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

Front Cover: Original Artwork By Robin ‘REG’ Gray.

1995 - 1996 Committee

Hon. Sec.                Nigel Taylor
Treasurer                 Chris Smart
Caving Sec.             Jeff Price
Hut Warden             Ivan Sandford
Tackle Master          Mike Wilson
Hut Engineer            Estelle Sandford
Membership Sec.     Richard Stephens
B.B. Editor               John Williams
Floating                   Hilary Wilson


 

Editorial

Hello again and welcome to the first BB of 1996.  This one is a bit of a rush job as there is, for good reasons, a deadline to meet. The first of which is to announce:

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A 60's Disco at Priddy Village Hall

This will take place on March 9th from 8.00 onwards.  There will be food and a bar provided along with a disco and live music from the backroom band.  Tickets are £4.00 each and are available from any Committee member.  Hilary Wilson is organizing the event and also has extra tickets.  It is hoped that the membership will support this function as well as invite their friends/relatives/pets etc.  Should be a good night.

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Congratulations are due to Dr Andy Newton and his wife, who have recently been blessed with a Wessex Member, oops sorry I mean small child, of the male category - whom I gather they are naming Thomas.  (Doubtless!)

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There have been quite a few new members to the BEC over the past couple of months - some of whom have paid their subs, some not - I will publish another address list in the near future, but nobody gets further BB’s till subs are paid.

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I have had communications both from Trebor, in the Philippines - and from Andy & Ange Cave, in Mexico - these are published in this issue, so we have a bit of an international flavour at present.  I know Treebs is back in the country but is being replaced in the Philippines by Mike O'Driscoll (or 'Blubber - the bush Kangaroo' as he is otherwise known) the latest BEC joining.

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More on 'Blubber'.  He being also a Grampian member.  Himself, Pete (Fat Boy) Mulholland and Jingles, both also G.S.S., have been diving in lake Chamber in St Cuthbert's Swallet.  There is a line rigged through to the 2nd Chamber, which is accessible in dryer weather.  This is NOT a free dive and leaders should be aware of this.  The dive, although fairly straightforward is deeper and longer than it looks and it is easy to become disorientated.  The line is not a permanent fixture and will be removed in due course.  The object of this exercise will be made plain in time.

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Work continues in Priddy Green Sink.  It has been suggested that the Priddy Green Sink Song be resurrected so possibly I will publish this in a future issue - or maybe we should write a new one?  Adrian has promised me an article chronicling recent events and I know the Wig has more than a little info on this site so hopefully an article of interest will be possible.  It has been said that there are individuals involved in the digging there who smell better AFTER a trip down there - worrying isn't it???

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Thanks to those of you who responded to my request for info on Wookey Hole - I still need more, so if anyone has anything I might be interested in, please contact me.

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Roger Stenner has offered to demonstrate his water sampling and testing techniques, currently being applied to St Cuthbert's and Wookey Hole, for anyone interested.  This aspect of hydrology is particularly interesting - the information fills in many parts of the story of the development of a cave as well as how it is being affected by the present water levels and chemical content.  Roger is happy to demonstrate this at the Belfry one Sunday Afternoon or some such. I know there are several members who have expressed interest in this.  I'll sort out a date with Roger and publish it in the next issue.

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Adrian Hole, our 'Trusty' librarian - has been working hard in his new found vocation (and I don't mean the Yogurt factory) and will be preparing a list of what we have for general consumption.  He will be purchasing new publications and trying to bring other serial publications, such as Descent, up to date.  I will print the new list as soon as it is ready.  There is a wealth of information there and it is for the membership's use.

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There is a lecture on 23.2.96 by Chris Howes (Descent) on photography.  This is at the Kings of Wessex leisure centre in Cheddar at 7.30p.m. Tickets are £5.00 from Robin Gray.

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M.R.O. lectures in the back bar of the Hunters are coming up ... Notices are up in the Belfry and the Hunter's. Saturday 23.3.96 is Oxygen and sump rescue, to be presented by Dany Bradshaw and John Hills.

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That's about all for now, keep the articles coming in, they are always welcomed and at the moment I only have a few for the next issue. Next ish should be in about six weeks or so. Hope you enjoy this issue ... Hopefully the next one will be a bit bigger. I never know whether to try to bring them out smaller but more often or to go for bulkier issues less regularly .... any thoughts????

Good caving ---------

Jingles


 

An Open Letter from the Club from the Committee.

