fun).  The usual fun and games in Sump 5 with a few line tangles, getting stuck and growling at Pete Bolt who can do it with twin kit on.  On to Sump 7 where I easily followed Pete's line, tied on and set off in zero vis, again.  The route seemed quite complex in the poor vis and I was taking some time, acutely aware that I couldn't see my gauges.  I changed gags anyway for good measure and ploughed on.  After what seemed an eternity the sump started rising but still no airspace.  Conscious of the cut-off time and having no idea how much line I had laid, I was a little worried but pressed on and eventually rose into an airbell, "Labelle", some 2.5 - 3m in diameter, half full of water.  Sump 7 had been some 62m long and reached about 8m depth. Well down on my third margins, almost hypothermic and already pushing my luck, I tied off and returned to a cold, patient Trebor.  A five hour trip.

On Thursday 21st January we returned, this time with diving wet suits to keep out the cold, more light, more Mars Bars, more everything and bigger bottles; one 45 cu ft and one 28 cu ft each in anticipation of more sumps.  A cruise to Labelle, the water surface covered with a thin film of muck, with Trebor having light problems in Wigmore 5, a good thrashing around in Sump 5 and a certain amount of over-heating in the thick wetsuits.  Red, glutinous mud covered his equipment and he sucked out some mud from his gag.  "Not very tasty, is it Treebs?"  His reply was not nice; he was not a happy Hector -  one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong. In Labelle, Trebor tied on and after a few minutes festering around in zero vis in mud banks he returned to the surface with no apparent way on.  His dodgy lights must have been causing him some apprehension.  After another splash he disappeared, pushed over a mud bank, dug a bit and later a few tugs on the line indicated he had passed Sump 8 after 5m. I dived to join him, laughing as I surfaced into a low, wet, aquatic, amniotic airbell, some 5m long and 2m wide named "The Sprog" by Trebor after Karen and Mark Lumley's son born soon thereafter.  "Looks pretty grim" said Trebor, "but there's yer way on" pointing towards a dip in the rock with roof pendants.  My turn to dive so off I went and easily passed Sump 9 after 10m revealing large, canyon passage in complete and welcome contrast to the streamway thus far."

Vindication Streamway was a welcome sight after the cold, wet cave thus far and it ran for some 100m down several nice cascades, the passage on average being 2 - 2.5m wide and 5m high, reaching up to 10m in places.  An aven some 10 - 15m high was passed on the left and an ascending tube passage on the right.  After about 100m, the passage met a 2m waterfall into a bouldery breakdown chamber with the water sinking into the floor.  The way on was to the immediate left partly blocked with boulders.  A few frenzied minutes of boulder chucking by both divers opened up a 3m deep rift.  Ross shinned down it whilst Trebor placed his not inconsiderable bulk in the waterfall to deflect water away from his erstwhile companion.  The 3m rift led on to a small ledge and a 5-7m pitch, "Slime Rift", below, taking the full flow of the stream.  With slimey walls, the full flow, no tackle and mindful of doing something silly beyond 9 sumps, the pair retreated.

Unfortunately, Ross had to leave for a 6 month holiday on the west coast of Scotland (he says it's work), so on the 21st February 1993, Trebor returned with Pete Bolt, armed with two ladders.  A straightforward trip to the pitch ensued and the ladders were belayed to a large boulder by the waterfall, there being no belay points at the head of the pitch-proper.  The ladders thus snaked rather unsatisfactorily down the rift, across the ledge and down Niagara Falls ­not exactly out of the Andy Sparrow rigging manual.  Trebor gave Pete the dubious honour of descending the pitch first, easily passed by both.  More like a vertical sump but great fun.  The pitch is 8m, comprising the 3m rifty, spray-lashed top section to the ledge and the 5m bottom very aquatic section.  It is best rigged as one.  On for 10m to a 90 deg. left hand bend, 20m of nice canyon passage straight into a large boulder choke with hanging Henry's everywhere.  Boulder shifting, searching and plenty of tip-toeing found no way on but a rocking boulder in the far reaches of the chokes allows a sight through into a black void, probably a larger cavity of the same choke.  The stream can be heard bumbling away in the distance so all is not lost.  A while spent wrestling with the boulder proved fruitless.  Chemical persuasion will be required, although two belts fixed together as a strop and flung around the boulder may shift it next trip.  On the return, the tube passage up near Sump 9 was explored for 20 - 30m or so, blocking out with mud.

That is the saga so far, happy readers.  The next trip will concentrate on shifting the boulder and pushing on if possible, although at some stage the place has to be radio-located and a detailed surveyed still has to be done.  The cave seems to be heading East, in completely the wrong direction if it is to end up at Cheddar, as proven.  There is a mineral vein in the area which could be confusing matters and the un-surveyed sumps makes a survey of the dry passages a little pointless.  There is little merit in doing a detailed survey until the sump vis improves, especially as the sumps make up a large proportion of the total passage length.  There is a rumour that Trevor Hughes is going to build an extension at home to house the survey which is currently creeping remorselessly across his floor.

The divers wish to thank all the sherpas for their hard work; it is much appreciated.  It's about time they got themselves trained up so they can come down and have a look see.

Trebor and Ross

WARNING - The scale quoted on the two following surveys is inaccurate.  The scale is distorted by photocopy reduction.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian Caldwell
                               Graham Johnson
                               Vince Simmonds


This BB is only a small one, basically because it has to be out before the AGM.  It's mostly composed of officers reports but has a couple of interesting short articles.

Membership Changes

We welcome one new member this time, who is

Andrew John Sanders.  Peasedown St. John, Bath

We also welcome one member who has rejoined. who is

944 Stephen John Plumley, Burrington, Bristol

I also have the following address changes :-

232       Chris Falshaw. Crosspool, Sheffield
1053     Steve Milner, Broadview, Australia
237L     Bryan Scott. St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Cote d'Azur. France
553       Bob White. Wells, Somerset


Ian Dear Memorial Fund

A meeting was held recently between the Caving Sec., Sett and Bobby Bagshaw in order to clarify/update the IDMF rules.  These are as follows:-

1.                    Any applicant must be a fully paid-up member of the Bristol Exploration Club.

2.                    Any monies granted should go towards travel expenses.  This grant can be used worldwide and not just for Europe. Grants can be used for other expeditions, not just for caving.

3.                    All applications must be made to the current BEC committee who with their approval will pass it on to the IDMF trustees for approval.

4.                    The limit of the grant must not exceed one third of the cost of the expedition.

5.                    A full report must be written within three months of the applicants return, for the BB, and must be at least four sides of A4 size paper.

The trustees are the current Caving Sec., the current Treasurer, Mike Palmer and Sett.

Jeff Price.

Hut Engineer's Report

Nigel Taylor

I intend to break with my usual tradition of a long report.  You have all heard my views on those who don't care about the hut, and "can't be bothered to work on it" before.  I have held this post for three years, and I believe that it is time for a change in Hut Engineer.  Most especially so when one hears that other members would like a try at the post, and voice their views to this effect.  I understand that Trevor HUGHES is standing for election, and present committee members Ian CALDWELL and Graham JOHNSON also have their eyes on this post. Please consider this when voting at the A.G.M.

I am generally pleased with the overall state of the BELFRY, but a shortfall in club finances (until the St. Cuthbert's Report enters profit?) really restricts any proper re-vamping of the hut or major improvements.  Money is going to have to be spent on the front porch roof, rear weather-boards and bunk-room fire door in the not too distant future.  The club must decide WHAT and HOW the kitchen area is to be improved, but I leave this to the A.G.M.

At the time of writing, the excellent efforts of Pat CRONIN to install Central Heating are nearing completion.  The oil tanks are up, and full, and if lucky, we may just have a warm hut for the A.G.M. (No puns!).

I would like to thank all those who have helped me on the various working weekends, especially during last Winter/Spring when several members worked all day on five successive weekends in the attic after Jack FROST did his worst.

One of the problems this year has been advertising the working weekends due to the B.B. being issued at different times, but this in no way reflects on the tireless efforts of its editor.  He cannot be expected to bring out an empty B.B. just to advertise a working weekend. Past experience also shows that if you have long term fixed dates, members seem to be away up north, or it rains all weekend.

I should also like to thank all those stalwarts who have worked on their Hut and site, over the last three years, not to ignore those members wives, girlfriends (etc!) who though not always members themselves, mucked in on several occasions and supported their partners and the club.  I personally thank my wife, Vivi, who puts up with absences phone calls and has helped out with catering during my period in office.

I have great hopes that funds will be found in the future to make the improvements this hut so badly needs. I am still standing for election to the Committee, and if successful, would like to have a floating-post should the A.G.M. agree, in order that I can assist in fund raising and long term planning for the BELFRY.  May I offer my successor every helping hand he/she needs!


Membership Secretary's Report

John Watson

This is my fourth year as membership secretary and with each year I naively hope that all members will pay their subs. promptly after the A.G.M. - the due date.

I cannot understand why a small minority but significant number of members cannot or will not pay on time, perhaps like a child the more you nag the more stubborn they become or perhaps they hope they can get away without paying.

All I know is that it takes a lot of hard work by the treasurer to keep the club solvent. Members would soon complain if they did not receive a regular B.B., a costly part of the yearly budget.  I expect and hope subs. will be the same as last year with the usual discount for payment before the end of December.  So all you late payers.  Do your club a favour, pay on time please.  You know it makes sense!

Tackle Master's Report

Mike Wilson

Hello tackle hoarders!!

Having never run a tackle store before, I decided to list the priorities in advance.  They were :- Clear out the store.  Clean up the inner sanctum.  Inventory all the equipment and eventually increase the number of ladders available.  Finally, start collecting weights and components for a drop test rig (for ropes).

All the above objectives have been achieved with the help of "Slug" who cleared out the inner sanctum with me and the "Jake & Blake" ladder team who finished off the ongoing kit and ladder making.  We managed to resurrect the Touralit kit and press it to our advantage.

At the beginning of the year we had 11 ladders and 4 ropes.  The reason for the ladder shortages is 5 ladders permanently not booked out - at one stage 7 not booked out!  There will be 5 more ladders available by October '92 and 2 more in reserve. The Cuthbert's ladder will be scrapped and the 1 SRT rope also.

Unfortunately the frost damage to the Belfry meant that my efforts have not always been directed to the tackle store.  Next year ladder making will continue until we have 20 in stock and hopefully the rope test rig will be constructed.

There will be a car boot sale of B.E.C. kit at the A.G.M.


Caving Secretary's Report

Jeff Price

St. Cuthbert's.

With the St. Cuthbert's report recently published, there has been an increase in trips, particularly guest trips.  I book one party per day in the cave so as not to overcrowd it.  These are mainly weekend trips and this year I'm using BEC leaders I didn't use last year.  To everyone who has taken trips a big thank you for making my job easier.  The overhaul of fixed tackle is more or less complete thanks to Zot.  Mike Wilson and several other people.

Stal repairs. sadly an ongoing job.  I've had problems obtaining a suitable cement, any suggestions???  I've a few ideas and Blitz and myself are going to try them ASAP.

A Cuthbert's leaders meeting will be arranged this coming year.


A meeting recently took place and a new/updatedset of rules will be published in the BB.  Rachel Gregory was granted £100 for China.  A report is on its way to the BB.

Cave Keys.

The Aggie key is for BEC members use only.  The Mendip cave keys are accessible with your hut key (in the same box as the tackle store key) and there is another set in the cupboard for non-BEC parties.  Please book all keys out in the key book and make sure everybody visiting Charterhouse caves has a permit - they are obtainable at the Belfry.

Cave Meets.

These are fairly well supported and I'm arranging next years meets now.  Let me know if you want anything booked.  A list will appear in the BB when dates are confirmed.  We are currently paid up with CNCC and the British Mountaineering Club.  Don't forget your discount when staying in BMC climbing/walking huts!


As usual there has been a wide range of club digs on Mendip.  Wigmore Swallet needs more work on it. Stock Hill's going good and there are numerous other digs.  Read your BB and also the club log book.

Away trips.

Sadly the PSM trip didn't involve any BEC members, maybe next year again.  We've had members in Cuba, Jamaica, Austria, Spain, France, etc. and Graham Johnson's Philippines report should be in the next BB.  Next Easter there's a USA trip planned. See "Mac" for details.


Honorary Secretary's Report

Martin Grass

Another hectic year in the club and a milestone in as much as we don't ask anymore when the St. Cuthbert's Report will be published but when will all copies be sold!  With this in mind we should all continue to push sales when and wherever we can.  Do you know a local bookshop that would like some copies? or some old caving friends. Every copy sold is another £3 nearer to paying off our debts.

The other milestone this year is the installation of central heating in the Belfry. Hopefully this will be working by the A.G.M.

Again the dinner will be at the Webbington.  Some people say this is too far to go or it's too smart.  Please, if you don't like the venue, find another and let me know.  I have visited nearly everywhere and very few venues cater for 160+ people.  I look forward to receiving your suggestions.

The Belfry is now looking in a reasonable state after much hard work by, as usual, a very small number of club members.  Unfortunately this year has seen a large increase in not just high spirits and "actions to excess" but vandalism and I do hope this is NOT a sign of the times but an isolated case which the club has stamped on or will stamp on.

I am prepared to stand for one more year if elected and I am certainly very pleased to see an election this year, the first for a few years.  Maybe, at last, members are becoming interested in who runs the club on their behalf.

Finally, we have held 11 committee meetings this year and attendance has been as follows: -

M Grass            9          N. Taylor           9
C Smart            9          V. Simmonds    5
M Wilson          10         R. Blake            7
J. Watson         9          G. Johnson        7
C.Harvey           9          J. Price             5
E.Humphreys    8          I. Caldwell         5


Librarian's Report


A relatively quiet year in the library - probably because most things are in order and under control. The place looks a bit more like a library now.  By the way, any hardware such as radiators, pumps, window frames, caving equipment, rucksacks and other non-library type stuff will be ejected to the Tackle Store. It's a library, not a warehouse.

Our pressing need is for one or two more cabinets, mainly to house the growing collection of reciprocal Club Journals.  Our reciprocal list is growing steadily and inter-club co-operation in quite rife, so we need somewhere to put them.  All these Journals, Newsletters etc. need tidying up and binding so when we get some spare cash this can be done.  At the same time, the mammoth job of cataloguing can be carried out.  I have not started cataloguing the Journals yet as it seems sensible to do this when they are being bound together to save duplication of effort.

On the book front, I have been quite selective.  I don't see the point of buying every book that comes on the market, with our limited funds.  The new Northern cave guides have been purchased, the new "Gouffre Jean-Bernard" book, the new "Darkness Beckons" and Richard Whitcombe's book on Mendip cave names.  A number of items have been kindly donated, such as some old Wessex Journals, a load of old transactions from the Cave Research Group, a Derbyshire Lead Mining Glossary and some old Shepton C.C. occasional papers.  Thanks to the donators.  The books have been catalogued for some time now and a computer print-out of our book collection (recently up-dated) hangs on the back of the library door.

