The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: John Williams

Cover: An Original pastel drawing of St. Alcitites Hall, White Pit.  By Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley

1994 - 1995 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Angie Cave
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Andy Cave
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams


 

Editorial

Well, it's BB time again ... seems like only weeks since the last one, probably because it is!  As you will see from the table of contents this one is packed with goodies and my thanks go to all those who have contributed. As ever I would plead with you, the membership, for more articles as my supply is running short and the BB is only as good as you make it.

Since the last issue I can tell you that an amount of work has been done at The Belfry, including the installation/erection of a new porch (Thanks to Nick Mitchell and Mike 'Shut-up Mike' Willet .... or 'mousetrap' as he is known to some, for reasons I won't go into here.)  The bunkrooms have received the once over and no longer smell like a toxic waste dump ... I have it on good authority it's actually safe to sleep in them now ... well health wise anyway.  Thanks go to all of you who turned up on the day but especially to Andy & Angie Cave for their stirling efforts and organisation.  The working day was rounded off with Belfry Olympics, including Gladiators events and much drunkenness .... nothing new there, apparently a good time was had by all.

I know that there is a lot of caving going on too, some of which is reflected in the articles in this here rag.  For my own part a knackered shoulder has put paid to a lot of my subterranean activity, but I've still managed to get down and have a look at the new stuff in White Pit and well worth it was.  See also article by J-Rat including photos.  As I understand it Estelle and Trevor are continuing to dig there.  The slightly better weather will hopefully see more activity on the digging front and I hope to print details of what's going on in the next issue.

Recently the Belfry Boys were requested to sing at the MCG dinner and provided a ½ hour after dinner spot in their own inimitable style.  It seemed to go down quite well despite the none too veiled insults (albeit in song) to various 'luminaries' of aforementioned club.  It was noticed, however, that Mr 'N' beat a hasty retreat before their set.  I daresay they'll fix him at the 60th dinner this year though!

A subject of current discussion at committee meetings at present is this years Wessex Challenge (or whatever the bloody hell its gonna be called this year!)  If anyone is interested in helping out with this - and help is needed - perhaps they can contact me or another committee member to offer their services.  It's currently set for the weekend of July 1st with an Indiana Jones theme.  Plenty of scope for fun and games there I feel.

That's about it for now I think, so on with the show ......... Jingles.

DOGGY PADDLE

Jingles the world’s first diving dog can be found exploring the underwater world around Grand Cayman in the Caribbean.  He uses his own custom made helmet and oxygen pipe which is attached to his owner, Dwane Foilsom.


 

St. Alactite's Hall - White pit.

This article follows on from "The waist of Thyme - White pit" (B.B.468, August 1993) which described the dig and open sections of cave discovered between the entrance and the short inlet passage on the bend some 30 feet beyond the Forty Backs Pitch.

Due to problems with bad air this dig tended to be left alone in the summer and worked for a couple of months during the winter.  Over January and February 1994 some 300 skiploads of spoil were dragged from the dig and tipped down the Forty Backs.  Both siphoning and the use of compressed air cylinders were experimented with but failed to noticeably improve the up to 3.5% C02.  A length of conveyor belting was installed in the first section of the dig which made skip hauling in the atrociously sticky conditions much easier.  During this session Vince, Jake and Matt broke into a small but well decorated aven with an attractive crystal floor which was left hanging as they tunnelled beneath it.  From the bend the passage was now some 15 feet long and was a roomy, descending phreatic tube which had been in-filled with clay and the occasional small rock. Small plastic buckets were used as spoil containers and a democratic system evolved whereby everyone had a turn at digging, hauling, tipping, etc.

The next short digging period was in September 1994 when 110 loads were dumped and the passage length from the bend increased to 25 feet.

The final burst of enthusiasm took place in January and February 1995 - mainly due to the very wet weather keeping us from our other digs.  Air conditions allowed for about two hours digging and just before the breakthrough things were becoming intolerable.  It was planned to install a battery powered vacuum cleaner to pump the C02 down the Forty Backs but luckily this was not necessary.  Digging sessions took place on Sunday afternoons, Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings and a total of over 400 skip loads were added to the spoil heap giving us a new passage length of 40 feet.

