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


This Belfry Bulletin is late again because it can only be produced when the number of contributions received makes it worthwhile.  If you want to have a regular BB then you have to contribute.  It does, however, include the second article from Jim Smart in the Philippines, about his adventures on Negros.  I haven't heard from him since his capture by communist guerrillas on Mindanao, except what was in the press at the time (see the news clippings on page eight).

A lot of caving is being done by the Club.  The Aswan Dam in Cuthbert's II is coming along nicely and another attack on sump 2 will be mounted shortly. Bowery Corner is progressing slowly but a lot of hard work is still to be done.  The big news, however, is that Kangaroo Swallet (Welsh's Green) has 'gone'.  I hope to have a full report for the next BB.  All I have from Graham at the moment is as follows :- "It's gone, 350' to 400' ish, biggish & shitty but probably the longest cave (in the world?) in Blue Lias Limestone".

Tony and Jane Jarratt have taken over Bat Products from Phil and Lil Romford (who are shortly leaving for sunnier climes - Portugal!).  The new management took over on 1st. of May, though Phil and Lil are staying on for the time being to show J'rat the ropes (and the krabs and wetsuits and all that). Steve Milner is also preparing to leave the country, and travelling even further (Oz) (cheap foreign accommodation for wandering members?)

Alan Thomas's book 'The Story of Priddy' is finally in print and contains quite a bit about the local caves including some previously unpublished stuff.  Copies can be obtained from Alan.  It was only a small print run so copies could become collector’s items.

Another example of things not mentioned in the guide books that people may not have noticed: -

When going down Longwood Swallet you descend the two ten foot drops, turn left to the Showerbath and then right down the narrow rift.  When you get to the approach passage to Longwood main chamber (on the left) a narrow passage goes straight on and turns to the right to the bottom of a high aven.  This is the furthest the cave goes down the Longwood Valley. The aven is free-climbable, with care, and ends at chokes.  The question is, are these choked inlet passages from a now abandoned swallet, or if dug, would they lead to old passages leading further down the valley? I don't know but wonder if anyone has ever tried.


Library Notes

Dizzie Thompsett-Clark has very kindly donated the following books to the Club library.  They were personally delivered by motor cycle despatch rider Angus Innes!

10 Years under the Earth (1940)
Gough's Caves - early guidebook
My Caves (1947)
Underground Adventure (1952)

Jock Orr visited recently and gave the Club a pile of Smithsonian magazines.  One of these has an article on Lechuguilla Cave and will be in the library.

The library is being regularly used these days and providing a useful service to Belfryites.  Please do not forget to return books A.S.A.P.

Other additions to the library are: -

Deep in Blue Holes - Palmer
Legal Aspects of Access Underground - N.C.A.
The Story of Priddy - Alan Thomas

Tony Jarratt


Speleo Reconnaissance, Negros Occidental, Negros Island, Philippines

I arrived in Negros with no cave expectations.  I planned to visit maybe two or three tourist sites and to be off the island within five days.  I have now been here 20 eventful and unhurried days and have not even visited the alleged cave country of Negros del Norte.  If I haven't exactly found any earth shattering caves I've had fun looking for them and the two caves at Km 107 (Ilog) Tubig Cave and the resurgence cave would make the Philippines top ten for depth and length respectively if surveyed.  This is not particularly clever; there are hundreds of known caves in this category. What is needed is the tools and the time to make the survey.

Most of Negros Occidental comprises a wide coastal plain a few metres above sea level, largely given over to sugar and rice cultivation.  But in the south, beyond Ilog, this plain becomes quite narrow, virtually non-existent in places, and inland the terrain rises in a series of sierras to maybe 4,000 or more feet.  I have been unable to locate any maps or find out if any name exists for these highlands.  Similarly many times I enquired after the name of a cave or a creek or a prominent hill I was told that there is no name.

Due to various interesting hassles itemised in the following report my explorations were limited to the first (coastal) range of sierras where the maximum elevation was probably no more than about 300 ft.   Without exception, all the caves I visited had been previously fully explored by the local people.

Log, Monday Jan 30 to Feb 14, 1989.

Day 1.

The 7.30 a.m. arrival in Vallidolid was not very inspiring.  The three hour crossing had been cold (COLD!) and wet and in choppy seas. Under the heavy skies the beach and sea and tatty food stalls all looked miserable and dirty.  Worse; the boat was overloaded and grounded before we reached the jetty.  We waded ashore.  All the public transport was packed with Monday-morning commuters and this was no weather to ride on the roof, so I took coffee and waited for a jeepney with a spare seat.

Although it rained almost incessantly for the next 48 hours things began to look up as soon as I arrived in Bacolod City (BC).  By 10 a.m. I'd located clean lodgings, and by noon I had enough cave-leads to keep me busy for a fortnight.  At 4 p.m. I was being interviewed by the local press and this was followed by an invite to a local bar.  Midnight found a bunch of us nightclubbing and I went merrily to bed at 4 a.m.; an eventful 24 hours.

