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


More of a ramble really, as I write anything that comes to mind that I think might be of interest to the membership.

This Belfry Bulletin is late and small because of lack of material.  Members keep asking me when the next one is coming out but very few actually contribute anything.  Please, please send me your articles.  They don't have to be about great new discoveries or even about caving just about the adventures, travels, explorations and so on, of the members. Articles about well known caves would be appreciated as well, maybe pointing out features not mentioned in the guide books.

For example: -

G.B. is a well known cave, or is it.  At the end of Bat Passage, or at least where the sumped old dig is, the obvious onward continuation is in the roof about 7 ft. up.  This can be followed to the end, passing two ways down into tight rifts which end in chokes, or do they?  However, at the 7 ft. climb, looking the other way it can be seen that the continuation passage doesn't go back down Bat Passage but goes into the right wall (looking down-cave).  A hole at the top of the muddy bank can be entered and leads to a parallel phreatic rift at least 20 ft. high.  It is not obvious from the bottom whether this peters out at the top or whether it slopes over.  Does it lead to an unknown passage?  I haven't yet chimneyed up it and don't know of anyone who has.  Perhaps you know better!

There are similar instances in most caves, as well as more in G.B.  If you know of any, write about them, please:

The day after I wrote the above, Jim Smart's article arrived from the Philippines so the BB is not as short as I feared. His letter also enclosed the newspaper clipping, the card you may have seen at the Hunter's and a note to me. I've included part of the note (edited highlights!) between his article and the clipping.

On the digging front, Bowery Corner is progressing slowly.  Daren Cilau quickly and Welsh's Green not at all.  I hope to have surveys of all three for the next BB.  B.E.C. members, and others, have been busy producing them.

The news from Bowery Corner is that the sump mentioned in the last BB has been passed, over the top, and so has the second one.  The end now is tight and very wet but, for the first time, the sound of falling water can be heard from ahead. The end is also well past the point that dowsing indicated that the passage should turn right and is continuing in a straight line.  Perhaps it turns back on itself at a lower level.

New Members

There are quite a few new members.  Those listed below are the ones that have been given membership numbers, that is, have paid their subs.  I've included Jim Rands and Gwyn Timson again as they hadn't been given numbers in December.

1109 Jim Rands, Stonebridge Park, London NWI0.
1110 Gwyn Timson, Rumney, Cardiff
1111 Graham Johnson, Wells, Somerset
1112 Catherine Wood, London
1113 Arthur Griffin, Alperton, Wembley
1114 Peter Bolt, Cardiff
1115 Robin Mark Taviner, Whitchurch, Bristol
1116 Stuart Lain, Yeovil, Somerset
1117 Peter Christopher Alan Hellier, Chew Stoke, Bristol

Some Caves and Characters in the Eastern U.S.A.

Following the reconnaissance trip by Trebor, Mac and Stumpy (BB 445) the main expedition - J'Rat and Jane arrived in the U.S. of A. on 8th September, after eventually negotiating the dreaded immigration and the large photo of Ronnie welcoming all AIDS - free tourists to the New World.  After an overnight stop in Washington D.C. we drove to Front Royal in Virginia - an attractive old town where we managed to find a proper pub, a 1933 "Caverns of Virginia" and a supply of camping gas.  Our cups runneth over.

The first show cave visited was just out of town, at the start of the boring Skyline Drive.  Appropriately called SKYLINE CAVERNS this is an extensive phreatic system carved from very light grey, chalky limestone and possessing very little in the way of normal formations but famed for the hundreds of large anthodites or "cave flowers" in one short section of the tourist route.  The other attraction was the young girl cave guide full of sparkling wit and repartee and wearing white ankle socks!  Where were you Snablet?  A further novelty was a tape recorded recitation on the Glory of God who had created this magnificent underground marvel.  Fair enough, I thought, but he also created Hunter's Hole. Parts of this cave also suffer from poor coloured lighting and algae growth though it is still worth a visit. The anthodites are advertised as unique in the world but those who have visited Napp's Cave at Ilfracombe will know better!

An early start the next day saw us at the famous LURAY CAVERNS near the town of that name.  This is one of the world's great stalactite caves consisting of large phreatic chambers packed with immense formations some of which divide the chambers into smaller rooms.  Their colour, variety and profusion are incredible and there are some fine examples of the rare "shields".  Not content with their visual attractions the management allowed a Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle to attach rubber trip hammers to a selection of stalactites operated from an organ console.  The strains of "Shenandoah" echoing around the largest chamber, interspersed with the tinkle of dripping water is particularly atmospheric.  The Great Stalacpipe Organ, an awesome bit of vandalism, should not be missed.  (I have a tape recording for those without the air fare).  Other gimmicks here are the underground war memorial, a huge notice board painted with camera lighting settings for the snap-happy and, on our trip, a short and fat cave guide with some entertaining chatter and a Deep South accent.  A most worthwhile experience.