The bucket system was superseded by the now traditional digging bags to the disgust of the "democratic" diggers who correctly argued that this system led to people having to haul loads of bags filled by other diggers.  Unfortunately due to the length of the dig and large number of solo/two man sessions this was the most logical working method and operated admirably. On 10th January conditions at the face began to change with shattered wall rock appearing and the sand/clay infill giving way to calcited rocks and breccia.  Several sessions were spent painfully hacking at the face and ceiling of the dig in an attempt to break through into the surmised airspace either ahead or above.  On occasions the foul air was somewhat freshened when tiny gaps in the fill were opened up but most diggers suffered aching lungs and bad headaches when recovering in the relatively fresh air of the Hunter's bar.

On 27th February the writer was digging solo at the face and opened up two small, black holes reminiscent of the eye sockets in a skull.  After several hours of desperate hammer and chisel work (partly relieved by a lunch break!) he was able to squeeze backwards through the body sized hole created and down 20 feet of ladder belayed to a wedged crowbar.  The dig had broken out in the face of a flowstone cascade at least 50 feet high in a chamber some 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. The superb variety of pure white formations and date of the breakthrough prompted the naming of the chamber as "St. Alactite's Hall" - ask Alfie Collins for details of this patron saint of cavers.

The floor of the chamber consists of a slope of boulders, breccia and calcite and will need a lot of work to yield a way on but at least the air is relatively fresh.

Above the breakthrough hole a superb flowstone slope was later delicately climbed (in clean socks!) to reveal 65 feet of beautifully decorated inlet passage -"Where Angels Fear to Tread"- including a 20 foot aven.  This is heading for Masters' Aven but a connection will not be dug here and this area should be avoided to preserve the formations.  It has been surveyed by Trev Hughes and photographed by Pete Bolt.

On the second visit to the extensions Mark Lumley claimed a "first" in this day and age by sketching the new chamber in preparation for the masterpiece depicted on the cover of this B.B. Martin Torbett and Robin Gray have photographed the place to death and Trev has completed the survey - an adaptation of which is included with this article.

 

A Grotto in St. Alactites Hall.       Photo Robin Gray  5.3.95

On 11th March Vince dug for half an hour in the small grotto below the pitch, through mud with a thin layer of calcite on top, to enter a gently upwards sloping phreatic passage. This was some 3 - 5 feet in width and about 30 feet long with a fine array of pillars, curtains, straws, flowstone and helictites.  It is only about 2 feet high and should also be avoided to preserve it.  The passage ends in a boulder choke that looks pretty hopeless and much damage would result if it was dug.

 

Looking upwards towards “Where Angel Fear to Tread” from Alactites Hall.  The breakthrough hole is on the right.         Photo    Robin Gray    5.3.95

Work is continuing at the bottom of the chamber where a muddy dig under the eastern wall may yield a way on.  The spoil dump below Forty Backs will be tidied up and stabilised with boulders and various cleaning up operations are in progress throughout the cave.  The dug passage length from the bend is some 45 feet, over 850 skiploads having been excavated.  This took around fifty digging sessions each lasting about two hours and averaging seventeen skiploads per session.

 

The total dug length of Waist of Thyme from its start near the 1st Pot is 115 feet.

 

The regular diggers were Rich Blake, Matt Tuck, Graham Johnson, Vince Simmonds, Ivan Sandford, Estelle Sandford, Tony Jarratt, Trevor Hughes, Pete Hellier, Chris Duberry, Martin Torbett, Robin Gray and Davey Lennard with many other members and friends assisting occasionally.

Tony Jarratt.  Vince Simmonds.   21/3/95

REFS:- White pit. BB 466, Dec 1992.   The Waist of Thyme - White pit. BB 468, Aug 1993.


 

Snablet's Travels.

(Part Two)

BANGGAI - SULAWESI DEC 10 - JAN 3.

A ridge of limestone mountains form the spine of the eastern peninsula of Sulawesi. They are set back about 10 from the southern coast.  These mountains are very steep and covered in dense primary forest.  Streams resurge at the base of the mountains.  The limestone is rarely exposed to the surface but the caves we visited were easily found (walk up the river, over lots of gour pools and stal cascades, then enter the large railway tunnel at the base of the mountains - it couldn't be easier.)  The rest of the land down to the coast has been deforested in attempts to cultivate it. The rock here is softer reef limestone.

 

GUA BETAN - DESA KAMUMU - LUWUK.

From the village of Kamumu a 3km walk north to the base of the mountains, through forest.  A large stream resurges from behind boulders.  10m behind the resurgence a small dry entrance opens into a stream passage. The stream way (average passage dimensions 4m x 5m) is clean and flowing.  A major stream inlet enters from the left.  This inlet has only been partially explored for over 200m to a fork in the passage.  Exploration had to cease because we had a bus to catch back to Luwuk.  Further up the main stream a small passage leads off to the right which ends in an unpleasant sump.  A short distance further up the main stream several high level roof passages can be seen.  The main streamway continues on for over 400m until eventually the roof lowers and the water deepens.  A short swim leads to a small archway (0.5m x 1m) with 2cm of air space.  Ducking through the archway takes you into the terminal chamber where a large and deep sump drops straight down beneath your feet. We surveyed the main stream, its length totalled 845m.