Day 2.

Prepare to go south and look for caves.

Day 3.

Arrive at Ilog, settle in, and meet local officials.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 314

You can’t just breeze into an area and set off in search of caves. People are curious/suspicious of you and your motives particularly in view of the current political situation (see below).  Anyway a guide will take time to locate but he will save time in the long run.  Also courtesy demands that certain bigwigs must be visited and that can lead to long, long chats in this leisurely country. Typically, in a 12 hour daylight period you will be lucky to get in three hours field reconnaissance.  No problem though: plenty of booze and good vibes.

Day 4.

Local transport in this area is mostly by tricycle - i.e. a Kawasaki 125 equipped with sidecar and capable of carrying an unbelievable amount of luggage, livestock and people who cling on like a circus acrobatic act. I once counted 19 uniformed high school girls floating down the palm-lined road on one of these contraptions: lucky driver.

I'd rented a tricycle for the day and was waiting for it to arrive when I heard " ... Bristol Exploration Club sa England ... " on the seven o'clock news.  I didn't understand what bull they were putting out but the publicity was to prove useful.  With local man Ramon Laforteza and by driver we set off at 7.30 intending to visit a cave at Bgy Delicioso and some others at Sitio (So.) Km 107.  At the local army HQ permission to visit KM 107 was withheld.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 793.

Government confesses it has an "insurgency situation". I would describe it more as a cross between Civil War and Anarchy.  The New Peoples Army (i.e. communist guerrillas) are fighting to overthrow the Government.  The civilians are trapped in the middle and both sides commit what we would call terrible atrocities.  But the Army's hands are tied by the International League for Human Rights.

So "private armies" are encouraged to protect large businesses and plantations, and vigilante groups protect local communities from any outside interference.  There are a lot of guns here.  You have to tread gently.

We headed off in search of the cave at Delicioso.  Leaving the tricycle in the sugar cane we set off on foot up the high sierra and within an hour we had located a guide who in turn had located the cave for us.  The ILAG SHAFT turned out to be a vertical pot located in a pleasing patch of bare and nicely weathered limestone.  Descent was impossible without at least a lifeline.

With Km 107 closed to us we adjourned to a bar to discuss tactics: it was still only 11 o'clock. Somebody recognised me as the face in the paper, somebody else had heard the 7 o'clock news and soon the bar, and then the village, was abuzz.  Cave information came too quick and too fast to assimilate I don't speak Ilong-go.  I decided to buy extra fuel for the tricycle and investigate as many villages as possible along the foothills.  We ended up travelling 50 km. as far as Caliling, picking up information all along the way, and exploring a couple of uninspiring small caves at Tuod and partially exploring Cave 1 at Caliling.  My guide at Caliling spoke of many caves and offered his services as a guide.  I arranged to meet him in three days time at his house.  So concluded an interesting 10 hour field trip.

Day 5.

The tricycle is late (puncture) and the priest happens by, sees me, and invites me to lunch.  Thus is a planned 10 hr trip reduced to 3½. It's pouring with rain.  The army has now cleared Km 107 of landmines and combed the area for insurgents.  Furthermore, they have a civilian guide waiting for me there.  We set off into the dripping forest and soon find a shaft, impossible without gear, but it turns out to be an alternative entrance to walk-in Tubiq Cave.  We explore as far as a pitch. "Many caves here", says our guide.  The nearby "creek" is about the size of the Little Neath River.  It disappears merrily below ground.  Across the valley I can see another large cave entrance.  But it's already 11 and my lunch date is for noon: exploration postponed.

Day 6.


Day 7.

Today is the day I have arranged to meet Angelico de la Cruz in Caliling.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 794.

Public Transport in the Philippines is never boring.  Breakdowns, punctures, missed connexions, amended "schedules" and the total lack of movement after dark can turn a 100 km. trip over indifferent roads into a two day adventure.  No problem, there's always somewhere for a beer and a chat, we'll get someone to fix that flat.

It took me four rides and four fours to cover the 50 km. to Caliling, the last section spent desperately clinging to the side of the bus (the side with the cliff below) this being the Filipino response to the new military ruling that riding on the roof is henceforth forbidden due to a few unfortunate encounters with NPA snipers. Angelico had given up waiting for me and was somewhere working in the forest.  He returned at four but there was only time for me to complete my exploration of Cave I, Caliling.  A relaxed evening of rumcola followed in this electricity-free village by the sea.

Day 8.

It transpires that Angelico can only show me three caves as the others are too far away (more than 1 km.) and in NPA country.  We travelled through some pleasing limestone valleys and plateau and carried out complete explorations of BAHAY CAVE, Caliling Cave II (for which I have lost my notes) and Caliling Cave III.  By 9 a.m. the day's work was done.  Angelico announced that he had to go to work now, but tomorrow morning he would show me two more caves at a nearby village.  This was not very cost-effective for me.  It would be nice travelling slowly from village to village, exploring a few caves each morning, but my time was limited.  Besides I had to be in BC the following evening and that meant an early start.  I had a date with a gorgeous slender chinky-eyed chick and I didn't want to disappoint her.  I said goodbye to the de la Cruz family and took the first bus north.

