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

Committee Members

Secretary: Nigel Taylor
Treasurer: Chris Smart
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Estelle Sandford
Caving Secretary: Andy Thomas
Tackle Master: Mike Willett
Hut Engineer: Nick Mitchell
Hut Warden: Becky Campbell
Librarian and Floating member: Alex Gee


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Sorry for the BB being slightly late, but as you can see this is a bumper edition and hopefully well worth waiting for; it comes complete with the Thailand 98 caving report.

My apologies to the people who have sent me articles that I haven't printed in this BB.  The printing company's saddle-stitching machine can only cope with 72 pages (original) so they will be in the next BB.

How many of you guessed the cave in the last BB.  It was Shatter Passage in Swildons and the individual in the photo was Pete Rose. Have a go at this one and you could actually win a prize if you get the cave locations right.

I am getting a lot of promises for articles for future BB’s, please can you try and get these to me as soon as possible so I can plan ahead for the contents of the BB’s.

The cut of for the next BB is 10th March 1999.  This is about a month late as I am in India, so unless anyone fancies doing the BB for me, it will have to wait until I get back!!  I would really appreciate if anyone has any articles for this one to let me know during January so I have a bit of an idea what to expect.

(Note: I have put the cut off and due dates for all next years BB’s in the rolling calendar- hopefully this will help a bit with the timing of articles)


Letters and articles in the BB are not necessarily the views of the Editor, the BEC Committee or the club in general.


Caving and BEC News

*** Reminder***

Don't forget to pay your membership fees by the 31/12/98 to take advantage of the reduced rates of £24 for single and £38 for joint.  Please note that anyone who has not paid their membership will receive no further Belfry Bulletins, until their fees are paid. We cannot guarantee to hold any Belfry Bulletins you may have missed due to late payment.

BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match - 2nd January 1999

Don't forget to come along and support your club for this annual challenge.  As usual it is being held in the New Inn at Priddy.  'Ball bowling' will start at 7pm.


Photos are still required for the photo-board at the Belfry and also the Belfry Bulletin.  Slides or prints or pre-scanned files are all more than welcome.  I will return any slides or prints that are sent to me once copies have been made or they have been scanned in.  Ed.

BEC Stomp

The BEC are holding a stomp on 30th January 1999.  This may well be fancy dress, so keep an eye open for the posters nearer the time. Tickets will be available from the usual outlets: Bat Products, Hunters and Committee members.  Please contact Roz Bateman for more information.


Burrington Cave Atlas

I am hoping to get the Burrington cave Atlas out in the early part of next year.  I am still lacking in photos for this, so if anyone has any Burrington photos, recent or historic please send them to Estelle address in the front cover - I will return all pictures that are sent to me.

Diggers Dinner and Disco

This was held at the Wookey Hole Inn on 21st of November.  For anyone who didn't attend, you missed one of the best party nights of the year.  Well done to Vince Simmonds for organising a very enjoyable event.


Is anyone interested in snowboarding?  Carol 'Whitemeg' White is looking for people who are interested in snowboarding in the Alps during the first 2 weeks of February.  Caravan accommodation is £250 divided by the number of people sharing. Carol can be contacted during the day on 01452 xxxxxx


I have had some response to this, but I know there are many more of you out there who have nicknames, so come on tell me how they came about.  Ed.

BEC Computer

We should have a computer, capable of doing what is required, in the library before the New Year. (As long as I get time to build it!!!) Thanks for the donations of bits so far. Ed.

Cave Diving

For anyone wishing to try cave diving, read P.46 of the new Bristol Yellow Pages.  Neatly located under the 'Highs and Lows' (as opposed to the 'Fun for Kids') page, along with the Wookey Hole Showcaves advert ('Fun for Kids'!) and Cheddar Caves' 'Adventure caving' advert, Dany (B.O.W.) Bradshaw has an advert for his 'Regular cave dives' using 'some of the most advanced equipment in the country to negotiate the caves flooded tunnels and passages’.

Feel free to contact Dany for more details!!  I 'spec he will not be amused!!

Excess Hot Air

Readers will be pleased to hear that one of the hot air balloons soon to attempt the Trans-world challenge, and piloted by Andy Elson of Wells, will be sporting several "Bertie" stickers.  We hope it brings them luck and that they get 'Everywhere' they want to go.

Out thanks to Andy (a Hunters' devotee) for sticking them in the gondola where larger and richer organisations have been refused.  Watch out for them on the telly.  J'Rat


Mike Dewdney-York and P.B."Jesos" Smith - reminiscences.

In a bad week during November the writer lost two good friends of over thirty years standing and the caving world lost two great Characters.

Mike York, renowned Wessex Cave Club hut warden and librarian died instantly of a massive heart attack.  I am informed that he had a smile on his face and we can only speculate that at the time he was foreseeing the banning of the BEC from his wake barrel!  Never famous for his caving enthusiasm (not many caves being big enough for his massive figure) his contribution to the Mendip scene lay in his personality and knowledge of speleological literature.  His bookbinding skills were appreciated by many.  His physical size and hirsute nature ensured that he stood out in any pub. I well remember a trip to Co. Clare many years ago when, decked out in his usual tatty fisherman's smock, he was photographed by hordes of American tourists as he whittled a bit of wood in O'Connor's Bar.  They obviously couldn't tell the difference between a Jewish Portland, Dorset accent and that of a Clare man!  Still, he was kept in Guinness for the day .....

The Hill, and particularly Upper Pitts, will not be quite the same without him.

Pete "Jesus" Smith, generally known as PB, was a character of similar vintage and obstreperousness.  He dedicated much of his caving career to digging in the Peak District - especially in Peak Cavern - as a member of BSA and later TSG.  He, also, had a great interest in caving literature and put much work into the BSA/BCRA library.

He died from the results of an eight foot fall from scaffolding while at work in Leeds an ironic death for such a skilled engineer and digger whose magnificent scaffold headframe was much admired at the last BCRA Conference.

I always considered him to be immortal.  On an early Berger trip his van full of (probably pissed) Derbyshire cavers left the track to La Moliere and was stopped from a 2,000 foot drop by a tree - from which one of the doors had to be pulled out as it was embedded like an axe blade! He drove the van back to Sheffield.

Not long ago he broke his ankle in Cuthbert's and had the further misfortune of finding that Jane was casualty nurse at Weston A&E.  Being of a thrifty nature he refused to have his wet sock cut off and the air turned blue when Jane, delighted with the opportunity, pulled it off instead.  He was later very grateful for her services.

As a mainstay of Derbyshire caving and an old Shepton Mallet CC member he will be sorely missed in both areas.

Cheers fellas - see you in the Big Hunters' in the Sky.


P.B. Smith

PB was a good friend of mine and I know will be sadly missed by many people.

I have many good memories, but the picture that will always stick in my mind of PB, is the Cuthbert's rescue.  I was leading the trip and just up from Plantation Junction, this voice from below calmly called up saying, "This rock just fell out of the roof, brushed past my shoulder and landed on my foot and has broken it!"  My comment back was something about damaging the cave and to get a move on up the slope, as I didn't believe him, as he was so calm! He assured me that he was serious, and apart from a lifeline up Arête pitch and the Entrance Rift, he did the most fantastic self-rescue I have seen.  The hospital trip afterwards was very humorous as Jane Jarratt was on duty in casualty and didn't give him any sympathy, as was the pub after; he took great pride in using it as an excuse to get everyone else to go to the bar for him!

Derbyshire and the BCRA conferences will never be the same without him.

Estelle (Ed.)

P.B. Smith

On 19th November 1998, Derbyshire and the caving world lost one of its 'real' characters, Pete Smith (PB) after a fatal accident on a building site whilst at work.

PB was one of the first cavers I met when I started caving in 1993.  He introduced me to the art of digging and when I was back in Mansfield during university holidays, I joined him on several occasions in Blue John Cavern on digging trips.  He was always a very active caver, digger and a supporter of caving events.  I have so many good memories of antics at BCRA conferences, digging, caving in France last year and in particular the way he always greeted me with a big smile and a hug.

Most cavers who have been on the caving scene for years or those that have caved in Derbyshire will have known PB, and know that he will be very much missed.

Emma Porter


Hazelnut Swallet

By Mike Willett

This interesting cave is situated in Biddlecombe valley, the foot of which lies just outside Wells, and rises past West Horrington.  It can be accessed at the top on the opposite side of the road from Pen Hill Mast. Digging at this site first started in 1986 by the Independent speleo Group, who opened up the entrance chamber to the cave after much hard work damming it off from the stream, and securing the entrance.  Our interest in this dig site was aroused in the Easter period of 97, after Adrian Hole, Nick Mitchell and myself were forced out of Beryl Rift a few hundred yards down valley from Hazelnut Swallet, due to regular flooding of the dig.  The ISG kindly allowed us to have Hazelnut Swallet, as they had not made much more progress since their last efforts in 1988.  The dig is situated about halfway down-valley just past West Horrington in the left-hand bank; it has a grill over the entrance.

It has been proven that the water sinking in Biddlecombe valley resurges at the springs at St Andrews Well in Wells.  It would be true to say that the hopes for the dig are, that Hazelnut Swallet could give us access to whatever cave system there is under this part of Mendip, draining the Pen Hill, Haydon Drove and West Horrington area.  It certainly does not seem improbable that a streamway could be met holding the water from Haydon Drove and Slab House Swallets and other sinks in the area.  Either way the potential is there for a sizeable cave system in this area.  If it will lead us storming down great cave passages, to the underground river that feeds the springs in Wells, only time and digging will tell.

Sadly for his friends, Adrian had to move to Gloucester for his career in teaching.  When Nick and I took over the dig in April 97 we knew after looking at the body length section of passage at the bottom left hand comer of the chamber, that we had a long job on our hands.  The way on looked much smaller than body-size, but continued for as far as our lights could see, so the next few months went as follows:

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log for 1997


13TH  We prepared the dig, clearing the streambed and leaving a digging skip and ropes.

19TH  Banged by John Attwood and Nick.  This was a very effective bang, which shattered the rock and calcite for a few feet. After the initial spoil was cleared, our next twice weekly visits until the end of April were spent chiselling the well fractured rock and clearing the stream bed of loose rocks.


3RD  Due to a bang shortage we decided to give Hilti caps a try.  This method worked very well for the first two bangs gaining a couple of feet, until the third attempt when I managed to blow a neat hole through my little finger, and peppered the side of my hand with shrapnel. Nick and I left for the pub at this point, leaving a spoil heap to clear on our next trip.

10TH  Cleared spoil from last visit.

13TH  Had a session chiselling with some success.  A large calcited slab was pulled out making the way on easier to see.

15TH  Drilled two good shotholes ready for banging. 

17TH  Banged by John Attwood.

18TH  Cleared bang gaining a few feet.

20TH  One hole was drilled 14mm diameter the full length of bit. (600mm)

22ND  A second hole was drilled 14mm, but only half the length of drill bit, due to a weak battery.

25TH  Banged by John Attwood.

27TH  Clearing trip.

29TH  Drilled two and a half holes 12mm diameter.


8TH  Re-drilled holes increased length to 600mm and banged by Nick Williams and friend.

10TH  Clearing trip.

12TH  Drilling trip, not successful due to lack of room for manoeuvring.

14TH  Used a Kango hammer after carrying Nick's generator to the dig, which made us a little more room for drilling.

17TH  Nick Mitchell showed Pete Flannagan of the ISG, the progress we were making.

19TH  Carrying Nick's generator down to the dig and running the cables to the dig face, we drilled six good shotholes.  (14mm diameter, 600mm long.)

22ND  Dig banged by Tony Jarratt.  (Very loud.)

27TH  Clearing trip.  Lots of spoil to clear, of which we cleared about half because Nick and I were feeling a bit rough.

29TH  Second clearing trip.  After removing all the spoil and chiselling away at a calcite constriction, a breakthrough looks inevitable into roomier passage after the next bang!


1ST  Carried Nick's generator to the dig again, and drilled four holes (600mm long 14mm diameter.)

2ND  Banged by Tony Jarratt.

3RD  Breakthrough!!  Cleared debris to get an estimated eight feet of small passage with a little grotto on the right. The way on is straight ahead and looks like it will mean more banging again.

10TH  Antony Butcher helped us with a lot of gardening work in tidying up the breakthrough squeeze and clearing digging spoil from the entrance chamber.

