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The Editor and publishers join in wishing all of our readers a very happy Xmas and a good year’s caving in 1954


Redcliffe Caves Survey 1953

By Alfie

Towards the end of 1952 it was decided to approach the Bristol Corporation to see if the Club could obtain permission to survey the caves under Redcliffe Hill.  These caves were cut into the sandstone of Redcliffe Hill several centuries ago and have been used at one time or another for storing almost anything from slaves to old Corporation wheelbarrows.

There were two reasons for undertaking this survey.  One being that a complete survey no longer exists (although the Corporation posses one of the caves lying under their land) and the other to give members of the club an opportunity to uses cave surveying equipment and methods under something approaching caving conditions.

Permission having been granted, various bods presented themselves at the caves on Wednesday 7th January and we all spent about an hour going around in circles and getting lost generally.  Don Coase then organised a competition for reading an astrocompass with a pint of beer as the prize.  Soon after this we adjourned to the pub.

The next four weeks were spent in getting a line survey of the Corporation’s part of the cave.  We hoped to get two teams working, but owing to Coase’s accident, which put him out of action for quite a time this was rarely possible, and during the two months after this, a team started detailing by means of a plane table constructed for the occasion.

By the beginning of May about half of the cave belonging to the Corporation had been plane-tabled and it was decided to stop work during the summer months.  Since then a large new fall in the part not belonging to the Corporation has caused this part to be closed and it will no longer be possible to survey it.  In addition to this, the members who undertook most of the work are now at a stage where actual surveying down a cave amongst more difficult conditions could be undertaken and so it looks as if further work in Redcliffe has lost most of its point.

However, useful results have been obtained.  As a result of the work in Redcliffe, a plane table has been used on a cave survey (Browne’s Hole) and proved surprisingly useful, adaptable and accurate. And plans are under way for the construction of an automatic plane table, which, if it works, will permit one-man surveying to be carried out.

The most useful result of this surveying exercise will be apparent, however, if it leads to members coming forward to assist in any new caves which might require surveying in the near future.  There is a distressing lack of decent cave surveys on Mendip at the moment, and our own Club’s Stoke Lane survey is still unfinished owing to a shortage of bods willing to take part.  Surveying needs lots of patience and is deuced uncomfortable, but a good survey of any new major cave system the club might discover will help to put the B.E.C. literally ‘on the map’.



Book Review

A Pongo Book Review

Caves of Adventure

By Haroun Tazieff

(Hamish Hamilton, 18/6)

I think everyone will remember the accounts in the papers last summer of the accident in the Grotte Pierre St. Martin in which Marcel Loubers was killed.  This book is written by one of the members of the party who was in the cave when the accident happened.

The cave is the deepest in the world, and may well be imagined from the fact that the entrance shaft is just 1,000 feet, in which there is one small sloping shelf about 250 feet down.  That is quite a start for a cave, but it then proceeds to blossom out into a series of three vast caverns.  The end of these has not been reached, but when the party had to start back they were about a mile from the bottom of the shaft and still going strong.

The accident was due to the failure of the bottom clamps on the winch cable, and Loubens fell about 30 feet.  With a great deal of effort they managed to get the doctor down the shaft but the winch then packed up and 24 hours were needed for repairs.  Lobens died just as they were ready to start hauling him up and he is buried in the cave.  While the winch was being repaired the shaft was laddered to a depth of 800 feet – which was no mean achievement in itself.

As a final episode the winch broke down again with Tazieff about 250 up from the bottom and he hung there for 4½ hours under a young waterfall.

Tazieff was the photographer of the expedition, so there are a number of good pictures illustrating the book.

Please don’t get killed in the rush when Ifold announces that he’s bought it.


Britain Underground

(Dalesman Pub. Co. 7/6)

The successor to Pennine Underground, the scope has been widened to include Somerset, Devon, South and North Wales, Derbyshire and Scotland.  Some of the smaller Yorkshire caves have had to be left out to make room but none of these are important.

The inclusion of a National Grid Reference is very good as the descriptions of how to find the caves were sometimes rather lacking and the stiff cover of the new version should make for durability.