A radiator has just appeared on the library wall.  I assume this means the Hut Engineer can dispense heater in due course, just to give us a bit more room.

As usual, the annual plea to return all books borrowed after reasonable time.  Our theft rate seems to have decreased a little but a number are still missing.

Richard & Snablet          where is "OVCC Pro. 13"?

Snablet                         where is "Caving Expeditions - BCRA"?

Tim Large                      have you got "Limestone & Caves of Mendip"?

Zot                                where is "SRT", "Dowsing for you"?!

? Williams                     have you got "Speleo Sportive PSM"?, "Descent of PSM"?

We have a computer in the library with a printer.  Jim Smart is custodian but I am sure he would let you use it, if you asked nicely.


BB Editor's Report

Ted Humphreys

Firstly I'd like to say a big thank you to all those who have contributed to the BB.  Without that select band there would be no BB's at all! Also thanks to J'Rat for his help with the distribution.

John Watson complains about late payers and so do I.  They play havoc with my mailing list!  I have to keep on file the particulars of all current members and of all those people who have been members since I became editor three or four years ago.  Some do slip through the net and receive BB's to which they are not entitled.

I had hoped to give up the job this year as I thought it about time someone else had a go. Unfortunately no volunteer was found by the time the voting slips were done so muggins may have to soldier on bravely! However, since then I have had offers of help from Rob Harper and from Alan Turner so things could be looking up. I think the problem is that the editor, these days, needs not only the time and the inclination but also a word processor, printer and mailing list facility.  After all, who would volunteer to write out between 120 and 140 addresses which change every time depending on which BB's J'Rat has managed to hand out.

Cavers Electronic Mail

Rob Harper

For anyone with access to a computer, modem and the appropriate software there is an electronic mail network for cavers based in the USA.

Besides having a fairly extensive set of archives (over 4000 articles) there is a cavers bulletin board where requests for information, local contacts, equipment advice etc. can be posted.

It is accessed via INTERNET which apparently can take up to 2 days to get a message through but so far I have had replies within half-an-hour.

If you wish to join then send some details of yourself and your own e-mail number to:-

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



If you wish to know a little more then leave a message for John Sutter on :-

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Finedon Iron Stone Mines

Clive Betts

It is a little known fact that beneath the green fields of this part of Northamptonshire are several extensive stone mines, which total several miles of passageway.  Alan Downton, Dave Bridges and myself finally found the exact location of one of the obscure entrances in the early part of 1992.

The information we had received regarding the site was that the mine was completely flooded and exploration would require diving equipment.  Our first visit therefore involved Dave and Clive supporting Alan on an initial dive to ascertain the exact nature of the site and also to see if there was any future here.

As Alan sorted his kit out at the roadside one of the locals could contain his curiosity no longer, which was understandable as it is not often you see someone put on a wet suit in the middle of a housing estate and then produce assorted diving kit from the boot of the car.

After the expected inquisitions from our woolly hatted acquaintance we got some interesting information about the area.

The mines themselves had closed at the end of the fifties and as far as our inquisitor knew, the only time anyone had been in was when two children had got themselves lost for a couple of days.  They were found when one of the old miners was called in to search for them as there was a danger of other "rescuers" needing to be rescued because of the complexity of the site.

When we eventually got to the entrance, Clive had a quick look inside while Alan kitted up, expecting to see flooded tunnels extending into the distance.

Alan was most disappointed when a voice drifting up from the depths of the earth told him that a pair of wellies would be more suitable than a wet suit.

What we actually had was a passageway approximately four metres wide and 2.5 metres high with about a foot to 18 inches of water in the bottom with some fairly horrendous looking timber supports.  Alan and Dave went for a paddle in water which was later described as "F ... ing freezing".

On their return after approximately 15 minutes their description of the length of passage explored was much the same as the entrance tunnel but the potential for further exploration was enormous.  As none of us had any sensible kit for exploring in the conditions (eg semi dry-suits get a bit warm without water) it was decided to return at a later date with some sensible kit.

When the later date came, we were extremely disappointed to discover that someone had decided to block all the entrances with a J.C.B ... or had they?  Another possible entrance was noted in the base of the cliff face and we intend to have a look at a later date but with a slightly lower profile next time to avoid undue attention which we guess was the probable reason for the J.C.B. activities.


A Couple Of Small Caves In Scotland

Rob Harper

In May of 1992 Helen and I decided to spend 2 weeks walking in Knoydart in Northwest Scotland hoping against hope that we would be ahead of the midge season.

No such luck!  Not only midges but hordes of D of E expedition parties trampling all over the landscape.  So we retreated to Pean-Meachan, the bothy on the Ardnish peninsula just south of Mallaig for three days.

Whilst wandering around we found two small caves at an abandoned crofting village - Piort an t-Sluicht, (NGR 696813).  As wide open caves these had obviously been explored before and the larger had some old drystone walling to indicate that the original crofters had probably used it as a shelter for their animals.  However we cannot find any reference to these caves in the literature so herewith a short description.

The old crofting village is one of many on the peninsula and lies at the mouth of a small stream at the end of a long deep valley.  Apart from the ruins of the crofts there are the remains of an old jetty reaching out into the sheltered bay which opens into the Sound of Sleat a reminder of the once-thriving fishing industry hereabouts.

The first cave is situated at the head of a small gorge on the true left hand side of the valley approximately level with the inland limits of the shingle beach.  It is a single inclined rift of varying height for much of its length eventually closing down to a small tube at the furthest point, (approximately 30 to 40 m).  The floor is of rounded cobbles which taken with the marshy area outside the entrance indicates that there might have been an active stream flowing through the cave at some time.  The rock is of a dark brown to black colour and differs markedly from the igneous rocks, (granite?) which make up the rest of the peninsula.

The second cave (NGR - as above) is located about 3m higher than the first and approximately 10m down valley.  Its small entrance opens out into a short rift about 17m in length which becomes too tight at the far end.  There are no signs of an active streamway but a fairly steady seepage down the left wall.

A rough survey (not included here) was done using a handheld "Silva" hill walking compass, the inclination was guesstimated and distance assessed by body lengths.

We spent a little while ferreting around in the area but found little else apart from small sea caves.


Caption    Petition

Write a caption for the very topical cave cartoon by REG  appears on the next page.

Win a Cavers Calendar 1993.

"Brewed in the Tackle Shed"

3 calendars to the 3 best entries.

Please send your entries to the editor who will pass them on to REG for adjudication.  The winners and their entries will be published in the Christmas BB.


The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

Cover Pictures: Hopefully there will be six colour photos on the cover, depending on what the printers can do.  Two are of White Pit by Prew (one showing Mr. Edward Masters, the friendly landowner, admiring the pretties) and four of the Grass/Jarratt Cuban expedition.  For the location of the Cuban shots see J'Rat's article!

1992 - 1993 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Tim Large
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Nigel Taylor



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!  This will probably be my last BB as I intend to tender my resignation at the January committee meeting (I need the time and my computer for other things).  My probable successor will be Rob Harper, who has a better printer anyway.  Please give him all support!  I would like to thank all those who have supported me and/or the BB over the years.

Please send more articles; I've had no major ones since the end of September.  Lots of promises but no deliveries!  If I hadn't managed to hold back a few, this BB would have been very thin for a Christmas one.  They should be sent to me for time being (I'll forward them).



Dear Ted,

I see that after J'Rat's item in B.B.464 you have asked for the final results of the two digs mentioned. Unfortunately, there was no result at Cross Swallet.  We were no luckier than any of the other attempts, both before and after our work there.

The "Smugglers' Hole" story is in some ways similar, but in this case the failure was due to a combination of blue sea and hot sun being more attractive than very sticky yellow clay infilling!

"Smugglers' Hole" is situated in the side of a vertical cliff at Northcott Mouth, which is about a mile north of Bude.  It was first brought to my notice, when I was very young, by my Grandfather, who when he was a boy, together with a friend, decided to explore it.  Complete with candles they "went in a very long way" and then there was "a roaring noise" - They concluded that "it was the Devil" and got out as fast as they could.

The hole is probably a test hole for minerals, although no record exists of it as such.  One story is that it runs under the hill to a farmhouse in an adjacent valley.  In the cellar of this house is supposed to be a bricked-up doorway, but I have not been able to verify this.

Along the cliff from the Hole there is a landslip called "Earthquake" and in the vicinity coins have been picked up and other odds and ends, pointing towards some sort of Monastic building.  Another story links the hole with this building.

The entrance, in a fault line, is about 8' high by 3' wide and there used to be the remains of steps - now gone leading up to it.  Inside, after a few feet, it enlarges.  In the right-hand back corner and now filled with shingle is a well that in my Grandfather's day was filled with fresh water.  Part way along the left-hand wall is a dog-leg which leads to the choke which is still in the fault line.  This is composed of very sticky yellow clay that has apparently been washed down the fault and despite working on it for several years, albeit sporadically, the attractions of sun and sea, mentioned earlier, beat us!  It is still there if anyone is interested.

The various trips were noted for several things.  Jim Weeks overturning his M.G. Magnette on a bend catching glow-worms to spell out B.E.C. at a camp-site - and the club winning First Prize in Bude Carnival for a decorated trailer.  The £5.00 prize was a welcome addition to the Club funds.

There is a survey of "Smugglers' Hole" by Don Coase in one of the early B.B.'s.

Hope these jottings will be of interest and I would be glad to help in any way if perhaps they kindle enough interest to have another go at it.

All the best,

Harry (Stanbury)


(Ed's Note: The final two letters concern the cartoon in the September BB. I shall make no comment but that none of the captions received (about 10 of them) were printable!  They will, however, be passed on to REG.)


Dear Ted,

I have just received the September B.B.  I find the caption competition sickening and strange.  I see no humour in the recent unsolved murder it is obviously based on.

I rather hope that response to this competition will be slight or non-existent. In any case please do not send me the Christmas B.B. if it continues with this bullshit.

Dave Yeandle.



Dear Ted,

I am grateful to be given the right to reply.

It is of course the job of any 'real' artist to comment on current situations and events, and if these comments provoke a response then one can claim a certain amount of success.

It is possible that a work of art may provoke hilarity on one side and outrage on the other and if I have achieved that then I am in good company.  Did not Rowlinson, Cruickshank, Spy and more recently Giles and Gerald Scarf provoke similar responses?

It might be suggested that my drawing - if in 'bad taste' takes the B.E.C. at its word, certain member’s reactions to it could also be 'to excess', in fact it is and likewise described as it must be obvious that any 'cartoon', drawing or other work of art may be seen in various ways.  My work was not intended merely to provide a cheap joke, although even the world's worst tragedies can have a humorous side - this is perhaps one way humans deal with difficult situations.

The drawing should encompass all aspects of reaction and it was based on snippets of conversation overheard at various times lately.

If I have caused any member 'distress' with my drawing, this was not my intention and I hope this will be accepted.

I am sure no B.E.C. member would suggest captions of racist nature which would, of course, be unacceptable and for one would object to them being printed.

Lastly my 1993 Cartoon Calendar is available.  Anyone wishing to purchase a copy can see 14 more drawings - I would welcome comments - this time perhaps - face to face.


(Ed's Note: REG's letter was not specifically aimed at Dave.  He had not seen Dave's letter when he wrote his!)


Caving News.

Swildon's Hole.

There is now a bypass to the six foot drop near the entrance (that should please Alan Thomas). Looking towards the entrance from below, it is on the right and passes below the large boulder, where gravel has been washed away, emerging not far from the start of the Zig-Zags.  Another gradual change occurring near the entrance is the increasing amount of water entering the Dry Ways. There is now a stream flowing from the Long Dry Way, below the Old Grotto and on to the Water Chamber. I wonder if the Wet Way will eventually become an oxbow.


There still seems to be some confusion here.  The current rules are as follows:-

The fee is 50p each, payable either in the box near the back door of the farm or at Homefield Cottage (the new cottage across the road from Solomon Combe).

Vehicles should be parked, carefully, near the barn.  Parking and changing on the top green is NOT allowed.  The top green is not a car park and the locals object to it being used as such. Also, the farmer suspects that some people have been parking there and then sneaking into the cave without paying. The farm is all private land and there is no right of way without the consent of the farmer, and that means paying your 50p.

Cavers should always change in the barn.  Do not offend the locals by changing on the green.  They might be on their way to church on a Sunday morning and certainly don't want to see a rowdy rabble stripping off in public!  The barn, as you should know, has a new floor, new stairs and lighting, electricity being provided by the farmer.  Remember to switch off the lights if you are last out!

I was asked to publish the current rules by Prew and I agree that it is important.  On a busy Saturday or Sunday there can be a hundred or more people visiting the cave.  If unrestricted access is to be maintained. cavers (and others!) must obey the rules, keep a low profile and not antagonise either the farmer or the locals.

Wigmore Swallet. Contributed by Trebor.

On 27th November '92, Ross White and Trebor McDonald carried diving gear into Wigmore to supplement a tank Ross had taken in a week before, with the aim of diving the downstream part of the main stream.  This follows on from Dany Bradshaw's passing of the downstream Sump 1 last year.  The entrance stream was in full flow after heavy rain over the previous week or so and a sizeable stream was running down the entire length of the cave, joining an impressive flow in the "main drain".  A large bank of foam was stuck to the upstream end of downstream Sump 1.  Foam and other flood evidence was noted some 1.5 - 2m up the walls beyond Sump 1.

Ross, assisted by Trebor, easily passed Sump 1 and inserted himself into Sump 2 carrying an old SRT bag full of line.  This turned out to be a better method of lining than using a bulky line reel. Dany's line reel is still at the end of Sump 1 and may come in handy later - there are bound to be more bloody sumps!  Sump 2 was about 8m long at about 1.5m depth.  This emerged into a 20m length of passage about 1.5m wide containing water and two air-bells, a little like the air-bells between sumps 2 and 3 in Swildons, only much smaller.  Sump 3 soon followed.  This was some 10m long at 2m depth breaking out into larger passage similar to that part of the main drain before Sump 1.  After about 25m, a 2m high cascade was descended to Sump 4, some 10m long and 2m deep.  The line was at its limit at this point but the diver was able to poke his head out of the water to see a narrow rift about body width boring off, just off the vertical, certainly caveable but not with twin kit.  De-kitting in this restricted area will be a little tedious.  An uneventful return taking 15 mins ensued.

The next trip will involve surveying the sumps and intervening passage, estimated at about 100m long, and pushing on along the rift beyond Sump 4.  Line tying will also be improved as at present they are only belayed to rather dubious pendants and nodules.  Sumps 2, 3 and 4 are all quite straightforward and, although not tight, are a little "adjacent," necessitating a wriggle around pendants and nodules, similar to some of the Swildon sumps.  Due to the nature of the sumps, two 28 cu. ft. tanks are a bit of an overkill and not really needed, particularly in view of the carry into the cave.  On the next trip the divers will wear one 28 cu. ft. to breathe off and a small 14 cu. ft. tank as a bailout.  This smaller gear will also ease de-kitting beyond Sump 4.  The 14 cu. ft. tank will also be more carryable through the terminal rift to take a peek at the inevitable sump beyond.