Note: "Chick" is the Filipino word for "young woman".  It is not offensive, on the contrary it is the polite expression.

Days 9 & 10.

The little bitch stood me up.  I spend my time preparing a return trip to the Ilag Shaft and the caves of Km 107.

Reasons for not caving:  Part 943

The Filipinos are very gregarious: invite one out for the evening and chances are the best friends or family will show up also.  Invite a couple of members of the "climbing club" and the whole defunct organisation will want to come along with maybe a dozen "prospective members".  I sit in the bar with a crate of beer and 16 would-be cave explorers. The beer has been flowing freely, I still don't speak llong-go and everywhere there is chaos.  I slap the table and try to explain that they're all welcome but this is a serious project and there is a schedule to keep: 10 people take longer to descend a pitch than two.  I will cave with just one or two companions: the others must find a different cave to play in.  Mayo Monteza, a veteran of overseas climbing expeditions, understands the logistics and says he will take charge of everything.  Unfortunately he is critically injured in a shooting incident the next day and is unable to join us.

Day 11.

Set off for Candoni in the heart of the high sierras.  Miss bus connexion and spend the night in Kabankalan.

Day 12.

The bus travels the long dusty road to Candoni very laboriously and cave potential is everywhere. Unfortunately so is the insurgency as the frequent belligerent military checks testify.  In Candoni the Police Station Commander hails me as I get off the bus.  He knows who I am and he's friendly enough but he cannot let me travel anywhere outside "town" (about the size of Priddy).  Furthermore after dark I find I am confined to my lodgings.  It's Fiesta Day and guns + booze = trouble. I'd be an understandable target,

Day 13.

Return to Ilog and await climbing club.  By nightfall they've still not arrived; buses have long since ceased running so I crack open the rum.  I'm half pissed when a posse of school kids arrive at my gate.  With them is a jeep and a motor cycle and a dozen pissed-up climbers.  It's just like Saturday night in England.

Day 14.

We lose three hours over a welding job for the jeep and then find the army major is at Mass so are further delayed before security clearance is given for us to visit Km 107.  We have only 5 hours to complete our (my) project. With my friend Ramon Laforteza, the guide and his son we are 14 people in the Jeep.  Never mind, it's a nice day.  The Negros Mountaineering Group possess only one rope.   I send everyone down Tubig Cave to look at the pitch while Agnes (Anec) Montano and I set off to explore the exciting looking swallet.  Anec can't swim but I assure her there will be no deep water.  I climb down the first simple cascade still in daylight and fall into a six foot pool.  No problem though: Anec turns out to be a superb climber.  (Later in the day she led me on some climbs that I only completed to protect my dignity.)

In the cave a couple of short climbs brought us to the head of a pitch after only a few metres.  The water cascaded merrily down, but without at least a lifeline we could not follow.  We surfaced and headed down the dry valley in search of the resurgence.

And a fine resurgence it was too.  Beyond a walk-in entrance we found about 350 metres of fine river cave, lofty and wide, the water generally about knee deep but occasionally five feet or so. Unfortunately it terminated in a silted sump and we could find no by-pass.

We return to Tubig Cave and find the others have still not surfaced.  Underground we find that they have all successfully descended the pitch (lifelined) including our guide and 61 year old Ramon. Descending from the pitch led to a third (high level) entrance and a fourth walk-in one not far from the resurgence. In the opposite direction I explored alone into some enormous chambers 60 ft or more in height and found a spectacular fifth entrance more than 100 foot up to daylight the shaft opening in the centre of the dome-shaped roof of a particularly large chamber.  I stupidly tried to climb to some high level leads picked out by my penlight torch (my only light at the time) and prayed a lot on the retreat.

Back at the resurgence Anec led everyone while I volunteered to look after our gear.  I foolishly forgot I was employing a guide for these menial chores.  Anec and I had taken about 20 minutes to explore the resurgence.  It was more than an hour before people started re-emerging with feeble flashlights and tales of caverns measureless to man.  A flat-out crawl at the top of a mud bank near the sump had led to enormous fossil passage.  I set off for a look meeting the stragglers on their way out and picking up Anec to show me the way.  The fossil stuff was truly enormous with railway tunnel side passages left unexplored. Anec reckons she showed me about half the stuff they'd explored and we used a length of rope to measure the distance on the way out: 700 metres.  There was no time left; we had done nothing I'd planned, but smiles abounded.

Day 15.

Moved south to Hinoba-an. The bus was packed and my view was limited but the country around Sipalay looks particularly interesting (plenty of large scarp-foot springs).

Day 16.

