The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editorial

Welcome to the Summer Issue. It is firstly my sad duty to report (for those who have not yet heard) the untimely loss of Dave "Pooh" Yeandle who was killed in April in a flying accident in Spain.  His death deprives the BEC and the British caving community of one of its finest cave divers and another of its characters.

On a much happier note, the main caving news on Mendip is that the dig in Hunters Lodge Inn Sink has finally gone to reveal a large, well decorated passage (much to the surprise of Tony Jarratt and all those involved).  As a result this BB is largely centred on this area of Mendip. Unfortunately, one of the keenest of the digging team, Tyrone Bevan, has not yet seen the extensions following several weeks spent in hospital with heart problems.  Now back at home we wish him a speedy recovery.  Another of the team John Walsh has also been ill with what at first seemed to be a case of Weil' s Disease.  Although luckily the virus proved to be something else and John has recovered, care must be taken in the Sink as the illness followed a very wet digging trip - best to avoid drinking the stream in the entrance.

Other caving news includes the reopening of the Mud Sump in Swildon's.  After many years of misguided and half-hearted attempts by others, Phil Rowsell has designed a fairly fool proof system and he, Alison Moody (WCC) and others have both drained it and are now working to modify the bailing dams to enable it to be kept open.  Further afield news is coming back from Austria of a very successful expedition with new leads and over a kilometre of new passage found (see the Autumn Issue for a full report).

NB The autumn issue will be going to press in early October - send your articles now.  This issue is late, a fact I will not apologise for as I can only publish when I have enough articles.  You write, you get BB’s on time.  Thanks to those who can be bothered.


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil Rowsell and Alison Moody (WCC) have been working on enlarging the promising rift passage at the end of Phil's Soho extensions (see last BB).  Their plan is to push along for a few more metres in order to be able to see to assess just how much further enlargement the passage will require - and thus how feasible pushing this draughting and extremely promising passage is.  Worryingly, Phil also reports that the main stream is now flowing down through Boulder Chamber and thus further undermining the entrance.  It could well be time to open one of the known alternative entrances to provide a safer route into the cave.  No work has taken place in Morton's Pot so far this summer due to the wet weather and more crucially the lack of manpower.  However, with less people needed now to dig Hunters Lodge Inn Sink, the Wednesday Night Diggers plan to tidy up the dig and attempt to avoid any great infilling of the shaft - some two metres have already been lost.

Hunter's Lodge Inn Sink.

At the end of June Tony Jarratt and his cast of thousands finally broke out of the small blasted crawl and down into open passage.  Although there is clearly large passage beneath the loose boulders of this small chamber attempts to dig a safe route down have so far failed.  However, the initially unpromising mud-filled passage at the far end then went in mid-July to reveal the Happy Hour Highway - a much older well decorated passage more reminiscent of Llangattock than Mendip. Digging continues at the end of this in a choke of boulders and well-compacted sand infill and in the boulders at the breakthrough (See Tony's article for a full account).

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

During the June working weekend Greg Brock, Bea Goford and others had a clean up trip.  Given its success in removing a large amount of detritus it is now planned to make this a part of future Hut clean up sessions.

Swildon's Hole.

Phil Rowsell, Alison Moody and helpers have been attacking the Mud Sump with two new methods - expanding foam and a little bit of thought.  Rather than build endless holding dams, they have constructed a single (surprisingly low) dam from foam and clay that holds back the inlet trickling in from South East Inlets and drains all the water pumped from the Mud Sump back down the low crawl toward the First Mud Sump.  After a number of bailing and pumping sessions and a new system of pipes the Mud Sump was finally bailed dry in early July.  Work now continues to maintain access to the passages beyond.  So no longer any excuses to avoid the through trip from Priddy Green Sink (see the full story in the Autumn BB).

At the far end of the cave Greg Brock and Andy Stewart have teamed up with Phil Short (WCC) in Phil's attempt to finally pass Sump Twelve.  Good luck to all those involved - the Sump has been banged and despite a postponement due to heavy rain they are now busy clearing infill in what sound horrible conditions.

Wigmore Swallet.

Tim Chapman and Andy Stewart have been diving in the Downstream Sumps and have so far reached Sump Seven.  Tim reports good diving conditions and following his return from France the pair plan to push on to check out the end.


 

The Last Laugh - A Major Discovery at Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink!

by Tony Jarratt
with photographs by Carmen Haskell (WCC)

" ... the Rock had been blown 45 feet further in than where I was last year ... " & what is further, Gunpowder, Sledges, hard Labour & Time must discover. "

R. Oliver "Journal of a voyage to England" 1776-77. (Cave digging with bang in Peak Cavern, Derbyshire - 225 years ago!)

Part One - Update to 25th June

Since the last report in BB 513 work has continued regularly, and almost exclusively, at this site, the Wednesday Night Team having now expanded its title to the Wednesday Night, Sunday Lunchtime, and Monday Morning Team.

During the first two weeks of April three more bangs saw us at the bottom of the "10ft rift", giving a 7ft fixed steel ladder climb down to another downdip bedding plane. The 1st birthday of the dig passed quietly and uncelebrated on the 9th of April.

By the 24th of June another 24 bangs had been detonated here to gain some 30ft of descending passage following the route of the stream.  A nice touch was added to the history of this amusing dig by the sale of much of the spoil heap to passers-by for use as rockery stone or hardcore!  This has helped offset the increasing cost of the explosives.  Possible future changes in storage and transport regulations may preclude the use of bang altogether and so we are making the most of it while the going is good. The skip hauling system has been improved and a strong, enthusiastic, and reasonably regular team has ensured good progress - resolutely putting up with the often soul-destroying job of spoil removal.

The superb ceramic "Bertie" plaque sculpted by Ben Holden has unfortunately fallen foul of the winter frosts so Ben has "done it to excess" and moulded a new one from solid lead - apparently his diving weights!  This has been painted in the Club colours and Araldited in position in the entrance shaft.  Ceramic copies of this circular plaque can be obtained from Ben via the writer.

Roger Dors has provided a large expanse of hard standing in the field above the dig, cleared and graded to perfection by Mr. Nigel and Jake of Mendip Demrock (free advert Nigel). This should provide ample parking space for the tourist hordes when the dig breaks through (see Part Two).  All our smaller spoil is now used as infill in the tractor ruts leading to the Hunters' Hole field, while the saleable stone is stored behind the car park wall.  This hard standing was recently put to use when a wedding party marquee was erected on it resulting in the face worker at the time being entertained underground by live music filtering down from above.  This, and Snab's 60th birthday party in the adjacent back room were two missed opportunities to fire off large charges!

To go along with the theme of this particularly well sited dig it should be recorded that Trevor uses beer barrel spiles for plugging shotholes to be used at a later date and that John Walsh has gone out of his way to drink vast quantities of wine purely in order to provide corks for wedging the bang wire into cracks in the passage sides - a truly dedicated digger.

The occasion of "Mendip Caving 2002," 16th June, provided the opportunity for more BEC excess as an underground explosion was actually filmed live from about 10 feet away and broadcast to an audience supping their ale in the Pub Function Room! This was made possible by Bob Smith who constructed a video camera inside an Oldham headset (see separate article) and Prew, who provided a l2v lamp. For a millisecond the assembled were presented with far better viewing than the World Cup as Roger Dors connected up the bang wire.  After the initial flash of the detonation a blank screen was expected as the camera and lamp were disintegrated by flying rock, but applause rent the air as the sight of swirling bang fumes appeared on the computer screen.  The undamaged camera was still in position but the lamp, also intact, had been blown over by the blast.  This may be a Mendip first and was much appreciated by the gathering of armchair diggers who donated 15 pounds to the bang fund.

Before this climax the camera had been worn on a helmet by Bev who filmed Trevor clearing spoil and drilling shotholes, and Alex hammering boulders and stacking full bags.  Bob then took over to film the writer charging the holes with detonating cord.  It was probably just as well that sound was unavailable judging by Trev's expression on returning from the constricted end of the dig.

 

Looking up dip in the largest Dart of the blasted out Pub Crawl.

Earlier that day BCRA Secretary, John Wilcock, had once again spent some time dowsing in the area as part of his ongoing project on his occasional visits to Mendip.  His results indicate an underground drainage coming from the southern Stockhill area, under H.L.I.Sink, Hunters' Hole and Eighteen Acre Swallet to join the St. Cuthbert's Swallet streamway somewhere below the SE comer of 100 Acres field.  After picking up an inlet from Tusker's dig at Templeton Pot, this passage itself joins the combined Swildon's/Eastwater drainage just before Wookey Hole.  Only time will tell if his predictions are correct (but Mad Phil's latest surveys seem to disprove this).  Hopefully Phil Short's timely discovery of the way on in Swildon's 12 may soon shed some light on this (as, indeed, may our own future explorations!).  John's dowsing map and summary are appended to this article and any queries should be addressed to him.

On the 22nd of June a large horse leech was found in a puddle halfway down the cave.  It was later liberated and after an evening of being admired in the bar was released at Waldegrave Pond.  Its seemingly shrunken size on capture was explained when its fatter companion was fished out a few days later!  Yet another of these beasties was later rescued by John and we are perplexed as to their source of origin, but convinced that they are washed in after heavy rain.  Lots of work was put in this week to push along the low bedding plane and narrow rift at the end in the hope of entering a possible enlargement which could be seen ahead.