The cave now has 4 downstream and 3 upstream sumps.  Keith Savory is still beavering away at the rather unlikely upstream Sump 3.  The downstream passage is not getting any bigger, in fact rather smaller, but the rock does seem to be changing to shale or perhaps even limestone so it may go big beyond the terminal rift - "Please God".  Too many more sumps and the logistics will start to get silly.

Latest: On Saturday 12th December, Trebor and Ross dived again.  Downstream Sumps 5 and 6 were passed.  Trevor tells me that the passage trends eastwards (the wrong way!) and is heading towards large voids detected in a seismic survey done for the farmer many years ago when he was trying to decide on the best site to build a barn.

Shute Shelve Cavern.    Contributed by Peter Glanville.

Alan Gray of ACG very kindly took Angie and myself into this new Axbridge find entered after only a few hours digging on Shute Shelve Hill.  The entrance is gated and lies in one of the many depressions on the hill side, relics of old ochre mining activities.

Access to the cave will only be in the summer months owing to the fact that the site is a bat roost. How they got in before the cave was opened is a bit of a mystery!  A short crawl just inside the entrance enters the first chamber.  A solutional dome about 6 metres high it possesses quite an attractive stal flow on one wall. The pleasantly sculpted walls are studded with botryoidal stal and it resembles some Devon caves.  A corkscrew squeeze through boulders in one corner (the second breakthrough point) leads into a wide steeply descending bedding descending over a sandy boulder strewn floor to an inviting arch (this bit looks like parts of Wookey 20) and a steep loose climb into the final chamber or mega-passage about 30 or so metres long 10 metres wide and 7 metres high.  This leads straight into a promising choke which at the time of writing (July '92) was being dug.

The whole cave seems to be an old phreatic conduit and descends inexorably down dip.  Its current depth is something like 60 metres. The trip is short but interesting and the cave promises to tell us a lot more about the ancient drainage of this side of Mendip.

Rushy Ground.

Fresh from his 150ft discovery here Tuska Morrison is digging the adjacent swallet and hopes are high for an imminent breakthrough.  He thinks these sinks are feeders to the Wigmore system.

Attborough (Red Quar) Swallet.

Cotham Caving Group diggers have at last broken into open passage in this cave, some 50 feet of pretty but loose high level chambers having been explored so far.  Previously dug by MNRC, WCC, SVCC etc. this is one of the main feeders for the Upper River Yeo streamway in Wigmore Swallet.

Welsh's Green Swallet.

About 200 more feet were discovered here earlier in the autumn containing some Selenite 'Daggers'. The survey has now been completed and should be available in the New Year.  Rumour has it that the slope of the streamway is less than that of the surface above suggesting that cave gets closer to the surface the further it goes unless some big pitches lie ahead.

White Pit.  Contributed by Andy Sparrow.

White Pit is the very large depression visible from the Wookey Hole road just outside Priddy. The feature is so obvious that no serious caver could pass by without a wistful thought of what might lie below. The position over the probable Swildon's to Wookey streamway has encouraged speculation that the site could provide a backdoor into that elusive system.  Now, after perhaps 100 years of speculation, White Pit has begun to reveal its secrets.

Dave Morrison (Tuska) negotiated digging access and during last autumn, Hymac technology was applied. The machine gouged out a 30 foot hole and released a powerful cold draught.  There was no obvious entrance so, shortly afterwards a second excavation was made adjacent to the first.  Still no open passage appeared, but a choked rift was visible where digging could continue using traditional methods. Using the Sludge Pit pipes the shaft was lined, and the depression refilled.

Despite the obvious potential of the site it was initially difficult to recruit a digging team. During the winter of 91/92 Chris Castle, Terry Jessen, Robin Brown, Tom Chapman and myself cleared a choked rift below the piped shaft to a depth of 10 feet.  In the spring of 92 Phil Romford and Tim Large joined the team and applied their considerable engineering skills.  The fixed ladder was installed, the unstable dig lined with concrete, and a new tripod and hauling system installed.

Progress improved thanks to these developments and at about 15 feet below the pipes the first significant cavity, a crouching size chamber, was squeezed into.  The initial boulder choked shaft now reached a solid floor and a bedding plane began to reveal itself.  The regular diggers were now joined by Tony Jarratt. Trevor Hughes, Brian Murlis, Chris Tozer, Estelle Sandford, Pete Hellier and Robin Gray.  The dig had now become the main focus for BEC activity and could not long sustain such an onslaught!

A minor breakthrough took Tony Jarratt into a small chamber with a choked pot in the floor.  The First Pot.  The draught whistled up and the way on was down.  On Wednesday 4th November during a solo digging session Tony dug into open passage.  Further work that evening saw Tim Large crawling into a low decorated chamber dominated by a huge talus cone running in from the depression above.  A way on was visible between delicate formations; Estelle, Andy (Eyebrow) Sanders, Rich Blake and Vince Simmonds (both on their first, and extremely well timed, visit to the cave) began digging a route to avoid these while two other leads at the breakthrough point were examined.  The most promising of these led down a rubbly slope into a small phreatic cavity; later to be known as The Second Pot.

Excited shouts from the diggers brought everyone back to the chamber.  Vince had pushed down through a squeeze and had emerged into a second chamber. Estelle was given the new lead. The chamber was about 30 feet long and well decorated with delicate pure white formations.  The way on was a phreatic arch to the left.  We followed Estelle through.

On a personal note - I have a vivid mental picture of Estelle crawling forward beneath a cluster of long straws, her light revealing a magnificent array of white formations along the left wall.  As she progressed the passage was silhouetted, highlighting a beautifully sculpted and scalloped phreatic arch up to 20 feet across.  After 60 feet the roof shelved down to the bouldery floor and the breakthrough was at an end.  Everyone was buzzing with excitement.  The groans and exclamations of delight from the leading explorer resulted in the formations being quickly named Estelle's Orgasm.  The extension was named Talus 4 (that night's Star Trek had featured Talus 4; the forbidden planet).  This area of the cave is now commonly referred to as 'The Pretties'.

Over the next week or so a small extension was made through a low sandy crawl at the furthest point. But after only 15 feet more digging was required and activity focused on the Second Pot which seemed to take most of the draught.  The floor was lowered over several sessions until a low choked bedding was revealed. On Monday 30th November a constriction was passed into a short section of open passage to a semi-choked continuation. Another two hours of work here took Tony Jarratt around an awkward bend to the head of a 20 foot pot.

A dubious digging rope was belayed to an even more dubious crowbar wedged over the pitch and the party; Tony, Trevor Hughes, Rich Blake and myself descended.  It was a beautifully proportioned pot draped with coffee-coloured flowstone (this, and the Whisky laced coffee recently consumed from Tony's flask, inspired the name Coffee Pot).  There was tremendous anticipation now that the cave had begun a vertical descent and a real expectation of further pitches to come. A second free-climbable descent of about 15 feet took us into a large rift with a boulder choked floor.  A scramble up a slope to the right took us up into the lofty Master's Hall (named after the friendly farmer and landowner) but the prophesised pitch did not await us.

The next day Tony, Chris Castle and myself returned.  An obvious rift was climbed above the final boulder choke into a short passage emerging into an impressive open pitch.  A bouldery floor was visible about 50 feet below and prospects seemed brilliant - Prophesy Pot had been found.

Next evening a pushing team converged on the cave laden with SRT rigs, bolting kit and nearly enough rope to descend to the hypothesised streamway 400 feet below!  Naturally such preparations were the kiss of death for Prophesy Pot which descended 50 feet to a boulder floor with no obvious way on. A nest of cave pearls at the bottom offered at least some compensation.  Brian Murlis did a fine climb over the pitch to discover Brian's Attic but that way was choked after 30 feet.

That then, is the current situation at White Pit.  Is Prophesy Pot the way on?  Probably, but then where is the draught?  Where does Talus 4 go - Sand Pit?  Where does it come from - is it's western continuation to be found through the talus cone, or in the roof of Master's Hall?  The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that these are early days at White Pit.


For details of the current access arrangement contact members of the digging team.  It has been proposed to gate off The Pretties and impose a strict leadership system for that area, while allowing less restrictive access to the main cave where most future work will probably be concentrated.


Lechuguilla, New Mexico.

I mentioned in BB No. 463 that several BEC members were visiting this cave in May '92.  Not one of them has written to me about it (though I have recently heard from Gonzo that the report is now complete and will be available in the new year) so I'm reprinting the following article which appeared in the U.S. 'NSS News, June 1992' magazine.  I haven't asked their permission, but I'm sure they won't mind as I've given the correct attribution.


International Team Makes Exploratory Dive in Lechuguilla

An international team made up of British, United States, and Canadian cavers made an exploratory dive in one of Lechuguilla Cave's deep lakes during an expedition in May. Leading the expedition were Peter Bolt of the United Kingdom and John Schweyen of Glen Rock, New Jersey.

Plans called for the group to dive in the Lake of the White Roses at the deepest point in Lechuguilla Cave, both to determine if passable cave openings continue underwater and to collect water samples before any activity and at various depths for scientific analysis.

A total of 27 people in separate teams participated in the expedition, including 15 from the United Kingdom, eight from the U.S., and four from Canada. Park cave specialists accompanied the expedition.

Other deep lakes in Lechuguilla Cave which may contain explorable water-filled passages are Lake Castrovalva and Stud Lake.

Superintendent Elms stated that the leaders and team members of the expedition are experienced and well-known cave divers and that emphasis will be placed on carrying out the expedition safely, as well as in a manner that will assure protection of the cave resources.

Lechuguilla Cave, located near the northern boundary of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, is the nation's deepest cave, formerly at 1565 feet, and has been mapped to a length of approximately 60 miles.

From Louise Hose's Trip Report of May 15 via CaveNet, "the furthest extent of the dive was just over 99ft below MNBX24.  This dive clearly removes doubt about the claim that Lechuguilla is the deepest explored cave in the United States.  It will probably still fall a little short of 500 m depth .... " Bolt " ... called the dive because of a jammed dive reel." Bolt's exploration was of great depth, "some horizontal passage, two air-filled domes, and a subaqueous chamber."

Caver concerns about the dive included possible contamination of a significant data base, potential damage to the cave, safety and difficulty arguments.  Louise, in summary, felt "completely satisfied that the 'cost/benefit' was acceptable ... there was no more damage done to the cave than caused by other camps.  The effects on the data base are really unknown but I am inclined to believe that they were minimal.  The concerns about difficulty and safety proved baseless ... I am impressed by the team members, their efforts, and the Park Service handling of the project." She congratulated "the British team for their success at establishing a new depth record for the United States and doing so with panache."


Cuban Collector’ Items

This years Grass/Jarratt "rest & recce." holiday was to the tourist resort of Varadero on the north coast of Cuba.  The town lies on the Hicacos Peninsula - an 18.6km long by 700m wide strip of low lying limestone and sand.  It boasts one of the world's finest beaches and facilities for tourists are excellent.

The Matanzas region. in which Varadero is situated, is famous for its many cave systems, particularly that of the Cuevas de Bellamar.

Cuban speleology has been thriving for well over forty years and there are some six thousand cavers on the island which is about the same size as England.  The Sociedad Espeleologica de Cuba is divided into regional sections and it is interesting to note that each section is provided with a new motorbike and sidecar by the government.  This may have something to do with the fact that Fidel Castro himself is a member!

Few visits have been made here by western Europeans - the exception being the recent series of trips by the Westminster Speleological Society.  They have concentrated on the Pinar del Rio area in the western highlands of the country.

This being a holiday trip, we had nothing planned or organized but had a contact in Havana Roberto Gutierres Domech - whom I had met at a B.C.R.A. conference a couple of years ago. Following a phone call to Roberto and a visit with his mate Franco we obtained the (wrong) phone number of Ercilio Vento Canosa - head of the Matanzas group.

During a week of abortive phone calls to Ercilio we managed to visit several local caves mentioned in the "Guide to Varadero" by Antonio Nunez Jimenez.  Senor Jimenez is the Casteret of Cuba and has written numerous books and articles on the country's caves over the past forty years. Every cave visited was in some aspect a "collector's item!"

La Gruta

This 20m long phreatic tunnel is situated in Varadero's central park.  It is probably a fragment of a once larger system and is only a few metres above sea level.  There is no potential for extension but many happy hours could be spent here as it operates as an underground bar!  The Moquitos rum, lime juice, bitters, mint and soda water are particularly fine.  To cap it all, the cave is situated beneath the "Belfry" (La Campana) restaurant.

Cueva de Cepero or Cueva de Saturno

See separate article. (While Jane dived I stepped in piles of Cuban crap!)

Cuevas de Bellmar

This famous show cave was discovered in February 1861 by a local quarryman, but was not explored until April of that year by Don Miguel Santo Pargas, who then made the cave accessible to casual visitors.  Unfortunately this resulted in considerable vandalism, particularly from a ship load of English sailors.  By the early 1900s the cave had become a tourist attraction and better protected. It is still worth a visit and there are some impressive formations though some of the fantastic displays of helectites are gone forever.  Our first visit was to the tourist section and we were guided by Heriberto Iglesias, an enthusiastic but ill-equipped local caver.  When he realised we were of like mind he offered us a trip into the undeveloped sections on the following day.  This offer was duly accepted and an excellent trip was had through a couple of kilometres of badly damaged but still spectacular phreatic tunnels and crawls at both ends of the tourist section.  Caving gear for the occasion consisted of shorts or Rohans and T-shirts though Heriberto was only wearing swimming trunks and Cuban heel boots!  We realised why when we had to follow him through a refreshing neck deep duck!  We were quite impressed and when he asked if his borrowed Petzl Zoom was waterproof we assured him that it would be O.K. if dried in the sun.  Without further ado he disappeared into a 10ft. long sump!!!  We were even more impressed - not even Chris Castle takes the tourists through those bits. Martin and I then joined him via either the sump or a by-pass crawl and alternated on the way back, the sump being shorter as I had drunk most of it.

Back out to surface after a great trip to quench our raging thirsts in the adjacent Bar Estalactitas. Herbiberto is now the proud owner of the Zoom lamp so nothing can stop him.

Cueva de Ambrosio

Situated about 2m above sea level on the Hicacos peninsula and only a few kms from our hotel, this archaeological cave is renowned for its Pre-Columbian Indian pictographs, two of which appeared on Cuban postage stamps.  We were surprised to find the entrance gate removed and open access. Despite this the fifty red and black geometric drawings are well preserved and there is little modern graffiti. This situation may well change soon due to the ever increasing number of hotels being built nearby.  One natural access control is the large number of big bats inhabiting the cave and which dive-bomb those visiting the darker passages, much of the system being illuminated through natural skylights in the ceiling.  The underground scenery here is particularly fine due to these "windows" and the profusion of roots and creepers hanging in festoons from them.  Insect life is also well established and mega cockroaches added to the "Temple of Doom" atmosphere.  Several of the pictographs have been added to by early Cuban setters and Negro slaves.