As we were camping at the nearby ENDLESS CAVERNS it was only fair that we went in them.  Another extensive solution system with superb pendants and formations - particularly the "shields".  A young and knowledgeable lad guided us and spouted the customary American show cave jokes ("If that rock falls on you don't worry about insurance - you'd be fully covered" etc) and showing his one-upmanship over other guides by walking backwards all the way out of the cave. To add to the fun of our visit there were plenty of active bats to upset the lady tourists and a few narrow sections to wedge the obese ones (about 90% ).  There is supposedly over 6 miles of passage in this system.  In the 1920's the Explorers Club of New York worked here and exploration is being continued by the owner and his son, both cavers.  A further treat is the gift shop where rubber rocks, bat hats and lurid T-shirts may be purchased (and was).  Incidentally the camp slate here is excellent.

Our next cave was further south near Keezletown.  MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS was recommended by Trebor (Thanks mate:) mainly because of the great character who owns it.  Mr. Brad Cobb is an old time caver badly crippled by a stroke and arthritis but who manfully guides tourists round the ¼ mile of paths on two sticks.  It is not a large cave but is extremely well decorated with thousands of straws, cone shaped and bulbous stalactites.  Mr. Cobb would stop every few seconds to point out items of interest ("Weird, weird, weird") and to continually damn cave vandals ("Buzzards").  After fulfilling his main ambition of owning his own cave Mr. Cobb has two more ambitions left - to live long enough to see the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the cave in 1892 and to visit the Mulu caves!  I hope he succeeds in both.  ( See letter following this article).

We now temporarily left Virginia and after violating the traffic rules in Staunton crossed into West Virginia en route to the FRIAR'S HOLE CAVE SYSTEM near Renick.  Owned by another famous American cave man, Gordon Mathes, this is a 47 mile long wild cave with five of its seven entrances situated on Gordon's 600 acre farm. Like Trebor and Co. we were fortunate to stay at the private caving hut situated near the farmhouse - an old haunt of caver’s world wide, none of whom were around at the time.  Our first trip here was into the huge trunk passage of SNEDEGAR'S CAVE via the SALTPETRE ENTRANCE, where Jane and I were accompanied for a time by two spelunking cows sheltering from the outside heat! Negotiating the piles at breakdown was easy enough but the plies of cowsh was a different matter.  We followed this passage for several hundred feet as far as a low section which leads to a sumped connection with the rest of the system.  Many bats, a crayfish and our first cave cricket were seen en route.

While Jane then sunbathed and drank cold beer (a mandatory American pastime ) I explored the adjacent NORTH ENTRANCE and after giving the complicated Saltpetre Maze a cursory examination continued down the obviously flood prone main passage until stopped by a wide, 15 foot deep pothole with a slippery traverse ledge which I couldn't attempt on my own and without a rope.  This is a very attractively water worn swallet system and connects with Snedegar's Cave via the Saltpetre Maze.

On our way back to the hut the huge, impressive entrance of CRUICKSHANK CAVE was examined.  This is notable for its 100 ft. entrance shaft and nearby sign warning SRT cavers that "Rats may chew the rope"!

Later that day TOOTHPICK CAVE and ROLLING STONES CAVE were visited.  The former is a Yorkshire type swallet connecting with the main Friar's Hole System.  It was followed along 400 ft. of cricket infested canyon to the head of 50 ft. Toothpick Pot.  Rolling Stones was briefly looked before an imminent thunderstorm and the desire for a gin and tonic caused a retreat.  This cave is not yet connected Friar's Hole due to a constricted passage.

Having bid a sad farewell to this great spot we continued on our way via LOST WORLD CAVERNS - a superbly lit and fantastically decorated show cave near Lewisburg.  First entered down a 120 ft. pothole in 1942 this large breakdown chamber boasts magnificent pillars and tall stalagmites - all lit by 30 ft. high double lamp standards.  The tour is usually self-guided.