Part Two - The First Breakthrough

On the 24th of June the writer was clearing bang debris from the RH side of the bedding plane when it was realised that just beyond there was an open rift passage full of loose boulders with a c.5ft drop to the floor and boulder filled void above.  This rift apparently continued upstream and may be the prophesised parallel waterway.  Attempts to gain access were thwarted by movement of the boulders so this passage was used as a convenient spoil dump and attention was transferred to the continuation of the more solid bedding plane in the hope of reaching a seemingly boulder free extension which could be glimpsed ahead.  Having reached real, open cave only 14½ months after the start of the dig it was with a sense of both satisfaction and relief that the writer headed out for a celebratory pint and to inform Roger and Jacquie that they now owned twice as many caves as Robin Main!  A return was made in the evening to fire the final charge to enlarge the bedding plane.  As much use was made of a crowbar to enter the passage, and to keep the dig theme, the extension was provisionally named The Bar Room - but this was later changed to Bar Steward Passage for reasons which will become obvious!

The following evening saw the writer, Trev, Alex and Mad Phil clearing the spoil from this bang so that a recce. of the find could be made in preparation for the Wednesday night push.  Where previously was an impassable bedding slot there was now a wide and roomy opening into the side of a roughly 5ft square passage heading down dip for some 20ft and boulder choked upstream after about 10ft.  Directly below the entry point an open rift at least 15 ft deep issued a strong draught and seemed to be the way on - possibly cutting under the boulder choked down dip passage.  Unfortunately, the far wall and ceiling of the extension were composed of "hanging deaths" and it could not be entered safely (so Mad Phil went in for a look!).  Luckily the LH wall of the breakthrough point is solid and the open rift in the floor of the bedding plane, which is directly above the hole in the floor of Bar Steward Passage, was banged on the 28th of June.  Next day the writer and Adrian Hole were able to squeeze down into the large, boulder filled passage below to find it to be a veritable death trap! The way on seems to be under the loose boulder floor in which several holes reveal voids below at least 15ft deep. By somehow engineering a route downwards this will eventually give us a sporting and occasionally very wet climb of at least 20ft.  Bar Steward Passage itself will come in handy as a spoil dump so hauling to the surface may eventually be a thing of the past.  In the meantime a lot of loose rock, purposely brought down from the ceiling of Bar Steward Passage will be dragged out to the rockery rock pile.  A mud choked phreatic tube leading straight ahead above the holes in the floor was tentatively examined and seemed to be the safest option.  The whole passage appears to have developed along a fault which explains its instability.

The depth of the cave must now be around 75ft and looks to be on course for going under the rubbish and stone filled dewpond situated in a depression adjacent to the roadside wall. It is assumed that Bar Steward Passage brings in the rest of the stream which sinks in the rift below the entrance shaft but it must be deep under the boulder floor and cannot yet be reached.


The now scaffolded route through the boulders heading into the mud choked tube

A few days earlier, on the 26th of June, what we thought to be the last 60 bags of spoil had been hauled out to the surface where a bottle of pretend Champagne, courtesy of Jim Smart, was rapidly diminishing in volume, and the following day Mad Phil, assisted by Dominic and Michelle, re-surveyed the cave.  Martin Mills's original survey notes for Hunters Hole were generously loaned to us by their creator (who, coincidentally is currently resident in the Pub) and on the 27th June these were tied in to the H.L.I. Sink with a surface survey by Phil and the writer.  These notes have been computerised by Phil so that the relationship between the two caves can be studied.  The surprisingly eastern position of Phil's last survey point was confirmed on the 1st of July by Brian and Brenda Prewer using radio location to fix the writer's transmitter position at the breakthrough point despite much interference from the adjacent electricity pole and transformer.

To date some 1400 loads of spoil have been removed from this dig and we are into large, open, draughting and extremely promising passage - albeit after a lot of hard work.  From now on we have the added stress of working our way down through the loose boulder ruckle so progress will inevitably be slow. Some work has been done at the mud choke at mid height in Bar Steward Passage and on the 15th of July a view of open, draughting passage was obtained.  Nearby an old peanut bag and piece of crisp packet were found - 2d and 6d respectively.  These probably date from the early 60s and indicate an open, though doubtless tiny, route to the surface at this time.  This may have been via Pub Crawl or the open rift below the entrance shaft. A good supply of scaffold poles and clips is being built up underground and we will soon be on the scrounge for more cement.  Vintage BEC members will be amused to know that Alfie's Hole may be above the assumed route of this cave!

Part Three - The Second Breakthrough

Four digging sessions from the 13th to the 16th of July gained some ten feet of progress in the muddy tube and in the process turned HLIS from Mendip's cleanest dig into one of its filthiest.  It also verified the BEC curse of the "Reverse Midas Touch" - everything we dig turns to shit!  At the end a view could be gained into open, draughting passage with a thick calcite floor preventing easy access from below.  A couple of sticks of gelignite were employed to solve this problem and on Wednesday the 17th, after a bit of squalid clearing, the way on was open.  A squeeze over a gonadcrunching rock led to some 20ft of dipping, hands and knees passage with a solid wall on the left and a calcited boulder choke on the right.  Ahead lay bigger blackness.  The committing route into the extension was passed by the writer and Gwilym but proved to be too tight for Trev, too difficult for uni-limbed Alex and too dark for Geoff, whose lamp had failed.

The Happy Hour Highway Extensions

 

The lithe and lucky duo found themselves entering a large, square passage with a massive boulder slope soaring up above Bar Steward Passage.  This was climbed for about 60ft, through horrendously poised, tottering monoliths to a point some 25ft from the surface and under Roger's new car park!  There is a lot of empty space just below the field here, the passage being 20ft wide by 6ft high with some fine yellow banded curtains on the ceiling.  It has been radio-located by Prew, assisted by Phil Hendy who was distinctly heard bashing a rock on the surface!  There were plans to drill a borehole into this area to aid the airflow and provide video camera access, but depth maybe a problem.

Downdip this amazing and totally unexpected bore passage was followed for about 120ft to a choke of clay and rock completely blocking the way on.  The draught, though, gives hope for a bypass to this.  The dimensions of "Happy Hour Highway" are on average 12-18ft wide by 6ft high.  There are hundreds of pure white straws and pale yellow "carrots" and large areas of ca1cited floor, drip pockets, crystals and flowstone walls.  A marked route has been laid using 9mm static cord donated by Andy Elson and photographs have been taken - a particularly fine set being captured by Carmen Haskell using a digital camera.  Large, broken stalagmites on the floor, big phreatic ceiling pockets and roof tubes, together with the size and general nature of the place testify to its extreme age - contemporary with Talus Four in White Pit? On first impressions it would seem to be far older than St. Cuthbert's Swallet and Hunters' Hole is probably a mere inlet.  The current end is well over 80ft below the bottom of the infilled Alfie's Hole and lies directly below the road (see map).  Its continuation may be under Southfield Farm. Watch this space!!!


Looking left at the end – briefly dug but abandoned due to size of the collapsed roof slabs blocking the dig.

The site of current efforts along the right hand wall of the collapse.  A tunnel has been dug through sand and gravels passing beneath the formations.  Some 8ft along the dig has turned left and downwards beneath the roof and into well compacted sand. gravel and boulders

Extreme care should be taken throughout this passage.  Some unique formations have already been destroyed by the inattention of the diggers, including the writer.  Unobvious floor deposits are particularly vulnerable and the tapes should not be crossed for any reason - photographers take note. If damage continues this extension could easily be resealed!

There is great scope for scientific work in this cave, particularly regarding its age and geological formation.  UBSS geologist Andy Farrant has visited and is currently giving this some thought. Surveying and photography is continuing and the terminal choke is being dug, as is the choke below Bar Steward Passage.

 

WARNING. Following a very wet trip on the 10th of July (shades of 1968!) John Walsh contracted an unpleasant virus initially diagnosed as Weil's Disease.  Luckily it wasn't and he is back on the wine but there is every chance of its presence here and should visitors get flu-like symptoms between 3 and 19 days after a wet trip here they should immediately see their doctor and advise him of this.  All cavers should carry an NCA Weil' s Disease information card - available from the writer - as any wet Mendip cave is likely to be infected with the leptospirosis bacterium.  In addition, with the current prevailing weather conditions the levels of carbon dioxide in the extension are uncomfortably high and hence any physical exertion is rapidly exhausting.  The party size should thus be kept small.  

A happy man and some of his archaeological discoveries

 
 

More views of the extensions



Additions to the Team and Acknowledgements

Matt Davey, Richard Dolby, Danny Burnett, Julie Hesketh (MCG,GSG), John Wilcock (BCRA - dowsing), Brian and Brenda Prewer (lighting and radio-location), Michelle Lloyd-Hopkins, Dominic Gane, Martin "Milche" Mills (SMCC - Hunters' Hole Survey), Sean Morgan (ropes and boulder nets), Nick Mitchell, Alison Moody (WCC), Jonathon Davies (GSG), Guy Morgan, Tony Boycott, Geoff Wild, Thomas Arbenz (SNT and Bat Products, Switzerland), Andy Elson (cord donation), Jayne Stead (GSG), Richard Carey (MCG), Carmen Haskell (WCC), Phil Hendy (WCC radio-location), Sean Howe, Martin Grass (CSCC - conservation tape), Mike Wilson, Jim Smart, and Andy Farrant (UBSS).

