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Cuthbert’s Leader’s Meeting.

The Cuthbert’s Leader’s Meeting will be held on SUNDAY 25th SEPTEMBER at the NEW INN, PRIDDY at 2.30pm. The Caving Secretary would like to see a better attendance than last year.  ALL CAVERS WELCOME – You don’t have to be a Cuthbert’s Leader.

Please make an effort to attend!

Annual Dinner.

The Eighteenth Annual Dinner of the B.E.C. will be held at the Cave Man Restaurant, Cheddar, on Saturday October 1st 1966.

Tickets at 17/6 each are obtainable from the Hon. Sec. R.J. Bagshaw, 699 Wells Road, Knowle, Bristol 4.

Water Tracing in Cuthbert’s.

The Paper Mill have especially asked that no investigations involving the use of radioactive tracers should be employed in Cuthbert’s.

Annual General Meeting.

Of the 1966 Committee, the following have expressed their willingness to stand if elected.  R.J. Bagshaw, N. Petty, S.J. Collins, G. Tilly, A. Thomas and R. Bennett.  In accordance with the club constitution, these are automatically nominated.  It will be seen that three of the members of the 1966 committee are standing down, and this makes it all the more important that there should be a good crop of nominations.  Closing date for nominations is FOUR WEEKS before the Annual General Meeting, so doing a furious sum in my head; I make the closing date FRIDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER.  There is still time to nominate anyone who you feel would make a good committee member next year.

The 1966 Committee are sending in the following resolution to the A.G.M.: -

“That item 9 of the Club Constitution be amended as follows,

9. The membership of the Bristol Exploration Club shall be divided into six classes as under: -







Honorary Life Membership.

Life Membership.

Full Membership.

Junior Membership. (Under 18)

Joint Life Membership.

Joint Full membership.



Annual Subscription

Annual Subscription


Annual Subscription







Application for membership by persons under 21 years of age must be accompanied by written permission of parent or guardian.  Life membership may only be applied for after five consecutive years of membership. All Life Members are requested to confirm their address annually to the Hon. Secretary.

The inference of the last sentence being that the absence of an annual notification might lead to a stoppage of sending of the B.B.

Raucher Week

by Dave Irwin

By invitation of the Austrian VEREIN FUR HOLENKINDE a party 12 B.E.C. members arrived at the Ischler Hutte 10 miles east of Bad Ischl in the foothills of Totes Gebirge on the 9th of July 1966.  Later that day, a small opening ceremony took place at which we had an official speech of welcome given by the chairman, Kurt Trozel which was followed by the raising of the flag to the strains of their club song.

Sunday morning saw the start of the week’s business.  This was a series of lectures by Dr. Albert Morrokutti (of Tantalholhe fame) on caving equipment and rescue techniques.  The stretcher used in the demonstrations was a collapsible canvas bag lined with about an inch of foam rubber and laced up along one edge.  It seemed extremely warm and comfortable. The cold conditions of the Upper Austrian caves would necessitate such a piece of equipment particularly if the rescue was a prolonged affair.  The only part of the victim exposed was his face.

The B.E.C. party were given the south end of the Gross Sud Gang (Great South Passage) with two points for exploration – the Donnerschacht (Thursday Shaft) and the B.E.C. Absweigung (B.E.C. Cleft).  So, early on Monday morning the party set off for the cave with Helmuth Planner and Wolfgang Huemer.  Earlier, a sherpa party had gone in before us taking into the cave all necessary ropes and ladder.  Laden with rucksacks containing everything but the kitchen sink – including of course sleeping bags and airbeds – we scrambled in through the entrance of the cave with the thought that it was the last daylight we would see until Thursday afternoon.  From the entrance we took the normal route to the large chamber – Gigantadom (Gigantic Cathedral) through Fledermausgang (Bat Passage) to the start of the Great South Passage.  Instead of branching off into a series of muddy phreatic tubes, we continued in the ‘T’ Hall and climbed up the 22m (72’) pitch.  A much cleaner way!  After a seemingly long time, we arrived at the bivouac site and prepared our bed spaces by levelling the sloping mud floor.  It had taken over five hours to reach the bivouac site and although it was only three in the afternoon, it was time for a meal and a kip.  The party slept for nearly twelve hours and breakfast was served soon after six the next morning.  The bivouac site at times appeared like something out of a Walt Disney horror cartoon. The rocks were etched into fantastic shapes forming pendants and holes in every conceivable direction, and when lit by members of the party moving about the area, lighting effects were quite startling.