My contact in Hinoba-an is out of the area for a few days.  Tired of travel I visit Ubong Cave and Secret Cave and take the bus back to BC.  Time to look for another area.

Caves of Neqros Occidental

The caves are listed under the name of the municipal town in approximate north to south order.  Bgy - barangay (village)  So. = sitio (a more precise location).


Reported to be an area of many beautiful caves and waterfalls.  Visit impossible at the moment due to heavy military action.


Frequent reports of caves here as follows:

1.                  Bgy Buenavista Himanaylan. So. Kamlented Detachment.  A cave mined for guano by the Lopez family.

2.                  Bgy Delicioso. ILAG SHAFT  Depth 70 ft. Alt c. 300 ft. Visited Feb 2 '89  Un-descended.

3.                  Bgy Magballo. Many caves in this area including one named Molobolo.  Security clearance refused Feb '89.

4.                  Bgy Tampalon. 6 km from Candoni; reputed to have many caves especially at So. Lordes Hornada.


Bgy Dancalan.  Said to have seven caves (a common tale in the Philippines).  There are certainly more than seven caves here including:

  1. Tubig Cave.  Length c. 1,500 ft. depth 120 ft.  A cave with three vertical entrances and 2 walk-in ones.  The through-trip is interrupted by a 25 ft. pitch; one of the vertical entrances is more than 100 ft. deep.  Visited February 1989.  (Sketch survey, J.S. Log)
  2. Swallet Cave.  Length 50+ ft. Depth 30+ ft.  In creek near Tubig Cave.  Terminates in an un-descended wet pitch. Visited Feb 1989.
  3. Resurgence Cave.  Length c. 1 km. Depth (i.e. vertical range) c. 30 m.  A large river passage giving access to aven loftier fossil passage.  Visited Feb '89.
  4. Cave.  A large entrance is seen on the far side of the valley opposite the upper entrance of Tubig Cave.


  1. Bgy ANGA.  Reported to have river cave with fish and eels:  took 4 hours to explore.
  2. Bgy Caliling.  Many caves here usually mined for guano (a government permit is required for this: their register might prove a useful source of reference).

a)       Bahay Cave. So. Bahay.  Length c. 400 ft.  A simple large passage up to 100 ft. wide and 60 ft. high which soon closes down to become too tight.  Visit Feb '89; sketch survey in J.S. Log.

b)       Cave I.  Length c. 200 ft.  Located behind MEG rice mill.  A large entrance leads to crawling passage and becomes too tight. Sketch survey J.S. Log.

c)       Cave 3.  So. Bahay.  Length c. 130 ft. Depth 20.  Located on ptateau above Caliling.  A 20 ft. shaft opens onto a small chamber.  Westwards a stooping passage chokes after 80 ft. while eastwards a crawling passage with a fine false floor ends in a choke.  Sketch survey J.S. Log.

  1. Bgy Danawan.  A deep cave reported here.
  2. Bgy Isio So. Tuod.  SALACAY CAVES.  In prominent limestone outcrop about 250 ft. above Tuod are two small caves.

a)       A single breakdown chamber L. 60 ft.

b)       A winding body-size phreatic tube c. 70 ft. long. Visited Feb '89.

  1. Bgy Masaling.  Fine exposed white limestone noted here Feb '89.


a)       Two big guano caves have been reported here: Camp Valdez and Tagnoc.

b)       Bgy Maracalom.  Reported to have many caves.


Bgy Bacuyangan.  Two large caves here on the coast; scene of action in WW2: Ubong Cave and Secret Cave.  Visit Feb '89.


Another area reported to have "seven caves", including Mainit Cave and Konog-Konog

James Smart   Feb. 20, 1989.

Philippine newspaper cuttings

Mountain rebels free explorer held as 'spy'

WEST explorer James Smart was yesterday released after being held for a week by Communist guerrillas in the Philippines on sus­picion of being a spy.

Bachelor Mr Smart, who left home in Queen's Road, Clifton, Bristol, in December on a world tour, escaped death when shells ex­ploded near him while in captivity.

He was one of three detained from a party of 300 climbers on their way to Mount Apo, the country's highest peak, 615 miles South-east of Manila.


By Vikki Orvice

day, when they heard shelling near the rebel cam.

"Every time we heard a bang, we dived into the foxhole, maybe seven times," he said.

Last night Mr Smart's mother who lives in Buttles Plantation, Hatch Beauchamp, near Taunton, said: "I spoke to him this afternoon and he said the captors treated him very well "They could go where they wanted and in fact were treated like royalty.  It took so long to release him because the captors did not want others to know where they were hiding in the moun­tains.

They were taking part in the annual convention of the National Mountain­eering Federation of the Philippines.

The rebels ann­ounced earlier their prisoners and a local interpreter would be freed on Wednesday, but delayed for a day when they saw soldiers on the mountain slopes and heard a 105-millimetre howitzer fired.