I am looking forward to Pongo’s review of ‘British Caving’ by ‘members of the Cave Research Group’ at 35/- which has been seen recently in a local shop.  The dust-cover carries a picture of Queen Victoria in Stoke Lane.



Photographic Competition

Owing to the lack of interest shown in the Photographic Competition, the closing date has been altered to Jan. 15th. 1954.  Judging by the number of entries to date, it would seem that members with cameras keep them in a glass case and are afraid to take them out in case it is found that they can’t take a good picture with them, despite all that is heard to the contrary.



One Rope Ladder on the edge of Dolphin Pot, Eastwater.  Said ladder standard type, wooden rungs rope sides two lowest rungs close together. The owner can have same by descending Eastwater and bring it up.  My party was much too involved with their own gear to manage it.  Incidentally, ladders left on the edge of drops tend to tempt inexperienced parties to do foolish things, the average ‘amateur’ party having sufficient rope to use as tether.  That crowds of bods can be visualised on rotten ladders without lifelines. A ladder left as this one was is very likely to cause a call out of the M.R.O.



The editor would like to thank all those members whose hard work has made this double number of the BB possible.


Overheard in the Hunters on cold, wet, November evening: -

Hidden enquired, “Where are Tom Fletcher and Fay?”

Dennis Kemp, “Cooking their supper in their tent”.

Chorus of raucous laughter.

Sybil B-L, “Aren’t they awful?”

Dennis Kemp. “I know, but it’s fun when you’re young”.



A report, is a loud noise, e.g. a rifle shot!!

A report is ALSO what we don’t get from cavers.  I am told that a climbing report of 15 words, or thereabouts has been recently received. Good show, lets have plenty more.



The Fish Of Fynnon Ddu

By Tony J.

Being an account of a fishing trip to the ninth chamber of O.F.D.

Owing to the surrounding waters, the inveterate anglers involved were perforce waterborne in a vessel that continually reproduced the motions associated with the average Channel crossing.  Their quarry was the British Standard Fish, Mark 4 (ace cunning drawing by the Fishmongers Guild).

B.B. Fish Mark 4 (subterranean fish)

As a compromise ‘twixt caver and fisher the party were nattily attired in sea boots and jerseys topped off with a

Being B.E.C. types, the idea of chucking their bomb, lure or what have you was too much fatiguing………………so the whole shower rested in ‘quiet meditation’ to await the fish’s pleasure.

Presently they surprisingly found some fish more dim-witted than themselves, and after dragging….

 ….the lure smartly away a number of times  

…. To antagonise the brutes….

….a smart jerk ensured the certain and correct ensnaring of ditto.

Note: A jerk that is too smart will only pull its head off.

As the captive was hardly large or powerful enough to upset the boat, it was left to its own devices while a Belfrian argument on the relative merits of lending net and gaff (see further most expensive drgs.) continued for its normal futile span after which the fish by now thoroughly bored with the proceedings, was hauled in by hand. 


To celebrate this epic feat in true B.E.C. style the party adjourned at once if not sooner for refreshment and good cheer.  This took the form of either many noggins at the bar ……

                                                                           …..or a crafty Guinness in the kitchen depending on day and/or temperament.

Important Footnote:

    Irate water-bailiffs are almost non-existent in the average cave.



The B.E.C. Thrutching Song.

with apologies to The Eton Boating Song.

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

Ed’s. Note.        Tony has been collecting ‘Club’ songs for some time, and in response to my suggestion of several months back, sent in a number for publication.

Squeezed in like sardines together,
Motoring up to North Wales
We’re sure to have horrible weather,
With cloudbursts and blizzards and gales.

Chorus: -
So we’ll all thrutch together
With never a pause or a stop,
So we’ll all thrutch together
And hope we get to the top.

Early next morn we awaken,
At the crack of a watery dawn;
We all feel consistently shaken
We scratch in our fug-bags and yawn.


We crawl out of bed feeling groggy
With mouths like a lavatory drain.
The breakfast is sordid and soggy,
We stagger out into the rain.


Squelching though bogs and the marshes
Pounding up thrutch-worthy scree.
Suffering from fallen arches,
Footrot and housemaids’ knee.


