The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Telephone Wells  72126.

Editor: Robin Gray

From the Editor

Firstly many thanks for cave pamphlets someone sent me.  They were for Virginia's Shenandoah Caverns and Luray Caverns.  J,Rat hag put them in the library.

Response to my caption Comp was not forth coming or even fifth coming.  Only Jeremy H. sent in a caption.,.......... 'the Flat Earth Society were right after all'

I hear that Unit 2 have asked to take over our old dig at Toothache Pot, Longwood Valley.  This is still a possible goer so good luck to them

The next BB has a couple articles already but I could do with a few more!!  Next issue.......The Truth about the Sludge Pit Dig and the Discovery of the Dave’s Cave, What else?

The new lock is now on the Belfry Door so if you haven't got yours yet send £2 and Membership Number Now........

Please take note of Dany's Letter below.  That’s it, keep the articles coming in,

Good caving

Robin

Working Weekend

THIS LETTER IS MEANT FOR YOU.  PLEASE READ IT AND TAKE NOTE

This is your last chance to turn up for a working weekend.  There are a lot of jobs to be done inside and out.  We cannot afford to let the hut get any worse, so if we don't get a good turn out this time we will have to get subcontractors in to do the work. This will cost money so subs will have to go up.  The choice is yours.  Hopefully we'll see you on 12th May.  That gives you plenty of time to plan to be there!!

The following jobs need doing: - We must build a new carbide store to comply with new fire regulations. The windows, men's bunkroom door, fascia and soffit, window boards, all walls and the ceiling in the main room need cleaning and painting.  Also repairs to guttering and the main room ceiling need to be done, plus many more jobs.

So remember........YOUR CLUB NEEDS YOU.  AND WORKING WEEKENDS CAN BE FUN.  WILL WE SEE YOU ON THE 12th?

Dany Bradshaw.


 

The Pre-Austrian Expedition

This is just a short account of the trials and tribulations of the small party (to wit three of us) who went out early in the Summer (?) to put tackle into the Barengassewindschact in preparation for the main party.

Originally we were going to use the tackle coming back from the Mexico expedition but this did not materialise. So we thought, no problem, we belong to a caving club, the expedition is a club expedition, the club has tackle, we'll borrow that.  However the tackle ober gruppenfuhrer had other ideas and removed the tackle before it could be signed out.  Incidentally for the younger members of the club I can remember John Dukes when he was a caver, so don't believe all the rumours that you hear.  Thanks to the generosity of a number of individuals we managed to scrape up enough tackle to make it worthwhile setting out.

That ends the historical introductory session.

Trip Log:-

(There was a suggestion that as it was so small we call it a Trip Twig)

Thursday 9/6/83:-

The party, Trev Huges, Rachael Clarke and myself, assembled at the Biffoery in Wookey Hole and proceeded to pack kit into the car until it was sick and refused to take any more. By disguising several rucksacks as passengers and lying through our teeth by telling the car that we were going to leave Biffo at his parents' house.  We managed to persuade Eithne (the car) to take to the high road.  We should have been on the low road!  It was our first taste of Hughes' navigation, but more of this later.  A brief stop was made at the Kent Biffoery when our perfidy was made plain to Eithne then on to Dover and the midnight ferry.

Friday 10/6/83:-

After driving through the night and the day and a bit of the night again we reached Hallstatt.  Over a refreshing few litres of foaming Stiegal, those who've been there know all about Stiegal, those who haven't go on next year's trip, we met one of the local cave divers who seemed on his own admittance to be able to do most things short of walking on water.  He had also just become a father and forced us, well not exactly forced us, to drink champagne with him.  Overnight bivvi in the underground car park.

Saturday 11/6/83:-

Trevor's diary assures me that we staggered out of bed and fettled ten, possibly some Morris Dancing manoeuvre that I missed.  My recollection is of crawling out of sleeping bags and making tea.  Then around to the cable car when it was found that the top section did not open for a fortnight.  Nothing daunted I set off and found out that the man at the bottom had not been fibbing.  Then I was daunted.  However things were not that bad and an hour and a quarter’s walking saw me at the Wiesberghaus (hereinafter known as the WBH) having dumped a load of tackle at the entrance to Barengassewindschact (hereinafter known as BWS).  Biffo and Rach dumped the remainder of the kit at the goods cable car.  Several phone calls later and after much farting about two loads got up the mountain.  The remainder were left at the bottom to be hauled up next day and Trev and Rachael walked up.