"Investigations so far have shown that these three climbers are innocent. Thus we are releasing them," they said in a statement

Haggard looking and unshaven Mr Smart, aged 40, said he was not happy to hear he was suspected of being a spy, but added he hoped to return to Mount Apo next year.

Fellow prisoner, Irish chemistry graduate Gerald Ken­nedy, 22, said: ''They treated us very well.  It would take me a long time to describe my experience."

The third freed climber Trevor Anderson, 35, from New Zealand, said they felt safe with the New People's Army guerrillas until Wednes-





Smiling through ... Explorer James Smart, centre, is attended to by a nurse after his ordeal


West man in spy drama

WEST explorer James Smart plans to continue his round-the-world trip - undeterred after being held hostage by Communist guerrillas on suspicion of spying.

Bachelor Mr Smart, aged 40, who left home in Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol in December, was released on Wednesday after being held in a Philippine mountain hide-out.

A keen caver, he was one of three detained from a group of 300 climbers on their way to Mount Apo, 615 miles south-east of Manila.

But his mother, who lives in Buttle Plantation, Hatch Beauchamp, near Taunton, said he plans to stay in the Philippines until April 25 - before heading off to America.

"He was not scared and if he can afford it would like to go back"


Progress In The Far Reaches Of Daren Cilau

by Mark Lumley

Another Daren camp took place from Friday 10th February to Sunday 19th.  Andy Cave and Jake (Graham Johnson) were fortunate enough to be able to stay down for the duration while many others (somewhere in the teens) stayed for between one and five days.

A great deal of important equipment was ferried to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe, including four scaffolding bars with couplings, more sleeping kit, sixteen litres of liqueurs and an inflatable flamingo.  The 'Best Dressed Caver' award went to Snablet who sported a pinstripe suit, trilby hat, tie and sunglasses!

Whilst left to their own devices midweek, Jake and Andy cleared the bang debris in Friday 13th Boulder Choke, moved up, lost the draught and found it again emitting from a tube half way up the choke.  This had been observed and discounted over a year ago.  A day and a half of digging saw them past a rocky squeeze (Another Bloody Valentine) and into 'Payoff Passage' a few hundred metres of crawling and walking passage resembling the Inca Trail.  This led to another constriction.

Next day, the dig was passed with a few hours of digging into 'Still Warthogs after all these Years' - several hundred metres heading south (see survey for details).  This ended in a large rift passage severely choked with roof collapse.  The ensuing dig was named 'Dig of a Thousand Pricks' due to the abundance of those all too familiar selenite needles which permeate those all important places that only your next of kin and the Au Pair are familiar with.

The most significant find for those interested in a connection with Agen Allwedd is a large (5m by 5m) inlet on the western side of 'Warthogs' which ends in a large, impressive 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' boulder choke.

With the arrival of reinforcements on Thursday night a lot of effort was put into pushing various leads both old and new.  A compass and tape survey was carried out as well.  The survey shows the extension to be about 2000 ft. mostly heading south towards 'Against all Odds' and 'Twelve O'clock High' while the 'Electric Sheep' choke is just 60m. From 'Birthday Surprise' in the Priory Road.

As usual the work was done in 8 hour shifts, but this time we were fortunate to have enough people for a night shift as well.

Two weeks later Jake, Gonzo and Mongo just happened to find themselves in Priory Road!  An arch was found 6 metres to the left of the main dig in Birthday Surprise.  This appeared to take all the draught. Back at Severn Beach a small passage was pushed for 20 ft. low on the edge of the boulders and a bottle of champagne was left for the connection.

The next Daren camp began on March 31st.  Dalek soloed in on Thursday expecting to meet up with us at the Restaurant. Unfortunately we were not able to arrive until 24 hours later, over laden with two large tackle bags each, to find the campsite looking like a rubbish tip courtesy of previous, uninvited guests who will be hearing from us soon.




April the first saw an intensive effort on the 'Electric Sheep' choke.  Dalek set the standard with some certifiable crow bar work, 15 character building tons and 30 feet later we reached a small chamber in the boulders.  Dalek and Gonzo continued to push this while Jake and Inspector Gadget (Peter Bolt) went to dig 'Thousand Pricks'.  Andy and White Meg (Carol White) worked on the Bad Bat dig.  During the course of the day several sites were banged and a radio link up from 'Electric Sheep' to Birthday Surprise was tried to no avail.

On Sunday, Dalek and White Meg left for the surface.  While Jake went off to start digging 'Stingray' (close to 'Electric Sheep', draughting and heading west).  Andy, Inspector Gadget and Gonzo put a few hours of intensive tunnelling into Bad Bat. This broke out into 50 ft. of Westerly, low, wide bedding sloping upwards and ending in an airbell and low, draughting arch.

A weary of limb team headed up the extensions again on Monday.  Andy and Jake continued digging 'Stingray' and then discovered another dig (Hot Dog), sloping steeply upwards on the Eastern side of 'Still Warthogs after all these Years'.  Meanwhile Gonzo and Inspector Gadget pushed the dig of a thousand pricks and broke into 'Spaderunner' - 70 metres of draughting passage beginning as a boulder chamber, degenerating from walking to crawling passage and ending in a tight rift. This was given some chemical persuasion and then we left for a celebratory party.

