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Overheard at the Belfry:  When discussing details of the Austrian trip, later this year, a well known Belfryite (J.D.) made it known to one and all "I don’t care what we do in Austria providing we are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge!"

Weil's Disease has struck again in Stoke Lane.  A Yeovil C.C. member was rushed to hospital after he had lost the use of his kidneys and liver.  Luckily, he made a full recovery but others contracting the disease may not be so lucky. Rat’s urine in the water is the usual cause of this nasty disease, commonly known as Sewermans Disease.

This is the second time that a caver has been struck down with it; the first was our own Oliver Lloyd some 12 years ago.  I've spoken to Don Thomson about this and he said that there is no real protection because the virus will penetrate through the skin, whether it is cut or not, as well as the usual way into the body via the usual orifices.  So, be careful, don’t drink cave water, wear gloves and possibly hoods may help in the Stoke sump areas.

Longest Dive. An Australian cave diver has broken the world record for the longest cave dive.  Paul Hadfield states that it was over 2 kilometres in a cave in the Nullaber Plain in South Australia.  The current issue of British Caver (No.68) gives details of other long dives (p.25). A copy is in the club library.

Mike Boon, well known to older members of the club, has at last published his book relating highlights of his incredible caving 'career'.  He tells of diving in Swildon’s Hole, discovery of large sections of the Lokva and Grapa rivers by diving in Yugoslavia, and tales unfold of activity in Jamaica, Ireland and Yorkshire.   Though expensive at £6.75 (112pp; 5 maps, 8" x 6") it makes an enjoyable read.  Available from Brian Woodward, 243 Bloomfield Road, Bath, Avon BA2 2AY.  Brian is also selling Canadian Caver at 85p per issue (a real must for those interested in caving in Northern America. In addition he has for sale 'Cave Exploration in Canada'; this book contains a complete history of caving in Canada, with descriptions of all the major systems, up-to-date maps and superb photographs.  Price £7.  A copy is in the club library.

Still on the subject of bocks - Karst in China (150pp) published Shangai People's Publishing House, is one of the finest 'coffee table' caving books yet published. Contains magnificent photographs (mainly colour) of the world’s largest karst regions in southern China.  The text is pretty feeble and quite short, even so, there's a liberal sprinkling of the Thoughts of Chairman Mao.  Its expensive retailing between £8 - £9.25 - stocked at Rocksport, Tony Oldham and Foyle’s ( London). A new American bock is available through Anne Oldham - Cavers. Caves and Caving.  Edited by Bruce Sloane at £8.14 post free.  It's an anthology of, folklore, history and adventure.  All contributors are members of N.S.S. Plenty of illustrations.

News in Brief. Border C.G. and the Cerberus S.S. seem to have patched up their differences that caused the split a few years ago.  Talks of merging the two clubs seem to be on the way.  Possible a marriage of convenience – CSS have a cottage, Border cannot afford to buy one.  Alan Mills (WCC) has abandoned Pitten Stree because of continual collapse.  Caving lectures entitled “Caving – Sport and Science” at Geology Theatre commencing 25th April – details from Dept. of Extra Mural Studies, The University, 32 Tyndalls Park Road, Bristol, BS8 1HR. National Caving Centre (No.2 if Whernside is No.1!) proposed for S. Wales to be built on DYO property.  Cost £200,000.  Financed by Nature C.C.'

Water Tracing. Willie Stanton has carried out more tests at Cuthbert's and records times to Wookey of 10 hours.  This agrees with the 1967 tests when the time was given as being 11 hours.  However, the 1967 times are not very accurate as the lycopodium spores had reached the resurgence before the 11th hour, so ten hours would appear to be reasonable under high water conditions.  Also, Wigmore was tested over the weekend of 4th - 5th March.  This involved the Belfry regulars in 6 hourly sampling trips to Wookey, Rodney Stoke, Cheddar and Rickford.  Wigmore was traced to Cheddar, taking about 43 hours.

Space Blankets

A medic from the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine carried nut some useful work back in 1971. Details of which have been published in the March, 1978 edition of Climber and Rambler (see copy in club Library).

Basically, he claims that the advantage of the aluminium coated plastic space blanket is that it can be seen from a distance but has no added advantage over the other forms of materials commonly in use for protection against the cold and wet such as polythene or woven nylon.

Testing the space blanket under various conditions it was found that the skin temperature was no different using the blanket than when using a poly bag.  It was concluded that heavyweight space blankets are of some value as a water and wind protector but other materials such as polythene or rip-stop nylon are equally robust.

The lightweight space blanket is too fragile for most survival purposes.  Bags are much better than blankets in windy conditions.

The reflection of the body heat (infra-red) by a space blanket is prevented by the layer of condensation and at sub-zero temperatures by frosting.  In this situation space blankets 0ffers no advantages over cheaper and stronger alternatives.  Lastly, space blankets are of no value as a radar location aid in survival.

Stoke Lane 4. Alan Mills (WCC) has negotiated with the landowner to open up the aven in Stoke 4 to the surface.  A radio location the site was carried out by 'Prew' last year.  The landowner has a condition that the opening should be done within a weekend and it must be gated.

More on the Stoke Lane Weil's Disease

The following is reprinted from the Yeovil Caving Club's Newsletter 'SUMP' - No.5: -

The following letter is from Benny Bainbridge and gives this own personal report on how he caught Weil's disease and also the treatment he received: -

It started as a normal caving trip one Friday night last October (1977).  The trip had been brought forward from Sunday so that I could go on my first trip to Stoke Lane Slocker.....There were four of us in the party~ all experienced.  However, on the return trip after Sump One I began to tire, so the entrance tube was a bit of a struggle.  It was in the entrance tube and again outside that I made my near fatal mistake and swallowed some of the water.  The first time was accidental, the second time it was done quite deliberately to quench my thirst.... Nothing happened for the next week or so.  Ten days after the trip…. that I started to develop pains in my back and 'flu-like symptoms.  On Thursday I went to see my doctor and he gave me some pills to ease my back ache.  However, I began to feel even worse, so on the Sunday I was admitted to the sick bay at my naval base at Yeovilton, Somerset.

It was at this stage that I started by dramatic colour change from normal pink to a bright yellow doctor discussed the possibility of me having caught Yellow Jaundice.  On the Wednesday I was transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, where blood tests done on the Thursday found me to be suffering from Weil's Disease leading to acute renal failure (i.e. both my kidneys has ceased to function some 24 hours earlier).

As the Navy has no artificial kidney machine to deal with Renal Failure, I was transferred by helicopter to the R.A.F. Renal Unit at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire, where I underwent haemo-dialysis (the cleaning of the blood by the use of a kidney machine).

While I was at RAF Halton, samples of my blood were sent to the Leptospirosis Reference Laboratory in London who confirmed that in fact I had caught Weil's Disease which is caused by the virus Leptospirosis and is transmitted to humans in the urine of rats. Fortunately, for us, only 10% of the rat population carry the virus.

I spent a total of four and a half weeks in hospital, two of which were spent in the intensive care unit ... six hours a day for 10 days hitched up to a kidney dialysis machine and for 12 days I was fed by an intravenous drip.  At the moment I still have to undergo checks on my liver and kidneys, but the lasting effect of my illness is the fact that I cannot drink alcohol because of the damage done to my liver.