Surveyed by: J. Smart, A. Becher, P. McNab. Dec 94.

GUA TAJAHAN - DESA KAMUMU - LUWUK.

From the village of Kamumu, follow the main road south for approximately 2km.  A footpath to the left leads away from the road and descends steeply through the forest to the "Sangai Biak" (river). The path crosses the river and follows the smaller tributary upstream for a couple of klicks.  The stream way is very calcited.  There are a couple of small resurgences along the banks of the stream, they were all very small with lots of water coming out (un-entered). The stream way eventually leads to a hill with a large cave entrance 4m high x 3m wide) appearing from within the ivy. The cave winds its way up into the hillside.  The white rock is very sharp and brittle and the stream flows fast down small cascades and swirl pools.  A 3m waterfall has to be climbed to gain access into the final bat filled chamber, then onto the terminal sump. Approx 500m long and 30m vertical range.

A.Becher, J.Smart, P.McNab. Dec 94.

(In Search of) GUA BABI - LUBAN BAO - KINTOM.

We were awoken early in the morning by a small earthquake.  Unfortunately our early start was wasted, due to lots of red tape and bureaucracy at Kintom police station and army barracks.  Eventually we were able to set off.  We walked for 5km up river from Kintom to Lobang Boa, where 30m high calcited waterfalls cascaded into the river.  (We had asked to see caves with stalactites and a river inside - they showed us rivers and stalactites, unfortunately they were not underground).  Large limestone boulders, double-decker bus size, were in the river bed.  The gorge itself looked to be some sort of conglomerate. The water coming down the falls had a very high calcite solution content, evidence of this could be seen where recently fallen leaves were being calcited to the flowstone.  Goa Babi is apparently a days walk through the forest from this spot.

We had some bad luck on our way back to Luwuk which put a stop to any further caving for a few days. The driver of the Bemo we were travelling in managed to roll the Bemo on a straight road.  Luckily we were in the very back of the Bemo so we were slightly protected from being thrown out of the door when it rolled, or through the windscreen when it hit the wall, we were lucky to get away with only minor cuts and bruises.  An ambulance arrived on the scene in no time, the badly injured were loaded on, then loaded off, then some villagers got on and were rushed off to the fish market before it shut!  Indonesians have a strange sense of priorities!

Some other caves in the area that we found out about or only partially visited –

GUA HAHUNG - ASAAN

1km north of Asaan on the road to Pagimana there is a small field on the east side of the road.  At the base of a limestone knoll at the back of the field there is a cave entrance. A 2m climb down to a ledge gives you an ideal bolt placement site for the next 6m pitch into what looks to be a chamber.  There are two possible routes for descent.

A.Becher, J.Smart, P.McNab.

GUA KELLAS - KELLAS - LUWUK.

Reported to be a cave with fossils and water in it.

RANGA RANGA - BONEBOBAKAL - LUWUK.

Reputed to be a cave with stal in the forest near Sangai Lamba.

GUA NIPPON - KAMPANGAR - BALANTAK.

A cave used by the Japanese during WWII 3km north of the village.

GUA SALODIK - SALODIK.

A cave our guide for Gua Betan was going to take us to.

GUA MOLOAGU - LAUW AN

Told of by our guide for Gua Betan.  There is also reputed to be a cave above the hills of Batui.  Also reputed are caves at Liang (which is local dialect for 'cave') on Peling Island.

Practicalities and Access.

Accommodation in Luwuk is not a problem.  There are at least 10 Hotels, Wismas and Losmen and in the country there is always someone willing to put you up.  Carbide is readily available in the hardware stores in Luwuk.  There is also a photocopying shop which can copy A1 and A0 size paper - very handy for drawing up surveys.  There is cold beer available in a couple of restaurants as well as Dragon Whisky in a couple of shops.  (It's half the price of the beer!)  There is a coastal road and a road that cuts across the spine of the peninsula.

Footpaths and horse tracks service the rest of the land.  River beds are also good for getting inland.  It is always possible to find someone willing to guide you to local caves for around 500RP per day.  Very little English is spoken on the Eastern peninsula so you have to learn some Bahasa Indonesian, especially in the villages.