Some nearby rock shelters with pictographs and peculiar eroded rock pillars were also examined.

Cueva de Pirata

An expensive but easy trip was undertaken here in the company of two hundred others, a band, several singers and a bevy of semi-clad Mulatto chorus girls!  This large, single chambered cave hosts the local cabaret show and though not a patch on the Tropicana in Havana it is well worth a visit. Not much in the way of calcite formations but the flesh ones were impressive.  A good place for next year's B.E.C. dinner.

Cueva del Hombre Muerto

Dead Man's Cave is famous in the Varadero area due to the finding of the miraculously preserved body of an Italian hermit some years after his death in the cave.  After a lengthy search we found it in the centre of a village on the outskirts of town.  Much to the amusement of a horde of locals we put on boots and prepared our lamps only to find the cave was not long enough for three of us to enter at the same time!  Despite this it was another "collector's item", being full of disused callipers complete with boots.  I can only suggest that the late hermit had a very bad case of polio in all of his six legs

Cueva Champion

Situated on the west side of the road 1.3km from Bellamar towards Matanzas, this system is supposedly very extensive, though we only explored a few hundred metres due to lack of time and survey.  It was obviously mined for bat guano at one time and was also the site of an abortive attempt to cultivate mushrooms, hence the name.  A blasted cutting leads down to the partly mined entrance where two sets of open steel gates allow easy access.  Then follows a km or so of massive phreatic bore tube with the floor extensively excavated to allow vehicles to drive well into the cave. Despite the obvious human interference there are still many superb formations in situ including some fine helectites.  Another novelty is found here - underground steel "telegraph" poles.  A large mined shaft in the ceiling may have been used for guano extraction and a set of three wide boreholes entering the roof of a large chamber admit both light and fresh air.  Beyond the roadway we visited a series of well decorated chambers ending in low and wet crawls, presumably the way on.

Back in the main passage several high level inlets were entered, most being oxbows.  Few bats were seen, probably due to the pervading smell of smoke caused by locals lighting bonfires in the entrance - to cook the rotting dead horses which litter this area?  A return to this system with the relevant information would be well worthwhile.

Cueva Grande be Santa Catalina

Eventually we tracked down Ercilio and a trip into this 8km long system was arranged for the morning of our last day in Cuba.  Ercilio and his friend Juan were collected from his house in Matanzas, which in itself was worth the visit being the repository of assorted human skulls, pickled babies, the tiny skeleton of an Arawak child that had died of syphilis and the full sized mummy of an early Spanish woman settler hanging up in a cupboard. Medical and caving books plus club stickers filled up the rest of the space.  It was obvious that we had stumbled across the Oliver Lloyd of the Carribean!  Ercilio is, in fact, a forensic scientist and had just finished a 24hr shift at the local hospital.  Like all the Cubans we met he was extremely hospitable and was quite happy to spend a few hours underground without sleep or breakfast.

The cave is situated in thick tropical forest some 8m above sea level in the extensive limestone plain between Matanzas and Varadero and would have been impossible to find without local guidance.  This is just as well as it is full of some of the finest formations in Cuba.  The system is made up of four blocks of passages and is presumably packed into a small space, its 8km being made up of roomy interconnected chambers divided up by vast masses of formations.  It is justly renowned for its "mushroom" stalagmites formed underwater when the climate was much wetter.  Cave pearls up to the size of a golf ball and enormous helectites are also profuse.  The only problem with spending too much time looking up at the pretties is that it is wiser to keep a wary eye on the walls and floor where menacing looking pseudo-scorpions and tarantulas up to five inches across are regularly seen but supposedly harmless.  Being an Arachnophobe I was not convinced but after the twentieth tarantula I was considering taking one home for a pet.  Other insect life included cave crickets, cockroaches, beetles and a type of hermit crab was also seen.   Ercilio kept trying to find us a snake in the cave but was unsuccessful.  We didn't need his help as on the way back to the car Martin nearly stood on a four foot plus, sunbathing Cuban Boa.

Apart from the animal life the cave has also been a refuge for man over the years.  Arawak Indians left pictographs throughout this complicated system and it is possible that these correspond to the vandalistic painted arrows of the present day, namely - route markings.  One area of the cave hold the remains of the fireplaces of escaped negro slaves and in another chamber the remains of a wall built from broken stal was evidence of anti-revolutionaries who hid in the cave in the late 1960s.  Ercilio, a dedicated caver, did not let this stop him in his explorations and used to carry a gun with him which he apparently regularly used.


So ended our few days of novelty value caving.  We can recommend Cuba for its caves and people but take your own food - rice and black beans get boring.  It is difficult for the locals to buy food, booze, fuel or clothing, everything being rationed due to the problem with the U.S.A.  Be prepared to give kit away and barter for souvenirs.  I exchanged video tapes and tins of Tulip ham for rare cave stamps wanted by Ray Mansfield.  Great holiday - thanks Martin.

Tony Jarratt.   August. 1992.


  1. Cuba Contact '88 Westminster Speleo Group Bull. 9(5) 1989
  2. Guide to Varadero Antonio Nunez Jimenez 1990
  3. “Descubrimientos de Nuevas Pictografias Realizidas en el Pais", Revista de la Junta Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia, Havana 1961, Manuel Rivero de la Calle


Ode To A Digging Bag

Oh mighty woven digging bag
how will you hold that heap of clag,
as dragged to surface, way above
by filthy hand in sweaty glove.

While curses rend the airless cave
and knackered diggers scream and rave
you travel upwards, so sublime
exuding water, grit and slime.

In Wigmore, Bowery and Stock Hill
your poly skin has had its fill.
Now full of holes and brown with clay
- like Gobshite's shreddies - "had their day".

Great bag that's done such honest toil
and broken backs with weight of spoil,
one question small before we sup,
"why the fuck does Trevor FILL YOU UP?"



A Cuban Dive or How To Get In C.T.S.

By Jane Jarrat

Regular readers of Tony's holiday section of the BB will know of my caving exploits over the years i.e. most of the tourist caves plus entrance, car parks, near-by bars and beaches of many others.  So this holiday in Cuba was a refreshing change as I went diving every morning, leaving him on the beach, promising as soon as we get back, 'we'll do something' (how often have I heard those words!)  And it was not without a small degree of smugness that I left him sitting on a boulder one day whilst I undertook my first cave dive.

Cepero or Saturn's Cave in Varadero is a large daylight chamber, full of old stal. sloping down to a green pool.  Martin had dived it a couple of years before and thought I would like to have a go. When we arrived, we discovered it was the local kids' leisure centre as about twenty of them were jumping off a huge stalagmite into the water and generally enjoying themselves (many of them female, 14 years old, brown. lithesome and clad in wet T-shirts – disgusting, I thought!)

We had borrowed kit from the hotel which also provided a diving instructor/guide, Pepe.  He insisted we go down with him separately as it was 'very dangerous' (a German had drowned there a month before) and we were to follow him closely and do as we were told.  (Martin was unusually quiet during this lecture but the following day I found out that Pepe had got the sack but nobody knew why!)

The dive was very good. There were three routes, two of about 30m leading to small chambers, the third one being about 80m long ending in a large chamber containing underwater columns and straws and about 20m deep.

I had expected to be scared - I mean, I've read Darkness Beckons (well. sold it anyway) - but with warm water and crystal clear visibility.  I honestly don't see what this cave diving fuss is all about. Wookey Hole can't be that different!

So, if you read this, Rob, and need a bit of a hand, I’m free for the Bahamas ......

Ref: Grass M. CDG Newsletter No 101. Page 33.

* Current Titles in Speleology - Ed. Ray Mansfield Pub. B.C.R.A.


BU 56. 1991

by Rob Harper

By the summer of 1991 the Keith Sanderson Continental Caving Circus which last graced the pages of the BB regarding the Sima GESM had become a regular habit.  Caving trips to the Dent de Crolles and the Badalona B15 to Bl exchange (plus a short canyoning trip to Mallorca by the provisional KSCCC) had left all the regulars with an urge to try something a bit bigger.

There was really only the one unanimous choice; Laminako Ateak in the Spanish Pyrenees otherwise codenamed BU56.  In the world rankings at that stage it was officially the fourth deepest.  However to our way of thinking it was the world's deepest real cave since it only had the one entrance whereas all those above it had only got into top slots because successively higher entrances had been found. To get to and from the sump 1325m below the entrance requires a round caving trip of about 20 km with no easier alternative.

It is situated at an altitude of 1980m on the North edge of the Sierra de Budogia near Isaba which is just over the border into Spain.  For those of you who know the area; if you go over the col from Pierre St. Martin into Spain then the Sierra de B. is the mountain range on the far side of the valley on your left as you descend to the plain.

Just for a change we had no great difficulty in getting participants - at first.  Everyone wanted to come - including Bob ("Dalek") Balek from the BPC.  As time went on only Keith, Mark Madden (C), Dalek and I seemed to be constants in an ever-changing population.  However by the end of May we had assembled a group consisting of the above plus Mike ("Slug") Hale, Rhys Watkins and Colin ("The Scrounge") Jackson from the Bradford. John (“JJ”) Bevan and Steve ("The Prat") Gray from the NCC, Andy Tharratt from ULSA, Barry Rhodes and Andy Hommeini from the Burnley, with Snablet to help uphold the honour of the BEC.

As usual we all skived off and let Keith do the hard and boring work of arranging permissions, telephoning the           Spanish, photocopying surveys etc.  In retaliation he bombarded us with the equivalent of a small forestry plantation in paperwork which meant that by the time we left we not only knew all about the cave and the surrounding area but also a welter of detail right down to the nearest barman's father's hernia operation.

Actually getting permission to do the cave is a real problem since access is theoretically limited to 'scientific' trips only.  The first scam that was suggested was water sampling.  That was dropped when we worked out the weight of water that someone (there were never any names mentioned but we always assumed it would be Dalek) would have to carry out of the cave.  Then came the Radon scam.  It was absolutely perfect for our purposes.  The detectors were tiny and weighed next to nothing.  They had to be in the cave for several months so that we need only take them down and retrieving them would be someone else's problem.  Would they fall for it?  There were a few tense weeks then we were officially granted permission for a Radon survey in the cave.

Eleven twelfths of the party promptly forgot about the Radon survey.  But the token grown-up that always seems to emerge on these trips turned out to be Slug which may come as a surprise to those who know him.  He took it on himself to mother those little Radon detectors and make sure they did whatever it was that they were supposed to do. They certainly did not bother any of the rest of us until several months after the trip but more of that anon.

July came and with it the awful spectre of travelling on the first ferry of the school holidays. Every bit as bad as we had feared; obnoxious kids disgorging from Volvos and BMW's crammed the amusement arcades and trampled over bivi-bagged cavers trying to kip down on the lifeboat decks. A solid day of flogging down the French auto routes then the loom of the Pyrenees, blue in the distance.  This was if anything the worst phase.  You felt that you had arrived but still had several hours of driving to get over onto the Spanish side.  Weary and pissed-off in a car, electric with the static compounded of marital strife and navigational dissent, we blundered into Spain through an untenanted border post and so to the campsite at Linza - only to find everyone we were expecting to meet leaving.  Keith stopped for a swift window-to-window inter-car chat then sped back to his apartment in France.  Mark Madden and Andy Tharratt were setting up camp whilst Barry Rhodes and his girlfriend Sue had already sussed out Snablet as a fellow Brit caver and were preparing to head for the bar.  What the Hell?  Let the car unpack itself.

Stunned more by the price than the alcohol content of the beer we stumbled back to the car and into bivibags all the while vowing an early start to avoid the heat of the day.

The next day's early start turned out to be the universally accepted standard statutory UK caver’s early start, i.e. about 11:00 am.  We drove two miles or so up a rough track to a stylish mountain refuge just below the Col de Linza then with temperatures soaring into the nineties we hefted ridiculously heavy packs and plodded upwards.  Overconfidence was nearly our downfall; assuming that it would be easy to find the entrance everyone decided to take up all their personal kit and one or two ropes, a tube of carbide, thirty hangers etc., etc.  After five hours of flogging into and out of small gullies the only sensible member of the party (Helen) called a mutiny by sitting on a pile of rucksacks in the shade of the only sizeable tree for miles and refusing to move until the cave was found.

Whereupon five other members of the party all said, "You just wait here and I'll go and look" and promptly disappeared in five different directions which did of course mean that there were then six lost units on the mountain instead of one (seven if you count the spectacularly lost BPC party who had started out after us). For future reference take the path from the Refuge to the Col itself, cross over and keep to the left hand paths until reaching the flat grassy meadow (Hoya del Portillo) go straight across until you reach a battered metal sign, continue over the next small ridge and turn immediately right up a very steep gully.  Once through a narrow pass this splits into two smaller gullies, keep to the left until a medium sized tree is reached.  From here scramble up to the skyline following a vague line of cairns and then go straight down the steep gully on the other side to a tiny campsite on a ledge.  To get to the cave itself go to the top end of the ledge for about 30m to an obvious bolted shaft with the legend "BU 56" spray painted above it.

A party of incredibly knackered, dehydrated and salt encrusted cavers staggered downhill to the refuge and beer, having collected the BPC party en route.  It was not until about the fourth one was sinking slowly in the throat that a micro-census revealed that we were Maddenless. Fortunately for Dalek he appeared over the skyline just as the rest of us were voting to send out a one-man search party.

We had a lazyish day next day and in the relative cool of the evening Mark, Andy Tharratt, Barry Rhodes, Snablet, Helen and I walked up and bivied by the entrance.  Keith had already rigged the first three pitches so Mark, Andy and Barry set off early next morning with the carefully coded tackle bags to rig on down with the understanding that Snablet and I would leapfrog through and rig to the end of the main vertical stuff.  Their organisation was superb, up with the lark and off down the cave.  Helen, Snablet and I gave them about four hours start and meanwhile busied ourselves collecting snow to melt for drinking water.

After the agreed four hours and 6 brews had passed Snablet and I kitted up and off down carrying our carefully coded bags.  The first three pitches are fairly easy following almost straight on from each other although the second has a slightly awkward narrow traverse at the top. These lead into the "Meandro N" about 60m of narrow awkward passage complete with a squeeze, no problem to an anorexic stick insect like Snablet but to a gentleman of the fuller figure it gave a few interesting moments.  Halfway along, we passed the other party on their way out. The pitches afterwards were not particularly memorable and we soon reached the start of our rigging section and all went smoothly at first.  Then on our second pitch, a problem.  We had gone down 30m or so to the ledge and shuffled across to the eyehole (Snablet sized again!).  Snablet was through to the bolts on the other side and demanded the tackle bag with the 50m rope.  Unfortunately, this bag only contained 4m of rope which on a 50m pitch looked just about as stupid as we felt.

Out to a cold bivi and then off the top in foul weather next morning.  Staggering through the mist and driving rain we met a woman apparently dressed only in a cagoule and boots.  However it later transpired that Jane Clarke was also wearing shorts and a T-shirt.  She had come up from Barcelona also to help uphold the BEC honour.