15TH  Antony accompanied us again, although not much was achieved.  We had a go at chiselling and cleared a couple of bags of gravel.

17TH  Helped again by Anthony we carried the generator to the dig and drilled two holes 600mm long. There was no good surface to drill a third because of manoeuvring with a long drill bit.

This marked the end of our efforts for 97, due to a long spell of very wet weather and the beginning of the drinking season.  I have noted on my calendar a visit in February of 1998, when Nick and I cleared the dig of washed in debris and had a hammer at the end.  Our efforts in 97 had given us a total dig length of 47 feet. The end of the dig carries on smaller than body size for about twelve feet where it looks as though a cross rift or comer will be met.

Hazelnut Swallet Digging log 1998.


14TH  Dig Banged by Nick Mitchell and Graham Johnson (Jake).

16TH  Nick, Jake and Becca Campbell.  Cleared spoil, drilled and banged again.

17TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Blue (Nick's dog.)  Started clearing shite of which there was plenty.

19TH  Mike, Nick, Becca, Jake and Blue.  Carried on clearing then drilled and banged.

21ST  Nick, Jake and Becca with subterranean Blue.  Partial clearance, drilled and banged.  Becca pushed to inlet soon to be reached by the rest of us, which appears interesting but we have yet to see round the corner.

26TH  Nick, Mike, Jake and Paul Brock.  Clearing trip.

29TH  Nick, Jake and Becca.  Enlarged calcite squeeze to allow passage of the digging skip to the end. Hammered at the end.


1ST  Tony Jarratt, Jake, and Nick banged the dig.

2ND  Nick, Jake, Becca, Paul and Blue x 2 cleared the end of a bit of rubble.

4TH  Jake and Chris of the Oxford DCC.  Banged dig ("Biddlecombe did fair echo." Wrote Jake.)

9TH  Mike, Nick, Jake and Richard Blake.  The future looks good, the last bang did better than most.  We managed to see around the comer at a low calcite constricted duck.  To get at the duck properly we need to bang off the comer.

14TH  Jake, Rich and Tony Jarratt banged the comer.

15TH  Nick, Jake, Becca and Richard.  Cleared the bang but it still needs another.

16TH  Jake and Mike returned to drill and bang the dig.

21ST  Nick, Christina, Jake, Becca and Mike.  The last two bangs had made us good progress along the passage to a point where the small stream turned right, into a very low duck.  The debris was cleared and the low arch of the duck hammered, this enabled me to just squeeze my head through and look into a small well decorated chamber. Becca Campbell managed to sit up in the chamber.  It was decided to return with a good chisel to enlarge the duck.

23RD  Nick, Mike, Jake, Becca, Richard.  We managed to enlarge the duck and slide through it into a small chamber, enough to sit up in, with a nice grotto. The way on is down a small rift opposite the duck, which will require a couple of bangs.

25TH  Banged by Richard Blake and Tony Jarratt.


5TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  An unexpected breakthrough!  Cleared the debris and after a lot of smashing about and falling loose boulders, squeezed into a sizeable chamber, although still low the chamber is about ten feet wide sloping down dip with a vadose trench in the floor.  At the bottom end of the chamber there are two passages, the way on appears to be in the left passage which needs rocks hauled out of it. It was getting late for the pub so we decided to push it on our next trip.

7TH  Nick, Mike and Jake.  Nick pushed the left passage and passed back lots of rocks to produce a flat out crawl down to a calcite constriction, which you can look through into a hands and knees size passage bearing a sizeable stream, most probably the water sinking in Biddlecombe Swallet and the stream bed outside the cave. One good bang and we should be through!

8TH  Tony Jarratt and Ivan Sandford banged the constriction.

11TH  Becca, Jake, Nick, Mike.  The bang obliterated the squeeze to allow access to about eight feet of streamway, coming from a small inlet passage on the right.  The stream flows straight ahead for its short length, and at the end appears to turn sharp left under what looks like another duck or low, very wet crawl.  There appears to be a good draught, which is good but makes digging a cold, wet job, so it looks like wetsuits all round.  Jake and Becca surveyed the cave to the duck.  The way on for now needs more chiselling and the streambed dug out.



BCRA Regional Meet



Tai Rom Yen 1998

Editor – Rob Harper, BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS.


This is an account of a short reconnaissance trip made during January of 1998 to assess the speleological potential of the Tai Rom Yen National Park in Surat Thani Province in Southern Thailand.  It was a joint project involving both Thai and British cavers as well as employees of the Royal Forestry Department of Thailand.

The Tai Rom Yen National Park is situated near Surat Thani approximately 640km south of Bangkok on the eastern side of the peninsula.


Tony Boycott - (UK)                          Bristol Exploration Club

Rob Harper - (UK)                             Bristol Exploration Club

Dean Smart - (Thailand)                    Royal Forestry Dept.

Anukoon Sorn-Ek - (Thailand)            Royal Forestry Dept.


We are very grateful for all the help and generous hospitality received from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department in the Tai Rom Yen National Park.

In particular ....

Chief ..................................................................... Sunlit Sirichot

Assistant Chief ...................................................... Somsak Suphanpradit

Head of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station .................. Racheng Ranthaphun

Head of Khong Ngai Ranger Station ......................... Nara Kongkhiaw

Rangers ................................................................ Saming Musikawong

............................................................................. Banjong Niyarat

............................................................................. Jetsada Maneechai

............................................................................. Jarin Meunsawat

............................................................................. Saengthawee Hanprachum

............................................................................. Somcheua Romkhiri

............................................................................. Somyot Saejeu

............................................................................. Somdet Saejeu

............................................................................. Liem Kaeonark

............................................................................. Chorb Chaidet

............................................................................. Prayut Lorbthong

............................................................................. Chaliew Klingklaow

............................................................................. Sithichoke Heetket


The karst and caves of Thai Rom Yen National Park are all formed in limestones of Permian age (c.275-235ma) called the Ratburi Group.  This limestone is found throughout Thailand, except for the north east. It is hard, massively bedded and light to dark grey in colour.  At Tai Rom Yen, metamorphic processes have altered the rock to marble and many, white calcite-filled fractures criss-cross through it.

During the Permian period, Thailand was positioned upside down on the equator.  Tectonic activity was quiet and a stable platform developed in a warm, shallow sea - an ideal habitat for shelled marine creatures. The shells of these animals accumulated up to 2,000m thickness. Fossils of the Ratburi group include brachiopods, corals, gastropods and fusilinids.

Later, during the Triassic period (c.225-190ma) Thailand drifted northwards, span around 180 degrees and collided with Indo-China.  Marine sandstones and shales were deposited on top of the limestone as the sea became deeper.  Granite plutons pushed upwards through the Earth's crust.  Heat from the granites turned the limestone into marble and the increased pressure fractured it severely, forming the calcite veins.

Further tectonic movements in the Cretaceous period (c.135-65ma) faulted and uplifted the rocks into mountains.  Erosion began and the karst landscape we see today started forming.

Finally, in the last 2 million years, rivers eroded sediments from the mountains and deposited them as the flat plains surrounding the area.  Relative sea level changes of up to 300m in amplitude have also helped to shape the local scenery.

Karst in Tai Rom Yen National Park presents a variety of forms.  There are isolated remnants of limestone on top of a granite base, as seen near the headquarters.  Caves here are short, inactive parts of much older, longer systems which carried underground streams.  Erosion of the limestone broke up the old caves and diverted the streams onto the surface.  Tham Ngu is a good example.  A single active cave, Tham Nam Lod, is small and probably young in age.

More extensive areas of karst in the northern part of the park contain longer underground cave systems up to 4km in length.  Here, dolines capture rainwater falling on the limestone and streams flowing off the granite and sandstone sink at the edge of the karst.  The water emerges again at caves such as Tham Khlong Wat, Tham Huai Khang Khao and Tham Huai Sit.  These caves are quite small in size and their passage shapes suggest that they are also young in age (especially Tham Huai Sit).  Large, inactive, upper level caves do exist as at Tham Men. These caves are much older.

Khao Nan Daeng is an example of a karst ridge, aligned with the general geological structure of the area (N-S).  Bedding planes in the limestone are near vertical and also aligned N-S, but the ridge probably formed by fault movement on either side.  Caves here include ancient, inactive caves, such as Tham Men, and younger, active caves carrying a stream through the ridge, e.g. Tham PIa.

All of the caves in Tai Rom Yen have an origin in the phreatic zone (beneath the water table). Round chambers and smooth walls (Tham Men and Tham Men) are evidence of this.  The younger, still active caves are developing partly in the phreatic zone when rainy season floods fill the caves to the roof (round to oval passage cross sections in Tham PIa, Tham Khlong Wat, etc.) and partly in the vadose zone (above the water table) during the dry season.  Tham Kraduk is also originally phreatic.  Here though, the cave has a very flat roof due to near static water from the surrounding marsh entering the cave and evenly dissolving away the roof.





The caves examined were in four areas.

1. Khao Nan Daeng

This sharp limestone ridge starts approximately 1 km North-East of the town of Amphoe Ban Na San and runs approximately North for about 5 km rising to a height of 300m and varying in width from 0.2 to 0.5 km.   Although many cave entrances are visible, only three systems were visited on this trip.

Tham Men ("Smelly Cave")


The Buddhist temple beside the lower entrance to this cave is easily seen from the main road from Amphoe Ban Na San to Ban Khlong Ha.  Drive towards the temple and then follow the road beside this temple to the North until a signpost on the right hand side with a picture of the cave.  From here, an obvious path leads up the hillside to the main entrance.


From the large entrance chamber two passages lead on.

To the right, a complex maze of small phreatic passages eventually leads to single low passage heading to a lower entrance directly above the temple.

Straight ahead, a low stoop leads to a rift approximately 10m deep, (fixed ladder in situ).  At the bottom left leads to a small series of rift passages which were not pushed to a conclusion while right leads to a series of large dry fossil passages with good formations.

At one point, a series of pitches can be seen descending to a possible lower level but these were not descended owing to lack of tackle.

This cave was not surveyed owing to a lack of time.  A Grade 1/2 survey done by local cavers would indicate approximately 2km of known passage.

Tham Kraduk ("Bone Cave")


From Tham Men follow the road North paralleling the western side of the ridge for approximately 3kms then turn right along tracks heading towards the base of the cliff.  At the narrowest point of the ridge below a col is a stream resurging from a cave (Tham Pla) Tham Kraduk is found at the base of the cliff approximately 300m to the South. Local guidance is extremely useful.


Depressing series of low phreatic mud floored passages and occasional crossrifts.

From the entrance crawl a passage to the right 2 to 4m wide and approximately 1m high parallels the cliff face and daylight can be seen through a small hole on the right hand side.  This passage ends in a wide chamber.  About 10m from the start of this passage, another passage on the left-hand side can be followed past several cross rifts to a small sump in a rift in the floor. The passage to the right of the sump closes down within a short distance


Tham PIa ("Fish Cave")


See Tham Kraduk


Follow the stream to its resurgence, underneath a huge boulder, at the base of the cliff.  Climbing over this boulder allows access to a rift dropping into waist-deep water.  A stooping sized passage quickly leads to a short gravel floored crawl and after approx.  10m this opens out into a large river passage.  This can be followed upstream.  Passage dimensions vary between l0x6m to 5x5m with occasional low stoops and a short section of swimming at a duck to end in a large boulder ruckle.  Several small passages and low ducks allow penetration of this ruckle but no way through could be found.  There may be a passage over the top but this could not be reached.  According to local people, this boulder ruckle is only just inside the entrance of the stream sink on the opposite side of the ridge.

Several parallel/oxbow passages were noted.

2. Near Tai Rom Yen National Park Headquarters.

Tham Ngu ("Snake Cave")


At the "T" junction at the end of the road from the Park Headquarters turn right and stop at a rubber plantation on the right after approx. 3km. The cave is located high on the hill behind this plantation.  Follow the path from the plantation across the stream and follow a poorly defined gully. Local guidance is essential.


A large and very well decorated entrance chamber leads to two short walking passages either side of a pillar.  These quickly unite shortly before the cave ends at a series of dry gours home to a sizeable snake.

Bamboo Rat in Tham Nam Lod – Photo: Tony Boycott

Cave Racer snake in Tham Ngu – Photo: Tony Boucott


Tham Nam Lod ("Stream Cave")


In the slopes directly opposite the Park Headquarters.  From the road drop down into the valley and cross the stream to an old abandoned banana plantation.  From here, follow the small stream up to the cave from which it resurges. Local guidance is extremely useful.


