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Eastwater - History Of Terminal Rift Digging Efforts

During research on the history of exploration in Eastwater Cavern it was noticed that there was nothing published on the major digging efforts at Terminal Rift during the mid seventies.  I contacted Keith "Ben" Bentham of Eldon Pothole Club who kindly forwarded the relevant information which was clarified and enlarged by Pete Eckford.  For the benefit of future speleo­historians the combined information appears below.  The remains of the "aqueduct" are still lying at the top of the 13 Pots and as the B.E.C. have taken upon themselves to clean up the cave these shou1d be removed when convenient..

Tony Jarratt  18.8.87

On a visit to the terminal rift, Keith Betham (E.P.C.) Pete Eckford (B.E.C.) and Pete Hiscock (S.M.C.C.) noticed that the water was sinking under the right hand wall some 10ft from the pool.  A dig was started in September 1974 with Martin Bishop (B.E.C.) helping on one occasion and Jeff Price (W.C.C.) logged on two trips (Wessex Journal 157).  Excavation of this sink revealed a choked descending 2ft 6ins diameter passage.  Material from the dig was hauled in one gallon paint containers into Sand Chamber where it was stacked using woven plastic bags – a stacking system which, in other digs, has proved very effective.

In October 1974, the water which had previously prevented digging at the site in wet weather was diverted from the Thirteen Pots by using an aerial aqueduct constructed from 6in diameter plastic pipes and tractor inner tube supported on a tightened rope. This carried the stream from Harris's Passage, over the head of the Thirteen Pots, into the Muddy Oxbow.  The pipes came from the old Cuthbert’s Sump One dig.

In November 1974, the dig broke into two avens about 20ft and 30ft high but they were too tight and so digging continued in the floor.  The dig was hampered by tourists treading on the pipe and breaking it, resulting in about half an hour of each trip being spent in bailing the dig. After some 25ft of digging, the passage, alas, ox-bowed back into the Terminal Rift and the Pool flooded into the dig necessitating abandonment of the site.

In the B.E.C. Log Book are recorded five trips by Pete Eckford and Pete Hiscock, three by P.E. and Ben, and two by P.E alone.  All were of the order of five hours duration so treble that figure would give some idea of the man-hours spent on the dig.  There are doubtless many unrecorded trips.  The last trip seems to have been in late 1975 or early 1976 when P.E. and Ben spent two hours bailing the dig.  It is thought that the site has not been investigated thoroughly since.

Ben belatedly wishes to thank all persons who assisted with the dig and to all the Mendip clubs who supplied equipment.

Keith Bentham (B.P.C.)
Pete Eckford (B.E.C.)