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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Estelle Sandford

Acknowledgements: Chas for cartoon and Bat on front, Tony Jarratt and Andy Sparrow for the diggers page, Chris Smart for details of the mines lectures, Mike Wilson for Balch's potted history, Andy Farrant and the Union of Bristol Geological Department for the Geological report of St Cuthbert’s, Roz Bateman for the membership stuff and Andy Thomas for the caving secretary's notes.

 

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian: Alex Gee


 

Editorial

Hi and welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as editor.

For those of you who are not aware, the Belfry Bulletin is now a team effort with Tony Jarratt, Alex Gee, Mike Willett, Andy Sparrow, Dave Irwin and myself all giving assistance in the production of the BB's for the next year.  Hopefully with six of us to nag you all on a regular basis we might get a few more articles!!!  Seriously, we need articles, any length, any format (band-written, typed. fax, e-mail, disk), any subject vaguely related to exploration, caving, climbing, etc., so come on guys (and girls) get writing.  Any news and views are also welcome.

We can take just about any format of file, either on disk or to my e-mail address as above.  I have a program for my scanner, which can read. Typed or faxed documents onto file and also a program that I can talk to my computer and it will convert into words. Technology ebb!!!

Any real editing beyond spelling and basic grammar (and changing swear words for ••••'s) will be returned to the contributor for checking before publishing.

Please feel free to send or ring me with comments on the BB; any ideas and suggestions for layout, general pages, etc. would be more than welcome - I'm no expert, I've never edited a journal before???!!!

Cut off date for submission of articles for the next BB is 6th Dec.

A suggestion: As a way of trying to cut costs in postage of the BB, I would like to be able to e-mail to as many people as possible, their Belfry Bulletins.  It would be in HTML format, which means that you would be able to read it from any Internet browser (Internet Explorer/Netscape Navigator). It would be set up so that you can print it out in the same page format as the posted copies.  Please e-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are prepared to give this a try.  (The best thing about doing this is, you can have your BB the same day I send it to the printers!!!)  Why not try it, if you don't like it, let me know and I will get a copy posted to you.

Estelle

Note for speleobibliophiles: BB 483 should also be numbered as Vol 49 no2, BB 484 was misnumbered as 483, BB 487 is also Vol 49 no 6, and this sequence should be followed through up to BB 492 which is also Vol 49 no 11, making this one Vol 49 no 12. Apologies for the cock up!!!

Also note: At the time of printing most of the BB, there were no minutes for the AGM.  There mayor may not be minutes with this BB. Nigel has apologised if there isn't, as he is very busy at work at the moment.  Many thanks to Nigel if there is.


 

Caving and Belfry News

The Wigmore Report is out now, and is available from Bat Products.  Priced at £4.50 to members and £5.50 to non-members.  Written by Mike 'Trebor' McDonald, Tony Jarratt and Keith Savory, this report covers detail on the digging, diving, geology and hydrology, with some 'interesting' digging shots by Pete Bolt. (Can someone please review this report for the next BB - Ed)

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Wanted: Photos for the Photo-board at the Belfry. We are after caving photos from anywhere in this country/the world.

Please Note: Can you send copies not the originals, as we cannot guarantee being able to return the photos.  Also when we have finished with the photo on the board we would like to be able to put them in a photo album in the library.  Can you please send them to the Belfry.

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On Friday 17th October, there was a rescue in Dallimores Cave, in the Oxford Extensions. A young man from Southampton University was stuck in the tight bits.  (Fortunately it was the weekend of the Wessex Dinner, so there was no shortage of anorexic dwarfs.  After a couple of hours the victim came unstuck and came out under his own steam, none the worse for wear.

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There are plans afoot for the BEC to have an actively updated web site (rather than the advert we currently have).  If anyone has any ideas or suggestions on this please contact either Andy Sparrow or Estelle Sandford.

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For those of you who don't regularly read" The News and Sun" newspaper published in Waukegan, Illinois then you may have missed the August 8, 1997 issue!

"BAT SWARM ATTACKS SOLDIERS.

Bats attacked a military patrol in Ecuador's Southern Amazon rainforest, injuring 17 soldiers, health officials said Thursday. Health director Jorge Murillo told a news conference eight children died of rabies and 24 needed medical treatment after a similar bat attack several days earlier in the region, known as El Tigre."

Makes you wonder, eh.

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There are also plans for another attack on Cuthbert’s Sump 2.  Alex Gee is working on the plans for this.  Anyone interested should contact Alex.

Thanks to Nigel Taylor for organising a brilliant Annual Dinner.  A Vets college was probably very apt for the BEC!!!  (Just -don't ask where the beef and chicken came from, particularly as their incinerator had broken down!!)

Now for a whinge, the cut off date for this dinner was a week before and Nigel had 34 paid by then - less than a fifth of the membership.  63 phone-calls later and there were 95 at the dinner.  A major thanks to Nigel for all this extra hard work and a thanks to Langford Veterinary College for extending their cut off date to the day before the dinner for us.  From this poor initial response, do you as the membership; really want a dinner next year??

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Andy Sparrow has set up a 'Mendip News' web page (see diggers page for extracts) which contains up-to-date caving news.  The address is: www.ascavingservices.demon.co.uk

If you have anything to add or update please contact him at: [removed]

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Mendip Technical Group?

Many Mendip systems are in urgent need of rebolting, (11) but currently no dedicated body assumes responsibility for this.  One way forward would to be to form a Mendip Technical Group under the auspices of the Council of Southern Caving Clubs (CSCC).  This will be proposed at the next CSCC meeting on Saturday December 6th (10.30, Hunter's Lodge, all cavers welcome). The group could work along the following lines-

* open to all interested cavers

* under the direction of CSCC training and equipment officers

* assess all current anchors

* prioritise new placements

* organise training

* install and maintain anchors

These are just suggestions and further input is requested, either bye-mail to Andy Sparrows web page, or by representation at the meeting.

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A caver training facility for Mendip Wells community education have been successful in their lottery bid to finance a new sports hall which includes a climbing wall and specially designed caver training facility.  This will consist of a balcony with rigging points where local cavers can practice SRT, ladder and lifeline or rescue techniques.  Completion is due in early 1999.


 

Diggers Corner

Hazel Nut Swallet:

A BEC dig in the Biddlecombe valley just outside Wells.  There has been a recent small breakthrough into short length of decorated passage. A way on is visible and work continues enlarging the low and squalid passage.  Cave is about 35ft long at present. See Mike Willett or Nick Mitchell for details.

Five Buddies: (second entrance)

Progressing downwards through mixed debris. (mostly old garage and domestic rubbish and old drums and buckets).  Depth 5.8m below manhole entrance to rocky infill immediately below and hence to the horizontal passage entered from the other side of the road once this has been cleared. (The hedgehog crossing is nearly complete!!!)

Barrow Rake:

In temporary abeyance.

White Pit:

Bad air (4.3% CO2!!) continues to be a hazard below Prophecy Pot and the area should not be entered without consulting BEC diggers.  Recent work has entered 100 feet of large passage below Prophecy Pot.  This terminates in a sump which will make future digging a problem.

Swildons

Swildon's Entrance is now apparently stable after the series of collapses that began a few years ago. Following the stream now provides a safe route between a solid roof and floor which bypasses the 8­foot climb. The Z bend route to the Dry Ways remains closed.

The Mud Sump drain hole is still blocked and the recent wet weather has reduced the airspace. Bailing is now very difficult from either side and parties completing a reverse Round Trip or Priddy Green Sink through trip may find exit this way impossible.

UPDATE - Mudsump is currently sumped.  It has been free-dived by groups attempting reverse­round trips but this is VERY DANGEROUS as the sump is getting gradually longer with rising levels.

Also in Swildon's Sump 12 has been revisited and the underwater passage has been enlarged.  It is hoped that a route can be forced up towards airspace very soon.

Hunters Hole:

There is a massive digging operation in the bottom by a BEC team, and much equipment left in situ. Progress is slow but ongoing.

Cairo Shaft: (WCC dig)

A new dig in a partly natural lead (??) mine at Fernhill Farm near Compton Martin. 120ft of passage rediscovered and ending in a possible sump.  Named after Rich Blake's present location as they didn't want to name it after his underpants!!!  (That's what they told Tony Jarratt - honest!!)

