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The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Estelle Sandford
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editorial.

Welcome to the Autumn BB - a bit like waiting for a bus, you waited ages and then ...... etc. First, the news- shockingly Tony and team have only found a few metres more in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink in recent weeks - slackers!  The sump proved to be blocked and digging is now largely focused back on the Drip Tray Sump area (see Rich Dolby's dive report on page 18).  The St. Cuthbert's 50th Anniversary saw a good turn out (see page 25) and now thoughts turn to the AGM and Dinner - this issue should reach you a day or two before.  BEC members: Rich Dolby, MadPhil, Jrat and Carole White - along with other Mendip and Northern digging enthusiasts - recently passed their Explosive Users Group exam. Mendip digs beware!  In addition, Estelle Sandford has taken over the BEC website and is currently developing it - including a mail box marked Editor in which you can put articles for the BB if you feel so inclined.  Please note that it has a new address: www.bec.cave.org.uk

Note, that by mistake the volume No. of recent BB’s is wrong - last issue (BB516) was Vol. 53 No.2., the previous BB (515) was assigned Vol. 52 No.3, thus making Vol. 53 No.1 either something of a collector's item or simply a figment of my fevered imagination. Mea culpa.  My only mitigation is one of incompetence.

Finally, it was mentioned by some at the St. Cuthbert's do that no obituary for Jock Orr has appeared in the BB.  This is sad but true, but I haven't received one!  If someone would like to put one together and send it to me it will go straight into the next issue - which will be out just before Christmas


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell, Graham 'Jake' Johnson and team continue the Morton's Pot dig, which is currently dry enough and hopefully will remain so if we are blessed with an Indian Summer.  Somewhere below Phil is also engaged in resurveying Southbank in an effort to accurately tie it in with the rest of the system - a vital and noble task but one which very few wish to assist with.

Hunters' Hole.

John Walsh's team are working in Dear's Ideal spurred on by the size of the parallel system being uncovered in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink and only a short distance to the east. Indeed, hopefully the word parallel will soon be replaced by the word converging, or even inlet.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

Digging continues at Drip Tray Sump, most of the new stuff having been explored and surveyed - with the exception of the avens in BAB.  The "old cow bones" have been identified by Dr. Roger Jacobi ( British Museum (Natural History)) as bison and reindeer.  They are between 28,000 and 80,000 years old! (see article on p 10).

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

Saturday the 6th September saw a large (and largely ageing) crowd gather for the 50th anniversary celebrations.  A champagne reception underground was followed by an afternoon of beer drinking, a BBQ (courtesy of Mr. Haskett) and then slide shows at the Hunters', including some of Don Coase's original exploration photographs. (See page 25).

Swildon's Hole.

Work has continued in Sump Twelve - more detailed news should appear in the next BB.

Thrupe Swallet.

There has apparently been another breakthrough at this site - approximately 120' of tight stuff. Once again, more detailed news of this should appear in the next BE. (For Part II of the account ofthe previous major breakthrough see p 4).


 

Letter From Kangy King

I enjoyed Chris's write up about John Stafford.

John Stafford is one of the best people you could wish to meet.  I've been glad to know him for a very long time.  I still owe him about 12 (10) pints as a result of our "Roof of Wales" walk over 41 of Wales' finest peaks.  In spite of the beer the route we fashioned follows a more or less straight line from north to south.  Get Staff to tell you about it one day.

He didn't say when he first started caving; he and Chris Falshaw weren't fully grown and were obliged to swim across the Twin Pots in Swildon's.  He also omitted to explain how he came to "crash my motorbike the night before".  The Velocette motorcyle had been given to the impecunious Staff by an officer gentleman in the RAF.  How Staff knew a gentleman is unknown.  The Velocette (a KSS 350 ohc pre-WWII machine) was called "The Black Widow".  Work that out for yourself or get Pat Ifold to tell you about his earlier KSS, also called "The Black Widow".  Fortunately Staff hadn't yet married so it didn't do a proper job on him.  The ex-WD dispatch riders helmet was steel and where it had hit the curb it had a flattened side.  It was described as "D" shaped.  I suppose that's what knocked his hair off.

As soon as I heard that Staff was conscious after his prang I went to the BRI with a bottle of Guinness, anxious to know if the bike was OK.  I have always been impressed with Staff but never more so than when he reached under the bed with the bottle without looking and prised off the cap using the wire mattress.  We didn't know that alcohol was not good for concussion and I often worry if I was responsible for the state of his brain.

Another of his accidents was in Cuthbert's.  He was supposed to link up with my party.  I think we were surveying somewhere.  He didn't arrive at our rendezvous and back on the surface he wasn't there either.  When we got to him in the cave he was sitting holding his bloody head.  A hold had broken on him and typical of Staff s luck he banged the side of his head as he fell.  A rescue was organised and he more or less got himself out with a little help from a top rope.  It would have been difficult to have managed otherwise.  Still, all the practice rescues paid off in that one day.  Later, in hospital it emerged that he had shattered his hearing mechanism in one side.  It’s almost impossible to tell which side because he can detect "What'll you have Staff?" from any side you choose.  Get anybody to tell you about it.

We did a lot of climbing together.  And that is another, treasured story.


 

Digging at Thrupe Swallet or The Agony and the Ecstasy.  Part II: More Agony.

by Tony Audsley

Part I of this article (1) described the history of the present dig from the start, in December 1999, up to the discovery of Rubicon Chamber at the end of December 2001. Now, in part II, the agony continues...

On Wednesday 2nd January 2002 the new section was entered.  In recognition of passing (just) the magic 100ft depth the chamber was christened the Rubicon.  This was another low sloping bedding chamber, about 15 ft long by 5 ft wide with a flowstone bank on the southern end.  Just short of this bank there was a pit among the boulders in the floor.  The pit took the form of a narrow slot at least ten feet deep but, in its raw state, impassably narrow.

A small stream, which emerged from the boulder floor of Maglite Grotto, flowed down the Rubicon and disappeared into this pit.  As was the case with Maglite Grotto the water destabilised the fill and the whole floor area tended to sludge its way down to the bottom of the chamber.  The eventual solution was to construct a series of slab steps to break the fall of the water and this has been largely successful.

Once we had stabilised the floor of the chamber we were able to start work on the pit.  This was an unpleasant place to dig and soon a dam and elephant's trunk pipe were installed in an attempt to divert the stream away from the back of the diggers' necks.  This was moderately unsuccessful.  Work continued on the pit until 13th February when the Resident Deity came out to play. This time she had an assistant, a novice digger who was unversed in ruckle etiquette and her playful ways. Climbing out of the Rubicon back into Maglite Grotto her assistant precipitated a massive collapse.  A three hundredweight block from the south side of the Hammerhead crashed down into the Rubicon, followed by all the stone walling it had been supporting.  Rich Witcombe and Rob Taviner had a really rather good view of all this from more or less directly below.  Luckily for them the block stopped before it reached their jibbering forms and being small and nimble they were able to dodge most of the other stuff.  After a decent pause Rich and Tav crawled up to inspect the damage and found that the Hammerhead Boulder seemed to be hanging unsupported. Gingerly they levitated back into Maglite at which point the floor of the grotto on the north side of the Hammerhead collapsed into the Rubicon.  The three diggers retreated thoughtfully from the scene, two needed to make urgent visits to a launderette.

After this things got rather silly.  We wanted all the boulders in Maglite Grotto to stay where they were but the boulders didn't like that idea; they wanted to get on down into the Rubicon and play there. So, what to do?  Plan A was quickly followed by plans B, C, D, etc. Each plan in the sequence involved undoing all the work of the previous one and moving the spoil heap again. This was all good fun and true to the time-honoured traditions of digging on Mendip but it was time consuming. The final solution, possibly Plan J, which took the form of a short but perfectly crafted angle iron mini-shaft*, was not completed until 29th May.  The first digging session in the Rubicon since February's collapse was on Sunday 2nd June.

Perhaps it was the 3 months enforced break from digging which had weakened the intellect. Perhaps we had just got used to playing musical spoil heaps but at this point someone, I am afraid it was probably me, had the bright idea of abandoning the pit and starting a high level dig at the back of the Rubicon.  This idea did not meet with universal approval but, in the first instance, the "upper-routers" won the debate and July was spent digging out a lot of rock and fill and dumping it into the pit.  All to no avail.  Eventually, by the beginning of August, common sense returned and we started back in the pit, and dumped the spoil from the pit...

During August and September the pit was gradually deepened.  The rather dismal working conditions were improved dramatically by the installation of "shower curtains" made of horticultural black fabric. These were draped down the north (wet) wall of the pit.  The curtains were much more effective in practice than the old elephant's trunk. They contained the falling water and trapped all the spray.  They are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for use by all who toil below falling water.

At a depth of about 12 feet, a stream was encountered which flowed away to the west over the mud and gravel floor.  A foot-high way on could be seen for about 8 ft.  This was followed through the boulders, heading for what appeared to be a sloping rock wall with an apparent drop just in front.

By the end of November a small choked chamber had been entered.  This had the distinct advantage of being in solid rock, a new experience. Unfortunately, it was just a little too solid.  There were a few small leads here but none was very promising.  There was a slot in the floor which took all the water but it was proving very difficult to enlarge.  Digging conditions were also moderately unpleasant or leastways fairly damp.

By the end of 2002 the dig was 117 feet deep and had a total passage length of 300 feet, although some of this had been backfilled.  During the year there had been 81 digging trips with a total expenditure of 690 digger-hours of labour.

Spirits were low at the beginning of 2003 and on Wednesday 8th Jan we decided to give up the east end of the passage as hopeless and start digging at the base of the Rubicon Pit again. However, as luck, or the Deity would have it, the following Sunday's team decided to have one last look at the east end.  After digging out about a dozen bags worth a hole appeared in the back wall going apparently back up dip.  Three holes were drilled in the base of the wall just as a last shot at this area. After digging the walk back across the field was enhanced by Simon Meade-King taking a sudden header onto the ground after a brief encounter with a frozen cow-pat - this caused general mirth and was taken to be a good omen.

The following Wednesday night we were joined by Allen Sinclair, a trainee BBC photo-journalist. The poor bloke had been told to go out and film something under difficult conditions and he ended up down Thrupe.  The Deity must have taken a fancy to him for it was a good evening.  After doing some clearing of the debris, we could see about 10 feet into a low (3"-18") continuation which emitted a distinct draught. There was much excitement and not just for the benefit of the camera.

 

The approach to Inside Out.   Clive North has just been kicked in the crotch by Rich Witcombe.

Sunday 19th January saw us into the low bedding chamber continuation, about a foot high at the entrance, rising to a massive 3 feet high inside.  A good way on could be seen off to the right.  After enlarging the threshold we were able to see into a small draughting tube and hear the faint sound of falling water in the distance. In its raw state the tube was impassable but some gentle cooking by master chef Clive North tenderised the walls and the tube was slowly enlarged.

This process of gentle cooking and enlargement was complicated by the need to bail, to install pumps that refused to work and, in the later stages of the excavation, to chain the spoil all the way back to the top of Advent Chamber, the last remaining stacking space.  The water problem was solved eventually by driving a hole in the floor.  This took all the seepage and made the dig more or less self-draining.  This improved working conditions in the passage (now referred to as "Inside Out") almost to the point of luxury.

The team settled down for what everyone knew was going to be a long siege on the tube.  We were encouraged by the promise of better times ahead, but we had heard that before.  Perhaps the Deity was just playing games with us.  Nevertheless, we worked slowly along the tube, spurred on by the ever-increasing sound of falling water ahead.  Finally, on 19th March, we got to the point where we could flick stones forward along the tube and they would fall into a void.  We had reached the lip of a shaft. Tav's words from the log:-

" ... now the good news - the tube terminates at the head of a pitch. Can't quite get near enough to look down.  However rolling rocks (everybody had a go) suggests the pitch is 50-60ft deep, split by ledges, with the stream entering halfway down ... the actual pitch sounds relatively roomy ... "

We were still more than 6 feet away from the actual drop and it was not until Sunday 30th March that Simon (Nik-Nak) Richards was able to force the squeeze (later cooked out of existence) at the head of the pitch (Persistence Pot) and make the first descent.


Rich Witcombe descending Persistence Pot.

Once again though the Deity had the last laugh.  We had got into a fine 45 ft pitch which contained some well decorated grottos. Unfortunately the only way on at the bottom of the pitch was under a low arch in the western wall of the shaft. This was massively choked.  To add insult to injury, the Deity had arranged a water-spout to emerge from the wall of the shaft about 15 ft directly above the dig site.

We took some time to absorb the change in the dig's circumstances and most of April was taken up with necessary post-breakthrough housekeeping tasks.  Access to the pitch was improved, Tav surveyed the extension and Rich and Clive worked on various aerial water management schemes, the latest of which managed to convey (most of) the water from the spout across the rift and away from the dig site.

The first digging attempts in Upside Down (Gonzo Lumley's name for the passage) revealed a floor of grey clays lying above compacted red clays and rocks.  As this was excavated, the in flowing water ponded into the resulting hole and the unfortunate digger found that he was excavating his own swimming pool.  This was tedious and rather unpleasant and we came to the conclusion that the best approach would be to raise the roof of the passage rather than dig out the floor. This had the advantage that the spoil would be clean rock which would be easier to stack in the available sloping dumping space.

There were some leads to explore in the shaft itself.  On 12 May Nik-Nak probed the alcove on the north side of Persistence Pot, about 12 ft below the lip of the shaft.  Much to our surprise he entered a roomy (at maximum about 20 ft high by 6 ft wide) ascending rift.  The upper reaches of this rift (Nik-Nak's Nook) are close to the bottom of Advent Chamber and would have provided much easier access to the pitch had we pushed the leads on the east side of the dig in the early stages.  Ho Hum!


Bob Cottle in the entrance to Upside Down.  Photograph by Rob Taviner.

The major digging effort in Upside Down started in June with serious attempts to raise the roof of the passage.  The digging in Upside Down became a rerun of the Inside Out saga as it settled down to the familiar if somewhat monotonous cycle of drilling, banging and mucking-out.

On 20 August Dave King (MNRC) managed to pass the remnants of a stal barrier that had been causing problems for a while.  A few feet further on he forced a very committing downward squeeze to enter a small muddy chamber.  From here he followed a low passage which became too tight after about 15 ft. About 10ft ahead of his sticking point he could see a low arch, beyond which was a pile of stream debris with a heavy drip falling onto it, possibly from a high rift or aven.

This is the situation at the end of August.  Tav's survey shows that the dig has over 500 ft of passage and is 169 ft deep (over 300 ft to go to the rising).  Once again it looks promising.  Perhaps THIS time the Deity will give in gracefully and let us into the cave.  Or perhaps ...

Whatever, it looks like there will have to be another article sometime.

* Because of the author's incompetence the photograph of the shaft appears in part one of this article - sorry!



Diggers and visitors (January 2002 - date)

Allen Sinclair (BBC), Alison Moody, Annie Audsley, Bob Cottle, Carmen Haslett, Clive North, Colin Rogers, Dave Everett, Dave Grosvenor, Dave King, Dave Morrison, Dave Speed, Elaine Johnson, Gary Sandys, Hugh Tucker, John Hill, James Witcombe, Jonathan Williams, Mark Lumley, Pat Cronin, Pete Hellier, Pete Mulholland, Rob Taviner, Roz Fielder, Rich Witcombe, Simon Meade-King, Simon Richards, Steve Shipston, Tony Audsley, Tony Littler.

Reference

(1) Tony Audsley - Digging at Thrupe Swallet, or the Agony and the Ecstasy.  Belfry Bulletin 516 Vol 53 No 2 pp 19-26.

An alternative view of the dig

Richard Witcombe - Fourth time lucky? - Digging at Thrupe Swallet.  Wessex Cave Club J. Vol 27 (285) pp68-71.

Richard Witcombe - Fourth time lucky? - Digging at Thrupe Swallet.  Wessex Cave Club J. Vol 27 (286) pp84-88.

In the short term

Up to date information, photographs, sounds, a song and some foolishness may be found on the web at:-

http://freespace.virgin.net/t.audsley


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - of Dives "Climbs" Brown Trousers and Old Bones.

by Tony Jarratt
with photographs by Sean Howe

Continuing the saga from BB 516.

On 14th August Tangent took local vet Alex Barlow to look at the bones.  This would have been a more fulfilling experience for him if Tangent had taken working lights!  Tony Audsley compared our five samples with bones from Charterhouse Warren Farm Swallet and agreed with Alex that they were probably large cow and a small ruminant, possibly sheep.  Tony thought that they could be very old - at least 500 years - and that one appeared to have been chewed by a carnivore.  Margaret Chapman also borrowed the bones and brought them to the attention of Dr. Roger M. Jacobi of the British Museum (Natural History) and U.B.S.S.  The writer was surprised to receive a phone call from an excited Dr. Jacobi stating that the remains are of bison and reindeer and from the later half of the Upper Pleistocene period - between 28,000 and 80,000 years old! Tony, Alex and butcher Roger Haskett can be excused for their cow identifications as they don't get many bison to play with.  The gnawing marks on the bison's jaw are either from wolf or hyena, probably the former. If these animals were still around I wouldn't give much hope for Andy and Pam's cabbage patch ... Dr. Jacobi suggested that we remove more bones for examination and that he is interested in getting a date for the stalagmite coatings.  He is also able to get the bone dated at a cost of around 380 pounds. A.B.C.R.A. research grant has been applied for to pay for this.  Tony suggests that the bones may have been washed into the depths of the cave from a carnivore lair or pit-fall entrance during the alternating warm and cold periods of the Devensian glaciation.  This would also account for the banded sediment deposits in the Drip Tray area. (Mendip at this point was part of the cold and immense "mammoth-steppe" stretching unbroken across the whole of northern Europe as far as Siberia.  Accompanying our bison, reindeer and wolf on their forays over the vast grasslands and tundra were woolly mammoth and rhinoceros, bear, cave lion and primitive horse.  Though it is possible that the Hunters' Lodge was yet to be built the hunters were certainly there, namely the last of the Neanderthals and, latterly, the recently arrived ancestors of ourselves - Homo Sapiens).

Rich Dolby dived "Hair of the Dog Sump" on the 17th but failed to make any progress (see following article).  He intends to have another look with a single bottle.  On this trip Tangent, Vince Simmonds and Pete Bolt gained another 5m of phreatic crawl at the end of The Barmaids' Bedrooms and there is still further scope here.

Work continued on clearing the Inn-let crawl in preparation for stone-walling the climb up and emptying the Drip Tray water through the floor.  Photography, tourism and clearing trips also continued and John Wilson (Moles) commenced a detailed palaentological survey of the bone deposit which was also visited by trainee archaeologist Hannah Bell (Soton U.C.C.) who was elated by the antiquities and beauty of the Bedrooms.  Ed Hodge (U.B.S.S.) made some relevant observations on the stalagmite deposition.

The 25th August saw your scribe, Jeff Price and Tangent emplacing bolts at the end of the Boulevard in an attempt to bypass the suicidal terminal choke via a high level inlet. After a climb of over 5m this potential ceiling passage was reached and found to close down after 1m.  At least we had ticked it off and could put our minds to surmounting the choke.

The Boulevard survey was completed by Trev Hughes on the 31st amidst much enthusiastic admiration, this being his first visit to the lower section of the cave.  On the 1st September the writer checked out all the south end of Pewter Pot to find nothing of promise and some very loose boulders at the top.  Beware if you visit this area!  Jake Baynes worked hard on Slop 3 dig but after reaching deep water under the floor of the Pot this was again temporarily abandoned. It is not a promising site. With little else to do and plenty of time to spare your scribe bit the bullet and, leaving Jake wedged high in the Boulevard, tiptoed up through the terminal choke for a distance of some 20m and a height gain of around 10m - all amongst horrendous huge boulders.  There are several possible ways on but are all too frightening to contemplate pushing at present.  From first hand descriptions of the nearby Tankard Hole this place sounds very similar but with the unfortunate difference that it is approached from underneath!  It is estimated that the Boulevard has crossed under the road and is heading out under Roger Dor's field but there are no plans to seek for another entrance here.


Traversing over Hair of the Dog Sump


The lower end of Broon Ale boulevard


Broon Ale Boulevard – climbing up the phreatic ramp towards the choke


The Inn-let


Broon Ale Boulevard

On 3rd September eight more bone samples, including a bison horn cone, were recovered and a further, stalagmite coated bone came out the next day.  On this trip MadPhil and the writer completed a few outstanding survey legs and dug into 15m of well decorated parallel rift passage on the NW side of the Boulevard.  A superb pure white flowstone boss inspired the name Guinness Head Rift.  It ends in a 7m high aven which appears to close down but is probably geomorphologically connected to the Bedrooms' above.  It was later re-discovered by John Walsh!

During the next couple of weeks a variety of consolidating jobs took place.  Bev and Gwilym commenced wet stone walling the Inn-let climb; the writer, Jeff Price, Ray Deasy, Dan the Dane and co. cleared bags from Drip Tray sump/dig and filled up the Spile Heap; Ed Waters, Sean Howe and a Shepton team took some stunning photographs of Broon Ale Boulevard; Tangent and Trev investigated the choke beyond the bone deposit and prepared more samples for Dr. Jacobi, and John Wilson completed his bone survey.  More surface surveying and computing was done by MadPhil and in the depths of the British Museum our mentors studied the pieces of bison and reindeer provided and became enthusiastic over the discovery.

Wednesday 17th September saw a team bailing water from Drip Tray Sump into a hole on the floor of the Inn-let.  A party visiting BAB heard it pouring down the south side of Pewter Pot.  This has solved our winter digging problems as bailing or pumping is now a feasible option.

More diggers and acknowledgements

Greg Brock, Pete Bolt, Hannah Bell (Soton Uc.c.), Ed Hodge (UB.S.S.), Dr. Roger M. Jacobi (British Museum (Natural History), U.B.S.S.), Dr. Andy Currant (British Museum (Natural History), UB.S.S.), Mabs Gilmore (Open Univ.), Dr. Rainer Grun (Australian Nat. Univ., Canberra), B.C.R.A. and Bill Tolfree (B.C.R.A., S.M.C.C.), Daniel Listh (Denmark), Ed Waters and Hilary Clarke (S.M.C.C.).

1.                  Bone identification

2.                  Right mandible of bison (Bison cf priscus) with three permanent, crenellated molars.  Gnawed by hyena or, more likely, wolf (Canus lupus).

3.                  Distal humerus of bison, broken.

4.                  Mandible of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

5.                  Vertebra of bison.

6.                  Part of reindeer antler.

7.                  Stalagmite coated bone.

8.                  "Curly" bone.

9.                  "Straight" bone. 9. Rib.

10.              Bison horn cone.

11.              Pelvic bone.

12.              Small vertebra.

13.              Y -shaped antler part.

14.              H-shaped antler part.

Useful references

In Search of Cheddar Man, Larry Barham et al. (1999)

On the Track of Ice Aze Mammals, Anthony J. Sutcliffe (1985)

Owls, Caves and Fossils, Peter Andrews (1990)

Westburv Cave - The Natural Historv Museum Excavations 1976-1984, Peter Andrews, Jill Cook, Andrew Currant and Christopher Stringer

Note:    Due to the irresponsible actions of a Club member the longest and finest stalactite in the cave has been smashed to pieces necessitating a ban on tourist and photographic trips for the foreseeable future. This is a very fragile, beautiful and palaentologically important cave system and we WILL conserve it as well as we are able.

The Digging Team.


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Hair of the Dog Sump Dive Report.

by Rich Dolby

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink, Priddy, Somerset.  (ST 5494 5012).  17-08-03

DIVER: R.J. DOLBY. SUPPORT: J. WALSH

The purpose of this trip was to dive Hair of the Dog Sump, the most recent find in the on-going development of the H.L.I.S. system.  A previous porterage trip made on the 12-08-03 had shown that the new sump had some potential - a crude measurement of the entry pool indicated a depth in excess of 3 metres.

The exploration commenced from the 'northern' end of the sump - the diver entering the water at 11.55 a.m. having belayed his primary reel line to a large boulder above water. The steeply sloping bottom quickly dropped to in excess of 2.5 metres along the western wall.  The diver continued probing along this western wall, and found the depth quickly decreased again to around 1 metre, at this point attention switched to the east side of the sump.  Here the bottom dropped away again to around 3.5 metres in depth.  The diver returned to the shallower central area of the sump and retrieved the primary line.  A traverse line had previously been installed and it was to this that the diver belayed his line to commence exploration of the southern end of the sump.  This area also proved unproductive with no way on evident.  Despite much probing along both walls and the central 'floor' of the sump no way on could be found.  Operations ceased with the diver leaving the water at 12.25.

The general nature of the sump toward the northern end was of steeply inclined phreatic walls with an uneven 'floor' of large boulders, covered with a thick mud/silt deposit. This gave way to a generally even mud floor toward the southern area.  Visibility in the sump was generally poor to non-existent.

Dry cracked mud banks can be seen immediately adjacent to the pool, indicating that the water levels do fluctuate.  This suggests a similarity with the previously explored Drip Tray Sump (Belfry Bulletin Vol. 52, No.3) - which was found to drain completely under certain conditions.  Similarly, there are indications that the water backs up considerably in times of heavy weather.

NB. A month later the water level had dropped another 1.5m - ARJ

Many thanks for assistance from M. Barker, P. Bolt, A. Hole, A. Jarratt, V. Simmonds and J. Williams - "their physical energy and their indomitable will were their tools".



 

Ores Close - its Caves and Mines.

by Dave Irwin

Ores Close area is best known for Dallimore's Cave, named after the farmer at the time of its opening and initial exploration in 1948.  However, surrounding the farmhouse, now a private dwelling, lie a number of mineshafts, some exhibiting mined and natural passage upwards of 500m in length.  All have been capped and, except one, their individual location lost.  Nonetheless interest in these sites covered a period of over 50 years from 1938 - 1991 and of the 10 sites recorded only Dallimore's Cave is currently accessible to cavers.


Fig.1: Ores Close. The area where the miners worked is the diamond shaped fields both to the north and south of the farm buildings.

Of direct interest to cavers is the line of swallets extending north-east from Hillgrove to Green Ore - the Hillgrove Swallets; they are Easter Hole, Lobster Pot, Whitsun Hole, Rock Swallet, Zoo (or Double Back), the lost Gypsy Pot and Hillgrove Swallet, the collective name for a number of adjacent digs.  Though this site has been dug intermittently since 1903, and at the deepest, is currently over 30m deep; it holds on to its secret well.  It is also Mendip's longest running dig site. In addition to this group of mainly dry swallets lie a number of sinks extending down towards Biddlecombe including Haydon Drove Swallet.  To the north-west, at Green Ore is Island Plantation Swallet and to the north lies the now buried Nedge Hill Swallet.  A group of mineshafts is also known at Miles Lot Plantation, Green Ore.

Immediately before and after the Second World War, interest in the Hillgrove - Green Ore - Miner's Arms and Hunters' Lodge rectangle intrigued a number of cavers in the WCC.  A numbered list of sites was prepared by Peter Harvey, c.l946, each prefixed by the letter' A'.  The alternative name for Alfie's Hole is A101.


Fig.2: Aerial photograph taken in 1946 of Ores Close.

Ores Close

Ores Close, adjacent to the 'T' junction of the Priddy road with the A37 Wells - Bristol road is an area that has been subjected to considerable mining activity.  Nothing relating to the activity here has been found in the standard books of reference including Gough's Mines of Mendip.  Most of the work appears to have been the sinking of shafts and development of vertical features in the search for calamine (zinc blend) and possibly haematite which has also been found there.  An aerial photograph taken by the RAF in 1946 for the Ministry of Housing and Works clearly shows the intensive effort that was made in search of minerals in a relatively small area.  Over 200 sites can be identified in the two fields to the north and south of the old farmhouse.  All appear to have been capped long ago and only an occasional accidental opening leads to the exploration of an individual shaft.  Today part of the area to the north of the house is now a mature conifer plantation.

Ores Close Cave, 1938

In 1938, Charles P. Weaver, his wife May, and George Bowen, having explored the tiny series in Eastwater Cavern for which they are still remembered, began exploring the mine shafts in the area north of Pen Hill; an activity they knew as "mineshafting". Most of the open shafts in the area were explored and found to be up to 50m deep. On the 22nd May 1938 having descended a 37m unidentified shaft (note 1) they had a chance meeting with the farmer, Mr. Dallimore, (note 2) who told them of other shafts.  Weaver noted that  (note 3)

" ... not only did he know of several open ones, but also of one, covered in with an entrance about 6' round with a stone on top - he thought it was a rabbit's burrow!  On poking a stick in it he dislodged a stone & imagine his surprise when it fell down & out of his hearing.  He led us to the spot & not long after we had uncovered a shaft about 4 ft diameter, built up like a well, about 15 ft down it entered a natural rift.  We rigged our ladders & and after a descent of 50 ft we landed in a natural cavern.  Passages going out up the main rift in either direction. .. .I have yet to survey the system, this will follow when we have logged all the many passage. Ochre is much in evidence, stalactite confined to fine straws about 4 in. long - pure white curtain & much drip deposit .... I will wire you & send a sketch later, but thought it would be best to log our find right away.  I think an apt name for it is Hillwove Cavern discovered or re-discovered May 22nd 1938 by CP. Weaver, Mrs CP. Weaver & G.B. Bowen - my wife has held materially & has been in as far as we have .... "

 

Fig.3: A detail of the field north of the farm buildings (bottom right) showing the density of mining in the area.

Weaver's summary in the MNRC Report for 1938 is more detailed. (note 4)

"Removing the stone, revealed a roofed-in mine shaft.  This proved to be 55 feet deep, and led into what proved to be the largest lead mine workings known on Mendip.

Passages, mostly mined in a Rift, led into Natural Cavities - extending some 200 feet to each side of shaft terminating to N in a huge boulder choke, at junction of two major faults.  A passage was forced through to a depth of 186 feet.

The mine workings, on three levels gave perfect specimens of lead and calamine ores.

Photos have been taken of old props, decayed with age. In several boulders, marks plainly showed the passage of ropes for hauling skips loaded with ore.

Stalactite formation and drip deposit were much in evidence.  Perfect specimens of cave pearls were found, also fine evidence of "blasting" by heating with fire.

This discovery was made by CP. Weaver and G.B. Bowen, photowaphs being taken by G. Harvey.

There still remains much to be examined and a survey is to be made - a typical Mendip Lead Mine, not to be confused with either a shaft, pure and simple, or a "wuff' working".


Fig. 4: Weaver’s survey of Ores Close Cave 9original in BSA Records, BCRA Library.  (38 by 16cms)

The last paragraph emphasises a conflict of opinion as to the material being searched for by the miners. In his letter to Simpson he reasons that it was excavated for calamine as there is " ... much ochre in evidence ... " but later seems to have changed his view and that it was " ... a typical Mendip Lead Mine ... ".

Harvey's photographs have not yet been located though the search continues and reports seen by the author indicate that Gerard Platten took a number of images clearly indicating the entrance location but again, these have not been found. (note 5)  Weaver suggested that the cave be known as Hillgrove Cavern but was obviously dissuaded for the name given it on the survey is Orr's Close Mine.

Following this discovery, WCC arranged at least two trips to visit the "Disused Lead Mines".  (note 6)

The 1940s

So matters rested until the post-war period.  A crowd of BEC cavers, including 'Sett', 'Postle' and 'Pongo' et al visited and descended what was know to them as Ores Close Mineshaft on the 4th May 1947.  Its location was not stated and would appear to be one that was well-known to the then BEC members.  However, a later document from a very different source positively points to its location.

The 1950s

In 1952, Luke Devenish, was contracted to level the ground at Rodney Pits Plantation and at Ores Close hopefully returning it to agricultural use - though the Ores Close north field is a now mature conifer plantation. (note 7)  During the course of this work a number of shafts were opened, some of which were later explored by UBSS cavers. (note 8)

About the time of this work Devenish prepared a map, based upon the 25" as survey showing the location of the seven open shafts he was aware of including two that were open prior to the levelling work. (note 9)  Each site was annotated with a letter which cross-referred to a set of very short notes outlining details of each shaft (Fig. 5)


Fig.5: Detail of Devenish's c.1952 map showing the field to the north of the farmhouse. (The original is very faint and the dark areas resulting from the computer scan have been removed for clarity).

Later, c.1955, Devenish wrote a two page document with another version of the Ores Close map showing an additional shaft just south of the farmhouse.  His manuscript notes are more general than the earlier map without directly cross-relating to the indicated shafts on the accompanying map (Fig. 6). (note 10)


Fig. 6: Devenish’s c.1955 map of the area, amended by the author by the addition of alpha indents as entered on the c.1952 map.  On this Original the “dots” were colour coded according to the legend.

However, by scaling the maps it has been possible to obtain good NGR’s for the eight sites.  As each site is referenced by letter on the earlier (c.1952) map the various notes on this and the c. 1955 manuscript can be grouped together resulting in a fairly good summary of each site.

Shaft A       5680.4960 This is the shaft descended by BEC in 1947, but by 1955 the general condition of the top of the shaft was considered too dangerous to make a descent.  Devenish states that the BEC reported the depth as being 73m on the c.1952 map but amends this to 64m in the c.1955 manuscript.

Shaft B        5676.4957 Opened by levelling. 10m deep, no side workings

Shaft C        5682.4958 Opened by levelling. No depth has been stated but it is not deeper than 25m. (note 11)  This site was explored by William Stanton and Oliver Wells.  No details of the trip can be found in the WCC Logbooks.  A miner's clay tally was found in this shaft, and is now on display in Wells Museum (see photograph page 29).

Shaft D        5675.4954 The shaft was open before levelling began.  Again no information is available except that the shaft was explored by William Stanton who sent a report to the local representative of the Geological Survey at Keyworth, Nottingham.  Devenish adds that “... there was no trace of the mythical 10' band of galena". (note 12)

Shaft E        5674.4945 Opened by levelling. No other details.

Shaft F        5683.4945 Opened by levelling but stated to be choked.  No other details.

Shaft G       5680.4939 Opened by levelling but found to be too tight at -12m, though stones fell at least that distance below.

Shaft H        5685.4934 Shown only on the c.1955 map and was not explored though Devenish noted that " ... unskilled sources suggested by the dropping of stones that it was 120 feet deep & ended in water (v. likely as the noise (?) indicated that it received considerable quantities of sewage.) .... "

Whether any of the sites for which no detail exists is the Weaver-Bowen cave of 1938 - Ores Close Cave - is unknown.  All of the sites have since been capped and buried.

The 1967 Shaft

The first detailed account of a descent of any of these shafts came in 1967.  Mr. Stevens, the farmer at Ores Close Farm, driving his tractor through the farm yard accidentally opened up the top of a shaft. The first attempt to ascertain the depth of the shaft was by plumbing the depths - it was found to be 20m deep. However, MNRC gathered their able bodied members together and assembled at the mouth of the shaft and rigged ladders for the descent on Sunday 20th November 1966.  They included Brian (Bucket) Tilbury, Howard Roberts, Geoff and Pete Stokes, and Roy Pearce paid a visit. Biggs wrote (note 13)

" ... we removed part of a large stone, which covered the entrance, and while those who had not "had a gander down" were doing so, the rest of us set about rigging the ladders ".

Pearce went first and descended 27m but the shaft continued on downward.  Back to the surface and another 10m of ladder was added.  Tilbury went next and found that the bottom was choked with small boulders and reported that (note 14)

" ... there was a likelihood of a side passage so both he and the writer entered and tried their luck with a machette, which was all the digging implements (sic) that we had with us, after a while this was found to be only a hollow in the rock that was bricked up with "deads" and earth, as the bottom was solid rock ... we decided to call it a day ... "

Samples were taken to attempt to find out the purpose of the shaft, these included hematite and iron pan. Pearce suggested that it was a 19th century trial shaft and a response from the British Museum suggested that

the miners were probably looking for zinc blend (calamine).  The shaft was later caped by concrete and fitted with a manhole cover by Tilbury. (note 15) Pearce summed up the (note 16)

" ... hole is probably an exploratory shaft dug along a rift line by miners [in the) early nineteenth century [and) is 120 ft deep, no room for a wooden runged ladder, (so must have been climbed up and down by rope, this would not have been difficult as [the) hole is tight enough to chimney in all places) there were haulage marks to be seen in places ... "

The 1991 Shaft

In May 1991 Oxford University Cave Club (OUCC) members, who had been working in the recently discovered Oxford Extensions in Dallimore's Cave, were shown the open top of a shaft close to the house by the kitchen window of the old farmhouse.  The then residents, Rhonda and Mark Cottle, showing the OUCC cavers the entrance stated that it had already been descended to a depth of 15m a short while before.  The shaft, Ores Close Folly, (note 17) was again descended and this time the bottom was reached at a depth of about 30m ending " ... .in downward muddy grovels to a boulder-strewn crawl".

A small system of horizontal passageways were explored but (note 18)

"…the way on proved to be up the first incline past a hideously precarious wall of infill on the right".

OUCC explored some 500m of passage but because of the very muddy conditions they are reluctant to return to complete their survey - a pity.

Finally ...

So, a number of sites have been explored by cavers between 1938 and 1991 in this little known area of Mendip.  It is fortunate that the Devenish documents have survived for there appears to be little other hard evidence elsewhere on Mendip.  Before it too is lost OUCC should grace their description of Ores Close Folly with a NOR!

Acknowledgements

The writer wishes to acknowledge the useful comments and further information from the following: Phil Hendy (WCC Librarian), Tony Jarratt, Ray Mansfield (UBSS), Roy Paulson (BCRA Librarian) and thanks to the Trustees of Wells Museum for enabling the photograph of the Tally to be taken.


The Miner's Tally (120mm x 70mm) found at Ores Close, c.1952, donated to Wells Museum by Luke Devenish. Photograph by Dave Irwin.

Notes

1.                  Weaver, C.P., 1938-1939, Personal Diary MSS, 56p, surveys (photocopies located in BEC and WCC Libraries)

2.                  Weaver, C.P., 1939, Ores Close, Hillgrove. MNRC Rep 31,50-51

3.                  Weaver, C.P., 1938, Report on Ore's Close Mine (letter dated 23rd May 1938 to Eli Simpson, BSA) MSS, 4p BCRA Library

4.                  Weaver, C.P.; 1939, (as above, i.e. footnote No .4).

5.                   Mendip Cave Registry, 1967, The Mendip Cave Register. MSS, typed, (322)p, maps, biblio.

6.                  Anon, 1939, Forthcoming Events. WCC Circular, (46 OS) 1 (Jun) (15th July 1939) and Anon, 1940, Forthcoming Events, WCC Circular (5 lOS)1 (Dec/Jan)

7.                  In the descriptive notes on Ores Close Cave in Complete Caves of Mendip Stanton states that the levelling was carried out in 1938 but this could not be the case as the aerial photographs of 1946 clearly show the spoil heaps.

8.                  Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, Ores Close and Rodney Pits Plantation. MS 3p, map; in D. J. Irwin collection (Trevor R. Shaw believes that MSS was written about 1957).

9.                  Devenish, Luke E.W., c.1952, Personal caving dairy. 2 vols, 1947 - 1952. Housed in the WCC Library.

10.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?,  (as above, i.e. footnote No.9).

11.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, (as above).

12.              Devenish, Luke E.W., 1955?, (as above).

13.              Biggs, Ray, 1967, Ores Close Farm Shaft. MNRC Cay Bul1(l)11(Jan/Feb)

14.              Pearce, A.E. Me. R., 1967, Shaft at Ores Close Farm - Ref. 569494.  MNRC Cay Bul1(2)6(Mar/Apr)

15.              Hodgson, Tim H. led], 1967, Ores Close Shaft. MNRC Cay Bu11(4)13

16.              Pearce, A.E. Me. R., 1967, as above

17.              This site is not accessible to cavers.

18.               Guilford, T., 1992, Ore's Close Folly.  OUCC Proceedings (13)9-10.


 

Memories of Mendip in the Forties.

by Dizzie Tompsett-Clark

I happily slept on the hay in the barn,
with Postle and Don and the rest.
We drank and we swore, and the clothes that we wore
were far from our cleanest and best.

For we went down the caves that ran under our feet
and many a squeeze came my way;
with old carbide lamps and thick ladders of rope,
whilst the darkness chased panic away.

There were chimneys we climbed; there were boulders we scaled;
and the streams that ran swift after rain.
There were times we were lost, when I felt rather scared
'til we'd sussed out our trail once again.