Gonzo and Andy left on Tuesday, reaching the surface ln five hours to find that Clive had laid on a snowstorm for us (the people he knows!)

Inspector Gadget and Jake stayed down for a further two days, putting in more work on Spaderunner and pushing a draughting section of the Electric Sheep boulder choke for a further 12 ft.

The connection with Aggy is an interesting prospect, but more exciting by far is the possibility of reaching the main stream lower down than its current limit at Against all Odds. This would enable us to establish camp 3 (The Last Resort) thereby cutting out the 3-4 hours of dry commuting that is necessary every day to get between the Restaurant and the digs. From the position now, with draughting Southerly and Westerly leads the idea of a link to the Clydach gorge or of going straight over the main streamway and off under Llangynidr no longer lies in the realms of fantasy.


"Diving to Excess"

by Tim Large

Its Friday night again - 9pm - and yes, as usual, Tony Jarratt's Land Rover pulls up at the Hunters - just popped in for a pint.  The BEC commandeer the long table and comfy pew and discuss caves, beer, latest scandals and gossip.  The Wessex haven't arrived yet - still in their hut making tea.  Zot arrives - a relieved grin on his face - Dan-yr-Ogof is cancelled - cave flooded - Mendip's awash - but we must do something.  Lets have more beer.  Tony suggests a Swildons trip to blow up Snablet's dig in Shatter Series - aptly named many moons ago - BAT DIG.  Interest in the site has risen recently since yours truly placed a 3lb. charge in the small sump at the end Snablet was quite impressed by the noise and pebble-dashing only had about 40' of wire.  Ross was in Swildons 7 at the time and heard it - 650' away!

"OK Tone, we do it - Swildons will be nice and wet.  See you for breakfast about 10 am".  More beer!!  Saturday morning dawned - TL rose early and cycled cross country over to Priddy arriving at West Cottage to the welcome smell of a fried breakfast.  The bang was packed another 31b. bomb - Wig arrives - latest postcard in hand  "What the f*** are you going to do with that lot" - "Oh just a little digging Wig".

Its raining still and very cold.  Time to go. Arrive at entrance - water level about 2" below overflow pipe - should be interesting.  Quick dash down short dry way - no hold ups on 20, only had to walk over one party just before the Double Pots.  Reach Barnes Loop where TL has severe cramps in both legs.  Jump up and down a bit, tell legs to behave and on we go.  Engage auto pilot for dash through St. Pauls - stop for a fag at the Mud Sump.  Met two guys just after First Mud Sump disappearing up side passage to Damascus.  One guy stepped aside to let us pass.  On enquiring they thought that was the route for Short Round Trip - they followed us to Mud Sump.  "It's a bit wet Tone".  All the dams were full and the soakaway back up the passage was overflowing back into the Mud Sump.  We waded in to where roof met water at which point we were standing in 5' of water. Tony succinctly expressed his intention of not going any further.  TL being one not to be beaten and forgetting the topography of mud sump decided it would only be a short dip, took a quick breath and disappeared - down – down, down to 6' - eventually found the slot with the familiar nose groove in roof. Too late to turn back - might as well keep going - not very big in here – Ah, through the small bit, now where's the bloody airspace - roof is rising but no sign - getting a bit short of breath - up up - must be there somewhere - it's a bit different doing a sump without a line.  Phew, at last I can breathe panting heavily TL makes for yonder mud bank to recover. That was a long way and I've got to get back.  No bailing buckets on this side not much good anyway when the squeeze is 6' underwater. I wonder how long I would have to sit here before Tony went out to get a bottle and valve.  No, can't do that, it would be too embarrassing - remember the Club motto.  Well got my breath back - better have a look at that murky lake waded in - shoulder deep - waved my legs about - could not find the squeeze - oh well, it's down there somewhere!  Deep breath and duck dive - mm, don't seem to be going down very well - too buoyant - break surface again - no lead weights here.  Could put some rocks inside my wet suit - mm - not a good idea - might cause me to get stuck in the squeeze.  Oh well, nothing for it, just have to have a more determined effort.  Deep breath and go for it, Down, Down, Down, clawing at walls and roof - ah the floor, now where's that squeeze no not there and I crashed into wall - bit more to the right perhaps ah yes, this feels like it - getting short of breath again - through small bit, thank goodness for that now starting to rise, head banging on roof, still rising how much further to air - must be here somewhere - At last oh no - more cramp in the legs - panting for breath lying in water like a drowned whale - "give me fag Tone I don't think we'll be going to Shatter today".  Ten minutes later cramps easing - lighter won't work.  "Lets go home".  Back in streamway find another party who eventually get their lighter going - relax over a fag at last.  Still very wet in here - ah the entrance - no longer, the water level has risen 6" now flowing into overflow pipe.  Tone reflects - "Every time you and I go caving together we have some sort of epic!!!"  "Not really Tone - just living up to the club motto - 'Everything to Excess'''.  "Right" says Tone - "let's go down Bowery Corner now - it must be in flood" - "OK - should be interesting".