Breakfast over, the party split up into two groups, one to attempt the Donnerschacht and the other to push the B.E.C. Cleft and other passages off the Great South Passage. The shaft party (Mo Marriott, Phil Kingston, Keith Franklin, Cedric Green and Dick Wickens set off to find the shaft wet due to rain overnight.  By our standards the water was not much, consisting of a heavy drip. A lack of waterproof clothes and the thought of wearing wet clothes for several days in a temperature of about 2-3oC did not appeal, so another shaft was searched for.  Meanwhile Phil Kingston found another shaft (Disappointment Shaft – Enttauschungachacht) this being deep and muddy but fairly dry in the upper reaches.  This was descended to a ledge 15m (50’) down and another ladder lowered to a total depth of 45m (148’).  At this point, the rift descended to what the party estimated as another 100’ or more, but the lack of a suitable belay meant returning back to bivouac site for the necessary equipment.  Roy Bennett and Wolfgang Huemer again descended the pitch to the second ledge and inserted bolts for belaying purposes.  Mo Marriott descended the remaining sections of the shaft on Wednesday to a total depth of 95m (312’).  The following description is Mo’s own account.  “From the second ledge down the rift continued at an average width of about 2m until a further ledge was reached at about 18m (59’) below.  At this point a band of massive, highly fossiliferous limestone was noted.  Then followed a steeply inclined section with ill-defined ledges for about 8m and this terminated at the top of a free hanging section of about 24m (80’) to the bottom of the pot, this section of ladder ended in a small plunge pool and a small stream was noted flowing out of the back (west) wall of the rift.  In the westerly direction, the rift had closed up completely, but to the east it continued – at first horizontally, then steeply sloping over a bed of jammed boulders.  A few metres east of the plunge pool, water was descending from a shaft in the roof of the rift, and this water plus that from the west wall of the rift was seen to sink in the floor of the rift about ten metres or so from the plunge pool.  About 20m from the pool, the rift suddenly turned north.  At the intersection of the two arms, a further shaft was noted, also with water which sank immediately through the floor.  At this point, an easterly extension of the rift could be seen high up in the last mentioned shaft, but a floor level, the rift was unbroken in an easterly direction.  The northerly extension of the rift only continued for a few metres before it closed down to about 15 – 20cm.  However, it could be seen that after 2m or so it opened up again into quite a large space where the walls could not be seen.  Stones thrown through the gap appeared to drop a further 10m or so. Other things worth mentioning about this lower part are as follows.  The limestone at the bottom was quite dark in colour – in contrast to the creamy colour higher up.  All the water entering the rift appeared to sink into the floor quite rapidly, and no water was heard running in the space beyond the narrow extension of the rift. Stones dropped down the Donnerschacht were not heard from the third ledge, so this rules out a connection between the Donnerschacht and the two shafts seen entering the rift.  The Donnerschacht could connect with the space beyond the north extension, since sound would not be propagated too well through the narrow gap.  However, the absence of water – or at least the sound of it – argues against this. The laddering of the various sections was carried out without any serious difficulties, and the system was found to work quite well.  The intermittent nature of the draught (which appears to emanate from the lower region in the Donnerschacht area) was observed quite clearly during the operation. Although the findings at the bottom of the shaft were not very encouraging a second trip could be worth while for two reasons.  Firstly, the narrow section at the bottom could easily be attacked with hammer and chisel and/or explosives and secondly, a short climb in the roof just before the narrow point might bypass the squeeze altogether.  To this end, some simple climbing equipment would be necessary. The Donnerschacht itself could be descended, bearing in mind that one has about 120m to go (390’) before reaching the lowest estimated point of the other shaft system!  Also the rift-like holes on the other (east) side of the Donnerschacht have yet to be explored.”

The B.E.C. Cleft party (Dave Irwin, John Manchip, Geoff Bull, Joan Bennett and Doug Craig) first inspected a small hole near the bivouac site.  While the remainder of the party were tying the entrance of the hole in with the Austrian survey stations, Dave Irwin and Wolfgang Huemer descended a narrow rift and entered a bedding plane.  Off to the right a small tube led to a twenty foot deep shaft.  Another hole was seen on the opposite side, but maypoling equipment would have been required.  The bedding plane dropped away steeply to an 18’ deep stream passage formed mainly by phreatic water, but a small amount of vadose modification had taken place at floor level.  The passage was then followed upstream for about 200’ where it terminated  at the foot of a large shaft whose floor was strewn with boulders.  In the centre, a three foot wide and about thirty foot deep rift cut across the floor. Water was flowing at the bottom, and a heavy water drip could be heard lower in the rift.  On the opposite wall, a large passage could be seen but it was impossible to reach it without climbing aids, as the walls sloped steeply into the rift.  The survey shows the passage heading away from the known cave and should be visited. Near the shaft, short stalactites were noted – a rarity in this system.  One high level passage led upwards and connected near the head of Disappointment Shaft.  A small stream entered the passage about two thirds of the way along from a small hole on the right at the head of a mud bank.  Following downstream from the 18’ climb, the passage terminated after about 30’. On the side was another shaft – quite vadose in character – perhaps 50 to 60’ deep.  A heavy drip fell into the shaft from small tubes in the roof and would have made the descent extremely uncomfortable.  At the bottom, a rift ran in an easterly direction.  This passage was called Biwacgang (bivouac Passage).