Sunday 12/6/83:-

Underground at last. Biffo set off first and laddered the first two pitches and was in the process of tackling Aalenschact when Rach and I caught him up.  The cave and available tackle was then rigged down as far as the bottom of the Stairway Series, i.e. the start of the Vesta Run.  No great incidents.

Monday 13/6/83:-

I got up early to walk down the mountain and get supplies, chat to Eithne and check on the kit.  Kit was safely loaded on to the cable car and I pushed off into the teeming metropolis of Hallstatt.  Had a very pleasant day and walked back up in the afternoon, noting with satisfaction that the kit had indeed disappeared up the mountain. Upon arrival at the WBH, I found Trev and Rachael looking suspiciously as though they had not been caving. Apparently the kit had been taken off by a group of Austrian policemen and had only arrived late in the afternoon. The weather was threatening (quote from the Biffo memoirs) but the others had taken two loads of kit to the entrance of BWS.  Only one load had actually got there as Rach got lost on the way and had managed a round trip ending up back at WBH.

Shortly after I arrived back the rain started.

Tuesday 14/6/83:-

Fester day watching the rain.  Later, just as we were getting bored with simple transparent water drops, the weather got colder and it started to sleet/snow.

Rachael went off at 4p.m. so we decided not to cook her as neither Trev or myself are very partial to 'gamey' meat.

Seriously, Rachael set out on a solo trip to tidy up the rigging at the top of Aalenschact but failed to find the bolt placement so contented herself with transporting down some ladders.

Wednesday 15/6/83:-

A late start.  The snow had become real snow.  Trev and I went underground at 1.15 p.m. re-rigged the top of Aalenschact, Bolt Fracture Pitch and the Snack Pots and then pushed on and rigged Batchelorschect which was quite wet and needed a new bolt. Trev went down BS and I sent the tackle down to him.  Then suddenly my light went out completed.  Straddled over a 50m pitch is hardly the greatest of places to have that happen.  Never mind, I thought, Trev will be up in a minute and I can use his light to get back to my spares on the other side of the head of the pitch.  Well to cut a long story short (thank God!) Trev had his own major epic on the way up when the rope slipped and he found himself prusikking up a rope, in a stream, both of which were emerging from a 3” wide rift. Much shouting later we were reunited and made our way out.

Outside several inches of snow had fallen since we left the WBH.

The snowfall continued throughout the night.  Even the Hut guardian Fritz had left!!

Thursday 16/6/83:-

After a cold night a lazy day in the WBH looking out at the snow, mist etc.  Trev did his Capt Gates bit and announced that he was going to get some exercise by walking up to the Simony Hutte only to be defeated by the weather.

Friday 17/6/83:-

After much discussion it was decided to pack up and head for home.  Trev gallantly volunteered to take himself over to the BWS, to collect SRT kit from the head of Aalenschact entrance.

Then off the mountain.

The trip home was relatively uneventful apart from Trev's navigation.

I can see why they kept him down in the Engine Room in the Navy.  We played a form of motorised hopscotch with several European borders and the highlight was when finally asked where we were (since we were so obviously not on the autobahn as they do not normally have grass growing up the centre nor for that matter herds of cattle) he was heard to reply "Page 46".  As page 46 covered an area of country stretching from Poland to the Balearic Islands we were less than reassured.


 

And now: - Dear Diary.

by Bolt.

(not to be read by anyone with a serious BENT )

The planned early start had worked well and nearly everyone was ready by 12.30.  Soon we were strung out along the Cumbria Way, the fresh North Westerly scooting up our nostrils, forcing out last nights booze fumes, in some cases from the rear.  What a team!  Staunch, Resolute and Steady-eyed.  This was the BIG ONE.  In the lead was Tim L., the only one who seemed to have any idea where we were going (but he wanna gonna tell no one see!) followed by our Chris Bonnington clone---John T.  Then came Dave (what is your second name anyway) hereafter known as W.I.Y.S.N.A. and Bob (mine cost £85 (quid-)).  Protecting our rear were, or they would be when they caught up, Karen and Blitz, one of whom had trouble putting on his boots, his socks, his willie warmer, starting the car, and locking the car.