The BPC party were the next into the cave and they finished rigging the parts that we were supposed to have done which brought them to the start of the “Meandro Oprimido” and rigged to about halfway along this half kilometre awkward rift.

By about 5 days into the trip the party had started to polarise out into small caving groups and so it was no surprise that the Mark, Andy and Barry were in next to continue rigging the “Meandro Oprimido”and carry tackle in to dump at the bivi site in the “Sala Roncal” which is about 2km into the cave and about -750m depth on the understanding that the BEC party were to try and rig to the bottom from there.

The girls all pushed off to go walking in the Monte Perdido area and Snablet and I walked up to the ledge to bivi and be ready for an earlyish start next day.  Early morning was glorious - breakfasting out on the sun drenched limestone watching the choughs wheeling around in the valley below and, best of all, thick rain clouds hanging over France.  Then these grey faced old men who had been young men only the day before staggered in from the cave after a gruelling sixteen hour trip. We could put it off no longer. After all the honour of the BEC was at stake.

Into wet-suits as we had been told that the cave was extremely wet below the “Sala Roncal”. We slid off down thecave and as it is usual on these trips, only met up again sporadically until the start of the “Meandro Oprimido”.  Although the published articles make much of this we found it no great problem just a little tedious.  There is quite a lot of level changing in the first half but after the pitches it tends to settle down to a sideways shuffle at the lowest level then debouches into a ginormous rift chamber.  Here we met Colin and Andy Hommeini who had just popped in for a short tourist trip.

From this rift the passage dropped steadily down a superb river passage complete with small climbs and cascades and occasional oxbows to a low sandy crawl where previous parties had cached some sleeping bags, karrimats and an inflatable boat, Snablet was all self-contained but I stopped to stuff a sleeping bag into my tackle sack. Coming out of the crawl was a shock to the system straight onto a boulder pile over 80m in heigh, over the top (literally in our case since we missed the well marked path) and on down to the flat area next to the very small cascade where most parties bivouac. This was more akin to underground fell walking than caving.

Here we dumped our bivi gear.  Having seen how much tackle had been left in the cave by previous parties Snablet and I decided to chance travelling light with only two ropes in the expectation that most of the pitches and traverses below the “Sala Roncal” would be rigged - fortunately we were right.  Even more fortunately the only rope we had to cut up belonged to ULSA.

The next pitch was somewhat acrobatic and landed on a ledge with the river thundering away 20m or so below. Setting off down one of the two in-situ ropes with the time honoured shout of "Geronimo" I was somewhat chastened to discover that I was on the wrong one - to wit the one that ended in a tattered frayed end about 10m above the floor of the passage.  No matter; back up the pitch and down the other - this also ended some considerable distance off the floor.  In order to save rope I got Snablet to hack off the rope I was not on, ("NO SNABLET THE RED ROPE!!!!"), and slide it down to me.  A short knot-tying and passing session and we were down in the main river.

From here the trip just got better and better.  Cascades, swims and small traverses led to an old high level series with fantastic formations in huge passages.  From here down a slope of gour pools to a couple of hundred metres of smallish passages leading to a duck and then back to the river again by this time much bigger having gathered a few inlets.  As is common in continental caves there were many high level traverses which were festooned with anything up to five abandoned ropes, (in one instance there was unused rope just lying still coiled on a ledge).  However we cheerfully clipped into as many as possible since the bolts were to say the least unreliable and up to 20m or so of free fall potential tends to sharpen the self-preservation senses a tad.

Eventually the traverses ended and we were back at water level for half a kilometre or so until we could hear the dull roaring of the last two pitches ahead.  All the descriptions had said that these were terrifying but could be bypassed by someone climbing back over from the other side. However we found a rope hanging out of the roof.  I looked at Snablet and he looked at me.  Then working on the principle that if it would hold me it would hold anyone I set off up and was relieved to find almost the only really good rigging in the lower part of the cave as I hauled out over the top.  From here it was just plodding along large sandy floored passage and down mud slopes back to the river and the sump.  BEC stickers were left.  Snablet's hip-flask was drained and then the long plod out to the bivi-site reached after almost 18 hours of non-stop caving.

After a short brew we both crashed out for 12 hours to be rudely awoken by Mark Madden and Andy Tharratt on their way to the bottom.  They stopped for tea and then pushed off down.  Minutes later Snablet and I heard the sound of someone coming back up the passage.  It had taken the knot I had tied in the ropes below the “Sala Roncal” to remind Mark Madden that he had left his hand jammer at the entrance.  Fortunately I always carry a spare and I tried not to look too smug as I handed it over.  We did mean to get up then but one brew led to another and it was eighteen hours after we had arrived back at the bivi before we actually got going.  Then twelve hours of steady caving to get out to a glorious hot Spanish afternoon and an even more glorious cup of tea.

Of the thirteen cavers on the party eight managed to get to the bottom of the cave.  We had used almost no rope below the “Sala Roncal” so the last party out (the BPC + Steve Gray) were able to de-tackle almost all the way to the entrance in one incredible effort.

Incidentally the Radon results came through many months later showing abnormally high levels in the “Sala Roncal” area.  We are still waiting for Snablet to stop glowing in the dark.

In summary; a brilliant trip in a wonderful area with great companions.  If you get the chance to do it don't hesitate - go.


Caving On Bonaire

by Peter Glanville

Continuing the BEC's search for new caving regions to explore I organised the first speleological reconnaissance trip to Bonaire last autumn.  Unknown to me, one island over (Aruba) Martin Grass was doing the same which only leaves Curacao to be examined.  I have to say that world length and depth records are unlikely to be achieved in Bonaire and the river caves aren't very big either.

Bonaire lies 40 miles off the Venezuelan coast.  The car number plates leave one in no doubt as to what the main attraction of the place is i.e. "The Diver's Paradise".  But that is another quite different story.  According to the Underground Atlas there were no references to karst features on Bonaire but on our arrival it was quickly clear that a large proportion of the island is covered in high quality reef limestone lying on a base of volcanic rock.  The wave pounded east coast, exposed to the constant trade winds, possesses lines of low cliffs studded with fossil coral and eroded into a viciously sharp maze of limestone edges.

The map and guide books showed locations marked 'grotto', Fontein and most excitingly Spelonk. Diving was the main objective however (and some medical education) so cave hunting took place to and from dives or in the early morning.  The first caves we found were very shallow but well visited.  They seemed to be on a wave cut platform a long way from the sea and probably represent old sea caves.  Certainly on the opposite side of the island there was one massive arch set high up and back from the current coast line.  The caves are of interest mainly because they contain Arawak indian inscriptions which nobody seems to have managed to decipher.

At Fontein water was flowing from somewhere to supply a small experimental farm.  Half an hours search in a sort of Lost World landscape inhabited by huge but only half seen iguanas and massive spiny green melon cacti, got us to a series of old water tanks fed by a small stream.  This emerged from a steamy short and seemingly semi artificial cave.  The cave harboured a couple of bats and was interesting for the massive pillars of calcited tree roots in the final chamber 10 metres from the entrance.

The limestone cliffs above Fontein are a climber's paradise and are probably totally virgin.  There were a number of small phreatic cavities at their base filled with dry stal.

Our searches for Spelonk were unsuccessful.  There are few good roads on the island and the tourist map was useless.  Our appetite had been whetted by the guide book description of two caves one of which was 300 feet long 66 feet wide and 13 feet high containing many stal columns and many rock drawings.  A walk in would seem to be the best way to find the caves but the terrain is very rough on the feet.  Near Spelonk there were solutional features in the limestone beds on the coast i.e. miniature bedding collapses and caves.   There should be some good blue holes here in a million years or so!

Bonaire is a small island (26 miles by 7 miles) and apart from a rather incongruously sited oil processing station has little to support its 11,000 strong population other than tourism and the salt pans in the south.  The tourist accommodation is expanding but the place does not exude the razzamatazz of some other Caribbean islands.  A far sighted policy of making the entire coastline to a depth of 200 feet into a national park has resulted in virtually undamaged coral reefs, mostly only a short swim from the beach.  A national park in the hilly north of the island supports populations of iguanas and flamingos as well as other bird species.

To get there one flies KLM from Heathrow via Amsterdam.  Some travel agents will book a package type holiday there.  If you are into diving in a big way I can recommend it.  If you do go and you find Spelonk, let me know.


Ten Go Caving In Sutherland

by Peter Glanville

The story so far.  A motley group of west country cavers have travelled north of the border in two successive years in a desperate urge to find new caves, new worlds to conquer, to boldly go .... Whoops!  Sorry about that, we'll start again.

Enough enthusiasts remained from the last two trips to mount a third.  With Nick Williams and a MOLEPHONE in our armoury there were high hopes of making progress in ANUS cave.  Unfortunately the weather on this occasion failed to come up to expectations. Water came from the sky at all speeds and in all forms.  Stream levels rose and remained high for virtually the whole week which had, I suppose, the virtue of concentrating our minds on a limited number of sites.

Day one dawned sunny. While some team members visited ANUS the divers headed for the salmon farm in Loch Cairbawn after getting air from Jimmy Crooks at Lochinver. We emerged from the depths with several small plaice, numerous long armed squat lobsters and many scallops all destined for the pot.  By this time the weather had begun to deteriorate and it was with reluctance that a small group of us started up the

ANUS valley carrying assorted bite of diving kit.

This proved to be the first of the daily treks up the glen.  The varied weather conditions helped to relieve the tedium as did the sight of large herds of deer down by the stream bed.

Peter Mulholland proved he was a priceless addition to any expedition by cooking a gourmet meal that evening using the morning’s catch which had been prepared by Tony Boycott and Julian Walford who only just made it back in time for the last few morsels.

The Allt bar found favour this year as the watering hole.  As the Inchnadamph Hotel is up for sale it will be interesting to see where cavers go in the future.

Day two began lousy and got worse.  We plodded our way up to ANUS cave in rain of steadily increasing intensity wellies were the order of the day.  Getting changed was misery.  I changed in the cave entrance feet from the raging torrent pouring down the normally dry stream bed.

The plan was for Pete and myself to dive through to ANUS2 with a MOLEPHONE, set it up at various locations and broadcast to the surface in an attempt to radio locate the nearest point to ANUS 1 or the surface.

The dive was murky in a strong current and sump 2 was found to be in existence.  However no real problems were encountered and we soon had the aerial set up for the first transmission.  Peter alternately bleeped and broadcasted on a three way link with the surface and the digging team while we munched Angie Glanvill's famous apple cake. Hearing the weather report from the surface we felt incredibly snug in our dry sandy niche.  After another broadcast from Sotanito Chamber we moved to Sump 4 via the traverses we had decided were the fastest route last year.

Evidence that dry exploration would yield dividends was reinforced by our noticing a circular hole in the roof near Sump 4, clearly leading to a higher level.  Water was pouring out of the inlet by Sump 4. Weather conditions on the surface were still atrocious and we began to feel really sorry for the soggy band trudging around the rain lashed hill side waiting to hammer in wooden marker stakes.

We slowly made our way out taking photos.  On the far of the sump we found virtually everybody apart from a few diehards had done a bunk.  We forgot about changing and squelched our way back to the car.

Pete Mulholland decided the next day was the one to do a surface survey of the ANUS valley in order that we could tie in the radio location points.  Fun was had at the waterfall when Pete detailed me to measure its height.  Lobbing the tape over the edge proved to be tricky in the strong up glen wind.  We achieved the task just before hypothermia set in and warmed up by taking pictures in ANUS cave.  Tav appeared at a late stage in the proceedings - he had been caught in a hailstorm of such ferociousness that he had had to prostrate himself in the heather until it passed.

The following day we returned yet again and, with the help of Tony Boycott, transferred kit down to a shake hole at the fork between the ANUS and Claonite valleys before taking pictures of the bone caves.  Pete and I, gluttons for punishment, then went on a photo trip to Cnoc nam Uamh bumping into Trevor Knief, Pete Rose, John Kidd and Ken Passant on one of the two caving trips they did.  Water levels were impressively high.

The next day after a trip to collect air and after waving good bye to Pete,  John and Trevor (defeated by the weather) we picked up Goon (Alan Jeffries) and headed for no, YOU Guess!

Goon proved to be action man, racing up the hill with the heaviest bottle which made youngsters like Pete and I feel like wimps.  Mind you, with the holes in his wetsuit, he had to move fast to keep warm.  The transport of three sets of kit into Claonite is almost unheard of and proved, in the high water conditions, to make the trip very slow.  Sump one bypass with an airspace of only 6" added to the fun.  Goon kept up the light relief by dropping a tank in Bottomless Pillar pool.  The cascades and waterslides were horrendous death traps and we were glad to reach the tranquillity of the sump three pool .

All the kit worked at sump three apart from Goon's valve which delivered a 50/50 water/air mixture but got him through.  Beyond sump three is a high narrow cross rift which soon turns into a low boulder grovel by the stream.  An inclined bedding plane, awkward with diving kit, leads off above and parallel to the streamway which drops into sump 4.  A most unlikely hole in the roof opens into the base of a loose looking boulder pile (Fawlty Towers) before a climb down to the stream.  This flows down a shallow ramp into the wide sump 5 pool. One tug on the diving line and it came out severed by floods.

We relined the sump using some sewing thread Pete had on a line reel instead of proper diving line. The sump is shallow and easy and ends up in a little boulder ringed pool.  A stepped ledge a few metres ahead yields the promise of a bypass to the next sump.  Goon remained at Sump 5 preferring to cultivate his hypothermia.  Pete and I found 6 to be only a few yards from 5.  A sort of cat’s cradle of blue polyprop hung above the sump pool with one end leading in a positive way into the pool. An experimental tug suggested it was belayed "somewhere".  Pete then decided he was not in a sump pushing mood which left us with two large tanks at the sharp end. There was no option but for yours truly to have a go. Kitting up with Pete's kit proved to be awkward and I entered the low bedding plane at the start of the sump in a less than positive state of mind carrying sewing thread and line reel. The presence of a 'snoopy loop' on the floor of the sump seemed to suggest someone had been through before. I followed the line into a wider section of passage which led to the right and began to ascend.  By now, though, my mask had begun to flood and all my kit was snagging.  I backed out, turned round and retreated, defeated.  Getting out proved to be easy and in a few minutes we were reunited with Goon.

The trip out proved no less eventful than the trip in with Pete losing a bottle in Cavity Wall Passage. After 7 hours we eventually emerged in daylight.  Back at the hut all was hush - the family section of the GSG, fresh from new hut construction, were quietly settled reading when we burst through the door. The British Museum Reading Room atmosphere lasted for an hour before there was a sudden and mass exodus to the pub.

The next morning dawned sunny and clear.  Pete, Ken and I departed for Lochinver for some air and a dive.  The dive proved to be successful as far as my ambition to photograph sea pens goes, but due to a misunderstanding about compasses the two Petes spent the last of the dive swimming about trying to find the shore!