A short shaft was descended by Don Craig near the B.E.C. Cleft and about 30’ from Gafahrerbereich, but was found to be the intersection of two rifts that closed into impassable fissures.  The westerly rift probably connects with the large side passage in the B.E.C. Cleft. This is almost certainly the upstream passage that connects with the main passage of the B.E.C. Cleft at the stream entry point, but was not laddered as it narrowed in a similar manner to the lower parts of the B.E.C. Cleft.

The next port of call was the B.E.C. Cleft itself.  This again had disappointing results.  A narrow passage ran along the main rift whose dimensions are quite impressive – about three feet wide and seventy feet deep.  A wide ledge can easily be reached with a 25’ ladder at a lower level.  All possible points were examined, but the way on was always too small to pass.  The rift is a vadose meander that could be traversed along at various levels (at two points, ladders were required for 10’ and 20’ pitches) on fairly wide ledges.  At one point, the roof was reached again, and the way on continued into a tight phreatic tube that would have been extremely difficult on the return.  The stream level was looked at and the squeeze passed, but the paths led in an upward direction to the ladder area.  The total explored depth of the B.E.C. Cleft is about 145’.

South of the B.E.C. Cleft, a large shaft was found by Don Craig.  (Brucheschacht).  Below it, a meandering rift was proved to connect orally.   The small stream in the rift was probably another that fed the B.E.C. Cleft.  The floor in this area of the Great South Passage was fractured in several places, and all seemed to interconnect.  Various other passages were inspected, but none offered any interest except two – where more than 40’ of ladder would have been required.

On our return to the surface on Thursday, we learned that Dr. Morrokutti’s party had discovered about 2km of new passage!  Herbert Franke (author of ‘Wilderness under the Earth’) was at that moment in the cave making a geological survey of the new passages. The following day (Friday) saw the party generally cleaning kit and walking on the Scheonberg.

On Saturday, several members went with Helmuth Planner into the Long Passage and the new extensions found a few days previously.  Last year’s explorers terminated at the head of two shafts, one having a depth of 222’ and the other about 80’ separated by a 3’ wide traverse across which Dr. Morrokutti’s party had to pass.  The far side of the traverse led to an ever increasing size of passage that displayed some unusual rock pendants.  These were ‘growing’ upwards on the walls and floor of the passage, some as high as 6’. A short distance beyond, a group of calcite formations were seen.  The best was a column about 15’ high with a circumference of 9’.  A long ‘Aggy’ type passage was now followed and numerous example of sponge work were to be seen,.  The rock was quite white – known as Balk.  This being fairly soft and quite recently laid down in Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.  This displayed many large fossils, hence this particular series of beds were called Mischelbalk (Mussel Limestone).  Two interesting features were noted in this passage.  First, a small flow on a wall that formed into what appeared to be collapsed calcite bubbles.  The appearance was quite metallic and silvery in colour.  The other was a group of columns that has sheared off from the roof by mud movement of over six inches.

The total depth of the Raucher is now approximately 900’ and this entire system can be bottomed with only 20’ of ladder!  Although the discoveries this year were, in the main, found by one party, there is no doubt much needs to be done and enough to keep the Austrians happy for years. One last point worth mentioning. Much less carbide was used than expected.  1lb/day had been suggested but in fact only half that quantity was used.

In conclusion, I should like to thank our Austrian friends for giving us the opportunity of joining them on their annual club meet.

N.B.  A survey of the Great South Passage and the B.E.C. survey of the new discoveries may be seen in the club library.  Scale 1:550.

Editor’s note on the above.          The taking up of practically the whole of one B.B. – kept down to a maximum of four pages for the time being owing to immediate uncertainties about the duplicator situation – is not in the normal line of B.B. construction.  However, this was the official club trip and it was felt that members might like to read about this soon after the event.  We a wait the details of Alan Thomas’s adventures in Greece!

Odd Note

Readers may remember the Thomas Effect – discovered by Alan Thomas whilst staying down St. Cuthbert’s which states that Kendal Mint Cake flashes when broken in the dark. This is due to Triboluminescence.  Other triboluminescent substances (apart from sugar) are ice, mica and some uranium salts.