Time passed.

Tim was eventually forced to stop his aimless zig-zagging and head towards the target.  Once we saw the white peaks and gullies of Bow Fell, excitement ran high and the lead frequently changed.  Bob H, being lucky enough to find an area completely exposed to the icy wind, announced the place as our lunch break spot and then huddled down behind the one protective boulder.  Within 10 minutes the rest of us were eyeing that boulder with lust in our eyes and eventually could stand it no more.  Blitz and one who shall remain anonymous (O.W.S.R.A.) leapt on the offending item and with superhuman strength, hurled it down the mountain into the abyss.

Bob then said it was time to go.

We continued on our way with those carrying the 10ft. B.E.C. ice-axes looking like dodgem cars and in some cases acting like them as well.  I found myself casting surreptitious glances at the heavens for signs of thunderstorms, for surely if lightning was to strike, there would be among us a great smite!

The snow slopes were reached and crampons were fitted, re-fitted, and re-re-fitted.  The snow was very hard and well consolidated; good crampon material.  We stopped at the base of the main gully to await the arrival of our rear-guard. Karen was new to crampons and Blitz was messing around and making clucking noises.  Whilst excavating seats in the snow, it was noted that all loose objects (snow, ice, equipment) travelling down-slope, invariably ended up hitting or just missing these two - Good Game.  It was also noted that up to a certain size of object, Blitz would skilfully deflect, but above that (50 lbs say) he'd selflessly skip aside to let Karen have some fun.

We could put it off no longer.  Four of the magnificent 7 headed up the main gully, while Bob (may his beer taste of camel dung) H. said that he wanted to go up the steep, tight gully to the right. Tim and OWSRA followed as Bob was the only one with a rope and we didn't want to loose it.

Shortly afterwards we came to a vertical obstruction in the gully…………

Much discussion – the only gear we had was an ice-axe apiece and crampons, a piece of rope (30ft) and suddenly I noticed one set of footprints going up the right hand wall of the gully and followed.  At the top of the steep slope they turned and went back down.  The reason was obvious - the next move was vertica1, on rock and definitely not reversible. 

However, above this was a long ledge leading back to the gully, above the obstruction.  Tim and Bob were still deep in talk so, inserting my front points in a horizontal slit, I stepped up ignoring the small voice in my head that said 'sucker'.  The move was harder than expected and it took time before I could stand up and inspect the 1edge.  It was 1ft wide, ice -covered and the rock- face was leaning outwards – no chance of anyone making it along there.  The only way on was a rising traverse going away from the gully with no snow slopes below, just vertical drops.  I set off. The moves over the steep small snow pockets weren't so bad but the semi-iced rock gave me the shivers and I'd soon lost feeling in my left hand because I was using it to wedge between the rock face and the snow.  Eventually a reverse traverse was possible and shortly after that Bob hove into view, having left the security of the gully to make sure that in the event of the expected plummet he'd be able to reach the choci bar in my pocket before Tim. He patted me on my sweaty bald patch and said 'there there' as I told him what a terrible day I ' d had.  Back to the gully and a half frozen Tim who refrained from saying 'you stupid +J$?h!@$G;!  He even cracked a smile.

It had taken me an hour to regain the gully!

Roped up now, we set off and almost immediately my left crampon came off.  The thought of the possible outcome if that had happened a few minutes earlier sent a cold shiver down my back.  Tim and Bob were going like express trains and and I, feeling a bit shattered, had trouble keeping up.  Almost there now and we hit a wind funnel, with the upward wind so powerful that it felt as though we were being lifted up the slope. At last the top and the other four in various stages of boredom.  John was in the process of building a loo, while Blitz hadn’t been able to wait and excitedly told us how he'd snapped the lengths off as they came out.  On to Bow Fell with a quick eye-popping, at the steepness of the main gully that the other four had just climbed.  Well done Karen.  Off crampons just in time for Blitz to do a somersault on a nice sheet of ice.  Karen followed suit later.  We headed at speed for the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

Tues 21st Feb. Liquid sunshine pouring down.  My Koflachs had half eaten my feet so it seemed a good day not to go anywhere.  Drove to a survival aids centre near Penrith - they're making me a sleeping bag big enough to share with a Grizzly!  Spent a fascinating afternoon being shown things like how to catch a rabbit with a Bazooka. Tbe problem seemed to be finding it afterwards.