Land:

A bus service exists between Poso and Luwuk, which runs on a daily basis.  There are also weekly buses from Palo and VIP.  Several Bemos run daily between Pagimana and Luwuk.  Bemos and buses constantly service the coastal villages on the road.

Sea:

Ships come from Bitung and Kendari every two weeks.  A ferry runs between Gorontalo and Pagimana every other day.  Regular cargo vessels and boats travel up and down the coast on a regular basis and take passengers.

Air:

Luwuk has a small airfield with regular flights to Manado and VIP.

TENGGARA SULAWESI.

The Southeast peninsula covers 38000 sq Km, an area the size of Ireland, a large percentage of which is reported to be limestone, this hopefully gives a bit of scope for cave exploration.  The main road cuts the peninsula in two, the majority of the limestone hills are to the North and this area is fairly inaccessible.  A road is still under construction linking Wa???? to Asera then on to Tambua, so far the road is still very bad, we had to get out and push the Bemo on the steep bits!  Asera to Tambua road is still only passable by foot.  These roads are being constructed to service new transmigration sites.

 

TINOBU - LASOLO.

GVA LARODANGGE (ONE).

The cave is situated approximately 60m from the road.  A small path leads to the first entrance.  A low stooping passage leads off but soon enters a bat filled chamber with lots of Guano.  A passage to the right leads steeply up to a second entrance.  There are a few small side passages but all soon choke with mud and boulders, 150m long.

GUA LARODANGGE (TWO).

Located 20m North of GL one, at the same altitude.  A dry Guano covered entrance reveals a pleasant walking passage, which leads to the main drag to the right (downstream).  An extremely bat filled passage leads to a second main resurgence entrance.  To the left the roomy passage soon deteriorates into a wet stoop.  Past a spacious chamber on the left through a low stony scramble into an unpleasant crawling passage strewn with flood debris.

A U tube is encountered leading into a very pleasant passage with large calcite bobbles.  To the right approximately 4m up, a small passage enters above a flowstone (so far un-entered).  A rope and protection would be handy for the ascent.  To the left a fine passage continues to a short climb. After an awkward thrutch through a window, you end up in a well decorated chamber.  (A howling draught comes out through the window).  In the chamber there are two high level passages. The right hand side aven was climbed but to no avail.  The left hand side aven requires a bolting kit and Etrieres.  We presume the draught comes from this aven, it is also the only promising lead we saw in the cave.  Survey length 330m.

MATAROMBEO GUNUNG - ASERA

We hired a Johnson for the day from a Mr Hatta in Wawalalindu, as the only way to get around this area is by boat on the river Lalindu (no roads!).  A 2½ hour boat journey to Desa Dinolnojo.  Padalere our guide could unfortunately, not find the cave (Gua Tanggesa).  We did have an impressive ride up a limestone gorge, approx. 100m high, with limestone mountains towering above, sporting large white cliffs and covered in primary rain forest.  According to our not very accurate Nelles map the Matarombeo mountains reach a height of 1551m.  The peaks are very jagged and look like limestone tower karst.  (But it would be impossible to tell without hacking your way through the jingle with a machete to get there!).  We noticed three large entrances and one small one in the cliffs but it would take much effort to reach them, unfortunately our guide didn't know the way and lacked enthusiasm, plus no climbing gear.  It looked a very interesting area.  The limestone resembles that found in Beteleme (Ref 1989 cave reconnaissance, C.Boothroyd. C.Sulawesi.) except here there is another 1000m of mountain towering above, which also looks like limestone.

Approximately a 2 hour back down stream, we took a tributary for 2 hrs.  A very large entrance in the mountain can be seen.  This is called Gua Tawalarondo in Desa Lamonai (Landawe). From the village a ½ hour unpleasant walk through a swamp followed by a ½ hour climb hacking up through dense forest and limestone cones and pinnacles.  We found ourselves completely lost.  We eventually came across a largish entrance which didn't have much in the way of cave within it ... Stal choke!  Our guide tried to tell us that this was the entrance that we had seen from two miles away.  It was not. You could hardly see out past all the trees and it was a tenth of the size.

This area looks really good, lots of limestone with high cliffs and high mountains. The Matarombeo would be an ideal site for an expedition bit it would need to be well funded as the only mode of transport is by chartered boat (Johnsons).  The locals know of lots of caves around their villages, but the majority of the area is uninhabited and covered in forest.  No English is spoken.  We spoke to the local English teacher and we could speak 10 times more Indonesian than he could English!

ACCESS AND PRACTICALITIES.