Many of you will no doubt recall the last AGM, and the issue of damage and unacceptable behaviour within the BEC during the previous year.  Three members were dealt with by the Committee and were banned for varied periods for their actions.  Happily now, two of these bannings have expired, and the individuals have a clean slate.  Hopefully the third person will also be reinstated if he so applies at this years AGM.

It is with great regret therefore, that the Committee met in January 1996 and had to deal with a very serious allegation by a member, (Staying with his wife and two young lads at the Belfry).  The member alleged that a large amount of burning newspaper was deliberately thrown into his bunkroom during the night, to the terror of his group.  It was later found that with the exception of the Belfry Table, every item of furniture had been carried out of the main room and piled up onto a bonfire outside.  Further, those responsible then removed the interconnecting main room fire-door, and placed this upon the bonfire.  Three persons were identified as the sole alleged culprits and these were summoned before the Committee.  Unfortunately only one of these members could attend the meeting at which they were to appear.  However this person agreed that he was also their representative.

After consideration of the allegation and upon hearing the representative, all three persons were suspended from the BEC until the October AGM.  The Secretary was instructed to write to each of these persons and advise them of this decision and he has effected this.  The Secretary also advised them of their right of appeal either by calling an E.G.M or to the A.G.M if those persons feel aggrieved with the committees' decision.  All three will have to re-apply to the AGM if they wish to rejoin the club.

This Committee fully accepts its responsibilities, and further the feeling of the last AGM in this regard.  The Committee will not shirk: from this position, in which all members are united. It is also obvious that certain members are unaware of the full facts, and seem committed to washing the clubs' dirty linen in public, most especially in the Hunters.  A large amount of vindictive and petty sniping and backbiting is being directed by a small minority at members of the Committee.  No member of the Committee will now discuss this further, other than at an appropriate meeting at the Belfry, to which any member with a point of view is most welcome.  To put it very bluntly, either put-up, or shut-up!  It is not the Committee or the AGM that is currently bringing the club's name into disrepute.  Other clubs have actually considered banning the entire BEC from their premises as a result of this.  The Secretary has had to write apologies to two sister clubs recently, as a direct result of the behaviour of some members who have the self-inflated opinion that only they represent the true spirit of Exploration and the BEC.  Indeed, one could be excused for asking them "Just exactly what is the colour of the sky on their planet?!

In future, any such serious breach of behaviour or bringing complaint against the club will be dealt with most harshly.  Permanent lifetime banning may well be enforced.  To the small minority to whom this may apply, you have been warned. This Committee is not prepared to have members and guests frightened away, and it will act in whatever way it deems fit to reinstate the former good name of the Club both on Mendip and elsewhere.

"The Committee".


 

A Letter from Treborus Pbillipinus.

9.1.95

Heavy rain in December obliterated many of the trails and tracks so on several occasions we've had to use Caribou - Water Buffalo - to transport our gear around.  Good fun but O so slow!!  One particularly large, belligerent, ugly and smelly Caribou was immediately nicknamed 'Henry'!

The first few days in this area of Tumbali have been spent sussing out the geology, hydrology and general layout of the land.  The immediate vicinity of Tumbali is set below a curve in a plateau area.  The plateau drops quite steeply down a heavily wooded and bambooed slope, with various ravines, creeks and dry river beds. This opens out to various benches, cultivated with corn and rice paddy, levelling out after a few Kilometres into a river flood plane.

The caves that undoubtedly exist, including the c8km Odessa system discovered in 1992, resurge in a series of 'spring lines' along the base of the plateau.  Numerous, stonking resurgences have been looked at, but they all sump or choke a short way in.  They are all obviously below a line of total saturation and it is expected that the sumps will be long.  A few fossil caves have been found a little above these resurgences but they too close out. It was hoped that these would drop down behind the sumps.  Extensive mud and flood evidence suggests that the cave water within the active system rises up into these old fossils.  The next step is to stop looking at all these resurgences and concentrate on the plateau above to look for sinks.

Trebor's lesson for the day ....... Stay clear of poison ivy.  Everything in the Phillipines is designed to zap, bite, sting or poison you, or get you drunk!!!

11.1.96

A good day prospecting, the 'jig saw' of this pace is beginning to fit together.

Great hilarity this evening, as during a Ginebra (Gin) session, a lad spotted a snake up a mango tree with a torch (what the snake????) and ten minutes of fun were had trying to shoot it down with an air rifle.  Since the gun had a barrel shaped like I-Rat's elbow, needless to say they missed.

