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Notes on Cave Surveying

By S.J. (Alfie) Collins.

Cave surveying is not difficult.  Almost any caver, with a bit of patience can turn out a reasonable survey of a cave.  These notes, I hope, may be a help to cavers who are interested in doing some surveying underground and for general caver who may like to know what is going on when a survey is in progress.

A survey can be very useful to a caver.  Besides showing the general layout of the cave, where the main pitches, and places needing tackle are, and many other details of the cave structure, it can also used to point the way to further work, such as the joining up of two passages or the possibility of finding another entrance to the cave system.

The exact location of any interesting finds or specimens can be marked on a survey.  This may be important as a guide to further work in the same place.  A passage not previously noticed can be checked against the survey to find out whether it has been previously explored.  Finally, the surveying of a new cave is a means of showing other cavers what sort of cave has been discovered and what they are likely to expect on visiting it.

A survey need not necessarily be a very elaborate affair using complicated equipment.  The Cave Research Group divide surveys into seven classes according to their accuracy as follows: -


A rough sketch of a cave drawn entirely from memory after leaving the cave.  This is the type of plan that is drawn usually by a caver to show others roughly what the cave is like.  No scale is used and all distances and directions are guessed.  A lot depends on a good memory and an ability to visualise the cave after you have left it.


A rough sketch of a cave drawn in the cave.  All distances and directions guessed at.  No equipment is used.  Two useful tips here.  The first applies to all surveys.  Have as much light as you possible can, it’s much easier to estimate the size and shape of a cave if you can really see it.  Secondly, for guessing at angles stand up and point your arms in the two directions and then look at the angle between your arms.  Of course, you can always stand up!


This and all the higher grades are made by using instruments.  Grade 3 by using the simplest possible instruments – a small cheap magnetic compass for directions and a knotted string for distances and the Grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 by using more elaborate equipment which will be described later in these notes.

Not all cave surveyors use these grades, but whether they are used or not, an estimate of the accuracy of the survey should always appear on the final drawing.  If this is not done, mistakes may be made by other cavers who assume that your survey is more accurate than it is or your survey may not be used to its full advantage if it is not thought to be as accurate as it is really the case.

 (To be continued)

Additions to Club Library.

The Darkness Under The Earth.  (Norbert Casteret.)
Transactions of the C.R.G. Vol.3.  No.1.
Proceedings of the U.B.S.S. No.1.  Vol.7.
Cave Science no.22.  Vol. 8.  1953.
The Birmingham Cave and Crag Club  No.8.  Sept. 1954.
The Birmingham Cave and Crag Club  No.7. July/Aug. 1954.
The Birmingham Cave and Crag Club  No.6.  June 1954.
C.R.G.  Newsletter No.46.  May/June 1954
N.S.S.  Newsletter No.6.  June 1954
N.S.S.  Newsletter No.7.  July 1954
N.S.S.  Newsletter No.8.  August 1954
W.C.C.  Newsletter No.47.  September 1954


I should like to congratulate the Belfry Engineer on the water system now fitted.

It seems a bit unfortunate that through some temporary fault in the ‘eau’ is only forthcoming during inclement weather and that the resurgence is located somewhere in the roof of the men’s quarters.

As a point of interest perhaps ‘yet another Scientist’ or one of his ‘oppos’ could carry out an investigation on the comparative rate of flow of water in Limestone and woodwork.


Exploring a Well

By R.M. (Pongo) Wallis.

A short while ago, the Liverpool City Archivist got in touch with John Pitts, apparently via the C.R.G. and asked if he could investigate a well they had discovered on a building site.  John asked me to go along with him and bring some tackle.  Luckily, I had just borrowed about 40ft foot of B.E.C. ladder to take to and I also had about 80 feet of my own so I took this as well.

The site was quite close to the cathedral and the well had been broken into from the side.  Everything was laid on for us, including electric light on a long lead.  The well looked pretty deep so we linked up all the ladder and tethered it to a board conveniently placed across the top of the shaft, giving the ladder a nice clear drop all the way.  John went down first and reported that the ladder exactly reached the bottom.  After a good look round he came up and I went down in my turn.  It really was an extremely nice climb with the ladder hanging free and no waterfall pouring down on top of one.  The shaft was dug through sandstone and the way and was quite vertical.  The well sinkers had finished it off very nicely, putting a herring-bone patter, about 9” deep all round the 6’6” diameter shaft and all the way down.

Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found at the bottom, except a lot of loose bricks.  There had possibly once been a tunnel leading off on one side, but we could not dig away enough bricks to find if there was really was one or not.

We then adjourned with the Archivist to the local, where he told us that he had been able to find out about the well.  It had been dug about 1800 by the first water supply company in Liverpool, the water being pumped out by a large engine over the top.  About 1809, a disastrous fire had broken out close by.  It never recovered from this, and from that fact that far too may other wells were being dug locally so that the water table was disastrously lowered.  The well then was turned into a septic pit for which purpose it was used until about 1840.  Thereafter, its history vanishes.


We are delighted to announce the Engagement of Tony Setterington (Sett) to Miss Winnie Gale.

Committee Notices.

The Committee regrets to have to inform the motor-cycling fraternity that the tea towels in the Belfry are not supplied to clean their machines.  THIS PRACTICE WILL, REPEAT, WILL STOP.


Will patrons of the Belfry please park their transport clear of the track.  We now have neighbours ‘pigging’ it in the next field and the track is in regular use.

Annual Dinner and A.G.M.

The Annual Dinner and A.G.M. will be held on Jan. 29th. at 7.15 and 2.15 respectively.  The Dinner will be at the Star Hotel in Wells and the cost is 8/6 p.h. including entertainments.

Resolutions for the A.G.M. are still awaited by Assist. Hon. Sec.


Apologies are offered for the very belated arrival of this issue.  As you will have noticed it covers both October and November.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, there is, as yet, very little copy for the Xmas issue and the material reserved for the November issue will help swell it; and secondly I have had very little time at my disposal recently and have therefore been only able to cut stencils at rare intervals.



The Editor urgently appeals for material for future issues of the BB.  With the completion of the Xmas issue there is literally nothing left.  Unless considerable amounts of material suitable for publication are received in the very near future the Belfry Bulletin will cease publication with the Xmas Issue.  The BB was first published in Jan 1947 and except for a few odd occasions has appeared every month since.  It seems a great pity that in an organisation the size of the B.E.C., a newsletter such as the BB cannot be continued and I am sure that we shall be able to weather this critical time given the active co-operation of the ‘Literary types’.



As most 'Club members know the club can supply them with ‘bits and pieces’ for their acetylene lamps.  Fresh supplies of these spares have now arrived and the following can be supplied: -

Lamps. (complete)        10/6.
Jets.                            6d.
Felt Pads.                    2d.
Spring Clips.                 3½d.
Prickers.                      4d.
Pad Holders.                 6d.
Rubber Rings.               2d.
Bottoms.                      2/6.
Reflectors.                    2/6.
Ingiters.                        ½.
Helmet Brackets.          1/3.

All the above can be obtained from Mike Jones.


A little bird has told us that the ‘Hunters Hole’ has ‘gone’ and that ‘they’ are in.  Good show this.


R.J. Bagshaw             Hon. Sec. 56, Ponsford Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.
K.C. Dobbs                Hon. Assist. Sec., 55. Broadfield Road, Bristol. 4.
D.A. Coase,               Hon. Caving Sec. Batsford, Lower Failand, Nr. Bristol.
A. Collins,                  Hon. Assist. Caving Sec., 27, Gordon Road, Clifton, Bristol.
R.A. Setterington,       Hon. Hut Warden, 21. Priorswood Road, Taunton.
P. Ifold,                      Hon. Climbing Sec. 75 Peverel Drive, Henbury, Bristol.
R. Bennett,                 Hon. Tackle Officer, 37, Queens Road, Ashley Down, Bristol.
J. Ifold, Hon.               Librarian, Leigh House, Nempnett, Chew. Stoke, Nr. Bristol.
T.H. Stanbury,            Hon. Editor, 48 Novers Park Road, Knowle, Bristol. 4.