From the entrance a single stooping height gravel floored passage ends after about 30m at a small sump.  A small phreatic tube to the left of the sump rapidly becomes too tight and is home for a bamboo rat!

3. Near Phetphanomwat Field Station.

Tham Khlone: Wat ("Temple Stream Cave'')


From the field station, follow the obvious path on the opposite side of the road down into the valley meeting the stream at a small Buddhist shrine. Although the cave can be entered via the resurgence of this stream, it is simpler to follow the small cliff around to the left for approximately 30 to 40m to an obvious flood resurgence.


The walking sized passage is followed until the main stream passage is encountered.  From here the stream can be followed along a winding passage via a series of pools some of which require swimming to a stal blockage with the stream emerging.

A short crawl and two ducks under the stal blockage lead to a short cascade and then a deep sump.

Above the stal blockage, a rift passage can be followed to a second stal blockage probably at the same level as the sump.

On the left hand side of the passage about 20m towards the entrance from the stal blockage is a short inlet passage.

There are several inlet and outlet passages near the entrance.

Tham Huai Khang Khao ("Bat Cave")


This cave is located in the hill behind the field station.  From the field station head slightly right up the hill and follow a shallow streambed, and a black water pipe, to the entrance of this resurgence cave.


A large passage with silt banks leads to a gloomy stream passage with many bats.  Walking and wading eventually leads to a sump after approximately 170m.

Near the entrance, there are several outlet passages some of which lead to alternative entrances. In one passage a fossilised elephant tooth was found.

The only inlet passage on the right hand side about 35m downstream from the sump rapidly ends in a loose boulder choke.


Fossil Elephant molar in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott

Frig in Tham Huai Khang Khao – Photo: Tony Boycott     

4. Huai Sit

Tham Huai Sit 1& 2 ("Sit's Stream Cave 1 & 2")


From the village, follow the obvious river upstream to its resurgence from underneath a pile of boulders.  The entrance to Huai Sit 1 is an intermittently active stream passage in a 3m deep cleft approximately 30m along the base of the hill to the right. Huai Sit 2 is the obvious 2mdiameter passage heading into the hill about 10m further round and about 10m higher up the hill.


Huai Sit 1

A narrow hading rift passage is followed to a cross-rift which debouches into the large main stream passage.

Upstream the passage enlarges at a boulder pile with the stream emerging from a sump immediately beyond.  A sand-choked rift above the sump emits an impressive draught.  Downstream swimming around a comer leads to a further 30m of swimming to another sump, which must be very close to the surface.

Huai Sit 2

The impressive passage rapidly deteriorates into loose tight muddy rifts with bad air to a sump. The side passages revealed nothing of significance.

Tham Men (“Porcupine Cave”)

Rob Harper in entrance to Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott

Gecko on curtain in Tham men (Huai Sit) – Photo – Tony Boycott


From either Huai Sit 1 or 2 head directly upslope for about 40 to 50m. The cave is located in an indistinct gully at the base of a small cliff.  This is not easy to find - even the locals did not know that it was there!


The entrance squeeze leads down slope over hard packed silt passing over a blind shaft in the floor (bad air) and enlarges to approx. 10x10m at a chamber. Much evidence of porcupines throughout the cave.

From this chamber, a walking passage can be followed to a stal obstruction. A low crawl on the right leads to a short hands and knees crawl to a static sump.  This passage contains many dusty formations including gour pools and false floors as well as evidence of intermittent flooding.

The only significant side passage leads from the true right hand side of the large chamber near the entrance.  A rising passage leads for 40m through a series of small chambers to a point that must be very close to the surface.

5. Other unvisited caves in the area:

Unnamed Cave


Southern end of Khao Nam Daeng


Flooded in all but the dry season when a very muddy, wet passage can be followed for several hundred metres.

Tham Mek


In cliff face above and behind the park headquarters.


Rock shelter containing gour pools and bees' nests.

Tham Khi Khang Khao


1 hrs walk E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station.


Small dry cave used by locals for extraction of guano.

Tham Nam Sap


1hrs walk N of Tham Khi Khang Khao


Probably a stream sink cave.  No further details.

Tham Nam Lod


To the E of Phetphanomwat Ranger Station the Nai Chong, Wat and Kong Chang streams join and sink into a cave at about G.R. 584 874.


A large stream sink which is possibly choked with logs.  No further details.


The caves explored contained a large population of animals.  The high-energy tropical environment of most caves with frequent floods and multiple entrance systems favours large populations, mostly of troglophiles and trogloxenes, but some true troglobites were seen.  Many bats were seen, of at least two different species, but surprisingly no fruit bats were seen.

As a small reconnaissance expedition, we were not intending to collect any biological specimens.  The elephant molar found in Tham Khang Khao has not yet been specifically identified.  However, a bat skeleton found in Tham Men ("Smelly Cave") has been identified.  It could be one of four similar species, but we are most confident that it is a Hipposideros lekaguli.  This is quite a rare species of bat that is native to Thailand and this population would probably merit further evaluation.

Fauna List

(Species without cave name in brackets were seen in most caves visited.)


Fossil elephant molar                                               (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Porcupine spines and tracks (Hystrix spp.)                (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

                                                                              (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Rhinolophus bats (at least two different species)

Bamboo Rat (Rhizomys sinensis)                                                (Tham Nam Lod)


Cave Racer Snake (Elaphae taeniura)                        (Tham Kraduk)

                                                                              (Tham Ngu)

Unidentified tube-nosed turtle                                    (Tham Khlong Wat)

Frogs & Toads (pigmented surface species)               (All stream caves)

Banded geckos                                                       (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])


Fish (surface species, pigmented with eyes)              (All stream caves)

Catfish (surface form)                                               (Tham Khlong Wat)


Crabs (Pale orange)                                                 (Tham Khlong Wat)

                                                                              (Tham Huai Khang Khao)

Huntsman spiders                                                    (Tham Men ["Smelly Cave"])

Tarantula spiders                                                     (Tham Men ["Porcupine Cave"])

Ixodid ticks

Millipedes (white and pigmented)

Crickets (white)


Whip Scorpions



Diptera larvae



All the surveys were to BCRA Grade 3b unless otherwise stated.  Bearings and inclinations were measured using a hand held Suunto compass and a hand held Suunto clinometer both of which were read to the nearest degree. Distances were measured using a 30m fibron tape measured to the nearest 5cms.

The survey data was processed and a centre line plotted using "COMPASS" software.

The UTM co-ordinates for the cave entrances were obtained by using a GARMIN "12XL" hand held GPS receiver.  Because of the difficulty of using these instruments in thick jungle terrain in some cases a rough surface survey was made to the nearest clearing where the requisite number of satellites for an accurate fix could be located by the GPS.

So for .....

THAM HUAI KHANG KHAO the cave entrance is approximately 100m from the UTM coordinated position on a bearing of 050deg. mag. 

THAM HUAI SIT 1&2 and THAM MEN the cave entrances are approximately 500m from the UTM co-ordinated position on a bearing of 045deg. mag.

The cave plans published in this report are intended as a map for future explorers. There is sufficient information provided to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of the work already done. Plan view has been used throughout, as there is little significant vertical range in any of the caves surveyed.  If further details are required then please contact the expedition members.


In a period of less than two weeks four cavers with help from the employees of the Royal Forestry Department mapped and photographed over 2.7 Km of cave passage.  Because of the constraints of time efforts were concentrated mainly on the easily accessible resurgence caves.  However, information from the National Park Rangers indicates that there are many other sites worthy of investigation.  In addition, topographical maps of the region show a number of streams sinks in the higher parts of the park with considerable scope for both long and deep cave development.

Besides sporting interest, the caves provide a home to many species of animals including a rare species of bat.  They contain potentially important palaeontological and palaeozoological data - as evidenced by the fossilised elephant's tooth.

This short reconnaissance trip has shown that there is significant potential for further speleological exploration in the Tai Romyen National Park.  It is vital that these caves are mapped and surveyed so that they can be integrated into the overall management plan for this beautiful area.



Five Buddles Sink - A Lost Cave Rediscovered - Part 2

(Continued from BB 494, Vol. 50 no. I, December 1997.)

By Tony Jarratt

"The Mendip Lead Mines was our attraction,
In those days there was no compulsory education.
To the mines we had six miles to walk and very poor pay,
For ten hours work we got sixpence a day."

Jesse Lovell of Compton Martin - born in 1847 and referring to the Charterhouse workings before 1871. From Coal Mining in Bishop Sutton, North Somerset. c. 1799-1929 by ~J. Williams, 1976.


Throughout December 1997 and January 1998 work continued on clearing the shaft and repairing the roadside walls with the extracted rocks. A long miner's iron bar was found by Estelle and used again after over 100 years of inaction.     Various large boulders were banged including several which slid into the shaft from the natural area above the connection point during the Christmas holiday week.  The slow but very powerful winch used at Stock Hill Mine Cave was erected on site and used to haul six loads at a time from the shaft.  With the surface wall repairs complete the excess rock was dumped across the road for future use by Somerset Trust in repairing the Mineries Pool dam.  Continued wet weather ensured that a healthy stream regularly ran through the Old Mens' Passage (as the enlarged natural streamway had been named) to flood the low passage above the "sumped" area below the mineshaft.  When there were insufficient personnel for hauling spoil, work concentrated on clearing this passage to reveal the timbered floor and miners' stone walling along its sides (photo 7). 

Left Photo 1. The MCG Winch at Cornish Shaft - photo: Tony Jarratt

As "man-hauling" and the use of the slow winch were both becoming, literally, a pain, we approached Wayne Hiscox of the Mendip Caving Group for the loan of their motorised winch - not used since the Wigmore Swallet dig twenty years ago!  They happily agreed - for which our grateful thanks. This was fettled by Ivan and on 31st January a strong but distinctly wobbly team converted the shaft tripod into a coalmine-like headgear and, after attaching the winch, successfully hauled out about 20 full skiploads.

On the following day a big team winched out over 80 more loads to the entertainment of hordes of walkers.  A three-man team repeated this performance in peace and quiet on the Monday.

The huge limestone slabs wedged across the connection point between the shaft and Old Men’s Passage were banged and removed to leave a very impressive junction far bigger than that seen by the nineteenth century miners.  On 5th February more clearing of the shaft revealed a shothole 12" long x 1,1/2" wide at the top x 1,3/8" at the bottom which had been driven vertically downwards in the NE wall near the shaft floor.  A small wooden "spatula" was later found near this and was presumably used to scrape clay from mining equipment.

Having now reached the (temporary) base of the shaft at a depth of over 30ft work commenced on clearing the lead tailings-filled crawl downstream.  The drop down to the "sump" was flooded at 5ft depth so for want of anything better to do a muddy alcove above it was cleared out by Jake Baynes to reveal it as the start of an almost completely filled natural/mined passage trending back towards Wheel Pit across the road.  A 7" x l" shothole segment was found in the ceiling and the infill of thick, sticky black and ochre clay contained many pieces of wood and two more wooden rollers - these having metal "cogwheels" on one end and small axles on the other.  They matched in size that found previously and illustrated in BB No.494. They resemble the rollers from an old fashioned mangle (but are shorter) and may indeed be such, though what they were doing at a lead washing plant is open to question - perhaps the "slaggers" wrung out their wet clothing at the end of the day.  A more likely possibility is that they were purpose built for some form of winding or haulage system, despite the fact that they show no signs of rope wear.  They are in the writer's possession and available for inspection should any reader care to speculate on their purpose.

Very wet weather during the next two months restricted our digging activities but despite this several hundred bags of spoil, generally from the area near the shaft bottom, reached surface. The Old Men’s wooden floor at the start of the downstream section was once again revealed and cleared of mud and the dug "dry" level earned the name Tailings Passage as we couldn't think of anything more fitting!

In this passage, once the hot and dry weather commenced, a vast amount of the custard-like infill was dug out.  Part way along a wooden prop was unearthed on the N side - still failing to support the perfectly solid ceiling beneath which it was wedged over a century ago! (Photo 5 and 6)

On April 1st, appropriately, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch visited the dig to assist and take stereo photos of the operation with which to impress their Basque and German colleagues.  Meanwhile, above, a curious passing policeman was almost persuaded by Trevor to help with the bag emptying!