As with Luwuk, Kendari is a major port and easily accessible, with plenty of accommodation and hostelries.  Bemos run from Kedari to Asera (5 hour journey) or boats run from Kedari to Wawalinu and Tinobu once a week.

ACCESS TO KENDARI

Land:

No land routes to the rest of Sulawesi.

Air:

Daily flights from U/P.

Sea:

A daily ferry runs from Bone to Kandlo.  Ships run to Bau-Bau and Kendari on a regular basis.

Snablet.


 

More ramblings in the Caribbean 1993.

By Martin Grass.

During 1993 Martin, Glen, Tony and Jane Jarratt returned to Jamaica for their annual holiday.   Glen spent most of the time on the nude beach, joined by Jane after she and I had been on our daily dive.  In addition to this somewhat relaxed mode of lifestyle (Tony was drinking Pimms while we dived!)  Tony and I did manage to look at a number of cave sites.  We spent the first week on the north coast at Runaway Bay and the second week in Negril.  For those planning a trip to Jamaica, the north coast is by far the best place to stay for cave exploration.

THATCHFIELD CAVE & OLD THATCHFIELD CAVE:

These 2 caves are situated in the parish of St Anne, about a 20 minute drive from Runaway Bay.  Thatchfield cave is over 4500 feet long and is the longest single passage in Jamaica.  A low arch and crawl lead to a climb down into a large passage filled with stal and bats. After a few hundred feet a large daylight shaft of 80 feet leads to the surface.  From here a steep slope leads to more passage and a low crawl.  Beyond this the passage again reaches an impressive size and after about 3000 feet ends in a 200 foot blind pit.  All of the cave including the only side passage is full of large stalactites and stalagmites as well as thousands of bats. Progress is normally made in ankle deep guano.  Like all caves in Jamaica, Thatchfield is very hot and a light overall is all that is needed plus lots of bottles of water.

Old Thatchfield cave is connected by a tight crawl to Thatchfield cave but also has its own entrance full of swiftlets.  The cave is a few hundred feet long and is full of stal and bats.  The rock is very crumbly and a small climb at the bottom of the entrance slope needs a little caution.

NOELS HOLE

Named by Tony this is a 4 foot long cave in the grounds of Noel Coward's house, Firefly.  It is said that it leads to the sea and was used by pirates.  The usual tale, I know, but it is very near to a 300 year old house known to have been used by pirates.  Food for thought.  (Or a tropical dig site.)

NON SUCH CAVES:

Situated in the parish of Portland and away from other known caves.  A show cave consisting of a series of decorated chambers (with bats) to an artificial exit.  About 250 feet long.  Our guide was a very pregnant young lady.

QUASHIES RIVER CAVE:

We wanted to look at this world famous cave so set out early one morning from Runaway Bay.  As it turned out we found it only took us about an hour and a half on reasonably good roads and through spectacular limestone scenery.  We called at the local police station to ask if they knew of a big local cave.   They said that they did and that due to local drug growing problems we were liable to be shot!!  So joined by 2 policemen and a hanger on, we proceeded to the cave (in an orderly fashion? .... ed).  One was armed with a hand gun, to add to the fun.  We put a handline down the steep slope leading down into a massive depression. From here the whole team followed the river downstream to the first pitch.  J-Rat went down this, found the water out of depth and tried to avoid drowning. (He must learn to swim!!).  He went as far as the second pitch.  Having looked at a few side passages we exited. We had a real Jamaican lunch with the policemen in a tin shack with a few Red Stripe beers and then returned home.

ARAWAK CAVE:

This is on the main coast road between Runaway Bay and Montego Bay.  You can't miss it.  A local Rastafarian takes you in with no lights and proceeds to explain about the history of Jamaica.  He then climbs some boulders and proceeds to swing off vines growing in from the roof. At this point he is about 40 feet off the ground!!

RUNAWAY BAY CAVES/GREEN GROTTO:

Tony and I visited the show caves, which are full of bats and a bit nondescript, on our second day on the island.  What did make them better was the reggae band playing in the cave and 2 topless Swedish girls swimming in the lake.  I joined them but unfortunately as J-Rat doesn't swim, he had to stay in the boat with a group of Americans .... Oh Well!!

SEA CAVES NEGRIL SOUTH SIDE OF BLOODY BAY:

J-Rat and I canoed into these, no dry passage.