Selected References

Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

Belfry Bulletins Nos. 448 (Feb 1989); 511 (July 2001); 513 (Sprin 2002)  (A.R. Jarratt. )

MSS Logbooks, Survey Notes. (A.R. Jarratt, T. Hughes, A. Livingstone, P. Rowsell).

Hunters Hole

BEC Caving Report No.6 - Some smaller Mendip Caves, (B.M. Ellis), Oct. 1961.

SMCC Jnl. Series 5. No.10 - A Survey of Hunters' Hole, Central Mendip, (M.T. Mills), Aug. 1975.

The Story of Priddy, (Alan Thomas), 1989, pp 59-60.

Limestones and Caves of the Mendip Hills (D.1. Smith & D.P. Drew), 1975, pp 122, 124, 128, 307.

Mendip. The Complete Caves (N. Barrington & W. Stanton), 3rd edn. 1977. Mendip Underground (D.J. Irwin & A.R. Jarratt), 1999, pp 97-98.

Alfie's Hole

BEC Caving Report No.6 - Some smaller Mendip Caves, (S.J. Collins), Oct. 1961.

Mendip. The Complete Caves (N. Barrington & W. Stanton), 3rd edn. 1977.


 

John Wilcock's Dowsing Results.

STAFFORD
17 June 2002

Mr A.R. JARRATT,
PRIDDY,
WELLS, Somerset

The weekend's results

Dear Tony,

It was pleasant meeting you again at the weekend.  Thanks for showing me your new hole at the Hunters.  I found the video link to the dig, and the explosion, most diverting!

I had a profitable day's work on Sunday.  I enclose a further copy (Sunday's results in red) since I did more work than was on the copy I gave you.

As you can see, for Tusker's holes, Sandpit Hole and Beetle Drop trend NW to join Swildons before White Pit, while Templeton's goes SE to join St Cuthbert’s.  Your new hole at the Hunters enters a NE-SW system.  To the west there are two depressions in the next field, and then it joins St Cuthbert’s.  In late Sunday afternoon I went in the forest to see where it was coming from, and proved that it comes from the Stock Hill Fault.  So there is the potential of flow from Thrupe via Slab House, Hillgrove and Cuckoo Cleeves, and then via Hunters to St Cuthbert’s and Wookey - maybe that's why your new system developed.

Thanks again, and do involve me in any further holes you are investigating - 1 can be in Mendip within two and a half hours from Stafford at the drop of a hat (mid-week included, since I am retired)!

Yours sincerely,

Dr John D. Wilcock

 


 

Dig Cam, An Armchair Caver's Dream.

by Bob Smith

Several months ago, I overheard Les Williams (WCC) discussing events to be organised for the Mendip 2002 gathering, with him saying something like: "Wouldn't it be great if we could watch Tony digging in the car park from the safety of the bar!"  There was much laughter until I mentioned that it could be quite easily done, since I had a camera that was small enough to be put into an Oldham headpiece, and viewed on any suitable TV.  His eyes lit up and he asked me if I really meant it.  After a few beers, we decided it was a 'goer' and so Dig Cam was born.

My next few days were occupied with finding suitable cables, connectors and a power supply for my miniature CCTV camera.  Eventually, I had all the parts gathered, and started the task of assembly.  With all the innards of the lamp removed, and the hole for the switch filled with hot melt glue, I coaxed the cable in and soldered it to the camera.  The comers of the circuit board had to be filed slightly to get it into the headpiece, and this too was held in with hot melt glue.  The whole unit was then sealed with more hot melt, and due to the length of the lens the toughened glass had to be glued to the outside of the bezel.

I had built a power supply and video feed box, and added around 50m of cable, and having no suitable caves in Portsmouth, tested the unit in the ideal conditions of my loft, the images being displayed on my PC through a television receiver card.  The effect was promising, so the whole lot was brought to Mendip, causing much ridicule and piss-taking: "So you need a TV and a mains supply, what f"**ing use is that in a cave!?"  Since it had been built for the specific use of viewing Hunters Lodge Inn Sink, where both these were available, I wasn't too bothered, but it did make me think about how I could remedy this.

Mendip 2002, Sunday 16th, 09.59 hrs.

Having arranged with Les to set up Dig Cam at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning, I was woken rudely by Bev telling me to get my hungover arse out of bed.  Bleary eyed, I dragged myself out of bed, and grabbed a lift to meet Les at the Hunters', or so I thought.  When I arrived, Les was nowhere to be seen, there was no TV and a small group waiting to see this "underground web cam thingy". Dig Cam was rapidly becoming a farce.  Luckily, Trevor turned up in time and returned to the shed to get the Belfry computer, which was quickly installed in the Function Room.  The camera, now placed on Bev's helmet, we were treated to images of Trevor stripping off in the car park.  A Petzl Duo provided light and so into the depths went the pair, with Alex following shortly.

For the next hour or so, various small groups paused on their way to the bar to watch Alex bashing rocks, and Trevor removing spoil.  There really is a limited amount of time that this can captivate even the hardiest of armchair enthusiasts, and again Dig Cam was becoming the proverbial damp squib.  Thank God Tony arrived when he did.  The ailing interest was noted, and Tony asked me if I thought that the camera would survive filming a bang.  I thought it probably would and then everyone’s interest perked up.  Trevor had finished drilling shotholes and the other two were returning to the surface.

Tony and I got kitted up and returned below to lay the charge.  The limitations of having a 70m umbilical cord became apparent as I struggled with a snotty mess of cables, with no idea whether I had damaged the fragile connections I had hastily made the day before to extend the cable to the dig face.  Eventually, I got to where Tony was laying the charge, and sat whilst Tony gave a televised broadcast of the use of explosives.  When everything was finished Tony returned to the surface, whilst I wedged the camera in place and secured the lamp provided by Brian Prewer.  A shout from Tony confirmed a good shot, so I exited, and was surprised by the number of people assembled to watch it all happen.  Roger Dors was given the pleasure of setting it all off, with a countdown, then a flash, a reassuring 'whump" from below, and then spontaneous applause and congratulations.  The camera had survived, clearly showing bang fumes drifting in the still intact lamp's light.  As the crowd left, the cables were cut and Dig Cam remained underground until the spoil could be cleared.

The advantage of using the computer for this event was the ability to capture the pictures and save them for later use.  Since the outing, interest was expressed about possible uses for a small remote camera. I have since purchased a small portable TV that can be connected, and the camera can also be run from a battery. The addition of sound is not too far off, but any more suggestions for improvements will be appreciated.


Dig Cam in action in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.


 

18 Months Hard Labour - Gas St." Sanctimonious Passage.  Hunters' Hole.

by Tony Jarratt

(This article was written in 1989, but was never published.  It relates the history of a desperate dig in this cave between March 1987 and September 1988 and is relevant to the current exploration in this area - particularly Tony Blick's dowsing results!)

Sanctimonious Passage, discovered by the BEC on the 13th of July 1958, is situated 2.5m up the south west wall of the Railway Tunnel some 5.2m from the bottom of Main Pitch.  38m of sporting downdip passage leads via the once 5.5m deep Rover Pot to what was a choked rift.  The Pot is now 0.6m less deep due to digging spoil and the rift is no longer choked.  Previous digging at the rift was mainly by Alan Thomas and friends in Feb/March 1968. They banged the small hole at the then end of the passage to uncover a 10cm wide by c.6m long rift after which their dig was abandoned.

Being the deepest point in the cave at 52.4m, it was examined in October 1985 by Tim Large and the writer who were looking for a new project.  Nothing further was done until March 7th 1987 when Martin Bishop, who also had an interest in the site, joined the writer, Steve Milner and Richard Stevenson on the first digging and blasting trip of the project.  Some 6m of narrow, outward draughting rift led off from the bottom of Rover Pot.  This was banged by Rich and cleared the following day by a large team, resulting in 2m of progress.  The following weekend Nigel Taylor banged the dig (see, I told you it was an old write up!) followed by Tony Boycott on the 12th of April.  Further banging trips by the writer, Brian Prewer and Fred Davies - with clearing sessions by most of the active Belfryites - resulted in some 10m of passable cave by the 5th of July when an open hole could be seen in the ceiling of the rift some 2m ahead.  On this trip it was noticed that the draught was now inwards.  One more bang enabled the team to reach this hole, but it could not be pushed due to awkward wedged boulders.  The first signs of lack of oxygen made themselves felt as all on this trip suffered from "bang heads".

Fred laid a further charge midweek and Snablet passed the remains of the boulders to enter 5m of decorated crawl ending in a further blockage. 1.5m of open stuff could be seen ahead and there was an encouraging echo.   After further clearing, on the 18th of July the visible end was reached and two small holes noted, through a false floor above the passage, which revealed a view into a clean washed bedding passage above.  The false floor was banged.

The following day the writer squeezed up through the resulting "Manhole" to gain a view along c.8m of open bedding passage, well decorated with small straws and helictites (now destroyed).  This could not be entered due to the writer's leg length but Steve got in by removing his wellies.  He pushed a further 3m until stopped by a low squeeze but could see a further 6-7m. The air conditions were by now particularly bad with the carbon dioxide content being very high.  Another bang by Nigel (of reduced scale in 1987!) enabled Snablet to reach the same squeeze but not pass it.  All again retreated suffering from exhaustion and headaches.