Arrived back at the cottage to find people giving the impression of drowned rats.  Apparently they'd spent the day swimming around the mountains, looking for a 756 metre monolith called Harrison Stickle that, dominates the skyline in Langdale.  And guess what dear readers, there it was, gone!!  Breathlessly they reported the sad news.

Wed 22nd Feb.  My Koflachs had been remoulded by a hot fire and now looked vaguely like Chris B’s face - yes - he of the speeky speeky through the air and permanent flat tyre.   Time to test them.  Went looking for Harrison’s Stickle and guess what dear reader, it had returned!

Breathlessly I reported the good news.

Arrived back at the cottage to find people giving me their impressions of drowned rats.

That evening at the Britania, Rachael, Jane, and Basset arrived from different directions. Replacement engines will be installed as soon as possible.  By the way, Bassett’s details are now a load of digits, sparks flashes and burps on the all-seeing police computer.  1984 strikes! Didn't recognise Rachael for the first hour.  She had a Bad cold and wasn't talking.

Thurs 23rd Feb. Chris Bonnington alias John T. was going to take us on a 20 mile walk across every damn peak he could find and we were actually ready by 0330 - still can't believe it.  After Blitz had sorted out his normal pre-start problems - you know - willie warmer, keys; etc, we set off up Wrynose Fell missing out Wrynose Bridge, Wrynose Pass, Wrynose Breast and Wrynose Bottom, - who is this guy? Then on to Pike of Blisco where we found a couple with no axe or crampons having trouble getting up a snow slope.  We then went up a short very steep slope and they came round and followed in our foot steps!!  Good cover of snow everywhere and the sun was shining unfortunately never on us.  Down to Red Tarn with John and Blitz walking straight across it and Karen and myself praying for their safety.  Then to Cold Pike where Blitz talked us into going up a collapsing and unstable snow slope and then came up last!!  Across to Crinkle Crags where we met W.I.Y.S.N.A. end the top and rapidly disappearing part of Bob H.  They were building an igloo with Bob inside, so we stopped to help or hinder as was our wont.  Eventually Bob was completely incarcerated and tempting though it was, we couldn't stand the thought of him having something real to gripe about, so we dug through the floor to retrieve him.

Everyone agreed that if we'd had our sleeping bags with us we'd have been quite happy to spend a night in the Old Dungeon Ghyll.  We then glissaded down a one in one right into the said pub.

Fri 24th Feb  People shot off in all directions.  However, compliments of Blitz, I was ill.  So was Rachael, so snuffling gently into our respective handkerchiefs, we went for a walk around Grassmere.  Between snuffles Rachael pointed out dippers swimming, diving mallards, sleeping mallards, poison fungus and the odd dead sheep or two. Al1 while the joys of creation shone out of her eyes beneath the soggy tea-cosy she was wearing.

That evening saw a determined assault on the cold I had to the tune of 9 whiskeys and a couple of pints.

To finish on a good note, the next day I went by myself - Grisedale, Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn and back via Striding Edge.  The snow was fabulous, the sun was shining and the trip included an 800ft grade I gully. It must class amongst the best of the day trips I've ever done.  Finally, the owner of the cottage allowed me to stay overnight free of charge!!!


 

Mendip Rescue Organization

Report by the Hon. Secretary and Treasurer for the Year ending 3lst December 1983

It is sad to start this report by recording the death of Dr. Bob Everton early in the year.   He was mainly interested in cave archaeology and, although we did not see him much on Mendip in recent years, he willingly and immediately responded to any cave rescue when we needed him.  His last two rescues were among the more noteworthy, being when Dudley Soffe was firmly stuck in Swildon's Hole in 1971 and when Richard Bainbridge was badly injured in Lamb Leer nearly ten years ago now.