After packing for the return south the next day we drove round to Stac Pollaidh.  Ken went for a stroll on the coast having been up with Pete Rose and co. a couple of days earlier.  We got to the top in 45 minutes then weaved and scrambled our way to the seaward summit 'prow'.  In the golden light of mid evening the view in all directions was magnificent, north across the blue reticulated pattern of Lochans to the rearing bulk of Suilven and west to the Summer Isles.  To the east lay ranges of snow capped mountains fringed by low banks of cloud.

We reluctantly returned to Ken and drove into Ullapool for a late but excellent chilli bean casserole at the Ceilidh Place (recommended).  By the time we got back to the hut it was late.  Stepping outside the hut for a quick pee, I noticed a cloud which came and went rather fast,  the Northern Lights.  We spent a happy hour gazing at the natural light show flickering over our heads until fatigue overcame us.

This was a week unlike the other two the group splintered into several teams all doing their own thing. From an uninspiring beginning it ended on a high note.  I know one thing - given half a chance I'll be back next year!

Sutherland Update. Goon returned to Sump 6 and got as far as being able to see down a wide open 1.5 metre passage.  He also discovered Sump 5 drains off to the right on the far side in dry conditions.  He then pushed the obvious bypass mentioned in my report and found a large chamber which returned through boulders to the streamway and yet another sump. Meanwhile one of the digs near the waterfall above ANUS cave has gone another 15 metres.  A dry link with upstream ANUS seems imminent.


Club News.

Membership Changes.

We welcome three new members, who are :-

Estelle Sandford, Weston-super-Mare
Sean Morgan, Clevedon, Avon
Richard Anthony Lewis, Weston-super-Mare

There are also many address changes.  I have some and John (Watson) has some but for one reason or another we have not got a complete up-to-date list at present.  The complete list will appear in the next BB.

Ian Dear Memorial Fund.    contributed by Sett.

The fund was formed when Ian bequeathed £300 to the club 'to assist junior members to travel on the continent'.  At that time the investment produced an annual interest of £25 or so which would have been a major part of a return fare to the Pyrenees.

Although the Club has since made a substantial contribution to the fund, inflation, coupled with decreasing interest rates, has reduced the real value to less than a tenth of that originally available.

At a time when whole world is becoming accessible to the active caver or climber, this trend looks like it is going to continue.  We anticipate an interesting report from this years beneficiary who was given a grant of £100 to go to a worldwide conference in China.

I am asking for help from all Club members to increase the amount in the Fund.  Contributions will be welcomed, no matter how small: but more importantly we are appealing for members to remember the IDMF in their wills. A 1% legacy won't be missed by you or your beneficiaries.  We also ask those who have had support from the Fund to donate their original grant, preferably with an allowance for inflation.

Most of the current membership will not remember Ian, who was active on Mendip before many of them were born.  He particularly enjoyed his annual holiday in France and Spain, hence his bequest recognising the needs of future travellers.  Please help to continue his spirit of generosity.

 (Ed's Note: I should not really complain at this point but would like to point out that neither of the two members who received grants in 1991/92 has yet written a word!)

Committee Meetings 1993.

The committee thought that members should be informed of the time and dates of meetings so that they may attend if they so wish.  They are as follows;-

All meetings start at 20.00hrs prompt, and are held at the Belfry.

Friday   1st January       1993
Friday   5th February      1993
Friday   5th March          1993
Friday   2nd April           1993
Friday   7th May            1993
Friday   4th June            1993
Friday   2nd July            1993
Friday   6h August         1993
Friday   3rd September   1993

Tackle Inventory.

Total ladders accounted for:        11 (assorted lengths)

Total Spreaders:                        7 (all good)       

Stock ropes in store:                  1 x 130ft (Dynamic)
                                                2 x 75ft (Dynamic)
                                                1 x 120ft (Dynamic)
                                                1 x 120ft (Static)


Stock ladders in exploration store:           2 (good)

Stock ropes in exploration store:             1 x 250m coil (St.)
                                                            2 x 26m (Dyn.)
                                                            1 x 18m (St.)
                                                            1 x 20m (St.)
                                                            1 x 36m (St.)
                                                            1 x 67m (St.)
                                                            1 x 35m (St.)
                                                            1 x 54m (St.)

Also:     6 Tackle Bags

5 Rope Protectors

1 Touralit Pump and Dies.

Assorted Touralits mostly Imperial.

Ladders under construction ; 3


Keys to the Belfry (or any other BEC keys to which you may be entitled) are available for a deposit of £4 from Nigel Taylor (Mr 'N')

A.G.M. 1992.

There was an election this year.  15 stood, 81 voted and those elected are shown on page one.  I have not yet seen the minutes so cannot quote the voting figures. These (and minutes) should appear in the next BB.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Ted Humphreys

1990 - 1991 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Martin Grass
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Chris Harvey
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
B.B. Editor               Ted Humphreys
Hut Engineer            Nigel Taylor
Membership Sec.     John Watson
Floating Members     Richard Blake
                               Ian Caldwell
                               Graham Johnson
                               Vince Simmonds


The main difference between ordinary people and B.E.C. members seems to me That B.E.C. members are ‘go for it’ people.  This has occasionally led (fortunately – rarely!) to injury or even death, but hasn’t it better to get out and do things rather than just be a spectator?

The other thing about ‘go for it’ people is that they tend to have strong characters and express their views forcefully.  This sometimes leads to clashes of personalities, unfortunate but almost inevitable, of which we have had several recently.  I don’t think that there is a solution, but suggest it would be helpful if all parties tried harder to see the merits of opposing viewpoints and to remain 'cool'.

That's enough pontificating!

The next BB is due out before the end of August so that postal deliveries can be made in time for responses to be received before the AGM (Saturday the 3rd of October).

We're back to the old format for this BB as Phil couldn't spare the time to modify my files.


Club News

Membership Changes

We Welcome one new member this time, who is:-

Martin Riddell, Clevedon, Avon

Any time the membership list is published we get a number of address changes!  The changes I've got are listed below but some addresses are still wrong (comment in the Hunters - He doesn't live there anymore but I don't know his new address, etc.).  Please let John or myself know if you found any errors in the addresses and know what the changes are.

731  Bob Bidmead, West Harptree, Bristol
727  Bill Cooper, Totterdown, Bristol
936  Dave Nicholls, Camborne, Cornwall
1046  Dave Shand, Rhiwbina, Cardiff
1066 Alan Turner, Chippenham,Wilts
887 Greg Villis, Weston-s-Mare

Roy Bennett Plaque

This was unveiled on Sunday the 28th of June.  22 people attended in Cerberus Hall.  Wig did it and made a short speech and Kangy added a few words.  Photos were taken and the BEC song was sung.  I didn't know Roy very well but the occasion was moving. Joan was very generous and provided a barrel and sandwiches in the garden at the Hunters afterwards which everyone enjoyed.  Zot figured that the average age of the cavers in Cerberus Hall was 45!

Club Dinner and AGM

These are on Saturday the 3rd of October.  The dinner will be at the Webbington.

This year we will be having a proper election for the committee as for the past few years it has only been done by a show of hands at the AGM.  Nominees for the committee should send their names to the secretary as soon as possible.  Voting slips will be included in the next BB.  Most of the current committee will be prepared to serve again but the whole club should have the opportunity to select those that they wish to see doing it. The first nine 'past the post' will be elected!

St Cuthbert’s

The leaders list published in the last BB was in error!

Apologies-to Joc Large who should have been included.  Also we have two new leaders who are:-

Dudley Herbert
Dave Yeandle

The following bits are from Jeff Price

On two recent occasions visiting clubs have not shown up on the date arranged for their caving trip. As a result of this, in future, clubs who have booked trips through me will be asked to telephone their leader a week in advance to confirm the trip.  This will take effect as soon as possible.

Jeff has given me a roll of tape to be used by BEC St. Cuthbert’s leaders to tape or re-tape formations in the cave with instructions to hang it up at a convenient location.  I shall leave it next to Kanchenjunga.


Mike Palmer has come off the BEC OFD1 leaders list.  The committee would like to thank him for his support over the years.

Tim Large has now been accepted by SWCC as an OFD1 leader for the BEC.

Also the SWCC would like to remind us that OFD is not to be used for commercial caving trips and that any BEC trips must have at least 2/3rds paid up BEC members on it.


48 Years Ago

Contributed by J'Rat

Taken from British Caver Vol.12. 1944: -

BRISTOL EXPLORATION CLUB - (letter to Editor from Hon. Sec. J.H. Stanbury)

"The B.E.C. is to engage in the activities of Speleological Exploration, Archaeology, Crag-Climbing, the exploration of Natural and Man-made Cavities, and such things as will from time to time meet with the approval of the Committee".  Extract from rules.

"Of necessity, due to war conditions the activities of the Club have been seriously curtailed. During the last 12 months we have organized 18 large scale caving trips, plus a number of surface trips to various parts of Mendip.  Our active membership now, unfortunately, less than in pre-war days, being now about the forty mark.

We are excavating a cave site on Mendip, and making good headway.  In addition, a smuggler's cave in Cornwall in being excavated, also with good results".

Knowle. Bristol 4.     27/4/1944

Ed's note - It would be interesting to know the final results of the two digs mentioned and their locations.  Perhaps Harry could tell us??


Caving In Central Kentucky. U.S.A.

by James Wells

Dad (Oliver Wells - ed.) suggested that I write a note about caving over here, so here goes.

Let me start by inviting BEC members to come over here and go caving.  There are plenty of good caves to go to in the area from Elizabethtown to Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Tennessee to the south has more caves and they are generally nicer, but the cave area around Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky has a couple of overriding attractions for me, first and foremost, the incredible connectivity.  Mammoth will someday be 500-600 miles long, and there is no area in the U.S. that has similar potential.  Second, the area is only 80 miles from my front door, over a hundred miles closer than the good stuff in Tennessee.  Third and least explainable, the Mammoth area has a charm that keeps people coming back.  The landscape isn't overwhelming, but it's worth seeing, and I like ridge walking even on the days when we don't find an entrance.   The caves have plenty of personality, and certainly make you work before you can have the next breakthrough.

The main attraction is Mammoth Cave.  Total length is now something like 320 miles, of which about 250 is within Mammoth Cave National Park.  Mapping in this part of the cave is conducted by the Cave Research Foundation (CRF). They are mostly re-mapping now, huge quantities of passage whose previous survey has been deemed to be not up to scratch.  Until they achieve their re-mapping goals, most new exploration is that which is found during the re-mapping.

The rest of Mammoth Cave is that part which was known as Roppel Cave until its connection with Mammoth in 1983.  Roppel is explored by the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition (CKKC).  I've been a CKKC member since 1981, and am currently president. Roppel is about 65 miles long, and contains some very fine passage.  This year we are working on a new entrance which will revitalize exploration by putting good leads within 1-2 hours travel.  One of the more exciting leads is the upstream Logsdon River Sump. The first sump is 700 feet long and very shallow.  The second sump was pushed until running out of line a couple of hundred feet in.  In between the sumps, a large walking passage goes two ways, unexplored.

The area has a bunch of other major caves ;-

Fisher Ridge Cave System.  This cave, explored by Detroit Urban Grotto of the NSS, has just passed 50 miles in length.  The cave comes within a few hundred feet of connecting with Roppel, but many of the Fisher Ridge cavers are opposed to a connection, and have gone as far as vandalizing activities around the nearest Roppel entrance.  The cave also extends under parts of Eudora and Northtown ridges.

Crump Spring Cave.  This cave was mapped for over 10 miles in the 1970's.  I don't think anyone ever goes there anymore.  The way into the main part of the cave is called the Whimper Route, because you whimper when you go through it.  In my experience, people give up prematurely on hard caves in this area, so there may yet be good leads in Crumps.

Vinegar Ridge Cave System.  This cave is 7.3 miles long and has 123 leads by my count. Exploration has been slowed by a 700' crawl which is known to sump, and when sumped, stays that way for years. The main part of the cave was found in 1984.  Currently the crawl is half full of water passable but not convenient with dry walking passage beyond to overheat any person wearing a wetsuit.  I really want to get back in here but have not had the time. Last trip we stayed on the near side of the water crawl, and dug into a canyon that went 300' to a 10' waterfall, which has not yet been descended.

Hicks Cave.  This cave was inherited by CKKC from a previous group and is about 21 miles long. Original exploration was through very wet passage near the Green River.  Progressing miles upstream, explorers broke out into 2 good complexes of dry upper levels.  Exploration died due to killer trip duration and flood risk.  In 1986 a back entrance was completed, but a propane explosion in the cave in 1988 shut everything down for a couple of years.  The source of the LPG leak has been found and stopped. CKKC has started trips here in the last half year, and has mapped 3000 feet of new cave, with plenty of leads remaining.  In my last Hicks trip, a friend and I pushed one lead and finished the day with 1250 feet mapped and 9 unexplored leads.  This cave is a long way from Mammoth, but may someday connect.

Whigpistle Cave.  This cave is over 20 miles long, and is not far from Mammoth Cave on the southwest edge of the park.  The initial way into Whigpistle involves thousands of feet of bathtub passage, but there are large trunk passages on the other side.  One lead was pushed through low airspace to find a portion of the Logsdon/Hawkins River, the same river explored for over 6 continuous miles in Mammoth.  On a return trip, the lead was found to be sumped with soupy mud (maybe this is a job for OCW!).  Nobody has ever been back to this part of the river.  Interest in Whigpistle is reduced by the observed occurrence of sudden water level changes in the entrance pool, thought to be linked with collapse in Turnhole, which is the resurgence for the cave.

Grady's Cave.  Is a neat river cave, which has been mapped for 12.5 miles by Joe Saunders.  I went there once, and spent most of the day walking and boating in huge river passage.  The lead we mapped was miserably small and wet, though.  The cave is in the sinkhole plain to the east of Mammoth, and most non-stream passages are choked with silt from agricultural run off.

Horse Cave.  Was a show cave in the 1920's and 1930's, but was closed to all entry in 1943 due to pollution.  For decades the entrance emitted fumes stinking of waste from a nearby creamery. In the past few years, waste management practices in the area have improved dramatically, and the cave became enterable this year.

Mike Yocum, Alan Canon and I began the survey on August 31st.  We mapped the entrance sinkhole (several acres) and mapped in 50 x 50ft stream passage for 500 feet, then walked ahead to what might be the largest cave room in Kentucky.  In areas, the rotting remnants of the tourist trail poked through the mud.

In two further trips the mapped length of the cave has reached about 4500 feet.  The large passage sumps downstream just beyond the large room, and breaks into components upstream.  The best remaining lead is a stoopway with a good breeze.  None of the passage we have seen so far is virgin, but the cave has reasonable prospects for a real breakthrough.

I've never been to James Cave.  I know it's over 10 miles long, and is famous for vertical exploration. Apparently the whole cave is the world's largest dome complex.  The cave is near Park City, to the southwest of the main Mammoth area.

Those are the main caves in the area.  Of course there are zillions of smaller ones (50 feet to 5 miles).  The search for new caves is hampered by the lack of any central directory of cave locations.  Most locations are rediscovered from time to time.  There is no way to tell what has been done in a cave that you find, unless you happen to talk to the right person.  My survey of Carpenter Cave in Allen County (about 60 miles southeast of Mammoth) turned out to be at least the third survey of that cave.

