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Books from the Library 2

Cave Hunting – by W. Boyd Dawkins.  Pub. 1874.  This is one of the classics of caving literature and should be read by all keen cavers.  This book shows clearly the 19th century interest in caving and how it stemmed from the science of Archaeology.  Balch himself was a part-time archaeologist and so is Professor Tratman today.

Dawkins (biography in Cave Science Vol. 5  No.39 April 1966) although not involved in the actual exploration of major systems as was Martel, did much to show the interest that could be found underground and allay the superstitions that were still rife at the time.


A fine cluster of columns, claimed to be the finest in the country, has been found in O.F.D. II. Many of the cavers who have visited this chamber are, probably quite deliberately, very vague as to its whereabouts. They claim that it is in an extremely complicated part of the cave.

Hepste Valley.

Wild rumours have being spreading about Mendip that a large cave system has been discovered there. S.V.C.C. have been suggested as the discoverers, but as they have been on Mendip several weekends recently it does not appear to be them.  What about the U.B.S.S.?  Apparently O.C.L. was seen hairing along the road in his car towards the valley….one wonders!

The Annual Dinner

I was told I enjoyed the Dinner.  One or two other people also followed the traditional to ‘excess’ – notably the Hon. Secretary who was seen, on several occasions, to attempt to fly nimbly from table to table.  Despite the lack of formally organised entertainment there was no lack of interesting personnel to survey – would you believe bagpipes?  Vicars!  Regency costumes (hic) and yet again a ‘Joseph’ Thomas in a coat of many colours.

I have heard no complaints about either dinner or service.  In fact the B.E.C., as usual, have started the Dinner Season with, of course, the Best Dinner of the Year.

Nibs Parker (pen name)

Cavers Bookshelf


1967 EXPEDITION TO THE GOUFFRE BERGER by K. Pearce. Published by the British Speleological Association in 1968.  Not priced.

In 1967 there were two expeditions to the Gouffre Berger, one organised by the Pegasus Club and another by the BSA.  Both teams were at the cave at the same time but the original intentions was for the two to be independent of one another except for communications in the cave, medical facilities and tackle.

The report on the Pegasus expedition was published at the end of 1967 and was reviewed in ‘Cavers Bookshelf’ for April 1968.  This is a report on the B.S.A. expedition written by the leader.

The report is generally well produced, being printed and consisting of fourteen pages and including six photographs.  As the other report has been published earlier, this one seemed to be written in a defensive style, the leader defending himself against implied criticisms of his expedition made in the Pegasus report, and elsewhere.  The reason for some of these criticisms were mentioned in my earlier review.  Whatever the cause, and several possible explanations have been put forward, the B.S.A. expedition suffered a rebellion against the leader and several of the members refused to enter the Gouffre Berger, or made a hurried exit from it. The possible reason put forward by Pearce in the report is that several of them had been closely associated with the Mossdale incident only a few weeks earlier, though he does admit that the first few days of the expedition were very hectic and it would have been more sensible if he had allow the members to get to it more gently.  However this does not excuse the behaviour of those members who just turned round in the cave, without a word to anyone, and left.  It must be added though that Pearce did manage to get himself and others to the bottom of the cave and to get further than he had previously.  How this was achieved is outside the scope of a review and would have to be discussed by someone with more intimate knowledge of the two expeditions.

The sections into which the report is divided cover a summary of the expedition, the expedition log, a medical report, and reports on photography, diving, food and communications. There is also a piece on the laddering of the cave below Camp II.  This is stated to be to correct errors that could arise if any future party based its tackling arrangements on the Pegasus report.  To me it read as though Pearce is trying to say that he knows better than the Pegasus (perhaps he does) and that they were lucky that their incompetence did not give rise to trouble.

Apart from the defensive style of the writing there is only one criticism of this publication.  It is full of spelling mistakes which could have been removed if more care had been taken.  Unfortunately the price is not known as the report is un-priced and it was a complimentary copy that was seen.


Footnote from’ Delineations of N.W. Somerset’ by John Rutter… “The water which forms the springs at Cheddar, is, probably, a stream which sinks into the chasms of the rock above, at Longwood, and in another place, on Charterhouse Farm”.