Apart from the log of incidents that follows, there have been other events which seem to be a growing part of essential liaison work.  Wardens have attended British Cave Rescue Council and South West of England Rescue Association meetings as far a field as Ripley, Derbyshire, and Exeter.  More practically helpful was the successful BCRC weekend conference in Settle to which several wardens and our doctors went.  On our own account, we ran a day conference of lectures, films and demonstrations for the Central Electricity Board at Exeter.  Their emergency work on electricity supplies in open country during bad weather and in effluent pipes from power stations pose some common problems of interest.

Back on Mendip, we have given many illustrated lectures and demonstrations to groups such as the Mendip CB Club in Wells, the St. John's Ambulance members at Glutton and the District Fire Brigades at Glastonbury.  These local links produce much good will and a modest revenue through donations.  We were especially pleased to be invited to join the Police for their Weston-Super-Mare Division Open Essays in the summer.  Hundreds of visitors and tourists saw our exhibition of photographs prepared by Rich West and Phil Romford and, so, were able to gain some insight into the self-help nature of cave rescue work.  Further links with the Avon and Somerset Constabulary at their Bristol headquarters resulted in a visit to their Force Control and I am grateful for the active support of Chief Superintendent Wilson and Inspector H. Young there.  Support services keeps all divisions throughout both counties up to date with MRO callout details and this has proved to be very effective.  All our rescue work these days relies upon such co-operation through understanding what each can do to help.

The audited annual accounts show a close balance of income against expenditure during a year in which we have deliberately kept equipment purchases to a minimum.   The handsome surplus on hiring Nife cells through Brian Prewer deserves a special mention.  It has become one way for newer and more distant groups to make contact with MRO and so to fund cave rescue work through their own caving activities. There has been a much better response from rescued parties this year too.

Established local clubs are the backbone of the Organisation, as ever.  It is vital to have their support through rescue practices and pleasant fund raising occasions.  Here I must pay particular thanks to the Bristol Exploration Club for waiving the former share of the Belfry telephone bill paid by MRO since its installation.  Most of all, of course, we value the help of all experienced cavers on actual rescues. This report is written with them in mind.

J.D. Hanwell
Hon Secretary & Treasurer
Wookey Hole,
Wells,
Somerset


 

Mendip Rescue Organization

Cave Rescues and Incidents for the year ending 31st December 1983

There were 11 official call-outs through the Police during the year.  Five cavers required assistance owing to falls, being stuck or just exhausted.  A large proportion of the calls involved parties being simply overdue and so it is necessary to repeat previous pleas for all to leave clear instructions about their trips with responsible cavers on the surface.  Experience shows that it makes sense to allow a reasonable time to elapse before raising the alarm for overdue parties.  Messages left with people back at home well away from Mendip are often misunderstood.

The following list brings the total number of incidents since 1951 to 230 with about 384 cavers being helped underground, excluding those involved in alerts.  The figures in brackets to the right show the numbers of people going underground on rescues but does not include any more who willingly stand-by and help out on the surface.  The extent of such help is evident in the accounts of each incident below.

9th January

21st February

28th May

22nd June

9th October

17th October

23rd October

23rd October

3lst October

12th November

13th November

Lamb Leer Cavern

Thrupe Lane Swallet

Rhino Rift

Swildon's Hole

Alert

Swildon's Hole

Frome Storm Drain

Sludge Pit

Abandoned Car

St. Dunstan's Cave

Swildon's Hole

2

7

4

1

?

8

2

1

1

1

?

Fall, bruises, rope burns

Overdue party

Overdue party

Exhaustion, unable to climb

Overdue party

Overdue party

Reported lost

Fall, bruises, broken toe

Search for missing person

Trapped, stuck

Overdue party

(6)

-

-

(4)

-

-

(5)

(9)

-

(15)

-

 

Sunday 9th January                   Lamb Leer Cavern

Fred Davies was contacted by Yeovil Police at 3.30pm.  They reported that a caver had fallen from the Main Pitch and was injured.  On reaching the informant at Beaconsfield Farm, it was found that Phillip Sutton and Malcolm Jackson of the Stroud Cave Rambling Club had entered the cave at about 11.30 a.m. but had been held up by a large party coming out.  Their own descent of the Main Pitch was delayed until about 1.30 p.m.  On returning, Phillip Sutton climbed first as the older and more experienced of the pair.  He was lifelining Malcolm Jackson when the climber fell from the bulge about 20 feet from the top.  In trying to lower him, Sutton sustained rope burns to his hands and was forced to leave his shaken colleague at the bobtom of the Main Chamber whilst summoning help.