We'd a car boasting sidescreens, and running boards too,
with a windscreen that folded down flat.
And a neat dickey seat, tucked away in the rear;
there were many who envied us that.

While the others had motorbikes, battered and old,
and lovingly tended with care,
for petrol was scarce, and money was short,
but somehow we always got there.

In the evenings we'd roar down the road to the pub,
where Alfie played tunes that we knew.
And there we heard tell of one "Eskimo Nell"
as we drank our host's excellent brew.

All too soon, time to go; and we'd climb on our bikes
or crowd in our Lea Francis car.
Then once more we'd roar to the Belfry and bed
and be grateful it wasn't too far.

For a Club had been formed, with a bat as its badge,
and a hut was soon bought for a song.
To start with we slept on the old wooden floor
but I'm glad to say, not for too long.

Now we've benches and bunkhouses, showers and loos,
and places to dry out wet clothes.
I haven't been caving for twenty-odd years
and I won't go again, I suppose.

But Alfie plays host to us "oldies" each year
at a Dinner, both happy and sad,
while we think of those missing, who ought to be there,
and talk of the Good Times we had.

Dizzie Tompsett-Clark February 2001

Ed. In the accompanying note Dizzie makes it clear that she would like to dedicate this poem to Alfie and thank him for all his work over the years organising his annual "Alfie's Dinners".


 

St. Cuthbert's Swallet 50th Anniversary and Letters from Clare and Damian Coase.


Saturday 6th September saw a great turn out for the St.Cuthbert's Swallet 50th Anniversary. Fine weather blessed an alcoholic afternoon with a champagne reception below ground and beer and barbeque above. Later at the Hunters' the highlight of the slide shows was the photographs taken by Don Coase in 1954-5 during the early exploration of the system.  These were sent from Australia by Clare and presented by Roger Stenner - who noted that they clearly show the benefits of the leader system in terms of conservation.  Below are some photographs of the event and extracts of letters from Clare Coase and her son Damian.

To the BEC,

Congratulations on your anniversary .... this September .... 50 years since the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

For me, it has been a long time and much water has flowed under many bridges. Don and I had been married barely 18 months and were to have only a few more years.  Caving was his great love and St. Cuthbert's his passion (there was some for me as well!).  It was sad when he had to limit his caving and forego his cave diving altogether. Not everyone has the joy of a great love as he had of caves, and I know how much he was appreciated and loved by the club members, that is why I married him.  Anyone so much appreciated must be great value, and he was.

He would be delighted to know that St. Cuthbert's is held in such high esteem, has been so well protected and that his co-work of discovery is still remembered.  Thank you on his behalf as well as on Damian's and mine,

Sincerely,

Clare Coase.


Left to right: Graham Wilton-Jones. Brian Woodward (S.M.C.C.) and Stuart McManus.


To the BEC,

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary of the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

I heard of my father Don and his exploits from my mother Clare and had looked through those amazing glass-mounted slides.  The British Caving book gave some clues but it wasn't until my wife Nanine and I visited the UK on our honeymoon in 1990, that I realised what a maniac he and his friends were to explore those caverns.  Often alone for hours, perhaps days with the primitive equipment they had, is beyond belief.

The BEC (through Dan I believe) arranged for us to visit St. Cuthbert's. The descent was horrifying, exhilarating and exhausting.  But standing next to the plaque dedicated to my father is one of the fondest memories of my life.

The fellows, who led us through the cave, were fantastic guides, incredibly patient and well prepared.  A couple of special memories stay in my mind, watching the amazing way the cavers moved so fluidly through the smallest of passages and their apparent age1essness - I couldn't tell if some of them were 35 or 65 years old, must be all that exercise or staying out of the sun.  Another was the climb out of the cave.  We were nearly to the top but my wife couldn't go on - she was exhausted, her arms like rubber.  No problem to the guys underneath her - "Just stand on my back and you can use your legs and give your arms a rest".  The next one says "Stand on my head".  This went on until we reached the top.  Dedicated, patient and understanding, an amazing bunch of people.

The experience gave me a little understanding of the type of man Don was, and I'm sure made my wife question marrying into the family.  I remember that she was so sore the next day she couldn't get out of bed.  It also showed me another side to my amazing mother Clare.

I have to apologise most strongly for not writing to those good people long before this.  I can only offer the not-sufficient excuse of newly married state, new job and distance. If not too late, thank you.

I am now part of the Outdoor Education programme at my school, involved in the Duke of Edinburgh training in bushwalking, abseiling, surfing, canoeing and even caving.  Maybe St. Cuthbert's ignited a spark or maybe it's in the genes.

Again, congratulations on the anniversary and well done for fostering the spirit of exploration,

Sincerely,

Damian Coase.

Ed. A handwritten note from Clare at the end of Damian's letter says: "I seem to remember something about Damian getting stuck.  He must have forgotten!!"



 

Potentially Lethally Deadly.

(or - Four Men and a Minor Breakthrough in DYO).

by James Cochrane

The lakes in Dan-yr-Ogof were high, not drastic but deep enough to suck the warmth from the body with the chilling speed of an industrial freezer, only damper.  This was my fourth trip into this magnificent cave, and for the first time I was certain of where I was going, more or less. There were four to our team, Joel Corrigan, Tim Lamberton, Ross Dyter and myself.  With us also were Mike Alderton and Rich Bayfield, who intended to get to the 'High and Mighty' series, a trip that depended upon two things.  Mike would be putting up with an arm almost broken the previous evening in a Cardiff wall jumping session; and Rich would have to manage to stay on all of the climbs, something he periodically has trouble doing.  After passing the lakes, Mike and Rich carried on shivering into the distance.

Our team objective was to investigate the Lower Series extension of 'Toad Hall', an aven with a loose boulder crawl in the ceiling.  Poking at loose and dangerous boulder chokes seemed to us an ideal way to pass a Saturday afternoon and Joel had it on good authority from Liam Kealy that the aven was an area of potential. Ross and I were still learning the major routes of the cave, but had no difficulty in reaching the Washing Machine, the Long Crawl having restored warmth.  At this point we found one of Joel's diving tackle sacs on a ledge, retrieved from almost certain drowning by a saintly visitor after recent high water levels.  Full of renewed faith in the human spirit Joel led us on to Toad Hall.  The muddy rope climb up to the extension proved exciting for Joel, who decided to tie in foot loops to help the rest of us who were nonetheless humorously acrobatic.

The aven's base was a few square metres, a mound of breakdown warning of the loose ceiling above. Tim and Joel bridged up the chimney and would garden any immediate loose blocks whilst Ross and I sheltered in safe passage.

'Oh dear,' muttered Tim 'I've lost the skills! Joel, how do you do this, oh I see, I'll tie off here, hold this'.  For about half an hour Tim and Joel released volley after volley of brick sized rocks. Ross bemoaned his cordura suit as heat leaked out of him through inactivity.  'I'd have a nice new TSA if Dudley had one in my size'.  The rest of us were wearing plastic suits of one form or another.  'Let's have one more chap up here to help Tim' called Joel. Ross would soon be working up a sweat extending the boulder crawl up top.  'Jim, stand clear whilst we clear this bit'.  I did so, and rocks whistled down the aven, embedding themselves with dull thuds into the mud and boulder mound, small impact shards ricocheting off the walls. Ross and Tim were making fast progress in the initial crawl.  Given a break in the rockfall, and having cleared the base of many pointed rocks of the potential 'intruder' variety, I bridged up and found shelter in a small alcove. From here I could chat to Joel as he bolted to another potential lead on the right hand side of the aven.  As he hammered, large blocks continued to scream down the left-hand side, as the top passage was emptied into the base of the aven.

Joel's lead was too small, a short and narrow continuation, but his bolt placement allowed a more useful hand-line rig to the top.  As we pulled ourselves into the top passage, Ross and Tim could be heard just ahead at a tight section.  'Nooo, don't move that one!  Have you seen what it's holding up!'  Negotiations with the choke were tentative at first as two ways were worked on.  Ross wriggled back to allow Joel a look, 'I want some action, I want some fun, me me me ....'.  Ross had been enjoying his work, the engineer in him relishing the problem, but if he'd mentioned scaffolding, I'd have left him to it! Tim and Joel's tentative tapping produced one tight way through.  From struggling to the other side Joel was in a position to widen the gap.  Meanwhile, Ross was fashioning a decorative pair of mud breasts.

Tim retreated as Joel prepared to move some boulders that might or might not help the situation. Two thunderous booms were followed by an eerie silence.  'Joel! You ok.... ?'  'Yeah, yeah, just rocks and stuff landing on me' came the reply.  An almighty slab had been toppled into a perfect slot on the left, leaving a hole at that side only big enough for rats with hard hats, whilst the second route was much improved, though still disturbingly loose and unstable. Tim now followed after Joel, dislodging lots of loose choss, then called us further in.  'You've bloody filled up that passage again' complained Ross ‘I’ve just spent ages clearing that!'  'Well you've got to clear it again now,' retorted Tim from the other side, 'because it's our only way out'.  Having forgotten our gloves, Ross and I shredded our hands clearing sharp blocks from the squeeze, filling gaps in the floor and releasing more down the aven, which we'd probably have to dig on the return.

Ross now struggled through the tight 90° upward squeeze, cursing his girth, the rock and his lack of recent caving; a spot christened Uncle Dyter's Stickle brick Cleft.  'Jim, I'd recommend shifting some more of those rocks at the base of the squeeze, you might have trouble with your legs!'  I shovelled out more small rocks, enlarging the bend cautiously, in order to get all 6ft 3 of me through.  Then, mid-way through, Joel asked me to fetch his compass from the head of the aven!  On the second attempt, I found myself sat upright twixt rock and hard place, groping with my right hand for loose handholds above me.  Delicately heaving up, I twisted my legs to get my knees through and out I popped to be faced with an immediate horizontal manoeuvre.  'Just be careful there mate,' encouraged Joel 'it's loose as hell so try not to touch anything.'  Dutifully I obeyed, sliding out onto a rightwards-inclined boulder slope at the base of a bedding chamber.  Now I was excited.

After that narrow passage, the chamber was positively spacious.  The four of us sat at the top of the loose slope taking in the surroundings, all delighted to have broken through into virgin passage with such relative ease.  Several potential ways on could be seen.  At the base of the bedding plane, another small hole opened up in the jumble of boulders. Up-slope on the left a wet crawl of speculative stability vied with the boulders straight above the slope for the title of most delicate engineering project.  Most promising was a lead at the right of the slope where moving a few blocks entered a low mud passage against the ceiling.  Beyond, a parallel, slightly more stable chamber presented itself. Joel was pretty certain this was entering a blank area on the survey, were we about to discover a high level fossil series?  Whilst Ross and Tim carried on along the base of this chamber, I crawled up-slope where a short mud bank led to a small calcite pool with formative cave pearls. Breaking right, a low crawl over a mud-covered choke (in which Tim was nosing about) continued to a small drop at the back of the chamber of about one-and-a-half metres.  With no room to turn, I lowered myself headfirst, finally swinging my legs down.  The small chamber closed down on the right immediately with silt and mud, whilst the walls and roof were very loose to the touch.  Only at the upper left was there a small gap which appeared to enter the base of another aven.


Joel came through and tapped away at the gap with the hammer, a slight touch releasing shards over his head and shoulders.  Delicately he lifted himself through the gap, and then heaved an obstructive boulder to one side.  Tim joined me in the small chamber, and we were then huddled at the centre as both Ross and Joel decided to garden loose blocks from either side.  Once these were clear we all pulled ourselves up into the aven base.  A calcite boulder ceiling abruptly blocked our way only a few metres up with a small shower at the centre.  We congregated here and made sure there was no possible way through.  'At least it’s finished in a nice chamber, with water and a few formations,' offered Ross, 'better than in some squalid little hole!' A return trip would be needed to survey, photograph and investigate the more technical leads.  A compass bearing gave us a trend of NW, and we had gained enough height to take us out of the lower series.  The next digging would be much more arduous.  We estimated a total find of 30-35m with various leads, albeit uninviting ones.

The return through the sticklebrick cleft proved easy, and we slid down the aven rope to find a significantly enlarged mound of rocks.  Back on familiar ground a speedy exit saw us from one dark to another, emerging at 9pm after 7hrs, by which time Rich and Mike had reached the 'Windy Way' and back. At Donald's hut, a quick wash saw us ready to push on to the Copper Beach.

The Team

James Cochrane (BEC), Joel Corrigan (unaffiliated), Ross Dyter (BEe) and Tim Lamberton (BEC). 09/03/02

The return trip a few weeks later by Joel, Tim and friend Gavin produced a survey but alas no photos due to a lack of the necessary equipment!  The leads were investigated, with some boulders moved and the leads determined to be pushable, but extremely arduous and delicate undertakings.  A return trip is planned.


 

Straws Two Metres Long.

by R.A. Setterington "Sett".

The Old Codgers are an informal group of a dozen or so of ex climbers, cavers and walkers who, now all OAPs, get together twice a year for exercise and, in the evenings, put the world to rights.  We try to be economical by meeting in the south in the spring and the north in the autumn, self catering in a caving or climbing hut.  Since we are restricted, by club rules, to 12 beds we usually book the four midweek nights, Monday to Thursday, giving us 3 days walking plus two days driving.

In September 2002 we gathered at the Yorkshire Ramblers hut near Clapham, West Yorkshire, dividing into smaller groups depending on walking range. The four mile group, who have a common interest in archaeology in general, especially industrial archaeology, opted for starting at Ribblehead and walking the track northwards past the Ribblehead viaduct towards the Bleamore tunnel.  About two miles on there is a bridge over the railway which incorporates an aqueduct, as near as makes no difference the mid point from Euston to Glasgow, from which the entrance to the tunnel is visible and a good point to turn round.  A quick couple of pints in the pub followed by a visit to the small museum/exhibition in the former station waiting room was interesting and informative. We drove home via Dent getting semi lost on the way.

On Wednesday we opted to visit the Bancroft Mill engine at Barnoldswick and the Yorkshire Dales Lead Mining Museum at Earby only to find, quite reasonably, that the engine is only in steam a very limited number of weekends in the year and the mining museum was closed pending a major renovation when enough funds have been raised.  It appears as if the reopening will be a year or two away because they are planning to put in a second floor.  Enquire before making a fruitless visit.  We had noticed a sign to the Canal Inn at Salterford so we returned there for a liquid lunch.  The inn is well established having been built on an ancient salters route before the

Leeds & Liverpool Canal was built, nearby, around 1774.  The canal was higher than the inn and needed a road bridge over it.  Seepage from the canal has flooded the original cellar and the higher approach to the bridge has made the entrance unusable so the bar is now the former first floor.  The interesting fact is that, in 230 years or so there are now straw stalactites 2m long hanging from the ceiling of the old entrance.  There is such a profusion of straws that it would not be sensible or tactful to attempt to enter the room to measure the longest straws but the length and rate of growth make these stalactites unique.  If you are in the area do visit the pub where you will be well looked after.  Beware that it is also a stopping place for travellers on the canal so get there early for lunch.

On Thursday we regrouped, the four mile group went pass storming in the Lake District while others opted for a walk from the Clapham car park up to Gaping Gill.  We had only got part way when threatening rain turned into actual rain rapidly increasing in intensity.  This caused a return to the New Inn in Clapham which has an all day bar.


 

Gaping Ghyll 1946.

by R.A. Setterington "Sett".

After I had chatted to Pete Stewart at the Vintage Dinner I was reminded that I had intended to dispute Pete's claim of being the first BEC member down GG after the war.  Since I am writing about events 55 years ago I wrote to Ray (Pongo) Wallis to check on my belief that four of us had been at a GG meet in 1946.  Ray confirmed my dates so I refute Pete Stewart's claim by asserting that Don Coase, Mervyn (Postle) Tompsett, Ray Wallis and myself joined a BSA meet in the summer of 1946.  We did three trips down GG including an upward one via Hensler's  "It's a Bugger" passage and one down Rift Pot.

There have been two recent articles in "The Journal" concentrating on "How I Got There" rather than the actual caving.  Before I go any further I had better warn readers that each sentence should be prefaced by "If I remember rightly" so, to avoid boring repetition, please take this as read.

Don was working in Bristol and living in digs at the bottom of Gloucester Road.  I agreed to pick him up at 10 a.m. so I left Taunton at 9 a.m.  I have to remind you that this is well before motorways so all main roads went through the middle of towns, above all we hadn't the foggiest idea of the timing of long distance journeys.  On the A38 north of Gloucester we found a convenient pub, so stopped for a pint, or maybe two.  It was lunchtime when we got to Bridgenorth so we stopped for a meal in a cafe in the old town.  By mid afternoon, at Hodnet, disaster stuck with a puncture in the rear tyre.  Using an adjustable spanner and a screwdriver we removed the rear wheel and Don volunteered to roll it to the nearest garage for repair; we didn't know where!  I must have dozed off because a couple of hours later Don reappeared with a repaired wheel.  The bike was reassembled and we continued to the outskirts of Whitchurch where we kipped in a hay barn, after strict instructions that we were not to smoke. The next morning, after a superficial wash under a cold farm tap, we continued into Whitchurch where the local dairy was just opening, as it was Sunday we didn't expect any shops to be open but it was worth enquiring from the milkman.  This was followed by a shout into the open door "Mother, there's two hungry looking lads out here looking for breakfast".  We were invited in and served a full English breakfast for 1/6d; those were the days.  It took us the best part of the day to get to GG where Postle and Pongo had already set up camp.

Apart from the actual caving, I do remember the arrival of a BBC portable? Recording Studio, on a farm flat towed by a tractor, this consisted of a pair of turntables each with a large black disc (remember those things), amplifiers and a large bank of lead-acid accumulators.  A reporter, with a microphone on 400ft. of cable, was sent down the hole leaving the recording engineer on top.  The microphone could also work as a small loudspeaker, so when the reporter, prior to recording proper, pointed the microphone at the waterfall and asked what it sounded like, he was told "We could do it much better in the studio".

I assume we had learned the art of long distance travel as I don't remember any special events on the return journey.


 

Midcot Fissure" Tisbury" Wiltshire (ST 945296).

by Vince Simmonds and Ros Bateman

Following a phone call asking if we would like to investigate an interesting feature exposed while excavating for a house extension we headed for Tisbury on Saturday 25th May 2002. On arrival Vince started to clear away some of the debris that had fallen into the fissure.  The area under the house was full of loose rocks and after removing a number of these a way down could be seen although it quickly narrowed down.  It was felt that further excavation in this area might have undermined the property. To the south-east removal of more infill and rocks gained access to a narrow rift in the floor of which a narrow fissure could be seen but not followed.

Geology

The local bedrock (lithology) exposed at Midcot is a pale to light brown fine grained calcareous sandstone with some fossils (bivalves) and isolated non-cemented sand units.  The high percentage of calcitic cement present within the sandstone causes the rock to have many 'karstic' features.  The sandstone shows clear graded bedding structures with pronounced bedding planes and jointing.  Evidence of subsurface weathering has resulted in iron staining and dissolution of the calcareous cement causing the sandstone to be weak to moderate in strength.

The fissure lies in a NW-SE direction extending beneath the existing house and proposed new extension. The fissure feature studied was 3 metres in length with evidence of dissolution development along a natural joint or fracture plane.  The true lateral extent and depth of the fissure is not known.  However a pronounced 'draught' present from the fissure could infer that either the feature is laterally extensive or a parallel local interconnecting fissure exists enabling a circulation draught to be present.

A grade 3 survey of the fissure feature shows that the fissure exposed forms a 2.5 metre deep narrow (0.75m) rift. The sides of the main rift are comprised of well bedded sandstone bed units.  The rift at each end is in-filled by loose fractured sandstone blocks and fine-grained unconsolidated sand.  Although small open cavities between the rock in-fill extend approximately I metre beyond the main rift no attempt was made to remove the natural in-filled material at the NW end of the rift which extends beneath the foundations of the existing house.



 

Lyncombe Mine.

by Nick Harding

SANDFORD, SOMERSET.  NGR 4352 5920. Beside a track in wood east of Lyncombe Lodge First discovered 1995

Surveyed to Grade 2 on 27th July 2003 by Nick Richards and Nick Harding (RE.C.).

There appear to be no records anywhere pertaining to this mine.  We are of course willing to be proved wrong but just in case we'll nail our grubby flag to the mast on this one and stake a claim.

As we're the new boys we thought we'd come bearing gifts.  Okay, so we can all think of better things to give than a dark hole in the ground, but hey, we're all cavers here.  (There's a better one to come, I promise you, wrapped in brightly coloured paper with a big shiny bow).

This particular hole was initially discovered by Master Richards back in 1995 but its taken him the best part of eight years to get this far so, with a hiatus in our current dig, due to the machinations of a local parish council, we decided to measure the old fellow up before repairing to the Crown to comprehensively refresh ourselves.

The mine is an east-west working on two levels.  Entrance is just above a trackway.  The metre wide opening leads onto a balcony in the first chamber known as the "Blue Rabbit Chamber" (due to the discovery of a small blue plastic rabbit! We know how to name things I tell yah!). A ladder, secured to a tree near the entrance allows access via a 4 m. descent, or so, to the chamber floor.

Standing at the bottom and tucking underneath the entrance balcony, a bit of a crawl leads to the "Shark's Mouth" - of dogtooth calcite - really quite scary when you're not expecting it - not that anyone would expect a shark in a cave of course.

To continue ascend the "Bridge" into the main thrust of the system.

The lower level continues until terminating in the Crystal Chamber some 40 metres in.  This is part of a calcite vein. The passage to this point narrows down to a low crawl.  There are piles of "deads" in evidence as well as ochre in a number of places in the system.

An old, rotted stemple (which we thought about naming Anoushka) can be seen in the roof of the upper series.  Clambering up to this point one can head back towards the entrance and overlook Blue Rabbit Chamber from "Dirty Pair of Nicks Balcony" - at the same level as the entrance one.

The Basement in the main gallery is reached via a squeeze into a low bedding chamber, which drops into a small rounded room beyond - as yet to be further plumbed - possibly in a future investigation, but we'll probably be in our late dotage by that time.



 

Adolf Schmidl (1802-1863)

by Mike Wilson

Adolf was regarded as the father of speleology.  He was born 18 May 1802 in Konigswart, Bohemia, and lived in Vienna where he studied philosophy and law from 1819 until 1825.  He then spent a period teaching in Vienna. His writing included twenty-seven books and numerous cave journals, it is recorded that he spent six years caving from 1850 to 1856.  From 1857 to 1863 he was professor of geography at Budapest Polytechnic where he lived until his death in 1863.  His book Die Gratten und Hahlen van Adelsberg, Lueg, Planina, und Laas, published in 1854, was considered to be the beginning of speleology as we know it today. It was full of lithographic prints done by himself and was much admired by Martel!

He had a colleague (Ivan Rudolf) who appeared to be with him on the majority of his expeditions. Rudolf was an engineer in the mercury mines at Idrija (the town near where he was born in 1821).  His task with Schmidl was to act as surveyor, a task which he managed extremely well.  Between them they managed to publish a table of eleven caves surveyed in their region! Ivan Rudolf's main job was both difficult and dangerous, the miners basically dug by the opencast method, or spiral adits, a product called Cinnabar, chemical symbol HGS - deep red translucent and highly toxic crystals. Mercury is obtained by heating Cinnabar in a current of air using a wood or coal furnace and by condensing the vapour through corrugated clay pipes by throwing water on the pipes (sounds primitive to me).  Cinnabar is so toxic that the miners only worked one shift per week. This is because of the poisonous MG vapour invisible except in ultraviolet light.  I have been told that the crystals are absolutely beautiful to see! Cinnabar is used commercially as vermillion colouring and as rouge for expensive cosmetics.  The total production of mercury is so small even today that the flasks are still filled manually and to put the process in perspective 1 pallet load of 52 flasks weighs 2 tons!  At the moment the richest ores are in Almaden in Spain.

Back to caving, Schmidl made accurate notes and measurements and then Rudolf produced the surveys. These two men probably were the first people to survey caves properly thereby initiating the principle of accurate cave surveying! Schmidl's exploits include the Postojnska System and Predjamska Jama.  Probably his main achievement was discovering 500 m of the underground river Pivka.  He achieved this with his son Ferdinand on the 30 August 1850 travelling all night and taking no small risk that storms would block the sumps and endanger their way out.  He was lucky and added 570 m to the underground river system.

He surveyed and explored Postojnska Jama in 1854 showing 5850 metres.  In 1855 he started caving in Austria and explored Geldloch, and surveying the same, but did not reach the major shafts, to quote "the passage leading in that direction was inaccessible", even on all fours! We have to assume from this statement that caving in those days generally consisted of exploring walking or stooping passages with very little attempt to push into tight or low sections. Rudolf and Schmidl spent 6 weeks in 1851 investigating the hydrology of the Timavo underground water system passing Svetina's far point in Skolj Anska Jama.  Sadly stopping only 400m from the entrance!  The Timavo river rises in the Sneznic mts 50km east of Trieste, goes underground at Skocjanske Jama, and rises after 40km of underground travel at or near Duino.

In 1852 Schmidl and Rudolf checked out the resurgence of Planina cave using a special wooden canoe which had to be dragged through low water or stripped down into component parts so that it could be passed through tight points of the cave (a very revolutionary piece of equipment for its day) bearing in mind that it is recorded that it was unloaded and dragged at least 12 times and dismantled twice!  In total 6km of river cave was explored.  Interestingly this method was subsequently used by Martel on several occasions.  August 1856 saw Schmidl in Hungary making a huge trip in the Aggtelek cave system. It was surveyed at 8.667 km long. This figure meant that it was the longest cave in Europe until 1893 when Postojna reached 10 km. Bearing in mind that Schmidl's career only lasted for seven years he achieved a huge amount in terms of caves surveyed and new passages explored at not inconsiderable risk to himself and his trusty companion Rudolf.  Sadly he only managed to publish three books and several dozen papers and this meant that many people with an interest in early caving history find it difficult to relate to his huge achievements.  I believe that a large collection of his written work resides in the library of the University of Vienna and would be very interested to have a browse through the collection.

Schmidl's publications

Beitrag Zurhohlenko noe des Karst (1850)

Uber den Unterirdischen Lauf der Recca (1851)

Die Grotten und Hohlen von Adelsberg, Lueg, Planina und Laas (1854)

Diebaradla Hohle bei Aggtelek und dei Lednica Eishohle bei Szlitzein Ingomorer (1856)

Die Hohlen Des Otscher Sber, Akad, Wiss-Wein-Math (1857)

Thanks  

To Jeff Price for the use of his library and all the other people who have encouraged me to persevere with these articles.


 

Club News.

Dave Irwin has sent the following note about BBs:

In 1999 I scanned BBs numbers 1-100, but the result, though readable, was not brilliant as the originals were produced by the old and very variable Gestetner stencil process. Unless the machine and inking process was in tip top condition the printed result could be very uneven.  To overcome this Andy MacGregor has screen captured the scanned images on the BEC CD ROM and converted each page (over 500 images - one at a time!) into a word processor document.  The end result is a clean printout of these early Club newsletters complete with all illustrations.  Andy has told me that he is prepared to produce a CD ROM for any member for a small charge to cover costs and postage.  If you are interested contact him at: Tadley, Hampshire. Email: andy.mac-gregor@[removed]

On a similar theme all the recent BBs have been recorded on CD ROM by Sean Howe.

Treasurer's Report (2002-20031)

This report is only a rough resume of this financial year.  I am pleased to report that we have yet again experienced a quiet but rewarding year.  A modest sum has been placed in the IDMF fund to keep the balance sound (it also helps our continued dealings with Mendip Council regarding our zero rating).  I try to assure them annually that some of our rates go towards assisting our younger members.

We as a Club are well placed financially to finance the new extension to foundation level and beyond, to this end I am holding cash in the current account at a higher level than normal, rather than transferring it to the savings account.  The St. Cuthbert's account is healthy and thanks to Roger Haskett I receive the fees on a regular basis thereby making my task easier.

To conclude, the BEC is moving forwards financially each year but I have to say that some of this is due to the low number of BB publications!  Our future financial status looks sound and I hope we can keep it that way.

P.S.  I would like to recommend that there is no rise in subs this year, basically because the BCRA seem to be acting on the general dissent over insurance AT LAST.

Mike Wilson.


 

Hon. Secretary’s Report (2002-20031)

Here follows a brief summary of some items dealt with by the Committee during the past club year.

The monies (over 650 pounds) raised from last year's auction held at the Dinner have been used to furnish a new cabinet in the Library.  This is to hold the collection of books left to the BEC by Dave Yeandle; any money left over will be used by the Librarian to purchase new books that will be added to the "Pooh Collection".

There is new design and issue of T-shirts and ties, these are available from Tyrone Bevan, he also has some items of old stock - polos etc.

The work on the extension has progressed throughout the year thanks to the persistence of the Hut Warden, who I am sure will thank all those involved in his report.  It's amazing to see that the Belfry supply chain is running as well as ever - a special thanks to those particular individuals, Trevor and Tyrone.  We will have met the requirement on the planning permission with some time to spare. The Belfry has had a new lick of paint; thanks go to those who turned up at the various working weekends through the year.

There has been a sharp increase in the cost of insurance and this thorny issue is still the main topic of debate by clubs nationally.  At this late stage there has been a move by the national body to put forward some proposals.  This will be an item of discussion for next year's committee.

English Nature has requested that SSSI's are monitored and findings are reported back to them by 2010. St. Cuthbert's has around 20 sites that need to be looked at and this again is a task for the next committee to look into.

As directed by the last AGM the Committee looked into the new rules regarding charitable status and concluded that there would be absolutely no benefit to the BEC in going down this particular avenue.

2003 was the celebration of 50 years since the discovery of St. Cuthbert's Swallet and on 6th September a day of celebrations was held at the Belfry and in the evening at the Hunters'. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who made it such a success: Joan Bennett, Dave Irwin, Martin Grass, Roger Haskett, Nigel Taylor, Pete Glanville, Roger Stenner, John Eattough and to everyone else who turned up and participated.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those people that make up the Committee and non-Committee posts for volunteering their time and effort to the administration of this Club: Mike Wilson, Fiona Sandford, John Walsh, Greg Brock, Roger Haskett, Tyrone Bevan, Sean Howe, Adrian Hole and Graham Johnson.

The Annual Dinner is at the Bath Arms, Cheddar on the 4th October.  There will be a coach from the Belfry/Hunters' around 19:00 returning from Cheddar at 1:00.  Thanks to Roz who has again taken on the task of organising the Annual Dinner.

On a sadder note, this year on 31/1/03 saw the passing of a stalwart of the Club, Jock Orr, his name will be forever linked to the early history of this Club.

Vince Simmonds


 

Dates For Your Diary.

4th October, a.m.: AGM

4th October, p.m.: Dinner, Bath Arms, Cheddar

5th October, a.m: General nausea, headaches, vomiting etc.

7th November: Committee Meeting

5th December: Committee Meeting

Hut Warden's Report (2002-2003)

Bed nights: Members: 338
Non-members: 232
Univ. Lets Offs: 216.

About the same as last year - fifty-five pounds up.  As usual, people don't book in or they put money in envelopes with no name.  Ejits.

Quite a pleasant, relaxing year for me due to good support from the Hut Engineer, OU Johnny, and BBQ Jake. Plus my two willing painters Crispin and Chummy, and of course, the Secretary and his good lady. Massive thanks to Nigel T. for time, effort, help, advice, and equipment with putting in the foundations for the extension.

I am sure the same thanks will also be extended to Mr. Dany (the bricklayer) Bradshaw on completion of the outer shell up to DCL (not quite finished at the time of going to press), cheers Dany.

To finish, I would just like to say that I would like to see the Hut much more tidy and clean while people are actually staying there, I am fed up of walking in and seeing it a total tip - clear up, wash up and wipe down after each meal.  Thanks again to anyone who helped.

RJH


 

Notes From The Logbook.

13/08/03: Welsh's Green Swallet: Graham J., Tangent, Sean Howe

A break from Morton's Pot. Brought out the drain rods after 10 years for use in Morton's.  The colouring of the lias is noticeable with LED lighting and Tangent is a fat bloke.

20/08/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Lincoln Mick

1.5 metres of water, lots of silt, moved a lot of rocks up from Jepson's to top Seilbahn.

27/08/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Mick

Wall building and clearing flood debris from Jepson's.

05/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil and Graham

Good session sorting out the Ramp.  One more session and should be sorted out permanently.  2½ hours.

06/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Southbank: MadPhil, Ollie Gates and Tim Lamberton

Good trip down to start surveying the West End.  Surveyed from Tooting Broadway to base of Trafalgar. Several more to be done, but needs doing.  6¼hours.

07/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil

Bagged up spoil at base of Morton's and cleared debris from Little Chamber.  General tidy of dig site, dry. Ready to kick arse again.  1¾ hours.

14/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Graham, Phil, Jrat, Mark Ireland

Cleared all bags up to Jepson's.  80+ good effort. 3½ hours.

17/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: MadPhil, Graham, Sean Howe, Ben Hewley and Pete

Took drill and scaffold down.  Cleared dig site of all bags.  Drilled holes and set scaffold in place, while others cleared bags to base of Morton's and then cleared bags (50+) to base of380 Foot Way.  Good session, just need to shutter behind scaffold and job's a good one!  3½hours.

19/09/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Phil, Mick and Graham

Digging, scaffolding, bag emptying and concreting.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editorial.

Welcome.  The big news of the summer (a touch of deja vu here) is that Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink (currently Mendip's most extendable cave) has gone once again (from late July into the first week of August it has been extended on some five different occasions!)  Well decorated passage leads to archaeological remains and a sizeable pitch that not only accompanies the sump found last winter but lies somewhere beneath it.  From the base of this another dig leads to a deep sump pool and another 250ft. of large ascending rift passage.  With the new pitch in Thrupe Swallet (see article) and the continuing work in Sump Twelve in Swildon's looking extremely promising this could be one of the best years for Mendip caving for quite some time.  This is amply demonstrated by the fact that Tony Jarratt has provided two continuations to his first article in this BB and that Tony Audsley has so much to recount that he has divided his article into two parts.

Photography seems to be all the rage currently.  If H.L.I.S. is not (yet) the deepest cave on Mendip it is rapidly becoming one of the most photographed.  Given the limited space and the lack of colour in the BB some of the pictures in this edition (and many others for which there is no room) can now be viewed in colour on the websites below.  Estelle's (the former) includes photographs of the extensions in the Sink, whilst Sean's (the latter) includes the Sink, Eastwater and his trips to Thailand and Iceland with the Shepton: www.cavesncorals.34SP.com/HuntersLodgeSink 

www.howe2xs.plus.com  

Finally, due to recent discoveries, a number of articles have been held over to make room.  Thanks to those who have sent them - they will appear in the Autumn BB, which should be out in September.


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Paul Brock and others have returned once again to Morton's Pot this spring and early summer.  Hauling systems have been improved, scaffolding installed, retaining walls built and blasting initiated in an attempt to drain the bottom of the dig. However, following the wet weather in late July the dig was still sumped in the first week of August. Considerable amounts of water had washed bags and conveyor belt matting down the now clean crawl below Morton's and with water still trickling in to A Drain Hole the whole shaft was flooded to within three or four foot of the hauling pulley. Even with further dry weather this will still take some time to clear.  (See brief article on page 31). 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody have also returned to their breakthrough beyond Tooting Broadway in the West End Series and Phil Short has dived the sumps in this vicinity - unfortunately without any great breakthrough. 'MadPhil' and Alison have also looked at the old dig at the bottom of Primrose Pot.

Hunters' Hole.

With exploration in H.L.I.S. revealing three large phreatic inlet tunnels joining together at the Drip Tray/Pewter Pot area it is obvious that Hunters' Hole is almost certainly part of this potentially enormous system.  Dear's Ideal has thus been restarted by John Walsh and team and will hopefully be the focus of attention over the winter months.  It will be rigged for SRT so is also an ideal place to get some practice in.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

With diving, climbing and digging going on in a number of areas (see numerous articles) thoughts have also turned to the possibility of siphoning or pumping the water from the flooded Drip Tray Sump down Pewter Pot and into the much lower new sump - hopefully this will also help to wash the filth from the Slops. Although of course it could make them even worse.

Swildon's Hole.

Sump 12 - following the application of a "bomb" to the unstable underwater slope beyond the now enlarged squeeze the ongoing flooded passage is wide open and safe.  A push is planned by Phil Short and his cronies soon.

Templeton Pot.

N.H.A.S.A., Axbridge and others are continuing work at this, the only cave dig visible from space! Don't fail to take stroll to this magnificent Mendip folly and gaze in awe at the machinery and the Himalaya-sized spoil heap!

Thrupe Swallet.

Work continues at the base of the new pitch (see article on page 15 and the continuation in the next BB).

 

 


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Beyond Drip Tray Sump (Part I)

by Tony Jarratt

"There was something incredibly satisfying in digging a very deep hole.  It was uncomplicated.  You knew where you were with a hole in the ground.

 “Maskerade - Terry Pratchett

This year started well when on the 12th January Mark Ireland found that Drip Tray Sump had disappeared! Over 50 bags of clay, sand and rocks were hauled out but a week later the water was back so digging concentrated on the Cellar Dig, located just down dip of the breakthrough point into Happy Hour Highway.  A lot of rock has been removed from here with the help of bang and the route on downwards will need some more of the same.  In the meantime work is continuing at the "Sump" - weather permitting - which has once again dried up and is a less stressful site!  While your scribe was away gallivanting in Meghalaya, the enthusiastic team removed over 100 loads of spoil until on the ih March the pool returned - to dry out again on the 19th.  Another 80 or so bags carne out then and on the 24th.  Air conditions were good and the digging was easy, if a bit sticky.  An exploratory dig in the ceiling of the mud tube near the last breakthrough point has also been commenced (see below).  Paul Brock and Pete Hellier investigated the depths of Hunters' Hole in search of a connection dig but were put off by the potentially very long term prospects. John Walsh returned to his dig in Dear's Ideal and intends to pursue it further when he can get a three or four man Wednesday night team.


Drip Tray Sump on 22nd January 2003.  Photograph by Sean Howe.

60 bags were filled on the 26th of March when the rock tube being followed hit a solid rock wall sloping back towards the way in.  This gave us a good rock boundary to work from and we continued downwards through layers of sand and clay.  During the next ten days another 140 or so bags came out.  The up dip "inlet" coming into the end of the cave has also been partly excavated.  The two huge boulders in the middle of the dumping area have been relocated and the place is rapidly filling with spoil.  Another 120+ loads came out from the end during April when rumours of running water being heard below the floor were not confirmed.

It is thought that the water feeding Drip Tray Sump comes from the trickle in the Cellar Dig and from wet weather streams sinking near Southfield Farm.  This water may rise through the floor.  The submersible pump was taken down but has since been removed as the dig has become too deep to pump.

Another job done was the mending of the long, broken stalactite using Milliput epoxy putty. This seems to have generally worked well and even looks like calcite, though the angled tip needs straightening out!

An article by Dr. Andy Farrant in the D.B.S.S. newsletter, autumn 2002, pp 17-18 refers to H.L.I.S.:- “... a large relict phreatic passage about 2-3m high extending up and down dip. It is very reminiscent of N.H.A.S.A. Gallery in Manor Farm Swallet. ..”  The cave is developed within the Black Rock Limestone, replete with nice fossils including the coral Caninia just inside the entrance.  It trends south-south-east, downdip, parallel with the neighbouring Hunters' Hole.  It is currently heading towards Alfie's Hole, close to the Hunters' - Rookham road, but as yet there is no connection with either cave.  Quite why the passage is there is a mystery.  It clearly is very old, formed at a time when the local water table was above 250m O.D., and may be genetically associated with Hunters' Hole. The large phreatic scallops are rather vague and ambiguous but the water appears to have flowed down-dip.  It probably once functioned as a stream sink draining a once more extensive cover of Jurassic and Triassic strata, remnants of which can be seen a few hundred metres to the north-east in Chewton Warren. Similar other high level, phreatic cave remnants can be seen at Whitepit, Sandpit and Twin Titties Swallet, perhaps focusing on a palaeo-resurgence at Westbury-sub-Mendip. Here a large, sediment filled, phreatic cave exists at approximately the right elevation which is at least 780, 000 years old.  Only digging will prove this hypothesis!  The entrance streamway is genetically unconnected with the relict passage and following this may also prove fruitful."