Frog Pot:

Kate Lawrence and WCC dig at Chancellors Farm, Priddy.  The team is 20ft down in a promising water worn rift. Imperial College CC dug this in the 60's.

GB: (WCC Dig)

Les Williams and co. are digging a draughting tube on LHS - 3ft in so far.  Visitors, please mind the formations.

Dave Mitchell's dig: (WCC)

This dig at Charterhouse is progressing well.  This depression was opened with a Himac and work continues between stal cemented boulders.

Gruffy Field Mine Shaft: (CCC dig)

Graham Mullan, Tony Boycott and co. are digging this.  It is draughting well and may be a future connection to Charterhouse.

Tyning's Farm:

The owner has requested NO night-time parking at the stables please.  Daytime parking is still available at £1 for those who want a bit more safety for their vehicles for GB and alike.

Bolting Update:

Bolt Update Resin anchors have been installed on the Entrance, New Atlas and High Atlas pitch heads in Thrupe.  The climb to Ladder Dig in GB will be resin anchored very soon, and work will begin on Rhino Rift in the autumn.  There are two stripped spits in Hunter's Hole one over the main pitch and one above Far Right Pitch.  Coral Cave has recently been SRT bolted.


 

From the Log Book

From the Five Buddies Log Book: (Lives in the Hunters, should anyone want more information)

28/8/96 Estelle, J'Rat, Trevor, Nick, Mike

Lots more clearing of slag, earth and rocks.  Five van loads were taken and dumped by Trev, who was questioned by the local policeman as to what he was up to (as if a large, hairy, overalled figure dumping heavy sacks in a remote location at night could be at all suspicious!) Another 3" nut and bolt were found but nothing else of interested.  The place was infested with tiny frogs. (J'Rat)

29/12/96 Estelle, Trevor

It has collapsed!! approx. 8ft from the road.  Everything beyond the false roof has come in.  It's frozen solid, inside and out.  No digging or even bucket emptying possible.  Heaven help when it thaws!!  We now have cones and scaffold frame to stop people from parking there. (Estelle)

30/12/96am Trev, J'Rat, Quackers, Martin, Roz Bateman, Phil Collet

In the morning J'Rat phoned Mr Harris of the C. Council, who was grateful for the collapse information, but not too concerned.  He asked to be kept informed.  Phone number in back of book.  We then dug and cleared rocks and spoil from the choke and filled the two collapses with assorted bags of frozen debris, etc. (J'Rat)

9/6/97am J'Rat BREAKTHROUGH!

Filled about 20 buckets at the end (which were later taken to the surface and dumped) and heaved out a huge pile of rocks (which were later dumped in the hole below the miners wooden beam).  After an hour or so I opened up a hole straight ahead giving a view into a narrow, tall chamber under the road.  A lot of time was then spent making it safe enough to gently creep through (at exactly noon) keeping a very wary eye on the 'hanging death' above!!  The chamber was the start of 50ft of dry, apparently natural stream passage possibly modified by the 'Old Man' in places and ending in a mud/rock choke which looks relatively easily diggable.  'Old Man' timbers littered the floor and in places protruded from the walls.  No other artefacts were seen, apart from a small amount of black lead slag.  Several small phreatic passages were noted at roof level with layers of sediment showing that the place has been flooded in the past.  There are dodgy looking boulders in places - beware.  The entrance needs concreting ASAP.  We are now behind the main choke, which can be made safe.  The road will now not fall in!!  Some underground and surface tidying before I returned, suitably smug, to the pub. (J'Rat)

NB The half bore of an Old Mans shothole near the breakthrough point indicates that the cave passage was enlarged TOWARDS the entrance.  Did they get in via the filled shaft across the road?

From the BEC logbook - From the few that have been written up!!!

18/5/97 Trebor and Barnsy 7hrs

Continued digging in Swildons sump 12.  Making progress widening the tight squeeze at - 6m, 25m in.  This is to make digging/banging the rift beyond safer so that falling debris does not block the retreat.  Bale-out tanks left at 9 to ease the carrying.

(See logbook for sketch)

Cowsh Avens smelling a bit more than last time.  On exit we wandered into a thunderstorm blitzkrieg with lightning crashing around us. We had to lie in the field and wait for it to pass.

To date there are no trips in the log since 5/7/97.  Come on everyone, you should be writing up your trips; it's part of the club's history. (And it gives me something to put in the BB!!)


 

Mining Lectures

The following are a selection of lectures and courses put on by the Universities of Bath and Bristol and available to the general public.  Unfortunately you have missed one of the best, which included an excellent afternoon's guided tour of the workings of Monk's Park underground quarry after a morning session on the geology of Bath Freestone, but here is a selection of the rest.

THE MINES OF SOMERSET AND THE MEN WHO WORKED THEM

A free lecture by Richad Maggs at the University of Bath from 5.15pm to 6.15pmon Wednesday November 5th 1997 in Room 8 West 1.1

Drawing upon contemporary achieves, photographs and artefacts, the lecture will map the rise of the Somerset coalfield and illustrate life in the communities it supported in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Richard Maggs is Chairman of the Radstock, Midsomer Norton and District Society.

BATH ROCKS AND LANDSCAPE

A Mathieson BSc Wednesday 3 and 10 June 1998 from 7pm to 9pm at Abbey Church House, Hetling Court, Westgate Buildings, Bath and outdoors on Sunday 7 June 1998 from 10am to 1pm

Tel 0117 xxxxxxxx Fee £16 Course reference S97COO5SIA

Bath Stone forms the landscape of the surrounding flat topped Downs of the University, where it was quarried and mined.  Most of the rocks in the Bath originated beneath the Jurassic Sea, but there were also local mines with evidence of earlier rain forests and traces of volcanoes.

FROM PIG LEAD TO COPPER KETTLES: A HERITAGE IN METALS

J M Day FSA 8 meetings weekly on Wednesdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 8 October 1997 at the Faculty of Law, Room 3.33, Wills Memorial Building.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £32 Course reference B97H002RC.

Mendip Mining of Lead and its use in the Roman Baths is well known, but Bristol methods of lead production pioneered locally and later adapted to copper in the late seventeenth century lack proper appreciation in their history and archaeology.

MENDIP CAVES: FROM START TO FINISH

Joanna L Wright BSc PhD. 6 meetings weekly on Thursdays from 7.3Opm to 9pm starting 15 January in the Department of Geology, Room G25, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol.

Tel 0117 928 xxxx Fee £24 Course Reference B97FOO5S1.

Caves can be very interesting sources of information - they can preserve evidence of ancient climates, they act as sediment traps, with rare fossils, and they are also important in the water cycle, acting as underground reservoirs.  This short course will explain some of their mysteries.

WEST COUNTRY MINERALS AND MINING

Peter Stanier Day-school in Salisbury 29 Nov 1997 Fee £20 Tel. 0117 9287153 Course Reference W97D014SIA Sorry I haven't got any more details at present!

Might see you at one of more or these?

Chris Smart


 

Joke Page

A vampire bat came flapping in from the night covered in fresh blood and parked himself on the roof of the cave to get some sleep.

Pretty soon all the other bats smelt the blood and began hassling him about where he got it.  He told them to go away and let him get some sleep but they persisted until finally he gave in.

"OK, follow me," he said and flew out of the cave with hundreds of bats behind him.  Down through a valley they went, across a river and into a forest full of trees.  Finally he slowed down and all the other bats excitedly milled around him.

"Now, do you see that tree over there?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, yes!" the bats all screamed in frenzy.

"Good," said the first bat, "Because I didn't!"

After Christmas Sales

A young man wanted to purchase a gift for his new girlfriend, and as they had not been dating for very long, after careful consideration, he decided a pair of gloves would strike the right note: romantic, but not too personal.  Accompanied by his girlfriend's younger sister, he went to Nordstrom and bought a pair of white gloves.  The sister purchased a pair of panties for herself.

During the wrapping, the clerk mixed up the items and the sister got the gloves and the girlfriend got the panties.  Without checking the contents, the young man sealed the package and sent it to his girlfriend with the following note:

"I chose these because I noticed that you are not in the habit of wearing any when we go out in the evening.  If it had not been for your sister, I would have chosen the long ones with the buttons, but she wears short ones that are easier to remove.

