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Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Summer Season at Stillage Sump

by Tony Jarratt

Reproduced from BB 519 - continued from BB 518:-

During the rest of April and early May work continued at both the Cellar Dig inlet and the left hand wall dig in Hangover Hall. The former was abandoned after some 4m of blasting. This low ascending crawl is some 6m long to a too tight, choked connection with Lower Bar Steward Passage. The latter dig was hoped to bypass Stillage Sump but after a couple of metres of digging the solid LH wall veered round towards the sump and so this site has also been abandoned. The sump itself was re-dived by Jon Beal, assisted by other Frome C.C. members, and confirmed to choke after about 1.5 metres at a depth of 2 metres. Quackers rightly pointed out that the name is incorrect and the descriptive word needed was "ullage", the stillage actually being the wooden firkin rest. As it's too late to change now the next shitty feature will bear this name.

A new site at the top of R.R.R. was treated to two blasting trips but closed down after some 4 metres in huge boulders located beneath the floor of H.H.H. The use of joss sticks, a flashing red light and a radio rendition of "Five Live" failed to provide a nasal, visual or aural link to either H.H.H or B.B. so this site has also been scrubbed.

On the 13th of May the survey was continued from R.R.R. for 18.35 metres to Stillage Sump and a concrete dam was constructed over a short section of plastic pipe inserted into the base of the H.H. spoil dump. Four days later an experimental baling trip proved that the system works and that in an hour or so the sump can be drained of the couple of hundred gallons of water which it contains by emptying it into the abandoned LH wall dig. On this trip the sump was not completely emptied and no digging was done due to a shortage of manpower but we were much encouraged by the ease of the operation and by the discovery of a stubby stalagmite on the floor of the calcited passage. The now redundant submersible pump was painfully removed from the cave on the way out so that it could be cleaned and serviced.

Two days later we regretted this as after a three hour baling session it was realised that the pump would make life a whole lot easier and would have to be, again painfully, brought back down! About a metre of depth had been gained in the narrow sump pool to reveal a calcited left wall, more stalagmites on the floor and a shallow bedding alcove on the right. Thick silt blocked the apparently even narrower way forwards and the proximity of closing time called a halt to proceedings.

The 21st of May saw Sean Howe, the writer and Grampian digger Martin Hayes dragging cables, hoses and the skip-encased pump back down the cave where it was all set up for future operation. Two days later more Grampian members transferred drums from H.H. to R.R.R. in the morning and in the afternoon Trev, Jake Baynes and the writer pumped out the sump and removed seven bags of silt and rocks before blasting off the top of the bedding plane on the R.H. side to give more working space. Next day a return was made by Jeff Price, Tim Large, Jake and the writer to find that the bang had done a superb job. The remaining bang fumes drove the wiser Jeff and Jake to the surface while the two other idiots drilled and set another charge. They were later to much regret this as they struggled out of the cave feeling like death. Having recovered and left the fumes to clear for a couple of days a return was made on the 26th for another pumping, clearing, drilling and banging session. The "calcite" filling the top half of the fault-guided passage was thought to be possibly aragonite. Fearing the accumulation of fumes the next visit was five days later when much of the water was pumped back into a dozen or so 25 litre drums at R.R.R. and the rest stored behind the dam. This was meant to improve the air conditions by keeping the passage open longer but the prevailing still weather meant a lack of draught throughout the cave. Tim suffered worst this time as fumes released from the bang spoil got to him. Despite this another 8 hole charge was fired and a very unlucky leech sent to the big artery in the sky! Communications between H.H. and R.R.R. were by Motorola walkie-talkie. This site was now becoming a bit of a problem and it was decided to leave gaps of a week before revisiting it.

The next visit was a full week later when draughtier conditions prevailed and the air was much improved. The usual pump, drill and bang operation took place but we were spurred on by both the opening up of a narrow, clay filled rift, which may be the drain for the sump, and the recent discovery of the main way on in Wookey Hole by Rick Stanton. Another repeat performance took place on the 14th when a 110 volt drill was used to place four 24mm shotholes to take gelignite sticks. A week later we returned with the battery drill for yet another banging session. On this trip Tim noticed possible rat droppings in Pub Crawl so visitors should be reminded of the risks of Weil's Disease in this cave.

On the 25th June, during the clearing of spoil from the last bang, a distinct draught was felt blowing into the top of the narrow rift above the sump and it was decided to blast upwards following this. This was done on the 28th using 100 gramme detonating cord. A lucky toad got a lift back to the surface on top of Jeff's head - under his helmet. Our guest digger today was Boyd Potts of the Orpheus.