The Inn-let Dig

Trevor and the writer have concentrated at this strongly and intermittently draughting site which intersects the "up-dip inlet dig" at a higher level, enabling this latter excavation be used as a spoil dump if necessary.  Digging and blasting through some 6 metres of calcited mud and boulders has revealed a boulder choked and well decorated passage heading back towards Happy Hour Highway.  Work here has finished and this dig, now surveyed, will probably be used as a temporary spoil dump for the Drip Tray Dig - our last hope at this end of the cave. (But read on!).

Drip Tray Sump

Now drained, hopefully (but doubtfully) permanently.  Digging has reached some 4-5 metres below the original sump level where an almost complete phreatic tube has been entered.  It is a metre wide with a solid, smooth rock floor and RH wall.  At least a half a metre of the left hand wall is also solid but there may be a sediment filled bedding plane above this. The passage is totally filled with superbly banded and multicoloured sediments (similar to those at the mud tube breakthrough above) and is running back almost under the main drag.  The sediments illustrate that the ancient cave waters once flowed this way.  The cave geomorphology here is difficult to understand but hopefully the concerted effort which is now underway to push this tube will soon yield a breakthrough and more information.  All assistance is welcome as we HAVE to clear this passage before the wet weather returns, pumping or bailing being out of the question.


Matthew Butcher (S.M C. C.) dizging in the dried out 'Sumo' on the 28t Photograph bv Sean Howe.

Additions to the digging team

Nick Hawkes, Estelle Sandford, Natalie Domini ( Southampton D.C.C.), Matthew Sibley, Adam Young, Chris Densham (Oxford.D.C.C.), Barry Weaver (Chelsea.S.S.), John Cooper (Chelsea.S.S.), Simon Brooks (Orpheus C.C./Grampian S.G.) and John Hanwell (W.C.C.).

Visitors

Katie and Ian Livingston and Joanna Kelleher ( Canada).


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - of Drip Tray and Inn-let Digs - and Wondrous Discoveries! (Part II)

by Tony Jarratt

"Taking Swildon's as a feeder and St. Cuthbert's as a drip."

Tankard Hole Song

This article follows on from the one above.

With excavation of the Inn-let dig at a standstill work continued apace below the late but unlamented Drip Tray Sump where, to date, some 10m of roomy passage has been cleared of its sediment infill.  Several hundred bags of silt, fine gravel and clay have been laboriously hauled back to the dumping chamber at the end of Happy Hour Highway - now almost completely filled.  The excavated passage is of distinct phreatic origin with a solid rock floor and RH wall. The LH wall is solid rock in parts but much of its outline is obscured by laminated sediments which have been left in situ for future scientific study.  Several digging trips have been enlivened by the use of short wave radio or portable CD player to provide background music to take our minds off the brain numbing horrors of bag hauling.  At the time of writing this dig is flooded and, following a major breakthrough in the Inn-let dig (see below) will probably be temporarily abandoned. Surface work has seen redoubtable dig engineer Quackers installing a small access grid inside the large, now fixed grid and the application of black Hammerite to all the exposed metalwork and, unfortunately, a good part of the inside of the Bat Products Land Rover!

A study of MadPhil's survey revealed the Inn-let Dig to be heading NE from the SE trending main drag indicating that the issuing strong draught was coming from unexplored passage - possibly by-passing the Drip Tray Dig which runs parallel 5m below and down dip. A banging project was commenced to break up a massive choke of large calcited boulders in the ceiling - good for the adrenalin when it came to laying a charge!  Several tons of rocks were brought down with the aid of both detonating cord and gelignite charges - the final one being two sticks of gel tied to the end of a 1.5m long bamboo cane and delicately wedged between the "hanging deaths".  On Sunday 27th July Trev Hughes, fuelled by Butcombe, attacked the resulting rock pile with gusto while Mark Ireland, the writer and visiting Barnsley cavers Andy and Ernie shifted the spoil back and broke up the larger lumps.  A yell from the perilous working face summoned your scribe to gaze awestruck at the gaping hole where the ceiling choke used to be and at the stalactite studded and newly revealed ceiling some 3m further up!  Literally gambling with his life Trev then made a magnificent ascent of the 5m of tottering clay and boulders to gain access to this fine passage and was soon joined by the writer and Mark, leaving our guests temporarily below to safeguard our exit.  Upon emerging from the Inn-let climb we were greeted by a 5m wide, 3m high and 14m long phreatic passage ascending up-dip to a stunning, pink flowstone blockage with a beautifully decorated and sacrosanct tube above.  Down-dip this well decorated gallery ended immediately in a mud choke. Massive broken formations lying amongst the boulders on the floor testified to the extreme age of this passage, named The Barmaid's Bedroom by Trev to keep with our boozer theme. Phreatic roof pockets in a conspicuously different limestone bed to the passage walls, match those at the end of Happy Hour Highway and indicate that both passages are formed on the same horizon. After a quick look around we exchanged places with the stunned Barnsley boys (Ernie being on his first digging trip!) who were soon informed as to what lucky bastards they were.  Now both physically and mentally drained we retired slowly to the surface for celebratory refreshment and to inform Roger and Jacquie of developments.  Despite the grandeur of our discovery there was a certain amount of disappointment that the prophesied down-dip Drip Tray bypass was not there and great puzzlement as to the source of the howling draught.  All was to be astonishingly explained the following morning when the "Monday Club" diggers got their turn for glory ...

With intentions to tape off the stal. and tidy up the spoil Jeff Price, John Walsh, Vern Freeman (on his first visit - another lucky bastard) and the writer braved the hazardous climb up and had a good look around.  I doffed my oversuit and wellies to make a "hairy socks technique" climb up the terminal flowstone to check out a possible high level passage. This was merely an alcove. Meanwhile the others were taking photos and bashing stal. covered rocks blocking an opening below the flowstone and with visible passage beyond.  Eventually this was pushed into some 2530m of well decorated ascending bore passage to a stalactite grille with an open continuation beyond which was left for another team.  A 4m high stalagmite boss and cracked mud flooring added to the attractiveness of this superb gallery, now bearing the extended appellation of The Barmaids' Bedrooms.


The author climbing "sans wellies" in the new extension. Photograph Vern Freeman.

While your scribe was exploring up-dip John was ferreting in the boulder floor below the new breakthrough point.  He opened up a hole and casually tossed in a rock.  Several seconds later the bouncing stone hit the floor an estimated 30m below with an impressive thud and echo!  His feelings can well be imagined as can his sudden desire to step back off the boulder pile covering the top of the unbelievable Pewter Pot.  Many of these rocks were then shifted while work continued to enlarge the entrance squeeze to fatty Jeff size.  Not having remotely dreamt of this possibility the awestruck explorers were unable to descend the pitch due to a severe lack of tackle.

The climb down to the Inn-let was a worrying experience.  Jeff, first man down, was confronted by two large boulders blocking the way out.  We had heard these peel off earlier.  Luckily he managed to push them aside and escape to the safety of the bar where more well earned celebrations took place.

The following evening a keen team turned up for a selfless Tuesday night session of spoil clearing and shoring - Mark doing an excellent job with the limited amount of scaffolding scavenged from all comers of the cave.  Tangent found the Drip Tray dig to be sumped so was unable to rescue the tools but dismantled the scaffold here and sent out most of the bagged spoil.  A stream in Pub Crawl livened up the proceedings.

Wednesday 30th July saw the predicted mass turn out of thirteen expectant diggers who were given various tasks to keep them happy!  Mark continued struggling with his erection (no change there then) while Estelle, Tangent, Lincoln Mick and Phil Coles undertook the project of digital photography and formation taping in The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  After being recorded for posterity the stal. grille was demolished and another 30m or so of superbly decorated up-dip phreatic passage was explored to a partial talus blockage obviously derived from the surface. This was self evident by the large amount of undoubtedly very ancient animal bones littering the passage! Another magnificent find in this rapidly developing cave diggers' dream.  In slow pursuit, the survey team of Trev, the writer and (first timers and more lucky bastards) the two Nicks, ended their task at the first large leg bone to avoid any disturbance of this possibly important archaeological site. Access to this area must now be strictly limited and a dig out to the surface is out of the question at present. The length of this extension from the start of the Inn-let is 84m (not including the pitch).  It could break surface near a low tumulus in the field SE of Andy and Pam Watsons' cottage (opposite the Pub) or hopefully just across the road from there and back in Roger's ground.  This would give him a handy underpass in inclement weather! Chris Hawkes of Wells Museum has been informed of the find.  Incidentally it appears that John Wilcock correctly dowsed the direction of this unexpected passage if not its exact position (see BB 514).  If the rest of his results prove correct we will be more than happy.  The location of this entrance may be related to a shallow half-doline adjacent to the roadside wall in Andy's paddock.  It is directly opposite a similar feature in Roger's field, across the road.  Roger made the interesting observation that many years ago the road dipped into, and out of, this depression - so much so that laden horses frequently slipped when leaving it.  It was subsequently levelled by the council.  A further point of interest is the distinct V-shape of the passages surveyed so far, as of two fingers raised in scorn.  Could this be a cosmic sign from the cave deities to those who scoffed at the inception of this dig?


At work in the first chamber – the squeeze and Pewter Pot lie down to the right.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

Meanwhile, back at the head of Pewter Pot, Gwilym, Mark, Ian Matthews and Rich Dolby continued to clear rocks from the site but were eventually defeated by large wedged boulders which required blasting to remove.  Bev was defeated by the size of the breakthrough squeeze so this may well get the same treatment.  Two days later Mark, Matt Butcher and Sean Howe, on a photo/tourist trip, had another go at the boulders and made a bit more progress.  Clearing work continued on the 2nd of August when two large boulders above the NE end of the pot were banged, the scaffolding was improved and further conservation work was done in the extension.

Next day it was found that the wedged boulders were partly destroyed and much shattered so Trev spent a couple of hours perched over the pot wielding a sledge hammer to excess. Eventually one wedged, fridge sized Henry remained to deny access to the widest part of the rift.  Another detonating cord charge put paid to this as was confirmed by the thunderous noise of its remains hurtling downwards and distinctly heard through the floor of the Inn-let from where the bang was fired! On this trip Trev also installed two monstrous ring bolts and Tony Boycott photographed the bone deposits.  A short length of rigid iron ladder was delivered to the Inn-let climb and tidying up operations continued.

The big push came on Monday 4th August when several lengths of wire ladder were taken in for the benefit of the team Luddites.  This was a lucky move as the pot turned out to be entirely unsuitable for SRT rigging as John Walsh, grinning for the camera, found out on the first descent. It is fault controlled and less than 1m wide at the point of entry making access by ladder easier.  Some 6m down the rift slopes to the east giving an easy descent down flows tone ledges to the floor and a whole series of horrifically abrasive rub points on the sloping ceiling.  The bottom is 20m from the breakthrough squeeze above - a great surprise after the expectations of a 30m drop!  A boulder choked hole in the floor may just reveal a further drop to save us much embarrassment but meanwhile the incorrect guesstimated depth may be explained due to the many ledges delaying the passage of dropped stones and the echoing nature of the chamber.  So there.


Cascades in the Barmaid’s bedroom.  Photograph by Vern Freeman.

The rift chamber itself is over 10m long and 2.5m wide at the bottom with flowstone slopes at each end where tiny streams enter.  These sink in strongly draughting digs, both very promising. John, Jeff and the writer cleared rocks from the open bedding plane dig at the north end while Adrian and Matt started burrowing into the floor near the south end.  Water flow is to the north east. Matt also traversed to the south at high level to reach a passage choked with calcited boulders. This may connect with the large chamber above to give a free-climb down and bypass to the squeeze.  Now cold, damp and filthy the jubilant explorers retired to the Pub, only slightly dispirited that a taxi ride back from Wookey Hole had not been required.

Work continued at the three diggable sites at the bottom of the pot next day.  Their position, and thoroughly disgusting nature, prompted Tangent and the writer to give them the appropriate name of "The Slops". The most northerly, Slop 1, is the most promising and will probably join with the squalid and adjacent Slop 2. Slop 3, at the other end of the chamber, has a pool of water in it and may be abandoned.

So far this extension totals some 105m making the current cave length around 215m and depth c.60m - about the same as Hunters' Hole.  The next exciting instalment of this gripping tale of simple country folk will be in your next BB.  I bet you can hardly wait...

More diggers, visitors and acknowledgements

Pete Martin (IS SA), Wolf Anning (IS SA, Hereford CC), Andy Davey, Dave Owen, Rich Webber, Matt Castleden (all SMCC), Jeff Price, Phil Coles, Mick Barker (Lincoln Scouts CC), Andy Pringle (Red Rose CPC), Dave Mortin (Rolls Royce CC), Tony Harris, Simon Tebbut, Judy Pike, (all Ordnance Survey CG), Ian Tooth, Jim Newman, Pete Stacey, Shaun Hennessy, Nick Gyrner, Vern Freeman, Ben Cooper (MCG), Andy Norman and Ernie White (the Barnsley Boys), Nick Richards, Nick Harding, John Cornwell and Mike Thompson (aerial photography), Ivan Sandford (camera loan) , Alan Allsop (Craven PC) and not forgetting Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club band from Cuba (alas, bodily absent but musically present).


The extensions (as of the 6th August 2003)


Formations in the Barmaids' Bedrooms. First Chamber. Photograph by Vern Freeman.


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - Broon Ale Boulevard [Part III).

by Tony Jarratt

"Goodness, I'm sure I shall never go to sleep tonight!
My mind keeps thinking of secret caves! "

Enid Blyton - The Secret of Spiggy Holes

The ongoing saga, written almost as it happens...

Serious operations at the Slops commenced on August 6th when two floor slabs in Slop 1 and the loose roof slab in Slop 2 were drilled and banged, to great acoustical effect. Also, draining work continued at the Inn-let crawl.

Three visiting Newcastle University cavers joined the writer next evening on a clearing trip and thus became the next set of "lucky bastards" in the exploration history of this amazing cave.  The bang had done a good job and both Slops were enthusiastically excavated. Ewan Maxwell found the filthy conditions equal to those of his last digging trip with the BEe in Stock's House Shaft.

Being fully prepared to drill and bang these digs your scribe was somewhat flummoxed when, upon removing a floor slab in Slop 1, a view was gained into a roomy phreatic passage with a deep green pool across its width!  Attempts to boot the final rock forwards failed so Sam Wood was inserted head first and, after a struggle, trundled it into the pool to the sound of frenzied cheering from the assembled.  He then politely asked if he could enter the water for a look - maybe there is hope for modem youth.  Permission was instantly granted by your non-swimming scribe who, needless to say, followed hot on his heels, closely pursued by Ewan and Graham Tebbutt.  This possible sump pool has a mud cracked floor and may drain in drier weather.  It is some 5m long and is passed by using underwater footholds making it chest deep. A mud slope from Slop 2 enters on the RH side.  The fun then begins as a dry and steeply ascending canyon passage is entered, up to 4m wide and with ceiling heights of over 10m in places.  A trickle of water was followed to avoid mud drip pockets as the mind-blown explorers started to climb and traverse up-dip for an estimated 70m to a decidedly dodgy looking, massive boulder choke.  Sam was on cloud nine as this was his first virgin cave passage. He was particularly pleased by finding a patch of tiny mud pillars located on a ledge on the LH side - many more of these were noticed later and they form the principal decoration in this part of the cave.  This major inlet has a different character to the rest of the cave, being less well decorated with calcite and seemingly more recently active.  There is at least another open 5m through the choke but extreme care will be needed here and a radio location exercise should be done first. This would establish if a surface dig would be the safest option.  The passage was named Broon Ale Boulevard in recognition of the Newcastle lads' efforts.  It is heading towards Roger's field and runs parallel to, and lower than, The Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Apart from the terminal choke there are possible avens to be climbed and the source of the draught to be located.  A more detailed examination on a formation taping trip the following evening revealed the pool to be almost certainly a deep and roomy "downstream" static sump whose level varies with local rainfall.  The potential beyond it is enormous considering the monstrous size of Broon Ale Boulevard, of which it is the continuation.  It is likely to go below Pewter Pot and then intercept the combined phreatic tunnels of HHH and BB before picking up Hunters' Hole and various other minor caves along the Priddy road!  On this trip the Boulevard was toasted properly with a bottle of the famous blue-starred elixir carefully carried in by the Newcastle team. "Haway the lads".


The extensions (as of the 11th August 2003).

Upon reaching the surface an excited Tangent was informed of the discovery and he, in turn had some amazing news to impart. John Wilson, an archaeological illustrator, Moles caver and part of the digging team, had been looking at Dr.B's photos of the bones. "Nice bones but the engraving on that adjacent rock saying PR 1810 is interesting."  Superb observation or a vivid imagination?  It appears under a magnifying glass to be a natural series of features and Graham Mullan (UBSS), studying it on a computer scan, agrees with this.  An on-site inspection later confirmed it.  This is a shame as it would have added an interesting historical dimension to the cave.

A fortuitous meeting with UBSS archaeologist Dr. Jodie Lewis gave us the impetus and sanction for a bone collecting trip on the 10th August when two jawbones, an antler tine, a broken leg bone and a large vertebra were carefully removed along with a 22cm long Caninia fossil from Broon Ale Boulevard.  Phil Hendy took photos and the stunning reflective stalagmites and flowstone in the Barmaids' Bedrooms were examined to reveal their surface to be a thin coating of translucent calcite.  A light moved around the formations will cause the apparent "frosted" coating to change position.  It is believed that there are similar formations in the Fairy Quarry caves. Beyond the bone deposit Tangent pushed a fine, mud floored and draughting phreatic tube for 10m to a stal. and boulder blockage which will be dug at a future date.

A visit to Broon Ale Boulevard confirmed its direction as 35 degrees and so impressed the gibbering Tangent that he started ranting about "caverns and gulfs profound," bless him.  A traverse rope was installed above the sump pool and proved useful during the gonad chilling exit.  The bone and fossil collection attracted much interest in the bar that evening.


Section of jaw in the Barmaids' Bedrooms.  Photograph by Tony Boycott.

Brian Prewer, accompanied by grandson Curtis, Roger Dors and Pam and Andy Watson, spent the hot afternoon of the 11th August traipsing round Andy's paddock with the Grunterphone receiver and aerial while John Walsh and the writer shivered in the depths below. The end of BB was located 19.2m (62ft) below Pam and Andys' cabbage patch and the BAB choke at 28m (92ft) below a point 10m from his garage in the comer of the paddock (a miraculous result considering that the ammo box containing the transmitter had fallen the full length of Pewter Pot!)  This would indicate that the buried entrance(s) are in Roger's field.  This field slopes fairly steeply up to Stockhill so there could be quite a length of passage to be found.  An ancient phreatic swallet cave has already been found here by the BEC - Stock Hill Mine Cave - but it is doubtful if this is related to HLIS.  On a historical note Tim Payne remembers when the depression under the road once collapsed and was filled in, probably in the early 1960s.  This exercise makes John Wilcocks' dowsing results even more accurate. Our thanks to Prew for his efforts and for cleaning the kit afterwards.

In the evening an archaeological team visited the bones and Nick Mitchell commenced his climbing project in BAB, soon temporarily terminated when a hefty chocks tone parted company with the walls and headed for the floor- via Nick's neck.  This close call was a warning to be very wary in virgin, untravelled passages.

With archaeology and climbing projects in operation it was time for the lunatic diving fringe to have a bash so next evening Rich Dolby's kit was carted to the sump below Pewter Pot ready for a push next day.  With time to spare the writer "hairy socks" climbed the grey flowstone slope at the NE end of the Pot to find no way on.  Broon Ale Boulevard was then surveyed from the terminal suicidal choke to the head of the Pot - a distance of 93.90m.  The elevation from the sump pool to the choke is about 35m making the visible end some 23m below the road from the Hunters' to Hillgrove.

Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.) suggests that the recovered broken limb bone may be the distal end of the humerus of a bovid and that the possible bovid jaw has distinct peculiarities.  She is excited by the find and has kindly offered to do some comparative further studies. She also pointed out how appropriate it was to find lots of dead cows in a cave discovered purely because of a Foot & Mouth epidemic!

Ed. In an effort to finally go to press without Tony phoning up to say that yet more has been found, we will stop at lunchtime on the 13th August, with Rich about to dive, Nick about to climb again and more people about to stand around in the pub and say:  "Oh, that's a bit of a big cow with a patina of black shite". (With apologies to esteemed archaeologists).

Even more diggers and acknowledgements

Ewan Maxwell, Sam Wood, Graham Tebbutt (all Univ. of Newcastle CC), Pete Rose (photography), Andy and Pam Watson and Tim Payne (genial, interested landowners), Dr Jodie Lewis (UBSS - archaeological advice), Phil Hendy (WCC), Chris Hawke (Wells Museum,WCC), John & Margaret Chapman (Axbridge Arch. Soc.), Jim Hanwell (WCC) - for archaeological and geomorphological interpretation, and Alex Barlow (bone identification).


The much discussed limb section. Photograph bv Tonv Bovcott - beer mat included for scale and in a desperate attempt to attract brewery sponsorship.


 

Digging at Thrupe Swallet, or The Agony and the Ecstasy.
Part I: The Agony.

by Tony Audsley

Only the Agony is available at the moment, so we will start with that and just hope that the Ecstasy will come later.

Thrupe Swallet (NGR 60574583) lies on the Thrupe Fault and is a pleasantly wooded depression wherein a modest spring fed stream sinks near the base of a 17 foot high cliff.  The site is about three hundred yards east-north-east of Thrupe Lane Swallet and is being dug by an odd collection of bods (BEC, MNRC, WCC) with a soft core of ageing ATLAS members.

The nature of the dig

Thrupe Swallet is governed by the Thrupe Fault.  Underground, this appears as an inclined rockface, dipping at about sixty degrees to the horizontal.  Under this slab is a jumble of boulders and gravels with a mass of clays underneath. This mess has tended to slide downhill, but has jammed every so often against the rock roof.  This has given rise to a series of voids or 'chambers' as shown in the diagram, with blockages between.


The voids are not chambers in the conventional sense of the word, but merely open spaces within the boulders. The first three digs on the site remained entirely within this zone of boulders and voids and did not enter solid rock at any stage.

History

Thrupe Swallet has been dug on three previous occasions.  Firstly by Gerard Platten and the Mendip Exploration Society from October 1936 until December of the same year.  An early reference to the digging can be found in Gerard Platten's Scrapbook:-

"We have now enlarged the entrance until it is fully 5 ft. across; it drops steeply for 6 ft. under a solid limestone slab into a chamber about 6 ft. across in which you can in one spot stand upright.  The roof is a pile of boulders but very safe ..... The floor is loose cave earth and stones, amongst which I found the tusk of either a wild boar or cave lion about 3 inches long". (See fig 1). (1)


Gerard Platten's sketch of the first dig at Thrupe Swallet.

Unfortunately, the cave lion turned out to be pig and the "very safe" roof turned out to be a mass of rubble.  By November, the diggers were concerned about the stability and safety of the dig. Despite this, they managed to penetrate through the boulders to a depth of 30 feet.  Their efforts were brought to an end by a near fatal incident:-

"As the last member of the digging team was crawling out through the small entrance chamber, the ceiling - which consisted of a large rock - subsided and would have completely settled down; had not the head of the pick axe which the member was carrying prevented it.  He was held firmly between the floor and the ceiling in the space separated by the points of the pickaxe." (2)

Fortunately the digger was extracted without serious injury, but the rescue left the entrance in a chaotic state and the incident had unnerved the team, who decided to abandon the site.  After all, at that time, there were many prime sites still to be dug.  Thrupe could wait.

The second attempt on the cave occurred 22 years later.  Norman Tuck started digging there in May 1958 and he was joined by Dave Berry and George Pointing in 1959.  They found a boulder chamber and a promising hole leading down from this.  They had the usual difficulties with Thrupe boulders and found it difficult to maintain a team of diggers willing to have rocks fall on them at regular intervals.  The dig was reluctantly abandoned in the summer of 1960, having reached a depth of something like 30 feet.

In 1963, the Wessex, having finished working at Cow Hole, adopted Thrupe Swallet as their next official club dig and started work there during the August Bank Holiday of that year.  They sank a shaft at the base of the cliff, set up an ingenious system of winches and traverse lines to remove the spoil and built dams in an attempt to reduce the water flow underground.  This was surface digging in the grand style and deserved to succeed.  However, the diggers followed the stream, or perhaps the stream followed the diggers.  Either way, the dig was plagued with water.  This turned the underground fill into a mobile slurry which required extensive timber shoring to hold it in place.  Every so often, the dig's Deity in Residence, a playful being, dropped a rock on the diggers, for example:-

" ... whilst in the lower tunnel Denis Warburton had a large slab detach itself from the left hand wall and this tended to push him further down and, of course prevented his retreat.  Quick work by Richard West with a crow bar prevented the slab from completely blocking the tunnel and allowed Denis to scramble clear." (2)

By the summer of 1965, the diggers were becoming disheartened by the difficult conditions and in particular, by the lack of an obvious way on:-

"With only one solid rock surface and that at some 40 degrees dip, it gave the impression that the route being excavated had no particular significance, but that it was a large boulder and mud filled cavity with many possible routes by which the water could descend until it reached the limestone proper". (2)

So, they abandoned the dig and the site lay neglected.  Moss and ivy covered the spoil heaps and the traverse cable rusted amongst the brambles. The Deity slept on undisturbed for another 34 years.

The present dig

Sometime in the summer of 1999, none of the present diggers can remember the exact date, Dave Speed noticed that a collapse had occurred at the base of the cliff a few yards away from the site of the last Wessex shaft.  This looked distinctly promising, so ancient ATLAS members were brought out of cold storage, dusted down and set to work.  Over the next few weeks we sank a short but superbly unstable shaft down through the boulders.  It became apparent even to us that if we wanted to get any deeper, or for that matter any older, then something substantial in the way of shoring was required. On 5th December 1999, Jim Young and Dave Speed, aided by Dave Morrison and Simon Meade-King constructed a welded steel framework for the shaft.  This was our first serious work at the site and, because of the lack of any earlier known date, it is taken to be the official start of the dig. By the end of the year, the shaft was 12 feet deep, running down against the wall of the cliff.

Work continued on deepening the shaft and extending the steel shoring during the early part of 2000, with a couple of months break during April and May to avoid the lambing season.  After this break, when digging restarted on 14th June, the first task was to install the winch that had been brought over from Little Crapnell.

The winch increased the rate of digging very satisfyingly and within the next couple of sessions, we had reached the boulder chamber described by previous diggers.  This lay somewhat to the east of our shaft.  The stream entered this chamber through remains of the 1960s shoring jammed in the roof and disappeared in the floor down the blocked remains of their lower shaft.  We earmarked the chamber as possible dumping space, but otherwise we ignored it.

Returning to our shaft, at about 25 feet down, we encountered a small rift (initially about a foot wide, but narrowing to a few inches) running into the cliff face. There was a certain amount of discussion about this between the "go-into-the-wallers" and the "continue-on-downers".  However, the "continue-on-downers" won the day; at least their way was man-sized. So down through the boulders we went for another eight to ten feet and eventually uncovered a black hole in the floor. Rocks dropped down this could be heard rumbling away for fifteen feet or so, all very satisfying.


The author at the bottom of the entrance shaft.

At this point, fate, or possibly the Deity in Residence took a hand.  It was now September and the weather was VERY wet.  The marl fill at the base of the shaft softened, then flowed into the shaft like thin porridge.  The boulders above tumbled down to fill the void, putting some interesting twists in the steelwork in the process.  The Deity was obviously on the side of the "go-through-the-wallers".  It was time for another look at the little rift.

Poking about at the far end of the little rift with a long iron bar dislodged a small cobble.  This fell a short distance, perhaps four or five feet and then landed with a distinct resonant thud.  There was a void ahead.  This finished the argument with the "continue-on-downers", so we backfilled part of the very bottom of the shaft, to support the steelwork, then concentrated on enlarging the little rift.  This came to be known as Salami Passage, because of the red and white mottled nature of the rock.

By the beginning of October, Salami Passage had been enlarged sufficiently to allow access to the glory thought to lie beyond.  This turned out to be a miserable, solidly choked "chamber".

Here it should be pointed out that anything in this dig which isn't actually a flat out crawl may be referred to as a chamber.  This gives an impression of spaciousness and magnificence, which is otherwise sadly lacking.

So, lowering the floor of this chamber revealed a small hole trending approximately south east.  This hole emitted A DISTINCT DRAUGHT. The log for the 22nd October reads:-

"A few feet of awkward progress along this tube was made, following a distinct draught and the sound of falling water".

It is at this point that, with hindsight, I now realise that the Deity is female and that then she was playing games with us.  Lying in that wretched tube we could feel a cold strong draught and hear the wonderful resonant sound of water ahead.  A few feet more and we would be in.  The dig was about to go.

Promises, promises

On 3rd December 2000, we broke through into a boulder chamber, Advent Chamber.  This contained an assortment of boulders, some large, some unstable, some both, but no way on, no big breakthrough.  On the east side of the chamber, accessible via a low stoop was a small rift chamber about eight feet long by three feet wide, which looked like it might be useful as a dumping space (it was).  As for the way on, well, the lower end of Advent Chamber was a solid choke of boulders but it did at least look diggable.

One thing is interesting about the chamber.  Through a peep-hole in the west side can be seen a blackened portion of shoring timber, remains of the 1960s dig.  To get to Advent, we had dug our way into the cliff, then tunnelled through solid, and without realising it, gone over the top of the old dig to end up on the east side of it. In doing so we had found an open chamber just by the side of their dig. More importantly, we had now started on a route that avoided most of the stream so troublesome to the earlier diggers. Apart from a brief appearance of part of the water at the top of Advent chamber, it is largely dry - most of the water can be heard flowing away behind the west wall of the chamber, along the route of the old dig.  The Deity is fickle; sometimes she can be helpful.

This was the situation at the end of 2000.  72 digging trips in the year had increased the depth of the dig from twelve feet to fifty-five feet and given a passage length of 110 feet.

Wednesday 3rd January 2001 saw nine (yes nine!) people crammed into Advent Chamber, two of whom were able to do useful work.  The two workers secured a wobbly boulder and started on the drive down through the jumble of rock at the back of the chamber.  By the middle of January, this shaft was about 15 feet deep and we had entered the next chamber in the series (3 feet high about 4 feet wide, descending for about 10 feet at the usual 60ish degrees to the usual choke).  It was roofed as always by the hanging wall of the fault and floored with the usual mix of boulders, cobbles and stream debris. Work on the loose choke at the lower end of this chamber was going well, when in February the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease brought caving and (nearly) all digging to a complete halt.


Bob Cottle in the shaft at the bottom of Advent Chamber.

By late July, we thought the foot and mouth outbreak appeared to be over, but were reluctant to start back just in case we were wrong.  However, a quite bizarre series of events led to the resumption of digging. It all started when, on the morning of Wednesday 25th July, a calf broke through the covering on the shaft and then fell down the shaft.

Before continuing, I should explain that at this stage of the dig, Salami Passage entered the cliff face about 6 feet above shaft bottom.  Furthermore, the bottom of Salami Passage projected into the shaft as a sort of funnel shaped balcony.

Luckily, for all our sakes, the calf did not fall onto the rock pile at the bottom of the shaft, but landed on the "balcony" and was scooped into Salami Passage.  It then slid about 8 feet along the passage and took a sharp right-hand bend followed by a 4 foot drop into the chamber beyond. By then, it had really got the exploration bug, for it then headed off towards Advent.  Fortunately, it couldn't make it through the squeeze and there it stuck.

At this stage in the proceedings no-one, with the possible exception of the calf itself, knew where it was.  It was just missing and its mother was raising the alarm by bellowing frantically. The diggers were called out just in case the calf had indeed fallen down the cave and a sharp-eyed digger went down the shaft to check.  As there was no sign of the calf at shaft bottom nor in Salami Passage, he reported, not unreasonably, that the calf was not in the cave.  He then went off.  Later however, the calf was heard calling from the cave and Bob Cowlin and his two sons started on the rescue.  They were joined sometime later by some of the diggers and the animal was hauled up the shaft.  Once on the surface, it succeeded in standing and then immediately staggered off to its mother and started to suckle.  Miraculously, its only injuries were two small cuts.  Now do you believe in the Deity in Residence?

The Cowlins were surprised and pleased by the outcome and were also justifiably proud of their own efforts, as none of them had ever been underground before.  On the condition that the top of the shaft was made secure, they kindly granted us permission to restart digging.

By the end of September, the shaft had a cattle-proof lid and by late October, Maglite Grotto, a low, sloping chamber some 15 feet long, 8 feet wide and up to a massive 4 feet high (in places) was entered.  This had a finely decorated but blind inlet passage, the Priests' Hole, coming in from the roof.  The rubble floor of Maglite Grotto funnelled down to a black pit where stones could be heard to rattle down for perhaps 10 feet more.

Maglite Grotto was a difficult place to dig.  The boulder floor rested on a foundation of stream debris and clays, lubricated into a mobile slurry by the water which now ran below the surface.  It was here that we began to experience the same sort of problems that must have bedevilled the 1960s diggers.  The whole area showed an alarming tendency to slurp downwards, despite repeated attempts to stabilise it by walling and shoring.  The digging was complicated by the presence of a large boulder, the "Hammerhead".  This boulder was critical to the stability of the whole area, but it effectively blocked the way on!  The digging became rather delicate and slow but, by 30th December, the pit was more or less stable and sufficiently enlarged to allow a view into the void beyond.  Yet another rubble slope ending in yet another choke could be seen.  Entry was left until the New Year.

By the end of 2002, there had been 37 digging trips (a low number because of the foot and mouth closures). The bottom of Maglite Chamber was at a depth of 90 feet and the dig had a total passage length of 233 feet.


Rob Taviner in the Maglite Grotto shaft.

Diggers and visitors (December 1999 - December 2001)

Annie Audsley, Adrian Bowen, Anthony Marsh, Bob Cottle, Clive North, Colin Rogers, Dave Everett, Dave Grosvenor, Dave Morrison, Dave Speed, Gary Sandys, James Marsh, James Witcombe, Jim Young, Kate Lawrence, Paul Stillman, Roger Marsh, Rob Taviner, Rich Witcombe, Simon Meade-King, Tony Audsley, Tony Littler.

References quoted

(1): W. J. Lawry, Report on Thrupe Pot. Gerard Platten Scrapbook. Vol XVII p4747 (Unpublished Mss., Wells Museum Library)

(2): Edmund J Mason. Thrupe Swallet, An Account of early work by the M.E.S. Belfry Bulletin No 199, September 1964 p3-4

(3): Alan J Surrall. Thrupe Diary. J Wessex Cave Club, No 107 Vol. 9 (July 1966)

Additional sources

The Hillgrove logbooks 1954-1963, WCC Journal, supplement to Volume VIII

The Mendip Caver 1(1), 1(4),2(3)

In the short term, more information can be found at:

Thrupe Lite http://freespace.virgin.net/t.audsley (now http://www.arcula.co.uk/thrupelite/ )

This website contains up to date information about the dig, lots of photographs, a few sounds and a certain amount of foolishness.  There is also a history section, where the references quoted here are reproduced in full.

Like everything on the web, the website will sooner or later vanish without trace.

Finally

"If more interest were taken in this dig, another Cuthbert's could well be the reward" .

Jim Giles. Caving Log. Belfry Bulletin No 157, March 1961, p2.



 

Sima Pumacocha 2002 Expedition Survey and Photographs

(see article in BB No 515)

by Peter “Snablet” and Mark Hassell

   

 

Nick Hawkes on the entrance pitch of Qaga Mach’ay (alt.4930m) – a 50m by 20m entrance over 50m deep to a 20m high passage with two un-descended, ice coated leads

 

Ed. – In addition to these photographs I have also received a copy of the Sima Pumacocha Presentation given in May of this year by Nick Hawkes to the Peru Geological Society. It is planned to include sections of it in the next issue of the BB.


 

Fun in the Sun and a Lark in the Dark - Meghalaya 2003.

by Tony Jarratt

Introduction

 

Once again February saw an invasion of the Indian hill state of Meghalaya (the Abode of the Clouds) by a bunch of scruffy Europeans (and Michael) intent on discovering many kilometres of huge cave passage and having a great time.  By the end of the month we had over 25km surveyed and at least one Mahindra pick-up jeep full of empty beer bottles - the mission had been accomplished in style!  On the down side Jayne had a broken leg, Dr. B was bankrupt and Brian's only caving day resulted in a badly bruised back from falling rocks, though a bit higher up and it would have also been his last caving day .... A great deal of hard work had been done in both the Garo and Jaintia Hills and many leads had been opened up for next year. Herewith the details of the Shnongrim team's exploits. Tony Boycott wrote an article on the Garo Hills part of the expedition but left it on a boat in the Red Sea!


The Shnongrim Camp, Nongkhlieh Ilaka, Jaintia Hills

This year 15 Europeans and a host of locals were based at Ratapkhung, on the top of the Shnongrim ridge and near the village of that name.  Accommodation was provided by local character, entrepreneur, folk musician and part time were-Tiger Carlyn Phyrngap and his stepfather Pa Heh Shor Pajuh - another great character and decimator of the area's wildlife.  Their farmhands and the Meghalaya Adventurers' team from Shillong had built a superb 'camp' consisting of thatched bamboo bedrooms, dining room, food store, kitchen, bogs and shower units just off the road and with glorious views of the Letein valley below.  Being slap in the middle of this extensive caving area we were able to walk to many sites and saved lots of uncomfortable hours of driving from the Sutnga LB. as was done last year.  Shaktiman lorry loads of wood provided both fuel for cooking and evening bonfires where Haywards 10,000 (8% ABV) was copiously imbibed to replace lost body fluids evaporated underground and in patches of spiky jungle (where our previously nonchalant evening strolls became more wary after we were informed that a potentially man-eating tiger had just been shot nearby!).

Work commenced with the rigging of Krem Ryman, top entrance to the 12km Umthloo system, and the bottoming of Krem Myrliat 3 at 17m - a promising lead from last year which failed to deliver.  The Ryman rigging also added c.100m to the system as a separate entrance was found to connect and was tied into the main survey.  Half of the Garo team had corne over for the first few days and spent these completing the survey of Krem Iawe and connecting with the newly discovered Krem Iawe Barit to give a total length of 3.398kms.  Krem Korlooheng, adjacent to Ryman, had half a jar of flourescein tipped into it but due to low water levels this was not detected in the main Umthloo system.  We also missed the side passage in Ryman which Raman, a minister of an ancient Jaintia king, used as a shortcut to Jaintiapur, now in Bangladesh.  Like our friend Carlyn, he was able to turn into a tiger at will and would not have been nice to meet in a squeeze!  Other projects started were the resurvey of Krem Labbit (bat) by our German colleagues and recce in the adjacent Krang (sloping land) area, mainly by Robin and leading to some great discoveries.

On Feb. 9th Annie, Andreas, Peter and Shelley rigged Krem Krang Moo 0 (cave of the rock or monolith in the sloping ground) to a calcite choke at 57m depth and l34.55m length. Robin and I, meanwhile, pushed a 30m deep draughting boulder choke in the nearby Krem Krang Moo 1 to the head of the 5m deep Beast Pot - named after a survey leg of 6.66 metres.  Returning with a ladder we had to extend the name to cover the 45m deep black void just beyond!  Next day Peter and Andreas dropped this into 80m of ongoing, crab-infested streamway which was pushed another 200m on the 11th. 300m more was added next day while the Mendip/Clare trio clocked up 250m of well decorated inlet and a 100m oxbow.  Meanwhile Michael and team were surveying many hundreds of metres in the enormous Krem Liat Prah - his baby - and incidentally finding an apparent modernist sculpture newly deposited right in the centre of the gigantic main drag. This was actually a heap of expensive drill steels and steel sleeving lost by an Indian Geological Survey borehole prospecting team last year!  This cave was eventually to finish at a length of 8.296kms.  A girlies team of Annie, Nicky and Fiona attempted to join Krem Urn Im to this system by pushing an obviously short connecting duck.  This was not to happen as the passage went BELOW the huge cave above into new river passage ongoing up and downstream!  It was left for a wet suited team to survey next year and a link to Liat Prah would obviously be very acceptable if getting more and more unikely.  It was left at 1.267kms. Roger, Dan and Fiona were pushing another pot - Krem Krang 1, nicknamed " Raining Out Cave" for its condensation and draught.  The 60m pothole of Krem Shrieh (monkey) was also receiving the attention of Derek, Rhys, Shelley and Nicky.