Next on the list was ORGAN CAVE - the complete opposite of Lost World. Having over 40 miles of passage this is one of America's longest systems with the main entrance and associated trunk passage as a rather tatty show cave.  With its wooden shack ticket office, obtrusive electric cables strung with usually bare light bulbs (though some have apparently ex jumble sale lampshades) on and sawdust covered paths this place seems to be unchanged since the hey-day of the American show cave in the 1930's.  The passages visited are essentially two huge bore tubes forming a Y-junction with a smaller side passage leading off and containing 37 wooden saltpetre leaching vats installed in 1861 when Confederate soldiers worked the sand deposits for nitrates to make gunpowder.  The wood is still in excellent condition.  This cave has little in the way of formations but the tour was made well worthwhile by the "Deputy Dawg" southern drawl of the owner/guide and his fund of tall tales.  At one point a solution pocket was pointed out as the mould of a dinosaur, now removed for display in an un-named museum!  Despite - or rather because of its old-fashioned grubbiness this tourist cave is a must.

Farewell W. Va. and on to Kentucky and the MAMMOTH CAVE National Park.  Volumes could be written on this place (and many have).  At 325 miles surveyed so far this is the world's longest cave and roughly a mile a month is the going exploration rate - a bit like Bowery Corner. From a selection of eight different tours Jane and I selected two that would cover the most extensive and interesting regions without covering the same ground.  Our first trip was the "Echo River Tour" and was led by a woman guide with a trainee male guide in tow, both wearing smart "Baden Powell" uniforms.  Our party of 44 was shepherded from the Historic Entrance, through the Rotunda (saltpetre mining ) past the Giant's Coffin ( Indian gypsum mining artefacts) through Fat Man's Misery to Relief Hall (underground bogs!).  From here a roomy bore passage was followed to the Dead Sea and along a series of paths and catwalks above Echo River - this last section being negotiated with all except the guides wearing bright orange life jackets - their’s were National Park khaki!  Everyone then boarded a couple of large punts for a 50 yard boat trip before returning from whence we had come and out of the cave via River Hall.  Mammoth Dome and Historic Entrance.  My main impressions of the cave were of magnificent flat roofed trunk passages and large, dry tunnels.  The lighting is discreet and gives one the feel of actually caving - in fact, due to electrical faults, Mammoth Dome was hardly lit at all!  The guides are well trained, informative and capable of dealing with any type of questions - and at least one of them was much prettier than Chris Castle.

When in this area it is an obligatory caver's duty to indulge in a spot of morbidity and visit SAND CAVE where Floyd Collins was trapped and died in 1925.  I explored the somewhat eerie entrance chamber in a heavy rainstorm and found the cave passage proper to be sealed by a welded iron grid.  Denied a trip I spent ten minutes photographing the hundreds of huge cave crickets hanging upside down in various niches around the entrance chamber.  Being alone in this atmospheric spot it was difficult to visualise the 10,000 rowdy onlookers who gathered here to watch the abortive rescue attempts over 60 years ago.

Our next Mammoth Cave trip was the "Half Day Tour", via Carmichael Entrance and along the mile long tunnel of Cleveland Avenue - covered in gypsum crystals and flowers and giving some idea of the vast extent of the system.  This passage ended abruptly in the Snowball Dining Room where an underground restaurant and more bogs satisfied the needs of the 200 strong party.  Our route march then continued along Boone Avenue to reach Mammoth Gypsum Wall and yet more bogs after another 1.6 miles.  Beyond here a large collapse is surmounted to reach Grand Central Station where a lecture was given by Duke, the chief guide.  Another character, he has worked here as a Ranger for 20 years and really knows his stuff.  Anyone who can keep control of 200 assorted, American tourists must be good.  The final part of the trip took us to the spectacular flowstone cascade of Frozen Niagara and then out via the entrance of the same name.  This had been a four hour tour and some of the merry throng only just made it!

Returning to Virginia a couple of days later we camped at NATURAL TUNNEL - an 850 ft. long, 100 ft. high and 100 - 175 ft. wide cave passage used as a short cut by the Stock Creek and, more recently, the Southern Railway.  It is quite an experience to be halfway through a cave when a hundred truck freight train comes through - especially when the driver waves a friendly greeting.  For more information on this cave see the recent article by Tony Waltham in Cave Science Vol 15 No 1.

Nearby, across the border in Tennessee is the grotty town of Bristol and its own BRISTOL CAVERNS.  How could we not visit this?  Once used by Cherokee Indians as a water supply and hiding place this is a well decorated show cave with a fine streamway below the main chamber. What a place to be without a Bertie sticker!

The last show cave of the holiday was DIXIE CAVERNS in Virginia.  A mediocre cave but with yet another attractive lady guide.  The ¼ mile long trip through narrow passage and larger chambers was somewhat spoiled by the coloured lighting.  The novelty of this visit came when the guide discovered I was a "spelunker" and I ended up leading the party!  Of some interest here are examples of calcite "boxwork" and the rarely seen Dixie Salamander, one of which was spotted atop a stalagmite.