On 13th May the Tailings Passage dig reached a blank rock wall with large planks of timber buried in the clay below.  These were pulled out by Rich Blake, as was a 4" diameter section of prop with a nail in the end.  As the dig started to fill with water he realised that he had literally "pulled the plug out" but luckily there was only a trickle and even this may have been caused by the raging thunderstorm on the surface which was driving the hauling team to unaccustomed labour underground.

The following week Jake B. removed more wood here to reveal an apparently natural flooded rift below - previously capped by the Old Men.  More wooden floor was revealed in this passage and later found to extend its full length.  It was almost certainly installed throughout the workings to make shovelling and sledging of the tailings easier as in Upper Flood Swallet (Stanton 1976).  Above the floor the infill generally consisted of around 3" of up to fist-sized stones set solidly in red clay, an inch or so of black and coarse gravel, a couple of inches of fine grey or black laminated mud and a few feet of sticky black and ochre clay - this latter deposit possibly being a direct result of sudden floods such as those which occurred when the nearby dam burst in 1900 and 1935.  The former date would account for the abandonment of the wooden sledge and the layer of potentially valuable lead deposits left in situ on the wooden flooring - it being more economically viable to cease operations than to dig out all the inwashed sludge.  A section of these deposits was left under the higher wooden floor near the base of the shaft but further work later required its removal.

On 1st June a double-acting hand pump was installed in Tailings Passage and four large, blue "grot bins" were rapidly filled with water from the rift.  This resulted in the lowering of the flooded "sump" area thus proving their connection.  Further pumping operations continued throughout the month, using the dammed off Old Mens' Passage as a temporary reservoir.  A hired submersible pump, driven by a generator on the surface, proved to be an expensive disappointment when it failed to push the head of water from here up the last 3ft of shaft - 30ft being its limit.  The Cornish Shaft was fitted with scaffolding to enable more concreting to be done below the entrance pipe and to act as a platform to store water drums halfway up the shaft (photo 3).  This was used to good avail on 16th and 17th August when the hired pump was again put into action - this time pumping in two stages. After much frustrating rearrangement of hose-pipes the water was despatched to the surface where it sank near Snake Pit Hole.  Digging then continued below the miners' platform (at the current foot of the Cornish Shaft) which had been measured, photographed and removed to give access to this area (photo 4).

During the next two months digging, pumping and water hauling using 5-gallon drums continued and the underside of the concrete lid surround was consolidated.  One keen, 12-year-old digger even brought his own seaside bucket and spade!  A genuine Cornish miner in the shape of Paul Newcombe, joined the team and became the first "Cousin Jack" in the workings for over 1 00 years!

During the few weeks either side of Priddy Fair the winch and headgear had been removed for safe-keeping and so on 28th September a new headframe - complete with a professional looking steel winding wheel (photo 1) - was erected and most of the bagged spoil stored underground was hauled out.

On 19th October Rich Blake descended Cornish Shaft to find the bottom levels neck deep in water and a large stream flowing in from the Old Mens' Passage.  This put paid to any further work so the cave was emptied of digging gear, the headframe was taken down and the winch removed.  The writer dived in Tailings Passage in the hope of locating the underwater stream exit but was defeated by nil visibility.  It is encouraging to see that the flood levels only back up so far and the incoming stream escapes as fast as it enters. On 1st November the Tailings Passage water level was some 24ft below the flood level in the nearby Wheel Pit Swallet indicating that there is no immediate connection between the two. The large stream flowing into the wheel pit entrance of Five BuddIes is shown in photo 2.

In the meantime digging is being concentrated on the adjacent Stock's House Shafta choked mineshaft with a conspicuous spoil "collar" located on the edge of the forest directly opposite the ruins of Stock's House (an old cottage) and the track to the Waldegrave Works.  A c. 6ft diameter, rock walled shaft is being revealed with an infill of loose rocks - some bearing the remains of shot holes.  A further report on this fascinating area will follow at a future date.

Photo 2. The wheel pit entrance during the heavy rains in November - photo: Tony Jarratt

The Survey

Both of the entrances and that of the adjacent Wheel Pit were levelled to on 3rd June by Trevor Hughes, assisted by Carol White.  They then completed a BCRA grade 5 survey of the cave just as the digging team had cleared the last of the spoil from the impressive wooden floor in Tailings Passage. The writer also assisted Trevor when a surface survey was done soon afterwards.  The survey at the end of this article is the first draft and more details within the cave, such as the wooden floorboards, will be included in later surveys.  It has been photo reduced for BB purposes and will be reprinted in full scale in a later report.


One of the rusted steel milk chums recovered from halfway down Cornish Shaft in the latter part of 1997 bore a 65mm diameter copper plaque - as illustrated.  It may be coincidental that, like the large "botanical beer" container, it originated in Wolverhampton. Perhaps one of our Midlands members would like to research this company?

Thanks to Roger and Jackie Dors, the wooden "skip" recovered from the Cornish Shaft is now on permanent display above the "Sunday Night Table" in the Hunters'. The wooden rollers have been treated with preservative by John Cornwell.


Additional Diggers and Providers of Assistance

Barrie and Daren Jones, Graham Bromley, Bob Cottle, Rich Witcombe, Paul Stillman (WCC/ATLAS), Don Pickrell (MCG), Gary Ford, Daren Whitfield, Ryan Hennessy (the three Gurney Slade Apprentices), Toby Limmer, Mark "Gonzo" Lumley, Wayne Hiscox and the M.C.G., Skippy, Helmut, Michele and Anette Potzsch, Roger Haskett, Carol White, Gwilym "Taff' Evans (Frome CC), Rich Long, Vicki Parker, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Kevin Jones, Ron Wyncoll, Paul Newcombe, Barney Slater, Malcolm Davies, Boo Webster (Orpheus CC) and Tony Boycott.

Tony Jarratt, 17/11/98.



Five Buddles Sink, Chewton Minery (Provisional)
ST 5481 5138  BCRA Grade 5d  June 1998
Original Scales 1:00, 1:120.  Phot reduced for BB
Surveyed by: T. Hughes, C. White, T. Jarratt
Drawn: T. Hughes


From the Austrian Log

Written on the occasion of Vince's birthday by the members of the 1993 Dachstein Expedition while being snowed in at the Weisburghaus.

Ode to Vince on his Geburtstag

And now the end is near,
And so I face the final Stiegl.
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, which I know is feeble.
I've had a right skinful,
I've sampled each and every Goldbrau,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.

Schnapps, I've had a few
But then again too few to mention.
And then I tried a brew
A strange colloquial invention.
It seemed to dull my brain
But thankfully it has all gone now,
And so because of this
I'm very pissed now.
For what is a man, what has he got
If not a beer then he has not


Gwyn and Hilary's Xmas Grot Cavine Menu

By Gwyn Taylor and Hilary Wilson - with the help of a few friends in the pub!!


Poached Wetsocks on Toast

Beer Can and Condom Hedgerow Soup

Carbide and Cheese Dips

Mendip Mud Soup

Main Course

Stuffed Wetsock and Shreddie Souffle

River Shopping Trolley Trout with Almonds

Marinated Mudballs and Rock Chips (Diggers Surprise)

Bat Breasts in Aspic Accompanied by Broken Fingernail Salad

Split Wellington Simmered in Red Wine

Quackers A L'Orange speciality of the Day


Warmbac Sticky Zip Meringue

Crotch Rot Surprise with Custard

Harnessed Chocolate Balls with Ice Cream

Whillans Wedged Itch with Devon Cream


Cheesey Underwear and Biscuits followed by Butcombe and Belch


And then. there is the cave under my cellar ...

By Anette Becher

Having made friends with five German cavers during Meghalaya 1998, I decided to do some proper caving at home, and invited Snablet and myself for a visit.  In the last two weeks of September 1998, Snablet and I set off on a tour of the southern limestone regions of Germany.  We first went to the Franconian Jura (Fdinkische Schweiz).  This limestone area is spectacular with great cliffs and fantastic eroded limestone needles. There are plenty of caves, including some fine showcaves, but most seem to be short and fragmented.  The Franconian Jura is an eastern continuation of the Swabian Jura, the two areas being interrupted by a giant meteorite crater.

Daniel, Georg (Schorsch), Ritschi, Thilo and Uwe are from the Swabian Jura (Schwabische Alb).  From their stories of caving at home, I imagined the Swabian Jura to be fairly similar to Mendip.  We heard of a small, isolated limestone plateau, and of a town, Laichingen, full of cave(r)s.  There were tales of hut building, and of managing and working as guides in a showcave, the 'Laichinger Tiefenhohle' (The deep cave of Laichingen).  Driving up towards the Swabian Jura, still hung over from a night on the Oktoberfest, we quickly realised that there appeared to be a slight difference in scale perception.  The 'small' plateau turned out to be vast.  We later spent hours driving alongside it on our way towards France. The 'town' was medium city size, perhaps as big as Newport, complete with smoking furnaces and giant factory warehouses.  As for being full of cave(r)s, we had difficulty finding the showcave, as it was only signed out at one end of the town.  When we finally got there, it had just closed for the day. Finally, unlike the Franconian Jura and unlike Mendip, this region does not look much like a limestone area.

Fortunately, help in the form of Ritschi was on hand.  A telephone call and a Doner Kebab later, we met at the showcave.  To our great delight we went on a private tour straight away.  But first Ritschi had to count in, and record, his five regular bats. The Tiefenhohle is an -80m deep shaft with several pretty formations and bags worth of history and a museum to boot.  Perhaps the most unusual piece in the museum was a 3m tall replica of the geological strata in the Swabian Jura, built from rock fragments collected by various cavers and geologists.  Using this, Ritschi explained the reasons for horizontal development above a certain impenetrable rock band, and showed the potential for depth across various limestone layers.  Theory predicts that caves would not break into the delta layer, and until recently, Tiefenhohle was considered to have attained the maximum depth potential.  We were then shown the club hut, a lavish affair. Not a bunk or washroom in sight, but instead a modem office with computers, photocopiers, Venetian blinds, etc., etc. Downstairs is entirely devoted to the library and survey library. Ritschi is in charge of both.  I was amazed.  The library is professional and must have cost a fortune; shelves are on rollers with giant wheels to move them from one end of the room to the other. On the caving front, however, things were less amazing. Ritschi admitted to being the only active caver in his club!

Finally, Ritschi showed us the cave under his cellar at home, a mere ten minutes walk from the Tiefenhohle.  I think he said it needed blasting, but his mum was not keen on the idea for some reason. Personal caves seem to be all the rage in Germany.  The next day we pushed a cave under someone's garage.


This cave was found in June 1996 (Domke 199).  While excavating foundations for his new garage near Laichingen, house owner Willi Mueller broke into a large rift.  To investigate the extent of the rift, Willi called the Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen (HHVL), Ritschi's club.  However, as the club consists largely of amazingly competent magazine editors and hut builders, they delegated the surveying of the new cave to a neighbouring club, the Kahlensteiner HV.  Karsten Kuschela and his friends happily took on the task, which turned out to be rather more demanding than initially expected.  Laierhohle rapidly overtook Tiefenhohle in depth, with potential to go even deeper.

I felt almost guilty, driving up to within 5m of the cave entrance (after a sumptuous brunch at Schorsch's) and getting changed in Willi's garage; not only were we cosily protected from the elements, but it was also splendidly furbished - with crates of beer!  After a small libation, we stepped outside.  Karsten lifted a grille immediately next to the garage, and we descended into a beautifully concreted bunker with cave telephone, tackle pulleys and electric light.  Proper light switches were attached to the cave walls, down to about 15m into the cave. This entrance has got to be the most perfectly engineered natural cave entrance I have seen in a non show cave. I wondered whether the rationale underlying this incredible amount of work was the hope that this cave might develop into the second (and deepest) show cave of the area?  Beautiful, heavy-duty fixed ladders led us down to nearly 40m.  At this point, the cave shows a fair amount of horizontal development.  A large (>20m wide) and amply decorated passage, the Amphitheatre, eventually degenerates into a tight and squishy mud bath.