"These are a delicate shade, but the lady I bought them from showed me the pair she had been wearing for the past three weeks, and they were hardly soiled, I had her try yours on for me and she looked really smart.  "I wish I was there to put them on for you the first rime, as no doubt other hands will come in contact with them before I have a chance to see you again.

"When you take them off, remember to blow on them as they will naturally be a little damp from wearing.  "Just think how many times I will kiss them during the coming year.  I hope you will wear them for me on Friday night.

"All my love.

"P.S. the latest style is to wear them folded down, with a little fur showing,"

 

Q: How does a woman hold her liquor?

A: By the ears.

Q: What's the difference between men and jellybeans?

A: Jellybeans come in different colours.

Q: What's the difference between American beer and making love in a rowing-boat? 

A: They're both f**king close to water.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes?

A: No idea.

Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs?

A: Still no idea.

Q: What do you call a dear with no feet, legs, torso, neck or head?

A: A hat rack.

Q: What have Soya beans and a vibrator got in common

 A: They're both meat substitutes.

 

If you have any better jokes for this page then please send them to me.  If the general consensus is you don't like this page, I'll ditch it.  (Anything I put in is an experiment at this stage)


 

Caving Secretary’s Corner

From Andy Thomas,
Tel: 01749 xxxxxx

I am compiling a list of meets for 1998.

If anyone would like an away trip, would they please get in touch so I can arrange it?

Also anybody wanting Mendip meets, please contact me so I can compile a rolling calendar.

Finally I would like to hear from anyone interested in leading any Mendip trips for new and prospective members.

For those who have time off on a Monday, Tony Jarratt is always looking for assistance with digs. (he might even go caving if you ask nicely).

One other question: Is anyone interested in a Berger trip sometime in the next couple of years? Let me know and dependent on numbers we can plan accordingly.


 

The Exploration Club Song

Owing to the lack of people at the hut, after the annual dinner, who knew the words to the clubs anthem, here they are.  Read, practice and prepare yourself for next time - no member of the club has any excuse!!!

(Sung to the tune of the Red Flag)

 

We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub
To die of thirst we have no fear
As long as we have lots of beer
So raise your foaming tankards high
And drink them down 'til they are dry
We are the Exploration Club
We roam around from pub to pub

If you hear a tally ho
In the middle of the night
Don't take afright
Dear Belfryites
For it's only a drunken mountaineer
A bar room mountaineer

We are very seldom sober
We are always half-seas over
And when we've had enough for four
You'll never find us on the floor
It's up to the bar and shout for more
We're the bar room mountaineers


 

A Potted History of H. E. Balch 1869 -1958

For the younger members of the BEC-

by Mike Wilson

Herbert Balch lived in or around Wells for the most of his life.  He started work as a post office messenger boy and finished up as Head Postmaster in Wells!

He was mainly an archaeologist and became Honorary Curator of Wells Museum for 62 years! His main interest under­ground was Wookey Hole, the secondary one Lamb Leer.  Balch was the first person to float upstream, with his friends, to the Fifth Chamber in Wookey.  A 60 feet fall in Lamb Leer Main Chamber rendered him unconscious and nearly ended his career in caving.

In 1901 Balch and some friends had a look at St Swithin's Stream on Mendip (Swildon's) unfortunately he did not join the group on 16th August 1901 who were the first to enter the cave. Three cavers; Roger Troup plus Harry and Frank Hiley from Wells had the honour.

Balch made contact with a Dr Baker after reading an article in the climbers' journal by Baker.     They subsequently did some Mendip exploration including Eastwater Swallet.  In 1907 Balch and Baker published 'The Netherworld of Mendip', the majority being written by Baker the padding by Balch.

Balch subsequently made a few trips in Swildon's to the Forty Foot Pot.  But in a dry spell in 1921, while his friend Baker was in the Alps, Balch and 14 others managed to reach Sump 1.  This became the natural barrier for the next 15 years.

On a personal note, Balch was lucky in having a base on Mendip near Rookham.  His friend Mr Powell, the headmaster of the Blue School in Wells, had some railway carriages moved by teams of horses to a field near Rookham - a pretty spot.  The carriages were 26 feet long and had been moved from the Somerset and Dorset line at Binegar.  Balch bought one of these carriages from Mr Powell, called it his Summer Palace, and used it as a base for digging and caving on Mendip.

The coach formed a section of a bunga low with a corrugated iron roof and porch. The family carried on using the coach every summer, even after his death in 1958. It was eventually bought by a local vet who used it as his home.

He has now offered the carriage to the Somerset and Avon Railway Company because he is building a new bungalow on the original site.   The Balch carriage is now at The Forge Exhibition Centre, Marcroft Wagon Works, Rad­stock.  SARC transported the carriage from Rookham.  Their intention is to restore it and keep it as a historic piece.

 

Unfortunately I cannot find any relevant information regarding the second carriage which was rented out to cavers and. walkers.  I believe it will be possible to view the Balch coach in the future by applying to SARC in writing.  Anyone who wishes to take a stroll and discover the original site, now a bungalow at Rookham, the map reference is 550448 sheet ST44/55 Wells and Wedmore.

The only other coach of this type in the South West is somewhere in Cornwall.  Let's hope that this piece of caving history remains in good safe hands, it is in amazingly good con­dition for its age.

 


 

St Cuthbert's Swallet - young or old?

As you may be aware from the article I wrote in the BB last year, myself and Pete Smart have been working on a project, one of whose aims was to estimate how old the Mendip landscape is.  Studying cave deposits provides one of the best methods of obtaining a handle on the age of the surface topography, as caves are protected from the effects of erosion and weathering, can be related to surface topography and water-tables, and contain datable material in the form of stalagmite.  Dating stalagmites from caves in the Wookey Hole catchment allowed us to estimate the age of these caves, and to determine whether caves such as Swildons Hole and St Cuthbert's originally drained to Cheddar or Wookey. This project hoped to resolve a long running debate which Derek Ford initiated back in the 1960's after his ground-breaking studies in the major swallet caves.  He originally suggested that Swildons Hole drained to Cheddar. However, dye tracing of Swildon's to Wookey by the MKHP, seemed to rule this hypothesis out.  However, as I explained in the previous B.B. article, some of the high level passages in Swildons Hole may have originally drained to Cheddar, with the stream subsequently being captured to Wookey. In St Cuthbert's, the lack of distinct groupings of high level abandoned passages at certain elevations suggested that there was no former drainage to Cheddar, and that the cave has always drained to Wookey.  The only way to potentially resolve this debate was to actually try estimate the age of both Swildons Hole & St Cuthbert's by dating the stalagmites within it, as they provide a minimum age for the cave.

In order to do this, a careful sampling program was undertaken with the help of Estelle Sandford and Chris Castle.  Most of the samples were obtained in Pillar Chamber and the Rabbit Warren area, from suitable un-anaesthetic flowstone.  These were dated using Uranium series dating methods at Bristol.  The sample locations and ages obtained are shown in Fig. 1.

Implications

As is shown in Fig.1, most of the ages are relatively young (geologically speaking!) nearly all are less than 120,000 years old, which is the time of the last interglacial.  By comparison, the oldest stalagmites in G.B. are over 780,000 years old.  The bulk of the dates occupy (within 2 sigma error) the Middle Devensian interstadial, a warmer interlude during the last glaciation, between 25 and 60 ka (ka = 1000 years).  No particularly old stalagmites were found, even though a concerted effort was made to only sample those stalagmites which appeared from their location or relation to gravels deposits to be the oldest.  This suggests that St Cuthbert's is relatively young when compared to other swallet caves such as G.B. Cave.

Also of note is the evidence of an almost total sediment fill in St. Cuthbert's.  A broken stalagmite within the gravel fill gave a date of 41 ka, thus implying the gravel is younger.  It appears that much of the cave was infilled with gravel during the last (Late Devensian) glaciation.  Thus, much of the early phreatic network was modified following gravel influx, under paragenetic conditions.  Paragenetic development occurs when sediment deposition within a phreatic passage smothers the passage floor, preventing dissolution by the stream. Instead, dissolution only occurs on the passage roof, thus the passage enlarges upwards, forming a phreatic rift or half-tube.  Alternatively, if other routes are available for the water, perhaps along suitable bedding planes, an interconnected maze of passages with phreatic half­tubes in the roof will result.  This is exactly the case in the Rabbit Warren, where there is still evidence of a total sediment fill, such as in the Railway Tunnel.