We pressed on in Krang Moo 1 on the 13th but soon reached a deep canal.  To avoid this I doffed my slippery wellies and pioneered the "hairy socks technique" to free climb up a calcite wall into a large, high level series with a long muddy inlet and eventual route back to the stream after several hundred metres.  Here we were prevented from rushing along a 20m high river passage by a large, fallen boulder needing a ladder to descend but we expected big finds next day. Robin, Nigel, Dan and Fiona had that day rigged down to a fine streamway in nearby Krem Synrang (shelter) Krang but were stopped upstream by a large fallen boulder needing a maypole to ascend.....  We had missed each other by half an hour or so but now had a connected system later surveyed to 2.668kms and ending in a sump.  This major success proved both the accuracy of the GPS entrance positions and the survey teams and was cause for celebration - as if we needed it! Apart from the ongoing Liat Prah project other caves being explored were Norman's Pot, Kseh Upring and Kneewrecker Hole plus surface recce and tourist, tidying up and video trips in the stunning Umthloo system. In the latter Annie and I, accompanied by the aptly named Bat, eventually pushed a three year old promising lead into c.lOOm of squalid and aquatic misery, thankfully left unsurveyed as your scribe had no lead in any of his three pencils - no change there then! Roger also earned the "free diver of the year award" for rescuing a sunken tackle bag in the same cave.

The next exciting find came following a recce in the previously out of bounds area around Shnongrim village.  Raplang Shangpliang (ace guide), Kai Shail Patwat and Heipormi Pajuh showed us various sites including the impressive pothole/cave of Krem Synrang Ngap (bee shelter).  Here the diminutive but hardy Raplang chopped down a tree, chucked it down an exposed 5m climb and scambled down to the pothole floor.  Next day the timid westerners rigged the drop with a ladder to find no way on but then surveyed the cave entrance above to emerge at a second entrance via a huge chamber with two deep pots in the floor.  One of these was later rigged for a total of 76m into a wet crawl developing into a fine river passage containing a possibly 100m high aven.  It was left ongoing at a length of 1.977kms.  In the same area the equally magnificent Krem Synrang Labbit (bat shelter cave) was surveyed to a length of 1.654kms and was also left wide open.  It is possible that this is the upstream feeder to Ngap, itself a contender for connecting with the superb river cave/resurgence of Krem Wah Shikar (Shikar stream cave) 1.323kms in length.  This would give a combined system of at least 6kms and probably very much more, especially if the Krang Moo system can be tied in. An extremely promising 30m+ pothole, Krem Bir (no, not beer cave - mud cave) nearby may also be part of this hypothetical system and blows out condensation which turns the otherwise dry soil around the entrance to mud.  This area will be the initial focus of next year's trip.


On a supposed "easy day" a large team took advantage of an invitation by Mulda Rupon, head man of Shnongrim, to visit the historic cave of Krem Kut S utiang (hill fort cave of the Sutiang people).  This is a site respected by the local people as the last stand of the "rebel" Jaintia King, U Kiang Nongbah, who in 1862 took advantage of a reduction in strength of the Sylhet Light Infantry Regiment to mount an arson attack against the local British run town of Jowai along with 600 tribesmen.  This was in protest against oppressive taxation by the Bengal Government and the general annexation by the British of the hereditary tribal lands.  Unfortunately for them the Regiment managed to scrape up 6,000 troops armed with muskets, cannon and war elephants and on the 27th December 1862 stormed the Kut Sutiang defences, capturing the King and hanging him in Jowai market place three days later.  An unconfirmed local story is that the British took the King's head back for display in England.  Strangely enough (!) it had taken us three years of patient negotiation and failed attempts to see this cave and even on this visit there was some doubt as to how many would be allowed in.  Perhaps realising that the mixed bag of English, Scots, Welsh, German, Indian, Austrian, Irish and Swiss present had all had a go at each other over the centuries, Mulda was not too concerned about the spirits of his ancestors being too upset and gave us the run of the place.

A lengthy downhill walk from the village saw us hacking through thick and steep jungle to reach the entrance, situated on top of a limestone outlier in the valley bottom. A very pleasant 109m section of fossil tunnel was surveyed, photographed, sketched and videoed to death while the locals sat biri-smoking and bemused on a large stalagmite boss. This was reputed to be the old King's seat, but they didn't worry too much about using it for an ashtray!  The only evidence left in the cave of these troubled times was broken pottery and possible hearth sites.  Carlyn, of course, knew of the hidden real cave - blocked off with a stone slab and only disclosed to a select few.  He may well be right as this murderous patch of the jungle covered pinnacle karst could conceal anything.  The trek back out to the paddy fields put paid to the "easy day" theory!


Back at Krem Labbit, Shnongrim, Michael and Thomas were convinced that they had connected with the underlying Krem Shynrong Labbit via a 50m pitch but were prevented from physically doing the trip due to the horrifically unstable nature of the pitch head. The total length of this system is theoretically 6.1kms.

In Umthloo several hundred metres of inlets and side passages brought the total up to l3.413kms with a very good lead (needing a small amount of bang) for next year. Here a calcited hanging rock at stream level prevents access to ongoing, 10m high inlet passage.  Krem Wiar-bru, a 200m long pothole was rigged down to a sumped area at Umthloo river level.  Krem Korlooheng, not far away, also sumps at this level.  One or two rebreather-owning divers are needed for next year to connect these to the main system and add another 0.5+kms.  With plenty of possibilities for further links to known caves located in all directions there is every chance that this could be a contender for India's longest - it has to beat the 21km Kotsati/Umlawan system only a few kms to the south at Lumshnong.  There are also many more potholes above the system awaiting our attention.

Other caves surveyed were the impressive Krem Labbit near Daistong, across the Letein valley.  This huge but short (451 m) system is one of the few visited here there are at least 13 more to be looked at!  The 44m long Krem Phlangmet (grass body cave) was not a record breaker but notable for the stunning examples of phototropic stalactites in its very majestic entrance, possibly the first recorded in India.  They grow in the direction of sunlight due to moss and algae growth on this side.  Krem Shrieh Khaidong reached 1.048kms, Krem Kseh Upring made 577m, Norman's Pot - 244m, Kneewrecker Hole - 810m, Krem Langshreh - 172m and Krem Ynram Blang - 80m.  Many other sites were recorded but not explored.


Sign at Krem Mawsmai Show Cave, Cherapuniee

Apart from exploration and surveying several people took some high quality photographs of most of the caves visited and Fraser continued with his ongoing video footage, assisted by Nicky who also took a video camera.  Fraser also filmed an active coal mine near Sutnga, both underground and on the surface.  The immigrant Nepalese colliers were friendly and helpful and their hospitality has ensured that this almost mediaeval industry has been recorded for posterity. Dan and Fiona worked hard on their continuing speleobiological research throughout the area while the writer made every effort to note down some of the extensive cave folklore of the Jaintia (or Pnar as they prefer to be called) people.  This has rightly become an established part of recce and everyone made an effort to collect folk tales with the aid of our guides and translators.  Carlyn was a rich fund of information and went to great lengths to ensure that our understanding and spelling of Pnar words was correct, the Khasi spellings sometimes used being subtly different. To compliment this Thomas did some fine pencil sketches of local thatched houses, barns etc. and Annie delineated the scenery. Andreas seemed to be permanently glued to his laptop, inputting survey data and Peter L. laboured heroically with the generator and assorted battery chargers as well as keeping an eye out (snigger) for faults in the electric supply.  This was a great team with everyone contributing to the cause in their own way.

Needless to say it was not all work and our evenings were spent eating the excellent food cooked by Addy and his team and assisting Ba Bung to reduce the mountainous alcohol supply. The "Shnongrim Combo" were in action most nights with guitars, mandolin, tin whistles, ksing (a local drum donated by Pa Heh) vocals and a selection of weird percussion instruments brought from Shillong by Gareth. Daytime sightseeing was limited but the spectacular monoliths and stone cremation vaults above the camp were regularly visited and photographed.  To conclude - a great time was had and the results were very satisfying.  All Meghalaya visits are great value and this was one of the better ones!

Participants

U.K: Simon Brooks (O.C.G./G.S.G.), Annie Audsley (B.E.C./S.U.S.), Nicola Bayley (R.F.D.C.C.), Tony Boycott (B.E.C./G.S.G./D.B.S.S.), Jayne Stead (G.S.G.), Peter Dowswell (G.S.G.), Roger Galloway (G.S.G.), Dan Harries (G.S.G.), Fiona Ware (G.S.G.), Tony Jarratt (B.E.C./G.S.G.), Derek Pettiglio (G.S.G.), Nigel Robertson (G.S.G.), Fraser Simpson (G.S.G.), Rhys Williams (S.W.C.c.). Ireland: Robin Sheen (RC.C.C.). Germany: Georg Baumler (H.H.L.), Daniel Gebauer (H.A.G.), Andre Abele, Herbert Jantschke, Michael Laumanns (S.C.R), Thomas Matthalm (K.H.F.M.), Katrin Zipfel. Austria: Peter Ludwig (L.V.H.O.O.). Switzerland: Andreas Neumann (O.G.H.). India: Brian Kharpran Daly (M.A.A./G.S.G.), Neil Sootinck, Lindsay Diengdoh, Shelley Diengdoh, Ronnie Mawlong, Batkupar 'Bat' Lyngdoh, Dale Mawlong, Gareth William Lyngwa, Toki Franklyn Dkhar, Denis Rayen (all M.A.A.).

Organisers, drivers, cooks, guides and other invaluable help

Bung Diengdoh, Adison 'Addy' Thaba, Shamphang War, Carlyn Phymgap, Pa Heh Shor Pajuh, Mulda Rupon, Raplang Shangpliang and a host of others from Shillong, Nongkhlieh Ilaka and the Garo, Borsora and Laitkynsew areas - without whom these expeditions would not be so successful.  Maureen Diengdoh and the Ladies of Shillong once again deserve our highest praise for their endless patience, good humour and hospitality.


 

Morton's Pot Update - July 2003.

by Sean Howe

Phil 'MadPhil' Rowsell and Graham 'Jake' Johnson continue the work in Eastwater Swallet at the bottom of Morton's Pot. Recent additions to the team include Paul Brock, Pete Hellier and Sean Howe (when he's not away with the Shepton).


Pete standing in the bottom of the dig.


Pete working hard – hauling up the skip containing another bag of soil

A considerable amount of engineering work has been carried out over the previous months. Any existing 'Seilbahns' (suspended cable runways) have been renovated or replaced. An additional 'Seilbahn' was recently added for the disposal of spoil at the head of the 380 Foot Way to avoid filling up the Traverse.  At the other end, near the dig face, scaffolding has been used to create a spoil retaining wall at the Drain Hole.


The skip being hauled up the 380 Foot Way on the ‘Seilbahn’

On Wednesday 16th July 2003 we passed all previous digs and are at the deepest point ever.

(Ed.  Unfortunately soon after the dig flooded once again.  On the 6th August the water level was only one foot beneath the top of the highest scaffolding and some three to four feet below the bolt and hauling pulley)


 

Club News.


Well, it's coming to you sooner than you may think! What? You may ask ...

Hurrah!  It's the Annual General Meeting and we need your nominations for members who wish to stand for election on to the committee. All prospective nominees should be aware that there is a requirement to attend meetings held on the 1st Friday evening of the month at ‘The Belfry’.  I would like to remind everyone that the club does not run Itself and relies on those members who are willing to volunteer their services and time.

All nominations to be sent to me:

Vince Simmonds (Hon. Sec.)
West Harptree,
Bath & North East Somerset

Please remember that I need to receive nominations before the AGM on Saturday 4th October 2003.


On a lighter note and coming up before the AGM and dinner you should all be aware that this year is the 50m since the breakthrough into St Cuthbert’s Swallet on September 4th 1953. By way of a celebration there will be a BBQ at the Belfry en Saturday 6th September 2003 everyone will be welcome. We hope that as many people as possible will venture down to Cerberus Hall to drink a toast to Messrs. Coase and Bennett.   To those who cant make it underground there will be plenty of opportunities to raise several glasses to ail those people who worked so hard to open up such a magnificent system as the one on our doorstep.

See you at the Belfry,

Vince Simmonds


 

Note from the Librarian

Three new cabinets have been purchased with the money raised at the last Dinner, from the auction of Dave Yeandle's kit.  They will soon have plaques fitted, they house, amongst other publications, Dave's collection of books and can be identified as such by a stamp inside the front cover (thanks Mac).

The cataloguing continues and has uncovered quite a few missing items, can any members help fill the gaps from the list below?

BEC Caving Reports:

No.4.

1958

S.J. Collins

No.12.

196

S.J. Collins

No.14.

1973

R.H. Bennett

No.17.

1973

Burrington Cave Atlas

No.19.

1976

PSM Expedition Report

Belfry Bulletins:

Any from the following volumes: 17 & 19.

Missing Books:

Darkness Beckons (Farr) - missing since the 1990s.

Grandes Traversias (out of print) - Jim Smart swears that he gave it to a BEC member in the Hunters' (February '02).

Dates For Your Diary.

5th September: Committee Meeting.

6th September: St. Cuthbert's Anniversary - trips and BBQ.

6th - 7th September: Working weekend.

3rd October: Committee Meeting.

4th October: AGM and Club Dinner - the Bath Arms, Cheddar.

4th - 5th October: BCRA Conference - somewhere in that popular caving area of Worcestershire - but sod that, its Dinner weekend.


 

Notes from the Logbook.

23/04/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil'

Went to clean up Morton's on my own. Removed old sacks, refilled bags etc.  Needs clearing.  Dig was well dry, lost c.3m over the two years.  Maybe have a play there this summer if stays dry.  Any volunteers?

14/05/03: Charterhouse Cave: 'Tangent', Rich Blake, Henry Bennett and Mike Willett

Another visit to this fine cave, although Speleotechnics LED caused a few problems for Henry whose lamp kept shorting out, and my lamp died in the Citadel.  Return to the surface was made even more enjoyable by this lack of illumination.  Investigated the side passages this time, and also spotted the miners' stemple high up in the wall of Splatter Chamber. J W

31/05/03: Eastwater Cavern, Tooting Broadway: 'MadPhil' and Alison Moody

Went to look at lead left last year. Sump goes, but squalid. Possible bypass a no go.  Muddy trip!  7 hours.

04/06/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: 'MadPhil' and Graham

Headed down with scrap heap challenge pulley system for 380 Foot Way.  Installed wicked, big improvement.  Headed to dig.  Dug in water and had to use dam technique to continue digging.  Now at 5m.  1m to pass our last attempt.  Pete Hellier and Paul Brock turned up at 20.00 and moved all the bags Paul dug last week from dig site to top of380 Foot Way.  Easy money. (Money? What money??)  ££.

22/06/03: Diccan Pot, Ribblesdale: Pete and Paul

Early start to avoid the masses!  Wet, draughty and a classic  Yorkshire rope trip.  De-rigging was a bit of a pain by the time we made our way out due to triple rigging techniques of others!. ... Blah, Blah, Blah.  Ace trip.  Missed dragging bags out of Morton's!!  Honest. P.B.

28/06/03: Daren Cilau, Through Trip: Vince Simmonds and Peter Bolt

In through Price's Dig to have a good look around Busman's Holiday - some interesting leads. (Price's Dig is a little mucky). Then passed choke into Antler Passage, There are some rope climbs but nothing too difficult although ropes are rather slippery.  Passed the Antlers and White Company (nice formations) and then into Big Chamber, Jigsaw Passage and Daren entrance - what joy!  Doesn't get any shorter or easier but at least we only did it one way.  5¾ hours.

23/07/03: Eastwater Cavern, Morton's Pot: Pete, Sean and Paul

My first night as foreman, overlooking my two main employees.  Sean main digging contractor unable to do his job due to high water levels, so we had to drag bags up to the 380 Foot Way.  Good boys! P.B.

Ed. 90%+ of Logbook entries are by only six or so members.  This does not accurately reflect caving and digging trips by members. Please use the Logbook - it is Club history and a vital reference for future projects.

 

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editorial

Welcome to the Summer Issue. It is firstly my sad duty to report (for those who have not yet heard) the untimely loss of Dave "Pooh" Yeandle who was killed in April in a flying accident in Spain.  His death deprives the BEC and the British caving community of one of its finest cave divers and another of its characters.

On a much happier note, the main caving news on Mendip is that the dig in Hunters Lodge Inn Sink has finally gone to reveal a large, well decorated passage (much to the surprise of Tony Jarratt and all those involved).  As a result this BB is largely centred on this area of Mendip. Unfortunately, one of the keenest of the digging team, Tyrone Bevan, has not yet seen the extensions following several weeks spent in hospital with heart problems.  Now back at home we wish him a speedy recovery.  Another of the team John Walsh has also been ill with what at first seemed to be a case of Weil' s Disease.  Although luckily the virus proved to be something else and John has recovered, care must be taken in the Sink as the illness followed a very wet digging trip - best to avoid drinking the stream in the entrance.

Other caving news includes the reopening of the Mud Sump in Swildon's.  After many years of misguided and half-hearted attempts by others, Phil Rowsell has designed a fairly fool proof system and he, Alison Moody (WCC) and others have both drained it and are now working to modify the bailing dams to enable it to be kept open.  Further afield news is coming back from Austria of a very successful expedition with new leads and over a kilometre of new passage found (see the Autumn Issue for a full report).

NB The autumn issue will be going to press in early October - send your articles now.  This issue is late, a fact I will not apologise for as I can only publish when I have enough articles.  You write, you get BB’s on time.  Thanks to those who can be bothered.


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Phil Rowsell and Alison Moody (WCC) have been working on enlarging the promising rift passage at the end of Phil's Soho extensions (see last BB).  Their plan is to push along for a few more metres in order to be able to see to assess just how much further enlargement the passage will require - and thus how feasible pushing this draughting and extremely promising passage is.  Worryingly, Phil also reports that the main stream is now flowing down through Boulder Chamber and thus further undermining the entrance.  It could well be time to open one of the known alternative entrances to provide a safer route into the cave.  No work has taken place in Morton's Pot so far this summer due to the wet weather and more crucially the lack of manpower.  However, with less people needed now to dig Hunters Lodge Inn Sink, the Wednesday Night Diggers plan to tidy up the dig and attempt to avoid any great infilling of the shaft - some two metres have already been lost.

Hunter's Lodge Inn Sink.

At the end of June Tony Jarratt and his cast of thousands finally broke out of the small blasted crawl and down into open passage.  Although there is clearly large passage beneath the loose boulders of this small chamber attempts to dig a safe route down have so far failed.  However, the initially unpromising mud-filled passage at the far end then went in mid-July to reveal the Happy Hour Highway - a much older well decorated passage more reminiscent of Llangattock than Mendip. Digging continues at the end of this in a choke of boulders and well-compacted sand infill and in the boulders at the breakthrough (See Tony's article for a full account).

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

During the June working weekend Greg Brock, Bea Goford and others had a clean up trip.  Given its success in removing a large amount of detritus it is now planned to make this a part of future Hut clean up sessions.

Swildon's Hole.

Phil Rowsell, Alison Moody and helpers have been attacking the Mud Sump with two new methods - expanding foam and a little bit of thought.  Rather than build endless holding dams, they have constructed a single (surprisingly low) dam from foam and clay that holds back the inlet trickling in from South East Inlets and drains all the water pumped from the Mud Sump back down the low crawl toward the First Mud Sump.  After a number of bailing and pumping sessions and a new system of pipes the Mud Sump was finally bailed dry in early July.  Work now continues to maintain access to the passages beyond.  So no longer any excuses to avoid the through trip from Priddy Green Sink (see the full story in the Autumn BB).

At the far end of the cave Greg Brock and Andy Stewart have teamed up with Phil Short (WCC) in Phil's attempt to finally pass Sump Twelve.  Good luck to all those involved - the Sump has been banged and despite a postponement due to heavy rain they are now busy clearing infill in what sound horrible conditions.

Wigmore Swallet.

Tim Chapman and Andy Stewart have been diving in the Downstream Sumps and have so far reached Sump Seven.  Tim reports good diving conditions and following his return from France the pair plan to push on to check out the end.


 

The Last Laugh - A Major Discovery at Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink!

by Tony Jarratt
with photographs by Carmen Haskell (WCC)

" ... the Rock had been blown 45 feet further in than where I was last year ... " & what is further, Gunpowder, Sledges, hard Labour & Time must discover. "

R. Oliver "Journal of a voyage to England" 1776-77. (Cave digging with bang in Peak Cavern, Derbyshire - 225 years ago!)

Part One - Update to 25th June

Since the last report in BB 513 work has continued regularly, and almost exclusively, at this site, the Wednesday Night Team having now expanded its title to the Wednesday Night, Sunday Lunchtime, and Monday Morning Team.

During the first two weeks of April three more bangs saw us at the bottom of the "10ft rift", giving a 7ft fixed steel ladder climb down to another downdip bedding plane. The 1st birthday of the dig passed quietly and uncelebrated on the 9th of April.

By the 24th of June another 24 bangs had been detonated here to gain some 30ft of descending passage following the route of the stream.  A nice touch was added to the history of this amusing dig by the sale of much of the spoil heap to passers-by for use as rockery stone or hardcore!  This has helped offset the increasing cost of the explosives.  Possible future changes in storage and transport regulations may preclude the use of bang altogether and so we are making the most of it while the going is good. The skip hauling system has been improved and a strong, enthusiastic, and reasonably regular team has ensured good progress - resolutely putting up with the often soul-destroying job of spoil removal.

The superb ceramic "Bertie" plaque sculpted by Ben Holden has unfortunately fallen foul of the winter frosts so Ben has "done it to excess" and moulded a new one from solid lead - apparently his diving weights!  This has been painted in the Club colours and Araldited in position in the entrance shaft.  Ceramic copies of this circular plaque can be obtained from Ben via the writer.

Roger Dors has provided a large expanse of hard standing in the field above the dig, cleared and graded to perfection by Mr. Nigel and Jake of Mendip Demrock (free advert Nigel). This should provide ample parking space for the tourist hordes when the dig breaks through (see Part Two).  All our smaller spoil is now used as infill in the tractor ruts leading to the Hunters' Hole field, while the saleable stone is stored behind the car park wall.  This hard standing was recently put to use when a wedding party marquee was erected on it resulting in the face worker at the time being entertained underground by live music filtering down from above.  This, and Snab's 60th birthday party in the adjacent back room were two missed opportunities to fire off large charges!

To go along with the theme of this particularly well sited dig it should be recorded that Trevor uses beer barrel spiles for plugging shotholes to be used at a later date and that John Walsh has gone out of his way to drink vast quantities of wine purely in order to provide corks for wedging the bang wire into cracks in the passage sides - a truly dedicated digger.

The occasion of "Mendip Caving 2002," 16th June, provided the opportunity for more BEC excess as an underground explosion was actually filmed live from about 10 feet away and broadcast to an audience supping their ale in the Pub Function Room! This was made possible by Bob Smith who constructed a video camera inside an Oldham headset (see separate article) and Prew, who provided a l2v lamp. For a millisecond the assembled were presented with far better viewing than the World Cup as Roger Dors connected up the bang wire.  After the initial flash of the detonation a blank screen was expected as the camera and lamp were disintegrated by flying rock, but applause rent the air as the sight of swirling bang fumes appeared on the computer screen.  The undamaged camera was still in position but the lamp, also intact, had been blown over by the blast.  This may be a Mendip first and was much appreciated by the gathering of armchair diggers who donated 15 pounds to the bang fund.

Before this climax the camera had been worn on a helmet by Bev who filmed Trevor clearing spoil and drilling shotholes, and Alex hammering boulders and stacking full bags.  Bob then took over to film the writer charging the holes with detonating cord.  It was probably just as well that sound was unavailable judging by Trev's expression on returning from the constricted end of the dig.

 

Looking up dip in the largest Dart of the blasted out Pub Crawl.

Earlier that day BCRA Secretary, John Wilcock, had once again spent some time dowsing in the area as part of his ongoing project on his occasional visits to Mendip.  His results indicate an underground drainage coming from the southern Stockhill area, under H.L.I.Sink, Hunters' Hole and Eighteen Acre Swallet to join the St. Cuthbert's Swallet streamway somewhere below the SE comer of 100 Acres field.  After picking up an inlet from Tusker's dig at Templeton Pot, this passage itself joins the combined Swildon's/Eastwater drainage just before Wookey Hole.  Only time will tell if his predictions are correct (but Mad Phil's latest surveys seem to disprove this).  Hopefully Phil Short's timely discovery of the way on in Swildon's 12 may soon shed some light on this (as, indeed, may our own future explorations!).  John's dowsing map and summary are appended to this article and any queries should be addressed to him.

On the 22nd of June a large horse leech was found in a puddle halfway down the cave.  It was later liberated and after an evening of being admired in the bar was released at Waldegrave Pond.  Its seemingly shrunken size on capture was explained when its fatter companion was fished out a few days later!  Yet another of these beasties was later rescued by John and we are perplexed as to their source of origin, but convinced that they are washed in after heavy rain.  Lots of work was put in this week to push along the low bedding plane and narrow rift at the end in the hope of entering a possible enlargement which could be seen ahead.

Part Two - The First Breakthrough

On the 24th of June the writer was clearing bang debris from the RH side of the bedding plane when it was realised that just beyond there was an open rift passage full of loose boulders with a c.5ft drop to the floor and boulder filled void above.  This rift apparently continued upstream and may be the prophesised parallel waterway.  Attempts to gain access were thwarted by movement of the boulders so this passage was used as a convenient spoil dump and attention was transferred to the continuation of the more solid bedding plane in the hope of reaching a seemingly boulder free extension which could be glimpsed ahead.  Having reached real, open cave only 14½ months after the start of the dig it was with a sense of both satisfaction and relief that the writer headed out for a celebratory pint and to inform Roger and Jacquie that they now owned twice as many caves as Robin Main!  A return was made in the evening to fire the final charge to enlarge the bedding plane.  As much use was made of a crowbar to enter the passage, and to keep the dig theme, the extension was provisionally named The Bar Room - but this was later changed to Bar Steward Passage for reasons which will become obvious!

The following evening saw the writer, Trev, Alex and Mad Phil clearing the spoil from this bang so that a recce. of the find could be made in preparation for the Wednesday night push.  Where previously was an impassable bedding slot there was now a wide and roomy opening into the side of a roughly 5ft square passage heading down dip for some 20ft and boulder choked upstream after about 10ft.  Directly below the entry point an open rift at least 15 ft deep issued a strong draught and seemed to be the way on - possibly cutting under the boulder choked down dip passage.  Unfortunately, the far wall and ceiling of the extension were composed of "hanging deaths" and it could not be entered safely (so Mad Phil went in for a look!).  Luckily the LH wall of the breakthrough point is solid and the open rift in the floor of the bedding plane, which is directly above the hole in the floor of Bar Steward Passage, was banged on the 28th of June.  Next day the writer and Adrian Hole were able to squeeze down into the large, boulder filled passage below to find it to be a veritable death trap! The way on seems to be under the loose boulder floor in which several holes reveal voids below at least 15ft deep. By somehow engineering a route downwards this will eventually give us a sporting and occasionally very wet climb of at least 20ft.  Bar Steward Passage itself will come in handy as a spoil dump so hauling to the surface may eventually be a thing of the past.  In the meantime a lot of loose rock, purposely brought down from the ceiling of Bar Steward Passage will be dragged out to the rockery rock pile.  A mud choked phreatic tube leading straight ahead above the holes in the floor was tentatively examined and seemed to be the safest option.  The whole passage appears to have developed along a fault which explains its instability.

The depth of the cave must now be around 75ft and looks to be on course for going under the rubbish and stone filled dewpond situated in a depression adjacent to the roadside wall. It is assumed that Bar Steward Passage brings in the rest of the stream which sinks in the rift below the entrance shaft but it must be deep under the boulder floor and cannot yet be reached.


The now scaffolded route through the boulders heading into the mud choked tube

A few days earlier, on the 26th of June, what we thought to be the last 60 bags of spoil had been hauled out to the surface where a bottle of pretend Champagne, courtesy of Jim Smart, was rapidly diminishing in volume, and the following day Mad Phil, assisted by Dominic and Michelle, re-surveyed the cave.  Martin Mills's original survey notes for Hunters Hole were generously loaned to us by their creator (who, coincidentally is currently resident in the Pub) and on the 27th June these were tied in to the H.L.I. Sink with a surface survey by Phil and the writer.  These notes have been computerised by Phil so that the relationship between the two caves can be studied.  The surprisingly eastern position of Phil's last survey point was confirmed on the 1st of July by Brian and Brenda Prewer using radio location to fix the writer's transmitter position at the breakthrough point despite much interference from the adjacent electricity pole and transformer.

To date some 1400 loads of spoil have been removed from this dig and we are into large, open, draughting and extremely promising passage - albeit after a lot of hard work.  From now on we have the added stress of working our way down through the loose boulder ruckle so progress will inevitably be slow. Some work has been done at the mud choke at mid height in Bar Steward Passage and on the 15th of July a view of open, draughting passage was obtained.  Nearby an old peanut bag and piece of crisp packet were found - 2d and 6d respectively.  These probably date from the early 60s and indicate an open, though doubtless tiny, route to the surface at this time.  This may have been via Pub Crawl or the open rift below the entrance shaft. A good supply of scaffold poles and clips is being built up underground and we will soon be on the scrounge for more cement.  Vintage BEC members will be amused to know that Alfie's Hole may be above the assumed route of this cave!

Part Three - The Second Breakthrough

Four digging sessions from the 13th to the 16th of July gained some ten feet of progress in the muddy tube and in the process turned HLIS from Mendip's cleanest dig into one of its filthiest.  It also verified the BEC curse of the "Reverse Midas Touch" - everything we dig turns to shit!  At the end a view could be gained into open, draughting passage with a thick calcite floor preventing easy access from below.  A couple of sticks of gelignite were employed to solve this problem and on Wednesday the 17th, after a bit of squalid clearing, the way on was open.  A squeeze over a gonadcrunching rock led to some 20ft of dipping, hands and knees passage with a solid wall on the left and a calcited boulder choke on the right.  Ahead lay bigger blackness.  The committing route into the extension was passed by the writer and Gwilym but proved to be too tight for Trev, too difficult for uni-limbed Alex and too dark for Geoff, whose lamp had failed.

The Happy Hour Highway Extensions

 

The lithe and lucky duo found themselves entering a large, square passage with a massive boulder slope soaring up above Bar Steward Passage.  This was climbed for about 60ft, through horrendously poised, tottering monoliths to a point some 25ft from the surface and under Roger's new car park!  There is a lot of empty space just below the field here, the passage being 20ft wide by 6ft high with some fine yellow banded curtains on the ceiling.  It has been radio-located by Prew, assisted by Phil Hendy who was distinctly heard bashing a rock on the surface!  There were plans to drill a borehole into this area to aid the airflow and provide video camera access, but depth maybe a problem.

Downdip this amazing and totally unexpected bore passage was followed for about 120ft to a choke of clay and rock completely blocking the way on.  The draught, though, gives hope for a bypass to this.  The dimensions of "Happy Hour Highway" are on average 12-18ft wide by 6ft high.  There are hundreds of pure white straws and pale yellow "carrots" and large areas of ca1cited floor, drip pockets, crystals and flowstone walls.  A marked route has been laid using 9mm static cord donated by Andy Elson and photographs have been taken - a particularly fine set being captured by Carmen Haskell using a digital camera.  Large, broken stalagmites on the floor, big phreatic ceiling pockets and roof tubes, together with the size and general nature of the place testify to its extreme age - contemporary with Talus Four in White Pit? On first impressions it would seem to be far older than St. Cuthbert's Swallet and Hunters' Hole is probably a mere inlet.  The current end is well over 80ft below the bottom of the infilled Alfie's Hole and lies directly below the road (see map).  Its continuation may be under Southfield Farm. Watch this space!!!


Looking left at the end – briefly dug but abandoned due to size of the collapsed roof slabs blocking the dig.

The site of current efforts along the right hand wall of the collapse.  A tunnel has been dug through sand and gravels passing beneath the formations.  Some 8ft along the dig has turned left and downwards beneath the roof and into well compacted sand. gravel and boulders

Extreme care should be taken throughout this passage.  Some unique formations have already been destroyed by the inattention of the diggers, including the writer.  Unobvious floor deposits are particularly vulnerable and the tapes should not be crossed for any reason - photographers take note. If damage continues this extension could easily be resealed!

There is great scope for scientific work in this cave, particularly regarding its age and geological formation.  UBSS geologist Andy Farrant has visited and is currently giving this some thought. Surveying and photography is continuing and the terminal choke is being dug, as is the choke below Bar Steward Passage.

 

WARNING. Following a very wet trip on the 10th of July (shades of 1968!) John Walsh contracted an unpleasant virus initially diagnosed as Weil's Disease.  Luckily it wasn't and he is back on the wine but there is every chance of its presence here and should visitors get flu-like symptoms between 3 and 19 days after a wet trip here they should immediately see their doctor and advise him of this.  All cavers should carry an NCA Weil' s Disease information card - available from the writer - as any wet Mendip cave is likely to be infected with the leptospirosis bacterium.  In addition, with the current prevailing weather conditions the levels of carbon dioxide in the extension are uncomfortably high and hence any physical exertion is rapidly exhausting.  The party size should thus be kept small.  

A happy man and some of his archaeological discoveries

 
 

More views of the extensions



Additions to the Team and Acknowledgements

Matt Davey, Richard Dolby, Danny Burnett, Julie Hesketh (MCG,GSG), John Wilcock (BCRA - dowsing), Brian and Brenda Prewer (lighting and radio-location), Michelle Lloyd-Hopkins, Dominic Gane, Martin "Milche" Mills (SMCC - Hunters' Hole Survey), Sean Morgan (ropes and boulder nets), Nick Mitchell, Alison Moody (WCC), Jonathon Davies (GSG), Guy Morgan, Tony Boycott, Geoff Wild, Thomas Arbenz (SNT and Bat Products, Switzerland), Andy Elson (cord donation), Jayne Stead (GSG), Richard Carey (MCG), Carmen Haskell (WCC), Phil Hendy (WCC radio-location), Sean Howe, Martin Grass (CSCC - conservation tape), Mike Wilson, Jim Smart, and Andy Farrant (UBSS).

Selected References

Hunters Lodge Inn Sink

Belfry Bulletins Nos. 448 (Feb 1989); 511 (July 2001); 513 (Sprin 2002)  (A.R. Jarratt. )

MSS Logbooks, Survey Notes. (A.R. Jarratt, T. Hughes, A. Livingstone, P. Rowsell).

Hunters Hole

BEC Caving Report No.6 - Some smaller Mendip Caves, (B.M. Ellis), Oct. 1961.

SMCC Jnl. Series 5. No.10 - A Survey of Hunters' Hole, Central Mendip, (M.T. Mills), Aug. 1975.

The Story of Priddy, (Alan Thomas), 1989, pp 59-60.

Limestones and Caves of the Mendip Hills (D.1. Smith & D.P. Drew), 1975, pp 122, 124, 128, 307.

Mendip. The Complete Caves (N. Barrington & W. Stanton), 3rd edn. 1977. Mendip Underground (D.J. Irwin & A.R. Jarratt), 1999, pp 97-98.

Alfie's Hole

BEC Caving Report No.6 - Some smaller Mendip Caves, (S.J. Collins), Oct. 1961.

Mendip. The Complete Caves (N. Barrington & W. Stanton), 3rd edn. 1977.


 

John Wilcock's Dowsing Results.

STAFFORD
17 June 2002

Mr A.R. JARRATT,
PRIDDY,
WELLS, Somerset

The weekend's results

Dear Tony,

It was pleasant meeting you again at the weekend.  Thanks for showing me your new hole at the Hunters.  I found the video link to the dig, and the explosion, most diverting!

I had a profitable day's work on Sunday.  I enclose a further copy (Sunday's results in red) since I did more work than was on the copy I gave you.

As you can see, for Tusker's holes, Sandpit Hole and Beetle Drop trend NW to join Swildons before White Pit, while Templeton's goes SE to join St Cuthbert’s.  Your new hole at the Hunters enters a NE-SW system.  To the west there are two depressions in the next field, and then it joins St Cuthbert’s.  In late Sunday afternoon I went in the forest to see where it was coming from, and proved that it comes from the Stock Hill Fault.  So there is the potential of flow from Thrupe via Slab House, Hillgrove and Cuckoo Cleeves, and then via Hunters to St Cuthbert’s and Wookey - maybe that's why your new system developed.

Thanks again, and do involve me in any further holes you are investigating - 1 can be in Mendip within two and a half hours from Stafford at the drop of a hat (mid-week included, since I am retired)!

Yours sincerely,

Dr John D. Wilcock

 


 

Dig Cam, An Armchair Caver's Dream.

by Bob Smith

Several months ago, I overheard Les Williams (WCC) discussing events to be organised for the Mendip 2002 gathering, with him saying something like: "Wouldn't it be great if we could watch Tony digging in the car park from the safety of the bar!"  There was much laughter until I mentioned that it could be quite easily done, since I had a camera that was small enough to be put into an Oldham headpiece, and viewed on any suitable TV.  His eyes lit up and he asked me if I really meant it.  After a few beers, we decided it was a 'goer' and so Dig Cam was born.

My next few days were occupied with finding suitable cables, connectors and a power supply for my miniature CCTV camera.  Eventually, I had all the parts gathered, and started the task of assembly.  With all the innards of the lamp removed, and the hole for the switch filled with hot melt glue, I coaxed the cable in and soldered it to the camera.  The comers of the circuit board had to be filed slightly to get it into the headpiece, and this too was held in with hot melt glue.  The whole unit was then sealed with more hot melt, and due to the length of the lens the toughened glass had to be glued to the outside of the bezel.

I had built a power supply and video feed box, and added around 50m of cable, and having no suitable caves in Portsmouth, tested the unit in the ideal conditions of my loft, the images being displayed on my PC through a television receiver card.  The effect was promising, so the whole lot was brought to Mendip, causing much ridicule and piss-taking: "So you need a TV and a mains supply, what f"**ing use is that in a cave!?"  Since it had been built for the specific use of viewing Hunters Lodge Inn Sink, where both these were available, I wasn't too bothered, but it did make me think about how I could remedy this.

Mendip 2002, Sunday 16th, 09.59 hrs.

Having arranged with Les to set up Dig Cam at 10 o'clock on Sunday morning, I was woken rudely by Bev telling me to get my hungover arse out of bed.  Bleary eyed, I dragged myself out of bed, and grabbed a lift to meet Les at the Hunters', or so I thought.  When I arrived, Les was nowhere to be seen, there was no TV and a small group waiting to see this "underground web cam thingy". Dig Cam was rapidly becoming a farce.  Luckily, Trevor turned up in time and returned to the shed to get the Belfry computer, which was quickly installed in the Function Room.  The camera, now placed on Bev's helmet, we were treated to images of Trevor stripping off in the car park.  A Petzl Duo provided light and so into the depths went the pair, with Alex following shortly.

For the next hour or so, various small groups paused on their way to the bar to watch Alex bashing rocks, and Trevor removing spoil.  There really is a limited amount of time that this can captivate even the hardiest of armchair enthusiasts, and again Dig Cam was becoming the proverbial damp squib.  Thank God Tony arrived when he did.  The ailing interest was noted, and Tony asked me if I thought that the camera would survive filming a bang.  I thought it probably would and then everyone’s interest perked up.  Trevor had finished drilling shotholes and the other two were returning to the surface.

Tony and I got kitted up and returned below to lay the charge.  The limitations of having a 70m umbilical cord became apparent as I struggled with a snotty mess of cables, with no idea whether I had damaged the fragile connections I had hastily made the day before to extend the cable to the dig face.  Eventually, I got to where Tony was laying the charge, and sat whilst Tony gave a televised broadcast of the use of explosives.  When everything was finished Tony returned to the surface, whilst I wedged the camera in place and secured the lamp provided by Brian Prewer.  A shout from Tony confirmed a good shot, so I exited, and was surprised by the number of people assembled to watch it all happen.  Roger Dors was given the pleasure of setting it all off, with a countdown, then a flash, a reassuring 'whump" from below, and then spontaneous applause and congratulations.  The camera had survived, clearly showing bang fumes drifting in the still intact lamp's light.  As the crowd left, the cables were cut and Dig Cam remained underground until the spoil could be cleared.