Then up to the climbing we go thrutching,
Over the tottering blocks,
Scrabbling and frantically clutching,
Bombarded by falling rocks.


The rock is slimy and dripping,
We garden in grassy grooves.
Skating and sliding and slipping
Dicing on dangerous moves.


Hanging out over the scree slopes,
Dangling on rotten rock,
Screaming out for top-ropes
Sweating with fear and with shock.


And that’s how we thrutch up together,
With never a pause or a stop.
We thrutch up regardless of weather
And eventually get to the top.



Why go to Iceland

By Thomas E Fletcher.

I am delighted to print the following article and would welcome more of a similar nature.  Ed.

I was invited to join a party of there Cambridge undergraduates going to Iceland this summer.  The aim of the expedition was primarily scientific – studying aquatic insects and making a botanical collection in the northern part of the island bordering on the central desert, for which we gratefully received a grant from the University.  However each member was keen to explore and learn about the country as much as possible and a great deal of time was devoted to this end.  We spent some four and a half weeks there and really got to know the limited area around Lake Myvatn and around Askja, Europe’s largest volcano, some fifty miles to the south.

Everyone knows Iceland is a volcanic island, but did you know it still has active volcanoes – Hekla last erupting in 1947-48?  Volcanic country has to be seen to be believed.  It is a land off great contrast – a land of barren lava deserts and lush green valleys, a land of majestic snow and ice capped mountains and gushing hot springs, a land of magnificent waterfalls and of shimmering calm lakes, and to crown it all, a land of 24 hours daylight in midsummer.  We spent three of our weeks around Myvatn with our base camp in the crater of a small ash volcano.  Myvatnssveit, as the area is called, contains practically every sample of volcanic action, cinder cones 50 feet high and no larger that half an acre in extent to great volcanoes long since eroded into mountains 3,000 ft. high.  Spouts of steam some 50 feet high with boiling and mud pools nearby were not far away over the ridge of a red burnt-out looking mountain with great patches of sulphur occurring on its slopes.  Great lava fields extend to the south west, sometimes with smooth expanse like boiler plates called stratified lava, and sometimes with block lava the other extreme, where it is twisted into all sorts of weird shapes like rock seracs, and impedes progress so that 2 miles an hour is extremely good going.  Often great rock crevasses occur anything up to 30 yards across and 100 feet deep though generally not so spectacular.  Lake Myvatn is quite shallow and has many attractive islets and abounds in trout and ducks.  It is the breeding ground of tens of thousands of wild duck of probably some 20 or more species of which some are North American, and attracts such people as Ludwig Koch and Peter Scott, and is in fact an ornithologist’s paradise.

We took all our food with us and lived on Arctic regions pemmican, porridge oats, margarine, sugar, biscuits, chocolate, etc., to the extent of 1½ lbs. each per day.  This was essential when we went to Askja 50 miles away across uninhabited and often waterless desert.  We were interested in the fauna of the crater lake to see if life had started again since the last eruption in 1922.  We found the water still sulphurous and without insect life. The crater lake is 9sq. miles in extent surrounded in part by 150 foot basalt cliffs and is in places over 1,500 feet deep.  The crater itself is 25sq. miles in extent and is surrounded by mountains and is extremely seldom visited.

In a country practically devoid of sedimentary rocks there are of course no caves of the limestone variety.  However, I spent some few hours caving in the lava.  When there has been a vast outpouring of lava it slowly cools and crusts over and then sometimes the reservoir is broken and the lava starts to flow out leaving an air space up to 3 feet beneath the crust.  Solidification of the newly formed surface starts anew and the process sometimes repeats.  Where the crust is too thin it collapses and then one finds the entry to a magnificent system with several floors.  Around Myvatn there are several acres of such formations and partly filled with water – an ideal place for a speleaologist searching for aquatic insects.