From this, I would suggest that St Cuthbert's is a relatively recent cave system, which has always drained to Wookey Hole.  Its large size and big chambers result from several factors.  The first is the large catchment, which may have been substantially larger in the past.  Secondly, the cave is developed on a plunging anticline which has open joints suitable for cave development along its axis.  Thirdly, this anticline has been fractured by at least three thrust faults (one can be clearly seen in the Rocky Boulder Series - ask Chris Castle or Dave Irwin!) as well as the major Gour Hall Fault, allowing rapid penetration of water and cave development.  In addition, the stream has sunk in several places around the depression, thus forming a complex of vadose shafts (which can develop very rapidly, c.f. Thrupe Lane) and phreatic tubes at depth.  These routes were then subsequently modified, enlarged and choked during the Late Devensian under paragenetic conditions.  Finally, enlargement of this passage network has caused extensive collapse, aided by the numerous fractures and bedding planes.

All these factors helped create a large cave system in a relatively short space of time.  Swildons on the other hand appears to have some old stalagmites (>350 ka), although a much larger sample collection is needed before we can reliably demonstrate that Swildons is indeed older.  The lack of suitable datable material in the upper levels such as S.E. Inlets doesn't help.

It is at Wookey Hole where the most interesting results were obtained.  Here, a comprehensive suite of samples was collected from all the dry parts of the cave, plus some from Wookey 21, thanks to Keith Savory. Uranium series dating has revealed that the upper parts of the high level passages above Chamber Nine are older than 350 ka.  By calculating the average rate of base-level lowering at the resurgence (12 cm per 1000 years) from U-series dates of stalagmites, the age of each passage can be crudely estimated.  The earliest passages (above Ch. 9) had developed at 'around 350-400 ka, but these passages are relatively small and cannot have drained a large area.  It is possible this was the resurgence for the early St Cuthbert's system.  It wasn't until much later (c. 175-200 ka) that the main show cave passages developed, possibly following the capture of the Swildons Hole water.  The modern river passages have developed subsequently, and are in the process of being captured to Glencot Spring today.

The data suggests that St Cuthbert's is probably too young to have drained to Cheddar, and the water has always resurged at Wookey.  The upper levels in Swildons may yet prove older than Wookey, but the lack of datable material in this key region prevents us being able to draw any definite conclusions. I hope I have shed a little light on the age and origins of the St. Cuthbert's and Wookey systems.  Some of this may be a little contentious, but hopefully it'll stimulate a bit of debate!  Although this dating project suggests some ideas, it by no means proves that Swildons Hole originally drained to Cheddar.  To prove it right or wrong, we've got to find the passage - get digging!

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Chris Castle and Estelle Sandford for showing me around St. Cuthbert's on often slow and tedious sampling trips; the BEC committee, Wookey Hole Show Caves and English Nature for permission to sample, and to Keith Savory for obtaining the Wookey 21 samples.

 

Cave

Sample

Location

Age & Error

Elev.

Comments

Wookey Hole

WH-01-96

New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench

12.7

0.4/-.04

76m

Detritally Contaminated

 

WH-02-96

New Grottoes.  Balch’s Trench

93.5

3/-3

76

Unreliable, sev U bkthru

 

WH-03-96

New Grottoes.  Stal. grill

71.1

2.2/-2.2

74

 

 

WH-04-96

New Grottoes.  End of path

105.6

4.6/-4.6

77

 

 

WH-05-96

Ent. Series. East passage

176.0

11/-11

83

 

 

WH-06-96

Chamber 21 half way along

93.5

5.5/5.5

 

U Breakthrough, low yields

 

WH-07-96

Resample of WH-05-06

 

 

83

To be dated

 

WH-08-96

Ent. Series. Far bedding plane

 

 

 

To be dated

 

WH-09-96A

Passage dir above Ent. series

65.7

3.1/3.1

77

 

 

WH-10-96

Passage dir above Ent. series

 

 

 

Unsuitable for dating

 

WH-11-96A

Ch.9 taped grotto base

>350

 

94

 

 

WH-12-96

Ch.9 top level far choke

>350

 

103

 

 

WH-13-96

Ch.9 Alcove top climb

33.5

 

103

Det cont, uncorr.

 

WH-14-96

Ch.9 base top climb

183.7

11/-11

96

 

 

WH-15-96

Ch.9 lower level

107.3

4.7/-4.7

94

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhino Hole

M41.9-59

Flowstone, layer 3A

101.0

86-118

c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

(Proctor et al.

M41.9-BA-a

Flowstone, layer 3A

71.0

61-76

c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

1997, UBSS

M41.9-29D

Top of layer 6

105.0

97-115

c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

Proceedings)

M41.9-26D

Flowstone, layer 3A

54.0

50-59

c. 68

Det. Corr, poor dates

 

M41.9-26C

Flowstone, layer 3A

104.0

91-120

c. 68

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swildons

SH-02-96

Long Dry Way

127.1

7.9/7.9

225

Low U Yields

(Significant

SH-04-96

SE Inlets, Keith’s chamber

190.9

23/-23

158

Low U Yields

Dates only)

 

St Paul’s samples (average age)

100.6

 

150

Unpublished data; P Smart

 

 

Streamway (loose clast)

>350

 

167

Det Corr. DC Ford et al

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St Cuthberts

STC-01-96

Wire rift, base upper false floor

 

 

 

Unsuitable for dating

 

STC-02-96

Wire rift, base lower false floor

71.3

6.5

 

 

 

STC-03-96

Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber

59.3

4.6

 

 

 

STC-04-96

Mud Hall climb to Pillar Chamber

 

 

 

Unsuitable for dating

 

STC-05-96

Fallen Slab near Quarry Corner

47.5

4.2/-4.2

 

 

 

STC-06-96

Entrance to Harem Passage

41.0

c. 5

 

 

(Odd ratios)

STC-07-96

Climb into Long Chamber

306.0

180/-60

 

Anomalous age? Unreliable

 

STC-07-96b

Climb into Long Chamber

50.5

3.2/-3.2

 

Poor Yields

 

STC-08096

Upper Long Chamber

 

 

 

No date – anomalous ratios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart et al*

2STC6

Continuation Chamber - base

81.4

5/-4.8

155

*230/23, Det corr

unpub. data

2STC7-1

Continuation Chamber – middle

90.6

10.7/10.1

155

*230/23, Det

1979

2STC7-2

Continuation Chamber – middle

29.6

1.2/-1.2

155

*230/23, Det corr

 

2STCC8

Continuation Chamber – top

11.5

1.4/-1.4

155

*230/23, Det corr

 

2STC3T

Dining Room middle (top)

56.8

6/-5.9

129

*230/23, Det corr

 

2STC3B

Dining Room middle (base)

71.5

3.3/-12

129

*230/23, Det corr

 

2STC4T

Dining Rm middle (rolled clast)

63.5

8.8/-8.4

129

*230/23, Det corr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Det. Corr means corrected for detrital Th232 contamination

 

 

 

 

U breakthrough means contamination of U spectra by Th

 

 

 

 

Age is given in ka (thousand years) +/- 1 sigma error

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves

FIG.1 Uranium series ages for selected samples from the Priddy and Wookey caves

 


 

Meghalaya 1995 - Or the 'Not another Puncture Trip

By Estelle Sandford

The state of Meghalaya lies in Northeast India, south of Assam and north of BangJadesh. Anglo-German teams had undertaken two previous trips.  These were very restricted, as Meghalaya had a Restricted Area Permit applied to it, which involved a lot of paperwork to get in.  A total of 23 km of cave had been surveyed on the previous trips.

We were advised that this permit had been lifted and we should have no problems this time.  Simon had also had contact from a group called the Meghalayan Adventurers, who wished to join our expedition this time.

Team

British: Tony Boycott, Estelle Sandford, Simon Brooks, Jenni Brooks and Chris 'Blitz' Smart.

German: Daniel Gebauer.

Meghalayan Adventurers: Brian Kharpran Daly, Lindsay, Kaiman C. Hiwol Passah and George Lyngdoh.

Locals: Santu Bhattachmjee, Charles Slong, Spindro Dhkar, Roy, Oda.

Tuesdav 14th November

Estelle, Simon, Blitz and Tony met at Tony's house for the final re-packing.  Tony drove us to Heathrow during the night.