On checking the survey, looks like the length of the sump was 30' to 35’.

Cautionary Note: -  It is not recommended that this dive be contemplated.  It comes into the well known Willie Stanton grading of 'Foolhardy and Dangerous' .

Sketch Plan of Mud Sump in Flood.



Caving Choice - Amateur or Professional

Having just recently returned to caving regularly on Mendip after a short sabbatical, I was interested to hear of the debate and objection to commercial caving enterprises which Mendip has recently had to adjust to.   Much of the argument appears to be directed at particular organisations on Mendip.

Cavers have always had an attitude of a God given right of access to caves.  Now, some appear to be taking the same attitude with caving activities outside the caving club environment.

Caving has gone through a revolution in the last 20 years.  When many of us started there was no commercial caving, no caving shops - apart from Tony Oldham's front room.  The most specialised caving shop was the local WD store and cave training was only to be found within caving clubs on a very informal basis.  We could get away with it then when the only technical equipment was ladders, Krabs and lifelines. Now, we benefit from all sorts of sophisticated hardware and protective clothing.  Therefore people need more specialised and formal training. If this can be supplied within the club environment, all well and good.

But we must not forget that these days there are people who are not interested in caving via a traditional caving club.  They prefer a week or day course visiting specific caves or undergoing specific skills training.  Next week, those same people will probably be canoeing, windsurfing, mountaineering or whatever, again on a "professional" course.  There is nothing, as I see it, that the traditional caving club can do about this type of leisure person or should want to do. As long as there is a demand for courses then someone will supply that demand.  The only angle we can be involved in is to influence these caving professionals in their approach to caving with their clients and the skills techniques taught.  Our main concern is always the conservation of caves followed by adherence to a safe caving code.  It is essential that newcomers to caving are acquainted with the basic information about caves - their formation, history, both geologically and exploration - to fully appreciate both the vulnerable environment they are entering and the traditions of cave exploration.  As we all know, many hours have been spent with landowners and others to foster good relations and permanent access arrangements.  These can easily be ruined by ill-informed people.

The second category of professional caving is within the ever increasing number of management training centres who use caves and mountains etc. as learning and management assessment aids.  Again, we cannot stop this kind of activity.  They are financially well backed organisations who are here to stay as long as there is a demand for this type of training.  Again, all we can do is influence them as far as attitudes to caves go and safe caving practice.  Nobody should be forced underground against their will.  Basic information about caves, as I said earlier, must be given to the clients to ensure the right attitudes to conservation and safe caving codes.  In any management training, caving trips should firstly be undertaken to familiarise personnel with the cave environment and basic skills of moving in a cave. Only once this has been accomplished should clients progress to specialised activities such as surveying, ladder-work, SRT or whatever.  Good relations with these training centres should be fostered as they have much to offer traditional cavers if suitable liaisons can be arranged.  Such centres will naturally hold large amounts of equipment, which is well maintained and could be useful in the event of a major rescue requiring extra equipment and facilities.

It is a great shame that cave training ventures proposed within the cream of Mendip caving circles have been shelved because of ill-informed and unjustified criticism by local cavers.  If "professional" cave training is demanded then it is far better to do it from within local caving circles by respected cavers of proven knowledge and experience.

I suggest all those reading this - particularly those doing all the shouting, think again, you could lose more than you gain by further unjustified and unreasonable public denouncements.


Tim Large



Missing Library Books

I received the following note and list from Blitz who has been checking things up :-

I've gone through the Library booking out book and checked the shelves (not thoroughly).  This is a list of the missing books.  It may be that some of these have been returned But they are not signed back in!  If all of these are missing, it would be £150 worth at least, but some are irreplaceable.

Signed Out


Signed out to


1975 PSM BEC Report

Tony Boycott


CCG Famous Wilts. Quarrymen

Chris Batstone


Cotham Box Reports



SMRG Publications

Ian Caldwell



Mark Brown


Skiing '85

G. Wilton-Jones


Sept '84 Climber & Rambler

G. Wilton-Jones


Pegasus Berger Reprint

Howard Price


Cerberus Newsletters 55 & 56

Tim Large


Mendip Hills Local Plan & Maps

Tim Large



Tim Large


The Darkness Beckons (Farr)

Andy Lovell


Caving International (1-14)

Dave Turner


Netherworld of Mendip

Andy Sparrow


Cave Explorers

Tim Gould


Caves of Derbyshire

Andy Sparrow


Pocket book of Photography



Observers book of Geology



The Longest Cave



Down to a Sunless Sea



Darkness under the Earth






West Virginian Caver



The Caves Beyond

Dave Glover


American Caves & Caving



Caves of Rouffignac



Descent of PSM



Niwgini Caver Vol.3 & Vol.4



Excerpt from A.C.G. Magazine.