Kat, Nr 7325/75
350/291/0 toporobot

© 1997 by Kahlensteiner Hohlenverein e.V
Bad Uberkingen
Alle Rechte vorberhalten

Further down we squeezed through a draughty, tight hole, which had been chemically enlarged.  At -80m, we finally started rigging, to the present end of the cave at -120m.  This is well inside the infamous delta layer.  The red mud, first encountered in the horizontal passage, a heavy, fatty, red clay that stuck to everything with a vengeance, became more evident the deeper we went.  Near the end, we reached a hanging re-belay.  As Karsten was descending on a figure-of-eight, he had brought his own two-rung ladder with him. Standing on his ladder converted this old nemesis of mine into something about as difficult as getting up from a sofa.  While this took all the fun out of it, at least the others did not have to wait for me.  Schorsch then proceeded to drill a hole for a final bolt at the last pitch. Interestingly, he ignored the perfectly nice free hang in the right-hand wall, but went for a place to the left instead, straight in the semi-liquid red mud.  We sloshed down the rope and found ourselves in a sizeable chamber.  At its end, an obvious 40m tall rift provided the continuation.  Our aim was to bolt along this rift.

With a stinking cold and disinclined to traverse through the complex rift, I pottered around at the near end, where a tiny stream sinks into the bottom.  Meanwhile, Schorsch and Karsten were drilling way above, while Snablet and Ritschi traversed along, in an attempt to find a way on. Perking up a bit, I later traversed out to where I thought I had heard Snablet's voice, and promptly got lost.  After a while, Schorsch called for the hangers I had in my bag.  A dim suspicion overcame me.  Before going down, I had taken a large amount of hangers out of my bag, having been told we need not bring our own hangers.  It turned out that, although they did have a label on them which made them look like ours, these were the hangers I was supposed to have brought.  It has to be said, I felt particularly useful on this trip.  Without any hangers, and with the drill battery run out, we were ready to go out.  However, Karsten was not intent on giving up just yet.  He summoned Snablet, and together they disappeared into the rift for over an hour.  Sadly they did not find the way on, but at least they convinced themselves that the way on lay elsewhere, perhaps through a window across one of the pitches or, more sensibly, following the draught to wherever it had disappeared to.  There are many more leads in this cave.  We then had lunch.  A vast loaf of my favourite German bread appeared, as did a whole salami and an entire cheese in a Tupperware box.  They don't do things by half in Swabia.

Our way out proved interesting.  The mud-coated ropes were incredibly slippery, and at several points I ended up having to hold both jammers shut to prevent myself from sliding down.  I was rapidly running out of hands!  As I slowly made my way up, mud was literally peeling off the rope in great big sheets.  The others behind me must have fared worse with the rope getting progressively muddier, for after a while I was on my own (we didn't bother detackling).

I reached the amphitheatre and first pottered around for a bit, then nodded off.  Eventually, Ritschi and Schorsch appeared and proceeded to have a 'philosophical' discussion about marriage, i.e. Schorsch tried to talk Ritschi out of it (unsuccessfully).  At this point Snablet and Karsten appeared.  Karsten had developed a godawful cough that sounded as if he was about to throw up.  Luckily, he knew just the cure: a swiftly rolled cigarette soon made things worse. We had a quick look round the Amphitheatre, and Ritschi pointed out interesting folding in the rock, when we realised that it was much later than we had thought possible.  We had been down for 8 hours.  A swift exit up the ladders completed the trip.  I optimistically attempted to clean my SRT kit of the sticky mud in a handy tub that seemed to have been built into a wall outside for just this purpose.  Unfortunately, the mud turned out to be a perfect sealant, and all I managed to do was to clog up the drain.

I then had the honour of signing the cave guestbook.  Well in line with my other achievements of the day, the only thing that sprang to mind was to call it a 'muddy shithole'.  My lame explanation that this was really a compliment merely produced disbelief.

Falkenstein Hohle

We had been warned about this cave by Jonathan Simms, who described it as so cold that he could hardly bear it.  Given my state of health, I wasn't exactly looking forward to this trip, and even considered jacking it for a second.  But then again, I didn't want to be a whimp.  So, armed with Thilo and Becca Lawson (CUCC), who happened to be in the area, Snablet and I made our way to Bad Urach.  This cave has an impressive entrance.  A sizeable river spills out from a resurgence into a tall and leafy forest. Built for comfort, these German caves. We drove up to a convenient lay-by, got changed, and walked all of 200m up a large forest track to the cave entrance. It was a relief to wash off that red mud from my SRT kit and oversuit.  It was also fortunate that by then I was thoroughly damp, for not far into the cave was sump 1, which turned out to be a wet crawl.  We were somewhat amused, as Thilo had just told us frightful stories about people being trapped behind this 'sump', and how water levels could unexpectedly and massively rise within an hour.  When we got there, it really looked quite innocuous.  Thilo, from past experience, took it very seriously indeed. The three of us crawled through and waited and waited at the other end.  What was Thilo up to?  Just when I thought of going to look for him, we heard a great splashing and puffing, and Thilo appeared.  He had changed into a warm top and hood, and had also belayed a line at the other end, in case the weather changed.  The cave itself is wet throughout and runs in a straight line, with a couple of cascades and waterfalls.  Just like Meghalaya; no wonder they feel quite at home there.  It was good fun, except perhaps a little lacking in the excitement department.  I had caught Karsten's cough somehow and was struggling to keep up.  Perhaps a rollie might have helped, but unfortunately we had no smokers on the trip.  The streamway proceeded between ankle and hip-height, with one place where I nearly went under, although nobody else seemed to have a problem.  There were a couple of chokes to climb, and finally we halted at Sump 2.  Throughout the trip, Thilo entertained us with stories about the region and the cave and the exploration of its many, many (26?) sumps.  I can't say I was particularly cold.  Becca even complained about being too hot, and kept heading for deep water to cool down at every opportunity.  Perhaps Jonathan did the cave in winter.

Daniel and Anette in front of Rellman's Hohle  - Photo: Snablet

The following day we went to Schwabisch-Gmund, the home of Daniel Gebauer.  He lives right in the city centre, on the market square.  The square has a statue bearing a sword.  If you follow the direction of the sword, you walk straight into Daniel's house.  Daniel shares his quarters at the top of the house with an unknown quantity of people.  The whole apartment has this fantastic 1960's commune feel about it.  Daniel's rooms are crammed with caving paraphernalia, largely literature, various lovingly executed examples of his craftsmanship as a carpenter/cabinet maker, and uncountable souvenirs and tidbits from travels in Nepal, India and elsewhere hippieish and exotic.  He did not mention a cave under his cellar.  Daniel explained that finding caves in the Schwabische Alb was not quite as easy as perhaps in Britain. Most caves are filled with sediment and success, so he said, is really only found at the very edges of this plateau.  This is where he took us after a filling brunch.

We drove up to the Rosenstein and parked in the car park. A map of the area and its footpaths showed several of the cave entrances.  All of these are situated along the cliff edge.

Finsteres Loch (Murkv Hole):

A sizeable cave.  More than 100m long.  A (gated) 3m high entrance leads into phreatic development past a skylight in the right hand wall to a second entrance.  This cave houses hibernating bats and is closed from October until May. Daniel told us a gruesome story of how in the Middle Ages this cave was used to lock up people sick with pestilence; out of sight and out of mind.

Grosse Scheuer (Large barn):

Much further along the same cliff edge.  A magnificent 5m tall, 5m wide phreatic passage with three entrances. Sadly only about 30 m long.  You never leave daylight.

Anette in the entrance of Die Grosse Scheuer - Photo: Snablet

Daniel and Anette at Die Grosse Scheuer – Photo: Snablet

Das Haus (The house):

A few metres further along the cliff edge.  Another phreatic hole.  A huge boulder sits at the end.  This cave was used by Celtic tribes and many artefacts have been recovered by archaeologists.

Fuchsloch (Foxhole):

A 6m deep, 5m long hole at the bottom of a large, bifurcating tree

Hellman's Hohle (Hellman's Cave):

Further along the same escarpment.  A 1m wide, 1.5m tall washed-out rift.  This was once filled with sediment, but dug out by cavers.  Sliding on one's side down a passage to the right leads to a second entrance.

Kleine Scheuer (Small barn):

A few hundred meters further along the walk, near the castle ruin.  The rounded pebbles from its dry riverbed show that this was once a resurgence cave (Daniel says).  A large slab, the 'table', in the back can be climbed.  Bear skulls and tiger canines have been found behind the slab.

Drei Eineaneshohle (Cave of three entrances):

Further along from the ruin. Popular with climbers, this cave is in beautiful white limestone.  Again only a few metres long, it has two obvious entrances and a third that can be reached by squeezing through a very tight and mosquito ridden passage to the right.

Daniel also mentioned two other caves in the area, but was keen to keep their location secret.

Secret cave1:

A tight squeezy crawl leads into a small chamber, crammed with formations and fossils.  Daniel has only been in this cave three times, each time to draw some of the fossil skulls.  He feels very strongly that this cave should remain inaccessible.

Secret cave2:

While digging on a frosty morning, Daniel noticed a frost-free patch in the forest floor.  A few hours of digging revealed a small passage going into a rift.  This has not been dug any further.

Some random thoughts:

Daniel claims that the Schwabische Alb has been searched metre for metre for caves.  As most caves are filled with sediment, he feels that there is not much more to be found in this region.  Although I admittedly know nothing about the area, my first impressions make me wonder whether one need be quite so pessimistic.  First of all, the area is huge, many many times bigger than Mendip.  There are only few active cavers compared to Mendip (but this may have been different a few years/decades ago).  Surely they can't have looked everywhere?  In addition, it seemed to me that German cavers (as elsewhere) are very keen on, and incredibly knowledgeable about, the geology of their area.  I imagine that a lot of the searching for caves was carried out with the prevailing geological theory in mind.  However, we do know that theories can be wrong (although they are a good starting point).  The fact that Laierhohle went much deeper than ever expected, and might still go deeper, shows that even German theories can sometimes have exceptions. So perhaps there is room for further surprises.  I also got the impression that there is no digging culture as such in Swabia.  Daniel described a three-year dig as long.  Compare this to Wigmore (yet another exception to theory) or Hillgrove. There are also plenty of rules and regulations we do not (yet) have in Britain that complicate digging in Germany. Almost all of the resurgences are off bounds, as used for drinking water and owned by water companies.  Spoil heaps are strictly verboten, and many digs had to be abandoned, because they represent archaeological sites of interest. If digging in Swabia was carried out on the scale of some areas in Britain, who knows what they might find. In short, I am convinced that there are still big caves to be found in the Swabian Jura.  Ever the optimist.

I'd like to thank my hosts for putting us up, feeding and watering us, and for showing us a truly great time.


Domke D (1998) Die Laierhohle bei Geislingen-Weiler, Schwabische Alb. Mitt. Verb. dt. Bohlen u. Karstforsch., 44,88-91.


Ode to Belchine Black Betty

By Mike Wilson
Tune "Black Betty"

Oh centre piece of our desire
Tall and round - full of fire
A work of art, of that I'm sure
With a shape so basic, sweet and pure

Those iron sides giving out great heat
With a huge top lid, "that's hard to beat"
Plenty of room for wood "divine"
And perhaps a Wessex gnome "supine"

Thy frontal maw set in a grin
Hiding a furnace that lies within
"Belfry Boy", stoke her well
Feel the heat of the radiant spell

Ivan's artwork is there to see!
Set in all its symmetry
So Belfryites all shout "Hurray"
Belching Black Betty is here to stay.


Song: Goon's 40 Years

Tune "Union Miners"

He read a book about hard caving
Went and joined the B.S.A.
He swore he'd be a bloody hard caver
And he's still one to this day

Chorus: Mendip Cavers rise together
Stand up now and sing this tune
When you've done forty years of caving
You can be as hard as Goon
Two hundred mile each way he'd travel
Then he'd hit those Yorkshire pots
He'd move like shit flying off a shovel
First you'd see him then you'd not

I've seen him falling down Hardrawkin
I've seen him diving from Meregill
Seen him break a foot in Cuthbert's
Seen him drink more than his fill

In Lancaster he hit the bottom
After taking the long drop
But armed with nothing more than Eric
Made his way back to the top

A boulder nearly made him armless
Way below in Claonaite
But this hard man still goes back there
Sometimes he stays down overnight
Mendip cavers heed my story
Never go below with Goon
'Less you search for death or glory
Landslip, earthquake or monsoon.