Pete Eckford banged next and after leaving the fumes to clear for a week the writer removed enough debris to pass the squeeze and crawl downdip, through another very tight section for some 6m to be confronted by what appeared to be a sump.  With breathing rate and panic both rapidly rising he retreated backwards and uphill as quickly as possible, hoping desperately not to pass out before passing the squeeze! Both he and Pete were very badly affected by the bad air and it took some time (and beer) to recover.

In an attempt to pass the supposed sump, Steve and Pat Cronin entered the CO2 filled section using diving gear and mini bottles on the 8th August 1987 but were defeated by the final squeeze and could do little but empty the contents of their three bottles to try and improve the atmosphere.

On the 14th of August yet another banging trip was made to widen the passage immediately beyond the Manhole.  The results were checked on the 12th of September by the writer and Tom Chapman who found a vast pile of gravel awaiting them.  This was cleared aside and the final squeeze passed to find that the supposed sump was actually a 3m long duck with about 15cm of airspace. With some trepidation this was pushed to emerge in 12m of small but well decorated phreatic tube ending in a flowstone blocked comer with the tell-tale echo of more passage beyond.  Sadly, the crystal pools and straws in the new section did not survive this exploration.  On this trip the air was relatively fresh so a planned bang was cancelled in the hope that all the rubble in the dig could be cleared while conditions were good.

This was carried out during two trips on the 10th of October and the 21st of November with the assistance of Cardiff University and Worcester cavers, some 20 sledge loads of spoil being dragged out and dumped at Rover Pot.  On the 19th of December the flowstone blocked comer was banged.  This was cleared and another charge fired on the 5th of January and it was now realised that the bad air problem seemed to have been resolved - probably due to passage dimensions being greater following the clearing sessions. A further charge was fired on the 23rd of January and the unpleasant 3m duck converted into a muddy grovel by Rich Payne.  The water from the duck could be heard flowing away into the distance along the 1.5m by 13cm wide rift at the end of the dig.

Next day 2m of progress was made after a clearing session and another kilo of bang fired at the end. This was found to have had very little result on the next visit on February 6th 1988, so another kilo was set off. Appropriately, on February 13th it was found that the last charge had misfired so a new detonator was attached and duly fired.  A week later half of the original bang was still in existence!  Another half kilo was added in the hope that the "Curse of Sanctimonious" had worn off.

No such luck.  On the 27th February two fresh detonators and yet another kilo were laid among the stubborn and growing pile of bang lurking at the face and the lot was fired with a very satisfying thump.  On the 16th of March the writer found to his relief that at last the place was safe but with poor results and so another kilo was evaporated.

This was checked out four days later when a visiting Wessex team came down on a "works outing". Due to foul air this was a quick trip with another kilo being fired at the end and yet another, on a separate wire, being laid on the squeeze just before the duck to make life easier on future trips.

Four more banging and clearing trips were made up to the 11th of June during which 2m of passage was gained at the end and the offending squeeze removed by Martin after chiselling away the shattered rock.  On the last of these visits Steve and Snablet surveyed the extension using a Fibron tape and Suunto compass for a length of 37m but unfortunately found the air conditions to have once more deteriorated.

Meanwhile, on the 14th of May the diggers were treated to a display of dowsing by Tony Blick of the Craven Pothole Club.  Not knowing anything about the cave he successfully traced the known passages and then followed Sanctimonious to a junction with a supposedly 5m wide passage at well over 35m depth which would appear to be the continuation of the Railway Tunnel.  He suggested that this passage descends steeply and there is water present in the form of pools or a small stream.  (Although this surmised passage was presumably not far from the current end of Hunters' Hole - time having erased the memory of its position - it fits perfectly with the Happy Hour Highway extensions in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.  At  this time of year the stream may well have been flowing).

The writer checked out the bang results on June 17th and found them wanting so returned the following week with Mark "Gonzo" Lumley to clear and fire 1½ kilos.  On the 1st July they returned to lay another kilo - the bad air making it a quick trip. Another charge was fired two weeks later and on the 22nd of July open passage was entered up to waist level! On the 13th of August this squeeze was banged and left for two weeks when the breakthrough came at last on the 27th and a 2.45m deep pot was descended into 10m of well decorated and relatively large passage ending in a low, mud choked crawl.  This was opened up to Snablet size and 6m of muddy rift entered ending in another miserable looking mud and rock choke.  The bad air here encouraged a swift exit.

The writer returned to this unpleasant spot on the 5th of September and, after stabilising the spoil heap before the last crawl using mud filled sandbags, went to the bitter end. The crawl was now half full of water and the air conditions at the end were atrocious.  A view through the fist sized hole at the end revealed either a small pool or sump a metre ahead.

In view of the extreme danger inherent in working here in the present conditions (1988) it has been decided to suspend digging over the winter months in the hope that the air improves.   There is really no hope of using bang at the end as it would prove fatal to the next party down.

So ends - hopefully temporarily - the painful saga of almost exactly eighteen months of digging and blasting.  Though all part of Sanctimonious Passage the squeeze down into the 61 metres or so of the extension now bears a metal road sign (pinched from Newtown, Mid-Wales) which is both nickname and warning to the unaware: Gas St.

(As far as I know the place hasn't been visited since - hardly surprising!  It sounds just like Mad Phil's cup of tea).

The Diggers

1968 - Alan Thomas, Colin Priddle, Keith Franklin and Phil Coles.

1985-1988 - Rich Stevenson, Steve Milner, Tony Jarratt, Martin Bishop (Pegasus CC), Mark Lumley, Pete "Snablet" Mcnab, John Chew, Happy and Viv (Royal Marines), Nigel Taylor, Tom Chapman, Robin Brown, Mike Wilson (Keynsham EG), Tony Boycott, Andy Middleton, Phil Provis, Richard Neville-Dove, Pete Hopkins, Gary Jago, Tony?, Brian Prewer, Fred Davies (WCC), Keith Bentham (Eldon PC), Steve? (EPC), Phil Romford, Alan Jeffreys (GSG), Kevin Gurner, Nick Gymer, Pat Cronin, Pete Eckford, Lisa Taylor, Andy Sparrow, Rich Stevens, Brian van Luipen, Hugh Penny, Jane and Phil (Cardiff UCC), Rich Payne, Graham Wilton-Jones, Duncan Price, Brian Gilbert, Chris Proctor (Devon SS), Graham "Jake" Johnson (WCC), Nick Pollard (WCC), Geoff Newton (WCC), Steve ?, Jon Shaw (OS) and Stuart Laing.

Acknowledgements

Shepton Mallet Caving Club for permission to reproduce the Hunters Hole survey.  (This included Stem Passage, discovered by Jim Rands and Pete Hann of the Wessex and the Sanctimonious Passage/Gas St. extension which should be taken as BCRA Grade 2 and will hopefully be resurveyed one day).


 

Meghalava 2002 - 200+ Kilometres and Ongoing!

by Tony Jarratt and Annie Audsley

" India ... it seems that there will be no caves on a world scale nor any karst features of outstanding significance. "

The Underground Atlas - Middleton & Waltham, 1986

This year's annual expedition to NE India was once again efficiently organized in the UK by Simon Brooks - even though he was unable to join the team, being demoted to the China Caves Project.  Our man on the spot, Brian Kharpran Daly, did his usual splendid job of sorting out the Meghalayan side of the trip.  The BEC was represented by Annie Audsley (on a break from a year's festering in New Zealand) Dr. Tony Boycott and your scribe.  Cavers from seven different countries, or ten if you count Wales, Scotland and Schwabia, converged on the hill state of Meghalaya at the beginning of February for several weeks of exploration, surveying and beer consumption.  It was unfortunate this year that we hadn't all bought shares in the Indian bog roll industry as great fortunes would have been made!


The first week saw two teams at work in the Garo Hills of western Meghalaya and the Cherrapunjee/Laitkynsew area of the East Khasi Hills - two hour's drive SSW of the capital, Shillong.  The Garo team had well over a day's rough drive to reach their patch, to find that food and accommodation were basic to say the least.  Over to Annie ...

It was a select team of Mark, Daniel, Peter, Lindsay, Jorg, Annie, the driver, Bud and his assistant who found ourselves in the tiny village of Asakgre following two days of rattling jeep ride, sharing a late night feast of boiled potatoes and eggs around the campfire.  We had come to recce a new area in the West Garo Hills and were now wondering what this place, hidden deep in the jungle at the very end of an old Shaktiman track, would reveal.  The next day the crowd of curious villagers who gathered around the dilapidated government Inspection Bungalow (IB) where we were staying, told us that there were indeed many caves within walking distance of the village (good start!).  The local people proved to be incredibly helpful and generous; the headman, BIen Marak, and his two brothers, Erok and Hellindro, offered to act as guides and we recruited two others to cook for us.  Throughout our stay there were always people around, bringing cooking pots, or offering such things as bananas or a remedy for a sick stomach (honey and rum - yum), or just sitting around the fire while we overcame the language barrier with bottles of beer and port.  For all of this they refused any payment; they were fantastic people.