A local farmer said he had a cave on his land where a stone dropped for 20 minutes.  He was a bit unsure when I asked how he heard the stone hit the bottom!

Found a lovely looking cave today - a slightly smaller version of Alum Pot.  However - rotten rock, no trees overhanging and no nice cracks for a piton prevented a safe descent.  Probably about a 50m shaft.  We will get a piece of hose to put the rope through for some protection, so we can just abseil over the side.  I hope it doesn’t end like Alum!!!

12.1.96

Great excitement today. Caving was delayed as we had to search for our host's pig which had gone walkabout.  It was pregnant and had probably wandered off to seek a comfy nest. We found it in a thicket, the proud owner of 7 piglets.  3 were still born.  He will fatten the survivors for 2 months then sell them at 500 pesos each, an enormous sum for him.  Needless to say we celebrated all day on gin and Tanduay rum and ended up senseless.

In the morning we went back to survey a cave Richard and Henry looked at, believing it to be the downstream continuation of the Odessa water.

The passage looked similar to the sewer in Odessa which Snablet reached in 1992.  Unfortunately it sumped immediately.  After surveying it we went outside and followed the dry river bed down for 50m to a 10m diameter depression and a big sink choked with logs and bamboo.  Ten minutes of log chucking dropped us 5m into a superb section of cave, obviously a continuation of the cave just looked at. Flood debris on the roof suggested caution, so - as it had rained the day before - we decided to leave pushing and surveying until the morrow.

I had a heart attack in the next little hole we poked at when I put my hand on an Ahass - snake - luckily it was only a discarded snake skin, but several palpitations were experienced.

Later we went to look at a 12m pitch Richard and Henry had found during Speleo Philippines 1995, dropping into a large stream way. This was significant as it dropped in behind a sumped major resurgence.  I reached Richard's limit but could not get down the pitch safely. The rotten rock wouldn't take a bolt and there was no belay within 300 miles.  Tape, tethers, belts and condoms all strung together still wouldn't reach a safe belay.  Frustrating is not the word!!  The only consolation, as Richard said, is that there is no draught whatsoever and there is every likelihood that the big passage sumps upstream immediately.

A shame, the resurgence is bigger than Odessa's so there has to be another big system in there somewhere.  It's just getting into the sod!!

Jun-O says 'Hi' to Jake, Snablet, Richard & Henry.        Regards Trebor.


 

An Epistle From a Mexican Cave.

Dear Jingly,

By the time you get this you might , (just might) have received a postcard ­anything is possible! But if not.  Hi, we're doing fine, still hoping that you are coming out. Ange has got used to eating chillies (toilet paper in the fridge ... Ed).  Big mountains etc ... Luv A&A.

Since I've taken the day off from the speleo things I thought I might chronicle some of our more tasteful/less experiences for the BB - assuming that the club has not yet been disbanded! (Oh the cynicism of an ex committee member .... Ed!!)

The story so far .....

We left Mendip cold, wet and miserable (and horrendously early so's I could get them to the airport on time .... Ed),  but arrived safely at the Mongo residence in N. Carolina.  With his assistance we bought a small car, and stuffed it with a large pile of kit and a certain Henry Bennett.  We then set off south westwards on what was quickly dubbed ‘The road kill tour.’  The best way to see a large interesting selection of the local fauna is to watch the hard shoulder.  We ourselves nearly added a rather sleepy vulture, but perhaps its as well that we missed as he was wider than the car!!  After various adventures involving Gin, people in large hats and an unfeasibly large shooting star ... REALLY ... we reached Guadalajara and the home of Chris Lloyd.  After we had spent two days picking lemons from his veranda, he showed up, accompanied by Rich Blake, Vince Simmonds and 'Skippy' - they had been checking out another area for the weekend.  We also had an introduction to some Mexican Caving Politics ..... Yes Bollocks is universal.

Now read on .....

In due course we tore ourselves away from the bright lights and expensive bars of the big city and drove down to Cerro Grande which is about 150 miles SW of Guadalajara and about 30 miles south of the Volcan de Colima.   This massif is about 100 sq k of limestone which is 1500 - 1700 metres thick and only a few of the innumerable holes in it had ever been investigated.  One of these, the Resumida del Paso Blanco, is a single shaft 240 metres - the sixth deepest underground pitch in Mexico. Sadly it’s blocked with mud which was spewn out once upon a time by the aforementioned volcano.  (I thought he meant Mr Spock ... Jx) - or by its still active neighbour Volcan del Fuego - and so are all the others.  Our mission of course was to find one that wasn't. Despite the inevitable loss of narrative tension I'll tell you ..... we didn't.