COUSINS COVE CAVE NO.1:

(Ron’s rock top cave.) This cave is situated at Cousin’s Cove and Ron extracts guano to sell locally.  For lighting he uses a milk bottle full of petrol with a rag in it!! With our lights he could see the full extent of his cave, which is quite interesting with some stal and a deep green pool which may be worth digging as it could lead to the sea.  We left Ron and his kids with a lamp and a pair of boots.

CLIFTON CAVE, HANOVER:

After getting to a very small village and being introduced to some local lads in a bar, they arrived with some machetes and took us to the cave.  It is a complex flood prone system with 4 entrances.  Some flood overflow passages were full of mud and old flood debris. Some good stal and some crawling with lots of nice cockroaches and, of course, bats.

This was the end of our caving except that whilst in Runaway Bay we tried to find Anisfield cave.  The write up in Jamaica underground says it is unexplored beyond a low pool.  We could not find the site but it sounds very interesting.

ANOTHER CUBAN CAVE: GATO VIVARO CAVE.

During a recent business trip to Cuba, I managed to get hold of my old friend Ercilio Veado and he arranged a trip to Gato Vivaro Cave in Vanadeo.  This system is about 5km long and is situated near the Bellamor show caves in Matanzas province.  Ercilio and I were joined by Maytle Cuay (a sort of urban Estelle with lumps in all the right places!!) we found the main entrance no problem and changed inside.  It was here that I found that Ercilio always carries a gun during his caving expeditions. The cave is very dry with some good formations.  Parts of it are being built in as an underground shelter for the locals, however the rest of the cave has not been spoilt.  One chamber contains about half a million bats and the smell and heat is intense.  The cave changes from being a series of large interconnecting passages to one long passage which changes from rift to breakdown chambers to crawls.

A very interesting system.

Martin Grass.

Point of Interest.

This mainly to fill up this bit of page rather than waste space ............ !

In her article Emma mentions the winch meet at Gaping Ghyll and I'm sure many of us have been up to this event over the years.

Just in case anyone does not already know, this year marks the centennery of Martel's descent of the main shaft.

I know there are several members intending to go up and abseil it.  This is an experience not to be missed I am told.  It takes place the weekend of May bank holiday and is organised by Bradford Pothole Club.


 

Caving in the Lot.

By Emma Porter.

Sitting on the ferry to Cherbourg I felt very nervous as I sat listening to various Shepton and Wessex members talking about their caving experience (Ha Ha Ha ... ed) and expeditions abroad.  There were just six of us, Graham Bromley, Martin Ellis, Dom Sealy, Mark Simms, Ed Waters and myself.  I felt extremely out of my depth, having only been caving seriously for nine months, only done 12 SRT trips (most of which had been a couple of pitches), never having caved abroad and suffering recently from a confidence knock in Meregill ... so bad I found myself thinking for the first time 'why the hell do I go caving?' But here I was stuck on a ferry in the middle of the sea; there was no getting out of it.  What was worst was that I'd just been made an honorary man and an honorary Wessex member ... what insults!!

After hours of travelling in some ridiculous temperature, buried under gear (most of which admittedly was mine) we eventually reached our base for 2 weeks - Caniac du Causse, in the Lot region of France.  The campsite was in the middle of nowhere but had showers, bog, drying room and as much electricity as you wanted - all for a quid a night.  Bargain!

Our caving in this area was based on some short articles by various British clubs and a few French surveys. However, a lot of this area does not seem to have been explored too much by British cavers, well definitely not written up.

Monday 25/7

My first foreign cave.  Immediately a problem was created when the rest of the team banned me from using my harness.  Okay, it looked a bit used, my friend having given it to me (being a poor student I'd not been able to afford a new one).  Instead I was lent a new one, not used by the owner as it was so uncomfortable, but identical to mine - I too was soon to discover how painful a Petzl Rapide harness can be!

After studying the survey of IGUE DU PENDANT, I decided a wetsuit might be useful as there were some long unpleasant looking ducks.  However everyone else put on dry gear.  I soon regretted my decision due to 50m of entrance pitches and ducks that were barely puddles.  At the bottom, one passage led to a sump but bad air prevented us from continuing. The main way on was quite impressive, with a large passage and canyon but disappointingly ending in a small muddy stream.

Shopping, beer, food and GROTTE DE LA DEVEZE.  In the process of finding this, managed to scare off what M.E. thought were funny looking sheep, later realising that they were in fact goats.  Only a 5 minute trip, nice roof pendants and what looked like an archaeological dig.