The area around the village was one of low-lying, thickly jungled limestone hills with stream caves developing horizontally, and frequently with a maze-like confusion of criss-crossing side pasages.  Blen and his brothers showed us several small caves which they had themselves exploredfully with the aid of smoking torches. They were intrigued to come back in with us to see the passages more clearly with electric light.  These caves were surveyed quickly by us splitting into two teams and things got particularly exciting when we had to drag Mark away from surveying the lower reaches of Mendi, whish were lacking in oxygen, and when Daniel found some mermaids (?) in the streamway of Kimrang.

More extensive than these was Kholjong Cave, with a stream the size of which led Mark and Daniel to conjecture about the "longest cave in India" ... and a mass of small, dry side passages. We had fun ''finishing off' upstream; the passage which must soon close down, opening and branching into a series of deep canals and big, dry side passages.  Kholjong didn't prove to be India's longest cave however and was finished off by the time we left at 2.108 km.

Danged was the largest cave which our guides knew of and had an impressive entrance at the base of a cliff which led into a large streamway. Mark, Jorg and I set off down a canyon which branched off the main stream and soon emerged into a vast, square passage, dominated by the ''fallen megafreighter" boulder, and increasingly thick with bats.  Thousands of them flitted out past us like big furry fairies (or something).  We drew and photographed them for the record and continued onward over slimy, smelly boulders and a trickle of stream. Daniel's disembodied voice ahead led us to think that we were coming back round to the main stream but we never met up with the other team who had been stopped in their tracks at the head of two waterfalls which fell into the bat passage.  The stream disappeared into what may be ongoing (grovelly) passage and so we climbed up instead into a series of large, round and sparkly chambers but had to turn round before reaching a conclusion.  We emerged from the cave to find the guides very nervous and keen to get away, having heard wild elephants nearby.  We heard them again on the walk back but were disappointed (and Blen was relieved) not to see any.

After each day's caving we returned along jungle tracks and through the village.  My mind was considerably more blown on the first day by the sight of this settlement than it had been by running along through virgin passage underground.  Bamboo huts stood in the red earth with the occasional palm tree and dogs, pigs, goats and children ran loose among them.  On the edge of the village was a wooden festival house, carved and painted with human figures, snakes and tigers and which everyone but me (being a girl) was allowed to enter and have a look around. This was a place almost entirely untouched by the West and it was not really surprising that the children stared curiously at the aliens who had arrived in their midst with strange clothes and lights on their heads!

After four days in the Garo Hills half the team left for Shillong. Mark (to organize the new arrivals from Europe) Jorg (for rest, recuperation and a comfortable toilet) and Peter (who wanted a helicopter ride) headed for Tura and a much shorter journey to Shillong in the chopper.  Lindsay also went to Tura to get vital supplies of more port leaving Daniel and I to a much needed washing day.  The next couple of days were spent tying up loose ends and on our last day in the area Blen and his brothers took us on a long walking trip to look at various new cave entrances, a lake, some trout ("Walk quietly - there are big fish."), but sadly still no elephants.  We headed back to the IB early for our last meal of potatoes, rice and dhal and then said goodbye, leaving gifts of rum and Leathermans for the guides and promising to return next year.  We climbed back into the jeep, which by now had no shock absorbers and a failing clutch, and set off on the long, and even bumpier than before, journey to Shillong.  This was partly compensated for by the fact that I did finally see an elephant on the way back.

Your scribe, being on the "Cherra Team" was forced to stay at our friend Denis Rayen's Cherra Tourist Resort - base for last year's BEC team and overall superb spot overlooking the jungle covered escarpments of southern Meghalaya and the vast flood plains of Bangladesh below.  Our first evening was spent watching a very poor bootleg CD of "Pearl Harbor" and getting about one hour's sleep due to atrocious high volume pop music and singing emanating from the adjacent Laitkynsew village annual all night party.

Feb. 6th and 7th saw a ten person team surveying, exploring, photographing and bat studying in the Krem Soh Shympi/Rumdan system - partly explored but not mapped by last year's BEC team.  This impressive horizontal cave eventually yielded 1.428km of generally large and bat infested fossil passages but a nasty, low active streamway below was only partially surveyed and showed little promise of improving. It was while lying flat out in this particularly flood prone spot that we decided a whip round was needed to purchase new spectacles for Rob Harper and to ignore all future "It's a real goer" tips from this man.  The writer, Denis and Thomas had the job of surveying behind the advance party but due to a fortunate communications failure ended up leaving the main route and providentially climbing into 203m of superbly decorated fossil gallery ending at the lip of a 14m deep pot (Sunflower Pot - named after a matchbox thrown down to later prove a connection with the lower levels).  We had first assumed that this pot would enter the mythical enormous passage beyond Rob's streamway and had hurled huge boulders down it, not realising that it was actually an aven on the main "trade route" through the cave along which the others had recently passed!

On the 8th we had planned to visit the unique living rubber tree bridges located in the jungle below Laitkynsew and then check out a supposed resurgence at the nearby village of Mustoh.  "Nearby" is a relative term in a place where everyone lives essentially partway up a gigantic, jungle covered cliff.   Although only a few hundred metres from the Resort, Mustoh is reached either by a 40 minute jeep ride down a hairpin track or a direct walk down about 1500 sandstone steps for a vertical distance of 370 metres which takes about the same time.  As it happened we never got to see the bridges as, following a natter with the village headman, we were shown a sink cave - Krem Umjasew - about ten minutes walk from Mustoh in an adjacent dry valley.  The unprepossessing entrance was located in a heap of boulders at the side of this valley where a short climb down dropped into the head of a stunning, steeply descending bore passage which obviously takes a vast amount of water during the monsoon.  Three of us, dressed in T-shirts and light trousers, were soon knocking up the metreage while the others continued with reconnaissance of some nearby rock shelters known to be the home of a nest of King Cobras!


Prospecting in the hills of Meghalava.

After a straight line distance of some 250 metres, from where we could still see daylight from the entrance, we reached the head of a 10 metre pitch caused by a choke in the floor of the main drag where it briefly narrowed down.  This was descended on the following day and the main passage followed on down dip to a deep lake where a traverse and short ladder climb gained the far shore without too much of a wetting.  Huge wedged logs proved the power of the stream in flood conditions and prompted the appropriate name of "The Log Flume" for the main passage. Beyond the lake the cave continued in fine style with a 45 metre free climb down a sculpted rock wall - The North Face - providing great sport.  Here we temporarily lost the stream and reached another pitch - about 20 metres deep but passable with a 10 metre ladder.  Both pitches are actually more easily passed by free climbing with a traverse line, the cave being particularly well endowed with jug holds and ledges.  Beyond, the bore passage entered the ceiling of a huge, gloomy and mist filled chamber some 25 metres deep.  Bats circled in the Dantesque regions below and with hopes of returning to follow gigantic river galleries all the way to Bangladesh we headed back to the Resort to overdo it on celebrating with beer and Captain Morgan rum.  In the meantime Lump and Shelley had pushed an adjacent cave - Krem Umjasew 2 - down a series of pitches and some superbly decorated passage to emerge in the main cave at the 250 metre point.

On the 10th, feeling decidedly fragile, three of us laddered the pitch to the floor of the immense chamber where a huge sand dune and an area of massive collapse marked the apparent end of the accessible system. Martin named this The Desert of Despond. Another look around here next year, without the burden of a rum hangover, may yield a way on.  At 1.077 km long and just under 200 metres deep this system is now one of India's deepest and most sporting caves which hones one's climbing and traversing skills to perfection!  On staggering back to Mustoh village that evening we were met by Denis and Thomas bearing good and bad news.  The good news was that the chai shop was open late and a roaring bonfire had been lit but the bad news was that the jeep, parked nearby, was buggered and we had to climb up the 370m stone staircase back to the Resort!  Never again will I make a pig of myself on rum ... Meanwhile Dr. B. and Jayne had almost gotten arrested by the Border Security Force for wandering around the town of Shella, on the Bangladesh border, without passports but were let off with slapped wrists when the police realised that they were British cavers. They had been looking for possible resurgences but found nothing obvious in the difficult and jungle covered terrain around the town.

Lots of other small caves were looked at around Mustoh village and there is plenty more to do in this very pleasant area.  The locals are very friendly and helpful, especially the village youths, two of whom, Alban and Shampoo (honest!) were taken on a photography/derigging trip in Krem Umjasew and bottomed their first cave with extreme ease, being natural born cavers.  They were so good that Lump sneaked a large rock into their tackle bag to slow the buggers down a bit!

Our surveyed total in this area was 2.3 km and on the 13th we regretfully left the Resort to join up with the main team at Sutnga in the Jaintia Hills.  A stomach bug had now made it's unpleasant presence felt on both us and the Garo team and persisted throughout the expedition, getting almost everyone - including at least one of the Meghalayan lads.  A flock of hopeful looking vultures gathered daily by the roadside to check on it's progress!