In Broon Ale Boulevard climbing has recommenced at the three remaining avens. That partly scaled by Nick Mitchell   (now named Old Nick Aven to keep with the booze theme) was pushed some 4m higher by Eddy Hill on the 9th of June and a bolt placed. Two days later the writer, supported by Ernie White, gained another 7m to reach a narrow and muddy passage at a height of 15m heading up-dip but needing enlargment. This was done by Trev Hughes on the 13th and the writer was able to squeeze into a larger section of passage which quickly terminated in several impassable inlets and a too tight hole in the floor. On the 16th this was surveyed and bolting commenced at the final aven(s) in B.A.B. (Old Peculier Aven). Five more bolts were put in on the 23rd by Tim, your scribe and Nigel Strong of the Eldon Pothole Club. At the furthest point Nigel gained a view of "walking size" passage heading off down-dip and continuing vertical development above. Trev placed the final bolt on the 27th and reported that both ways on soon closed down though another visit is necessary to confirm this and to survey the aven.

The first, blind rift, previously climbed by the writer, was eventually surveyed and retrospectively named Old Fart Aven.

At the bottom of Pewter Pot the rapidly drying out Slop 3 dig saw a lot of attention on the 20th of June when Trev, Ray Deasy and the writer cleared and stacked mud and rocks from the unstable slope leading to the ongoing passage.

This report will be continued in BB 520.

Bone identification

Bone identification - updated - with the usual thanks to Dr Roger Jacobi for his time and effort. He has closely studied and measured the diameters of seven antler bases from the twenty fragments recovered in the large selection of reindeer and bison bones making up sample HLIS 28. These are 17.1 and 14.8mm, 8.4 and 15.8, 20.6 and 19.2, 25.2 and 22.8, 23.5 and 24.2, 20.2 and 18.1 and 19.6 and 14.4. "... they all appear to be from females or juvenile males supporting the idea that the area above the cave may have been a calving ground." This sample also includes the first evidence of Brown bear (Ursus arctos) from the cave.

27         Bison priscus          Right scapula.

28(1)     Unidentified             Various fragments.

28(2)     Rangifer tarandus (reindeer) – Mid-shaft portion of juvenile right femur.

28(3)     Mid-shaft portion of left metatarsal.

28(4)     Distal shaft fragment of left metatarsal.

28(5)     Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(6)     Proximal right tibia.

28(7)     Partial left innominate.

28(8)     Distal right humerus.

28(9)     Mid-shaft portion of juvenile right humerus.

28(10)   Fragment from anterior margin of right scapula.

28(11)   Five rib fragments.

28(12)   Fragment from anterior face of left metatarsal retaining part of proximal articulation.

28(13)   Mid-shaft portion of right tibia.

28(14)   Distal right tibia.

28(15)   Antler. Nineteen pieces (including five bases).  All potentially female/young male.

28(16)   Proximal phalange.

28(17)   Distal left femur.

28(18)   Diaphyseal fragment of left tibia (posterior face towards proximal end).

28(19)   Diaphyseal fragment from internal face of left tibia.

28(20)   Shaft of juvenile right tibia.

28(21)   Distal shaft fragment of right metatarsal.

28(22)   cf Bison priscus      Eight rib fragments.

28(23)   Fragment from spine of left scapula.

28(24)   Incomplete cervical vertebra 4.

28(25)   Ursus arctos (Brown bear)   Fragment from lower shaft of right radius. "It is a large bone and, given that the bone is juvenile, the adult would have been of some size. The bones at Banwell are noticeably large and, as you know, I think that the fauna there may be of about the age of yours. Interesting!"     R.J.

29         Microtus oeconomus (Northern vole)   Incisor and two molars.

30         Rangifer tarandus       Right tibia.

31(1)     Distal left tibia.

31(2)     Proximal right tibia - gnawed at proximal end.  Distal epiphysis lost.

32         cf Bison priscus         Right M3.

33         Rangifer tarandus      Left P3.

34         Distal right humerus.

35         Bison priscus        . Horn core. "An important find   which confirms your bovine as Bison priscus rather than wild cattle - Bos primigenius."     R.J.

36         Right naviculo-cuboid.

37         Rangifer tarandus     Distal right tibia.

38         Bovini cf Bison priscus     Proximal left metacarpal (unfused distal epiphysis lost Slender).  Smaller range of Isleworth.

39         Distal left tibia? Gnawed at proximal end.

40         Rangifer tarandus     Shaft of left humerus.

41         Antler fragment.

42         Base of shed antler. Female? 18.2 and 16.8.

43         Mid-shaft of left femur.

44         Base of shed antler. Male? 18.8 and 17.8.

45         Shaft of juvenile right humerus.

46         Antler fragment.

All the above have been deposited at Wells Museum with the exception of numbers 35, 37, 39, and 42 which will reside at the Hunters'.

Additions to the team and acknowledgements.

Gordon Coldwell (CPC), Ryan Jackson, James Daly, Julian Herbert-Smith (all FCC), Christian Degen (Germany), The B.E.C. Committee and Chris Falshaw for their generous donations to the Digging Fund, Charles Adcock (Event Horizon Pyrotechnics), "Yorkshire" Dave Hodgson (GSG), Andy Chamberlain, Fiona Crozier, Nigel Strong (Eldon PC), Boyd Potts (Orpheus C.C.)


Photo by Sean Howe


Photo by Sean Howe


   Tony Jarratt in Hangover Hall