However there are other good reasons for going to Iceland. A delightful 2½ day sea voyage of over 1,000 miles each way for £17 return accompanied by some of the finest food I have ever eaten.  What an advantage it is to have a rest period on board after all the mad rush of finishing off work, organising and packing before the vigorous weeks ahead. Similarly on the return, a rest before the everyday routine starts again is ideal.  The mountains are good from the snow mountaineering aspect, but being made up of layers of basaltic lava, they are very rotten and are not suitable for rock climbing.  I shall go back again sometime taking a vehicle like a Land Rover for the extremely rough roads, and spend some time in the mountains around Akureyil, crossing one of the smaller ice-caps such as Myradalsjokull in the south or Hofsjokull in the centre, and climbing their most beautiful mountain Herdubreid as well as looking at the magnificent fjords of the east coast.

So instead ‘Why go to Iceland?’  I say, ‘Why not go to Iceland yourselves and experience the contrasts of scenery, enjoy weather as hot as Northern Italy with magnificent sunsets and surprises rolled into one and meet some of the most kind and hospitable people in the world?’

Thomas Fletcher.


Song: The Mountaineer’s Duet

Submitted by Tony Johnson.

We’re mountaineers most Disingenuous,
And of ourselves we take great care;
We never climb up mountains strenuous,
When danger looms we’re never there.

But if we see some moderate mountain,
Not too severe, nor yet too far,
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are.
We’ll do it in, We’ll do it in,
To show that mountaineers we are

We often boast of peaks ascended,
We never mention when we fall,
Our invitation is extended
To all who follow in our trail.

But if some very clever person
Should ever try to call our bluff
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.
We’ll do him in, We’ll do him in,
To show that mountaineers are tough.

We place great emphasis on nutriment,
Our feeble frames we need to feed.
The guide to carry our accoutrement
Must hence proceed at moderate speed.

But when to Ogwen we’re returning
And there are ham and eggs for tea
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.
We’ll do them in, We’ll do them in,
To show that mountaineers are we.



The following X-word puzzle has been ‘compiled’ by a bod who hides his glory under the descriptive nom-de-plume ‘Coprolie’.  No prizes are offered and the solution will be published next month.




1. Agen Silaceous Communist (3,3,9)

7. Pops off and on the stage (5,4,6)

10. A short Welshman (2)

11. If you take this you may get a sentence but you won’t get the cake. (7)

14. Superlative of 5, down (7)

15. A pea was a Darwinian subject (3)

16. Jumps to get a cake in a ship (6)

17. Pipes are made from this (5)

19. Traditionally slippery (2)

20. There is one at Glastonbury & several on Dartmoor (3)

22. Logical outcome of getting older (5)

23. 20 across and swim backwards cause one to become inactive (6)

25. This organisation runs Monmouth Hall (3)

26. The ‘Hunters’ engine does this (7)

28. The supply of this was largely frozen during the war, but has recently become more plentiful (7)

29. Pronoun (2)

31. This is not a replacement for a pit-prop, but it does hold up the arch (7,8)

32. A particularly potent liqueur distilled near the ‘Dent de Crolles’ (5,10)


1. Nota missionary work in India.  It’s more like mining (8,7)

2. This cave is not in the Timor Sea; it’s really quite near the Belfry (9,6)

3. Where to find the Hut Warden when tea is served in the morning (4)

4. Lifers are usually this (4,2,9)

5. Caving is virtually banned to these people (5)

6. Say edit shore ore, Sago’s quest after he cracked his elbow (4,2,4,5)

8. Put you 11 across not here (7)

9. Reputedly give a reliable light for caving (4)

12. A vaulted access (4)

13. If there had not been a badly written this would have been the (2)

18. Egoistical boast of the Devil?  No, just his mark (7)

21. Toot a German (4)

24. The Thames (4)

25. In France this may be a squatty or a potty (2)

27. This gets you nowhere caving (5)

30. Calcium carbonate re-deposited in an unsaturated atmosphere (4)


Speleological Research Laboratories Reports

It is intended that reports shall be written from time to time by any club members to publicise any technical information concerned with caving, climbing, etc., for the benefit of all. Each report will deal with a single specific subject, item of equipment or technique and should included details of the evolution and development of the project, together with snags and pitfalls to be avoided; it should also include any lines of approach which have led to no successful conclusion. A report may also take the form of a critical survey of present items, with suggestions for their improvement.

