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Mike Luckwill

Members will be shocked by the tragic loss of Mike Luckwill who was killed 2am Friday 5th December 1969, on the Snowdon Horseshoe.

His work for the Club and for caving and climbing generally are well known to readers of the B.B.

Our deepest sympathy to Val and Sally.

A New Cave in Fairy Cave Quarry

By P.E. Prewer

With at least 14 caves discovered in the piece of Gruyere cheese called Fairy Cave Quarry it could not be long before No.15 appeared and sure enough on April 9th., this year, it was found.  Shatter Cave was discovered by three members of the Cerberus C.C. on the early hours of the morning after 6 hours of digging.  The presence of a cave was suspected after a strong draught was detected emerging from between boulders piled at the floor of the quarry face. The digging party started during the evening of April 8th. and consisted of R. Saxton, P. Conway, K. Crowe and B. Prewer. 

At 9.00 B. Prewer left in disgust with the words, “I don’t give it much hope but if it does go come and get me out of bed.”  At 1.00am three muddy cavers got B. Prewer out of bed!  They had found the first four chambers of Shatter Cave.

The first four chambers gave the cave its name for they lie roughly parallel to the quarry face and extensive damaged has been caused to the chambers and formations, despite this there are still some very pleasing formations including a fine pagoda like formation in the second chamber.

On the second trip into the cave the third chamber emitted a strange colour – it was soon pronounced to be that of diesel fuel.  This was coming from one of the shot holes on the top of the quarry which must have broken through the roof of the chamber.  Diesel Chamber was thus named.

How the way on was missed on this trip is hard to understand but it was; it was not discovered until a few days later when Gerry Lewis noticed it.  The way on, now called Helictite Passage, led past a cluster of superb helictites on a ledge.  This concluded Stage II of the exploration.

Stage III began when ‘Willie’ Stanton spotted a small space beneath a pile of boulders at the end of Helictite Rift. He crawled through and found a large chamber, Tor Chamber.  As the quarry were due to blast the party could go no further.  The following day a large party including the North Hill Consortium descended and found the crawl at the end of Helictite Rift.  The party pushed on through Tor Chamber and found Pisa Chamber.  The area of the cave was well decorated and outside the area of blast damage.  The tail end of the party noticed some small chambers off Tor Chamber.  The front of the exploration party had arrived at ‘Z’ Squeeze and was soon passed even by a well-built bearded gent!  A small, relatively undecorated chamber named Piccadilly Chamber was entered.  The obvious way on was a low arch straight ahead. At this point the floor changed from mud to calcite crystals and for a short way it became impossible not to tread on them.  At this stage enthusiasm could not be controlled for up in front could be seen the dim outline of what appeared to be a huge calcite column.  On entering Pillar Chamber it became difficult to know where to look first, straight ahead was a white pillar some 8 – 9 feet in height and whose base was 5ft. across.  The floor in front of the pillar was covered in rows of semi-transparent calcite crystal flowers.  This must be the finest chamber found on Mendip yet.  It was many minutes before the party decided to move on.  The way forward was not obvious but soon a strong draught was located coming from a small heavily calcited hole behind the pillar. Here progress for the day halted – a bit of mechanical persuasion would be necessary.  On the return journey the bypass to ‘Z’ Squeeze was found leading off Piccadilly Chamber.  It led, after a 20ft. crawl to a chamber some 20ft. across with fine stalagmite bosses covering the floor – Roundabout Chamber. The bypass was completed by following a well formed passage some 5ft. high from Roundabout Chamber and connection, at high level, to the dry stream passage before ‘Z’ Squeeze.  Several other side passages were explored by various groups of people.  It was with considerable annoyance that it was noticed on that first trip, that although nearly everyone kept to one route around the left hand side of the crystal floor in Pillar Chamber someone had left behind four muddy footprints in the middle.

A few days later saw a party armed with hammer and chisel back at the hole in Pillar Chamber.  The hole was enlarged to allow the first and thinnest member of the party though.  The hole was further enlarged as each larger member of the party arrived at the hole to push through.  Beyond a short crawl led to yet another well decorated chamber – Four Ways Chamber. Two side chambers led nowhere but straight ahead a short sandy passage and a climb led to a very fine crystal pool. Onwards the way ended in a large chamber with a large suspended boulder in the roof with a matching one immediately beneath partly filling a large hole – the Plug Hole.  A short passage was found leading off the bottom of the Plug Hole which closed down only after 20ft. or so.

 

A week later another party (members of the Dining Room Dig Team) found a second passage at the bottom of the Plug Hole which yielded a further 200ft. or so of passage – the first section being very well decorated with fine pink gours.  At the end of this passage a strong draught may still be felt at times but so far no way on through the boulders at the end has yet been found.

The most recent progress in Shatter Cave (August) was the discovery of the notorious streamway.  It has been locate at the end of Helictite Passage down a rather unpleasant muddy tube. At the moment it can only be heard and a little clearing is needed.  This streamway is thought to be the upstream part of the old Balch Cave streamway.

On October 12th two intrepid explorers decided that Conning Tower Cave, capped over a year because of dangerous boulders, ought to be revisited.  They found themselves in the Balch stream and duly arrived at the duck.

Shatter Hole Survey

The Survey of Shatter Hole has been adapted by Dave Irwin to suit the B.B. page format and is based on the new survey to C.R.G. Grade 6 currently being produced by C.S.S. & S.M.C.C. and has been published with kind permission of the C.S.S.