Wednesday 15th November

We arrived at Heathrow at 5 am, everything went very smoothly and we were soon on our Royal Jordanian Flight.

Thursday 16th November

After stops in Berlin and Amman, we finally arrived at Calcutta Airport at 7 am, only to find there was a taxi strike on.  This meant that we had to pay 4 x the usual amount in order to get into the city and to our hotel, the Astoria.  Jenni arrived from Sri Lanka and Daniel from Germany and met us at the hotel.  We went into the city and booked our flights to Guwahati, Assam and visited Mr Pattanailc at the tourist office; he confirmed that the restricted Area Permit (RAP) for Meghalaya had been lifted and we should have no problems.

Friday 17th November

Caught early flight to Guwabati. and then got 2 taxis to Shillong.  We arrived at the Orchid Hotel, then went to register at the Foreigners Office.  Brian and Lindsay met us at back at the hotel and we discussed the plans for the trip.

Saturday 18th November

Brian turned up with our tour bus; we were expecting a minibus not a big bus!  We loaded up and started the journey to Chenapunjee, which is in the East Khasi Hills; this was made more interesting by a landslide on part of the road.  It was fun watching the overloaded trucks attempting to slide across the collapse, and we had no problem with our very under­loaded bus!  Although we didn't need the RAP, it seemed that the local officials didn't actually realise this and we had to sign in with the S.P. at Cherrapunjee before going to the Circuit House, which was to be our home for the next few days.  (There are Circuit Houses in most large villages for visiting officials to stay in and they have what's known as a Choki Da to look after you and the house. These Circuit Houses cost a few pence to stay in plus the cost of food.)

Sunday 19th November

The Choki Da brought us 'bed tea' at 7 am, and baked beans and sausages appeared for breakfast at 9 am. (The first and last time we had an English style breakfast!!)

We loaded the kit up, and went down some very scary roads, with big cliffs on one side, to a village called Laitkynsen.  After walking for about an hour, with beautiful views over Bangladesh, we were shown three entrances by our guide before descending the fourth.  This was called Krem Japund (cave of the rice pond) it has two entrances, a stream sink and a big daylight shaft.  We went in the stream sink, thankfully, as when we got in the cave, we found that there was a krait: (a small black, very venomous snake) at the bottom of the shaft. 

There was also a large quantity of fat frogs (where there's frogs there's snakes!!), and we surveyed and photographed and came out.  The next cave was Krem Wah Sbnong (cave of the village stream) this turned out to be a riverbed with a roof of boulders, which reappeared about 10m away.  Next we went into Krem Wah Sang (cave of the forbidden water), this was a sloping cave which ended in a l0-15m pitch, which was very slimy with no decent places to hang a rope from, as the rock was very crumbly so we couldn't put a bolt in either.  We couldn't descend this pitch so we went and checked another entrance, which turned out to have a voice connection with Krem Wah Sang, but was about 25m deep shaft.  Went back to the circuit house for the Choki Da special- curry!

Monday 20th November .

'Bed tea' at 5:30 am. We had an early start to Mawsahew to look at a cave reported to have 9 entrances and also several other caves nearby. The Cave of the Nine Entrances had seven low entrances which all joined inside.  Simon Jenni and Daniel surveyed that one while Estelle, Tony, Blitz, Brian and Lindsay went to Krem Hidrum, which was a large resurgence entrance. The size soon diminished to a rift and then a crawling rift, so we surveyed from that point to the entrance. The total was 250m, and the cave had a good selection of hand-sized spiders, several bugs for Blitz to collect, and 2 bats, which the locals took back for dinner.  We went an interesting cross-country route back, where we had to cross a dry riverbed because they hadn't finished building the bridge!

Tuesday 21st November

We went to a village called Mawlong today, where we had been told there were several caves.  The first one, called Krem Lyngar, was next to coalmines. We went inside the entrance and decided we would come back later.  We were next shown a second cave, Krem Soyshympi, which had a wide, 15m deep shaft. We rigged the entrance for SRT, although it was mostly free climbable.  The cave opens up into a big chamber with three ways off.  We followed the main passage, which was 30m wide in places; unfortunately it choked after 250m.  There was a stream level below the boulders, which could be followed for 50m either way but sumped at both ends.  We split into 2 teams so one team could check out the other two passages at the bottom entrance.  Estelle, Tony, Brian and Lindsay went down the first of the routes, which had another entrance just round the comer (or rather a big hole in the roof).  This appeared to be an inlet passage and it continued for 400m until it got too tight to follow; the passage had lots of nice formations and also big spiders.  We went back to the main chamber and checked the other one out. This one went for 100 in a mainly boulder floored passage and ended in a big boulder choke.  We went back to where the others were just finishing surveying the big passage, and again split up, so one team could do some photography and the other could attempt to catch Cray fish using a tea strainer!  (The Cray fish are blind and transparent, so you can see what they had for breakfast!)  We finally caught one, using the lunch-box Chris had used to bring all his sampling kit into the cave.  Back out the way we had come in and back to the bus for the rough ride back to the circuit house.

Wednesday 22nd November

We had arranged to meet a guide at Wahlong today to visit several caves near to the village.  We descended a lot of concrete steps, which passed a grave-stone of a chief of the village, who rather than get captured by the British when they invaded, tried to commit suicide by throwing himself into the cave near to the grave-stone.  He got caught up on a tree and was captured by the British; his skull was smashed on the spot where the gravestone is.  Our guide obviously didn't want us to go down that particular cave, but we threw rocks down it, which took 6 seconds to land, so it must be quite deep.

After some serious jungle bashing we were taken to Krem Sohshiat, which started off as an arch in a big doline.  We hunted around the doline for leads and Tony managed to find the only going lead. It started small, but before too long opened up into walking passage, with a lot of very beautiful formations and cave pearls.  The end was a stal-blocked wall, with no way past; we surveyed 100m and photographed some of the formations.  We also found a bear skull by the entrance and some relatively fresh faeces in the cave.

At the bottom of another doline, we found an entrance 15m wide and 3m high; this was called Krem Mawrandah.  The cave sloped down to a big chamber with a stream in the bottom and over a slope to another big chamber ending in another stal wall, after about 100m total.  Back up the steps to the road (the village's main orange plantation is at the bottom of the steps!) and after some 'cockroach crunchies' and tea, went back to Cherrnpunjee.

Thursday 23rd November

We went back to Wahlong to pick up our guide, then on towards SheIla (border post) and stopped at Icchamati, where we took the bus up a really interesting track, where we continued until the bus driver found a spot where he could turn round.  It didn't look as though many buses use that track! This area proved to have some very small caves, we surveyed Krem Mawjapuh 1 to 27m and Krem Mawjapuh 2 to 50m. Back to the bus and back up the road to Wahlong, where 10 minutes walk down the steps, from the road, we were shown Krem Shlemkhla.  After the mornings caving, we were a little disillusioned, so we only put helmets and lights on and kept our walking clothes on.  That was a big mistake as this cave proved to be quite long with a streamway and some low passages to get past the formations.  Most of the cave was big meandering walking passages with lots of formations which couldn't make up their mind which way to grow, after earthquake damage, and it also had a higher level which we didn't have time to survey but was estimated to be 200m+.  (it's a shame the guide didn't show us this one yesterday, but we generally found that the locals showed us small caves first and kept the best for last. I guess we needed to find the Khasi translation for 'take us to the big cave first please’!)

Friday 24th November

We split up into 2 teams today, so Krem Shlemkhla could be explored further and a cave an 'hours' walk from Laitkynsen could also be explored.  Estelle, Simon, Chris and Brian went to Laitkynsen and after 1¾ hours walk, down 25,000 worth of steps, we arrived at Krem Synrnng U Jriem (bedding cave of 'Jriem' male's name).  Reasonable sized, well decorated, walking passage, led to a big chamber, where a river could be heard; we located the stream and while Chris and Simon surveyed the chamber and looked for ways on, Estelle and Brian investigated the stream. Downstream was choked with boulder, so we followed the upstream end.  The first part was knee deep in sand and waist deep in water so it was named Kalahari streamway (ask Simon if you want to know the other reason for the name!!) it continued in varying sized passageway, through very well decorated sections, with many inlet passages joining it.  Stalactites blocked the main way on, so we checked out what appeared to be an outlet passage, which got quite deep, then ended in a swamp. Collected Simon and Chris and we surveyed and photographed the streamway and the rest of the cave to 400m.  Walked all the way back up the steps; it was a long way, particularly once dusk and finally darkness set in.  The other team had surveyed and photographed the rest of the cave, but not actually found any more passage than yesterday.