The next week was dedicated to deep sea fishing, snorkelling and vast alcohol consumption off the Florida coast and of little interest to B.E.C. members though we did find America's only drive in pub - "a six pack and two pints to go buddy". Clutching our beers we drove off into the night.

Save up your bucks - the States and the Yanks are a real treat.

Have a nice day y'all     Tony Jarratt


EDITORS NOTE The letter below was on nicely headed notepaper but I've typed it because Mr. Cobb's writing is not always perfectly legible, probably due to his arthritis.  It was addressed to Dave and I've not altered anything.

Keezletown, Virglnia 22832
Oct. 6. 1988

Dear Dave Turner,

A few weeks ago, I received a second visitation, this year, from the membership of B.E.C.

They were generous enough to bestow a copy of the BELFRY BULLETIN for my somewhat sketchy library of things Speleological (Volume 42 No.3 Number 445 July 1988 ).

I was highly flattered to read your kind words about an earlier visit by other members of B.E,C., in April.  It made me feel as though my efforts to do a good job of guiding was actually appreciated by people who know caves.

Commercial Caves in the States tend to have suffered greatly at the hands of the public.  MASSANUTTEN CAVERNS, also, has received it's share of vandalism by the "Hands On" approach to collecting souvenirs over the years.  During the past third of a century, I have tried to develop a modicum of concern in the minds of our visitors.  Sometimes Success!

It is an uphill fight and every good word is treasured.  The cavalier treatment of all of our environment is pervasive in countries through the world.  This is rather short-sighted, don't you agree?


Bradford ( Brad ) Cobb    N.S.S. 2513


Caving Under The Thames

by Jingles

At the foot of London Bridge - on the north side of the river, next to the MONUMENT, is a building called REGIS HOUSE.  It is the H.Q. of the A.A. as well as being the home of CITIBANK N.A. where I work in the computer department.  In the sub-basement is yet another downward flight of steps leading to a locked door. On the other side of this door is what used to be King William St. Station, which has been closed since 1912.

It was, however, used as an air raid shelter during both wars and there is still evidence of this down there (Posters dating to 1941).  As one wends ones way through the labyrinthine network of corridors, one eventually comes to what can only be a disused railway tunnel. 50 metres into this there is a concrete bulkhead - this is so placed because at this point you are directly under the banks of the Thames!  On the other side of this - the formations begin. The tunnel runs parallel to London Bridge - all the way to London Bridge Station.  It also connects with other access tunnels and eventually to the active Circle Line terminals.  There are two well decorated tunnels - each approximately ¼ mile in length and containing some surprising straw and helectite formations as well as a few columns although admittedly not of the same calibre as those in OFD! These tunnels have been extensively investigated by Jingles and Stuart Lain on several occasions.  If anyone is in the area and wants to have a look then I can take them down too!

Call John Williams to arrange a visit


Windsor Great Cave Trelawny - Jamaica

From the Caving Log, with some editorial licence

27 .11.88

Bob Bidmead (just in case anyone thinks I don't cave any more).  Having been in Jamaica since the 23rd of September with a hurricane relief team I at last managed a Sunday off work.  The original plan, to cave with Ian Mason (Bradford P.H.C.) and Barry Poyser (Jam. Spel.) was unfulfilled as the other two were working.  Barry arranged a local guide, however, so I went with Alphonse and the Sheriff - two local lads from Sherwood.

The cave is a major resurgence, with the lower entrance carrying a stream during the wet season, and drying for the rest of the year, when the water rises through the river bed about 300 yards from the cliff face.  The human entrance is about 60 ft. up the cliff face and represents an older level.  The entrance series is much like Peak Cavern, but with a narrower opening.  Having left the twilight zone the roof became covered with calcite tracery, making it look like a church roof.  The passage wound up over a collapsed boulder ruckle, with the streamway a long way down, perhaps 120 ft. or so.  The temperature was high - in the 60's and surprisingly there was a large population of insects, the usual shrimps and hoppers, but also millions of very tiny flies, like fruit flies.  These took to wing as soon as a light beam struck the surface of the rock they were on, and were so small and so numerous they got in eyes, mouth and nose.  Not so surprising were the colony of Rat Bats, so called by the Jamaicans due to their small size and appearance.  These obviously had a built in food supply with the flies, and also took wing when the light hit them.  We ended up dodging an aerial ballet of bats and flies which seemed to fill the chamber - about the size of the main chamber in G.B.