Naturally some of these reports will be of a highly technical nature backed by scientific tests, whist others will more of a service of recommendations and suggestions; this will largely depend on the experimental and testing facilities available to the person involved.  All technical arguments involved should be presented in full, but in a manner that it can be understood by any intelligent person.  To this end it is suggested that authors should get a second person unconnected with their particular interest to read the proof.  (This applies especially to the Boffin types).

A permanent record of these reports will be kept, and the reports of abstracts from then will appear at intervals in the Belfry Bulletin.  It is also hoped that reports of a general interest will be offered for outside publication in the Cave Research Group’s Proceedings or even in publication of our own if the responses is sufficient.  Before any step towards external publication is made, the author’s permission will be sought in every case.

The permanent record will be kept by the undersigned and all contributions should be forwarded to the address given below, where copies of the reports will be passed to the Hon. Editor as required.  It is hoped that in the future all equipment used by the club will be backed by reports on its design, use and serviceability for reference.

Any members requiring information are cordially invited to write in as very probably the information they require is available in some quarter.

A,C, Johnson
46, The Crescent

The following reports are in preparation: -

‘C’ ladder shackles; Fixing of Ladder Rungs; Assembly of Wire Ladders; Tethering; Speleobathometers; Flashbombs; Nife Batteries; Etc.;  What can you add to these.



Focus on  - - -  The New Club Stretchers

By Ken Dobbs

It was decided at a committee meeting held a couple of years back that a stretcher should be included in the club tackle.  This stretcher would have to be suitable for cave rescue of Mendip.  Many existing types were discussed at length, but none of the known types seem to fill our requirements, if it was strong enough, it was too rigid, and rigid stretchers don’t go round corners easily; and so on & so forth; committee meeting followed committee meeting, and the question was discussed, chewed over, deferred till the next meeting, as only a B.E.C. Committee can, until it became obvious we should have to produce something ourselves if we were to incorporate something of all our ideas.

Firstly we approached Joseph Bryant & Co. with the idea that we could get our plans transferred to something practical, but although they were most helpful the initial cost was much higher than we had expected so there’re was nothing else for it – if we wanted a stretcher we should have to produce it ourselves.  There followed further months of discussion regarding materials etc.  Finally a length of canvas was produced and the sewing started; altogether there was about 50 hours of it – on the face of it perhaps it doesn’t sound much, buy anyone who has tried sewing canvas to rope and leather by hand will know that there’s more to it than that.

Then yet another hold up occurred.  It became obvious as the stretcher neared completion that lifting up drop of perhaps 70 feet would not altogether be safe if the lift was to be taken on the side handling ropes.  The only way round this snag was to take a direct lift from the occupant of the stretcher, and undoubtedly this would be best accomplished with a parachute harness. As the main users of such harnesses, the R.A.F. were contacted, and were helpful in putting us in contact with a firm dealing in such contrivances.  After more delay the long awaited harness arrived and was duly fitted.

Half way through August the first tests were carried out at Redcliffe Community Centre.  These were for handling only and went quite well. The following Sunday further tests were carried out on Mendip and handling tests were successfully on rough ground near the Belfry.  As the earlier test had been o.k. it was decided to press straight on with underground tests in Bog Hole.  Bog was chosen because of its convenience and also because it supplies the worst possible rescue condition i.e. a tight cave with and extremely low roof.  The only person to be mentioned in connection with these tests is Pat Ifold who volunteered to be the guinea-pig for our first underground tests, a most unpleasant job.  To move the stretcher and its ‘tenant’ 36 feet took 45 minutes and a team of 4 were just the flakers in that time.  Unfortunately during these tests the canvas showed signs of giving around the handholds, and would certainly not stand prolonged use.  Apart from the weakness of the canvas the design had been a success and a good deal has been learned about the underground handling already.  The damage to the canvas was such that the stretcher would require complete rebuilding and this was more than anyone was prepared to take on, Joseph Bryant’s were again contacted and thee experimental work being already done a lower figure than the original one was quoted and accepted.

The stretcher is now complete and it is to be kept at the Belfry.  It is hoped that it will never have to be used.