The Belfry was informed of the situation.  Alan Butcher reached the cave by 3.45 p.m. followed five minutes later by Tim Large, Martin Grass, Edric Hobbs, Robin Gray and Howard Price with hauling gear and First Aid.  They entered the cave at 4.00 p.m. with Pete Hann in support.  In just 36 minutes they brought Jackson out unharmed.  Meanwhile, an ambulance called by the Police took Phillip Sutton to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, for treatment.

Monday 21st February                            Thrupe Swallet

Yeovil Police informed Brian Prewer in the early hours at 1.30 a.m. about an overdue party.  A wife from Salisbury had reported that her husband should have been home by 11. 00 p.m. on the Sunday following a trip with six other experienced cavers from Salisbury organised by Mr. and Mrs. Goodhead.  Brian went to the cave but could not find the car of the overdue cavers at the farm.  As there was a chance that they might have gone to Stoke Lane Slocker instead, Bob Cork checked for vehicles in Bector Lane.  His search also proved to be fruitless and so the Police were requested for more details from the informant.

At 2.50 a.m., news came that the party had returned home safely having stopped for coffee on the way back to Wiltshire.  Despite leaving late from Thrupe Farm well after midnight, they had thought it sufficient to "toot" their horn in the hope that Mrs. Butt would be aware of their departure.  No one thought it necessary to contact anyone in Salisbury to prevent the call-out.

Saturday 28th May                                 Rhino Rift

A party of four from Abson failed to report home at 2.00 p.m. after a trip down the cave during the morning.  One of the mothers alerted Yeovil Police at 5.50 p.m. and Brian Prewer was informed straightaway.  Chris Batstone stood by with a possible rescue party at the Belfry.  Shortly afterwards at 6.00 p.m. the party arrived home. They had not bothered to report having surfaced safely.

Wednesday 22nd June                           Swildon's Hole

Richard West was contacted by Yeovil Police at 9.50 p.m. with news that Gordon Lynch had phoned them from Priddy Green to say that someone could not climb the Twenty Foot pitch. The informant then left the call box and could not be reached there for further details.  So, Jeff Price was alerted at the Hunters' Lodge and asked to assess the situation at the cave.  Meanwhile, Glyn Bolt had chanced across Lynch at Priddy and organised a small hauling pasty from the Wessex Cave Club to help.

It was found that Karen Lynch, the sister of the informant had becomes tired and intimidated by the waterfall on returning from a trip to Sump 1.  There were three in the party led by her husband, all were well-equipped and the stream was low.  Inexplicably, a stronger party of five non-club cavers from Bath had passed by the incident at the Twenty but had merely put Karen in a poly bag to await other rescuers.  The four Wessex cavers went down and simply hauled Karen Lynch up the short climb.  She was then able to help herself and was out of the cave before 11.00 p.m.

Sunday 9th October                               Alert

A Mr. Drinkwater rang the Police at Yeovil as he was worried that his son had not returned home.  The son was on a caving trip with Long Levens Scout Group but the only other information was that the party was using a marked minibus.  After the Police had informed Brian Prewer at 8.33 p.m., John Turner went to look for the minibus around Priddy whilst Martin Bishop stood by to form a rescue team if required.  Shortly afterwards at 8.46 p.m., Mr. Drinkwater phoned again to say that he had been called by his son with news that the minibus had broken down on the motorway after leaving Mendip.

Monday 17th October                             Swildon's Hole

A party of eight girls with two teachers from Hayesfield School, Bath, was reported overdue by a Mr. Hughes at 9.20 p.m. After being contacted by Yeovil Police, Brian Frewer rang Mr. Hughes who told him that he had been called by the teachers concerned before they entered the cave at 6.20 p.m. and asked to raise the alarm if not contacted again by 9.00 p.m. when the party hoped to surface. He had done as he was told!  Brian suggested that the cavers had not given themselves enough time for their trip.