At the top of the ruckle the roof came down, and a strong draught indicated the way through.  Unfortunately at this point my two local guides chickened out - no way were they prepared to carry on through 2' by 3' crawls or duck under the obviously stable boulders.  It transpired they normally took rich American tourists on grockle trips, which was unfortunate.  The thought of being 30 miles from the coast and having a Land Rover with hiccups did not encourage me to continue alone, so the day was curtailed after 1½ hours. Great cave though, and a return is a must.

Several smaller holes were looked at during the work period, but obvious commitments to the restoration of electricity to the island precluded any further detailed trips. If anyone has a free air ticket I have free accommodation available - offers please!

Bob Bidmead - returned 2.1.89


Daren Cilau

Another  week long camp in December by Andy Cave, Gonzo, Snablet, Gwyn and Jake (Graham Johnson) resulted in Snablet and Andy pushing Shit Rift for a further 90 metres.  The passage is currently Anorexic Whippet sized, draughting and heading south.

A lot of work was done on other sites in the extensions.  Friday 13th boulder choke was worked on and now looks promising but not for the faint hearted as the keystone of the massive choke is now cracked in half and right in the firing line.  Gwyn unfortunately sustained a minor skull fracture when the roof of one of the 'Sand' Digs collapsed on her.  She opted for the relative comforts of the camp rather than a painful, premature trip out.

Shit Rift was revisited by Snablet and Nick Pollard over the Christmas period.  Jake and Andy took Fred Davies down on a tourist trip (Fred's first visit to the cave since his and Boone's breakthrough back in the 60's)

Next camp 10 - 19 Feb (I'm too late again - Ed.)


Hundreds of feet of new passage were discovered on this camp.  Daren is now very close to Aggie Sump 4, Gothic Passage and to Priory Road.  A full report will appear in the next BB.


On The Oregon Trail

As a change from Butcombe, I nipped off to the Pacific North West of America to have a few Budweiser’s - and also a bit of walking in the Cascade and Olympic mountains and along the Oregon coast.  Superb walking, especially in fresh November powder snow.  The place is a backpacker's paradise, particularly in the summer.  Unfortunately there is not a great deal of speleological interest at this time of year, except respectable caves on Vancouver Island, some lava tubes and Ice caves.  I thus failed to get underground in a speleo sense at all.

One aim was to travel down the central spine of Oregon, the Cascades, to look at lava tubes, fossil beds, Crater Lake and other morsels but unusually severe snow prevented me from getting even remotely close, let alone a look-see, I did have however get 'underground' three times.

** In the late 1890's, Seattle in Washington State was blessed with a wonderful sewage system whereby the gentry on the hilly parts slopped their stuff downhill in hollowed out tree trunks. The mess then settled un-firmly on the lower parts which had been re-graded and built up out of mud and sawdust from the thriving lumber business.  Muck and sawdust do not make good foundations so various events, primarily a bit of a blaze, prompted the almost complete re-building of the city in the early 1900's - 12 ft higher than the previous level.  You can thus descend into the depths and walk along the old streets, see original shop fronts, walk through an old speak-ezee cinema etc. Irwin and Knibbs would call it an easy stroll with no technical difficulty, no specialist knowledge or equipment.

** Hailed as the biggest sea cave in the world (some hope - what about Fingal's) this one in the wilds of the Oregon coast contains literally thousands of sea lions.  Technically it is a littoral cave (formed by wave cut action).  Access is by the ultimate SRT experience, a lift down 250 ft into a Semtex blasted passage that would put Bowery to shame. There is no problem with route finding - you just follow the smell and the noise.  The smell really is overpowering, very much like the Belfry bunkroom after a Saturday night barrel.  You don't stay down there for long - a bit like Jim Smart's caving. The sea lions push and barge, honk and wallow in the mud. reminding me instantly of Chris Castle. "Moderately Interesting" on the Irwin/Knibbs scale.

** An island of the Pacific coast is now the proud owner of the most secure BEC sticker - under the bunk bed of cell 48B. Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. A past occupant was Al Capone. They now let you down into some of the earlier dungeons, easier to get out of the West End, Piers Pot, Coral Squeeze or the Hunters.  In 1963 four inmates did a wondrous bit of digging and squeezing to get out of their cells through enlarged ventilation grills.  I couldn't even get my head through, not that that's saying much.  Needless to say they perished in the swirling, treacherous streamway known as ' Fricso Bay.  "Hours of fun for the intrepid digger and one hell of a sump outside" is how Irwin & Knibbs would have it.