(with permission)

Ian Mildon and myself (Kevin Wills) took our lives in our hands and paid £10 pounds each for a place on the B.E.C. mini-bus .... !! (to the B.C.R.A. Conference, 1988) What an experience!  Ian's report follows :-

We travelled up with 7 or 8 B.E.C. members and discovered that they had planned to do at least two things during their trip to Manchester for the conference: one was to drink the barrel of Butcombe Bitter they had brought in the van; the other was to steal the sign from a pub near Derby called 'The Belfry' . Fortunately, success in achieving the first objective denied them the inclination to achieve the second i.e. a mega-hangover.

They started drinking on the way up and arrived tanked-up at a local pub near to the hut we were to stay in that night.  The next day we attended the lectures and anticipated the evening’s revelry.  The B.E.C. lot got tanked up again at the stomp at the uni., and we discovered that they didn't intend going back to the hut, only to sleep where they fell.

We dossed down across the seats of the van at about 11.30, only to be woken at 12.00 by the B.E.C., after the remainder of the beer.  Unfortunately, we were disturbed again at 3.00am by the van shaking ... a car had reversed into us, and had run a sleeping B.E.C. body over.  "You've f****** killed him", somebody shouted. However he was unharmed and didn't remember a thing the next morning ....

The next day there were bodies everywhere.  We attended the Sunday morning lectures and travelled home with a van full of subdued B.E.C. members.


More News Of "The Deepest Hole On Earth"

Daniel Gebauer has kindly sent the latest information on this Indian cave.

It seems the B.E.C. have really started something here and though not able to actually go there have indirectly managed to persuade someone else to "Get Everywhere"! Perhaps now that Professor Smart has been released he might like to take up the challenge.

Tony Jarratt

The letters from Daniel Gebaur and Narayana Reddy are on the following page.  The sketch, however, I just glues below on this one.  I hope it’s decipherable!




Correspondent for India & Nepal
H. Daniel Gebauer / Marktplatz 32 / D-7070 S. Gmund / F.R. Germany

Tony JARRAT Prlddy
Wells Somerset

Schwabisch GmUnd, den 13.4.1969

Dear Tony,

About a year ago you have sent me a newspaper cutting (seen by Matt TUCK at Abu Bai in a "Khalees-" or Khaleesi Times") concerning a "Deepest Hole on Earth found in Madhya Pradesh".

I traced down the address of the widow of Dr. Vakankar whom the newspaper report appealed to and got no reply.  And I told an Indian friend of mine, M. Narayana Reddy, a former Police Superintendent, of the story and lately he travelled the 873km from Hyderabad, where he stays, to Dewas and traced the "hole" down.

Enclosed you find a transcript of his letter and copy of his sketches.

There actually is a pit, 16m deep and so far the fourth deepest of India.  And it actually is of unknown origin being developed in the multiple layered "nappes" of the area, not in limestone.

Reddy's description sounds like a subsidence sinkhole, but into which void has it subsided?  I'd really like to go there and have a closer look!

Well, if I can ever help you in questions in questions on India I'll gladly try to solve riddles


Schwabisch GmUnd, den 13.4.1969, Pushkar ( North India).

... I left Hyderabad on 2Jrd and was at the said “Hole”, called KATHAR KUVA (= layer's well), at 7pm on 25th and again at 2pm on 26th.  It is at a distance of 873km from Hyderabad by rail, plus 92km from Dewas by road plus 20km by Jeep through a chick Jungle.  The Supdt. of Police of Dewas was very kind and helpful.  On 25th he himself dropped me in his jeep at Kantaphode, the nearest Police Station.  The Sub inspector from there took me in a jeep to the spot by 7pm, since it was dark we returned to the P.S. and the next day went to the spot by 2pm and measured the pit in daylight.

Location: 77oE/23oN, altitude 328m.  Kathar Kuva lies 6km from Surmanya village (130 houses, mostly hill tribes and labourers), Kannoud (taluk), Dewas (District), Madhya Pradesh (State).  It lies in a plateau land covered with black soil on top of thin shale layers of igneous rocks.

Description: The left rim (as shown in the cross-section) is higher than the right, lower one, since it is situated on the slope of a hillock.  For about 2m the top is inclined due to weathering and covered with dust etc.  From there the rocky phase begins with irregular edges as shown in the sketch. The bottom of the pit consists of flat silt with rocks. There is a small pool of water at the bottom of one wall.

From the inner edge (lower edge) of the slope I measured 31m width and a depth of 76m.  The pit is not known to anybody, not even the S.I.  Luckily the Dist. Forest Officer at Dewas, who visited it, could tell me its location when I met him at Dewas. Sorry, for this is not the deepest pit on earth.  In Tennessee, USA, I bottomed a 500’ pit,

M. Narayana Reddy