Jane Thorns at Priddy was asked to check whether the schoo1's minibus was still on Priddy Green. At 9.28 p.m., Mr. Pritchard, one of the teachers in the party, rang in to say that they had jus t surfaced having underestimated the length of time their trip would take and that the call box had been occupied earlier.  He was advised to allow longer for such contingencies in future.

Sunday 23rd October                             Storm Drain in Frome

Someone in Frome raised the alarm with Yeovil Police after seeing two young boys remove a drain cover and crawl into a three feet high culvert.  The informant was sure that they were still inside and said that voices could be heard.  After being contacted by the Police for assistance, Brian Prewer alerted the Wessex Cave Club and a search party left the investigate comprising Glyn Bolt, Julie Wootton, Pete Ham, Al Keen and Rich Worman.  Since there was a lot of water reported to be flowing into the culvert, Trevor Hughes was asked to stand by as a diver.  Glyn Bolt's party searched the drain but found no one.  It was concluded that the informant had failed to spot the boys leaving the site and no children had been reported as missing.

Sunday 23rd October                             Sludge Pit

A party of four cavers from Radstock went down the cave in the afternoon using their own tackle for the Twenty Foot pitch near the entrance.  After lifelining the first three down the ladder, Frank Norton, who was leading the trip, started his descent without a line.  Whilst still some way above the floor, his homemade wire tether broke so he fell and it was first thought that he had fractured a leg. The alarm was raised through the Police from Upper Pitts at 4.00 p.m.

Dany Bradshaw, Bob Cork, Al Keen, Pete Hanu, Mike Duck and Graham Bolt went down the cave with medical and hauling gear at 4.30 p.m.  They found the patient able to sit up and move his legs despite complaints of pains in the back and chest.  He was made comfortable and then hauled out within 45 minutes.  A Range Rover ambulance took the patient to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, at 6.25 p.m. where it was reported later that, apart from bruises, he had only broken a toe.

The wire tether belonging to Norton had single U-clamps fastening both C-links.  These had become loose but the danger had not spotted because had been covered by electrical tape.  Mr Norton was the heaviest member of his party!

Monday 31st October                             Abandoned Car

Mr. Mercan Jefferies at Manor Farm, Charterhouse, reported to Wells Police that a mini car belonging to a caver had been parked in nearby Velvet Bottom since the weekend.  He was concerned that the occupants might still be underground.  Brian Prewer and Jim Hanwell set out to make a check of the car and possible caves around 4.00p.m.  They were stood down after the Police contacted the car's owner in Wells. Apparently the mini had broken down and was left to be picked up later.

Saturday 12th November             St. Dunstan’s Cave

Yeovil Police alerted Brian Prewer at 8.06 p.m. because a caver had been reported as stuck in the squeeze before the sump.  He had been jammed for two hours by that time.  Four well equipped and wet-suited cavers associated with Aberystwyth University went down the cave at about 5.45 p.m.  In following the rest to the sump, 25-year old Howard Davies inadvertently strayed off the main route and became firmly stuck by his hips in a bypass.  He had attempted to descend a steeply inclined side rift head first.  Fortunately, he could be approached from either end but there was little room to help.  Myr Roberts left the cave to raise the alarm.

Tim Large and Fiona Lewis were alerted and reached the Cerberus Cottage within ten minutes of the call out.  Fred Davies arrived shortly afterwards.  Other rescuers stood by at Priddy whilst Brian Prewer and Chris Batstone set out to establish a telephone line down the cave and a radio relay via Beacon Hill.  Julie Wootton took messages near the entrance and Mike York was stationed on the road with a handset.  Tim Large, Pete and Alison Moody, Tony Jarrett, Pete Hann, Dean Fenton, Catherine Howard and Bill Haynes carried in comforts and hauling gear.  They were unable to free Davies after assisting for over an hour.  At 9.45 p.m. they requested hammers and chisels to open up the passage.  As the patient was now delirious and complaining of going numb, it was decided to call in Dr. Peter Glanvill who knew the cave well.  Dr Don Thompson was also informed and stood by on the surface. Additional kit was taken underground by Glyn Bolt with Bob Lewis, Al Keen and Sarah Bishop.  Fred Davies and others already underground set about clearing the gravel to enlarge the Domestos Bend squeeze.