Saturday 25th November

Simon and Tony did a quick tourist trip down Krem Mawmluh.  We finished packing up the bus and drove to Pynursla to the circuit house. A letter had not arrived, so we weren't expected, but after some discussion they let us have one room between the eight of us.  The weather was really miserable; rainy, windy and very cold, so our newly purchased tamocoles really came into their own.

Sunday 26th November

Packed up kit and started on the road to Nongri, where Brian and Lindsay had previously visited 2 caves, one of which was estimated to be over a km.  Unfortunately the bridge at Rana was out.  After this years monsoon and hadn't been rebuilt yet.  We went back to Pynursla for tonight as it was too late to get anywhere useful.

Monday 27th November

Early start and we were soon on the road to Dawki.  We had to stop at Muktapur to get a tyre mended, as we had had another puncture earlier. We got permission to travel along the Bangladeshi border road, and carried on to Pdengshakap, in the Jaintia Hills, where we stopped to ask about caves; we were told of several nearby. Eventually we got to Tarangblang, which was our main spot.  We were shown two caves; Krang Manik, which had a big boulder slope entrance and Krang Jawbaw which was a wide shaft, estimated to be 30m+ deep.

On the way back towards Pdengshakap, we tried to find a cave that had a signpost at the side of the road, Krem 'Pubon' Lashing, (pubon means limestone).  We couldn't find it, but when we asked in Pdengshakap we were told it was a big one, and Charles Slong (the headman) would guide us the day after tomorrow.  We continued to Jowai, to the circuit house there, via visiting George Lyngdoh who had arranged it for us.  We were fed copious amounts of whisky and beer, which after a mostly dry trip to date, succeeded in getting us drunk very quickly.

Tuesday 28th November

Late start this morning, partly due to hangovers and partly due to a broken bus, which needed repairing. Eventually we got away and went back to Tarangblang to explore the 2 caves we were shown yesterday.  Estelle and Tony took SRT kits to descend Krem Jawbaw, while everyone else, including most of the school children and their teacher went to Krem Manik.

Tony rigged off two trees, but the rope only went ½ way, if that so he rigged off the strongest looking one of the two, but the rope was still 15-20m off the floor.  Tony went down as far as he could, to try and get an idea of what the cave had to offer; it looks good, with two big passages going off in opposite directions.

Estelle and Tony joined the others in Krem Manik, which was surveyed to 280m and ended in a loose boulder pile, which was impassable.  We were shown to another cave, Krang Bheh which Tony descended on the rope; he descended about 5m, touched the wall and it fell down, so he decided not to proceed. As it was too loose.  We stayed at the S.D.O.'s house at Amlaran for tonight. An interesting night, the S.D.O. refused to let the boys sleep in the same room as Estelle and Jenni, but as he got more and more drunk, he didn't notice the boys creeping in one by one!

Wednesday 29th November

Went to Pdengshakap and picked up Charles Slong, who was to be our guide for Krem Pubon Lashing.  We climbed down a path in a depression and arrived at the cave entrance, which was big.  Charles had arranged for a water pipe to be put in at the entrance, so we filled up our carbide and went in.  We split into two teams: Estelle, Tony, Jenni, Kaiman, Lindsay and a local boy took the stream route which we were told was about 100m in. while Daniel, Blitz and Simon surveyed from the entrance.

The entrance opened up into a massive sloping passage, where you couldn't see the walls, or the floor at the bottom of the slope.  We went back up what seemed like a mountain, and back down the other side, where we came to a stream.  The 'mountain' was rumoured to have been caused by dynamite fishing in the streamway! We started surveying at the point where we met the streamway, and followed it to its bitter end, a total of 600m. The streamway passed through very friable sandstone, with many oxbows and inlet passages; there were also several dodgy climbs down and also a lot of false floors.  Eventually the stream disappeared into boulders.  We got back to the start point and assuming the others would have got to that point we followed where we thought they should have gone, until we started to run low on carbide.  It turned out they'd surveyed over a kilometre to our first survey station and not got this far.  The route we followed was a big breakdown chamber into a canal, which went into sharp limestone, and into a boulder choke, which is probably passable.  When we arrived at the entrance we were met by most of the village, who had brought us a feast; the food was much appreciated and also excellent.  Simon and co. were too late getting out so they had their feast back at the village, as the villagers had taken it back as it was going cold.  Simon and co. found a major passage on the left hand side of the entrance passage, which they eventually had to leave as a going lead as it was getting late and they were running out of carbide.

Thursday 30th November

We had a new bus driver today who had a major attitude problem and was reluctant to do anything we asked him, including actually drive us!  We had been told of a potential site at a village called Lumshnong, so after a long bumpy ride on the bus, we arrived in the village.  We were shown to a washing hole, known as Krem Kot Sati, which obviously had passage going off it.  There were two ways off the entrance, both involving swimming, but we were told that the downstream end has another entrance in Spindro's backyard. Tony, Simon and Chris went for the big swim upstream, while Estelle, Jenni, Lindsay Kaiman and Daniel went to the entrance at Spindro' s backyard.  Daniel and Jenni started surveying while the rest of us went downstream to photograph and explore.  Kaiman couldn't swim at all so wouldn't go out of his depth; Lindsay was an excellent swimmer, so he went off in front to investigate when we reached a point where we were getting well out of our depth.  Lindsay reported back, a small waterfall followed by what looked like a sump. We completed the survey by swimming the last bit and tying it in to where the other team had started.  Simon and co. had found over a kilometre of classic limestone passage, with two more entrances and many leads still going 'big­time'.  We have a mission for tomorrow!

Friday 1st December

Off to Lumshnong again, where the first place we went was an impressive looking sink called Synrang Taloo. The GPS told us that one of the entrances they had found yesterday, was 400m South of the sink.  We walked up the road toward the village and spotted a large steaming hole, 50m away from the road, known as Krem LaIut.  We entered this one, and it was confirmed as being the top entrance they'd found yesterday.  Just inside the entrance was a canal going north; our swimmers, Tony and Chris, swam about 300m using a robber ring and a blow up Dolphin, until the Dolphin went down on them!  They found an area with more inlets and outlets, but with the equipment we had with us, this passage was unsurveyable; boats or life jackets would be nice! Estelle, Daniel, Kaiman, Lindsay and Tony went downstream to survey the side passages; we surveyed 400m in two interesting shaped side passages known as the Western Inlets.  We didn't even explore passages we had to bend down in, as there was more than enough big passages to keep us going for today.  We abandoned one area where the water got too deep to survey in, particularly when there are non-swimmers around.  The water was very cold so after nearly 6 hours caving we came out.  Simon, Brian, Chris and Daniel had found another entrance, surveyed a big oxbow and taken lots of photographs.

Saturday 2nd December

We went to the village of Lakadong, where there was reputed to be several eaves.  Our bus driver with the major attitude problem was doing everything he could to avoid driving to Lakadong, including swapping a good tyre for a bad tyre so that we didn't damage the new one!  The road to the village was abysmal and we had to walk the last mile or so to the village.  We were just starting to think that Lakadong was a waste of time, because the headman told us there were no caves there but there were some at Umlat, which was the next village, but he'd show us an insignificant shaft anyway!  The shaft was 50-60m deep in limestone, and there was another one nearby.  After the walk back to the bus we found our driver drunk, we tried to sober him up a bit with tea, but he drove anyway, and it was actually better than when he was sober! It was definitely one of those bad days; we ran out of diesel on the way back and had to go and find some and then the bus broke down and we had to wait 2 hours while we got it repaired.  We eventually arrived back at Shillong at 3:30 am after spending 18 hours on the bus today!

Sunday 3rd December

We couldn't get our return tickets confirmed, as it was Sunday, so we had a lazy day in Shillong, followed by a nice meal at the Unicorn Hotel with several members of the Meghalayan Adventurers Association.