The advantage of using the computer for this event was the ability to capture the pictures and save them for later use.  Since the outing, interest was expressed about possible uses for a small remote camera. I have since purchased a small portable TV that can be connected, and the camera can also be run from a battery. The addition of sound is not too far off, but any more suggestions for improvements will be appreciated.


Dig Cam in action in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.


 

18 Months Hard Labour - Gas St." Sanctimonious Passage.  Hunters' Hole.

by Tony Jarratt

(This article was written in 1989, but was never published.  It relates the history of a desperate dig in this cave between March 1987 and September 1988 and is relevant to the current exploration in this area - particularly Tony Blick's dowsing results!)

Sanctimonious Passage, discovered by the BEC on the 13th of July 1958, is situated 2.5m up the south west wall of the Railway Tunnel some 5.2m from the bottom of Main Pitch.  38m of sporting downdip passage leads via the once 5.5m deep Rover Pot to what was a choked rift.  The Pot is now 0.6m less deep due to digging spoil and the rift is no longer choked.  Previous digging at the rift was mainly by Alan Thomas and friends in Feb/March 1968. They banged the small hole at the then end of the passage to uncover a 10cm wide by c.6m long rift after which their dig was abandoned.

Being the deepest point in the cave at 52.4m, it was examined in October 1985 by Tim Large and the writer who were looking for a new project.  Nothing further was done until March 7th 1987 when Martin Bishop, who also had an interest in the site, joined the writer, Steve Milner and Richard Stevenson on the first digging and blasting trip of the project.  Some 6m of narrow, outward draughting rift led off from the bottom of Rover Pot.  This was banged by Rich and cleared the following day by a large team, resulting in 2m of progress.  The following weekend Nigel Taylor banged the dig (see, I told you it was an old write up!) followed by Tony Boycott on the 12th of April.  Further banging trips by the writer, Brian Prewer and Fred Davies - with clearing sessions by most of the active Belfryites - resulted in some 10m of passable cave by the 5th of July when an open hole could be seen in the ceiling of the rift some 2m ahead.  On this trip it was noticed that the draught was now inwards.  One more bang enabled the team to reach this hole, but it could not be pushed due to awkward wedged boulders.  The first signs of lack of oxygen made themselves felt as all on this trip suffered from "bang heads".

Fred laid a further charge midweek and Snablet passed the remains of the boulders to enter 5m of decorated crawl ending in a further blockage. 1.5m of open stuff could be seen ahead and there was an encouraging echo.   After further clearing, on the 18th of July the visible end was reached and two small holes noted, through a false floor above the passage, which revealed a view into a clean washed bedding passage above.  The false floor was banged.

The following day the writer squeezed up through the resulting "Manhole" to gain a view along c.8m of open bedding passage, well decorated with small straws and helictites (now destroyed).  This could not be entered due to the writer's leg length but Steve got in by removing his wellies.  He pushed a further 3m until stopped by a low squeeze but could see a further 6-7m. The air conditions were by now particularly bad with the carbon dioxide content being very high.  Another bang by Nigel (of reduced scale in 1987!) enabled Snablet to reach the same squeeze but not pass it.  All again retreated suffering from exhaustion and headaches.

Pete Eckford banged next and after leaving the fumes to clear for a week the writer removed enough debris to pass the squeeze and crawl downdip, through another very tight section for some 6m to be confronted by what appeared to be a sump.  With breathing rate and panic both rapidly rising he retreated backwards and uphill as quickly as possible, hoping desperately not to pass out before passing the squeeze! Both he and Pete were very badly affected by the bad air and it took some time (and beer) to recover.

In an attempt to pass the supposed sump, Steve and Pat Cronin entered the CO2 filled section using diving gear and mini bottles on the 8th August 1987 but were defeated by the final squeeze and could do little but empty the contents of their three bottles to try and improve the atmosphere.

On the 14th of August yet another banging trip was made to widen the passage immediately beyond the Manhole.  The results were checked on the 12th of September by the writer and Tom Chapman who found a vast pile of gravel awaiting them.  This was cleared aside and the final squeeze passed to find that the supposed sump was actually a 3m long duck with about 15cm of airspace. With some trepidation this was pushed to emerge in 12m of small but well decorated phreatic tube ending in a flowstone blocked comer with the tell-tale echo of more passage beyond.  Sadly, the crystal pools and straws in the new section did not survive this exploration.  On this trip the air was relatively fresh so a planned bang was cancelled in the hope that all the rubble in the dig could be cleared while conditions were good.

This was carried out during two trips on the 10th of October and the 21st of November with the assistance of Cardiff University and Worcester cavers, some 20 sledge loads of spoil being dragged out and dumped at Rover Pot.  On the 19th of December the flowstone blocked comer was banged.  This was cleared and another charge fired on the 5th of January and it was now realised that the bad air problem seemed to have been resolved - probably due to passage dimensions being greater following the clearing sessions. A further charge was fired on the 23rd of January and the unpleasant 3m duck converted into a muddy grovel by Rich Payne.  The water from the duck could be heard flowing away into the distance along the 1.5m by 13cm wide rift at the end of the dig.

Next day 2m of progress was made after a clearing session and another kilo of bang fired at the end. This was found to have had very little result on the next visit on February 6th 1988, so another kilo was set off. Appropriately, on February 13th it was found that the last charge had misfired so a new detonator was attached and duly fired.  A week later half of the original bang was still in existence!  Another half kilo was added in the hope that the "Curse of Sanctimonious" had worn off.

No such luck.  On the 27th February two fresh detonators and yet another kilo were laid among the stubborn and growing pile of bang lurking at the face and the lot was fired with a very satisfying thump.  On the 16th of March the writer found to his relief that at last the place was safe but with poor results and so another kilo was evaporated.

This was checked out four days later when a visiting Wessex team came down on a "works outing". Due to foul air this was a quick trip with another kilo being fired at the end and yet another, on a separate wire, being laid on the squeeze just before the duck to make life easier on future trips.

Four more banging and clearing trips were made up to the 11th of June during which 2m of passage was gained at the end and the offending squeeze removed by Martin after chiselling away the shattered rock.  On the last of these visits Steve and Snablet surveyed the extension using a Fibron tape and Suunto compass for a length of 37m but unfortunately found the air conditions to have once more deteriorated.

Meanwhile, on the 14th of May the diggers were treated to a display of dowsing by Tony Blick of the Craven Pothole Club.  Not knowing anything about the cave he successfully traced the known passages and then followed Sanctimonious to a junction with a supposedly 5m wide passage at well over 35m depth which would appear to be the continuation of the Railway Tunnel.  He suggested that this passage descends steeply and there is water present in the form of pools or a small stream.  (Although this surmised passage was presumably not far from the current end of Hunters' Hole - time having erased the memory of its position - it fits perfectly with the Happy Hour Highway extensions in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.  At  this time of year the stream may well have been flowing).

The writer checked out the bang results on June 17th and found them wanting so returned the following week with Mark "Gonzo" Lumley to clear and fire 1½ kilos.  On the 1st July they returned to lay another kilo - the bad air making it a quick trip. Another charge was fired two weeks later and on the 22nd of July open passage was entered up to waist level! On the 13th of August this squeeze was banged and left for two weeks when the breakthrough came at last on the 27th and a 2.45m deep pot was descended into 10m of well decorated and relatively large passage ending in a low, mud choked crawl.  This was opened up to Snablet size and 6m of muddy rift entered ending in another miserable looking mud and rock choke.  The bad air here encouraged a swift exit.

The writer returned to this unpleasant spot on the 5th of September and, after stabilising the spoil heap before the last crawl using mud filled sandbags, went to the bitter end. The crawl was now half full of water and the air conditions at the end were atrocious.  A view through the fist sized hole at the end revealed either a small pool or sump a metre ahead.

In view of the extreme danger inherent in working here in the present conditions (1988) it has been decided to suspend digging over the winter months in the hope that the air improves.   There is really no hope of using bang at the end as it would prove fatal to the next party down.

So ends - hopefully temporarily - the painful saga of almost exactly eighteen months of digging and blasting.  Though all part of Sanctimonious Passage the squeeze down into the 61 metres or so of the extension now bears a metal road sign (pinched from Newtown, Mid-Wales) which is both nickname and warning to the unaware: Gas St.

(As far as I know the place hasn't been visited since - hardly surprising!  It sounds just like Mad Phil's cup of tea).

The Diggers

1968 - Alan Thomas, Colin Priddle, Keith Franklin and Phil Coles.

1985-1988 - Rich Stevenson, Steve Milner, Tony Jarratt, Martin Bishop (Pegasus CC), Mark Lumley, Pete "Snablet" Mcnab, John Chew, Happy and Viv (Royal Marines), Nigel Taylor, Tom Chapman, Robin Brown, Mike Wilson (Keynsham EG), Tony Boycott, Andy Middleton, Phil Provis, Richard Neville-Dove, Pete Hopkins, Gary Jago, Tony?, Brian Prewer, Fred Davies (WCC), Keith Bentham (Eldon PC), Steve? (EPC), Phil Romford, Alan Jeffreys (GSG), Kevin Gurner, Nick Gymer, Pat Cronin, Pete Eckford, Lisa Taylor, Andy Sparrow, Rich Stevens, Brian van Luipen, Hugh Penny, Jane and Phil (Cardiff UCC), Rich Payne, Graham Wilton-Jones, Duncan Price, Brian Gilbert, Chris Proctor (Devon SS), Graham "Jake" Johnson (WCC), Nick Pollard (WCC), Geoff Newton (WCC), Steve ?, Jon Shaw (OS) and Stuart Laing.

Acknowledgements

Shepton Mallet Caving Club for permission to reproduce the Hunters Hole survey.  (This included Stem Passage, discovered by Jim Rands and Pete Hann of the Wessex and the Sanctimonious Passage/Gas St. extension which should be taken as BCRA Grade 2 and will hopefully be resurveyed one day).


 

Meghalava 2002 - 200+ Kilometres and Ongoing!

by Tony Jarratt and Annie Audsley

" India ... it seems that there will be no caves on a world scale nor any karst features of outstanding significance. "

The Underground Atlas - Middleton & Waltham, 1986

This year's annual expedition to NE India was once again efficiently organized in the UK by Simon Brooks - even though he was unable to join the team, being demoted to the China Caves Project.  Our man on the spot, Brian Kharpran Daly, did his usual splendid job of sorting out the Meghalayan side of the trip.  The BEC was represented by Annie Audsley (on a break from a year's festering in New Zealand) Dr. Tony Boycott and your scribe.  Cavers from seven different countries, or ten if you count Wales, Scotland and Schwabia, converged on the hill state of Meghalaya at the beginning of February for several weeks of exploration, surveying and beer consumption.  It was unfortunate this year that we hadn't all bought shares in the Indian bog roll industry as great fortunes would have been made!


The first week saw two teams at work in the Garo Hills of western Meghalaya and the Cherrapunjee/Laitkynsew area of the East Khasi Hills - two hour's drive SSW of the capital, Shillong.  The Garo team had well over a day's rough drive to reach their patch, to find that food and accommodation were basic to say the least.  Over to Annie ...

It was a select team of Mark, Daniel, Peter, Lindsay, Jorg, Annie, the driver, Bud and his assistant who found ourselves in the tiny village of Asakgre following two days of rattling jeep ride, sharing a late night feast of boiled potatoes and eggs around the campfire.  We had come to recce a new area in the West Garo Hills and were now wondering what this place, hidden deep in the jungle at the very end of an old Shaktiman track, would reveal.  The next day the crowd of curious villagers who gathered around the dilapidated government Inspection Bungalow (IB) where we were staying, told us that there were indeed many caves within walking distance of the village (good start!).  The local people proved to be incredibly helpful and generous; the headman, BIen Marak, and his two brothers, Erok and Hellindro, offered to act as guides and we recruited two others to cook for us.  Throughout our stay there were always people around, bringing cooking pots, or offering such things as bananas or a remedy for a sick stomach (honey and rum - yum), or just sitting around the fire while we overcame the language barrier with bottles of beer and port.  For all of this they refused any payment; they were fantastic people.

The area around the village was one of low-lying, thickly jungled limestone hills with stream caves developing horizontally, and frequently with a maze-like confusion of criss-crossing side pasages.  Blen and his brothers showed us several small caves which they had themselves exploredfully with the aid of smoking torches. They were intrigued to come back in with us to see the passages more clearly with electric light.  These caves were surveyed quickly by us splitting into two teams and things got particularly exciting when we had to drag Mark away from surveying the lower reaches of Mendi, whish were lacking in oxygen, and when Daniel found some mermaids (?) in the streamway of Kimrang.

More extensive than these was Kholjong Cave, with a stream the size of which led Mark and Daniel to conjecture about the "longest cave in India" ... and a mass of small, dry side passages. We had fun ''finishing off' upstream; the passage which must soon close down, opening and branching into a series of deep canals and big, dry side passages.  Kholjong didn't prove to be India's longest cave however and was finished off by the time we left at 2.108 km.

Danged was the largest cave which our guides knew of and had an impressive entrance at the base of a cliff which led into a large streamway. Mark, Jorg and I set off down a canyon which branched off the main stream and soon emerged into a vast, square passage, dominated by the ''fallen megafreighter" boulder, and increasingly thick with bats.  Thousands of them flitted out past us like big furry fairies (or something).  We drew and photographed them for the record and continued onward over slimy, smelly boulders and a trickle of stream. Daniel's disembodied voice ahead led us to think that we were coming back round to the main stream but we never met up with the other team who had been stopped in their tracks at the head of two waterfalls which fell into the bat passage.  The stream disappeared into what may be ongoing (grovelly) passage and so we climbed up instead into a series of large, round and sparkly chambers but had to turn round before reaching a conclusion.  We emerged from the cave to find the guides very nervous and keen to get away, having heard wild elephants nearby.  We heard them again on the walk back but were disappointed (and Blen was relieved) not to see any.

After each day's caving we returned along jungle tracks and through the village.  My mind was considerably more blown on the first day by the sight of this settlement than it had been by running along through virgin passage underground.  Bamboo huts stood in the red earth with the occasional palm tree and dogs, pigs, goats and children ran loose among them.  On the edge of the village was a wooden festival house, carved and painted with human figures, snakes and tigers and which everyone but me (being a girl) was allowed to enter and have a look around. This was a place almost entirely untouched by the West and it was not really surprising that the children stared curiously at the aliens who had arrived in their midst with strange clothes and lights on their heads!

After four days in the Garo Hills half the team left for Shillong. Mark (to organize the new arrivals from Europe) Jorg (for rest, recuperation and a comfortable toilet) and Peter (who wanted a helicopter ride) headed for Tura and a much shorter journey to Shillong in the chopper.  Lindsay also went to Tura to get vital supplies of more port leaving Daniel and I to a much needed washing day.  The next couple of days were spent tying up loose ends and on our last day in the area Blen and his brothers took us on a long walking trip to look at various new cave entrances, a lake, some trout ("Walk quietly - there are big fish."), but sadly still no elephants.  We headed back to the IB early for our last meal of potatoes, rice and dhal and then said goodbye, leaving gifts of rum and Leathermans for the guides and promising to return next year.  We climbed back into the jeep, which by now had no shock absorbers and a failing clutch, and set off on the long, and even bumpier than before, journey to Shillong.  This was partly compensated for by the fact that I did finally see an elephant on the way back.

Your scribe, being on the "Cherra Team" was forced to stay at our friend Denis Rayen's Cherra Tourist Resort - base for last year's BEC team and overall superb spot overlooking the jungle covered escarpments of southern Meghalaya and the vast flood plains of Bangladesh below.  Our first evening was spent watching a very poor bootleg CD of "Pearl Harbor" and getting about one hour's sleep due to atrocious high volume pop music and singing emanating from the adjacent Laitkynsew village annual all night party.

Feb. 6th and 7th saw a ten person team surveying, exploring, photographing and bat studying in the Krem Soh Shympi/Rumdan system - partly explored but not mapped by last year's BEC team.  This impressive horizontal cave eventually yielded 1.428km of generally large and bat infested fossil passages but a nasty, low active streamway below was only partially surveyed and showed little promise of improving. It was while lying flat out in this particularly flood prone spot that we decided a whip round was needed to purchase new spectacles for Rob Harper and to ignore all future "It's a real goer" tips from this man.  The writer, Denis and Thomas had the job of surveying behind the advance party but due to a fortunate communications failure ended up leaving the main route and providentially climbing into 203m of superbly decorated fossil gallery ending at the lip of a 14m deep pot (Sunflower Pot - named after a matchbox thrown down to later prove a connection with the lower levels).  We had first assumed that this pot would enter the mythical enormous passage beyond Rob's streamway and had hurled huge boulders down it, not realising that it was actually an aven on the main "trade route" through the cave along which the others had recently passed!

On the 8th we had planned to visit the unique living rubber tree bridges located in the jungle below Laitkynsew and then check out a supposed resurgence at the nearby village of Mustoh.  "Nearby" is a relative term in a place where everyone lives essentially partway up a gigantic, jungle covered cliff.   Although only a few hundred metres from the Resort, Mustoh is reached either by a 40 minute jeep ride down a hairpin track or a direct walk down about 1500 sandstone steps for a vertical distance of 370 metres which takes about the same time.  As it happened we never got to see the bridges as, following a natter with the village headman, we were shown a sink cave - Krem Umjasew - about ten minutes walk from Mustoh in an adjacent dry valley.  The unprepossessing entrance was located in a heap of boulders at the side of this valley where a short climb down dropped into the head of a stunning, steeply descending bore passage which obviously takes a vast amount of water during the monsoon.  Three of us, dressed in T-shirts and light trousers, were soon knocking up the metreage while the others continued with reconnaissance of some nearby rock shelters known to be the home of a nest of King Cobras!


Prospecting in the hills of Meghalava.

After a straight line distance of some 250 metres, from where we could still see daylight from the entrance, we reached the head of a 10 metre pitch caused by a choke in the floor of the main drag where it briefly narrowed down.  This was descended on the following day and the main passage followed on down dip to a deep lake where a traverse and short ladder climb gained the far shore without too much of a wetting.  Huge wedged logs proved the power of the stream in flood conditions and prompted the appropriate name of "The Log Flume" for the main passage. Beyond the lake the cave continued in fine style with a 45 metre free climb down a sculpted rock wall - The North Face - providing great sport.  Here we temporarily lost the stream and reached another pitch - about 20 metres deep but passable with a 10 metre ladder.  Both pitches are actually more easily passed by free climbing with a traverse line, the cave being particularly well endowed with jug holds and ledges.  Beyond, the bore passage entered the ceiling of a huge, gloomy and mist filled chamber some 25 metres deep.  Bats circled in the Dantesque regions below and with hopes of returning to follow gigantic river galleries all the way to Bangladesh we headed back to the Resort to overdo it on celebrating with beer and Captain Morgan rum.  In the meantime Lump and Shelley had pushed an adjacent cave - Krem Umjasew 2 - down a series of pitches and some superbly decorated passage to emerge in the main cave at the 250 metre point.

On the 10th, feeling decidedly fragile, three of us laddered the pitch to the floor of the immense chamber where a huge sand dune and an area of massive collapse marked the apparent end of the accessible system. Martin named this The Desert of Despond. Another look around here next year, without the burden of a rum hangover, may yield a way on.  At 1.077 km long and just under 200 metres deep this system is now one of India's deepest and most sporting caves which hones one's climbing and traversing skills to perfection!  On staggering back to Mustoh village that evening we were met by Denis and Thomas bearing good and bad news.  The good news was that the chai shop was open late and a roaring bonfire had been lit but the bad news was that the jeep, parked nearby, was buggered and we had to climb up the 370m stone staircase back to the Resort!  Never again will I make a pig of myself on rum ... Meanwhile Dr. B. and Jayne had almost gotten arrested by the Border Security Force for wandering around the town of Shella, on the Bangladesh border, without passports but were let off with slapped wrists when the police realised that they were British cavers. They had been looking for possible resurgences but found nothing obvious in the difficult and jungle covered terrain around the town.

Lots of other small caves were looked at around Mustoh village and there is plenty more to do in this very pleasant area.  The locals are very friendly and helpful, especially the village youths, two of whom, Alban and Shampoo (honest!) were taken on a photography/derigging trip in Krem Umjasew and bottomed their first cave with extreme ease, being natural born cavers.  They were so good that Lump sneaked a large rock into their tackle bag to slow the buggers down a bit!

Our surveyed total in this area was 2.3 km and on the 13th we regretfully left the Resort to join up with the main team at Sutnga in the Jaintia Hills.  A stomach bug had now made it's unpleasant presence felt on both us and the Garo team and persisted throughout the expedition, getting almost everyone - including at least one of the Meghalayan lads.  A flock of hopeful looking vultures gathered daily by the roadside to check on it's progress!

At Sutnga we established ourselves in the LB (inspection bungalow) where most of the recently arrived team had already spent a couple of days, investigating leads in the Krem Umthloo system but finding little of interest.  On the 15th "Peter the Pirate", our one eyed Austrian bolting expert and I decided to attempt the climb up Shrimp Pool Aven located at the end of the main upstream passage in Umthloo.  We abseiled in via the already rigged 40m deep Krem Myrliat and soon reached our objective where, after various entertaining but futile attempts at lassoing and sky hooking ledges 5 metres up, we gave up and Peter used our Makita battery drill to put in three bolts. Technology hits Meghalayan caving! From the top, 6 metres above, a superb potholed streamway - Captain Hook's Canyon - was followed until lack of time and another 5 metre climb caused a halt. We returned next day intent on mapping a kilometre or so of horizontal stuff but were soon brought back to reality at the base of a c.l 0 metre high aven located just around the comer from our last survey point.  I partly free climbed this before handing it over to Peter and the Makita for a more professional job.  After an hour's hard work he gained the top and Fiona and I joined him at the base of yet another soaring shaft - Black Spot Aven.  A narrow chimney at one end was again bolted up by Peter to gain an airy ledge with a rift/aven at one end which our knackered bolter suggested I have a look at before we headed out for our jeep rendezvous as time was now pressing.

I managed to free climb up another 10 metres or so to reach a huge, double level chamber with routes up between massive boulders where it was easy to lose the way.  Leaves and other debris indicated a nearby entrance and, on looking up, I saw daylight at the top of an inaccessible, c.15 metre high aven.  Another daylight aven nearby seemed climbable so I summoned the others to join me for the escape attempt - later proved to have been a bad move!  A bolting/free climbing ascent of this aven was attempted but it was now dark on the surface and this, plus a large overhang put paid to the writer's efforts some 8 metres up.  We were now well overdue and decided to retreat via Krem Myrliat from whence we emerged two hours late at 9 p.m. to later meet a prospective rescue team who had just arrived at Tongseng village. After apologising all round we gratefully drank the emergency beer supplies thoughtfully provided and were driven back to the LB. for a very late meal.  Despite all this it had been a classic and enjoyable trip and we had virtually connected the main streamway entrance to this 12 km system - to provide one of the world's finest through trips - but where was this entrance?  A note typed in German and stuck on the LB. wall gave the answer.  Last year Thomas Matthalm and team had investigated two interconnected surface shafts situated near the V-shaped ancient monoliths on the footpath to Krem Myrliat but had not descended them due to lack of equipment.  This was Krem Ryman and was visited next day by Peter, me and the expedition stomach bug.  While the bug and I sought out a cosy patch of jungle Peter abseiled down one of the open pots to pass the terminal bolt of the previous day a mere 6 metres from the surface! Bugger, bugger, bugger.  Another couple of bolts and a bit of climbing would have seen us out in plenty of time - or even better; if my German had been up to scratch or I had studied Daniel's magnificent cave data book more closely, I would have realised this was the main sink and we could have explored it from the top down! Such is life.  The connecting passages and chamber, aptly named "Life is a Drama" from a slogan seen painted on a Shaktiman truck, were later surveyed and yet another entrance pot 40 metres deep found.


The v-shaped monoliths and the dolmen at Tongseng.

On the 20th Yorkshire Dave and I investigated the strongly draughting "Hairdryer Hole" situated above a different part of the Umthloo system.  Two other adjacent holes were pointed out by local woodcutter Barlis Tongseng.  They were collectively known as Krem Umtyngier and included a fourth, huge shaft which had previously been descended into Umthloo and incorrectly named Krem Moolale.  Two of the three, including the very promising Hairdryer Hole, were dug open to reveal short vertical systems becoming too tight or boulder choked and the third also became choked.  Despite this they may well be visited again in the future as they lie in a particularly interesting zone where a connection between the underlying Umthloo system and the nearby 1.820 km Krem Muid may be on the cards. Krem Muid itself may connect up with the 3.339 km long, and truly stunning, Krem Mawshun, located near the village of Leilad.  Bang will be needed in Hairdryer Hole but this has been easily obtained in the past from local quarrymen - at an inflated price but still dirt cheap compared with European prices.  It was while digging out the entrance of one of these caves that your scribe got jumped on by a 5 cm long Tiger Leech which was fortunately spotted in time (before it died of alcohol poisoning) and was pulled off by Barlis.

Meanwhile other team members had been shown and had partly surveyed the huge stream cave of Krem Liat Prah, slightly to the north east of the Umthloo area.  Fiona persuaded the writer that a low and wet inlet, mapped for some distance by her and Christophe, needed finishing off and could lead to great things.  Having ranted on about the necessity of pushing all small side passages I could hardly refuse and so found myself lying flat out in a stream after having crawled in water for 70 metres and now breathing in vast clouds of acetylene gas from Fiona's dropped spare carbide drum. Luckily the passage closed down here and we could return to the 15 metre diameter "aircraft hangar" main drag of this lengthy system - later surveyed and meticulously drawn up by Michael, whose "baby" it was, to a length of 5.954 km.  A connection with the " Shaktiman Highway" in the adjacent 1.046 km long Krem Um Im was missed by only a few metres when the explorers failed to swim a short lake, not realising that it was the same lake seen to one side of the streamway in Liat Prah!  This combined system may, in turn, connect with the previously explored Krem Labbit (0.457+ km) - itself almost joined to Krem Shynrong Labbit (5.7 km).  This theoretical system of over 13 km is itself not far from the extensive major upstream inlet passages of the 12.65 km long Umthloo system and a promising pot found by Dan and Fiona is situated directly over the missing section where Robin, Ruben and Ronnie also did extensive surface investigations.  A possible mega (or Megha) system of over 40 km is prophesied if the missing links actually exist and can be discovered.


As more caves are discovered and surveyed along the limestone ridge the picture becomes clearer and the connections more likely.  With vast, low lying areas on both sides of this ridge the extreme age of these caves becomes obvious and the writer has a pet theory that they were formed by a mighty river originating in the Himalaya to the north - possibly the proto Brahmaputra before it eroded it's way around the north west side of Meghalaya and then south to the Bay of Bengal.  The original catchment area for the ridge is now the country of Bangladesh some 1,500 metres below!  Another likely connecting cave to Umthloo was pointed out to us by a small boy and lay only 160 metres from Krem Ryman. Krem Korlooheng started with a scramble down for 15 metres to a 12 metre pitch, awkward sloping rift, 90 metres of Yorkshire style scalloped streamway and then a bloody great black hole.

Cherrypicker Pot proved to be a 42.7 metre free hang to a ledge and further 8 metre pitch - over 50 metres in all and awesomely photogenic.  Walkie-talkies were used for communication on this pitch as the echo chamber effect made ordinary speech unintelligible.  Mark used another of our toys, a petrol powered rock drill, halfway down the pot to put in a rebelay and the noise was incredible - like someone ascending the rope on a Harley-Davidson!  At the bottom a pleasant stream passage was surveyed by Lindsay and the writer for 230 metres to end at a low and squalid section which soon sumped.  Here Mark swore he saw a fish which he recognised from the previous year in Umthloo!  Our hopes for an easy way out via Krem Ryman were now dashed and once again we were late back for supper. Another "rescue party" swung into action that evening, not for us but for Yorkshire Dave, Annie and Nicola who had cocked up their jeep rendezvous point and were later found having walked several kms back towards Sutnga.  Communications are a big problem in this fairly remote area with poor roads and teams exploring different areas at the same time.  Next year we plan to take more walkie-talkies and hired satellite 'phones.  One possible problem with walkie-talkies is their use near the Bangladesh (and even the sister state of Assam) borders.

Thomas, Brian K.D. and team had meanwhile been pushing a 1.323 km long resurgence cave reported to have a resident ghost - Krem Wah Shikar.  A beautifully decorated and very roomy river passage had a variety of inlets - one of which Thomas and I explored to reach a second entrance. A picturesque grotto halfway along was named Suppliers' Chamber as both discoverers happened to coincidentally own caving shops called Bat Products!  Funny old world ... The resident ghost was obviously a bit miffed and pinched one of my socks in revenge.  Thomas placated it with the offering of a Coconut Crunchee biscuit (pronounced bisquit by Peter) and the sock later mysteriously reappeared at the LB.

This was obviously a playful and friendly wraith. In the remote and somewhat spooky Lakadong area which some of us had briefly visited last year Martin, Mark, Shelley and Dan were confronted by something else altogether.  They had set a precedent during their first week in Shillong by finding the body of a recently murdered teenager floating in a river.  In Lakadong their main aim was to descend two c.50 metre potholes located near the village and neighbouring immigrant coal miners' encampment.  Surrounded by the usual horde of curious villagers they rigged the first pot and were not unduly surprised to hear the sounds of people apparently working in the depths below.  These were obviously colliers who had entered from another, unknown entrance.  After shouting down a warning Dan abseiled into the depths to stop short of a group of at least six people at the shaft bottom. The shouted warning had been unnecessary as his new acquaintances had very obviously been dead for some time, and probably not by accident.  There was no other access to the pot.  Without getting off the rope our now thoroughly discomfited hero rapidly changed over and headed for the sweeter smelling surface to report to the locals that this reputedly 700 metre deep hole could not be bottomed due to lack of tackle!

They quickly thanked the crowd for their assistance and escaped to the tranquillity of the local LB. Two days later a second shaft which lay in the edge of the jungle some distance away was visited.  Once again this was rigged and descended and though an awesome place seemed to be ghost free.  On reaching the bottom though it was apparent that the spirits were only taking the day off as another rotting corpse met the startled explorer's eyes. Yet again a rapid retreat was made. Apparently the deceased was a local woman thief who raided nearby villages but then made the fatal error of stealing from her own people.  Justice can be simple and swift in these remote areas and a 50 metre pothole is as sure as a gun or rope to ensure that the sentence is satisfactorily carried out, with the added benefit of no body disposal problems.

Apart from these gruesome discoveries the team were surprised not to find large, horizontal galleries at the base of these pots.  More reconnaissance work needs to be done in this theoretically important area hence the authorities were not informed of the quantity of dead people found. It is most unlikely that they would be interested anyway, especially if these were the bodies of immigrant miners who seem to be regarded as a sub species of the human race.

During the expedition many more smaller caves were explored, surveyed and occasionally dug into by sad people with no mental control.  Dan and Fiona undertook more biospelaeological research in the Krem Kotsati/Umlawan system at Lumshnong and in Krem Liat Prah.  Paul continued with the ongoing video project and he, Lump and others took many still photographs, particularly of cave life and entrances for record purposes.  Daniel, Thomas, Mark and Dave wore their fingers to the bone typing data and diary notes into the indispensable computers. Ruben and Ronnie reminded us all what it was like to be young and several times almost became candidates for a Lakadong ropeless abseil trip.  Dorien mutinied after a few days and returned to Belgium to look after her sick father.  Dr. B, suffering from the after effects of a bout of pneumonia, went back to Calcutta with Jayne for a rest and did sterling work in tracking down J .K. Dey and Sons, carbide and safety lamp manufacturers.  Your scribe later met Mr. Sandip Kumar Dey and arranged for the future manufacture of brass carbide generators for the Indian and British caving markets.

With less than eleven months to go plans are already in hand for next year's trip. Brian K.D. and Gareth William were introduced to the very influential high priest of the pagan, animist "Old Religion" which is apparently still practised in the Tongseng - Shnongrim area alongside Presbyterianism.  This very knowledgeable and friendly English speaker showed us several caves, pointed out sacred caves which it was suggested we keep out of and offered to find us a camp site in the middle of the area for next year.  Most of those present will return on the slim hope of finding some " ... karst features of outstanding significance."

Seventy sites were recorded this year giving a surveyed length of 22.598 kms and putting the total Meghalayan cave length at 204.598 kms.  This article is written from the viewpoints of two BEC members and fuller accounts of other peoples' experiences will appear in Descent, the Grampian S.G. Bulletin, etc.

Participants:

Austria: Peter "the Pirate" Ludwig (LVHOO)

Belgium: Christophe Deblaere, Dorien Verboven (SPEKUL)

Germany: Jorg Dreybrodt (HADES), Michael Laumanns (SCB), Daniel Gebauer (HAG)

India: Organizer - Brian Kharpran Daly (GSG/MA), Shelley & Lindsay Diengdoh, Dale, Teddy & Ronnie Mawlong, Gareth William Lyngwa (all MA), Denis Rayen, Adora ThabaiTyler, Larsing Sukhlain, Phiban Kharumlong, Brian Khyriem, Batkupar Lyngdoh, Abraham Sangma, Alban Bakash (Mustoh village), Shampoo Rapmai (Mustoh), Sunny Lyngdoh, Baba Mawlong, Darimika Bariat, Lija and Eleanor Lyngdoh.

Ireland: Robin & Ruben Sheen (BCCC)

Switzerland: Thomas Arbenz (SNT)

Gt. Britain: (absent organizer - Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Leader - Mark Brown (SUSS), Annie Audsley (BEC/SUSS), Nicola Bayley (RFODCC), Tony Boycott (BEC/UBSS/GSG), Paul Edmunds, Dan Harries (GSO), Andy Harp (RFODCC), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Jayne Stead (GSG), Fiona Ware (GSG), "Yorkshire" Dave Hodgson (GSG), Martin "Lump" Groves (SCC), Andy Tyler

With the assistance, hospitality and support of a host of cooks, drivers, village headmen, guides, dhobi ladies, small boys, partygoers and members of the Meghalayan Adventurers' Association - especially Donboc Syiemlieh and Bung Diengdoh.  Not forgetting (an impossibility!) Maureen Diengdoh and the ever cheerful Ladies of Shillong.  Thanks also to Wells St. John's Ambulance for the donation of a Neil Robertson stretcher, now resident in Shillong and hopefully never to be used in anger.

References:

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Report of the 1992 & 1994 Expedition

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Part II - Report of the 1995, 1996 & 1997 Expeditions (both available from BAT Products)

Various articles in the BB, Descent, GSG Bulletin, International Caver, Caves & Caving, etc.


 

Club News

The Club Dinner and AGM (5th October) are rapidly approaching.  You should have received your Booking Form for the meal through the post and further AGM details are below.

During the June Working Weekend the ground was cleared for the new extension (thanks to Nigel for bringing along his mini-digger) and as mentioned in the Digging and Diving News section it is planned to extend future clean up sessions to St. Cuthbert's so bring along your caving kit for the next one.

The Ashes were retained in the annual cricket match on a hot and drunken afternoon when two innings were possible (after last year’s monsoon-like conditions).  Despite the usual deterioration in the BEC's game in the second innings (surely completely unconnected with the heavy drinking indulged in by most of the team) the BEC scraped home to win.

The Peru Expedition is off in early September and hopefully will have news to report in time for the next BB. Also off on his travels once more is Phil Rowsell who has returned to Tasmania to drive the Australians up the wall for six months.  Note for your diary, he is due to return in February 2003 - best hide, book a holiday, break a limb or die around that time.

Finally, news has also been reported that a certain Jake Baynes has been hobbling around with a stick after having been run over by his girlfriend - fill in your own punchlines about her having a crush etc .....

Hon. Sec. Report for the Club Year Oct' 2001 Sept' 2002

Well a year has passed and it is that time again when all interested parties should let it be known that they wish to help the club and serve on the committee or alternatively do you have any nominations for others that may wish to do their bit?  Any takers should let me or any other member of the committee know in good time for the AGM on October 5th 2002.  The old adage rings true "it's your club and this is your chance to have a say in its running".

There are still some tickets left for the dinner on the evening of October 5th at the Bath Arms, Cheddar where there is limited accommodation available, tickets are very reasonably priced at £ 16.50.

It was good to get back to normal after the Foot & Mouth outbreak and we have started to get things going with fulfilling our planning permission requirements regarding the extension.  My thanks to all the people who assisted on the several working weekends during the years. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the present committee for their help during the year.  An especially big vote of thanks should go to Ros Bateman who is standing down as membership secretary, over the past few years she has put in a tremendous amount of effort into the job.  It is Ros we should also thank for organising this year's dinner and thanks also to Nigel Taylor for pre-booking the venue.

On the caving front the club has seen members travelling to such places as Northern Spain, Megahalaya, Austria, Peru and the Hunters Lodge car park (congratulations to J'rat on his latest discovery).

On the whole the club is in a healthy position and I would be only too pleased, if it is the wish of the AGM, to stand again as Hon. Sec.

Vince Simmonds.


 

Treasurer's Report 2001 /2002

This year has proven to be another quiet time financially for the club.  I am happy with the way our finances have moved this year, one huge benefit (thanks to Blitz) has been our continued rates exemption.  This has allowed us to move forward financially, and has put the club on a sound footing for the future.

At the time of writing I am trying to set up our books so that we can have this year's figures audited before the AGM. This is very dependent on the goodwill of the accountant who will have only 3 weeks from the cut off date at the end of August. I will be entirely in his hands time-wise.  Hopefully if all goes well we will always have a set of books that are up to date (give or take a month).

On a different note, from the club's financial point of view there is absolutely no need to raise the membership fees this year.  I feel that the current charges are more than sufficient, and feel that we should consider lower fees for new young members under the age of 20.  These could be staged up to adult levels on a 2-year basis.

At the time of writing there is no reason to expect the rates exemption to change.  I would recommend that the club votes a modest payment into the IDMF fund as this would bolster my claim for exemption this year on the basis that we are encouraging, and financing young local people to join us and take part in our activities!

We look forward to a continued strong financial base for this club.

Mike Wilson.


 

Extracts From The Logbook.

23/3/02: Sima Tonio-Canuella ( Spain): Vince, Pete Bolt, Mike Alderton, Greg Brock, Bea Goford, Tim Lamberton, Snablet and Annette. 

500m pull through, very good cave and spectacular abseil into main passage.

2/4/02: Hazlenut Swallet: Mike (Willett) and Graham (Jake).

Repaired dams again, cleared out passage and duck of 3 years inwash, and down to the sump.  Quite wet down the 10ft pot but sump not silted, maybe diveable feet first, hand-held etc, by skinny dwarf - if none of the above found then blasting the roof off is the only option.  The sump feels deep but short and well worth a dive.

13/4/02: OFD II (Northern Lights): Neil Usher, Rob Harper, Ben Barnett and Kris Conners (Fatboys' Outing)

In via Edward's Shortcut, Shatter Pillar.  Uneventful trip - apart from Ben actually keeping up. Spent an hour or so looking for Lavender Way, reckon some bastard stole it.  Don't know where Northern Lights is, but was a nice trip anyway. 4½ hours.

25/5/02: Midcot Fissure (Tisbury, Wilts.): Vince and Roz

A trip to Wiltshire to investigate (and survey) a fissure opened up under someone's house (found while digging an extension).  Probably not looking for a new basement.

1/6/02: Ogof Draenen: Vince and Pete Bolt

Down into the Underworld (off Megadrive North) rather disappointing - narrow rift series with small stream, degenerates, too tight.  Laddered the big pitch off Indiana Highway (25m), very impressive free hang (20m).  Followed rift series down another 6m ladder (Wigmore style, tight head first take off) to the Temple of Doom. Dug choke at the end to reach stream unfortunately "we needed a mouse in scuba gear" (Pete quote) to follow it.  Upstream looked likely spot for digging but need to dye trace water to see if it re-emerges in White Arch Passage.  Another potential dig was probed at the bottom of the ladder before we made our way out. 6½ hours.

27/6/02: Eastwater ( Soho Dig): MadPhil and Alison Moody

Trip to drill more holes and bang.  Slow going. Good draught along rift!  Bang fumes caught us up in Boulder Chamber! Stream changed, goes down through Boulder Chamber, then into Ifold's and down Soho Dig!  Tired!!!

5/8/02: Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink: Adrian Hole (Tony Jarratt already there)

Trip to new extensions - found Tony watering hole in boulders with Roger's hose pipe (takes all sorts I suppose).  Went to choke and dug right-hand side.  Kept turning round to look over shoulder at large passage and thinking I had gone to Llangattock not Mendip.  Shame it lacks enough air.