At 11.00 p.m. after the patient had been firmly stuck for five hours and was distressed, a message came out that was interpreted as a warning that a carbon dioxide build-up could be a danger; also, that a rock drill would probably be necessary to open up the rift.  Jim Hanwell and Rich West took along heavy hauling gear and further medical supplies and it was decided to request a compressor from the Fire Service to clear the air and provide drilling power.  An appliance set out from Yeovil whilst Brian Workman and Dave Tuner collected high pressure hose from NHASA.  The rescuers underground continued chiselling and reached a point where the patient's belt could be cut away.

Dr. Peter Glanvill entered the cave at 11 30 p.m. followed by Kevin Clarke and Edric Hobbs with more medical supplies.  The persistence of those underground eventually paid off and Howard Davies was freed at 11.45 p.m.  He was able to help himself even though being stuck fast for nearly six hours and despite getting into quite a state.  All were out of the cave by 12.40 a.m.  Apart from rather ugly "instant bedsores" around his hips, Howard Davies was in surprisingly good spirits and much appreciated the help he had received.

Sunday 13th November                           Swildon's Hole

A party of Birmingham University Caving Club cavers used the Emergency Call-out procedure to stop their friends staying at the MCG Hut from calling out MRO because they were overdue and had run cut of petrol.  In fact, it was 6.10 p.m. and they were supposed to be back by 7.00 p.m.  All Brian Prewer had to do was to pass the message by telephoning the Stirrup Cup Café next door to the hut!

Other information

On Tuesday 9th August, Brian Prewer was alerted by the Police at 5.11 p.m. because the Cheddar Cliff Rescue Team was wanted to help a lad stuck on a ledge.  Apparently a tourist had slipped whilst scrambling.  In the event, two climbers in the vicinity at the time were able to solve the problem and the Cliff Rescue Team was stood down shortly afterwards.  The MRO Call-out is also used for cliff rescue calls to avoid confusion on such emergencies.  This incident, therefore, is not an official MRO cave rescue incident.

The following account summarises a report sent in by Ealing College Adventure Unit (St. Marys Underground Team) after an incident in Longwood Swallet on Sunday 13th March. This was a self-rescue and shows what can be done in contrast to some of the call outs on record.

A party of six people entered the cave at approximately 12 noon.  Party members were; D. Higginson, A. Melton. P. Dyment, P. Jochan, Miss D. Jackson and A. Barker.  The first three had considerable knowledge of the cave and had led parties in the cave on previous occasions.  Miss Jackson had also visited the cave previously.  Another party was in the cave at the time consisting of Mr. Chester and Mr. (Mike) Wigglesworth.

The incident occurred at about 1.00 p.m. at the bottom of the second pitch.  Shortly after Andrew Barker descended the pitch, a boulder fell and injured his right foot.  It was clear that the injuries were serious and assistance was offered by Mike Wigglesworth and his friend.  After weighing up the options, it was decided to move the patient out of the cave with those present and, if the situation deteriorated, to request cave rescuers. This self-rescue was accomplished in 2½ hours and the party surfaced at about 3.30 p.m.

Andrew Barker was taken immediately to Bristol Royal Infirmary.  Initial diagnosis indicated three broken bones, two crushed toes and a severe wound.  He was detained in hospital overnight for treatment.

Discussions following several of the bigger rescues in recent years have highlighted the need to have an obvious control point to which all cavers who are helping should report for information and instructions.  Circumstances at the time will dictate where this is best set up and it is likely that the cave entrance itself will not be suitable for certain communication needs and general crowd control.  In such cases, the Warden in charge of the Surface Control will carry a flashing yellow beacon and will probably be in close liaison with any Police vehicle in attendance.  Please remember that MRO is only officially in action when called by the Police.  All such calls require precise records of who is doing what and why.  On long rescues this can become a formidable task, especially when other services and the media turn up as well.  However well-intentioned, those who bypass the control will not get the full story and are unlikely to be helpful as a result.

Radio communications and the proximity of most Mendip caves to roads generally indicate that it is much better for those who are standing by to wait in comfort back at Priddy. With any luck, they might not be bothered further; however, it seems better to leave the celebrations until the rescue is well and truly over!

J.D. Hanwell,
Hon Secretary & Treasurer,
Mendip Rescue Organization,
Wookey Hole,
Wells,
Somerset

January 1984