At Sutnga we established ourselves in the LB (inspection bungalow) where most of the recently arrived team had already spent a couple of days, investigating leads in the Krem Umthloo system but finding little of interest.  On the 15th "Peter the Pirate", our one eyed Austrian bolting expert and I decided to attempt the climb up Shrimp Pool Aven located at the end of the main upstream passage in Umthloo.  We abseiled in via the already rigged 40m deep Krem Myrliat and soon reached our objective where, after various entertaining but futile attempts at lassoing and sky hooking ledges 5 metres up, we gave up and Peter used our Makita battery drill to put in three bolts. Technology hits Meghalayan caving! From the top, 6 metres above, a superb potholed streamway - Captain Hook's Canyon - was followed until lack of time and another 5 metre climb caused a halt. We returned next day intent on mapping a kilometre or so of horizontal stuff but were soon brought back to reality at the base of a c.l 0 metre high aven located just around the comer from our last survey point.  I partly free climbed this before handing it over to Peter and the Makita for a more professional job.  After an hour's hard work he gained the top and Fiona and I joined him at the base of yet another soaring shaft - Black Spot Aven.  A narrow chimney at one end was again bolted up by Peter to gain an airy ledge with a rift/aven at one end which our knackered bolter suggested I have a look at before we headed out for our jeep rendezvous as time was now pressing.

I managed to free climb up another 10 metres or so to reach a huge, double level chamber with routes up between massive boulders where it was easy to lose the way.  Leaves and other debris indicated a nearby entrance and, on looking up, I saw daylight at the top of an inaccessible, c.15 metre high aven.  Another daylight aven nearby seemed climbable so I summoned the others to join me for the escape attempt - later proved to have been a bad move!  A bolting/free climbing ascent of this aven was attempted but it was now dark on the surface and this, plus a large overhang put paid to the writer's efforts some 8 metres up.  We were now well overdue and decided to retreat via Krem Myrliat from whence we emerged two hours late at 9 p.m. to later meet a prospective rescue team who had just arrived at Tongseng village. After apologising all round we gratefully drank the emergency beer supplies thoughtfully provided and were driven back to the LB. for a very late meal.  Despite all this it had been a classic and enjoyable trip and we had virtually connected the main streamway entrance to this 12 km system - to provide one of the world's finest through trips - but where was this entrance?  A note typed in German and stuck on the LB. wall gave the answer.  Last year Thomas Matthalm and team had investigated two interconnected surface shafts situated near the V-shaped ancient monoliths on the footpath to Krem Myrliat but had not descended them due to lack of equipment.  This was Krem Ryman and was visited next day by Peter, me and the expedition stomach bug.  While the bug and I sought out a cosy patch of jungle Peter abseiled down one of the open pots to pass the terminal bolt of the previous day a mere 6 metres from the surface! Bugger, bugger, bugger.  Another couple of bolts and a bit of climbing would have seen us out in plenty of time - or even better; if my German had been up to scratch or I had studied Daniel's magnificent cave data book more closely, I would have realised this was the main sink and we could have explored it from the top down! Such is life.  The connecting passages and chamber, aptly named "Life is a Drama" from a slogan seen painted on a Shaktiman truck, were later surveyed and yet another entrance pot 40 metres deep found.


The v-shaped monoliths and the dolmen at Tongseng.

On the 20th Yorkshire Dave and I investigated the strongly draughting "Hairdryer Hole" situated above a different part of the Umthloo system.  Two other adjacent holes were pointed out by local woodcutter Barlis Tongseng.  They were collectively known as Krem Umtyngier and included a fourth, huge shaft which had previously been descended into Umthloo and incorrectly named Krem Moolale.  Two of the three, including the very promising Hairdryer Hole, were dug open to reveal short vertical systems becoming too tight or boulder choked and the third also became choked.  Despite this they may well be visited again in the future as they lie in a particularly interesting zone where a connection between the underlying Umthloo system and the nearby 1.820 km Krem Muid may be on the cards. Krem Muid itself may connect up with the 3.339 km long, and truly stunning, Krem Mawshun, located near the village of Leilad.  Bang will be needed in Hairdryer Hole but this has been easily obtained in the past from local quarrymen - at an inflated price but still dirt cheap compared with European prices.  It was while digging out the entrance of one of these caves that your scribe got jumped on by a 5 cm long Tiger Leech which was fortunately spotted in time (before it died of alcohol poisoning) and was pulled off by Barlis.

Meanwhile other team members had been shown and had partly surveyed the huge stream cave of Krem Liat Prah, slightly to the north east of the Umthloo area.  Fiona persuaded the writer that a low and wet inlet, mapped for some distance by her and Christophe, needed finishing off and could lead to great things.  Having ranted on about the necessity of pushing all small side passages I could hardly refuse and so found myself lying flat out in a stream after having crawled in water for 70 metres and now breathing in vast clouds of acetylene gas from Fiona's dropped spare carbide drum. Luckily the passage closed down here and we could return to the 15 metre diameter "aircraft hangar" main drag of this lengthy system - later surveyed and meticulously drawn up by Michael, whose "baby" it was, to a length of 5.954 km.  A connection with the " Shaktiman Highway" in the adjacent 1.046 km long Krem Um Im was missed by only a few metres when the explorers failed to swim a short lake, not realising that it was the same lake seen to one side of the streamway in Liat Prah!  This combined system may, in turn, connect with the previously explored Krem Labbit (0.457+ km) - itself almost joined to Krem Shynrong Labbit (5.7 km).  This theoretical system of over 13 km is itself not far from the extensive major upstream inlet passages of the 12.65 km long Umthloo system and a promising pot found by Dan and Fiona is situated directly over the missing section where Robin, Ruben and Ronnie also did extensive surface investigations.  A possible mega (or Megha) system of over 40 km is prophesied if the missing links actually exist and can be discovered.


As more caves are discovered and surveyed along the limestone ridge the picture becomes clearer and the connections more likely.  With vast, low lying areas on both sides of this ridge the extreme age of these caves becomes obvious and the writer has a pet theory that they were formed by a mighty river originating in the Himalaya to the north - possibly the proto Brahmaputra before it eroded it's way around the north west side of Meghalaya and then south to the Bay of Bengal.  The original catchment area for the ridge is now the country of Bangladesh some 1,500 metres below!  Another likely connecting cave to Umthloo was pointed out to us by a small boy and lay only 160 metres from Krem Ryman. Krem Korlooheng started with a scramble down for 15 metres to a 12 metre pitch, awkward sloping rift, 90 metres of Yorkshire style scalloped streamway and then a bloody great black hole.

Cherrypicker Pot proved to be a 42.7 metre free hang to a ledge and further 8 metre pitch - over 50 metres in all and awesomely photogenic.  Walkie-talkies were used for communication on this pitch as the echo chamber effect made ordinary speech unintelligible.  Mark used another of our toys, a petrol powered rock drill, halfway down the pot to put in a rebelay and the noise was incredible - like someone ascending the rope on a Harley-Davidson!  At the bottom a pleasant stream passage was surveyed by Lindsay and the writer for 230 metres to end at a low and squalid section which soon sumped.  Here Mark swore he saw a fish which he recognised from the previous year in Umthloo!  Our hopes for an easy way out via Krem Ryman were now dashed and once again we were late back for supper. Another "rescue party" swung into action that evening, not for us but for Yorkshire Dave, Annie and Nicola who had cocked up their jeep rendezvous point and were later found having walked several kms back towards Sutnga.  Communications are a big problem in this fairly remote area with poor roads and teams exploring different areas at the same time.  Next year we plan to take more walkie-talkies and hired satellite 'phones.  One possible problem with walkie-talkies is their use near the Bangladesh (and even the sister state of Assam) borders.

Thomas, Brian K.D. and team had meanwhile been pushing a 1.323 km long resurgence cave reported to have a resident ghost - Krem Wah Shikar.  A beautifully decorated and very roomy river passage had a variety of inlets - one of which Thomas and I explored to reach a second entrance. A picturesque grotto halfway along was named Suppliers' Chamber as both discoverers happened to coincidentally own caving shops called Bat Products!  Funny old world ... The resident ghost was obviously a bit miffed and pinched one of my socks in revenge.  Thomas placated it with the offering of a Coconut Crunchee biscuit (pronounced bisquit by Peter) and the sock later mysteriously reappeared at the LB.

This was obviously a playful and friendly wraith. In the remote and somewhat spooky Lakadong area which some of us had briefly visited last year Martin, Mark, Shelley and Dan were confronted by something else altogether.  They had set a precedent during their first week in Shillong by finding the body of a recently murdered teenager floating in a river.  In Lakadong their main aim was to descend two c.50 metre potholes located near the village and neighbouring immigrant coal miners' encampment.  Surrounded by the usual horde of curious villagers they rigged the first pot and were not unduly surprised to hear the sounds of people apparently working in the depths below.  These were obviously colliers who had entered from another, unknown entrance.  After shouting down a warning Dan abseiled into the depths to stop short of a group of at least six people at the shaft bottom. The shouted warning had been unnecessary as his new acquaintances had very obviously been dead for some time, and probably not by accident.  There was no other access to the pot.  Without getting off the rope our now thoroughly discomfited hero rapidly changed over and headed for the sweeter smelling surface to report to the locals that this reputedly 700 metre deep hole could not be bottomed due to lack of tackle!