Direct Debits For Payment Of Membership Fees

The committee has been instructed by the membership at the 1988 AGM to investigate the possibility of using Direct Debit as a procedure to collect membership fees.  This procedure is fraught with difficulties and liabilities and really, as a club we are too small an organisation to make it worthwhile. Some points to consider:

As we are not a corporate account, the committee members (and the trustees) would be responsible in the case of a claim against the club, be it from payers or a bank.  An unlimited indemnity must be arranged.

Strict rules must be adhered to.  A mandate must be produced, printed and sent out to the membership.  When completed, the records must be kept on computer and the discs submitted to the bank in the format required to instruct the debiting of an individuals account.  (We would originate the DD. the bank doesn't get involved, hence the unlimited indemnity).

A fee of approximately £50 p.a. is involved (assuming 200 members) and then there's the cost of the printing of the mandates etc etc.

It is better to use the Standing Order method of extracting money from people, there are fewer problems. It is proposed to Instigate Standing Orders for membership fees as from next years AGM.  Instructions will appear in a future Belfry Bulletin along with the Standing Order Mandate in plenty of time for next years fees!

Steve Milner (Treasurer) 7:12:88


Three Unrecorded Sinks At Priddy

This brief article is purely to place on record the existence of three well known but - to the best of the writer's knowledge - previously unrecorded swallets, two of which have been eyed greedily by factions of the digging fraternity for some years.  The third is a less obvious dig site but as the writer lives almost directly opposite it he has had plenty of opportunity to notice it’s propensity for taking water in wet weather.  Descriptions conform with those in " Complete Caves of Mendip" with the exception of altitudes which are in metres . Please note that the first described is not the one that Mrs. Dors washes the empties in!


At 250m. Priddy, SE end of the Hunter's Lodge Inn, adjacent to the wall at S corner of "function room".  Wet weather drainage from the crossroads and inn car park sinks in a waterworn rift occasionally blocked by rocks and silt.  Once took drainage and effluent from the inn stables.  At present being cleared by the landlord.  Dowsing indicated a minor streamway heading towards Hunter's hole.


At 248m. Priddy.  On the S side of Wells Road opposite the cottage at the end of the drive leading to the "Belfry"/Underwood Farm.  A large wet weather stream sinks here after draining from the road.  Presumed to drain into the St. Cuthbert's Swallet system.  Permission to dig has been refused.


At 248m. Priddy.  On the SE side of Pelting Drove opposite cottage "The Homestead".  A concrete lined depression, used as a dewpond, takes a considerable amount of road drainage in wet weather which fills up the pond and depression but does not overflow and is presumed to sink away below the dewpond into the unknown further reaches of Swildon's Hole.

NOTE: A fourth sink in Dale Lane, noted by Roger Dors, has been searched for in vain.  This area needs visiting in wet weather.

If anyone knows of any similar, unrecorded sinks, digs or caves please write them up for the B.B.

Tony Jarratt    27/1/89


Speleo Reconnaissance, Antique Province, Panay Island, Philippines

Prior research of the speleo literature available in the UK had revealed no information on caves in Antique Province apart from two caves marked on a tourist map: Tulingan Cave in the north and an un-named cave near San Remigio in the south.  I had no plans to visit Antique Province but the vagaries of Philippine shipping schedules brought me and Rhona Lacsinto to Antique, both of us island hopping in whatever small boats were available.  We were trying to get to Palawan Island which had been cut off to regular shipping for a month.  We never got to Palawan but we did hear of a few caves.

Some Definitions

Jeepney - Utilitarian pickups, originally converted U.S. army Jeeps now mostly Ford Fiera.  Able to transport an unbelievable number of passengers and personal effects.

Rebel-country - There is a very serious insurgency situation in the Philippines.  No-one can tell me which side is winning but the death-toll is colossal, and includes the civilians who are caught between the two sides.

Bgy = Barangay - The smallest official socio-political unit with an elected administration, usually a village.  A Sitio is a smaller section within the bgy region - e.g. a nearby hamlet.

Tuba - Palm Wine.  It tastes foul.

Friday Jan 20, 1989.

Early evening arrival at Libertad after a scorching day aboard Aida 1, a large outrigger pumpboat.

Sat Jan 21.

4 am. jeepney to San Jose de Buenavista.  No one here knows when a boat will be leaving ("maybe next month") but we do get some information on the cave at San Remigio.   We decide to visit it tomorrow.

Sun Jan 22.

Heavy thunder rain; trip postponed.

Mon Jan 23.

Rhona's birthday - i.e. a day to relax.   Change to a lodging house with better vibes, e.g. "Rule 4: Observe silence and cleanliness most of the time".  In the evening our Bistro meal is interrupted by a boozy journalist who writes me up for the local rag. (see paper clipping - Ed.)

Tues Jan 24.