Song: Heeland Cavers

Tune "Heeland Lady"

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the day
Heeland cavers, hard wee cavers
Doon Claonaite or so they say
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Chorus: Way hey it's here we go
Heeland caver, hard wee cavers
Seventeen hours way down below
My hard wee Heeland cavers

Whaur ha' e ye been a' the night
Underground and in the shite
Whit were ye daen in yon damp hole
Down wi' Goon, god bless my soul

Is yon no' a cave that tends to flood
When it rains or with Goon's blood

You'd be far better off going doon Glenbain
J'Rat's done it on his ane!

 Did ye no ken it was the Grampian dinner
You missed it!  Man that was a skunner!

A' that food doon at the Inch
Thrown to the fish that's in the minch

The back up team is in the bar
Thought they'd better have ajar

The polis nearly lost his rag
Said he'd make them a' blow in the bag

The moral of the story is quite clear
If Goon goes down, go on the beer.


The Wee Caver Wha' Carn Fae Fife

Tune "The Wee Cooper" etc.

There was a wee caver wha' come fae
Fife Nickety nackety noo noo
Was pushing a hole ca'd Batty Wife
Hey Willy Wallicky ho John Dugal
A lane rashity roo roo

He pushed ye hard, but it wouldn't go
He couldn't get in or doon below
An then one day he thought that it might
But try as he would it was still too tight
And so in frustration he danced a fine jig
Saying, "I know the trouble, it's me that's too big"
Then he gave a shout saying, "no it's not me
I know the trouble, the hole is too wee"

So with some petroleum gelly-ignite
He banged and he banged at that hole a' the night

And noo that wee Fifer aye bottoms his goal
It's straight to the sump when he slips in that hole

(Although Goon is not actually a BEC member, he is known by many of the club and he decided to celebrate 40 years of caving at the BEC hut after the Hunters on the 14th November, joined by many of his friends from all over the country.  Pete 'Snab' MacNab, modified or penned the above songs to celebrate the occasion and Pete Glanvill took the photos.)


Nullarbor '98 Australia

The Land Of The 'Roo. Possum & Wombat

The BEC makes a nuisance of itself with the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia.

By Mike 'Trebor' McDonald (Honorary Oz)


Steve Milner, that erstwhile ex-Pom, e-mailed me a while back and asked if I fancied a flying visit to Oz to join him and the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia (CEGSA) on their annual pilgrimage to the Nullarbor Plain.  As I recalled my last visit to Oz with J-Rat was a most pleasant episode, as I had been reading Francis Le Guen's book on diving exploits in Cocklebiddy, as the British weather was sending me loopy and since I needed a break I said "why not, go on, treat yourself, it's only umpteen thousand miles away".  The CEGSA plan this year was to consolidate work done last visit, look at leads found last time, survey stuff discovered and to look for new holes.

Personnel included Steve, myself obviously, and five members of CEGSA one of which was Mark Sefton who has been about a bit, has been to the UK and whom some Mendipites may know. Also present was Tom Wigley, an Aussie now living in Colorado. He was one of the original Nullarbor explorers in the 60's and 70's with John Dunkley and this was his first trip back since then. He was attending a work conference in Melbourne so he thought it a good idea to attach a trip to the Nullarbor to his visit.  It's hard enough getting around now with a 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser and GPS (Global Positioning System), God knows what it must have been like in the 1960's with old bangers and suspect maps.  He worked in the UK for some years and thus knew of some "mature" Mendipites when I reeled off names, especially Jim Hanwell.  Some Mendipites may also know John Dunkley who now lives in Canberra. They were the joint authors of the first Nullarbor caving publication.


Nullarbar Cave – Trebor. Photo: Steve Milner

Getting There

There was no time to be lost, this was supposed to be a tight, efficient, well-drilled Expedition to make as much use of the time as possible.  On landing in Adelaide at 9am, Steve's wife Fran, daughter Shaun and I had breakfast in a nice hostelry in town before heading up to their house amongst the Eucalyptus in the Eden Hills overlooking Adelaide.  I found the vehicle already packed up so I chucked my bag in the back and Steve, Mark Sefton and myself piled in and drove the 8 hours to Ceduna (about half way to the Nullarbor) a nondescript town in the middle of nowhere, to rest at the home of Max Meth (the guy who's been looking for an S all his life).  Max was a real character (he looks like Gonzo will in 20 years time) who, unlike Gonzo, was the fount of all knowledge and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the karst features of the Nullarbor.  Over a number of years he has logged and GPS'd virtually every known karst feature on the Nullarbor whether it be a cave entrance, a blow hole or an Aboriginal site on a bit of limestone pavement.

In the morning the other guys arrived from Adelaide and we consolidated transport into suitable cars and Toyota Land Cruisers.  One of the guys had a trailer to drag all the water we required, as there is no water at all on the Nullarbor, only some at the bottom of the internationally known Weebubbie and Cocklebiddy caves.  Off we thus set on the second half of the journey along the Eyre Highway that stretches in virtually a straight line all the way to Perth a few thousand miles away. This road was named after one of the intrepid explorers in the early 1800's and runs on a level coastal plain with the Nullarbor offto the right (North) up on a higher plateau.  Some way along we took a short detour to the spectacular Great Australian Bight Southern Ocean coast to watch Right whales playing in their seasonal breeding grounds.  Very impressive.

After several hours we reached our turn-off point to the Mundrabilla homestead of our farmer host, a few kilometres from the highway.  After telling him roughly where we would be camped we set off up the escarpment (quite comical with heavily laden vehicles, even four wheel drives) and on to the Nullarbor Plain itself.  After quite a while negotiating very indistinct tracks in the dark we finally reached our intended camp site, just an area in the middle of the bush amongst Eucalyptus trees on the edge of a clay pan and reasonably equidistant from various caves.  In a jiffy my tarpaulin was erected as a shelter, the bivvy bag laid out, the gear stowed, firewood collected and a campfire built with the billy puffing away for tea.

As an aside, we had one obstacle to hurdle on the trip in - the question of the Fruit Fly.  South Australia is trying to keep the little beggar out of the State to save its fruit and veg. industry so there are rigorous controls at the State boundary.  You may not take fresh fruit and veg through, or bottled honey for that matter, unless it has been officially inspected and decontaminated. Don't ask me why they check you on the way out of the State but there you go.  As we were going out of the State into West Australia, were heading into the middle of nowhere where there was no fruit or veg farms or any other form of habitation, and as the stuff would be eaten in a few days we did not feel too bad about beating the system.  I won't tell you how we got around the "C for Charlie" checkpoint in case a Western Australia Agriculture border guard is sent a copy of the BB by that nasty Estelle (hiss).  What we did have to do though was clean the dirt from our digging tools.

The Area

Nullarbor basically means "no trees" but this is not strictly true.  It is a flat semi-arid limestone plateau, probably as big as the UK, occupying the central southern part of Australia straddling the states of both South and Western Australia.  The eastern third is virtually treeless with rough scrub and blue bush only, the remainder is quite heavily wooded with Eucalyptus and other trees, blue bush and scrub with the occasional quite large grassy area, usually on slightly lower lying clay pans, and the occasional limestone outcrop. The southern edge is delineated by a c.100m high escarpment, which rises up above the c. I0km wide coastal plain, along which the Eyre Highway runs to Perth, with the Southern Ocean and the Great Australian Bight on the southern side.

The plateau is all but flat with the usual hollows, depressions and irregularities.  The basic appearance is characterised by myriad clay pans (usually covered with blue bush or sparse grass) lying only a few metres lower than surrounding ridges with small limestone outcrops covered with sparse scrub and Eucalyptus.  The cave entrances tend to reveal themselves at the edges of the clay pans or in the rocky ridges. We found no cave entrances in the clay pans themselves.  The water table is at about -100m so unless a cave reaches that depth it will be dry and dusty with the occasional flowing water in times of heavy rain only.  The only two caves that I am aware of that have meaningful water are the well-known Cocklebiddy and Weebubbie Caves, each about 50 miles from camp.

Trebor near Aboriginal Waterhole. Photo: Steve Milner

The Nullarbor is a protected landscape and as we cavers are of course responsible people and mindful of the environment certain measures had to be taken.  Spent carbide and waste products of the intestine had to be buried at least a third of a metre deep and more than 100m from camp.  Containers had to be taken into caves to catch the contents of ones body as and when required.  All litter had to be brought out or burnt on the campfire and despite charging around the landscape in Toyotas damage had to be kept to a minimum, especially to growing trees.  Wombat warrens had to be avoided as they can collapse under the weight of a vehicle and we had to be mindful of 'roos which had the unnerving tendency to bounce towards the vehicle when frightened rather than away.  Small brains I suppose.  A hit from a big Red in mid-bounce at 50kmph may have written off a vehicle.

There is apparently no indigenous population any more on the Nullarbor.  Aborigines vacated the area many years ago, presumably when farming and fence enclosure started.  Ancient aboriginal sites were seen scattered around the area, invariably centred around a small depression in a slab of limestone pavement which made a convenient water container.  A rock slab placed over the "watering hole" to prevent evaporation or animal use was the usual evidence of old aboriginal activity.  Other artefacts have also been found such as fire sticks and flints.  Aborigines did not apparently use caves, they feared the Snake God, but they would presumably have used cave entrances and rock shelters.  The only habitation now on the Nullarbor is the occasional farming homestead, usually a few hundred miles apart.

Our particular farmer host has not actually farmed his land for many years.  Apparently he found scraping a living from sheep and cattle, and repairing fencing damaged by 'roos, too much of an effort on the sparse grass so he now carries out contract shearing work elsewhere.  For a number of years now he has not even been up on to the plateau and cavers, and the odd 'roo hunter, are the only people that go there. Indeed, it is only the cavers who keep his tracks open.

The Caving

The caves are varied, as to be expected, mostly horizontal with little vertical development. Ladders and ropes are seldom needed. There are no particularly large, dendritic systems, apart perhaps from Homestead Cave in the northern Nullarbor. The average length is I suppose a few kilometres.  Several caves, including Weebubbie, have massive Oriental-type passageway, often 30m wide or so, but tend to end suddenly in large blank walls or rock piles. Dress is merely a T-shirt and light trousers under a boiler suit with suitably stout shoes or boots.  Knee and elbow pads are essential.  Lighting is by the usual carbide system with electric back up. As there is no water in the caves containers have to be taken in for the carbide, or a full bladder.

A feature of most of the caves was their tendency to blow and suck quite dramatically. Differentials in atmospheric pressure are very marked in this part of the world causing sucking or blowing at the entrances and in constricted areas inside (we called one new cave "Monica's Cave" as it was sucking something rotten when we dug into it.) The entrance to Thampana Cave for example is a 3m diameter, 10m deep circular pothole and great amusement was had by throwing large bushes down only to see them being forcefully ejected some 10m into the air.  We even managed to weigh a bush down with a rock and succeeded in making the bush hover in the pothole.  Quite bizarre.  An SRT rope for self-life lining thrown into the entrance promptly appeared again like some flying snake and we had some difficulty keeping the electron ladder down. 

Tauatarus species in Windy Hollow Cave. Photo: Steve Milner

We also found deceased birds inside the entrance which had been sucked in whilst flying overhead and were unable to fly out.  It is easy finding good places to dig - you just wander around the bush until you hear a little crevice or hole whistling at you.

The cave fauna was also very interesting.  Numerous modem and ancient animals were found within, usually washed in by old floods. However, some dog-like creatures were found in high level dusty areas not far inside so they probably lived there. Many were very well preserved with bushy tails, skin and whiskers still fully visible.  Kangaroos also tend to fall into entrance pots whilst bouncing around the countryside and unable to extricate themselves.  One cave was named "Bleeding Pit".  A 'roo, serenely hopping across the landscape, had jumped in and splattered blood all over the walls of the pit.  Either that, or in its anxiety to get out it kept dashing itself against the walls until it bled to death.  A few years back in "Stinking Rift" Steve and team came across a 'roo in a hole that had presumably panicked and forced itself further into the cave to sadly expire.  It was very ripe so they retreated.  This year we returned to see if the smell had subsided and Steve was able to dismember the beast leg by arm and squeeze past.   Unfortunately the cave did no go far.  We also found an almost perfectly preserved mummified cat creature curled up as if asleep amongst stones on the cave floor 100m or so in.  Possums also take refuge in caves, or use them as short cuts, and trails of droppings and black urine were everywhere.

Some of the formations encountered were staggering and many I had not seen before, mainly mushroom stals on the floor of a low chamber in Bug Hole, lots of Stegomites (shield-like calcite growing out of the floor which I've only seen in West Virginia) and gypsum crystals and chandeliers as opaque as ice.  I will be getting copies of underground photographs taken by Steve in due course so I will exhibit them on the photo board in the Belfry (and in this BB if they arrive in time.)