They quickly thanked the crowd for their assistance and escaped to the tranquillity of the local LB. Two days later a second shaft which lay in the edge of the jungle some distance away was visited.  Once again this was rigged and descended and though an awesome place seemed to be ghost free.  On reaching the bottom though it was apparent that the spirits were only taking the day off as another rotting corpse met the startled explorer's eyes. Yet again a rapid retreat was made. Apparently the deceased was a local woman thief who raided nearby villages but then made the fatal error of stealing from her own people.  Justice can be simple and swift in these remote areas and a 50 metre pothole is as sure as a gun or rope to ensure that the sentence is satisfactorily carried out, with the added benefit of no body disposal problems.

Apart from these gruesome discoveries the team were surprised not to find large, horizontal galleries at the base of these pots.  More reconnaissance work needs to be done in this theoretically important area hence the authorities were not informed of the quantity of dead people found. It is most unlikely that they would be interested anyway, especially if these were the bodies of immigrant miners who seem to be regarded as a sub species of the human race.

During the expedition many more smaller caves were explored, surveyed and occasionally dug into by sad people with no mental control.  Dan and Fiona undertook more biospelaeological research in the Krem Kotsati/Umlawan system at Lumshnong and in Krem Liat Prah.  Paul continued with the ongoing video project and he, Lump and others took many still photographs, particularly of cave life and entrances for record purposes.  Daniel, Thomas, Mark and Dave wore their fingers to the bone typing data and diary notes into the indispensable computers. Ruben and Ronnie reminded us all what it was like to be young and several times almost became candidates for a Lakadong ropeless abseil trip.  Dorien mutinied after a few days and returned to Belgium to look after her sick father.  Dr. B, suffering from the after effects of a bout of pneumonia, went back to Calcutta with Jayne for a rest and did sterling work in tracking down J .K. Dey and Sons, carbide and safety lamp manufacturers.  Your scribe later met Mr. Sandip Kumar Dey and arranged for the future manufacture of brass carbide generators for the Indian and British caving markets.

With less than eleven months to go plans are already in hand for next year's trip. Brian K.D. and Gareth William were introduced to the very influential high priest of the pagan, animist "Old Religion" which is apparently still practised in the Tongseng - Shnongrim area alongside Presbyterianism.  This very knowledgeable and friendly English speaker showed us several caves, pointed out sacred caves which it was suggested we keep out of and offered to find us a camp site in the middle of the area for next year.  Most of those present will return on the slim hope of finding some " ... karst features of outstanding significance."

Seventy sites were recorded this year giving a surveyed length of 22.598 kms and putting the total Meghalayan cave length at 204.598 kms.  This article is written from the viewpoints of two BEC members and fuller accounts of other peoples' experiences will appear in Descent, the Grampian S.G. Bulletin, etc.

Participants:

Austria: Peter "the Pirate" Ludwig (LVHOO)

Belgium: Christophe Deblaere, Dorien Verboven (SPEKUL)

Germany: Jorg Dreybrodt (HADES), Michael Laumanns (SCB), Daniel Gebauer (HAG)

India: Organizer - Brian Kharpran Daly (GSG/MA), Shelley & Lindsay Diengdoh, Dale, Teddy & Ronnie Mawlong, Gareth William Lyngwa (all MA), Denis Rayen, Adora ThabaiTyler, Larsing Sukhlain, Phiban Kharumlong, Brian Khyriem, Batkupar Lyngdoh, Abraham Sangma, Alban Bakash (Mustoh village), Shampoo Rapmai (Mustoh), Sunny Lyngdoh, Baba Mawlong, Darimika Bariat, Lija and Eleanor Lyngdoh.

Ireland: Robin & Ruben Sheen (BCCC)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (SNT)

Gt. Britain: (absent organizer - Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Leader - Mark Brown (SUSS), Annie Audsley (BEC/SUSS), Nicola Bayley (RFODCC), Tony Boycott (BEC/UBSS/GSG), Paul Edmunds, Dan Harries (GSO), Andy Harp (RFODCC), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fiona Ware (GSG), "Yorkshire" Dave Hodgson (GSG), Martin "Lump" Groves (SCC), Andy Tyler

With the assistance, hospitality and support of a host of cooks, drivers, village headmen, guides, dhobi ladies, small boys, partygoers and members of the Meghalayan Adventurers' Association - especially Donboc Syiemlieh and Bung Diengdoh.  Not forgetting (an impossibility!) Maureen Diengdoh and the ever cheerful Ladies of Shillong.  Thanks also to Wells St. John's Ambulance for the donation of a Neil Robertson stretcher, now resident in Shillong and hopefully never to be used in anger.

References:

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Report of the 1992 & 1994 Expedition

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Part II - Report of the 1995, 1996 & 1997 Expeditions (both available from BAT Products)

Various articles in the BB, Descent, GSG Bulletin, International Caver, Caves & Caving, etc.


 

Club News

The Club Dinner and AGM (5th October) are rapidly approaching.  You should have received your Booking Form for the meal through the post and further AGM details are below.

During the June Working Weekend the ground was cleared for the new extension (thanks to Nigel for bringing along his mini-digger) and as mentioned in the Digging and Diving News section it is planned to extend future clean up sessions to St. Cuthbert's so bring along your caving kit for the next one.

The Ashes were retained in the annual cricket match on a hot and drunken afternoon when two innings were possible (after last year’s monsoon-like conditions).  Despite the usual deterioration in the BEC's game in the second innings (surely completely unconnected with the heavy drinking indulged in by most of the team) the BEC scraped home to win.

The Peru Expedition is off in early September and hopefully will have news to report in time for the next BB. Also off on his travels once more is Phil Rowsell who has returned to Tasmania to drive the Australians up the wall for six months.  Note for your diary, he is due to return in February 2003 - best hide, book a holiday, break a limb or die around that time.

Finally, news has also been reported that a certain Jake Baynes has been hobbling around with a stick after having been run over by his girlfriend - fill in your own punchlines about her having a crush etc .....

Hon. Sec. Report for the Club Year Oct' 2001 Sept' 2002

Well a year has passed and it is that time again when all interested parties should let it be known that they wish to help the club and serve on the committee or alternatively do you have any nominations for others that may wish to do their bit?  Any takers should let me or any other member of the committee know in good time for the AGM on October 5th 2002.  The old adage rings true "it's your club and this is your chance to have a say in its running".

There are still some tickets left for the dinner on the evening of October 5th at the Bath Arms, Cheddar where there is limited accommodation available, tickets are very reasonably priced at £ 16.50.

It was good to get back to normal after the Foot & Mouth outbreak and we have started to get things going with fulfilling our planning permission requirements regarding the extension.  My thanks to all the people who assisted on the several working weekends during the years. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the present committee for their help during the year.  An especially big vote of thanks should go to Ros Bateman who is standing down as membership secretary, over the past few years she has put in a tremendous amount of effort into the job.  It is Ros we should also thank for organising this year's dinner and thanks also to Nigel Taylor for pre-booking the venue.

On the caving front the club has seen members travelling to such places as Northern Spain, Megahalaya, Austria, Peru and the Hunters Lodge car park (congratulations to J'rat on his latest discovery).

On the whole the club is in a healthy position and I would be only too pleased, if it is the wish of the AGM, to stand again as Hon. Sec.

Vince Simmonds.


 

Treasurer's Report 2001 /2002

This year has proven to be another quiet time financially for the club.  I am happy with the way our finances have moved this year, one huge benefit (thanks to Blitz) has been our continued rates exemption.  This has allowed us to move forward financially, and has put the club on a sound footing for the future.

At the time of writing I am trying to set up our books so that we can have this year's figures audited before the AGM. This is very dependent on the goodwill of the accountant who will have only 3 weeks from the cut off date at the end of August. I will be entirely in his hands time-wise.  Hopefully if all goes well we will always have a set of books that are up to date (give or take a month).

On a different note, from the club's financial point of view there is absolutely no need to raise the membership fees this year.  I feel that the current charges are more than sufficient, and feel that we should consider lower fees for new young members under the age of 20.  These could be staged up to adult levels on a 2-year basis.

At the time of writing there is no reason to expect the rates exemption to change.  I would recommend that the club votes a modest payment into the IDMF fund as this would bolster my claim for exemption this year on the basis that we are encouraging, and financing young local people to join us and take part in our activities!

We look forward to a continued strong financial base for this club.

Mike Wilson.


 

Extracts From The Logbook.

23/3/02: Sima Tonio-Canuella ( Spain): Vince, Pete Bolt, Mike Alderton, Greg Brock, Bea Goford, Tim Lamberton, Snablet and Annette. 

500m pull through, very good cave and spectacular abseil into main passage.

2/4/02: Hazlenut Swallet: Mike (Willett) and Graham (Jake).

Repaired dams again, cleared out passage and duck of 3 years inwash, and down to the sump.  Quite wet down the 10ft pot but sump not silted, maybe diveable feet first, hand-held etc, by skinny dwarf - if none of the above found then blasting the roof off is the only option.  The sump feels deep but short and well worth a dive.

13/4/02: OFD II (Northern Lights): Neil Usher, Rob Harper, Ben Barnett and Kris Conners (Fatboys' Outing)

In via Edward's Shortcut, Shatter Pillar.  Uneventful trip - apart from Ben actually keeping up. Spent an hour or so looking for Lavender Way, reckon some bastard stole it.  Don't know where Northern Lights is, but was a nice trip anyway. 4½ hours.