Update:  On October 20th 1991, Alan Canon and I found an entrance while ridge walking.  A stream resurged, flowed 15' above ground, then went back underground in a grim looking belly crawl in water.  Alan got down in it and went a hundred feet to a decent hands and knees crawl with a strong breeze.

The next Saturday we were back under ominous skies to give it a push with wetsuits on.  The crawl became a narrow canyon, which went on and on and on!  After perhaps 1500 feet we debouched into a dome with a large keyhole-shaped cross passage. From here we scooted in every direction, covering a total of between 3000 and 4000 feet for the day, leaving nine continuing passages including two pits over 50 feet deep.

On November 3rd we started mapping the water crawl, which has been named Bob.  A howling cold gale made us pack up the survey after 150 feet and scurry farther into the cave.  We placed some hanging survey in nicer passage, then looked around, finding two more large pits and a nice upper level walking passage which we left after 500' of pushing.

As of February 1st 1992, about 4000 feet has been mapped in the cave.  Copious leads and seven virgin pits remain.  Mammoth Cave is 200 feet away at the closest point.


The British 1991 Dachstein Expedition

by Chris Lloyd (from Canada)
Surveys drawn by Snablet

All the accounts of caving in Austria I'd heard described tight 'orrible sharp passages and endless exposed rifts punctuated by awkward drops all flowing with, or about to be flowing with, water from the continual thunder storms which pass over the high desolate mountains.  The approach walks were long and wet and the camps just wet.  The dangers of lightning strikes were never dwelt on too long.

But people kept going back so surely it couldn't be all bad.  One of these returning regulars was Paul Ibberson and when he described this years plans to stay in a mountain hut equipped with a bar and return to push a cave discovered in a new valley which is located above the largest cave system in Austria, I decided to see for myself what Austria was like.  The chance to find the world's deepest through trip was too tempting to miss.

I arrived at the Wiesberghaus on Aug 19, a day after Paul, Dave and Richard, and was greeted with a shot of schnapps from the friendly hostess Alfi and her husband Wolfgang. When I had returned with my second load the others had returned from humping loads up the hill and were settled into the bar wondering where our fifth member was.  Snablet turned up at 11pm having driven straight from a month's caving in Spain.

Tuesday saw us packing 100's of metres of rope and other gear for the slog up to the cave entrance, located 1 hours walk from the hut over the most heavily dissected limestone terrain I'd seen.  Building cairns as we went, we eventually relocated the cave Richard and Snablet had found at the end of last years expedition.  They'd penetrated about 100m to the top of a large pitch so now Richard and Paul headed down with 200m of rope to see where it went.  The rest of us spread out over the open valley to check for other entrances, of which there was no shortage.  Rills, runnels, sinkholes and shafts were everywhere in the bare limestone and over each new rise, another dark hole beckoned.  But it quickly became apparent that it wasn't going to be as easy as it looked, everything was choked with rubble or snow plugs.  A few hours later we regrouped back at G1 (the abbreviated name given to our first cave) and heard the same news from Paul and Richard.  They had dropped a 40m pitch into a big chamber with no way on. Our first dud!

The next day we returned to survey G1 accompanied by Peter Schieller, a local Hallstatt caver who was up for a couple of days recce.  More likely checking up on what the rival British are doing above his pride and joy, Hirlatz Hahle, a 68km system with a vertical range of 1000m, most of which is above its single entrance.  The map plots indicate that its upper reaches are beneath the area we are exploring and an upper entrance could possibly be the world's deepest through trip.

We surveyed G1 to -100m and 164m in length while Richard and Dave were further up the hill checking out G2. Snablet had discovered the horizontal entrance the previous day, leaving it at the top of a pitch.  Richard dropped that and spent an hour negotiating a squeeze to get to the next drop.  They left it at that vowing to name it Quaking if it went (in memory of Britain's most infamous tight cave).  Fortunately it didn't!

Thursday saw Snablet and Paul start in on G3 while Richard and Dave dispatched G2.  I had good views in mind as I set off up the mountain to check an entrance near the top of a large cliff.  So far the weather had been un-Austrianly brilliant and I wanted to get as high up as my sore knees would allow.  A very exposed scramble got me down to my targeted hole, which was a horizontal tube headed straight into the hill.  Getting excited I abseiled back down with my pack and crawled in to check it out.  After 20m, the narrow passage opened into a chamber with two parallel rifts continuing on into the mountain.  I checked these, finding a pit along one while the other branch went in and looped back around to the other side of the pit.  Exploring about 100m, I knew I'd have to return with the others and some rope. Further up the mountain the views were spectacular across all of the Dachstein and over to the surrounding mountain ranges.

Meanwhile Snablet and Paul had dropped 3 pitches down the  tight meanders in G3, and we all converged in time to have Richard go down to find the fourth one choked.  This quickly led to a consensus to keep Richard off future pushing trips.

With 3 duds and nothing good in sight Paul and Snablet attempted to locate a cave closer to the hut another of their group had pushed to -250m last year.  That was unsuccessful as were our attempts to push my G4 up on the cliff.

Spirits were dropping fast and another day was lost looking for last year’s cave, while Richard and Snablet started in on the extremely small G5.  Its small draughting opening had been spotted earlier but left as a last resort.  Richard managed to rig and drop the 20cm wide entrance slot after much verbal abuse. Snablet and I checked other entrances waiting for Richard to return.  Eventually the cursing returned and Richard emerged with the bad news that it was going, though he had had to break through an ice blockage to find the way on.  Snablet was sent in to rig the second drop with easily the most awkward rigging so far encountered.  While Richard returned with more rope, I worked on enlarging the entrance as it was starting to look like we might all be using it a fair bit.  On their return they were grateful for a hot brew as they had been crawling along ice flows and had turned back at the top of a big pitch where everything was coated in ice.  Maybe this will be the one.

Everyone was back up the hill the next day with high hopes; though with threatening weather we didn't want everyone in the same cave.  Richard headed in with more rope while Paul and Snablet surveyed in behind.  Dave and I headed over to the next valley to check some more entrances the wide ranging Snablet had located.  After Dave had scouted it out in shorts I kitted up and took our 20m push rope to get down the first 7m free hang.  Using the tail got me down another 10m over an ice lip into an icy chamber.  A cold draught was blowing up an ice coated ramp and I couldn't see round the next corner. Another hopeful to check.

Back at way G5 we waited for Richard to emerge with the news that Paul was headed down a 50m pitch on a 30m rope.  Fortunately he had another rope and managed to bottom the large chamber, but there was no apparent way on.

The next day we were even later than normal getting up and an official rest day was proclaimed.  We lounged in the continuing beautiful sunshine thankful that the usual expedition rains were absent this year.  Later we strolled to Oberfeld, a cafe at the top of one of cable cars which is run by, and subsidized by, the Austrian army including the biere prices.  This was the start of what ended up being a long evening as we were later invited to join Heidi's birthday celebrations back at the Weisberghaus.  One of many local inebriations we were invited to join.

The repercussions were somewhat predictable though, back at the entrance to G5 the next day.  Nobody was up to the hard work required and two were only capable of the walk back.  I went to push G6 supported by Dave snoozing in the entrance.  Snablet, as usual, was finding more entrances, which was good as my effort brought me to a small draughting hole too small to pass. Some chiselling or a little bang would get one through to the larger space beyond though.

Wednesday was to be our last full day on the hill, so G5 had to be finished.  Snablet and I went in first to continue the survey with Richard passing us to check the bottom and Paul and Dave pulled up the rear photographing. Now I got to experience for myself just how 'orrible it really was.  And it was!  Below the ridiculous entrance slot a series of nasty, tight, twisty meanders had to be negotiated flat out on ice ledges, earning the cave its full name of Ice Gymnastics Cave or Eisturen Hohle.  The vicious hairpin corner at the top of the second pitch almost turned me back, but my legs did manage to bend that way enabling me to back out of the 50cm diameter hole dangling on my cow's tail, feet still caught in the hole.  Once sorted out I could head down the 15m pitch into a chamber dominated by the 20m high free-standing ice pillar on the other side.  Almost 2m in diameter, it had an ominous bend in the bottom - the whole thing must be creeping down!

Another series of tight icy meanders and a short pitch put us into the spacious ice coated alcove at the top of the 50.  It was 5m in diameter for 30m, before belling out into the large chamber below.  By the time we surveyed to the back Richard was nowhere to be seen; only a small slot in the corner suggesting there may be more passage.  We speculated for a good while if it would go or not until we heard grunts and Richard's customary cursing coming out of that same small hole.  Relieved that we wouldn't have to go chasing him, he confirmed our fears that indeed it did go.

I led the way out meeting Paul at the top of the 50 where I gave him the bad news.  If that wasn't bad enough a huge crash shattered the silence and the walls shook as if they were going to fall down.  We wanted to dive for cover but were both tethered to the rigging.  At the bottom, Dave and Richard dove for opposite walls while Snablet had to cower on the rope trying to make himself as small as possible.  But nothing came down and once the silence was complete again it was broken by three people simultaneously exclaiming, "What the fuck was that!".  Nobody could say for sure but the consensus was that it was the ice pillar above collapsing.

I offered to let Paul go ahead since he had been waiting around getting cold, but he said it was quite alright, I could go on up.  Everything was fine until I got to the short rope below the ice pillar chamber, where the tattered rope bag was below the rig point and a huge boulder jammed in the passage.  These weren't there on the way in!  The panic level started to rise until Snablet arrived and told me the bag had been moved on the way in and that the way out was beneath the boulder not over it. Eventually I worked out the sequence to get my head around the corner to confront the real damage.  A huge ice block was blocking the entrance into the chamber that definitely wasn't there on the way in!

Fortunately I was able to wriggle out over the block and sure enough the pillar was missing. Hanging on the opposite wall was the rope for the next pitch, now with its bottom embedded in the ice rubble which totally covered the floor.  Luckily it didn't get wiped out like the ice flow next to it.  Obviously the pillar had fallen right across the chamber hitting the far wall.  Too close, far too close!

It was a great relief to get out of that chamber and negotiating the meanders above wasn't nearly as hard as on the way in, even dragging tackle bags.  The rest of the de-rigging want well and with everything off the hill the rain finally arrived, raining all the next day.

Friday was departure day for Paul, Dave and Richard with Snablet driving them to the train station in Salzburg.  But only after a huge lunchtime feast and schnapps from Alfi and Wolfgang to send them on their way.  I spent the afternoon checking small holes on the nearby cliff face, to no avail.

Snablet returned the next day and we headed back up the hill to survey G7, his last find.  It went in about 50m at a steep angle and then followed a tight meandering bypass another 30m, to a spot choked with boulders. These were removed and Snablet squeezed into the hole, not returning for a good while.  Said he'd gone in to where there was a large black space.

We returned the next day with a couple of ropes and rigging kit.  Getting in to the choke was much quicker this time, now familiar with the route, even the Exhailer (a 20cm wide body long squeeze) was not so bad. Surveying through the next section was another story.  Its name of 101 Damnations about sums it up.  But the black space beyond was spacious and an 8m drop led to continuing passage.  The survey was put on hold to push on ahead.

The way on split and Snablet was volunteered to check the lower narrow slot while I went on above, in what turned out to be the same route.  This was confirmed by me dropping a rock on his head while trying to get the tackle bag down to him so he could start on the large echoing drop below. By the time I wormed my way down through the Razor Blade Alley he was at the end of his 20m ready to head out for more.

Returning with more rope we continued surveying to the big drop and pushed it 40m to the bottom with a couple of rebelays.  A 10m horizontal jog took us to yet another shaft 6 x 8m in diameter and deeper than the 20m of rope we dangled in it.  Foiled again, but with the bolts set we would be ready to go tomorrow.  Not getting back 'til after midnight, tomorrow was declared a rest day.

Well rested we were actually caving before noon on Wednesday taking in yet more rope to see what we had. Snablet headed down the last pitch on a 50m rope and hit a boulder pile at 30m, with no obvious way through.  A bypass was noted and I pendulumed over into it, finding a 2m diameter tube leading down into darkness.  As I was placing the bolt for this route the boulder pile beneath Snablet shifted, settling a few centimetres, and bouncing stones could be heard echoing far below both him and me.  He moved quickly to tie back into the rope while I hurriedly finished setting the bolt.  I had to place another rebelay 5m down and only got half-way through when my light died, leaving Snablet to lead down again.  He descended hesitantly as the odd stone was still popping out of the sinking boulder choke behind me and crashing somewhere below him.  A 25m free hang put him into a 6 x 8m high passage which sloped down towards another dark pitch sounding deeper than any we'd done yet - 60 maybe 100m?  But lacking rope and time we surveyed out de-rigging as we went, thankful to be clear of the 'Beware of the Sound of Thunder' pitch and above 'Capitan Steigel's Amazing Sinking Boulder Choke'.  Another sporting cave to return to next year.

Back at the Weisberghaus we calculated our new depth to be -166m., over a few Steigel 's (the local biere) and a wonderful farewell dinner from Alfi.  And of course we didn't get away the next day without a couple of farewell shots of schnapps.  Prost! Prost!





Caving On The Ho Chi Minh Trail

by Tony Jarratt

Thursday 16th April. 1992

I am sitting in a butterfly filled rock shelter just across the river from the atrocious track that forms part of the wide system of roads, trails and jungle paths which was used by the Viet Cong to transport food and munitions during the American War.  My sole companion is a local policeman, Du (pronounced "zoo").  On the border with Laos, this is potential bandit country so he is armed with a machete and a bayonet.  I have my Swiss Army knife.  Our three colleagues are walking the 15km back to base but I have a duff foot and can't walk far.  If we are lucky an ancient 6 wheel drive Chinese truck carrying Bob and Dany will collect us in the next 24 hours.  If not - so what?  We're in Vietnam, these things happen and it's all part of a great trip.

The last two years had been spent by Howard and Debbie Limbert and friends from Yorkshire together with our geologist contacts at Hanoi University in preparing for this year's expedition.  The B.E.C. were represented by Bob Cork, Dany Bradshaw, myself and a few Bertie stickers. On the 1990 recce trip, the district of Bo Trach in Quang Binh province (some 30km. north of the 17th parallel) was chosen as a potential major caving area.  A completely separate Yorkshire team, including ex-B.E.C. man Jim Abbott flew over with us to investigate an area near the Chinese border.

We flew from Heathrow to Hanoi via Bangkok with me hiding under a flat cap and headscarf to avoid being spotted (!) as a Chickenpox carrier!  Needless to say the rest of the team kept well clear and I got three seats to myself for most of the way - dead cunning!

The cloud cover over Vietnam was thick and low.  Breaking through it at about 300ft, we emerged over miles of flat paddy fields - riddled with numerous circular ponds on each side on the runway.  These were American bomb craters!  Good morning Vietnam.