Monday 4th December

We still couldn't sort out our air tickets, so we left for Tura anyway.  The trip to Tura involved travelling along the border between Megbalaya and Assam, which bas a lot of problems with bandits, so we drove very fast without stopping until we reached a safe village for lunch.  We finally arrived at the circuit house in Tura at 3 am, woke up the Choki Da and he found us some rooms.

Tuesday 5th December

There was a bandh (strike) on in Turn today, so no vehicles could move and the whole of Turn came to a standstill.  We went and saw the Deputy Tourist Officer and his wife kindly sorted out letters to local officials and police for us.  We next visited a friend from the last expedition, Santu, where we had tea and chatted.  He arranged to get our tickets sorted out.  We had a bit of a party at the circuit house, with Santu and some of his mates.

Wednesday 6th December

We finally got out of Tura and off to Baghmara, and then onto Siju.  We arrived at the new I.B. (Inspection Bungalow) and made ourselves at home.  The I.B. was so new they had to unpack crockery and furniture for us to use.

Thursday 7th December

After breakfast, we ordered a bamboo ladder for Siju eave and went to look at some other sites at Middle Siju, until the ladder was built, we investigated several sites but there was nothing significant.  Back to the I.B. and then the 5-minute walk to Siju eave taking our newly made ladder with us.  Siju eave is an impressive resurgence eave with a lot of bats in the chamber just inside; you definitely don't want to look up with your mouth open, the ceiling moves and it rains bat guano.  We tried lowering the terminal sump by moving boulders, but eventually admitted defeat and went to the place we'd brought the ladder in for.  Tony and Simon surveyed the 200m of really sharp rift passage, while the rest of us did some photography.

We had a visit from a reporter, land surveyor and environmentalist; there is a conservation issue over the area around here.  As a company wants to build cement works, which will destroy the area for fishing and damage the cave life.  Many locals are trying to do what they can to stop it.

Friday 8th December

We walked up the track to the Chibenala river valley, where we already had caves known to the group. Simon Daniel and Brian went to Chibenala Dobhakol to finish off the survey and photograph.  While Tony, Chris, Roy and the two policemen (who had appeared to have taken the day off) went into one cave and Estelle, Lenni, Kaiman. Lindsay and Oda went cave hunting upstream.  We found four small caves, of which we surveyed three, two of which were very insignificant; the third was the longest at 150m long. Simon, Daniel and Brian had had Topofil problems but managed to survey 150m and take a lot of photos.

Saturday 9th December

Went to Nengkong to continue work on Tetengkol and Matchekol.  Daniel, lenni, Brian and Roy went to continue the survey in Matchekol. while Estelle, Simon, Chris, Tony, Lindsay, Kaiman, Oda and a policeman went into Tetengkol.  Tony didn't get very far; he was feeling really ill, so he went back out.  The rest of us continued up into the Planetarium, which should have been an easy climb but there had apparently been movement since last time and the 'Henries' looked a bit dodgy.  We managed to get up and continued to look at a pitch, which had been left last time.  Estelle abseiled down the 15m pitch, to a crawling sized, rift passage, which soon got too tight to follow.  Estelle rejoined the rest and we continued on into Paula's Parallel Universe where there were 2 unfinished leads.  Chris, Kaiman. and Lindsay surveyed one, while Estelle and Simon surveyed the other. The second was really gloopy mud with gravy like substance floating on the top; we surveyed 80m to a junction, but we'd run out of time and had to go back.  The villagers at Nengkong are insistent that we are back by dark.  So the elephants and tigers don't attack us! We found the others sat outside their 'frog'.  Matchekol was definitely no 'princess'; it ended in a boulder pile at 200m. (Chris and Simon have a saying with the caves, that 'if you kiss enough frogs you'll find a princess!')  We had a sample of the local rice beer, which tasted quite nice really.

Sunday 10th December

The bus driver had a nasty dose of gastro enteritis and was very ill (probably due to too much rice beer) so we had no choice but to cancel our Tetengkol trip for today.  At least we have Siju cave close at hand, so we spent most of the day in there, taking lots of photographs and had another attempt at lowering the sump, which still failed.  Chris and Simon went into a previously unsurveyed inlet in Siju and found 200m, which took our total cave for this trip to 9.003km.  As this was our last days caving, we sorted out our carbide sets that we were leaving and gave Brian a lesson on how to use them.

Monday 11th December

The driver was still sick, but just about OK to drive, so we packed up the bus and started back to Tura. The bus had a puncture, and also the fuel filter gasket blew so it had to be replaced!  We were supposed to be on local TV but due to the bus problems we were too late.  Tony was being ill again so he missed out on an excellent meal at Santu's.

Tuesday 12th December

Off to Guwahati to catch the flight home.  As a farewell gift to us, the bus had one more puncture!  Said farewell to Brian, Lindsay and Kaiman and caught our flight to Calcutta.  When Chris phoned home, he was told that Heathrow had been closed for the last couple of days due to snow and freezing fog.

Wednesday 13th December

Had a nice meal and chat with Mr Pattanaik from the tourism office, and then visited the Hogg market.

Thursday 14th December

Estelle, Chris, Tony and Simon left for Amman, while Lenni left for Sri Lanka and Daniel left for Thailand.  We get a night in the airport hotel, which is only 2 hours time difference to us, so it gave us a chance to get our body clocks back to normal.

Friday 15th December

Left Amman, and onto Berlin, where we were delayed for over an hour while they repaired a puncture on the plane!  Eventually we left Berlin and arrived at Heathrow, and once we'd finally got Tony's car going, and driven back to Mendip, we arrived in the Hunters for an evening session!


 