Got back to the campsite, still full of energy and enthusiasm, managed to persuade G.B. to go and find some more cave.  Walked from the village to an area of forest/scrubland but night time caving trips were soon abandoned, when in the still of the night, the silence was shattered by something howling.  I don't like dogs (especially after being bitten by the Alsatian at the Hill Inn ....... (Sadie to her friends ... ed) but this sounded evil and there was more than one!  We legged it to the relative safety of the road.  Yet another lesson learnt that day - don't cave at night cos of wild dogs and Boar!

Tuesday 26/7

IGUE DE PICASTELLE. This had been left rigged by WCC but was hard to find, especially in the boiling heat and with M.E. running off with a net to catch butterflies.  There were some very large patches of flattened land, probably wild boar - I wonder where they go in the daytime?

90m of pitches with not much at the bottom, except a large lizard which M.E. trod on and rescued along with a toad.  I fed the lizard some orange juice, which it seemed to like at first but then it attacked the straw - I decided not to help lizards again.

Tried to get down IGUE DES COMBETTES but access seems impossible due to a very big fence with warnings.  Went to the entrance of IGUE DE SIMON but it didn't look very inspiring.

For our evening trip we went down IGUE DES CORBOUS.  Access was difficult and confused, no one speaking English.  We were directed to the farmer's house, who didn't seem too happy but we got permission. (This may be denied sometimes judging by his reluctance) 60m of pitches, of course I got into a mess by talking too much and abseiling into a rebelay (surely not .... ed), but the bottom was disappointing.  A sort of scree slope leading to a big chamber with loads of bones and black sheep matter .... yuk.  The survey showed a supposedly pretty chamber, but it isn't pretty at all!

Wednesday 27/8.

IGUE DE PLANAGREZE. This is a bit of a tourist attraction with a large sign and a survey outside.  Pitches go to -190m, where the sump, dived to -270m, is reached.  I was very nervous, the deepest pot I've done but once on the rope I enjoyed it, except for there being an adder on a ledge (which M.E. managed to tread on, he obviously likes reptiles!)  The next few pitches were more technical but after all my problems, everything was running smoothly.  On the return, my prusiking was dead quick ... the influence of a certain adder on a ledge.  This was well worth going down, being the best trip so far.

Thursday 28/7.

IGUE DE L'AUSSURE. Left rigged from the previous day by the WCC when they ran out of rope!  It was an amazing pot, spiralling down in the most fantastic way ever.  It consisted of vertical pitches mixed in with slopes of 70 - 80 degrees and was extremely technical, rebelay after rebelay, using a ridiculous number of bolts.  We reached the point where the WCC had run out of rope and put a new bolt in, jumped over the edge for about 9m into a sump!  They'd been Ghar Parau'd.  We wondered if the sump had been dived, it looked extremely deep, a dark turquoise almost black colour.  The worst aspect of this cave is that there were no horizontal ledges, nowhere to take pressure off your harness-it was agony.  This 6 hour trip, of a very approximate depth of -270m was top of my list for this area.  The way it had been formed was incredible and it is well worth a trip.

Friday 29/7.

I felt a bit harness sore, so had an easy morning and visited PECHE MERLE showcave, famous for cave paintings of animals.  (But requiring a lot of imagination.)

IGUE DE VIAZAC. Entrance pitches were 30m, 30m and 80m with some impressive formations for this area.  One way had a wire traverse, Gibbs ascenders required (apparently the point where most people wimp out!), leading to an 81m pitch.  I did half the traverse to the point where I'd been told it was very difficult and lots of arm strength was needed.  My arms were dead and I couldn't be bothered to wait hours for them to rig the next pitch, so I explored in the opposite direction and exited out to IGUE DE PAIZATS.  This took 1 hour to find, 1/2 hour to do and wasn't worth it!

Saturday 30/7.

While looking for caves we spotted some cars and found the first evidence of active cavers we saw all fortnight in this area.  Descended IGUE DE DIANE with them, 30, & 6m, and I got a jolly "tres bien" as I whizzed down their 9mm rope.  Formation wise, pretty impressive with smart columns (reminding me of parts of Lancaster). Got info from them and I generated much interest with my Oldham lamp.

Sunday 31/8

IGUE DE CARBONIE. Recommended by the French.  Pitch of 16m to junction, followed the main route to 10m pitch (don't use a 90m rope on this like we did, it is not recommended) but it didn't go far.  Continued on the main route, climbed over large stal boss to end.  Exited to worst hailstorm ever!  Looked at LA PESCALARIES resurgence and small grotto, then IGUE MATHERIN.  Once past two short pitches, very pretty with many helictites but blackened and spoilt by use of carbide.

Monday 1/9.