Here, however, a bit of local colour.  As you travel across from Guadalajara the terrain is mostly scrub desert and seasonal lagoons/salt flats, but in due course the road winds through an Army roadblock.  (It's a dope growing area and they insist on a monopoly apparently) and up a green and craggy valley, and then the dirt road winds up even more enthusiastically from about 1500m to the plateau on top at about 2400m. You then spend a while greeting some of the locals, because like most remote parts of Mexico, it’s only remote if you don't happen to live there!  It is a poor community - like a lot of Mexicans they live in simply built shacks with daylight shooting through them, but in contrast to most places - almost no one has satellite TV and thus have to put up with the awful trash on ordinary broadcast.  (As opposed to the awful trash on satellite ... ??? ... Ed).  It was obvious that we were the proud owners of the largest stash of Booze on the hill, although I noticed that over Xmas and the New Year the locals spent a lot of time driving slowly along the forest tracks whilst singing and shouting inanely ...... For some reason we fitted right in!!

The top of the plateau is covered in enormous depressions, full of smaller depressions and covered smothered with mixed forest, mostly pine and oak.  In January its T shirt weather during the day (if the sun shines) but drops to several degrees of frost at night.  Since we were camping this meant ever larger evening bonfires and sleeping in all our clothes.  Anyone who imagined us swanning about on the beach can think again!  On Xmas day it distinguished itself by raining all day in a dismal manner that made us all feel quite at home.  My Xmas present was the first descent of a 50m shaft about the size of Alum Pot.  It was, of course, full of mud at the bottom.

Nick & Sophia Hawkes joined us for the festivities, and together, over 10 days we descended, or at least looked into, a large number of holes - I wasn't counting.  They were almost all vertical and varied from 2 - 135 metres deep, sometimes down 3 or 4 pitches.  They were almost all bone dry in a fetching pale grey limestone with occasional re-dissolving stal.  Unless they carried a good draught they were also full of gnats, which were extremely unpleasant to inhale.  Needless to say there were also large numbers of bats, crickets, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, spiders etc.

We found these holes either by wandering about waving machetes or we were shown them by Oscar, our local guide.  Everyone in the village was his uncle (apparently) and they all had a pet draughting hole that we just had to be told about, but in truth - the wandering about method was just as effective.  Some of the holes did blow mightily (and some of them sucked!!) in a manner suggestive of many miles of cave below, but all ended with the air whistling through a tiny crack or through the mud itself.  If we had been there for six weeks with a few shovels, the story might have been very different.

Eventually we decided that we were wasting our time and that we should go and look at one of the resurgence areas (very little known about the hydrology of the region) but we were destined never to reach the Systema Toxin, as the largest known cave is called, since the track up there proved to be too severe even for Chris's pickup, which broke down just as we started to retreat.  However its worth noticing that at Toxin there are few access problems (unlike the top of the plateau which is largely ecological reserves) and that Toxin has been surveyed for 3km and left going, with many unsurveyed side passages. If we return to the area that’s where we'll go as there are reputed to be other, un-entered entrances nearby.

The trouble with the truck and the dwindling number of days left to most of the team, forced a return to Guadalajara. Most people walked up the two volcanoes previously mentioned but Ange and I wimped out and did a little shopping. Some friends of Chris's showed us a nearby Qanat.  For the benefit of the ignorant, this is an underground aqueduct - in this case 7km long, from the nearby hills, where the water table is higher, to supply a small town. (After a recent dispute it has unfortunately become blocked by a large fall.  A nearby explosives company knows nothing about it - of course!)  It was dug about 1900 and obviously something was miscalculated as the passage is 10 - 15m high, rather than 2m as is normal. It was dug more or less simultaneously along its entire length from a series of some 70 access shafts, which were then capped - most of the capping stones have long since gone and at the right time of day sunlight beams down at regular intervals.

A few days later, the others left and Henry, Ange & I set off across the country to join a mad team of Derbyshire persons here at Cuezetlan, which is 150 miles E.N.E. of Mexico City.  The caves here are NOT blocked with mud - we've found & surveyed 4km this week!!

........... to be continued.

Right, that'll do for a first instalment - after this (next week) we have an invitation to join some Canadian friends of Chris's in Chiapos (the South.)