 

VALE: Dave 'Pooh' Yeandle.

1951 - 2002.

by Stuart (Mac) McManus
with photographs by Martin Grass

Dave was born on the 13th June 1951 and died in a paragliding accident in Alicante, Spain on Friday 5th April 2002.  He was 50 years old.

We had known each other since we were schoolboys over 35 years ago, the things I shall always remember about Dave was his enthusiasm and commitment in all that he wanted to do. He always made you smile, as he talked about all those madcap ideas and things he got up to or things that always seemed to happen to him throughout his life.  He was always good company.  Though our lives took different paths over the years, when ever we met up we would chat about old times and also what each had been doing since we had last met and I think it was a sign of how good a friend he was as we would just continue from where we had left off.


Dave in GB, one of his last caving trips.

Dave would always recount tales of expeditions or trips he had been on with his normal matter of fact tone describing why he was at the bottom of a 50 metre pitch with water cascading on him only wearing his SRT gear and a pair of underpants whilst we would roll about laughing.

I know many people told him he should write a book about his exploits, and encouraged by us all he did complete a manuscript for a book before his untimely death.  The book has been published by the Internet book publishers - Diadem Books.  He certainly packed a lot into his 50 years.

Dave started caving in June 1967 with the Axbridge Caving Group, which like most of us in the sixties involved going down Goatchurch and Sidcot as his first taste of caving.  He was hooked, and quickly advanced onto the major caves on Mendip knocking off work from his Saturday job at Jones C a department store in Bristol) to do sump I in Swildon's.  His log book reads as a foot note to this, his best trip to date, P.S. “nearly got sacked from Jones's!”

His caving continued on both Mendip and South Wales doing all of the classics with the Axbridge C.G., though with the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 1967/68 putting a temporary stop to caving on Mendip, Dave started climbing in the Avon Gorge.  He took to climbing like all things he wanted to do, with total commitment, even his small legs did not stop him from jumping for a tree branch when he couldn't get to a hand hold, which he missed, leaving him dangling some 100 foot above the Avon Gorge!  To Dave, climbing was nearly as good as caving.  He continued to climb throughout his life returning to it seriously in the early 1990's achieving a good E2 standard, surprising quite a lot of his mates with his new found climbing skills.

His first recorded trip with the BEC was in May 1968 with a trip down to Swildon's II which followed with his first visit to Yorkshire with Alan Thomas in June, where typical of Dave he wanted to do everything, his first trip included an Alum/Long Churn exchange and Long Kin West, with Dave stating in his log that he must improve his ladder technique as the 280 foot pitch took him nearly 30 minutes to climb against Alan Thomas's 6 minutes.  It was on these first trips that his love for Yorkshire caving was formed.

Having joined the BEC in 1968 he was to acquire one of his two legendary nicknames that of the "Belfry Boy".  Dave was constantly running the gauntlet, fetching tea for the older BEC members, he didn't mind the constant shouts of "Boy more tea, Boy fetch my caving boots" his objective was to be in the BEC and progress his caving, and I think he was proud of the title "Belfry Boy".

Dave was much involved with the digging and exploration of Cuthbert's in the late 60's and early seventies he was also part of the BEC's Ahnenschacht expedition in August 1969 and the French Ariege trip in 1970.

On hearing about the caving successes of the University of Leeds Speleological Society (ULSA) Dave decided to go to Leeds to study physics.  I remember Dave coming back to Bristol after his interview at Leeds saying he thought he might have blown it, as the department head kept asking him why he had selected Leeds, and Dave said "oh its because I have heard so much about the good results obtained by the physics department" but the head kept asking about his hobbies, suspecting some ulterior motive, Dave eventually had to come clean and mentioned the dreaded C word Caving!!

They let him in and Dave went up to Leeds in 1969 and set about gaining very quickly a reputation as one of the hard men of the ULSA, he did do some physics as well. While at Leeds he was given his second and perhaps most enduring name of "Pooh" after the AA Milne character.

It was when Dave went to Leeds University in 1969 that his caving career really went in to top gear, as Geoff Yeadon put it in his tribute to Dave in Descent, “Dave's rise to the forefront of British caving in the 1970's was mercurial, one minute he suffered the indignities of being Mendip's Belfry Boy, and the next he had become one of the hard men of Leeds University (ULSA)”

Dave was involved in the new discoveries in Pippikin Pot, and at the sharp end of the notorious Langcliffe Pot.  In 1970 he was involved in the breakthrough into Gasson's series which was at the time considered one of the most serious undertakings in Britain with trips lasting over 18 hours.  His log book (July 1970) records one of these epic trips emerging from the cave at 8.00 am "off to Bernie's for some food and then the start of a long hitch back to Bristol (42 hours with 2 hours sleep followed by work on Monday proved interesting)."

In 1972 after he dived Dementor sump at the end of Langcliffe he and his carrying team were flooded in. They all came out under their own steam after 44 hours in the cave. Another Yeandle epic.

There are two permanent reminders of Dave's past caving exploits, with places named after him. One is in the Pierre St Martin in France where in 1972, Dave with such names as Wooding, Mike Boon, the Brook brother to name but a few explored an area in the cave called the Maria Dolores, to which they hoped to claim the world depth record.  Dave found what he hoped to be the pitch to take them all to great depths beneath the Pyrenees, the expected breakthrough so eagerly wanted was not to be, though his efforts were recorded on film by Sid Perou.  They named the pitch "Puits Pooh" and as Dave put it "a little bit of France will always be Puits Pooh."

The other passage named after him is in Pippikin named by Geoff Yeadon after Geoff pushed the downstream sump and broke through to a dry passage and named it "Pooh's Revenge" in recognition of Dave's efforts to make the connection between Link and Pipikin by diving some years earlier.

GB Cave. March 2002.

Dave went off to Australia several times, once overland in 1973 returning in 1975 to join a caving expedition to New Guinea, returning to the UK again in 1978 for what was to be a brief period but staying for nearly three years.  It was during this period as Dave put it, he did his best caving and diving, with trips such as upstream King Pot main drain sump, Alum pot, and the helping with the Keld Head film to name but a few.

Dave returned to Australia as a mud logger in 1980/81, where he took up his other hobbies of windsurfing, gliding as well as Himalayan trekking, which included Everest base camp.  He even apparently managed a 6000 metre peak in Wellingtons!  It was during one of Dave's slide shows that I noticed that some of the slides showed him wearing what I thought was a new design of black anorak, some of these slides had him wearing this new type of anorak high in the mountains in deep snow but the black anorak turned out to be a black plastic bin liner.  Dave as usual stating that that was all he could find after his gear had been stolen earlier in the trekking trip.  Nothing seemed to phase him at all, whatever disaster would be fall him he would just get on with it.

Dave finally returned to the UK from Australia in 1991 and settled down initially in Bristol before buying a house in Wells.  He trained as a mud engineer and travelled around all the oil fields of the Middle East, as well as the North Sea.  The 4 weeks on 4 weeks off enabling him to have money and time off to do the things that he wanted to do.  His interests though having diversified still maintained his interest in caving, as well as skiing and climbing.  The sport that was to take his full attention was paragliding.

Dave took up Paragliding with his usual enthusiasm for anything he wanted to do.  He became a very accomplished pilot obtaining his club pilot rating very early on and was a very popular member of the Avon Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club.  Dave spent quite a lot of time out in Spain, the Alps and even went to South Africa to paraglide where the weather and conditions allowed more frequent flying opportunities than here in the UK.  I know he so much enjoyed the pleasures of flying.  I had only been talking to him several days before he went out to Spain, and Dave as ever, was excited to be getting out there to do some decent flying.  The rest as they say is history.

I know that I can speak for everyone who knew him that his sudden death was a great shock to us all and his passing has left a rather large hole in all of our lives.

I would like to pass on all of our condolences to his sisters Joan, and Alison and his brother Mike, but in particularly to his mother Dorothy who I know feels the loss deeply.

 

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Sean Howe
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Tyrone Bevan
Hut Engineers: John Walsh, Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford
Floating Member: Bob Smith

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Lime Tree Formation, Lynn’s Cave, Tasmania, Australia (See article on page 29)



The Paddyfields, Nguom-Nam-Lao, Vietnam (see article, page 8)

Editorial.

Welcome to the Winter Issue. Ok, it's a bit of a cop out but due to overwork I have had neither the time to cave nor to edit the BB.  I sincerely apologise for this and can only hope to have more time this spring and summer to devote more time to editing and possibly even to caving.  In addition, due to an unfathomable technical fault I seem to be unable to access emails. I have received a number of articles recently and thus should be able to follow this issue fairly quickly with the spring issue.  If you have any news or articles please post them to me on disc - preferably in something simple such as word that the old Belfry laptop can cope with.  If you have sent articles in the last year and they have not yet appeared I can assure you that they will be in the next issue.

A way from grovelling and incompetent editors, the last few months have seen a number of events of importance, most notably the rescue of Vem Freeman from St. Cuthbert's on the 13th November following a fall down the first (lower) pitch in Maypole Series.  A six hour rescue saw him carried out via Sentry Passage and then up the stream way - whilst above the Fire Brigade pumped water away from the entrance (just before they were due to go on strike). After undergoing surgery he is now recuperating.

On a sad note it is my duty to inform you of the passing away of 'Jock' Orr a few weeks ago.  A full obituary will follow in the Spring BB.

Happier news, Tony Jarratt reports a most successful Meghalaya 2003 Expedition with a pickup truck filled with empty beer bottles.  Oh, and 25, 771.83 metres of surveyed passage, lots of new leads and an article to follow.

On a personal note I have been looking at a number of sinks and old dig sites in the Otter and Ban- Y -Gor catchment areas - anyone over this way fancy a potter near Chepstow?  There will be a short description of some sites in the next issue.


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

Before his return to Tasmania, Phil Rowsell and Alison Moody visited the far reaches of the West End to push the end of Southbank for a few more metres to another gravel-filled sump.  They plan a return in the spring (weather-permitting) if you fancy joining them.

Hazlenut Swallet.

Graham Johnson, Nick Mitchell and John Walsh have recently made a return to this interesting site in the Biddlecombe Valley to find the terminal sump has silted up. A drilling operation looks necessary, but will be made more difficult by the fact that the sump lies at the base of a small pot down which a small stream cascades onto the digger below.  A previous attempt was aborted last year when the drill did not take kindly to being held beneath the falling water and darns failed due to a lack of mud.  An umbrella has been posited as one solution!  If this seemingly short sump can be passed progress could be made at this small but hydrologically significant site somewhere ahead must lie the water both from the other sinks in the valley and possibly also those heading for St. Andrews Well from the Thrupe catchment area.

Hillgrove Swallet.

Following the discovery in September that this old dig was blocked with inwashed silt, branches etc. - to the point where the entrance was not initially visible let alone accessible, Sean Howe, Pete Hellier and Paul Brock dug out the entrance in October. According to Pete some 10 metres of dug passage at the end has also been infilled.  Whether this is the start of a new attempt to gain access to what must be extensive passages beyond and that have for nearly a century repelled all corners, from Martel onwards, remains to be seen.

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

This remarkable dig got even more unlikely around Christmas when a sump was encountered.  Rich Dolby dived it over Christmas to find it blocked - it seems to be a seasonal affair so possibly come the summer sunshine (?) it may be possible to dig it out after it dries up.  For a description of the attempts to pass it see the article on page FIVE.

Working Weekends @ The Belfry 2003

The idea of working weekends is to maintain and clean the Belfry.  This year we would also like to combine the hut maintenance with some conservation and cleaning work in St. Cuthberts Swallet, numbers permitting. Remember 2003 is the 50th anniversary of the breakthrough into this fine system. Everybody is welcome!

 

The dates for this coming year are May 3rd - 4th, July 5th - 6th and Sept 6th - 7th.

Club News

The Working Weekend of the 1st-2nd March saw the front room cleaned and repainted - further weekends are planned for the spring and summer - see page 7 for dates.

Sett would like to extend the invitation to join the 'Old Codgers' on Exmoor at the Pinkery Centre, for six nights from Tuesday 22nd April including a trip down a local lead mine.  If you are interested contact him on 01823 xxxxxx.


 

Following the Streams in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink

by Tony Jarratt

Since the breakthrough report in BB 514, work has continued at four separate dig sites despite atrociously bad air conditions.

The Hatch

Situated on the RH side of Pub Crawl just below the 2m fixed ladder.  A strong draught sometimes emanates from this originally tiny, vertical fissure which has now been blasted to body size for some 2 metres to where two wet weather inlet streams enter from updip and combine to form a steeply dipping outlet.  At least one of these emits water which sinks in an impassable bedding plane on the RH side of the standing height section of Pub Crawl just before the iron ladder.  A hosepipe test also revealed that they both carry the water which sinks in the rift below the entrance shaft.  This water is next seen pouring out of the boulder choke in the ceiling of Lower Bar Steward Passage (B.S.P.) which would indicate that there is a parallel bedding plane to Pub Crawl, or more likely an extension of the same plane, running down the NW side of B.S.P. at about the same level. Water also filters through the choke here from the field above, probably via the shallow depression SW of the new car park.  Traces of flourescein have been noted at the entry point to Happy Hour Highway (H.H.H.) where a dig has been started in the hope of bypassing the grim terminal choke in the streamway below.  There maybe an updip continuation of H.H.H. below The Hatch but work has been suspended here for the time being.

Lower Bar Steward Passage

Reached via a 7m deep shaft excavated down a boulder filled rift c.lm wide and 4m beyond the stream sink at the end of Pub Crawl.  A scaffold frame was built to stabilise the up and downstream walls of poised boulders. On the 11th October the boulder infill was finally passed to gain some 5m of open stream passage with perched and heavily calcited boulders obscuring the way on.  Whilst rearranging these, a very large chunk of the RH wall started to move and so was hastily propped up before a rapid retreat was made.  Work then commenced on blasting a route higher up the rift in order to reach this calcite covered slab from above and also to gain access to a black void between boulders which could be seen ahead.  The stream here issues from the base of the dug shaft and is the water sinking at the end of Pub Crawl.  All of this passage is aligned along a substantial fault, as is The Hatch, the stream from which enters from a boulder choke above. Alex reports slickensides, fault breccia and crushed limestone lenses from the exposed sections of this fault and is very enthusiastic about potential.  Again, blasting is being resorted to enlarge the downstream passage. On the 6th November the black void was entered and proved to be some 4m of spiky bedding plane with a c.l.5m square stream passage below and on the LH side.  Unfortunately a ruckle of loose boulders prevented access to this and the continuing bedding plane streamway beyond, but following a bang on the 6th November a return was made on the 10th, the ruckle was dropped and a mere couple of metres of passage entered to a decidedly horrific choke.  The new dig in H.H.H. above will hopefully bypass this.

Happy Hour Highway - upper

The original high level dig at the end of the fossil cave has been restarted by Trev, John W., Shaggy, Matt and others and is reported as easy and promising but long term.  The plan is to sink a 2m deep shaft through sand and collapsed ceiling slabs and tunnel under the wall.  Trev's homemade plugs and feathers have been successfully employed here for boulder splitting.  A deckchair and parasol have been installed on the "beach" below the dig!  No, don't ask .....

Happy Hour Highway - lower

After having been laboriously excavated downwards for some 4m the compacted nature of the sand and rock infill, coupled with the recent CO2 problem has driven some of the team to seek easier pickings in the upper dig.  Now that the air conditions have improved this dig has seen a considerable amount of work.  A phreatically enlarged joint is being pursued downwards in order to find a wider section which can be excavated forwards and should theoretically lie at c.4m depth from the floor of the phreatic pocket above this dig.  The wall is beginning to undercut towards the centre of the main passage above so we may nearly be there.  Work continues in the steeply dipping sand/clay infill.

Photography/Tourism etc.

Pete Glanvill and Nigel Cox enjoyed a damp photographic recording trip to the cave on the 20th October and a couple of tourist trips have been done with some of the visitors assisting with spoil clearing.

More diggers and helpers

Hugh Tucker, Elaine Johnson, Simon Moth, Sue Whitby (all A.C.G.), Rachel and Andy Smith, Mike Kelly (all Gagendor C.C.), Pete Glanvill, Nigel Cox, John Christie, Simon Flower (V.B.S.S.), Lloyd Dawes, Roger Galloway, Martin Hayes, Dan Harries, Dave Robinson, Kate Janossy, Fraser Simpson (all Grampian S.G.), Pete Golide, Matthew Butcher (S.M.C.C.).


 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - The Good and Bad News.

by Tony Jarratt and Rich Dolby

Work has continued on the lower Happy Hour Highway dig where at a depth of c.5 metres the ceiling became briefly horizontal before beginning to ascend at a shallow angle in what appeared to be one side of a phreatic tube - the left wall being composed of inwashed boulders, clay and sand with spectacular multicoloured sediment layers which will be left in situ for possible scientific evaluation at some future date.  As the dig lengthened air conditions became steadily worse.

The writer, Jake Baynes and Roger Dors became famous for a few minutes on the 27th of November when Radio Bristol broadcast an interview about the dig, cave and Pub. The interviewer was Kate Salisbury who had heard of the project from Rich Dolby and tied it in with the 30 years of Mendip A.O.N.B. celebrations.  Points West, the local TV news programme, then expressed an interest in filming the cave but on having the entrance passage described to them fortunately have so far failed to materialise.

Trevor, after putting in a lot of hard work on the upper H.H.H. dig, eventually hit solid rock at a depth of 1.8 metres and allowed it to be used as a handy spoil dump for the lower dig.  Andrew Moon, on a tourist trip, was unaware of this and started to clear it out again!

 

Our new Joint Hut Engineer making room for digging spoil in Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.  

While the writer favoured following this dig upwards towards a hoped for airspace Mark Ireland decided to dig downwards at the lowest point so work continued at these two sites in conjunction.  On the 15th of December the ascending dig had reached a length of some 5 metres from the base of the drop and the sand/clay infill now contained buried rocks which gave a hollow sound when hammered.

Next day these were removed in about ten minutes and an airspace providentially reached. Breathing conditions at the face now rapidly improved as the bad air was dispersed - despite the lack of a "howling gale".  A superb, pure white 0.3 metre high stal. column could be seen ahead with open space beyond.  Jake B. arrived and over 60 bags of spoil were removed to make the new passage accessible.  Beyond the column the ceiling sloped steeply down for c.5 metres to a wide archway with either a pool, calcite floor or black hole beneath.  The good news was that we had obviously entered the continuation of Happy Hour Highway beyond the terminal choke, the "half phreatic tube" being actually a step down in the ceiling at precisely the depth expected. To avoid destroying the column we commenced digging through soft sediment and sand on the RH side.  With this year's Digging Barrel already in the bag we didn't really need more cave until New Year's Day!  (Not that we've seen the last three .... )  This excellent morning's fun ended on a macabre note when the writer came across a pile of white ash at the base of the entrance shaft and several grinning D.B.S.S. members on the surface.  The ash turned out to be the remains of the late Dr. Rodney Pearce who discovered Rod's Pot in 1944.  He was a D.B.S.S. and ex-B.E.C. member and great character who is now keeping Frank Jones company on the long through trip to Wookey Hole.

Three clearing trips took place on the 18th/19th and 20th of December and on one of these the writer was digging alone when four festive Moles members turned up bearing a flask of mulled wine and some mince pies for his delectation!

The 22nd, 23rd and 26th of December saw four more clearing trips to open up the passage for access to what now was revealed as a relatively roomy static sump with the underwater passage descending steeply and enlarging on the LH side.  Mud cracks and drip pockets on the floor of the sump indicated that the water level may drop considerably and it did indeed fluctuate some 0.4 metres in a few days.  A set of diving gear was also carried in ready for a push by Rich Dolby on the 27th of December.  Due to Christmas excess this degenerated into another clearing session mainly in the sump pool itself - but next day Rich spent some 15 minutes underwater in zero visibility probing in vain for an outlet, all ways on being blocked by sediment banks reaching the ceiling.  This was the bad news.  Keeping to the cave theme the sump was named Drip Tray Sump.  The line and diving gear were removed.  Our only hope now is to wait for very dry weather in case the sump drains and possibly bail or pump it back into a holding pond at the end of H.H.H. above.  In the meantime work will be concentrated on gaining access to the continuation of the streamway.  The cave depth is now 50m (l50ft) the same as the bottom of the Railway Tunnel in Hunters' Hole, which now needs re-assessing in the light of these developments.

The Dive - Rich Dolby

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink, Priddy, Somerset ST5494 5012
28.12.02 DIVER: R.J. Dolby (BEC) SUPPORT: A.R. Jarratt, M. Willett (BEC)

The aim was to dive the recently discovered, static Drip Tray Sump located beyond the excavated choke at the end of the cave.  Observations made during a previous trip (26.12.02) revealed crystal clear water with a steeply descending bedding trending east, appearing to close down north and south.  Depth of visible area guesstimated at that time to be approx. six feet.

Returned to dive on 28.12.02.  Awkward entry into the sump pool (approx. three feet by four feet) necessitated some de-kitting.  Once in the water A.R.J. assisted R.J.D., passing him his bottle and line reel. The diver then descended sloping bedding to reach compacted mud floor at approx. depth of seven feet.  He belayed to a large boulder and proceeded to explore in zero visibility.  Moving in an easterly direction the diver soon felt the low roof descending to meet the mud floor.  He then moved north following the roof/floor for a short distance, the route became too tight and the diver sensing that he was very near the surface. Reversing past the belay he continued to probe the roof/floor junction in a southerly direction. Eventually his feet broke the surface thus terminating the initial search.  He returned to the belay and surfaced to swap observations and jokes with A.R.J and M.W.  Entertaining banter did little to conceal the disappointment of all present.  A second dive to investigate the area above the roof/floor junction revealed no possible ways on.

Dive time: 15 minutes. Line removed after dive.

Many thanks to A.RJ. and M.W. for assistance and Roger Dors back at the Centre of the Universe (Hunters' Lodge Inn) for some excellent post-dive Hook Norton!

There are indications that this sump may be lower or even drain completely in dry weather to enable digging to take place.

More diggers, visitors and assistants

Tom Clayton (West Midlands e.E.G.), Kate Salisbury (Radio Bristol), John Wilson, Steve Stean, Jim Lee, Mark Edwards, Neville Roberts, Alan Richards and Dave Bradeley (all Moles e.G.), Norman Wright, Dave Warman, Tom Stem, Richard Crane, Andrew Moon and Steve Turner (all Wells/Glastonbury Tuesday nighters), Estelle Sandford, the late Rod Pearce (U.B.S.S. and ex-B.E.C.), Kyle Otton, Julie Bevan (Frome C.e.), Vince Simmonds.


 

Vietnam 2001 Caving Expedition

by Peter "Snablet" McNab
with photographs by Paul Ibberson and Howard Limbert

Our jeeps drove around the bend in the valley, and before us a 40m wide 30m high entrance yawned out of a cliff, half a kilometre in front.  Excitement broke out in our jeep, we got the giggles.  It had been two years since we'd caved in Vietnam and we were chomping at the bit.  We drove off the road and headed across the fields for the opening, a small river separating us from the entrance.  We posed for photos on a rickety suspension bridge a mere 100m in front of the entrance.  An amazing amount of self control was exhibited and held us back from committing the mortal sin; running in and grabbing the first few hundred metres (just to see if it goes).  However, in this part of the world, permission had to be sought first. Howard and Deb headed for a border post 500m away to seek to announce our arrival and produce our carteblanche-go-anywhere-and-everywhere permission sheets.  We started getting a GPS fix when we noticed the large sign, written in English "Restricted Area No Trespass".  A closer look at the area surrounding the entrance revealed gun placements, army barracks and some bemused soldiers.  We had been completely blinded by our enthusiasm to get underground and not noticed the sensitive nature of our surroundings.  We quickly put the GPS and cameras away.

A summons to the border post found Howard and Deb being politely told that we needed further permissions from the Province's military HQ to cave within 4km of the Chinese border. Within 24 hours we were back defiantly brandishing further permissions, we smugly handed them across the table to the border post's C.O.  He proceeded to cut us back down to size, by pointing out a bracketed sub-clause "except sensitive areas".  Anywhere with in 4km of the Chinese border was classed as sensitive.  We left with our tails between our legs, accepting that it was probably pushing it a bit to expect to get into that particular entrance. We did not know that this was the first of many such bureaucratic red tape tangles in Ha Giang.

The 2001 Vietnam expedition was comprised of three parts; the first two weeks were spent reconnoitring the mountainous province of Ha Giang.  Ha Giang is the northernmost province of Vietnam. Permissions to cave in Ha Giang have proved difficult to obtain in the past, both Italian and Australian caving expeditions were kicked out.  The second two weeks concentrated on the adjacent province of Cao Bang.  We continued the reconnaissance work of the 95/97/99 expeditions, with a few excursions into neighbouring Long Son province.  The final two weeks were spent in central Vietnam in the densely forested mountains of Quang Binh, the scene of the 90/92/94/97/99 expeditions.  We had a strong team from the UK, Vietnam and Tasmania; Howard & Deb Limbert, Paul Ibberson, Martin Holroyd, Mick Nunwick, John Palmer, Duncan Morrison, Martin Colledge, Nick Jones, Trevor Wailes and Pete MacNab. From Hanoi University; Mr. Hieu, Dr. Phai, Dr. Bac, Mrs.Flower, Prof. My, Mr. Mau and Dr. Na. Jeeps and drivers were hired to ferry us about in the north. Accommodation comprised of government guest houses, committee rooms, occasional hotels as well as the obligatory cave entrances.

Ha Giang Province Reconnaissance

Meo Vac is the town the Pogues wrote a song about, except the gas works has been substituted for aggregate quarries.  However, once away from the dust, the surrounding area is jammed packed with gob-smacking cone karst, reaching to altitudes of 2000m.  The Meo Vac massif oozes deep cave potential, it's like the Picos moved to the Tropics.  The area had been visited by Italian cavers a few years earlier.  Unfortunately, they tried to explore the area without seeking the relevant permissions.  This is a big no-no in Vietnam, and the Italians were escorted from the premises. They did, however, manage to assess some of the area's potential by going -528m deep in the first cave they went to (Tar LunglBasta Noodles).  Prof. My told us that the Italian cave had ended in a river which needed ropes to cross, and as the Italians were still persona non grata with the local committee, and the NCC 's reputation for grabbing to uphold, we thought we had better check it out.

The Italian Job 2

Whilst the first team rigged their way into Ta lung (The Italian Job) local Hmong farmers told us of another long drop nearby.  Duncan, Martin C. and myself went to check it out.  We were shown to a Rowten Pot like entrance, and told the Italians had been a short way down a ladder.  We followed a small rift to a balcony, thus avoiding the loose edges to this imposing shaft.  A Y hang banged in, we dropped the shaft.  After 20m we passed the limit of the Italians descent (chiselled into the Wall).  30m down, a well placed deviation pulled us into the middle of a 50m diameter chamber with the floor 75m below.  At this point of the descent Duncan looked at the state of our rope and went a strange shade of white.  We knew we were caving on the expedition dog ends, as the new shiny ropes had gone down the -528m cave.  The rope was from the 1993 Dachstein expedition and was showing signs of wear. To make matters worse, a knot change 50m off the deck was required to bottom the shaft.  Unfortunately, the way on was not as exciting as the 105m entrance pitch.  After the initial impressive chamber the cave choked with boulders.

The Italian Job 1

We picked up the rigging and surveying of the Italian job at around -250m.  Mick and Dunc armed with a Bosch made quick work of the very loose 110m pitch, whilst Martin C and myself surveyed our way down, desperately trying not to kill the two lads below.  Rocks dropped from -200m would not land until -450m, (by that time they had a few friends with them).  Disaster struck part way down the next pitch - the driver broke!  "Only one thing we can do now" exclaimed Mick, three of us started packing bags whilst conjuring up images of drinking cold beer in the sun.  Our dreams were soon dashed as Mick started rigging the remaining 160m of pitches on naturals.  We eventually arrived at some horizontal development (-500m), our nerves slightly frayed.  A long narrow rift was followed, unfortunately as yet no sign of the reported raging river.  We eventually found another shaft, with Italian graffiti on the wall.  This pitch definitely needed a bolt placement to continue. We exited the cave very carefully, leaving the glory for the next team.  The following day the next team re-rigged the lower section of the cave on to bolts with a new and shiny driver.  They quickly made their way down the last pitch, only to discover the cave silted up at 530m deep/800m long.  The raging river was actually in another province, but the description somehow got lost in the translation from Italian to English, English to Vietnamese, Vietnamese back to English.  The cave was quickly de-tackled, but not without incident; Martin C was hit by a rockfall, dislodged by hauling tackle bags.  The tackle bag sized boulder broke Martins helmet and he suffered quite serious concussion for well over a week.  Surface reece's of the Meo Vac area produced lots of entrances with clouds coming out of them, unfortunately they were accompanied by kilometres of red tape.  We decided to move on to the Dong Van area.

Hang Lo La Phin

Whist carrying out a recce in the Dong Van area, we happened to pass an interesting looking sink. Consultation with a passing villager indicated that there was no cave in the depression.  There was no cave, so our secret police escort allowed us to go and have a look. Two minutes later we were back at the jeep, arming ourselves with wheel jacks and hammers.  Our first Vietnamese surface dig!  Half an hour of frantic digging and we were in, a ladder was soon dispatched down the first pitch.  This revealed further pitches.  We dropped the next 20m pitch into a steeply descending passage which followed down several awkward climbs to the head of an impressive shaft series.  We had time to drop the first pitch of the series, before surveying and de-tackling our way out.  The cave was -100m deep and storming off into the distance, unfortunately our helpful secret police man refused us permission to return the following day.  We spat the dummy, "Cao Bang here we come".

Cao Bang Province – Scratching a two year itch

Caving in Cao Bang was a totally different kettle of fish.  The caves were plentiful, easily accessible and we had carte blanche permission. The carpet bangs were open.  It didn't take us long to form the "Kilometre a day club."  However the club was only short lived and had to be replaced with the "Mile a day club."  The first on the 2001 list was Trach Kahn.  During the 1999 expedition, the team had driven past this area on their return journey to Hanoi. They spotted a few roadside caves and the nearer of these received some cursory investigations (500m of survey notes were recorded in the back pages of Paul's novel).  The team then continued the journey (now pushed for time).  The road continued next to a sizeable river, then sunk under an outcrop, a big echo and no time.  10km further, the road skirted around the top of a large gorge, 200m below a blue-green river issued from beneath a cliff.  The resurgence for the earlier sink, maybe?  The excitement rose to fever pitch when the teams' gaze fell upon a 50m diameter phreatic tunnel, winking at them from across the gorge. This entrance (Hang A) was about 150m above the steam entrance, and the subject of much beery bullshit and anticipation for the following two years.

Hang Two Years Later

Two teams rushed into the sink anticipating caverns measureless, whilst the third team ( Vietnam virgins) went for a recce with a local snake collector to another sink, Pac Lung.  We entered the big sink through some high level fossil maze, a race ensued to survey a route down to a streamway.  A short ladder pitch was found down into swimming passage, which continued in a series of sporting rapids to a sump.  With the cave struggling to reach 600m long, we were a bit dismayed that the big lead for two years had been "Ghar Paraued".  However the Viet virgins carne back over the hill with smug grins, 1km surveyed to a river passage.  Pac Lung was eventually surveyed to over 3km.

Hang A

The first team to go to the resurgence cave was dismayed to find out that it was located just over the border in Long Son province.  However, they were allowed a quick look inside to check if it went.  They quickly surveyed a kilometre (just to confirm that it went) and found a lower and easier entrance.  Mr. Bac then travelled to Long Son city to negotiate the various permissions.  A few days later with all permissions granted, the cave was on the move again. It was extended to 3km and contained a really sporting streamway, loads of cascades and loads of fun.  Unfortunately the stream sumped, leaving an 8km gap between Hang A and Pac Lung (the upstream sink).  This will be one of the projects for 2003.

Nguom Nam Lao

Our driver pulled off the road and we proceeded to bump and bounce our way along a dirt track.  We (JP, MN, PM, & Hieu) hoped we could get to the first sink on our planned walk (recce) back to base via several sinks shown on our map.  Corning up over a col, our jeep lost traction and slid back down.  Several half-hearted attempts, revs screaming and wheels spinning later, our driver gave up.  With our walk considerably extended, we marched off in search of the first sink. With a few pointers from local farmers we found our first objective. Nguom Nap Biu turned out to be 1/2 km of easy stream passage to a large sump.  We returned to the nearby village to ask if there were any more disappearing rivers.  There were! 

 

The author in Nguom Nam Lao

We were given excellent directions ('follow this river') and so set off on our way.  An hour's walk down valley, we followed the stream through some paddy fields to a large cliff where the stream disappeared into the undergrowth.  We thrashed through the undergrowth, to find a 40m x 10m passage leading into the darkness, Nguom Nam Lao.  After an initial false start, where we followed the stream into an impenetrable rift, we eventually located the 20m x 20m borehole next to it.  The main passage was followed for some distance to a junction.  The right hand passage was obviously the active passage, with a very strong draught, but stooping.  The left hand passage had a slight draught, flat sandy floor, and was walking size. We took the left which led through one of the most beautifully decorated passages we found on the expedition.  We were stopped by a small tube at the top of a large stal boss which dropped 4m into a blue stream below, the draught howled through the tube.  Back at the junction, the right hand passage led through a series of low stoops and crawls. We sent Hieu ahead to check that the passage went, while we surveyed the awkward section.  That was the last we saw of "grabber" Hieu for the next two hours.  We eventually intersected a massive passage leading both ways, and no sign of Hieu. We left a cairn of tackle bags and a note for Hieu to wait for us and then proceeded to survey the huge passage. Up dip ended in a gour choke, down dip was explored along a "Time Machine" like passage until we heard shouts from Hieu.  We abandoned the survey and rushed to his aid.  Hieu appeared from a crawl under some boulders in the floor of the massive passage, shouting exuberantly that it was still going.  Sceptical about the location where Hieu had reappeared, we had a ten minute look to confirm the passage was indeed still going with a howling draught and a storming passage.  We had surveyed just over a mile of cave, now time and light were rapidly running into short supply, and so we made a sharp exit.  Our idea of walking back cross-country via several sinks was abandoned due to dwindling daylight.  We resigned ourselves to the 10km walk back along the dirt track, followed by much the same along the road.  We stopped once only at a wayside inn to drink the bar dry (an easy feat, as they only stocked two bottles of beer and a coke).  Our excellent day of caving was topped off when we met our driver and jeep waiting at the col for us, with fresh doughnuts and sugarcane.


Flash Bang Hall, Nguom Nam Lao

The next day we got the jeep to within 400m of Nguom Nam Lao, and continued our exploration. First on the agenda was the pitch down to the blue stream.  MH, HL, PI, and DH accompanied us to the pitch, to photograph the preceding passage. They then continued further along the valley checking out other caves with Hieu.  We dropped the pitch and crawled along some squalid stream passage, to some low ducks (un-entered).  Above was a high level passage, but it all choked.  Back at the pitch, a dry passage led off, eventually reaching a chamber with several leads.  Following the main passage we continued through a stal squeeze into more walking passage to a further crawl to daylight.  The exit of the cave was being used by water buffalo to shade from the sun. We returned through the cave back to Hieu' s lead from the previous day.  After the initial 100m of choked passage we entered a phreatic tunnel, which went and went.  After a kilometre or so, a side passage was encountered, from which the sound of a river could be heard.  We continued along our tunnel to a breakdown, through which daylight could be reached. We exited the cave next to a large resurgence.  A river wound its way through the paddy fields and tower karst towards more limestone cliffs.  There were also some official looking buildings just the other side of the paddies, and so we kept a very low profile and didn't venture far from the cave.  We had no translator or papers with us, as well as no idea where we were, our maps stopped 5km short of the Nguom Nam Lao entrance.  The availability of the next map was restricted, as it mainly showed China.  We returned to the cave and headed to the river passage.  Downstream led thunderously to the resurgence sump, upstream was followed to a fast flowing swim, we abandoned our exploration due to lack of wetsuits.  As the weather became unsettled, the road became impassable for our jeeps.  We turned our attention to sinks nearer the road as time ran out for Nguom Nam Lao (next year's lead).



The Nguon Nam Lao Streamway

A week or so later we were conducting a jeep recce en route to the next area, asking at every village whether they knew of any caves.  We came across some commune party offices which seemed vaguely familiar.  We were at the resurgence of Nguom Nam Lao. Arrangements were made for us to stay for a couple of nights, but a courtesy visit to the local army base was required.  We drove the 2km down the valley, excitedly tracking our river, until we reached the barracks.  Permissions were granted for Nguom Nam Lao, but unfortunately they were unable to provide us with permission for the massive river sink 1/2 km further on as it was in China.  We split into two teams to finish off Nguom Nam Lao.  The strong swimmers (PI, NJ, DM) continued the exploration of the main river, and pushed it through some exciting passage to a sump, whilst HL, DL, and PM continued with the massive passage, which eventually choked, and then finished off the other remaining leads.  With everything tied up and concluded, we had just enough time to survey a cave the locals had called the most beautiful cave in the world (Nguom Nam Lien).  We went in with full photographic fire power, and were dismayed to find a Burrington shite hole.  Photos, of course, had to be taken so that the villagers wouldn't lose face.

Nguom Nam Nam

On route to a resurgence which was prominently marked on our map, we stopped at the commune office for a courtesy call to show our papers.  We were somewhat distressed to be presented with rice schnapps "cyclos" (sickloads).  A few down in-ones with the rice wine is the last thing you want for breakfast.  It soon became apparent that these dubious lads were not your dedicated card carrying party members, but would be more at home in the Mafia.  Eventually we set off for the resurgence "Nguom Nam Nam", along with our newly employed guides.  We drove to within 5 km of the cave, then set off on foot across the paddy fields in the direction of some cone karst.  We were starting to get fed up with our dawdling drunken guides whom we were having to wait for every five minutes.  About half way to the cave, our three guides, who had now been joined by five of their mates, decided they would go on strike until we paid all eight of them four times the agreed rate or they wouldn't show us the way to the cave.  A few small flaws in their blackmail technique gave us the best poker hand in this industrial dispute.  Firstly, we could see where the cave was on our map, secondly we could see a river up ahead, with a well worn path leading to it, and finally (the real clincher) we could see a bloody big entrance in the distance.  The guides plus extras were duly sacked, and Dr. Bac informed them in no uncertain terms that they were not entitled to severance pay. The drunks did not, however, take kindly to redundancy, and we suffered a hail of abuse and stones for the rest of the route to the cave.

Nguom Nam Nam entrance was partially walled up.  Mr. Bac informed us it was an ancient fortification dating back to a ruling Vietnamese dynasty in the fifteenth century.  The cave entrance had also been used as a refuge when the invading Chinese Red Army burnt and destroyed the northern provinces of Vietnam in the border war of 1978.  A traverse dropped down to the river, wound its way through a large rift passage.  A series of wades and short swims eventually led to a boulder collapse and an open depression.  A short bash through the undergrowth found us in the continuation of the river cave. The passage regained its grand dimensions and bored its way into the hillside.  The passage split in two, a long deep canal glooped its way to a sump, whilst the draught whistled over a boulder slope and disappeared up a twenty foot aven.

A large sink was marked on the map further along the hillside, Nguom Nam Nam, was heading straight for it.  We decided to pay the sink a visit.  The river sink was partially dammed and contained a small hydro electric plant (made out of a bicycle).  We followed the stream into an immediate swim, which rapidly led to a sump (the other end of the canal).  However, a dry passage led off and eventually reached a large chamber.  At one end of the chamber, a large boulder choke was climbed to a twenty foot pitch - this was the connection point.  At the other end of the chamber, a complicated route through boulders led to another entrance.  We tied up all the remaining side passages and photographed the system. Whilst photographing the main chamber, Trevor had a lucky escape when the large flash bulb he was holding exploded. The chamber gained the name "Flash Bang Hall".