The customs men in the dilapidated airport building visibly blanched at our mountain of kit and quickly ushered us through to our waiting friends and an old Russian 32 seater coach. An hours drive to the city provided a glimpse of the local lifestyle.  The sides of the dusty road were lined with small wooden shops selling a great assortment of items – beer, tyres, bicycle parts, food, etc.  Beyond them the rice fields stretched into the distance.  The road itself was a melee of trucks, bullock carts, jeeps, cattle, an occasional car and thousands of bicycles.  With horn blaring our driver bulldozed his way through the lot into Hanoi and to our hotel where we stayed for the next three days.  Being a leper I got a "luxury" separate room (with a gorgeous young maid called Bang – honest!).

During these three days we shopped and ate in the city.   Imagine rush hour in London or Mexico City.  Exchange 90% of the vehicles for five cycles each.  Deduct the noise, pollution and aggro.  Transform belligerent taxi drivers into smiling, piss-taking lads on tricycle-propelled rickshaws and you have Hanoi.

Not a beautiful city but fascinating.  Capitalist communism is the norm.  The bustle of the traders in the old town and market places is contrasted by the austere public buildings and Ho Chi Minh's Lenin-like tomb.

After exchanging our fistfuls of U.S. dollars for literally rucksacks full of the local currency – Dong – we were ready for the journey south.

On 18th March our bus left Hanoi for the two day trip to the village of Phong Nha (or Son Trach). Impressions of the country were of limitless paddy fields, broad rivers bearing an assortment of wooden boats from coracles to motorised barges, women in conical straw hats, tower karst, millions of bikes and bomb craters.  These line the sides of the only main road and rail route from Hanoi to Saigon.  The odd ruined bridge testified to laser-guided direct hits.  The more we saw of Vietnam and its people, the less respect we had for the U.S.A. and its politics.  The friendliness and hospitality of the locals was overwhelming, from the poorest peasant to General Vo Nguyen Giap - retired hero of the French and American wars and in his day second only to Uncle Ho.  He visited us later in the trip and wants to write a preface for the expedition report.  (Unfortunately he is at present under house arrest - for mixing with cavers?)

To visit this country as a tourist is at present expensive and plagued with red tape.  Our path was smoothed by our working relationship with the great bunch of geologists at Hanoi University - Prof. My, Drs. Thuong and Ngha and graduate student Minh.  They all joined in the trip for various periods of time.  Prof. My (pronounced Me) is a non English speaking Party man.  He doesn't smoke or drink but has an eye for the ladies.  He is the only fat man in Vietnam, and short with it.  For the first week he was out of his depth and well dressed.  He left here yesterday to help a sick colleague back to base - two stone lighter, wearing wet boots, shorts, a filthy T-shirt and a three-day growth.  He is now one of the lads!

At last we reached Phong Nha village.  It is in a fairly remote location on the banks of the Son River and bisected by the main Ho Chi Minh Trail.  It has a row of tiny wooden pubs selling local and Chinese beer - the latter very acceptable and equally powerful.  A thriving market selling rice, vegetables, fruit, the odd snake, doughnuts and fly covered meat catered for our needs.  A sea of curious and smiling faces.  Hordes of small kids fascinated by hairy, pointed nosed and 2 metre tall white men followed us everywhere.  Paradise; surrounded by incredible forest covered limestone towers and flat, green rice paddies.

After settling into the People's Committee meeting room and getting permissions sorted out we were at last ready to go caving.  Our first project was to continue with exploration and surveying of Hang Phong Nha, partly in order to aid the locals in their plans to establish it as a major tourist attraction - which it most certainly will be.  It is reached by a 2km river journey in either a hand propelled boat (Doc Moc) or motor boat.  A wide inlet on the east bank of the river is followed to the large entrance which has been pulverised by American bombs and rockets.  Hang Phong Nha means Cave of Wind and Teeth.  The draught is still there but the stalactites adorning the entrance are now at the bottom of the river.  This is not your average cave!  No need to disembark the boats take you right in and up the river passage for some 1.6kms, to land at the base of a massive boulder slope which is climbed to a huge, well decorated chamber and 200m of tunnel to the upstream river cave. After a couple of weeks of pushing trips this system had been explored to a total length of 58m, ending in boulder choked passages close to the surface - as evidenced by the resident snake! Most of this distance involves swimming across enormous lakes in a passage generally 15 - 20m square.

An unfortunate result of the publicity given on T.V. and in the local press to our exploration was the death of two Vietnamese tourists and serious injury of two others when a huge stalagmite on which they were climbing collapsed.  Because of this we drew up a set of suggested rules for the boatmen/guides which will hopefully help conserve both the lives of visitors and the natural beauties of this world class cave.

A little further up-river is the Dark Cave Hang Toi.  This is a 5km+ system of huge and generally dry passages with spectacular formations and a top entrance in a jungle filled doline.  A young wood-cutter, blissfully sleeping here in the safe knowledge that Vietnam was now a nation free of foreign devils, wished he had been wearing his cycle clips when two passing multicoloured monsters trekked up the river bed shouting "Ere young 'un, seen any 'angs?"  Incidentally the very wet inlet cave that Bob and Dany found upstream now bears the nickname "Full Neoprene Jacket".

The exploration of these two systems ended the easy part of the trip.  It was now time to go further a field and become intimately acquainted with the jungle and its wildlife.

Our aim was to visit the head of the Chay River  - a tributary of the Son.  Rumours of a large resurgence cave lured a small team of us on a 5km motor boat trip and three hour walk up another branch of the Trail.  The first two hours was pleasant and easy going despite the heat. The last hour was purgatory.  It started when the flip-flop attired guide picked something off his foot with the warning "Sinh".  A casual glance at my new Line 7 boots (advert) revealed two or three caterpillar like nasties heading anklewards at a great rate of knots.  Fear and loathing descended as one wimpy Brit now understood Vietnamese for leech! There followed an hour of running through the jungle and stopping every twenty metres or so to poke them off with a stick.  Those unlucky enough to miss one had to resort to the traditional fag-end treatment and for once the smokers were not assailed by cries of "filthy habit". Dancing rapidly through the worst bits became an almost daily routine and once one had been "leeched" the fear passed as it was painless but messy.  Their loathsomeness persisted though and they were stamped on, cremated or decapitated whenever possible.  Apart from leeches the jungle was also home to tigers, bears, wild boar, deer, porcupines, monkeys, poisonous centipedes and over 300 types of venomous snakes.  Practically none of these were seen, though in one cave Rupert Skorupka found a flattened 4" long centipede inside his pit and in the entrance trod on a snake. It was not his day but the snake didn't think much of it either.  Luckily it slithered off in disgust.

Back to the Chay River. After our three hour stroll a bivouac was set up in a tiny rock shelter with a leech free sandy floor.  Our two local policemen/guides (one ex Viet Cong) immediately built a fire and brewed up.  Nhuong and Khang knew their stuff and as well as their jungle knowledge they carried half a gallon of "rice vodka" and a loaded revolver.  When we went fearfully off to sleep they got pissed and staggered off into the jungle to shoot fish or anything else that got in the way.

The following day a short walk and climb over a heap of boulders revealed the 15m high by 10m wide entrance to Hang Vom (Arch Cave).  A swim along a 100m long lake led to a collapse doline with the true Arch beyond. A huge entrance leading to a vast underground lake - probably one of the world's largest at c. 100m x 80m.  We swam, stupefied across this and climbed a cascade to a further lake surrounded by mighty calcite columns.  A typical 20m square river passage led on.  We had another mega system to go at and the leeches could look forward to more meal deliveries.

Hang Vom was eventually explored for a total length of some 15km.  During two trips Carl Maxon, Paul Ibberson and I surveyed some 3km of 15m wide, sand floored tunnel with spectacular formations ending at another entrance in a cliff somewhere in the jungle.  This would probably be almost impossible to find from outside.  The incredible main streamway provided plenty of difficult and sporting caving across enormous lakes and over boulder piles and gours for a length of about 10km, ending in an open doline with three huge entrances on the far side - one 100m high.  These were not explored.  This is one of the finest caves anywhere and would suggest is on a par with some of the Mulu systems.

By now this cave had become a regular visiting place and the jungle bivvy spot (the Betty Ford Clinic) and a couple of underground camps well patronised.  A further enhancement to work here was provided by local character "Captain" Khwang our main boatman and village entrepreneur. Having been heavily involved in our Chinese beer sessions he took to bringing several bottles in his boat when he collected thirsty exploration teams.  As he owned a bar this was both easy and remunerative.  He was astute enough to learn sufficient English in a week to be able to converse reasonably well and was able to swig a litre bottle of beer without using his hands.  It also seems that he learnt the rules of soccer at martial arts school!

Apart from leeches the team were beset by minor ailments and injuries - our worst case however being Mick Nunwick who almost died from either typhoid or Weil's disease, enhanced by a badly injured leg received in Hang Phong Nha.  He was eventually admitted to Dong Hoi hospital - once a showpiece of Cuban aid but now worse than the Belfry!  This rather grim edifice provided its own amusing moments.  As Mick lay in his private ward, with fellow cavers dossing in beds at either side, others of the team would arrive for lengthy visiting periods - sometimes up to several days.  Beer and fags were purchased from the hospital bar and the ward became a sort of medical boozer.  The chief consultant (a mini Charles Bronson look alike) would pop in for a quick glance at Mick before settling down to a bottle of ale and a fag, the dog end of which he would toss, still lit, into the corridor.  Other patients, visitors and passing kids would stand gaping in for hours.  Group photos of the nurses became the norm and those specially favoured sported an expedition badge.  One morning Charles Bronson complained of a headache caused either by the booze of the previous night or falling off his moped.  He had a fag and some beer, scrounged some exped. medicine and felt better. Sadly for Mick he was not well enough to stay in Vietnam and was last seen hobbling onto the Saigon Hanoi "express" train.

Simon Brown had a near miss when he fell off an underground tree - washed in by floods – and suffered bruising of the chest.

This accident occurred in the Minh Hoa area, a day's jeep ride from base and a very scenic landscape of high limestone towers.  Though one good through trip river cave was found, about 3km, other leads in this area amounted to little.  A cave visited by Pete Ward and me being rather like a muddy version of Stoke Lane Slocker and another one nearby being notable only for the memorable sight of a small boy with a live bat on a bit of string - rather like an animated conker or very energetic yo-yo.  Another ingenious use of wildlife by Vietnamese kids is the adaptation of the beating wings of a large hand held beetle as a portable fan!  I am told they also glue these beetles upside-down to bits of cardboard with wheels on and race them.

Back to caving - for the last few days a few of us have been living in the entrance of a huge and promising river cave, Hang Cha Ang, in another patch of leechy jungle.  On arrival we decided to have a meal and then leisurely survey the first 500m or so.

At station 13, 300m in, it sumped.  This isn't normal for Vietnamese caves.  Two separate days of jungle bashing with small boys as guides eventually saw us at a secluded valley where the same river entered a large cave.  Not far in it was blocked by massive boulder falls but by leaving through another entrance these were by-passed and a further section of cave entered.  The lower levels were sumped but a promising series of dry, upper level passages were surveyed for some distance until the presence of a 4ft long black snake curtailed our activities.  It can wait for the next expedition in 1994, as can the possibly mega resurgence cave found by Howard upstream.  The walk into this area is horrific - jungle covered lapiaz.  The walk out was worse as the small boys got lost and we nearly had to spend a night out with no food, water, mosquito nets or bivvy bags.  As it got steadily darker we luckily escaped the clutches of the "green hell" and Hang Cha Ang was one of the most welcome caves we had ever seen!

Darkness is now also drawing in at this rock shelter.  Still no sign of the truck (or any truck) so we will spend the night here.  Du has just informed me, using drawings, that in January this year bandits machine-gunned eight travellers only 11km further up the Trail!  I have opened up my Swiss Army knife.

Friday 17th April, 1992

6am and still alive. So is Du, though having seen the bullet scar on his leg and shrapnel bump on his head received during three years as a soldier in Kampuchea he probably has a charmed life.  Breakfast consists of tea, fried eggs, the remains of yesterday's chicken supreme and prawn crackers.  A couple of local bomb collectors have dropped in to help eat it. They have also provided the second course - noodle and pig fat soup with rice.

At 10.30 Du and I took all the kit up to the Trail and spent a few hours drinking rice vodka with the wood cutters.  At 2pm the truck finally arrived and we set off back, pausing only to turf off some hitch hiking locals and replace them with a few 500lb bombs and a selection of artillery shells.  Back to the village by 5pm for lots of beer.

The next few days were spent packing and having farewell parties with the locals.  Pyrotechnics and ale featured strongly.  Back in Hanoi the reunited teams gave lectures and attended more feasts and booze ups.  On 25th April we sadly left this superb country and its wonderful people for a week's R & R in Thailand.  Notable for the novel use which young ladies have for ping-pong balls, I found this country not a patch on Vietnam.  A nice touch in Bangkok though was the reception party of Brian the Hippy and girlfriend complete with huge Bertie placard.  We certainly do get Everywhere!  We deny any connection with the recent riots though.

The full report on the Expedition will be published later this year.  Anyone wanting a copy please contact Dany a.s.a.p. so he knows how many to print.  In all we explored and surveyed over 28kms of cave, most of which was enormous river passage. A very successful trip.


Letter to B.B. Editor


Dear Ted,

As the sole organiser of the last two Annual (and, I believe, highly successful) Dinners perhaps I might have the same prominence in right of reply to Alan Thomas's vitriolic letter of criticism regarding the dinner.

Alan, obviously after many past years on the B.E.C. committee, has finally realised it is a mistake to go to the same place year after year.  This is no doubt based on the multitude of dinners at WOOKEY HOLE and at the CAVE MAN at Cheddar, so I can only agree, it was time for a change.

Change we did, and the WEBBINGTON, with its higher standards of decor, service and facilities was well suited to the B.E.C.   Far from deteriorating, the Dinner has improved and, coupled with a greater variety of dinner speakers and guests, continues to improve.

It is definitely an untruth to say that anyone is told where to sit Alan (Why, were you?).  In fact, a table of eight persons arranged in a circle means you have a greater, NOT lesser, opportunity to mix than in long tables when you can speak easily only to adjacent diners and perhaps three persons opposite, if you are lucky!

You appear somewhat out-of-touch Alan, with the general club view that the B.E.C. be 'tidy' at least once a year.  The ladies in their 'finery' are justly matched by members and guests in collar-and-tie.  There never has been, of course, a rule that it must be a suit.  Yes, by common agreement, 'T' shirts are out; we are NOT the WESSEX!  Perhaps you would feel happier if 'T' shirts were worn, but then why have you always dressed-up,  'Cape and all?'  The membership want a tidy dinner.  Is it not their right to have the BEST dinner for the BEST club on Mendip?

As for numbers, Alan, the last two WEBBINGTON dinners broke ALL records (excepting the 50th of course) for attendance figures.  Doesn't that tell you something, Alan?!!

Still, there is no room for complacency.  You may recall that in the B.B. after the dinner I asked for comments from the club, so I could ensure that the 1992 dinner will be a success.  I have only had your reply - via the B.B.!

"Mr. N".