Needless to say there are already a thousand anecdotes from .... 'How Rich broke the nightclub window' to 'The tale of Henry's leg ulcer ... Ugh!' and we look forward to telling them to you in due course.  Suffice it to say that we have not regretted coming for an instant.

In due course I shall get on to phase 2 'The Cuezetlan Connection.'

See ya ...... Andy (Cave).


 

Letter from The Philippines.

17.1.96

We have moved a few klicks north east from our base at Tumbali to the neighbouring barangay of Nangaulitan.  The barangay captain, Edmundo Ramas, visited us in Tumbali and said he had lots of caves in his area.  As it turned out the caves were not far from our base in Tumbali and there was no need to hump all the gear over to Nangaulitan!!

The first day here we looked at a very impressive rising - clear blue, cold water stonking up out of a hole in a very picturesque spot.  This was clearly the water coming from PT7 - looked at by Richard and Henry last April.

This has an impressive river at the end, sumping downstream (the rising) and upstream after a 100m or so. A shame - a big cave in there somewhere. The place had a lot more water in it than when Rich and Henry saw it; the heavy rain in December must have substantially filled the whole cave.  I'd like to know why Rich named it Desert Cave!!!?

We then had a look at two hole about 100m up the forested hillside above PT7 to see if they might drop in behind the upstream sump - they didn't!

Then it was a 1km trek through scrub and forest to a 'bito' (shaft) known by the locals.  As we wandered up a dry river bed it looked promising.  We came to a c60ft shaft, 2m wide and 10m long, with running water audible at the bottom. We'll abseil in tomorrow.  On the way back to base we were shown the rising for this cave - a nice amount of water about 0.5km away.

18.1.96

Abseiled into shaft looked at yesterday, using a totally monstrous and outrageous deviation.  A nice 60' hang straight into waist deep water in a large lake chamber with an absolutely ridiculous amount of water welling out of a very large, forceful, blue upstream sump.  Downstream went silly also. The whole flow running through a 0.5m wide tunnel full of bamboo!  A nose-roof kissing job in 100mph water with sharp bamboo 6" below the surface did not look too inviting.  This is where we needed someone disposable like Henry.  As we knew the resurgence was only 500m downstream, we didn't push the matter.  It was a disappointment that the upstream didn't go; that's what we were looking for to get into the mountain.  You'd need cave diving gear with extra sized fins, each with an outboard motor mounted on them to progress against the flow.

In the pm we hiked up the nearby mountain, through dense jungle, in sweltering weather, to look at a few high level caves we were told existed.  Halfway up the arduous going I hoped it was going to be worth it.  One cave was an old fossil (Just like Treebs .... ed!) with impressive chambers, beautifully decorated but closing down. Traversing along the forested slope led to numerous cave features - exposed limestone, dolines, shelters, small caves etc.  One huge doline was a hideout for NPA Guerrillas until recently.  Another cave looked interesting as it had a shaft some 20m deep but with no draught.  This closed down also.

We decided that there was not much prospect here so we slogged back to Tumbali.

20.1.96

Today is the last day in this area, so we wandered around the various sinks, resurgences and cave features to see how water levels had changed after three or four days with no rain. Quite interesting observations were made to add to the jigsaw of the area.

Trebor.


 

A Letter From The Hut Engineer.

Dear Jingles,

Please can you publish in the BB the following ...

Having been elected to the committee as hut engineer for this year I feel I must state that I need the support of the membership in order to accomplish the tasks that need doing.

There is a lot of work to be done on the Belfry and this will require the efforts of quite a few people. I am not capable of getting this work done by myself and am thus appealing to members for their help.

The Belfry is a communal property belonging as much to the club as to each individual in it and thus it is in our own interests to main tin it to an acceptable standard, sadly at present this is not the case.

I have set aside some dates for working weekends as follows ....

9.3.96.                Cleanup day (prior to disco at village hall)

13&14.4.96.        Working weekend

22&23.6.96.        Working weekend

31.8 & 1.9.96.     Working weekend.

I aim to have specific tasks in mind for each weekend so that the pressing jobs get done.

If anyone wants details of this, please contact me.

With a bit of work we can make the hut highly functional again, it is the club's hut. ... and you are the club .... so please come and help

Estelle Sandford.

......... High time a bit of work was put in, I can remember working weekends where a lot got done and bloody good fun was had.  Lets hope we can do this and support Estelle in her efforts .......... .Jingles.