25/5/02: Midcot Fissure (Tisbury, Wilts.): Vince and Roz

A trip to Wiltshire to investigate (and survey) a fissure opened up under someone's house (found while digging an extension).  Probably not looking for a new basement.

1/6/02: Ogof Draenen: Vince and Pete Bolt

Down into the Underworld (off Megadrive North) rather disappointing - narrow rift series with small stream, degenerates, too tight.  Laddered the big pitch off Indiana Highway (25m), very impressive free hang (20m).  Followed rift series down another 6m ladder (Wigmore style, tight head first take off) to the Temple of Doom. Dug choke at the end to reach stream unfortunately "we needed a mouse in scuba gear" (Pete quote) to follow it.  Upstream looked likely spot for digging but need to dye trace water to see if it re-emerges in White Arch Passage.  Another potential dig was probed at the bottom of the ladder before we made our way out. 6½ hours.

27/6/02: Eastwater ( Soho Dig): MadPhil and Alison Moody

Trip to drill more holes and bang.  Slow going. Good draught along rift!  Bang fumes caught us up in Boulder Chamber! Stream changed, goes down through Boulder Chamber, then into Ifold's and down Soho Dig!  Tired!!!

5/8/02: Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink: Adrian Hole (Tony Jarratt already there)

Trip to new extensions - found Tony watering hole in boulders with Roger's hose pipe (takes all sorts I suppose).  Went to choke and dug right-hand side.  Kept turning round to look over shoulder at large passage and thinking I had gone to Llangattock not Mendip.  Shame it lacks enough air.


 

VALE: Dave 'Pooh' Yeandle.

1951 - 2002.

by Stuart (Mac) McManus
with photographs by Martin Grass

Dave was born on the 13th June 1951 and died in a paragliding accident in Alicante, Spain on Friday 5th April 2002.  He was 50 years old.

We had known each other since we were schoolboys over 35 years ago, the things I shall always remember about Dave was his enthusiasm and commitment in all that he wanted to do. He always made you smile, as he talked about all those madcap ideas and things he got up to or things that always seemed to happen to him throughout his life.  He was always good company.  Though our lives took different paths over the years, when ever we met up we would chat about old times and also what each had been doing since we had last met and I think it was a sign of how good a friend he was as we would just continue from where we had left off.


Dave in GB, one of his last caving trips.

Dave would always recount tales of expeditions or trips he had been on with his normal matter of fact tone describing why he was at the bottom of a 50 metre pitch with water cascading on him only wearing his SRT gear and a pair of underpants whilst we would roll about laughing.

I know many people told him he should write a book about his exploits, and encouraged by us all he did complete a manuscript for a book before his untimely death.  The book has been published by the Internet book publishers - Diadem Books.  He certainly packed a lot into his 50 years.

Dave started caving in June 1967 with the Axbridge Caving Group, which like most of us in the sixties involved going down Goatchurch and Sidcot as his first taste of caving.  He was hooked, and quickly advanced onto the major caves on Mendip knocking off work from his Saturday job at Jones C a department store in Bristol) to do sump I in Swildon's.  His log book reads as a foot note to this, his best trip to date, P.S. “nearly got sacked from Jones's!”

His caving continued on both Mendip and South Wales doing all of the classics with the Axbridge C.G., though with the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 1967/68 putting a temporary stop to caving on Mendip, Dave started climbing in the Avon Gorge.  He took to climbing like all things he wanted to do, with total commitment, even his small legs did not stop him from jumping for a tree branch when he couldn't get to a hand hold, which he missed, leaving him dangling some 100 foot above the Avon Gorge!  To Dave, climbing was nearly as good as caving.  He continued to climb throughout his life returning to it seriously in the early 1990's achieving a good E2 standard, surprising quite a lot of his mates with his new found climbing skills.

His first recorded trip with the BEC was in May 1968 with a trip down to Swildon's II which followed with his first visit to Yorkshire with Alan Thomas in June, where typical of Dave he wanted to do everything, his first trip included an Alum/Long Churn exchange and Long Kin West, with Dave stating in his log that he must improve his ladder technique as the 280 foot pitch took him nearly 30 minutes to climb against Alan Thomas's 6 minutes.  It was on these first trips that his love for Yorkshire caving was formed.

Having joined the BEC in 1968 he was to acquire one of his two legendary nicknames that of the "Belfry Boy".  Dave was constantly running the gauntlet, fetching tea for the older BEC members, he didn't mind the constant shouts of "Boy more tea, Boy fetch my caving boots" his objective was to be in the BEC and progress his caving, and I think he was proud of the title "Belfry Boy".

Dave was much involved with the digging and exploration of Cuthbert's in the late 60's and early seventies he was also part of the BEC's Ahnenschacht expedition in August 1969 and the French Ariege trip in 1970.

On hearing about the caving successes of the University of Leeds Speleological Society (ULSA) Dave decided to go to Leeds to study physics.  I remember Dave coming back to Bristol after his interview at Leeds saying he thought he might have blown it, as the department head kept asking him why he had selected Leeds, and Dave said "oh its because I have heard so much about the good results obtained by the physics department" but the head kept asking about his hobbies, suspecting some ulterior motive, Dave eventually had to come clean and mentioned the dreaded C word Caving!!

They let him in and Dave went up to Leeds in 1969 and set about gaining very quickly a reputation as one of the hard men of the ULSA, he did do some physics as well. While at Leeds he was given his second and perhaps most enduring name of "Pooh" after the AA Milne character.

It was when Dave went to Leeds University in 1969 that his caving career really went in to top gear, as Geoff Yeadon put it in his tribute to Dave in Descent, “Dave's rise to the forefront of British caving in the 1970's was mercurial, one minute he suffered the indignities of being Mendip's Belfry Boy, and the next he had become one of the hard men of Leeds University (ULSA)”

Dave was involved in the new discoveries in Pippikin Pot, and at the sharp end of the notorious Langcliffe Pot.  In 1970 he was involved in the breakthrough into Gasson's series which was at the time considered one of the most serious undertakings in Britain with trips lasting over 18 hours.  His log book (July 1970) records one of these epic trips emerging from the cave at 8.00 am "off to Bernie's for some food and then the start of a long hitch back to Bristol (42 hours with 2 hours sleep followed by work on Monday proved interesting)."

In 1972 after he dived Dementor sump at the end of Langcliffe he and his carrying team were flooded in. They all came out under their own steam after 44 hours in the cave. Another Yeandle epic.

There are two permanent reminders of Dave's past caving exploits, with places named after him. One is in the Pierre St Martin in France where in 1972, Dave with such names as Wooding, Mike Boon, the Brook brother to name but a few explored an area in the cave called the Maria Dolores, to which they hoped to claim the world depth record.  Dave found what he hoped to be the pitch to take them all to great depths beneath the Pyrenees, the expected breakthrough so eagerly wanted was not to be, though his efforts were recorded on film by Sid Perou.  They named the pitch "Puits Pooh" and as Dave put it "a little bit of France will always be Puits Pooh."

The other passage named after him is in Pippikin named by Geoff Yeadon after Geoff pushed the downstream sump and broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge" in recognition of Dave's efforts to make the connection between Link and Pipikin by diving some years earlier.

GB Cave. March 2002.

Dave went off to Australia several times, once overland in 1973 returning in 1975 to join a caving expedition to New Guinea, returning to the UK again in 1978 for what was to be a brief period but staying for nearly three years.  It was during this period as Dave put it, he did his best caving and diving, with trips such as upstream King Pot main drain sump, Alum pot, and the helping with the Keld Head film to name but a few.

Dave returned to Australia as a mud logger in 1980/81, where he took up his other hobbies of windsurfing, gliding as well as Himalayan trekking, which included Everest base camp.  He even apparently managed a 6000 metre peak in Wellingtons!  It was during one of Dave's slide shows that I noticed that some of the slides showed him wearing what I thought was a new design of black anorak, some of these slides had him wearing this new type of anorak high in the mountains in deep snow but the black anorak turned out to be a black plastic bin liner.  Dave as usual stating that that was all he could find after his gear had been stolen earlier in the trekking trip.  Nothing seemed to phase him at all, whatever disaster would be fall him he would just get on with it.

Dave finally returned to the UK from Australia in 1991 and settled down initially in Bristol before buying a house in Wells.  He trained as a mud engineer and travelled around all the oil fields of the Middle East, as well as the North Sea.  The 4 weeks on 4 weeks off enabling him to have money and time off to do the things that he wanted to do.  His interests though having diversified still maintained his interest in caving, as well as skiing and climbing.  The sport that was to take his full attention was paragliding.

Dave took up Paragliding with his usual enthusiasm for anything he wanted to do.  He became a very accomplished pilot obtaining his club pilot rating very early on and was a very popular member of the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.  Dave spent quite a lot of time out in Spain, the Alps and even went to South Africa to paraglide where the weather and conditions allowed more frequent flying opportunities than here in the UK.  I know he so much enjoyed the pleasures of flying.  I had only been talking to him several days before he went out to Spain, and Dave as ever, was excited to be getting out there to do some decent flying.  The rest as they say is history.

I know that I can speak for everyone who knew him that his sudden death was a great shock to us all and his passing has left a rather large hole in all of our lives.

I would like to pass on all of our condolences to his sisters Joan, and Alison and his brother Mike, but in particularly to his mother Dorothy who I know feels the loss deeply.