Bat and swift guano was also a potential problem.  Strangely we saw virtually no bats, they seem to have gone elsewhere millennia ago. Plenty of swifts but no bats.  I was used to the stinking heaving black  stuff  you find  in  tropical caves but this was the finest, moon-dust powder,  you could imagine that rose in clouds at every step, clearly ancient stuff.  At first I just thought it was ordinary cave dust.    I am told though that Histoplasmosis spores can linger for aeons.

Calcite mushrooms in Bug Hole. Photo: Steve Milner

An interesting technique the Aussies use for defining routes through caves is small fluorescent way markers made out of reflective road signs.  They punch 20mm diameter discs out of two different coloured reflective road signs, stick them back-to-back so one colour means "In" and the other colour "Out" and wedge or stick them to a convenient rock or stal, either to show the way in complex caves and/or keep cavers on a defined route to minimise wear.  Quite good I thought but perhaps rather sissy for Mendip.


The vehicles used were two four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruisers and a car.  Despite the remoteness and terrain it was actually quite easy with a car and cars have been used in previous visits.  You have to be more careful with a car of course to prevent damage and punctures but as the ground is surprisingly flat weaving a way through the bush and around limestone outcrops is quite easy.  However, the Toyotas were obviously much better and we were able to drive in more of a straight line and just charged around knocking over bushes and small dead trees with the Kangy cruncher on the front.  It was also useful being able to stand on the back of the Toyota to get a better view, to work the GPS and to keep an eye out for entrances, 'roos, wombat warrens etc.  One of the Toyotas had a GPS mounted on the dash together with a short wave radio and a CB.  Both had double fuel tanks, two batteries each, two replacement tyres and loads of spares.

Despite their robustness we did actually get a puncture to one of the Cruisers.  The ubiquitous blue bush is 90% soft but it has some very hard, sharp and evil twiggy things poking up from its root ball.  We showed no mercy in flattening them with our Kangy cruncher but they got their own back by puncturing one of the tyres.  Imagine, dear reader, your intrepid correspondent sweating away in the middle of nowhere changing a big heavy tyre, lovely it was.

After initial scepticism I now think GPS's are the best thing since Butcombe was invented.  I never got used to them since the time I took one I-Rat had in the shop out into Tucker Street and found I was 10m below sea level.  A good quality instrument in the right hands is brilliant in certain circumstances. Steve had a Garmin 45 XL and it proved absolutely vital for safe, time saving and trouble free navigation through the bush.  Finding known caves could not have been easier and readings could be taken at the junction whenever we left the faint tracks that criss-crossed the area so we could find our way from the cave back to camp without an Xkm detour.  Steve's machine was accurate to about 20m and performed really well but at his request I've just sent him the Garmin high performance magnetic antenna from the manufacturer for greater accuracy and control. He tells me his instrument works very well in tree cover.

The Day

As is usual in camping situations, the day starts early.  As an early riser I was always up first at dawn (c. 5.30am) and a quick poke at the fire embers and a few dry twigs soon got a blaze going for the tea. Tom Wigley was always next up and some very pleasant times were had sitting around the fire, drinking tea, watching the sun rise, discussing Colorado where he lives and putting the world to rights. There was a chattering group of Budgerigars in our particular bit of Eucalyptus plus lots of parrots and other nice birds so it was a treat watching their antics whilst supping morning tea. Steve and the others then usually crawled out of their pits at about 7.30.  Breakfast was then cooked on the fire; some had eggs and some a revolting mishmash of whatever was available.  Steve, Mark and I were a bit more organised and lorded it with cereal and powdered milk.  I did a wicked Nepalese scrambled egg with chilli and ginger once or twice just to get the morning off with a bang and on a few occasions Steve made a very tasty unleavened beer camp bread in a large iron potty set in the embers.

We were out of camp by 9am, usually in two teams heading off to respective destinations in the two Toyotas, either to look at a new find, to push on, survey and photo a find from last year, to go on a tourist trip or to do some recce work.  Sometimes two teams took the Toyotas whilst a third team walked to a cave or caves within a few kilometres.  Day rations were usually Muesli bars and fruit.  Everyone had their own water bottle and a flagon of water was always kept in each of the two Toyotas.  We tried to be back at camp for 6pm to give enough time to get the fire going again and prepare nosh for the evening meal.  Then a congenial powwow was had around the camp fire discussing the day's news and deciding on a programme for the morrow, usually assisted with libations of Scotch and Irish.  Most were asleep by 9pm, not many hostelries, TV s, take-aways or other distractions in this part of the world.

One potential problem was not always knowing where the other team(s) were.  Most days one team would know which cave the other one was in by prior agreement but on recce days this was not possible.  Despite each vehicle being self-sufficient as far as spares, water and GPS's were concerned, only one had a CB/radio.  One day the team without the CB/radio were late back and the team at camp had no idea where they were.  A search was out of the question, especially in the dark, and the only thing to have done if they had not arrived by morning was to have driven to the nearest homestead (or radio if the safe party had the right vehicle) call the authorities and get a helicopter or plane to make a search of the bush to spot the vehicle.  There is certainly a case for mobile 'phones (possibly too far from transmitters?) or walkietalkies .... or even bush telegraph (sic).


I only have two words to say, "Go there".

And yes, they really do say "G'day mate", "fair dinkum", "sheila" and "strewth".  I just fell about laughing.


Assynt in October - and Yet Another Tale of the Goon!

By Tony Jarratt

This year's Grampian SG annual dinner was held at the Inchnadamph Hotel, Assynt, Sutherland.  A Mendip contingent of Jake, Becca, J .Rat, Rich Blake, John "Tangent" Williams and Tav headed north for 612 miles to Elphin, horrific weather being encountered near the Lakes and Lowlands areas.

After a day's "acclimatisation" - mainly in the Alt Bar - work on ongoing projects commenced. Four visits were made to Rana Hole where over 160 skip loads of peat and rocks were hauled out and dumped, plus 10 frogs!

At one point a pool of water was easily drained away to the depths of Uamh an Claonaite below by using a long bar.  On a later banging trip here, during the worst weather of the week, the hole could not be re-opened and shotholes were filled and charged underwater as the rapidly rising stream poured down the pot.  The resultant explosion sounded highly aquatic!

This was the Saturday of the dinner when the infamous Alan "Goon" Jeffreys and three others had just entered the superb stream way of Claonaite on a tourist trip to the dry series.  Rich, Julian Walford and the writer had trouble walking back down the valley in the worsening weather and at one point Julian's helmet and Headlite were blown away! It was obvious that Goon and Co. could be having problems so tentative rescue operations were put into action. These later developed into the real thing with the Police, Assynt MRT and SCRO (most of whom were just sitting down for the dinner) all being involved.  By 6.30am the next day it was all over and the trapped ones were off the hill - having been "dived" out of the flooded cave by Fraser Simpson and Simon Brooks who had been luckily collared while walking down the valley following a dive in ANUS Cave.  Needless to say the dinner was a bit of a flop but the opportunity to mercilessly take the piss out of Goon (again) was found to be well worth it.

The vast horde of Grampian dinner goers carried out lots of tourist and digging trips over the weekend despite the weather conditions - which were apparently the best in Britain at the time. Book now for the April Invasion.

Lines inspired by a previous Snab song ...

The Goon has got his mask on.
Hip, hip, hip, hooray.
The Goon has got his mask on
And he may get out today.

Tony Jarratt 29/11/98


Actual Business Signs

On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."

Outside a Radiator Repair Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak."

In a Non-smoking area: "If we see you smoking we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action."

On Maternity Room door: "Push, Push, Push."

On a Front Door: "Everyone on the premises is a vegetarian except the dog."

At an Optometrist's Office: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

On a Scientist's door: "Gone Fission"

On a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff."

In a Chiropodist's window:  "Time wounds all heels."

On a Butcher's window: "Let me meat your needs."

On another Butcher's window: "Pleased to meat you."

At a Used Car Lot: "Second Hand cars in first crash condition."

On a fence: "Salesmen welcome.  Dog food is expensive."

At a Car Dealership: ''The best way to get back on your feet - miss a car payment."

Outside a Car Exhaust Dealer's: "No appointment necessary.  We'll hear you coming."

Outside a Hotel: "Help!  We need inn-experienced people."

In a Dry Cleaner's Emporium: "Drop your pants here."

On a desk in a Reception Room: "We shoot every 3rd salesman, and the 2nd one just left."

In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Be back in 5 minutes. Sit!  Stay!"

On a Music Teacher's door: "Out Chopin."

In a Beauty Shop: "Dye now!"

On the door of a Computer Store: "Out for a quick byte."

In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there and be hungry, come in and get fed up."

Inside a Bowling Alley: "Please be quiet.  We need to hear a pin drop."

On the door of a Music Library: "Bach in a minuet."

In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully, we'll wait."

In a Counsellor's office: "Growing old is mandatory. Growing wise is optional."

Early ladder manufacture! (see Mike Wilson's article!!)


Manuel du Speleologue - By Robert De Joly

By Mike Wilson

Robert De Joly was the founder President of the Society Speleo De France.


Robert De Joly - by Kay Wilson

The book 'Manuel du Speleologue' gives information for when you descend underground, the materials you use and the methods or manner in which to use them.

As some people including me experience difficulty in reading the extensive French coverage of speleology, I decided to translate some extracts from de Joly's 1950s, 3rd edition manual.  It makes quaint and interesting reading.  Here are some of the extracts from the manual:

Exterior Clothes

In order to protect the clavicles in the event of a rock fall it is a good thing to place a band of rubber on the shoulders.  They will also serve to support at times the many ropes which you carry, and prevent damage or wounding to the shoulders.  It is indispensable that the costume has numerous pockets.  These pockets judiciously placed should be about 12 in number, placed thus: Two near the chest for the notebook and cigarettes if you smoke.  One near the stomach for the small watch.  Two on the rump, one left and one right, for the small pliers and a Swiss army knife (modified).  Also high on each buttock two pitons and a ball of 25m of lashing thread.  In the other pockets a flint one length of leather containing blue marking in a turned wooden tube, a whistle, a big candle, a gas lighter, one general small pocket notebook.  On the back you put a bag of reserve stock.  At last on the inside of the jacket a pocket containing the hankies, and a metal container held vertically by a special flap, the thermometer sealed with a roll of wax paper, and a fragment of ephemeride for repairs in the labyrinth.


The beret is no good because it does not have the shape to, take a front lamp.  We use in the caves, an English Made 'fibre helmet' (Richard Bathgate of Liverpool).  It is extremely light (275g) and not hot.


We have never used the commercial type of ladder made for Well Sinkers and Miners.  Put off by their exaggerated weight lkg per metre, their size, and above all, the bars of several centimetres beyond the fixing cords. You can understand that in effect this fault produces hang ups, making each movement difficult, the weight is a double enemy.  The effort it entails and the fatigue it causes, the rope is also heavy and expensive. Transporting the ill-natured ladders and manoeuvring them in the shafts is nearly impossible.

(De Joly goes on to describe what he regards as a good wood and rope ladder)

Size: Of a size of 30cm allowing two feet to rest on the bars. The bars should be 25mm diameter then the profile is studied for the best use of the ash wood, and mounted on various diameters of rope.  This type will be used as the ladder for deep shafts.  The rope is 12 or 13mm; the weight is about 370gms per metre length. We have also a model of 25cms length rungs and some rope Ilmm weight 350gms per metre.

Steel and electron: Sadly the relative convenience of this model depends on availability of present material.  I have invented a type which is nowhere near the weight per metre of a strong rope, practical to manoeuvre, is light and does not encumber you.  The electron metal alloy of a density of 1.8 is near the physical qualities of strong steel.  A rod of ultra light type weighs 7.5gms.  This metal is that which braced and spread the Zeppelin Carcass. Each man can carry easily more than the normal 10 to 15metres of ladders.  (Heavy bars 12mm cable 3.2mm weight per metre 1l0grarns - medium bars 12mm cable 2.4mm weight per metre 90grams.  Light bars l0mm cable 2mm weight per metre 56grams.)  All these ladders have proved themselves over 17 years and our colleagues in many countries in Europe have them now.  R De Joly is credited with inventing the electron ladder, as long ago as the early 1900's.