It's only about 30 km. from San Jose to San Remigio Cave but it took us two jeepneys and more than four hours to get there.  The cave is known locally as BATO CAVE and is located behind La Reunion Elementary School.  It is well known locally everyone saying it has "many rooms and goes deep". So I was rather disappointed with the grubby little rift entrance we found, and further disappointed when Rhona announced she'd come down the cave with me (she dressed in all her snow-white finery).  Thus our exploration was perfunctory and we crawled barely 60 m. into the muddy hole, Rhona insisting that I leave candles every few metres. I decided to leave the girls at home in future.

Wed Jan 25.

I'd been told of some interesting caves in the mountains near Valderama.  This is rebel country but most people thought I'd be "fairly safe", so I set off early and by noon I was in Valderama and had secured the services of a guide and porter for the 12 km. walk up the river to Bgy San Augustin.  After lunch we set off, me wimpishly clinging to the hand of my 60 year old guide as we crossed and re-crossed the swiftly flowing River Cangaran.

San Augustin is extremely impoverished: no work and nothing for sale.  I'd brought my own food and this was prepared for me alone.  I'd eat before the gaze of the entire population of about 150 people.  When I'd finished, my leftovers would be triumphantly carried away by my host to share with his family, and everyone else would go home for about thirty minutes to eat.  This was the only opportunity I got to be alone.

Thurs Jan 26.

Although I'd made it clear that I was only paying one guide about a dozen people set off to MAYBUJO CAVE, about an hour's steep climb away.  This was the cave I'd heard about several times in San Jose and Valderama.  It was reported to be a long cave ending in a shaft that no-one had descended; you can hear running water down there, they said.

That's as maybe.  When we arrived there was a swarm of bees at the entrance and the visit was abandoned.

No problem though. Someone knew of another cave higher up the side of the valley: TABAY CAVE.  This was soon located about 120 m. above the river near sitio Datag.  A 4 metre limb was hacked off a nearby tree to facilitate my descent and the entrance pitch was bottomed to reveal a small steeply descending cave ending with a draughting squeeze negotiable with a lump hammer.  I had no lump hammer, length 10 metres.

We headed back to San Augustin waded the river (hold hands) crossed a few low grade rice fields and began the steep ascent towards sitio Boho where two caves were reported to be located.  My entourage of kids and old men infuriated me, laughing and talking and shouting at each other while I could hardly catch my breath or keep up with them.

About one hour from San Augustin in a tumble of deeply weathered limestone boulders and hidden by trees we found our first cave: BOHO CAVE I.  The larger of the two entrances was the only one negotiable without equipment; even so it was a bit of a nasty climb.  Someone kindly provided a piece of thick string to aid my descent . About 15 metres below the surface I gained the floor and was immediately hit by the horrid smell of batshit: my flashlight revealed their scarey orange eyes.  Within 15 minutes six brave souls had joined me at the foot of the shaft and we commenced exploration, one light between seven of us.

Although the passage was large (say 4½ m. wide and 10½ m high average) the bats were so numerous that we were successfully forced back by them: they flew into us, pissed on us, dropped ticks on us and were generally quite beastly.  I pondered histoplasmosis.  We took refuge behind a rock.  Shall we go now?, my companions asked.  No, we'll give it one more try.

Only two men accompanied on my second attempt and we got to a point where the passage shrank to about two metres square for a few metres.  There was an almost solid tide of bats flowing through here.  My companions started swiping at them with sticks, making great sport of the whole adventure.  The carnage was sickening: I called a halt to the attempt.  Length 100 metres and still going; depth 12 metres.

On the surface we all had a good laugh about the bats, drank tuba, and proceeded to another cave nearby in the same about clump of trees ( BOHO CAVE II ).  A short descent led to 45 metres of crawling maze; depth c. 9 metres.

We returned to the river to wash and then home to San Augustin for lunch ( more eyes, more leftovers).  No one knew of any more caves within safe walking distance (remember the insurgence ) so we clowned and festered away the rest of the day.

Fri Jan 27.

With my guide and porter I set off back to Valderama at 6 am.  I was in San Jose by eleven and found Rhona still sitting on her luggage and hoping for a boat. No news yet, she said, so I said goodbye, abandoned all thoughts of Palawan, and by evening I was enjoying the sultry air and bright lights of Iliolo City.

Other Caves of Antique Province.

Information has been received on other caves in Province Antique, as follows:-


A cave mined for guano located about 4 km. north of Libertad and 4 km. Inland near a river.


Two caves reported here: TURU-ONG CAVE and DAPA CAVE


A cave mined for guano.  Deep water "You have to swim the in cave”.