IGUE NOIR.  Descended 30m pitch.  10m climb up with extremely impressive view of shaft.  A small climb led to pitches, becoming tight, ending in a chamber which was a scene of mad panic to remove my SRT kit because I was desperate for a wee. (Men don't realise how easy they have got it!)

Tuesday 2/8.

Spent 2 hours looking for a cave in the midday sun, wearing full SRT kit plus over & undersuits. Got bad heat exhaustion and was completely lost and disorientated and by myself in a forest - it was scary!  It was ages before I found anyone & I was feeling very unwell.  Visited GROTTE DE LACAVE (Showcave.)

Wednesday 3/8.

Ran out of local potholes, so did tourist trips in the Dordogne. GOUFFRE DU SAUT DE LA PUCELLE, near Gramat was a large scale Swildons, very popular with the French until they get wet.  Many small pitches, swimming - definite wetsuit trip.

GOUFFRE DE REVILLON, 2nd largest entrance in France - amazing!  Old show cave, only went as far as I could in shorts, handtorch and canvas shoes.

Thursday 4/8.

PADIRAC showcave, well worth a visit and the GROTTE LA PRESQUE (Showcave).  This was our first rest day, went to GROTTE DE REVILLON again and for the first time all holiday ... got pissed!  (Cos the passage was sumped.)  Also did THEMINES.  I didn't like this, bad air and dirty canals to swim in.

Friday 5/8.

Travelling back, still fitted in GROTTE DU GRAND ROC.  This has the most amazing helictites!  We ended up in the speleo museum.

Saturday 6/8.

Home. Rest.. . .I needed another holiday to recover.

This trip definitely opened my eyes to caving abroad and gave me more confidence in SRT. Abseiling GG main shaft at the winch meet seemed nothing compared to what we did in France.  (At one point I used to hate heights and wouldn't even abseil 30 feet!)  What was hard was getting used to British caves again - cold, tight, wet and small.

This area is well worth looking at and doesn't appear to be that well visited, it does seem to have a lot of potential.  The only thing I didn't like about it was that it was too hot and I lost the challenge to M. E. - that I could do more caves than he could catch butterflies. He won by eight (but then he did seem to spend most of his time catching butterflies.)

Emma Porter.


 

WHITING HOLE, Baggy Point, North Devon

by Dave Irwin

The Saturday before Christmas 1975 (yes, 18 years ago!) conditions were right to make an attempt to enter Whiting Hole at the foot of the slate cliffs at Baggy Point, near Croyde in North Devon.  In a previous paper the Graham Wilton-Jones and the writer had published details of the sea caves at Saunton Sands and Croyde Bay (BEC Caving Report No. 16 Cave Notes 74 pp.12-17) entitled " Sea Caves at Saunton and Baggy Point".  At the time of that visit the tide was high and it was impossible to reach the cave.  However on this sunny but cold day in December 1975 low tide was about mid-day. On our arrival (Graham and myself) the sea was calm, and little wind to push the sea above its low tide level. Armed with wetsuits and ladders we plodded the couple of miles from the car-park along the cliff path.  On arriving at the headland we were pleasantly surprised to find the tide was so low that we needed neither wetsuits nor ladders to aid the descent of the cliff-face.

Scrambling over large rounded and sea-weed covered boulders we made our way to the massive entrance of Whiting Hole - 80ft. high and 30ft. wide, developed in thin, near vertical beds of slate.  A local legend is attached to this cave in that smugglers used the cave to delivered the 'swag' via a subterranean passage from the cave to Putsborough Manor about a mile inland near the southern reaches of Woolacombe beach.

Well, the legend has been broken!  Whiting Hole is barely 200ft. long ending at a solid rock face in which is a tiny crack too small even for midgets.

The cave is a large, single passageway gradually reducing in height and width, the walls of which are quite smooth and polished by the endless succession of tides, swirling stones and sand.  The tide levels are well defined by banks of sand and pebbles near the far reaches. To be cut-off here by the tide would have the explorers facing an impossible task of attempting to swim against the large rolling waves as there are no ledges of any size on the south wall and the north wall slopes inwards suitable only for spiders.

About 50ft. south of the entrance to Whiting Hole is another parallel, un-named, cave hidden from view from the clifftop by a large projecting rock flake.  Smaller in cross section than Whiting Hole this cave is slightly longer at about 230-250ft. long.  The cave ends in a similar way to Whiting Hole.

Neither cave is significant and they will never cause a stir in the speleological world but this note is simply a record of two more of the many thousands of sizable sea caves that abound on our coastline.

 


 

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