Like our boss E. A. Martell who said, "the windlass is a dangerous object," and, I add, above all if it is not adapted to its specific use or work, it is its force that creates the danger.  This is why we have made a winch without multiplication, and will not be worked with less than two men, it follows thus they will not risk crushing the explorer. This rig weighs 15kg, holds 150metres of cable (wire Hon breaking strain) on a drum, a brake of jawbone and a ratchet for going up.  Its feet are metal tubes to level up on unequal ground.  The tubes do not hold the winch it is secured by ropes to a tree, rock or flake.  The descent is controlled by telephone.


De Joly goes on to say that he prefers Acetylene lamps with an electric torch as back up.  He describes a magnesium lantern with strip or ribbon magnesium providing the light.  I wonder if any of these lanterns still exist?  He is totally against hand held lamps of any type and goes on to describe an imprudent expedition in the cave.  (Grange Lens by J. J. Pittard and J. Della Santa) At 200metres from the station of Grange Lens, in the direction of Saint Leonard, near the top of a cliff, which dominates a gypsum quarry, you can see the entrance of a deep hole.  This opening is a section of the roof portal of the cavern, inside there is an enormous pile of rocks steep and sloping, at the bottom of which we found a big sheet of underground water.  We decided to make a simple reconnaissance, because our lighting material that we had that day was insufficient for a big exploration. The lake had numerous ledges so we did not take the boat to avoid damaging it on the rocks; we were also hoping to not get ourselves wet because the water is very cold.  The water reflected light from the large opening, so we profited from this feeble glow to make our preparations.  We have only one hand held acetylene lamp (the other one had some old damage therefore its function left a lot to be desired) and a box of matches.  Starting along the rock ledges we almost immediately had to put our feet in the water to find purchase, soon the limbs are covered and then we have the water up to our chests.  The two men go on to describe crossing a lake to an island, then a second lake which seemed vast, then in front of them a long band of ground formed by rocky boulders. They decided to carry on, reaching a small cliff, which they climb - slowly in wet clothes.  Below them is a vast arch and a third lake they can hear a waterfall in the distance.  Shall we go on?  It is imprudent.  Our matches are wet, our lamp not reassuring and we are in a cavern very big and full of "ambushes".  Let's go just to the promontory, the water is not very deep, because it is a kind of ford that separates the second lake from the third.  They go on and eventually think they have bottomed the cavern, but in fact, "the base of the enormous arch is pierced", the stream in effect leaves by a cave where you need to swim and crawl for 20metres.  We decide to complete the exploration another time, also our lamp is running badly.  Upon turning back the inevitable happened, just when they anticipate seeing the lake, "pouf, a little explosion" and our unique lamp went out. Plenty of wet matches!  Several heavy silent minutes later interrupted only by the small waterfall, which seemed to laugh quietly, as it leapt from rock to rock.  Do you hear the sound of the fall?  Yes it is running to our right, it is necessary to rejoin the fall and use it to follow the water route to the lake.  Using the lakes and voice sounds for direction, the two managed slowly, in pitch blackness, to cross two lakes and one island, worrying about echoes, (voice wise) and the wisdom of blundering about in the dark.  They also knew that the cave was unknown and no one knew what they were doing!  They crawled over rocks, fell into the water, time after time, damaging elbows and knees, fell in holes and finally thought they saw a glimmer of light.  Freezing cold and exhausted they saw the pale reflection on the water from the opening in the cliffs.  They had been 5 hours in the dark, and the daylight had only 1 hour to go (impossible to find the exit).

Quote "We decided to remake a detailed expedition in this cave, but with all the necessary equipment."  The lesson has been learned!  In 1946 an adventure followed in the cave of Verna (near Cremieux Isere) a very modest cave. Some young imprudent people nearly lost their lives.  Their hand-lamp fell to the bottom of a lake during a spill and they stayed more than 50 hours marooned.  A friend of De Joly rescued them.   Casteret states "No hand-lamps" in one of his books.

For the final extract from this quaint manual which covers all aspects of caving including boats, photography, scientific observation, underwater exploration, etc.  I decided to précis the translation.  On materials for nautical exploration (For the BEC Divers) the rubber boat is described in detail.  But page 31 paragraph B is entitled 'Scaphandre Flotteur' - this is a costume for cave divers consisting of two layers one of waterproof canvas the inner layer of pure cotton.  The sleeves ending in vulcanised rubber and the neck rubber muffed.  One has here a piece of clothing, allowing one to confront all the difficulties presented by the underground rivers.  "Listen well it is necessary that the feet are encased with boots of lead soles of a weight to be set by the user.  It is about 2.5kg each foot for a bodyweight of about 65kg.  This is to maintain the man in a vertical position when he is floating, and to avoid see sawing in the backwaters when the costume holds air.  It will hold at the same time a balancing force.  But anticipating the difficulties you may encounter it would be advisable to wear a waistcoat of rubber with air pockets it protects from the cold and is remarkably buoyant even in rapids.  In America we found some clothing for floating which was absolutely airtight, but being based on another principle they don't float with air this is the part that makes them very dangerous in case of puncture."  (Early wet suits?)

'Scaphandre de Plongee' - the Count Le Preur has established an ingenious outfit "with a mask and a bottle of compressed air."  Allowing you to swim and breath, but it suffers the inconvenience of a tall reservoir and if the gas fails, it is prudent to be roped up. Therefore any method which you use to force siphons or sumps is dangerous.

'Sounding Sumps' - A practical procedure consists of attaching a little bottle (empty) to the end of some twine fixed on the end of a pole you feel clearly if the bottle reaches the surface on the other side of the sump.  (Now that's a good idea for sump I in Swildons)

Finally some extracts from a chapter covering descents into potholes or pits.  When the avens are very deep and above all if the absolute verticality is long more than 100metres deep, it is necessary to take special precautions.  Ladders made end to end, the ladder elements chosen with the strongest cable diameters in mind.  That is to say, the most resistant, strong high up, and the least resistant below on the bottom.  Having made this judgement you must be certain that the unit is well held.  We have always done the same as our Italian colleagues 'when we can', in reinforcing the ladders by one or two cables supplementary attached in the middle of the grand verticals.  Having done this, we have followed two aims, one given some extra security, two limit the vertical elastic movement of the rope. At the Chorom Martin where we have put this system, the vertical movement of the ladders when a person goes up or down, was in the order of 50 to 80cm at near 140 metres of depth.

This manual which resides in the BEC library (in a delicate state) is really quaint, but gives anyone who has the time and patience, an insight into the long-winded, and sometimes cumbersome methods which the early cavers laboured under.  It also puts into context the fact that perhaps 3 or 4 people would go down the avens backed up by a team of labourers on the winch and telephone others rope hauling.  It would be fair to assume that many early explorers would have to be fairly well off to pay for the retinue.  De Joly was also very keen to stop any destruction and pillage in caves and in fact as early as 27 September 1941 the French government passed a law to this effect.

My thanks to Harry Stanbury for his help with this article.  He in fact went to France in 1948 with Frank Frost and Paul Dolphin and did a tourist trip with De Joly in a mixed party including some Swiss scientists. After the trip Paul chatted to De Joly and explained that the British party, were (quote) 'sporty cavers'. Harry Stanbury says that as a result of the chat the three Brits plus some others were invited to visit the 'Tres Dangereux'  parts of the cave.  Harry states that it was the most hairy afternoon he could remember and Paul Dolphin called it the most terrifying experience of his caving career.

My apologies for any grammatical errors in the translation; I just hope this makes interesting reading.





Guess the Cave Competition


Send your answers giving the number, the cave name and the location within the cave to the Editor.

(address in the front of the BB)

Closing date is 25th January 1999.  If more than one person gets all the answers right then the winner will be pulled form a hat.

Answers next BB.


From the Logbook

(Any Hazelnut Swallet notes and Scotland notes are included in the relevant articles, so have not been reproduced here.)

Winford Ochre Mines.  Vince and Roz (31/8/98).

Cycled over to Winford to visit the impressive mines – not a place often visited.  Roz located the entrance to another mine, not previously recorded.  A small body sized hole drops into a chamber (mined) 15; wide, 30’ long and 15’ high. (1h)

Welsh Green Swallet.  Tony Boycott, Charlie Self (UBSS) and Graham (31/8/98|)

Photographing Selenite needles and brought out some samples that Mr Self found “hmm interesting.”

5/9/98 Charterhouse trip via Midnight Chamber, etc, to Dripping Stal Chamber.  Estelle, Mr Wilson and Chris.  Nice cave.

12/9/98 Stuart, Toby and Patrick (possible new member?!)

Started off with Manor Farm, only as far as the 20ft rift, with an interesting exit for Patrick.  Made up for it with a wet trip to Swildons 20 and out for tea and medals at Roger Dors Beer Shop.

16/9/98 North Hill Swallet Vince and Roz

Wet – puddles no deeper, just longer.  Could do with a couple more bangs.  Air not 100%.

10/10/98 David and Jim went down Longwood.  Crawled down to the bottom streamway and then had a look around the big passage down there.  Used a couple to get up and down pitches.  Saw a few good stalactites, etc.  Very good trip as I got to test out my new kit as well.

11/10/98 David and Bob went to GB and walked down to the arch, went down some side passages and then climbed up the waterfall.  Very interesting trip, didn’t get too wet either.

Sun 18thy Gonzo

Came up for a shower with a small boy……..Am I in the right club???

Sun 1 Nov.  Chas and Martin Torbs.

Swildons to 20.  Wet and fun.

Tues 3 Nov. John W + Caving Sec.

Swildons.  Wet was in and as far as twenty.  Lots of water, GREAT FUN!

7/11/98 Black Hole Series – Martin Selfe, Mike Wilson, Toby Limmer and Jeremy.

Some sketchy bold step sees some very nice pretties.  Crystal clear and no muck.  Well worth the adrenaline rush while hanging precariously over nothing.  Normal but cold water levels and very good fun. Very good trip to see some rarely visited curtains, etc, and worth a photo trip.  SRT down might make the crossing into the series some what easier! V. Good.  3½ hrs.

10/11/98 Martin Grass, Estelle Sandford, Mike Wilson and John Williams.

Reservoir Hole.  A very pleasant scramble down, along and up!  Very impressive views of Topless Aven, etc, along with some nice formations. Quite remarkable walling and rock stabilisation by Stanton et al! – Lots of handy footholds made it all very comfortable.  Saw a stunning shooting star on exiting!  Ahh!  2 & a bit hours.  JW.


Rolling Calendar

Date                          Details -  Contact

2/1/99                        BEC v Wessex Golden Gnome Skittles Match. New Inn, Priddy.  7.00pm

8/1/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

30/1/99                      BEC Stomp, Live band – Buick 6 Priddy Village Hall 8pm -   Roz Bateman

5/2/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/2/99                        CSCC Meeting, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

5/3/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

6/3/99 (provisional)      Cave Science Symposium, Nottingham - BCRA

10/3/99                      NCA AGM 10.30am - NCA

10/3/99                      March Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

19/3/99                      MRO Annual Meeting, Hunters Lodge 8pm - MRO

20/3/99                      March Bulletin Out - Editor

4/4/99                        OFD Columns Open Day

7/4/99                        April Bulletin Cut off - Editor

9/499                         BEC Committee Meeting

10/4/99                      CCC Ltd. AGM, Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CCC

14/4/99                      April Bulletin Out - Editor

2/5/99                        OFD Open Columns day

7/5/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

15/599                       CSCC AGM Hunters Lodge 10.30am - CSCC

30/5/99                      OFD Open Columns Day

2/6/99                        June Bulletin Cut off - Editor

4/6/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

12/6/99                      June Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

12-13/99 (provisional)   BCRA Regional Meeting, Swaledake, Yorkshire - BCRA

2/7/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

28/7/99                      August Belfry Bulletin Cut off - Editor

6/8/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

9/8/99                        August Belfry Bulletin Out - Editor

31/8/99                      Committee members reports to editor - Editor

31/8/99                      BEC End of Financial year – all accounts and receipts to treasurer ASAP - Treasurer

3/9/99                        BEC Committee Meeting

3/9/99                        Nominations for Committee Close - Secretary

10 – 12/9/99               Hidden Earth 99, Leeds - Dave Gibson

24-26/9/99                  NAMHO 99 Conference, Whitemead Park, Parkend, Nr. Lydney, Glos - John Hine

2/10/99                      BEC AGM and Dinner