Lang Son Province - Just in passing

Hang Ban San ( Kawasaki Cave)

We departed from the Hang Ban Sein team, and headed up over the col towards Ban San.  MN DL and PM consulted the map.  It showed a river flowing into the cliff just over the hill; however, it also showed the province boundary running along the top of the hill. We asked Hieu if he was sure it was OK to go to Ban San, "No problem", came the reply.  On entering the valley, a review of the lie of the land looked promising, rivers running off non limestone hills straight to the base of a 100m limestone cliff.  We paid a courtesy call to the local police outpost.  Our luck was in, only the deputy was at home, he did ask to see our permits and allowed us to go to the cave.  Our permits were for Cao Bang province and the visit to the outpost had confirmed our suspicions that we were now in Lang Son.  However, it wasn't until we started surveying and wrote down the cave's address, that Hieu realised in horror we were in the wrong province.  He let us go in to check it out, but 1½ hours only, whilst he went back to explain the mistake.


After the initial scramble through boulders we popped out into a large stream passage.  We surveyed along the easy going flat gravel floored streamway.  The cave was pleasant and easy going, and we were making good time as every survey leg was 50m long.  The cave then started to look like it was going to sump, luckily we found a route through, "A duck without a bicycle pump up its arse".  The low air space was named because all the other ducks we had seen that week, had been in the restaurant causing a racket whilst being injected with a marinade.  The stream (river) passage enlarged to a grander scale, side passages lead off here and there.  A massive passage was encountered on the right, and we decided to explore it because it would be quicker than following the stream (we were very conscious of our time restraints).  We strolled along the flat sandy floored fossil passage (Bowling Green) surveyed our way in and out of the stal columns and eventually intersected the stream passage again, a similar passage was surveyed on the other side of the stream. We still had just about enough time to continue surveying downstream for a short distance.  The passage dropped to a low wide stoop with a howling draught blowing in our face.  We eventually stopped the survey at an obvious junction, with passage storming off into the distance.  A quick exit was made, but we managed to find time for a few photographs.  We had a successful trip exploring, surveying and photographing a mile of cave in 1½ hours.  The passage was so easy going that Mick is going to take his motorbike down it on the next trip.

Hang Trau

Whilst exploring Hang A, the village president informed us of a couple of other small caves in the valley. Out of politeness we thought it our duty to check them out.  First to be investigated was Hang Trau (cattle cave).  Its entrance is used as a cool cow shed in the summer heat, hence the name.  A short distance in, a climb ended the cattle’s forays into the phreatic tunnel passage.  The main way on eventually choked after a couple of hundred metres . Two passages led off the main route, the first we entered led down to a deep canal.  Hieu, keen to show off his new found swimming prowess, dived in with the survey tape, proceeded to swim to the middle of the pool, and with the buoyancy of a brick promptly disappeared from sight.  Deb dived in to the rescue, and pulled a gurgling and distressed Hieu from the pool.  After this little incident we decided to look for a dry bypass to "Drowning by Numbers".  A small draughting crawl was located, allowing safe access to the far side of the canal, which eventually led to a sump.

Hang Goi

Next on the agenda was Hang Goi (wind cave).  The entrance is located in a small thicket behind a villager's very steep vegetable patch. Half way up the 1:3 allotment the temperature dramatically dropped, and we continued up and on to find a low crawl from which issued a wicked draught.  The cave took it's time to grow in stature, crawl followed by low stoop, back to crawling then yet more stooping.  The draught, however, kept drawing us in.  Eventually, on intersecting a canyon, we gained passage dimensions worthy of a Vietnamese cave.  We followed the up-stream canyon noting several leads on both sides of the passage. The cave yet again changed character as we dropped into a stream passage. We followed upstream to a waterfall issuing from the roof.  A by-pass was soon discovered, so we continued our way up a series of climbs and shower baths.  Shorts and T-shirts were not the ideal caving kit for climbing up shower baths in an air-conditioned cave, so imagine our relief when we reached a 15m un-climbable waterfall.  A quick exit was made before the onset of hypothermia.  Returning the following day to check out the side passages, we dropped down the canyon and followed the passage through a complex series of tunnels and tubes, eventually ending in a draughting canal.  With the previous day's incident fresh in our minds, we left the swim for a future trip armed with wetsuits.  Our public relations exercise into a small hopeless looking limestone hillock had revealed nearly 2.5km as well as entertaining the villagers.

Quane Binh Province - Welcome to the jungle

The final fortnight of the expedition, a small team (HL, DL, DM, and PM) spent their time tidying up loose ends around Hang Khe Ry (the top sink to the Phong Nha hydrological system). Our base for ten days was a cobble island within the upstream entrance of Hang En, located 400m upstream from the Hang Khe Ry resurgence.  The 1999 expedition explored Hang Khe Ry to over 18 Km, encapsulating three major sinks. However there were still some interesting question marks, namely; where did the river in the fourth river sink go? What were the entrances seen in cliffs above the upstream Hang En Valley? Also, the 1994 Hang En exploration team was pushed for time, therefore missed the resurgence to Khe Ry, what else did they miss?



The route to base camp in Hang En was always an expedition in itself.  Our Vietnamese friends from Hanoi University and Dong Hoi Peoples' Committee had done us proud.  Our transport for the trip along the Ho Chi Minh trail to kilometer 14, was to be all singing and dancing 4x4 Vietnamese army jeeps with air-con and cushioned seats. (They must think we are getting soft). We normally travel on the top of a loaded six-wheeled rattan lorry, getting thrown around/out by metre deep potholes (bomb craters) whilst being dragged backwards through the jungle canopy. If that wasn't exciting enough, the contents of the jungle canopy are shaken into the back of the truck to share the ride (a snake landing in your lap can be a bit unsettling).  Our friends from Son Trach Peoples' Committee provided us with a guide, a committee man, and some willing porters to get the gear the day's walk from the Ho Chi Minh trail to Hang En. Best laid plans and all that, a US helicopter looking for MIA remains proceeded to fly into a limestone mountain (the US maps always did confuse ridges with valleys).  Needless to say, our all singing and dancing jeep had more of a pressing engagement ferrying US and Vietnamese military to the disaster zone. We caught a lift in the back of a bone shaker quarry wagon, allowing us to brush up on our Vietnamese flora and fauna. We were also wondering why our porters had such smug grins, with the prospect of an 8 to 10 hour carry through the forest ahead of them.  On approaching kilo 14, we prepared ourselves for demounting, but the truck just thundered on.  Ahead of us, as far as the eye could see, a swathe had been cut through the forest. A partially constructed dual carriageway bordered by workers and shanty towns, now occupied the once remote forest. Streamways and rivers (feeders for the Phong Nanh system) two years previously had provided welcome refreshment from the humidity of the forest, now ran red with spoil as the bulldozers used them as self emptying spoil heaps. Another rainforest bites the dust. Not content with our carry to Hang En now only taking 2 to 3 hours we proceeded to get lost for a few hours - caving in Quang Binh would be the same if you didn't have a long walk in.

Hang Ca

Whilst ridding himself of guano and sweat, after a disappointing investigation of the innermost recesses of Hang En, Duncan noticed that the water on the left side of the Hang En river was several degrees colder than the right.  Further investigation was needed, and wetsuit and gloves were put on to provide protection from the cold water and the poisonous plants that adorn the river banks.  We waded chest-deep upstream for 500m to the base of a cliff.  It was like a scene out of "Apocalypse Now".  Huge house-sized boulders concealed a crystal blue lake, large fish darted in and out of the shadows.  We had found the source of our cold water, we called the resurgence Hang Ca ( Fish Cave).  The phreatic river passage was out of our depth for all but 20m of the 300m cave. The passage was a series of lake chambers/tunnels interspersed with low, gloopy, sumpy regions, the cave ended unsurprisingly in a large sump.  We concluded that Hang Ca was probably the resurgence to the fourth sink.

Hang Doi

A chance meeting with a group of woodcutters camped in the other entrance of Hang En, provided us with a few leads high on the plateau.  The three lads told us they were going to camp for three nights in a Hang Ho ( Tiger Cave) and would pass Hang Doi (bat cave).  They agreed to show us Hang Doi, after they had finished their breakfast.  Breakfast was caught by waving a 3m stick through the air.  It consisted of swiftlets, plucked, then barbecued alive, and we politely declined the offer to tuck in.  The route to the top of the plateau led past the exit of Hang Khe Ry, followed by a steep scramble up a 100m cliff.  However, the route turned out to be a bit more severe than we expected, rickety ladders and vines were rigged on the VDiff. climbs traversing above Khe Ry's 50m high entrance.  An executive decision was quickly made - we needed ropes and harnesses to continue safely.  Duncan (being a climbing instructor) was not phased by the climbs, although he did free climb next to the fixed aids to be on the safe side.  He continued on with the woodcutters to check out the cave - it was miles away, over rough terrain and dense jungle.  Meanwhile, we checked out the river sink, it didn't go, but it did provide some entertaining route finding through an immense boulder ruckle with a full-on river churning through it.

We returned to the climbs and awaited Duncan's return.  He showed up just before dark, minus one penknife and torch which he traded in exchange for being taken back to the climbs.  We returned a few days later with harnesses, ropes and survey gear to conclude Hang Doi.

After our success with locating Hang Ca by the cold water detection method, we decided to try our luck further upstream.  Whilst drawing up surveys in previous years, we had noticed that the caves in this area followed lines of the major surface depressions; our map showed just such a line of depressions about 1 km upstream.  This needed to be checked out.  The vegetation in the valley floor upstream is secondary growth, thus the terrain is difficult to negotiate other than on woodcutters' paths or wading in the river. Limestone cliffs pen in the river, into a 300m wide flood plain.  Multiple oxbows and tributaries allowed us to skirt the edges of the cliffs in search of resurgences.  Our luck was holding, we detected another very cold water course and followed it for several hundred metres, until a wall of forest descended into our stream.  We now needed a machete to continue with this lead, and to gain access to a couple of visible entrances high on valley walls. The next day two porters, Mr Oih and Mr Nha, were dispatched to a Hmong tribe village, a couple of hours back towards Son Trach.  On return, they would blaze a trail to the two entrances high on the valley wall (unfortunately, both soon closed down).

Hang Lanh

Whilst proceedings had stopped due to lack of large cutting implements, we decided to go and check out the further upstream of the Hang En valley.  Our maps showed the river disappearing for 400m.  Along our way, whilst travelling in the river, we encountered twelve bemused woodcutters.  We introduced ourselves, Deb tried to explain what we were doing, and that we were looking for caves.  To which, they said, there was a cave 100m from here, but it will cost us.  Twelve of Howard's cigarettes later saw us standing in a freezing cold stream issuing from beneath a big boulder pile.  Closer examination revealed a small, insignificant entrance leading to large, significant cave passage.  The cave was known as Hang Lanh (cold cave) a source of fish and fresh water.  Hang Lanh was about 200m upstream from where the forest had stopped our passage the previous day, it also coincided with the line of depressions shown on our map.

We surveyed our way into Hang Lanh, through some beautiful river cave.  Our pace was occasionally broken by deep wading or short swims across turquoise pools.  It was sometimes difficult to determine the width of the passage we were traversing. The passage walls kept disappearing up huge slopes for 60 or 70m.  Many a time the survey was marked as a large side passage leading off, only to find later it was in fact just the passage wall.  The cave was liberally adorned with large, tropical stal.  Fossils of sand dollars covered the scalloped walls of one section of passage.  One of the most striking features of Hang Lanh was undoubtedly its gours - there are many huge gours coming into the streamway along its course.  We ended our first day's exploration by one such 20m high gour, and left the cave giggling wrecks, with 2km in the book.

With an early start and high spirits we began our second day's exploration of Hang Lanh.  First, we climbed the 20m gour using a human pyramid and the survey tape as hand line.  The passage at the top was big and led to a large aven.  It continued on, eventually leading back to the main stream. This was somewhat of a relief to us, as the prospect of a 20m abseil on a fibron tape measure was a bit daunting. We continued exploration and surveying up stream, constantly checking out possible side passages as we went. The cave continued to grow in size, with a very nicely shaped stream passage.  The steam eventually divided; we explored the left hand route first as it took the majority of the water.  We ran along a square passage, until some wades with low-ish air space were reached.  Nerves were a bit on edge on the far side of the wade.  Nobody wanted a repeat of the Hang Tien incident, when Trevor and Cal were trapped for 57 hours by a flash flood from Laos.  We were, after all, exploring one of the resurgences of Hang Tien, on Friday the 13th of all days.  Not hanging around, we continued surveying along the passage into a breakdown area. A climb through a loose boulder choke was eventually abandoned (Where Grabbers Fear to Tread').  The right hand passage was then explored.  This led to a complicated area of passages on three levels, the most spectacular of which was a 30m wide flat-floored oxbow, with a 15m high totem pole in the middle of it.  Another large chamber above contained rocket-like stal, but unfortunately reached the same conclusion as the streamway and choked.  We'd added another 2.7km into the book, and all that remained was to photograph our way out of this spectacular cave.


The Streamway. Nguom Nam Lao.


Results

 

CAVE NAME

DISTRICT PROVINCE

VERT

LENGTH

 

 

 

 

RANGE

 

Hang Phuong Tien

Vi Xuyen

Ha Giang

    (-6,10) 16

298

Hang Na Hau

Ha Giang

Ha Giang

-

90

Italian Job - The Sequel

Meo Vac,

Ha Giang

-122

136

Hang Ta Lung

Dong Van

Ha Giang

50.2

636

Pia Lung Xa

Meo Vac

Ha Giang

-75

157

Lo La Phin

Meo Vac

Ha Giang

-100

144

Hang Ca Ha

Meo Vac

Ha Giang

-55

150

Hang Pho Coa 1

Meo Vac

Ha Giang

6.25

60

Hang Pho Coa 2

Meo Vac

Ha Giang

-

69

Hang Rong

Dong Van

Ha Giang

15.7

385

Hang By Su Phin

Dong Van

Ha Giang

-41

123

Hang Two Years Later

Thach An

Cao Bang

60

473

Pac Lung

Thach An

Cao Bang

-64.5

3109

Nguom Nap Biu

Thach An

Cao Bang

(-9,2) 12

549

Nguom Nam Lao

Thach An

Cao Bang

(-21,19) 40

3360

Nguom Tong Long

Thach An

Cao Bang

(-17,2) 19

626

Nguom Ngam Darn

Thach An

Cao Bang

-58

1637

Nguom A

That Khe

Lang Son

(-51,26) 77

2970

Nguom Ban San

Chang Ding

Lang Son

-30

1660

Nguom Ban Sien

Thach An

Cao Bang

-129

776

N guom N am Lien

Thach An

Cao Bang

3

245

Nguom Nam

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

72.5

2390

Nguom Ireby Fell

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

21

323

Lung Chuong

Trung Khanh

Cao Bang

-6.6

87.1

Na Nguom 4

Trung Khanh

Cao Bang

15

431

Hang N ang Tien

Thach An

Cao Bang

56

525

Bicycle Cave

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

24.5

331

Hang Coc Bang

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

3

181

Cam Thon

Tong Cot

Cao Bang

-113

162

Pac Bo 1

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

19

351

Hang Ban Hue

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

-

60

N guom N a Giang

Quang Hoa

Cao Bang

10

191

N guom Cuom

That Khe

Lang Son

15.5

1126

Hang Trua

That Khe

Lang Son

(-18,3) 21

456

Hang Gio

That Khe

Lang Son

(47,-17) 64

1381

Hang Lanh

Bo Trach

Quang Binh

114

3753

Hang Doi

Bo Trach

Quang Binh

24

453

Hang Ca

Bo Trach

Quang Binh

14

361

Hang Thoc

Bo Trach

Quang Binh

19

123

 

 

    Total Length

2001 =

30338.1








Martin in Nguom Nam Lao.

Conclusion

We visited 4 different provinces on the expedition, each having its unique and diverse landscapes and styles of caving.  In Ha Giang, the caves were in high mountains and required alpine style caving. Although at times getting permissions for going underground was difficult, the reconnaissance expedition did turn up a number of good leads, with huge potential for future trips.  In Cao Bang we had a field-day bagging 24km of cave in less than 2 weeks.  These caves were mainly river caves, although some tying up of loose ends from 1999 provided some excellent SRT caves.  We ran out of time in Cao Bang; there is still plenty more to have a go at and lots of unfinished business.  Long Son: We barely glanced at it, loads of going caves to finish and lots more to find. Quang Binh was its usual full-on jungle experience, the caves are remote, to say the least.  However, when you get to them, they are awesome.  We pieced together some more of the Truong Son massif jigsaw, and in doing so we extended the Phong Nha hydrological system to 44.5km of underground passage.  We also found out about some future leads.  In total, the expedition explored and surveyed over 30km of new cave in 6 weeks.  There are ample prospects for another expedition and many more besides.  We all had an excellent time with our Vietnamese friends, and must thank them wholeheartedly for their kindness and hospitality.

Acknowledgments

Hanoi University, Peoples Committee of Ha Giang, Peoples Committee of Cao Bang, Peoples Committee of Long Son, Peoples Committee of Quang Binh,  Sports Council of UK, David Hood, Ghar Parau Foundation, Mount Everest Foundation, Pace UK Ltd., Mulu Expedition 2000, Dachstein 2000, Power bar, Lyon Equipment, Thai Airways


 

Vet Eats Guinea Pig!!!

Being one man's epic story of the 2002 Expedition to Sima Pumacocha, Peru; the attainment of the South American depth record (in the highest significant cave system on Earth) and the commencement of the World's Highest Dig.

by Tony Jarratt

Background

Avid readers of BB 513 will have been overawed by the story of the discovery and part exploration of Sima Pumacocha 2, near Laraos, Yauyos Province, Lima Dept., Peru.  Before the rope ran out , a depth of -430 metres was reached with the way on being big, vertical and a trifle damp.  The adjacent S.P.3 was descended in one mighty pitch of 120m to a draughting boulder choke.  These caves and the neighbouring, unexplored river sink of S.P.l were first reported by British caver Les Oldham who was doing geological work in the area. BEC export Nick Hawkes, also a prospecting geologist, joined forces with Les and partly descended S.P.2 to find it a "goer".  He eventually recruited last year's Anglo/Canadian/Peruvian/Aussie team for the first push into the system, all of whom were impressed enough to return this year together with four new and unsuspecting Mendip men - sacrificial offerings to appease the wrath of the Puma God.  Four Peruvian cavers from the CEESPE club in Lima, together with their driver also turned up for a look at the first part of the system and to do some surface recce.

The 2002 Expedition

On 1st September the Mendip "Saga Holidays" team of Rob, Bob, Dany and I arrived at Gatwick in good time for our flight to Atlanta, Georgia - or at least we would have been if it hadn't left three hours earlier.  I'm sure that vets are top class in their own profession but never let one indulge in deciphering flight times as the words "departure" and "arrival" can cause confusion.  By great good fortune and the patient excellence of Delta Airways staff we were allowed on the midday flight as standby passengers, but only after a mild panic when a young security lady decided to swab the inside of my tackle bag. The instant production of my explosive licence calmed things down but the dear girl had to scrub her hands several times to avoid contaminating everything in sight!

Another minor panic occurred later on the airplane when a nurse was summoned to attend a small baby, choking and gasping in its mother's arms.  Two seats away "baby killer Bradshaw" silently dropped another one ...

Arriving in Atlanta eight hours later, after an excellent flight, we spent a night at the Radisson Hotel and indulged in a light snack at the local Longhorn Steakhouse.  Next day a visit was paid to the Coca Cola Museum and the now subterranean original main street of the city advertised as Underground Atlanta.  White faces were few and far between in this predominantly black state, somewhat reminiscent of South Africa.  Following several fine pints of Guinness at the airport we left that evening for another excellent Delta flight to Lima, arriving there at 11pm local time for a beer, pisco and wine session at Nick's hacienda in La Molina.

An early start next day saw us packing the Rio Tinto Exploration Toyota 4WD pick-up then heading south down the desert lined Pan-American Highway and south east up the stunning Canete valley towards the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes, pausing for an interesting lunch of fried guinea pig and chips (with beer of course) in Lunahauna.  Here we basked in the sunshine after having escaped from the gloomy sea mist of the monotonous desert coastline.

After gradually climbing from sea level to 2,850m, we arrived at the Casa de Gerencia near the village of Llapay.  Jeny, our attractive hostess, produced a delicious meal (bereft of small, deep fried heads) and then the rest of our team turned up from a rigging trip almost to the bottom of Huanca Gorge.  A couple of crates of Cristal cerveza were necked and we climbed gratefully into our clean beds to dream of altitude and glory.

The 4th September saw the stalwart riggers pressing on down to the X-Files Ledge and photographing the known passage while we spent an acclimatisation day investigating potential cave sites in the mountains above Pumacocha.  Two short caves near the Yauricocha Mine, high above the picturesque village of Laraos were first looked at. Yauricocha Cave 1, at an altitude of 4,630m. is a 1.5m. diameter by l4.5m. deep pot located at the side of the dirt road leading to the mine.  The scenery is rugged and starkly beautiful with spectacularly vertically bedded limestone peaks.  Higher, snow capped ranges provide a magnificent background and we were impressed with the fact that the melt water from these feeds both the nearby Pacific and the distant Atlantic via the Amazon Basin.  Not quite the roof of the world but bloody close to the attic!  The bottom of the pot was choked with rocks and coils of alloy power cable dumped by the mining company.  Being some 230m. above the main system it was obviously worth a trial dig so a return was planned with a pulley and hauling rope.  (This was done a couple of days later when some 1.5m. of depth was gained after the removal of several coils of wire and a dozen tackle sacks of rock.  A stony, earthen floor was reached but further work could well yield a way on. A bit far for Wednesday nights though). To remind us just where we were a herd of llamas passed by and the herdsman stopped to have a chat with Nick about other potential cave sites.  Flurries of hail and snow added to the surreal atmosphere as did the view down valley of a c.70m. high conical limestone pillar.  This is actually an Inca prince turned to stone and has the somewhat unfortunate name of Tunshu Wanka.

Continuing over the pass towards the mine we found Y.C.2.  A free climbable ramp led to a c.20m. diameter chamber, choked in all directions.  One bone was noted but no wall paintings or other archaeological evidence.

Permission was then gained from the heavily armed guards at the mine to drive through the property and recce. a nearby limestone area where the abandoned Mina Exito (Success Mine) and the totally choked Millpoca and Exito Sinks were investigated and written off. To continue the pyrotechnic theme of this expedition a root around in a digging bag found in the mine (I can't help myself) revealed lots of sticks of gelignite which clearly needed a good home but were reluctantly left in situ.  The main level had collapsed - or been blown in - after 50m.  Much of the spoil from this seemingly extensive lead/silver working had been dumped in the huge Exito Sink doline and will doubtless present future problems as it is on a direct line from Sima Pumacocha to the supposed resurgence at Alis Springs.

We continued our travels past the huge and distinctly eco-unfriendly settling pond of Yauricocha Mine to the lower village of Tinco where sweeties and local music tapes (llama shagging tunes I am reliably informed) were purchased.  A narrow, high and spectacular limestone canyon was then followed to the boulder choked springs, some 16km. from and 1,000m. lower than the main S.P. sink.  More superb gorges were driven through on our way back down to Llapay which we reached after a round trip of 73km.  No caves of note had been found apart from the dig site of Y.C.1. In the evening the Peruvian team arrived to share a few beers before heading for their hotel in the village.

Meanwhile Ian had dropped a bag of bolting gear into the raging torrent of the (apparently non PC) Shining Path and was distressed.  Rob the owner of the virgin Petzl hammer (35 pounds) was even more distressed.  I sell them and was not unduly distressed.

Next day came our baptism of fire in SP2.  This magnificent pothole was named after the nearby Pumacocha (Quechua for Mountain Lion Lake).  Nick has recently seen puma spoor in the snow here.  Leaving the Lima cavers at the entrance to do their own thing, Bob, Dany, Rob, Nick and I braved the howling gale emerging from the cave and abseiled down a series of mind-blowing dry shafts and almost vertical ramps to a horrifically unstable boulder choke at -240m.  The thin atmosphere is full of fine mist blown up by the draught from the river inlet at -300m.  This was unfortunate for photographers Bob and Dany but fortunate for me as, especially on the 113m. Ammonite Shaft, it reduces the visibility and exposure factor a little!  The photographers were suffering from "depth shock" and wisely stopped at the Shining Path while the three of us continued to the X-Files Ledge where Rob commenced a hairy traverse out above the thundering hell of the Cascadas de Don Jesus in an attempt to pass this c.60m. deep maelstrom.  He managed about 20 hard won metres before the noise, exposure, spray and soroche (altitude sickness) got to him.  Nick and I could do little but await his return though on the way down I had employed some time to clamber down to the raging torrent below the main inlet for a critically timed "dump".  With a sense of extreme relief I doffed harnesses, metalwork and oversuit, etc. to squat above the deluge and, with no book to read, was forced to admire the scenery.  If I hadn't already been in the process I would have shat myself as I realised that the coils of "wire" polluting the riverbed were each the nest of several shiny copper detonators.  This concentrated my mind on the job in hand - and on watching my steps on completion of the task!

The long drag out was my first experience of prolonged prussiking at such an altitude and I found that it took two to three times longer than the descent with plenty of rests needed.  These gave one plenty of time to reflect on the single, thin rope stretching into infinity above and below and only touching the walls near the razor sharp fossils….. I was spat onto the surface at 10pm and by midnight we were about to organize a rescue for Rob when a muffled "Yoh" from the entrance came as a great relief.

On reflecting on this trip we realised that this great pothole was essentially easy and superbly rigged by Mark, Snablet and team using a battery drill rented from an unsuspecting Oxford hire shop.  Our lack of acclimatisation and big pitch training (Hunters' Hole after five pints not being quite enough Dany!) caused a few problems and the psychological effects of travelling up and down this awesome hole were not insignificant.  Not a bad showing for the Old Mendip Gits though. (Meanwhile the Young Mendip Gits had been getting deservedly stoated in the bars of Llapay).

A rest day followed for some while Nick, complete with bad back, and Snablet returned to push the depths.

Dany drove Matt and I up to Pumacocha where our objective was to survey the 120m. deep free hang of SP3 and attempt to dig a connection through the terminal boulder choke into the main system.  At the nearby miners' hut, kindly lent to us by the manager of San Valentin Mine, we changed and had an inspired brew of coca leaf tea with Gatorade - a vivifying drink which I guarantee you can't get in the U.S.A!  While sunbathing in my shreddies I was suddenly confronted by the ancient crone who dwelt in a nearby thatched hut and herded llamas.  It seems that she was adamant that we were unleashing demons from the cave to create illness in her flock.  A bar of melted Hershey chocolate mollified her and she tottered off muttering in Quechua about the attractiveness of practically naked Englishmen.

On the way to the cave we investigated the large, abandoned Mina Ipillo situated above the hut and reached a (blasted?) roof fall after 210m. of 4m. square roadway.  I got up and over this for 10m. but was not happy with the air conditions or state of the roof.  There is a dodgy way on back down to the main level but no obvious draught. This mine, at 4,462m. a.s.l. was worked for copper, lead, zinc, gold and silver and has left a long embankment of spoil to disfigure the beautiful Pumacocha Valley. The thousands of soles worth of high explosives littering the cave system are obviously derived from here - SPI being located almost at the end of the spoil heap.

Matt was by now suffering from the effects of high altitude alcohol excess and swearing never to drink rum again so, taking advantage of the weather, we changed our ambitious plans to the more mellow project of photographing the entrances and running a surface survey from SP2 to SP3 and onwards to five other entrances downstream which we had identified earlier.  This was soon accomplished and we then realised that four of these entrances led to an interconnected cave system which we now had no choice but to survey.

Three of these four entrances were protected by drystone walls from the intrusion of animals, the fourth being a steep 3m. drop.  Inside we found a pleasant and beautifully scalloped little system which was unfortunately despoiled by rubbish including lengths of plastic pipe, an oil drum, alpaca fleeces, old clothes, a sleeping mat, two 2m. drill steels, coils of power cable and some graffiti dated 1946 or 1996.  Most of this clatch had apparently been scrounged or liberated from the nearby mines.  Despite the obvious potential there were again no cave paintings or signs of archaeological importance as found in other local rock shelters.  The drystone walls and aqueduct on the surface appear to have been originally of great age and later modified by more recent herdsmen and miners.  I suspected that this was a pre-Inca, high altitude settlement site as used in the "ayllu" system of taking advantage of all possible ecological niches from sea level to snow line in order to avoid famine in the tribal community. We were soon to find a valuable clue towards proving this.

In the middle of the system we descended a 10m. deep pot whose lip was protected by a drystone wall constructed on a ledge about 1.5m. down.  A talus cone at the bottom of the moonmilk lined pot was full of animal skulls, mainly goat.  Two impassable, strongly outward draughting holes between deposits of moonmilk and calcite revealed open spaces beyond but bang will be needed to pass these into the presumed connection with the main system.  Having good relations with the local mining companies makes this a feasible project and it would not affect any possible archaeological artefacts in the talus cone.  On our return to the head of the pot a grotty little bedding plane was noticed behind the ledge and Matt life lined me down to this in order to complete the survey. I crawled in feet first, over a narrow rift, to find it closed down after a couple of metres.  On the way out I glanced down at the large stone under my chest to find it staring back! A round headed human skull (not purposefully deformed as were some Inca skulls) lay on its left side, wedged among rocks. A couple of leg (?) bones were noted some 2m. down the narrow rift below and Bob later found a pelvic bone further into the bedding plane when he photographed the find.  How the hell this skeleton got here is a mystery but a purposeful cave burial is most likely.  It has the aura of great antiquity so is unlikely to be a victim of Sendero Luminoso terrorists.  Other theories of a crushed miner or injured victim of a pit sacrifice expiring on their desperate free climb out are improbable.  A burial would add credence to the settlement site theory and it is quite likely that there are other human remains interred in the talus slope or earth floor of the horizontal passages above.  Another possibility is that this could be the remains of an ancestral mummy hidden from the Catholic conquistadores who were taking great pains to eradicate the ancient Andean religions.  There were no obvious artefacts and the skull was left undisturbed. The alcade (mayor) of Laraos was informed of the discovery but didn't seem particularly excited.  An English professor with interests in the region has also been contacted with no reply as yet.

This amazing cave threw one other surprise at us with the arrival of a 12I5cm. long humming bird which was either feeding from the walls or scared by our presence from entering its underground nest. Is this a previously unreported cave dwelling species? (Anette Becher informs me that they are well known - another chance to be famous blown out!).

Well satisfied with our day's work we returned to the hut via a 2m. long rock shelter above SPI where a store of drying llama pats was found.  With no trees around this is used by the herdsmen for cooking and heating fuel. Our fuel was more "high altitude" tea and beef risotto then rapidly into our grubby sleeping bags.

Nick and Snablet had managed to bottom the Cascadas de Don Jesus pitch to find a steeply descending, boulder floored passage with part of the main river sinking and part running beneath the floor.  Yet another pitch halted progress but they were convinced that they had the South American depth record in the bag and after waking us up to inform us of this fact insisted on celebrating it with a dram of Laphraoig which even the now temporarily abstemious Matt was forced to imbibe.  Mark and Ian had gone in after them to push on even further, drop more pitches and rejoin the main river "thundering vertically out of the roof' and earning the name "Viagra Falls".  They stopped at the head of another pitch and at a depth of c.-580m. Mark described their extensions and the cave in general, as "totally cool".  Being Canucks they celebrated with tea!

After a spiffing breakfast of chicken noodle soup and tuna, washed down with more special tea, Matt and I entered SP3 at 9.40am, passed the X-Files Ledge traverse - gobsmackingly exposed and dripping with rebelays - and started our task of surveying the extensions at the top of the boulder slope below the almost deafening Cascadas.  We had opted out on surveying the traverse itself until we had figured how the hell to do it.  We pressed on around or over house sized boulders in a large gallery festooned with flood deposited detonators hanging high up on the walls and on down Pozo Jeny, named after our hostess.  We then swung across the deep Lago Yerlina, dedicated to our vivacious housemaid and then along a short horizontal (!) streamway to the Rolling Thunder pitch.  Ahead roared the main river inlet, a wicked place indeed.  The Britney Shakira pitch (pop music appreciating housemaid's baby daughter!) alongside this, led to the current end with a huge and well watered passage/pitch heading off into the gloom.  Here we halted the survey and returned to our starting place.  I ascended the pitch and traverse, taking the best part of an hour, clutching the end of a 100m. fibron tape and by using walkie talkies we were able to connect the surveys with a single leg of 77m. at an angle of 68 degrees - is this a record?  The true record was later revealed when Rob computed the figures to give a depth of 584.1m. and a length of 842.9m.  This beat the rival Brazilian cave by c.150m. to easily give us the glory and prove the system as the world's highest cave of significance (but beware Bolivia).

Bob and Rob had that day been on a rope delivery mission to Rolling Thunder but were still suffering from soroche.  We were finally spat out of the cave by the draught at midnight after a 15 hour trip which personally tested me to my limits.  Matt was dissuaded from burning his SRT kit and we put our brains into neutral ready for the de-rigging which was becoming imminent.  An inch of snow on the surface added to the fun as we drove back down the vertiginous dirt track to a clean bed in Llapay.

A heavy rainstorm heralded the following day which we dedicated to eating, drinking and reading while Mark and Snablet did the final pushing trip to reach a roomy sump beyond two more pitches with only a couple of metres of rope to spare.  The final depth was -638m. and length 931 m.  They reported a possible desperate climb up one wall to a large, draughting passage which will probably bypass the sump. They commenced de-rigging but soon became knackered and headed out to well deserved glory and beer.

While they were scampering up the equivalent of two Pen Hill Masts with a river inside the rest of us were manfully doing our duty for public relations by necking vast quantities of beer and dancing the night away with the local lovelies at Jeny's bar in Llapay.  The pyrotechnic theme continued with an exploding paper and cane bull which a local character put on his back before it was lit by a well wisher.  The assorted fireworks distributed about the body of the bull burst into action and our man rushed around Llapay's singular street to good effect before he was incinerated creating havoc, hilarity and a spate of drunken photography.  Home made rockets, a selection of local piss heads and another infusion of ale kept most of the BEC contingent going until the early hours.  A memorable night.

De-rigging day saw your scribe "as grumpy as an Easton taxi driver" and I was dragged, kicking and screaming up to the Mina Ipillo hut a couple of hours before following Nick, Matt and Ian down the cave.  This lonely, hungover trip was enlivened by a nearly fatal epic partway down Ammonite Pot when I fortuitously noted that I had clipped my short cowstail around the maillon instead of inside it.  Top tip - always utilise BOTH cowstails!!!  At the Shining Path oxbow, just below the main river inlet I found a large orange poly. bivvy bag left for my salvation by fellow drunk Matt and clambered in replete with life saving Russian carbide generator to keep warm while I awaited the de-riggers.  After two and a half hours of fitful sleep in the all pervading thunder I ran out of available carbide and retreated to the bottom of the Huanca Gorge to report my colleagues' non arrival and the possibility of their being flooded in by rain and snow melt.  Rob and Bob were the recipients and they also had absolutely no desire to suffer the X-Files traverse in search of the late comers though Rob, suffering from a nasty, infected sore on his ankle caused by a rubbing foot loop, unselfishly volunteered to go and look for them.  After waiting for an hour I heard Nick's voice emanating from the boulder choke - a great relief to both me, Rob, Bob (sciatica in the hip) and three oblivious partygoers back down in Llapay.

All eventually staggered out to the surface between the hours of 1 and 7 am to meet the redoubtable Juan who had dossed down in the Toyota all night in order to ferry emerging cavers the short distance back to the hut.  He deserves a medal.

Next day the Mendip contingent left for the fleshpots of Lima leaving the honour of de-rigging to the colonials and ex-pats. On our last night Les turned up with a barrel of tasty Peruvian draught beer having the (hardly mouth watering) name of Colon. So ended our hols.  All agreed that though bloody hard work it had been a memorable experience.  The scenery, people, food and beer were all first class and the ladies, Jeny and Yerlina, had done us proud.  Our absent sponsor, Don Jesus Arias Davila deserves our greatest thanks for his generosity as does Sofia Hawkes and her housemaid for their hospitality.  Nick's bosses at Rio Tinto and Juan "Diablo" are absolute stars.  Muchas gracias.

I am told that there is a horizontal cave in the jungle that needs investigating.

Anacondas, tarantulas, cocaine running terrorists, malaria and alligators abound.  Sounds great Nick - book us up!

The Team

Nick Hawkes (BEC - U.K. & Peru), Les Oldham (ex NSG - U.K. & Peru), Matt Tuck (BEC - U.K. & Canada), Rob Harper (BEC - U.K.), Dany Bradshaw (BEC - U.K.), Bob Cork (BEC - U.K.), Tony Jarratt (BEC - U.K.), Pete "Snablet" McNab (BEC U.K.), Ian McKenzie (ASS - Canada), Mark Hassell (BCSF & ASS - Australia & Canada), Juan "Diablo" Castro (Rio Tinto - Peru), Carlos Morales Bermudez, Rolando Carascal Miranda, Samuel Arias Mansial and James Cuentas Alvarado (all CEESPE - Peru), Robert Luis Bejarand (driver - Peru).

Ed. Photographs and surveys from the expedition will appear in the next BB.


 

Caving in Tasmania, Australia

by Phil (MadPhil) Rowsell

This article is aimed to give the reader a general understanding of the range of cave systems, their access and general differences in Tasmania compared to the UK.

Introduction

Tasmania is a small island at the base of Australia, directly south from Melbourne.  It is a similar size to Wales being 260km by 260km, with a population around ½ million.  It is very similar to a rural England with a climate to match (it does have the bonus that it generally gets a pretty good summer!!)  Tasmania is often likened to New Zealand and for this reason, it remains relatively un-trafficked, people preferring to head to New Zealand rather than explore the hidden treasures of Tasmania.  Almost all adventure sports can be pushed to the extreme here, caving is no exception boasting the best in Australia.

Over the last three years I have spent two six months slots in Tasmania, the first six months, doing a mixed bag of activities, before spending the last two months of the trip caving with the local Hobart club (Southern Tasmanian Caveneers STC). Most of this time was spend doing the usual tourist trips and getting to know the local members etc, but I did managed to spend a reasonable time helping re-surveying a system called Khazad Dum (KD).  This was enough to give me the desire to head back for another six months in December 2001 for a trip solely devoted to caving!!  This time, I capitalised on the friends and ground work I did last trip. I managed about four and a half months devoted to caving, doing some 50 trips (including three expeditions to Mt Anne) and spending over 350 hours underground.  For my efforts, I am now finally losing the "foreigner" tag and being regarded as a local by the club.  The appeal of the place is so great I am heading back again for another six months, in mid August!!

General Information

Tasmania has a wide variety of cave systems, ranging from large horizontal networks ( Exit Cave approximately 16km of surveyed passage) to deep vertical ones (several fight for the deepest cave in Australia around the 360m mark).  Many of the horizontal caves are active river systems with several vertical entrances, giving variety of through trips and exchanges with varying degrees of difficulty/exposure.  Dependant on the cave area, decorations can vary from non existent, to mind bogglingly stunning.  The tight access controls given to these highly decorated caves generally make it difficult for "foreigners" to visit.  With notice the local clubs can sometimes organize permits etc, however when compared to the UK, there are many other systems with good formations that have unrestricted access.

Most of the cave systems require SRT techniques, to either bottom the cave or access some of the complex horizontal systems below.  The caves can be compared to a large Yorkshire, with multiple pitch lengths generally of the 40-50m range, with pitches of 90-110 m fairly common.  The cave systems are generally damp to wet in nature, being slightly cooler than in the UK and enough to warrant a furry and TSA type over suit.  Some of the hardened locals however, just cave in thermals and home made Wombat type suits!

Major Differences

Rigging

Cave conservation in Tasmania is very strong.  Bolting is generally only undertaken when absolutely necessary and all natural possibilities have been exhausted.  There is a strong desire not to follow the path of the UK caves where pitch heads abound with countless spits and now 'P' hangers, many of which are redundant or unnecessary. As a result many of the less popular but sporting caves are rigged using natural anchors with occasional spits where a blank is drawn.  A good degree of natural rigging skill and equipment is required compared to the relatively easy "join the dots together of UK rigging".

The popular caves do have reasonably bolted pitches, but with the increasing visits to areas and more spits appearing, some of these are now being 'P' hangered to limit the number of bolts being placed.  The author has been involved with this programme and to date 3 caves have been 'P' hangered.  This programme will only involve some of the popular/classic tourist type caves.

Access

Unlike the UK where cave descriptions and guides etc are readily available, in Tasmania (and it seems Australia) a shroud of secrecy is kept on both the locations and cave details. This can be highly frustrating for people used to the free access of data and arrive at self-contained expeditions etc.  The local clubs are generally very hospitable and will guide or direct you to suitable caves/areas.  As you are accepted into the fold, the more the information flows!