B.E.C. Membership List as at 26/10/97

1212 Julian Aburrow                  Southampton, Hampshire.
20 (L) Bobby Bagshaw               Knowle, Bristol, Avon
392 (L) Mike Baker                    Henton, Wells, Somerset
1150 (J) David Ball                     ConeyHurst, Billinhurst, West Sussex.
1145 Roz Bateman                    Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset.
1151 (J) Ruth Baxter                  Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, West Sussex
1227 (P) Anette Becher             St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.
390 (L) Joan Bennett                 Draycott, Somerset
1122 Clive Betts                        Clapham, Bedfordshire
731 Bob Bidmead                      East Harptree, Nr. Bristol, Avon
1125 Rich Blake                        Priddy, Somerset
364 (L) Pete Blogg                    Chaldon, Caterham, Surrey
1114 Pete Bolt                          Cardiff, S. Gamorgan
145 (L) Sybil Bowden-Lyle          Calne, Wiltshire
1104 Tony Boycott                    Westbury on Trim, Bristol, Avon
868 Dany Bradshaw                  Haybridge, Wells, Somerset
751 (L) T.A. Bookes                  London
1196 Dave Bryant                      Salford, Bristol, Avon
201 John Buxton                       Flitwick, Beds.
956 Ian Caldwell                        Redland, Bristol, Avon
1214 Rebecca Campbell            Wells, Somerset
1014 Chris Castle                      Axbridge, Somerset
1062 (J) Andy Cave                   Dordogne, France
1142 (J) Ange Cave                   Dordogne, France
1197 John Christie                     Brompton, North Allerton, North Yorks
211 (L) Clare Coase                   Berkeley-Vale, New South Wales, 2259, Australia
89 (L) Alfie Collins                     Draycott, Somerset
1204 Julian Collinson                 Pemboa, Helston, Cornwall
1175 Ali Cooper                        Ainsworth, Nottinghamshire
862 Bob Cork                            Pen Hill, Wells, Somerset
1123 (P) Paulr Craggs               Cullompton, Devon
870 Gary Cullen                        Southwater, Nr Horsham, West Sussex.
405 (L) Frank Darbon                 British Columbia, Canada.
423 (L) Len Dawes                    Minster Matlock, Derbyshire
1229 (P) Jeremy Dixon-Wright    West Pennard, Glastonbury, Somerset
164 (L) Ken Dobbs                    Beacon Heath, Exeter, Devon
829 (L) Angie Dooley                 Harborne, Birmingham
710 (J) Colin Dooley                  Harborne, Birmingham
1000 (L) Roger Dors                  Priddy, Somerset
830 John Dukes                        Street, Somerset
322 (L) Bryan Ellis                     Westonzoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset
269 (L) Tom Fletcher                 Bramcote, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
1218 Stephen Flinders               Burrington, Somerset
404 (L) Albert Francis                Wells, Somerset
569 (J) Joyce Franklin                Staffordshire
469 (J) Peter Franklin                Staffordshire
1159 John Freeman                   Upper Radford, Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1182 Alex Gee                          Wookey Hole, Wells, Somerset
835 Len Gee                             St. Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire
1069 (J) Angie Glanvill               Chard, Somerset
1017 (J) Peter Glanvill                Chard, Somerset
647 Dave Glover                        Basingstoke, Hampshire
1006 Edward Gosden                Twyford, Winchester, Hampshire
790 (J) Martin Grass                  Draycott, Somerset
1155 Rachael Gregory               Pentir, Nr., Bangor, Gwynedd
1089 Kevin Gurner                     Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
1088 Nick Gymer                      Theydon Bois, Epping, Essex
104 (L) Mervyn Hannam             Semington, Trowbrdge, Wiltshire
1186 (J) Helen Harper                Wells, Somerset
999 (J) Rob Harper                    Wells, Somerset
1117 Pete Hellier                       Nempnett Thrubwell, Chew Stoke, Bristol, Avon
974 Jeremy Henley                    Shepton Mallet
952 Bob Hill                              Port Gentil, Republic de Gabon
373 (J) Sid Hobbs                      Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
736 (J) Sylvia Hobbs                  Priddy, Wells, Somerset
1221 (P) Mark Howden              Street, Sometset
1219 (P) Sean Howe                  Frampton Cotterell, Bristol, Avon
923 Trevor Hughes                     Holcombe, Bath, Avon
73 Angus Innes                         Alveston, Bristol, Aven
540 (L) Dave Irwin                      Priddy, Somerset
922 Tony Jarratt                        Priddy, Somerset
668 Mike Jeanmaire                  Buxton, Derbyshire
1111 Graham Johnson               Wells, Somerset
560 (L) Frank Jones                   Priddy, Somerset
567 (L) Alan Kennett                  Charlton Musgrove, Wincanton, Somerset
316 (L) Kangy King                    Pucklechurch, Bristol, Aven
542 (L) Phil Kingston                 Brisbane, Queensland, 4122, Australia
413 (L) R. Kitchen                     Horrabridge, Yelverton, Devon
667 (L) Tim Large                      Brislington, Bristol
1199 Alex Livingstone                Clevedon, Avon
1180 Rich Long                         Paulton, Bristol, Avon
1057 Mark Lumley                     Stoke St. Michael, Somerset
1052 (J) Pete MacNab (Jnr)        St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
1071 Mike McDonald                 Knowle, Brsitol, Avon
1195 Struan McDonald              Devizes, Wiltshire
550 (L) R A MacGregor              Baughurst, Basingstoke, Hants
725 Stuart McManus                 Priddy, Somerset
558 (L) Tony Meaden                 Westbury, Bradford Abbas, Sherborne, Dorset
704 Dave Metcalfe                     Whitwick, Leicestershire
1044 Andy Middleton                 Hardington-Mandeville, Somerset
1194 Nick Mitchell                     Priddy Somerset
1172 Sean Morgan                    Clevedon, Avon
1210 Guy Mannings                  Croydon, Surrey
1183 Andy Newton                    Shipham, Nr Cheddar, Somerset
1232 (P) Andy Nunn                  Cullomton, Devon
553 Bob O’Malley-White            Wells, Somerset
1228 (P) Ben Ogbourne             Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset
1226 (P) Stephen Ostler            Nailsea, North Somerset
396 (L) Mike Palmer                  Yarley, Wells, Somerset
1045 Rich Payne                       Orpington, Kent
1134 Martin Peters                    Wells, Somerset.
499 (L) A. Philpot                      Bishopston, Bristol, Avon
1193 Emma Porter                    Witmore, Wolverhampton
337 Brian Prewer                       Priddy, Wells, Somerset
886 Jeff Price                            Knowle, Bristol, Avon
481 (L) John Ransom                 Patchway, Bristol, Avon
985 Phil Romford                       Shepton Mallet, Somerset
921 Pete Rose                          Hookway, nr Crediton, Devon
1208 Stuart Sale                       Romsey, Hampshire
359 (L) Carol Sandall                 Nailsea, Avon
1170 Andy Sanders                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1173 Estelle Sandford                Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
1178 Ivan Sandford                    Priddy, Somerset
237 (L) Bryan Scott                   Cote D’Azur, France
78 (L) R Setterington                 Taunton, Somerset
213 (L) Rod Setterington            Taunton, Somerset
1036 (J) Nicola Slann                 Draycott, Somerset
915 Chris Smart                        Nr. Bradford on Avon, Wilts
911 Jim Smart                          c/o The Belfry
1203 Bob Smith                        Havant, Hampshire
823 Andy Sparrow                     Priddy, Somerset
1 (L) Harry Stanbury                  Bude, Cornwall
575 (L) Dermot Statham             Warkworth, Northumberland
1230 (P) Clive Stell                    Bathford, Bath
365 (L) Roger Stenner                Weston super Mare, Avon
1084 Richard Stephens              Wells, Somerset
583 Derek Targett                      East Horrington, Wells Somerset
772 Nigel Taylor                        Langford, Avon
284 (L) Alan Thomas                 Priddy, Somerset
1224 (P) Andrew Thomas           Catcott, Nr Bridgwater, Somerset
571 (L) N Thomas                      Oulton Broad, Lowestoft, Suffolk
74 (L) Dizzie Thompsett-Clark    Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex
1216 Martin Torbett                   Cheddar, Somerset
381 (L) Daphne Towler               Bognor Regis, Sussex
1023 Matt Tuck                         Plymouth, Devon.
678 Dave Turner                        Leigh on Mendip, Bath, Avon
635 (L) S. Tuttlebury                  Farnham, Surrey
1096 Brian van Luipen                Wick, Littlehampton, West sussex
887 Greg Villis                          Uphill, Weston super Mare, North Somerset
175 (L) D. Whaddon                 
1220 (P) John Walsh                 Glastonbury, Somerset
949 (J) John Watson                  Wells, Somerset
1019 (J) Lavinia Watson             Wells, Somerset
1185 Chas Wethered                 Axbridge, Somerset
1118 Carol White                      Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
1068 John Whiteley                   Heathfiled, Newton Abbot, Devon
1092 Babs Williams                  Knowle, Bristol, Avon
1087 John Williams                   Gurney Slade, Nr. Bath, Somerset
1164 (J) Hilary Wilson                Keynsham, Avon
1130 (J) Mike Wilson (snr)         Keynsham, Avon
559 (J) Barrie Wilton                  Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
568 (J) Brenda Wilton                Haydon, Nr. Wells, Somerset
877 Steven Woolven                  West Chillington, West Sussex
914 Brian Workman                   Catcott, Bridgwater, Somerset
477 Ronald Wyncoll                  Holycroft, Hinkley, Leics.
683 Dave Yeandle                     Eastville, Bristol, Avon

A Message From Your Membership Secretary

Please send any membership correspondence to: -

Roz Bateman,  Wookey Hole, Wells,  Somerset

Dear Members

A membership secretary for the 97/98 committee, I would like to welcome you all to renew your B.E.C. membership before 31/12/97.  There is an additional £4.00 payment for all membership fees, which reach me after 1997. The 1977 AGM resulted in a £2.00 increase in membership fees for 1997/98.  Please complete the form below and return all cheques/forms in the envelope provided with this BB.  Thank you.

We all hope you will enjoy your continuing membership of the B.E.C.

Roz


 

Rolling Calendar

09/11/1997        Pwll D CMG Meeting,     10.30am Gwetsy Bridge, Gwynmawr

14/11/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

15/11/1997        MRO Quiz Night, Priddy Village Hall, 7pm.  Teams of 6 Cash Prizes. 
                        £20 per team to include supper (Alan Butcher to register teams)

05/12/1997        BEC Committee Meeting

06/12/1997        CSCC Meeting

02/01/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/01/1998        Cavers Stomp, Priddy Village Hall organised by Axbridge Caving Group. Tickets from Hunters/Bat Products £5 in advance.  £6 on the door (Gwen Cindy Andrea)

06/02/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

07/02/1998        CSCC Meeting

06/03/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/04/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

01/05/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

16/05/1998        CSCC Meeting

05/06/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/07/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

4-5/7/98            Cavers Fair, Mendip

07/08/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

04/09/1998        BEC Committee Meeting

03/10/1998        BEC AGM and Dinner