Jim Smart   Feb. 1989

This is an extract from The Daily Start in the Philipines.

A member of the Bristol Exploration Club, affiliated with the British Cave Research Association based in London, England is in Bacolod city to explore Negros caves.

British’s speleogist James Smart, 40, has 25 years of' experience in exploring caves.

Smart, in a DAILY STAR interview, yesterday, Smart said he is in charge of the foreign section of the B.E.C., which was founded in 1935 and has about 280 active members at present.

Tourism Staff Officer Edwin Gatia is supplying Smart with information on the, locations of caves in Negros.

Smart, who has explored caves all over Europe said that the Madagascar and Austria caves are the most interesting there.

In the Philippines, he said, the Latipan-Lokohonmg cave system located in Sagada, Mt. Province is officially recognized as the deepest at 163 metres, with a length of about 3,975 meters, while the St. Paul subterranean cave in Palawan, he said, is the country's longest cave system with a length of 8,200 meters.

Smart said he intends to visit some caves in the south of Negros, particularly those in Mainit and Konog-Konog in Candoni, Kabankalan, Hog, Cauayan and Hinoba-an areas, and in Escalante and San Carlos in the north.

His research work on Negos caves will be published in the "Cave Science Magazine" circulated in England the official magazine of the B.C.R.A.

Smart has also visited some of the cave systems found in Antique.  GR Gumban

Another snippet said: -

That Somerset County Council road signs do not disappear they merely go underground in pot-holes near Priddy.

Letter From The Philippines

Dear Ted,


If you think the enclosed news clipping is a bit off the mark, this is the second rag to give me coverage. Furthermore the 7 o'clock news the other morning went something like….llong-go, llong-go. llong-go .... Breestol Explortion Club sa England ....long-go, llong-go .... Professor Jims Smart llong-go .... etc." for FIVE MINUTES.  Lord knows exactly what was said but I gather I'm leading an expedition!  Also apparently I've been in the "Towns Talk" column, but I've not seen it. I can't imagine what I'm doing there something about discos or music I expect.

Lotsa caves here on Negros but all the ones I've visited have been small. Travel is naturally slow here and I have to tread cautiously both to satisfy the locals' curiosity and also because of the military situation.  Things are VERY heavy and I can see caves that it would be suicide to walk to.  For my sanity I like to retreat to a city a couple of nights a week to mellow out (= get pissed) and relax (= have my nails manicured).

See you



Club Matters

This is a list of items that the committee have asked me to put in the BB, dating from the December, January and February meetings.  Some may now be irrelevant!

1.                  Hut Bookings - These must be done through the Hut Warden (Snablet).  Anyone else must check with Snablet first.  We've had double bookings and aggrieved people!

2.                  Kindling and firewood are always in short supply.  It would be nice if all members visiting the Belfry could bring a sackful with them.

3.                  The general behaviour of BEC members and/or guests is causing concern.  We must maintain good relations locals as access to some caves might depend on it.

4.                  It is important for prospective members to turn up at the meeting during which their application for membership is discussed  (7.30 pm. on the first Friday of the month).  If they don't bother, their application is likely to be turned down.

5.                  Members are reminded of the availability of I.D.M.F. funds for expeditions etc. Young members don't seem to apply any longer.


The Bowery Corner Song

(to the tune of Old Man River)

Belfryites dig in de Bowery Corner.  Belfryites dig while de Wexxes play;
Pulling dese sledges from de dawn to sunset, gittin no beer and gittin no pay:
Don't get squashed and don't dare drown 'cos that'll make de Diggin' Boss frown:
Shovel out all dat gravel and glass an pull dat rope or he'll kick your arse.

Let me go way from de Bowery Corner, let me go 'way from dat poxy sink.
Show me dat pub called de Hunter's Lodge dat's where I'll drown myself - in drink!

Bowery Corner, dat Bowery Corner, it must go somewhere. but ain't gone nowhere.
It just keeps going, it keeps on going a-long ---It ain't got chambers, it ain't got pitches.
It ain't got limestone, it ain't got pretties;
That Bowery Corner, it jes keeps going a-long ----
You an' me, we sweat an' strain.  Body all achin' an' racked wid pain.
"Carry det det!  Shift dat tamp", lie down in de streamway 'til you die of cramp.
Ah gits weary an' sick of shale.  Ahm tired of diggin' an' want my ALE.
But Bowery Corner, it just keeps goin' a-long!

words by Uncle Tom J'Rat. With apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern, Paul Robeson and the BEC.

(printed music and cassette of Paul Robeson's version available for anyone desperate enough to want to sing it!)