Local know ledge of the area is in any case pretty essential as most of the areas are deep in bush or forest requiring ½ to I hour walk.  Some have taped marked "tracks" maintained by the cavers, and generally involve varying degrees of log gymnastics.  The less popular caves can be a straight bush bash. GPS has helped to locate these entrances (if you can obtain the coordinates!) but getting to the entrance can be as difficult and as exhausting as the caving trip itself!  On one trip, the author spent 3 hours bush bashing 600m to get from a dirt track to a cave known as Satan’s Lair!

The Prospect of Rescue

Unlike the UK, cave rescue is under the control of Police Search and Rescue Unit, which deals with all forms of rescue.  The police then call on the available caving clubs to provide the experience for the cave rescue.  Unfortunately the number of cavers in Tasmania is limited and those with the knowledge to perform a rescue in deep remote areas you are generally caving with and are obviously out of the equation!  Coupled with the remoteness of most of the caves, the only form of rescue (as with general remote expeditions) is self!


The author negotiating one of the many fallen logs!

Caving Areas of Tasmania

The Figure 1 shows a map of Tasmania and the position of the main karst areas.  Of these only three would be considered to be the main stay caving areas which are regularly visited.  These are Junee-Florentine, Ida Bay and Mole Creek.  The other areas are either small with limited number of caves or they are remote places often in wilderness areas and require expedition type trips to access them.  These remote areas do hold some large systems, and offer great exploration possibilities.


Key to Caving Areas

C

Cracroft

JF

Junee- Florentine

CP

Mt Crips

MA

Mt Anne

GP

Guns Plains

MC

Mole Creek

H

Hastings

MW

Mt Weld

IB

Ida Bay

PB

Precipitous Bluff

Figure 1 Map of Tasmania and the major Karst Areas

The Junee-Florentine Valley

Situated about 1.5 hours drive from Hobart, the Junee-Florentine Valley forms probably the best caving area in Tasmania, certainly for sport caving.  Most of the systems are still active, and care has to be exercised with regards to the weather (flooding).  This area is not renowned for its decorations, but there is the odd gem if you know where to look!

The Junee Florentine area is a large drainage system (12 by 13 km) involving several valley systems which resurge at the Junee Resurgence.  The area holds many separate complex systems which have all been dye traced to this single resurgence.  Links between the systems are continually being sought and the elusive "master drain" has still not yet been found!  The majority of the caves are vertical in nature with many pitches over 80m. Some of the systems do drop into river systems that provide through trips to a horizontal entrance but the majority are true SRT.  Most of the renowned trips (difficult and sporting trips) in Tasmania are in this area.  (Ice Tube 360m one of the deepest caves in Australia, Niggly Pot, 100m of pitches along difficult passage followed by a 186m free hang pitch, to a large blind horizontal system, Serendipity - regarded as one of the most sporting trips in the country).  There are many other caves etc of less arduous nature, several of which are regarded as "classic" tourist trips, Slaughterhouse-Growling Swallet, Dwarrowdelf-Khazad Dum exchange, but again most of these are vertical.

Ida Bay

This area is dominated by the Exit Cave system, with some 16km of surveyed passage. Its true length however is unknown due to the poor correlation of the survey data!  It is an active river system, with a number of vertical entrances providing the scope for a variety of through trips and exchanges, one of best being a Mini Martin 115m free hang entrance pitch in daylight.  Exit Cave is very well decorated in places, and is restricted by a permit system, but by good planning the local clubs can obtain a permit with relative ease.

The area also has a large number of straight vertical trips (bounce trips) generally to a depth of 180m to 200m with only limited horizontal passage in the cave.  Many of these however, provide good digging opportunities with potential connections to the exit system, a thing the locals rarely do "why dig when we can find virgin passage elsewhere!"  It is in this area the author dug through a flattener to find a major extension to a cave system which will hopefully be connected into the Exit System on the next visit.


The lime tree in Marakoova Cave. Mole Creek.

Mole Creek

Probably the most famous and well known of the Tasmanian caving areas being renown for its beautiful formations.  Many of the caves are horizontal systems, offering easier caving opportunities, but most are permit only caves.  While some are relatively easy to obtain through the local clubs, gems like Kubla Khan are subjected to such severe restrictions (somewhat ridiculous) that it is nearly impossible for "foreigners" to gain access, unless by sheer luck.  (After a year of trying I still haven't got a Kubla Khan trip!!).  The effort to obtain these permits however is worthwhile as their beauty and formations are stunning

Highlights of the last trip

One of the main aims of my trip however was to re-survey and push a remote complex system known as Anne-a-Kanada (presently 360m deep) with the aim of attaining the deepest cave in Australia record.  The system is situated in the south west wilderness on a (1000m) ridge system near Mt Anne.  As the area is in a National Park, no helicopter flights etc are permitted so all gear has to be hiked in.  This involves a 4 to 7 hour walk dependent on load.  Three 6-7 day expeditions as well as several gear carry trips were undertaken by myself and Jeff Butt.  Together we have re-surveyed most of the cave and new ground pushed, but the results of these expeditions will form a separate BB article.

Stal in Lynn's Cave.

Another project worthy of mention is the extension of Baader Meinhof in the Ida Bay area.  Here the author was shown a tight flattener with a cobble stream way running through. The passage was too tight to squeeze through but had a howling draught (and we mean howling!!) indicating a probable connection into the Exit System.  The locals thought the prospect of digging this too daunting or may be degrading!!  On seeing it my comment was "Man this would have been pushed long ago!" Several digging trips and the restrictions were removed and the author broke through into a large extension with the possibility of a connection to Exit.  Again the results and survey of this extension will feature as a separate BB article.

As well as these projects, I did many of the classic trips, found several new small caves and extensions in various others.  One goal I still haven't achieved is to do Niggly Pot and the 186m free hang (the black super giant) much to my annoyance third time lucky I guess!!

Conclusion

Tasmania is a great little undiscovered island, similar to a rural England some 20 years or so ago.  Most of the cave areas are predominantly vertical systems with large horizontal systems at a base level, some of which have horizontal entrances. The required skill level varies right across the board, from relatively easy to a very serious undertaking.  This is complicated by the fact that the majority of the caves are not bolted to any extent and that a good level of skill in natural rigging is required.  The decoration in the caves varies from non existent to mind blowing, dependent on the caving area, although access to the pretty areas is permitted and can be very difficult (if not impossible) to attain.

With the limited number of cavers and hence traffic, new passage can be found relatively easily especially those in the more remote areas.  The digging potential is huge but it is generally frowned upon from the cave conservation point of view.  If conducted, it has to be planned carefully with good homework and a clear aim to prevent bad feeling from the locals.  Banging would be tantamount to treason!

Overall, Tasmania is well worth a visit with some exciting caving so much so I am off in August for a 3rd six month session.  If you're heading out that way, contact myself or the local cave club (the Southern Tasmanian Caveneers STC) as they are a good bunch and will show you around. See ya there.

Formations in Lynn's Cave.



Hut Warden's Report 2001-2002

A big thanks to all who helped with various jobs throughout the year: Fiona, Smithy, Neil, J.Rat, et al. Even Quackers helped me to clean the changing room once.  Most of all I would like to thank the "wreckers" for not wrecking a much better J atmosphere when people can come and stay - without having to watch their backs', or duck (no pun intended).

Takings and visitor tallies will end much the same as last year:

Members' Nights: 396

Visitors' Nights: 351

Good luck to all the workers on the new extensions.


 

A Note from your New Membership Secretary

Hello, I am Sean Howe and I was appointed at this year’s AGM to the position of Membership Secretary for the year 2002 to 2003.  My intention is to continue the good work of my predecessor, Roz Bateman and I am grateful for her offer of help whilst I become familiar with the system.

This year I attempted to reduce some of the postage costs by sending an electronic version of the renewal form bye-mail.  (The distribution list I used was obtained from the current record of members e-mail addresses.)  In the e-mail I asked the recipient to print out the renewal form, complete and return to myself in post or person.  I did ask for acknowledgment of this method and specified a reply date otherwise I would put a paper copy in the post.

I know there was some duplication as some of you I e-mailed also received a renewal in the post. Next year I hope it will be slicker and that those of you on e-mail will be aware to look forward to receiving your renewal form shortly after the AGM.

I did receive some renewal forms completed electronically and attached to an e-mail.  However on a lighter side, there was a member who shall remain nameless that failed to attach their form correctly to the e-mail.  Well I hope that person is better at attaching themselves next time they are on a rope!!

May I thank all of you who have already renewed their membership and/or updated their details. Furthermore, a special thank you goes to the contributions I received from a number of life members.

Remember, this is your opportunity as a member to ensure the club has your correct contact details (address, telephone and e-mail) as this information is used in the distribution of the BB, the members address booklet and any other written communications.  On this note if your details change in the future please inform the current membership secretary.

What happens when details are incorrect is that e-mails bounce back and letters might get returned. One of the letters returned had written on it, and I shall quote:  'Not at this address for at least 15 yrs'.  This was a life member but is not specifically related to them, however I do not have details of the following life members:

  • Bob Kitchen
  • Dermot Statham

 

 

Can you help, and then at least we can ask if they would like to receive correspondence.

Sean Howe


 

Extracts From The Logbook.

6/10/02: Swildon's Hole (Short Round Trip): Bea Goford, Greg Brock, and Nick Gymer

This was my first time through the Mud Sump, and it was good.  The water was nonexistent on the Short Dry Way, and levels were pretty low throughout.  None in the Mud Sump so no need to bail it, we set the siphon running in the Troubles, but didn't hang around as the water was so low.  Despite the low water levels, the "wet puddles" (as opposed to dry puddles?) and the sump were the perfect cure for after-dinner hangovers.  Also, my light went out at the top of a climb down to the Landing and only my superior common sense presented my falling to certain death .... 2½ hours. Bea.

13/10/02: Longwood Swallet: Gonzo and Tony Boycott

Prospecting and CO2 testing down as far as Reynolds’s.  No leads, lots of CO2!!

23/10/02: Eighteen Acre Swallet: Graham, John Walsh and Shaggy

We couldn't find the place we were digging ten years ago, but the Shepton have done a lot of work and their dig isn't going in the direction the old dig was.  Looked in the SMCC Journal and found that the passage we dug has been backfilled, no hint of a draught throughout despite cold +2 degrees, the garage was also ramraided this evening.

9/11/02: Slaughter Stream Cave (Wet Sink), Forest of Dean: Vince Simmonds, Peter Bolt, Rich Blake and Henry Bennett

Upstream to waterfall - into Three Deserts (very dry and sandy) to the end of Flow Choke Passage (some incredible pink limestone) - returned to Boulder Chamber along Dead Dog Passage and into extensions beyond Pig Trough.  Returned to Main Streamway via Coal Seam Passage and Slade Passages. Streamway had aroma of effluent and occasional floating tissue paper! Impressive entrance pitches - good excavation - fine trip.  4½ hours.

27/12/02: Aggy: Paul Brock, Mark Ireland, Sean Howe, Pete Hellier and John Walsh

Nice trip to Turkey Pool, Coal Passages (?) and odd passages here and there.  John managed to use up 3 batteries?? 18 hours 6 hours (approx.). I will admit. ... .! am crap at writing up caving trips). PB.

8/02/03: St. Cuthbert's Swallet (September Series): Jim Cochrane, Greg Brock, Crispin Lloyd, Tyrone Bevan, Rich Bayfield and Chris Morgan (CUCC)

Excellent photographic trip to the stunning September Series - took two flash guns so was able to back and sidelight pretty well.  Found September Series without too much difficulty and spent half an hour, then came out taking a few shots on the way at Wire Rift and the ladders - Jim.

12/03/03: Hazlenut Swallet: Nick Mitchell, John Walsh and Graham Johnson

First trip since July '02, the sump has silted up quite a bit, a rather large, bang/drilling operation is the way to go.

The Bristol Exploration Club, The Belfry, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.
Editor: Adrian Hole

Committee Members

Secretary: Vince Simmonds
Joint Treasurers: Mike and Hilary Wilson
Membership Secretary: Roz Bateman
Editor: Adrian Hole
Caving Secretary: Greg Brock
Tackle Master: Mike Alderton
Hut Engineer: Neil Usher
Hut Warden: Roger Haskett
BEC Web Page Editor: Greg Brock
Librarian: Graham Johnson
Hut Bookings: Fiona Sandford

Letters and articles published in the club magazine do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor the Committee or the club in general

Editorial

Welcome to my first Belfry Bulletin as Editor.  Before I set out my plans for the future of the Journal, I would first like to thank Martin for his efforts and the quality of the BB’s that he produced - and hope that I can continue his high standards.

Firstly, I plan to make the BB a Quarterly Journal with a seasonal issue.  This will both ensure a regularity of publication and allow me to take advantage of school holidays to produce them.

Secondly, I plan (as far as possible) to shift the emphasis of the content towards a focus on exploration - and especially exploration under Mendip.  The strength of the club lies in exploration - digging, diving, surveying etc and its journal should reflect these preoccupations.

Finally, each issue will not only summarise the main events of the preceding season but also have a clear theme on a single cave or area of the Hill.  It is thus with complete bias and not one jot of apology that this issue has an Eastwater slant.  This is in order to record events, speculate on areas for further progress and most importantly to stimulate interest in exploration - the whole point of the BEC!

NB        The summer issue will be going to press in June - articles are needed now, especially on Swildon's, Cuthbert's, or the Charterhouse area.


 

Digging and Diving News.

Eastwater Cavern.

The Morton's dig (see Phil Rowsell's article) is predictably beneath several metres of water - however, there does not seem to have been any great infilling of the shaft and tidying up should prevent a repetition of the mid 1990s disaster.  The stream has been noted to have changed direction through the boulders (the right hand dam is only taking water in flood, this usually takes most of the water).  The cause seems to be the movement of a boulder at the base of the entrance. It has rolled out from the right hand wall exposing a loose slope of gravel.  The offending rock now lies in the middle of the first short crawl.  The reason? Someone seems to have removed the prop that was holding this rock in place.  Stealing props from the entrance of Eastwater frankly beggars belief - is this the action of a new extreme sports club or simply that of a git?

Halloween Rift.

Renewed interest in this site has been scuppered by the Wookey Management who currently are refusing access.   On the few trips that were possible it was found that the entrance crawls to the extensive bedding at the base of the rift had been backfilled.  The clearing of these alerted the owners who have denied any further work on the grounds of liability (interesting to note that crawling around with a few skips is deemed more dangerous than diving to Wookey 25!)

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink.

See Tony's article for recent news.

Rhino Rift.

Trips over the Christmas break saw some progress along the terminal crawl at the base of the scaffolded shaft through the boulders.  Digging was slowed by the tendency of the crawl to fill with water - the first trips down Rhino by wetsuit clad diggers seems on the cards this spring.

St. Cuthbert's Swallet.

Work continues in the dig near Sump Two.

Swildon's Hole.

Greg Brock and Mike Alderton have been looking at the possible leads at the end of the cave and contribute this report of a trip in early February:

"A thoroughly remote trip to Sump 12 in Swildon's to re-climb Victoria Aven and get into Desolation Row.  Both divers in zero visibility made it safely to sump 12, where upon the easy rift climb to the ledge was ascended.  MA after failing to kill GB with boulders (not without trying) placed a bolt and entered the extremely tight tube leading to Desolation Row.  MA was unable to belay or unattach himself from the rope so GB proceeded to climb up the rope securely anchored to MA who was not going to easily be pulled out of the constricted tube.  Slow progress was made up the committing tube before we both decided to head for home and do some research as to where the tube was leading.  An uneventful return was made; fortunately meeting a group of WCC members who helped carry gear out for us - Cheers Lads".


 

Life, the Universe and Eastwater Cavern.

By Phil Rowsell (alias Madphil)

My fascination with Eastwater Cavern can be attributed (or blamed dependant on who you are!) to Tony Jarratt (J-Rat).  After the break through at Stock's House Shaft, I was looking for a new project to keep myself occupied over the summer.  Tony introduced to me to Adrian Hole (now my digging partner in crime) who was also intending to spend the summer digging.  Adrian had originally intended to push a few leads in Swildon's but with its closure due to foot and mouth, this was obviously a non starter.  Eastwater Cavern was the next option, Morton's Pot and the illusive connection to Lambeth Walk.

Morton's Pot/A Drian Hole Dig

I had been down Eastwater many a time before, but never down to Morton's Pot.  I always remember the first trip.  I learnt on the way down that Adrian had been one of the digging team that had pushed Morton's Pot 5 years ago.  They had found another vertical pitch below Morton's Pot named A Drain Hole (an obvious name connection).  They had dug down to a depth of approx. 5m before weather closed the dig for the winter. Disaster took place when the surface stream bed was cleared by the farmer and over a short period of time, the diggers watched the dig filling back up with silt to the top of the pitch. Man, it must have been a demoralising sight.  Since then no one had been back to dig.

We spent most of the time clearing the silt traps in the top of the 380ft Way and dumping the spoil in the rift before finally heading down to look at the dig.  The trip down was a bit tight and narrow but not too bad. The dig site itself was now filled up to a small chamber above the pitch, so we had no idea where A Drain Hole was.  It looked easy digging, mainly sand, but I just kept thinking about the problem of getting rid of the spoil.  Hauling it back to the Lower Traverse was going to be a real ball ache.  A couple of seilbahns had been put in place to assist hauling, but these were in pieces.  Everything would have to be replaced and a few modifications may improve things.  Being an engineer, this was right up my street.  The dig was a good challenge, I was sold.

Over the next week or so, equipment was salvaged and the seilbahns reinstalled.  Several modifications were also made to reduce the number of people required to move spoil.  It was highly unlikely that we would ever have the luxury of 10-15 people to haul bags that the previous attempt had had.  The mere mention of helping to dig Morton's Pot, often led to a rapid exodus from the Hunters, leaving you sat in playing Billy no-mates! Progress was also made at the dig site, the chamber was excavated and the bagged up spoil used to line the bedding plane heading up to the base of Morton's.  This would hopefully help future bag hauling up to Morton's Pot. On our 6th trip down, we finally discovered the ladder bolt over the top of A Drain Hole, a great boost as at least we knew where we were and had to go, down!

Despite lining the bedding plane, hauling sacks up the bottom of Morton's Pot still proved difficult. A 3rd seilbahn was installed down the bedding plane which sorted the problem.  The base of Morton's Pot rapidly filled up with sacks and our supply of empty sacks was exhausted again.  We had no option now but to transport the sacks out and empty them in the Lower Traverse. I guess we had to check out the hauling system sometime.

The lack of volunteers meant we had to do the hauling in stages.  The most awkward stage was to move sacks from the base of Morton's Pot to the bottom of the 380ft Way.  Fortunately we developed a method to do this with only 3 people.  From here, Adrian and I could move the sacks up the 380ft Way and dump them in the Traverse on our own.  A slow process but we had no other option if we were to keep the dig going. The first batch we emptied (50-60 sacks) we found we had a high mortality rate as almost two thirds of the sacks were badly holed.  Examination of the hauling system revealed the 380ft way seilbahn to be the culprit. The system was modified to a skip slung between two pulleys.  This was a great improvement, reducing the effort required to haul as well as dramatically improving bag life.

The dig and hauling continued on its slow painful progress, generally one digging trip to four or five hauling trips.  Occasionally the hauling would get a boost with the addition of press ganged volunteers. Our highlight came one Wednesday evening when we managed to hijack the Wednesday night digging team and had a total of 6 people (the most we ever had) hauling bags.  The complete system got a good test, moving bags from the base of Morton's Pot up to the top of the 380ft Way.  Some 60 sacks were moved in the space of 2 hours.  Great to see, the bags flying out of the place!  Unfortunately this only happened once, but it proved the system.  It also showed us that this would be possible to do with only 4 people but at a reduced rate. If only we could have found a couple more regular volunteers.  Frustration or what?

 

Ivan Sandford hauling in the 380 Foot Way - during the last Morton's campaign in the mid 1990s

Each time we moved bags from Morton's Pot and emptied sacks, it gave us the chance to dig again. Initial progress was slow, due to the awkwardness of digging at the top of A Drain Hole.  Once sufficient room to kneel up was made we took off and rapid progress was made.  Each dig session was measured by the number of rungs we had exposed, generally 2-3 rungs a session.  At rung 12 we found the old platform with a number of tools, among them Tony's prize miner's pick.  At rung 14.5 (4m from the ladder bolt) we dug into water which was a big surprise as the weather had been dry for the past few weeks.  As digging continued, it was evident that the water was draining back from the undisturbed fill on the sides. It was as if we had hit some kind of water level.  To make matters worse, it was now early September and time for the schools to go back. I now lost my digging partner who had to return to teaching kids once again.

Obsessed, digging continued solitary.  Thankfully Trevor Hughes came up with a massive supply of new sacks which helped delay the necessity to haul and empty until I could press gang anybody into helping. The conditions at the dig site didn't improve and I continued with the dig partially in water until nearly waist deep where it became impracticable.  Nightmare, needed a solution.  The idea of taking some drums down to bail the water into seemed feasible but they wouldn't fit through the rift at the bottom of the 380ft Way.  I eventually hit on the idea of walling off half the dig site with sacks, and bailing the water into survival bags, creating a sort of dam.  I could then dig the exposed half down a metre or so, dump the water, rebuild the dam on the other side and dig the other half.  With the total dig area only about 0.7 x2.5 m wide, it was pretty cramped work.  The system worked pretty well, and I even had the dig totally dry at times but it proved a very labour intensive and time consuming method.  I was still digging though.  To create more digging/damming room, I dug back into the rift toward Morton's Pot, forward progress being barred by a large rib of rock.  I was surprised to see the well developed rift continue rather than pinch down as expected.  With more room, I continued digging on down and eventually hit hard and "original" fill.  We had finally passed the previous effort.

The solving of the water problem had in itself created another, getting rid of sacks out of A Drain Hole.  It was impossible to do it on my own.  I installed a 2nd platform on which to stack bags, and this also served as a staging post to lift the sacks up to the first platform.  By triple or quadruple handling the bags I could get both platforms full of bags.


This was stacking room for about 50 sacks, but it still didn't get them out of the pitch. Occasionally I would manage to persuade someone to help me haul bags out of A Drain Hole into the little chamber and allow me to keep digging.  Progress was really slow as much of the time was spent man handling bags around and moving the dam etc, but digging continued.  The dig got down to a depth of 6m (from the bolt).

There was good encouragement at the dig face too in the fact that a rib of rock that was blocking forward progress (as opposed to down) was moving back to the right resulting in the rift opening to full size below it (Figure I - Section along AB).  With luck if forward progress was made, a drain point for the pot might be intercepted.

Disaster however stuck on the 3rd October when heavy rain resulted in the dig being flooded to a depth of 2m (4m from the bolt).  There was no way of damming this amount of water!  I guess I had been digging on borrowed time for some time as the weather had been remarkably dry for September.  Nightmare, my number was finally up and I had no option but to clear and put it to bed for the winter.  I monitored the dig for several trips keeping myself occupied surveying and tidying up. The water fluctuated in depth; after very heavy rain it would be flooded up to the bolt and in drier times it would have drained back down to 4m from the bolt.  It never however drained past the 4m mark.  This was also the water level initial intercept when digging down in dry conditions.  Figure 1 shows the survey of the dig site.

Dig Observations

The drain off point of the pot seems to be at the 4m mark, below which it is terminally choked. This level also corresponds to the base of a small calcite curtain that has flowed onto the top of the rock rib (see Figure 1).  This may have protected the fill below it, preventing compaction and hence the believed drain path.  The base of this curtain was poked with a bar to approx. 1.5m, and loose fill found, but rapid draining was not achieved.  With the pitch now being clear of fill to well past this point, it will be interesting to see whether this will clear itself over the winter.

The rate at which the pot drained also posed an odd question.  In high flow, the drain rate observed would not be sufficient to remove all the water, but there was little evidence of water backing up further than the little chamber (foam on roof).  This mystery is believed to have been solved when on one monitoring trip, a plastic digging sack was found to have been washed to some depth into a small (3") worm hole near the bolt.  This hole was originally believed to be an inlet as it headed upwards toward the Upper Traverse.  It appears that in high water, the pot backs up until water 'U' tubes up this worm hole to flow off to an unknown point.  This may be of great significance as it provides a possible place where water from the bottom of A Drain Hole may be pumped away.  This has not been investigated.

In Figure 1, the Section along AB shows that approximately 4m below the bolt, the rift opens out in a forward direction but forward progress is barred by a rib of rock sandwiched in between the rift.  As previously mentioned on top of the rib is a small calcite curtain, under which the pot is believed to drain.  Consideration was given to removing this rock rib, but the dig flooded before this was undertaken.  If removed, it may provide access to an open drain point.  It is also possible that the removal of this rock may prove unnecessary as at the 6m point, this rib of rock had cut back to the right face opening to a full size rift once again.  This will only be determined in dry weather when digging is resumed.

When digging back towards Morton's Pot to enlarge the dig site, it was a great surprise to find that the rift continued to be well developed rather than pinch down.  Only a metre or so was dug in this direction and probably connects to a small pot which was dug and subsequently back filled in the little chamber.  It does however have some interest to the Soho Dig (explained later in the article) the potential continuation of the wide rift development is of great significance.

A computer model of Eastwater Cavern

Conflicting rumours were abound in the Hunters as to where the "Morton's Pot" dig would eventually break through.  Some said Snotrom Aven, others Lambeth Walk where bang wire and pieces of digging sacks had been found, allegedly washed in from Morton's Pot.  After all the pain hauling those sacks out, would I be mad if we just broke in to Snotrom Aven!?  The only way to really tell and explore the possibilities was to generate a computer model of Eastwater Cavern.  This would enable easy viewing and more importantly, to be able to rotate the views around and obtain a good understanding of the relational orientation of the various passages.

The only survey commercially available was that done in the 1950's by Warburton & Surrall.  The survey was known to be of high accuracy, but it had some problems that could affect the tying in of subsequent surveys; the entrance to the cave was now in a different place and Dolphin Pot has also partially collapsed. 



The major problem however was that none of the West End Series was on it.  This had been partly surveyed and drawn up in the late 1980's but the data never published.  I felt sorry for the boys in the Hunters again, as if I wasn't badgering people for digging sacks it was survey data!!  I have to thank Trevor Hughes particularly, Tav and Tony, who supplied me with data.

Converting the Warburton survey back to readings to enter into the computer package, was painstakingly slow, involving much computation.  This process had also to be conducted on the Southbank as the only data available for this was a map produced by the Moodys in a WWC log book, and Morton's Pot data produced in a BB article (Vol 48 No 6).  Thankfully most of the other data supplied still had the original or transposed survey readings.  As the accuracy of Morton's Pot was fairly critical, it was resurveyed from surface, both the new data and that lifted from the map were in fairly close agreement.  Figure 2 shows a plan and Figure 3 shows an elevation through the complete Eastwater system.

The plots show that there are some discrepancies in the data, particularly in the West End data.  Where surveys overlap, or two data sets are available the discrepancies seen are not huge +/- 5 metres.  The West End series, however is an open loop system and thus with no closure it is difficult to assess true positional errors at the lower reaches of the cave.  Furthermore, the Southbank map is believed to be only Grade 2. Despite these inaccuracies, it does give an idea of relative positions to a reasonable degree.  The system begs however, to be accurately re-surveyed.

Points of Interest from the Survey

In Figure 3, the cross section, it can be seen that the majority of the cave is made up of a number of washed out bedding planes that are generally interconnected by rifts and vertical pitches.  The bedding plane has an approximate dip of 32 deg and strike of 168 deg.  This seems to be true of the West End series including Southbank and Lambeth Walk.  What is not apparent and was highlighted by T. Hughes's work, was that most of the big pitches (Primrose, Cenotaph and Gladman's) in the cave line upon an approximate bearing of 243 degrees, possibly indicating a joint or fault plane.  What is of great interest is that A Drain Hole also falls on this line, possibly indicating the presence of another large pitch. In addition, it can be seen that the position of A Drain Hole is not in the vicinity of Snotrom Aven, and it is not thought that this will form a connection as has been previously suggested.

The Southbank data wasn't added until A Drain Hole was flooded. Its significance to A Drain Hole is apparent as shown by the conjecture lines on both the plan and cross section.  The data seems to indicate a straight line connection between Soho and Lambeth Walk, i.e. both seem to be on the bedding plane. This also passes directly beneath A Drain Hole.  This is very interesting as it may well support the theory that the bang wire and sacks found at Lambeth Walk may have indeed washed in from the Morton's Pot dig area.  Furthermore, if a vertical pitch is dropped from the bolt in A Drain Hole down to the assumed Soho Lambeth Walk bedding plane (a vertical distance of 35m) the base of the pitch is 83m from Lambeth Walk, but more significantly only 45m from the Ifold's tunnel in Soho.  This definitely warranted investigation.

The Soho Dig

Fuelled with what the computer model was indicating I was keen to have a look around in the Soho area.   The chance came on a trip to rig the ladder pitches in the West End with Andy Heath.  We were in no rush so I said I would like to spend a bit of time looking around Soho, to see if I could find any possible lead at the base of Soho shown by the survey.  The original survey notes of Soho showed that two passages had been looked at but choked or were too tight.

There was a stream running out of the Ifold's tunnel heading down the bedding plane, so I decided to try and follow that, the thought being it could possibly be part of the Lambeth Walk stream.  It was quite open to start with but gradually got tighter, having to kick boulders out of the way.  I was pretty sure with the distance I had gone, I was past previous attempts.  I could hear the stream gurgling over what sounded like a small waterfall.  Driven by this and the dream of finding the connection to the base of A Drain Hole and more hopefully Lambeth Walk, I pushed on past a very tight 'S' bend squeeze, to finally sit up in a tiny rift chamber, somewhat relieved!  The chamber was shoulder width and approximately 2m long. An abrupt corner at the end of the chamber prevented further progress, but the passage opened up into a well developed 5m plus high rift, which continued along on approximately the same bearing.  It had a good stream running in the base, but looked fairly narrow in places.  A few bangs and we should be able to get a better look and pass the corner.  Well promising and what the survey was indicating.  Thankfully the squeeze turned out to be easier on the way out. I was buzzing!!  I think I floated down to Blackwall Tunnel and back!!

Five further trips to drill and widen the passage were accomplished.  My various companions had varying degrees of success negotiating the squeeze.  After the first bang, blown from Ifold's, J-Rat and myself were surprised to be chased out of Ifold's by the bang fumes!!  Big draught, very encouraging.  The bang widened the chamber, but still did not gain access to the comer.  It did however give a much better view of the rift.  The rift seemed to be narrow for 2m, before opening out to body sized passage. Encouraged, the passage was measured and found to be some 16m from the Ifold's tunnel, only 29m from the projected base of A Drain Hole.  The 2nd bang was blown from the Strand so that we could wait about for a bit and then see the results.  This time no quick extraction took place and I sat with J-Rat for over an hour in the Strand before the fumes finally cleared enough to go and have a look.  The bang had done a great job.  It had widened the passage right down to the comer and given enough room to potentially squeeze through the narrow part of the rift hopefully into the body sized rift.  The bang debris was quickly cleared, and I made an attempt.  Man was this tight!!  No go.  More kicking debris out of the floor and on the second attempt I eased through and stood up in rift passage.


The author returning through the second of the squeezes


The way ahead in the Soho Dig.

Jubilation, but it was only short lived.  The rift continued on for as far as the eye could see, but after approximately 2m closed down to 20cm wide and looked like it was a fairly constant width.  It also didn't look as though there were any high level routes either, but difficult to tell with the place still shrouded in fumes. We headed on out.  I was bitterly disappointed that I didn't get to solve the riddle of Morton's Pot, JRat was jubilant that he was going to get a pint after all and that he probably wouldn't have to go down to that desperate place again!!  His classic quote was "you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a princess"!

The rift still looked well encouraging; well developed, at least 5m high heading off into the distance and survey wise tying in with that above Jepson's Dig and heading straight for Morton's/A Drain Hole.  Not willing to admit defeat, I headed down another time to survey the dig properly and have a proper look around, hopefully able to see a bit more being clear of bang fumes!  Andy Heath again came to the call for help and another trip down to Soho.  Thankfully he made it through the squeeze into Thank-god Chamber.  I pushed on through the 2nd squeeze, but found it really awkward this time.  At one point I thought I wasn't going to make it through!  I eventually stood up in the rift with a clear view.

No doubt about it narrowing down to about 20cm for the majority of its height.  There was however encouragement at stream level. Further down (3-4m) it looked like it opened out to passable passage, but the immediate section looked very tight. I had a go at squeezing along the floor, but this was well out of my and most people's league!  No chance of digging out the floor as it was solid rock! Bummer.  It would need a number of bangs to pass this section to hopefully get to wider passage.  Where I could stand up the rift continued on up as a body sized rift, so I chimneyed up to 4m, but found I couldn't pass an awkward narrow part.  The rift did seem to continue on up at this width, and this needs to be checked again to make sure a high level by-pass is not missed.  The view from this height also confirmed that the passage did seem to open out at stream level further along, but it would need some widening to get to this point.  Resigned, we surveyed back out.  Figure 4 shows a survey of the Soho Dig:


Dig Observations

In Figure 5 - a survey plan of the Soho area, it can be seen that the found passage (rift) lies almost directly beneath the rift connecting the 380ft Way to Morton's Pot.  This rift was originally a deep narrow development but was back filled by previous digs.  It is suggested that this is the same rift development as the Soho Rift found. Further support is taken from A Drain Hole which is again a rift development that also follows the same trend line as the 380ft Way - Morton's Pot rift, the Soho rift and a conjectured connection to Lambeth Walk.  This could possibly indicate the possibility of a fault plane or a joint which has been eroded to the rifts presently seen.  The Lambeth Walk connection is pure speculation, but it seems to fit the evidence well and is supported by the digging debris which is found there.  Much less speculative is the probability that the Soho Rift will connect with the base of A Drain Hole, the rift following the same trend and only being 27m away. In the near future, it is hoped that some form of water tracing will be undertaken to determine this, or whether this water appears at Lolly Pot as has been previously suggested.


The Soho rift is accessed by two fairly awkward squeezes the 2nd being particularly tight, yielding a 2m section of body size passage, before narrowing to 20cm preventing further progress.  It does seem that the rift does open out at stream level after 4-5m. To access this however, selective widening will be required, involving a number of trips (and drop hammer techniques rather than bang).  It may also be necessary to widen the squeezes, particularly the 2nd to allow "normal sized" cavers (fat bastards!) access.

Unfortunately with my departure to Tasmania to cave for 6 months, it is unlikely that this will be pushed until next summer.

Thanks

First and foremost, I have to thank J-Rat for his support and advice, the supplying of articles, surveying data, digging bags and equipment etc.  In addition, the trips to A Drain Hole to help pull out bags and lately, the trips to widen the Soho Dig.  Much appreciated.

A big thanks to my digging partner Adrian Hole, again for his support, time and ideas, both with A Drain Hole and the Soho Dig, and lately for his help in writing this article. A big thanks also goes to Andy Heath for his help digging and sack hauling in Morton's and his help with the Soho Dig.

A thanks also to Ben Barnett who has spent many hours pulling sacks through the rift at Jepson's Dig, despite the rift being too narrow for him to get down to the dig site; Bob Smith who has also done several trips pulling bags out of Morton's Pot, almost the only times he had been underground this year; and Trevor Hughes for the supply of invaluable survey data, and a massive supply of digging sacks.

Finally, a thank you to all the people who came down to help dig or pull bags at both sites.  I hope to see you there again next summer!!

References

Jarratt A.R. "History of Morton's Pot Dig" ,Belfry Bulletin Vol 48 No 6.



 

Hunters' Lodge Inn Sink - The Latest News.

By Tony Jarratt

"Even a large flow, several million gallons per day, easily traverses passages impenetrable to man" - Willie Stanton, "Digging for Mendip Caves.”

Since the initial digging report in BB 511 work has continued here at a steady pace - a total of 70 banging trips being recorded to date.  The steeply dipping natural rift which takes the flood stream was joined after some 40ft (12m) from the base of the entrance shaft by a very low bedding plane passage at ceiling height on the western side.  Being more open than the rift this was followed by blasting out the floor to "Ben and Bev sized" dimensions for a distance of c.15ft (5m).  It has an attractively eroded ceiling with many tiny straws and curtains - most of which are proving to be surprisingly impervious to blast damage.  It is some 5ft (1.5m) wide and continues on into the distance with many more small but attractive formations visible ahead. Some fine fossils can be seen in the pleasantly water worn floor of "Pub Crawl", particularly at the first RH bend.

On the 15th of November Mad Phil surveyed the cave to a length of 59ft (l8m) and a depth of 29ft. (8.9m). This has since been increased to c.95ft (29m) length and c,39ft (l2m) depth. The current end is approximately 30ft (9m) south of the car park/field wall.

A minor breakthrough occurred on the 16th January when a 3ft (lm) deep rift in the floor of the bedding plane was forced down into some 7ft (2.1 m) of relatively open lower bedding plane passage with narrow open rifts below - one of which sucked in Adrian's lump hammer from a distance of 15ft away (sorry mate). (Ed. I was wondering where it was).  This passage has brought us back onto the line of Pub Crawl and if necessary the intervening rock could be blasted away to ease skip dragging.  Visitors should be warned that in the event of a rapid flash flood this lower bedding plane would not be a nice place to be - as was found out during a clearing trip on the 23rd January.  The bench between the shove ha'penny board and the fireplace being a far better alternative (depending on the time of day of course).

Work continues at this extremely promising site where a c.10ft deep rift in the floor is being enlarged to gain access to the Master Cave below.  In very cold surface conditions plumes of mist can be seen rising from the entrance shaft and the strong, and occasionally intermittent draught, has given rise to the theory that this is caused by the guides at Wookey Hole opening and closing the show cave door!

Spoil hauling in the entrance shaft has been made much easier thanks to the donation of a magnificent lightweight tripod by Paul Brock.  A variety of both mains and battery drills have been used underground and our favourite so far is the 110v.  Makita, unknowingly loaned by a discharged seaman's employers.  The cost so far of drill hire and explosives is about 490 pounds - just over 5 pound a foot.  This figure will obviously reduce drastically when the extensive system below is entered!

In advance of the future exploration party we have sent ahead a bit of Frank Jones to do the first through trip (and he thought his caving days were over!).

Footnote:

Jacquie Dors was delighted to report the comment of an elderly lady customer speaking to her husband in the car park - "Yer, I just seen someone climb out of the barbecue!”

More Diggers and Helpers

Phil Massey, Jake Johnson, Ben Wills, Fergus Taylor, Ray Deasy, Rich and James Witcombe, Phil Collett (SMCC), Ivan Hollis (SMCC), Stuart Sale, Malcolm Davies, Mike Willett, Andy Heath (CSS), Pete Hellier, Ian Matthews, Guy Munnings, Ben Holden, Roy Wyncoll, Mark "Shaggy"Howden, Helen Hunt, John Walsh, Rich Blake, Jake Baynes, Davey Lennard, Barry Hulatt, Bill Chadwick (Bracknell & District C.C.), and Frank Jones (part of, deceased).


 

Pumacocha 2001

Edited By Rob Harper, BVM&S, MRCVS, FRGS

The Team


Back row: Les, Nick, Mark, Ian, Matt and Rob.  Front row: Juan.

Introduction

In June 200 I six cavers from Britain, Canada and Peru undertook a short reconnaissance expedition to the Yauyos District of southern Peru where there is a large area of karst with numerous cave entrances.

As far as could be ascertained by a review of the available references none of this area had been examined in detail.  Both the geology and topography suggested that there was considerable potential for both deep and long cave development.

The primary target of this expedition was the large open shaft taking the waters flowing out of Lake Pumacocha which had originally been noted by Les Oldham a British geologist and caver living and working in Peru.  Subsequently Nick Hawkes had descended the first part of the entrance shaft and discovered that the cave continued beyond the daylight zone.

After a few initial promoting sessions by Nick amongst cavers in his home region (the Mendip Hills in the UK) news of an exciting new caving prospect deep in Peru slowly became public knowledge among the local caving community.  In early 200 I Rob Harper took the bait and contacted Nick with a view to a reconnaissance trip. After emailing around their acquaintances an experienced technical caving team was put together.

Personnel

Name

Nationality

Domicile

Club

Rob Harper

British

UK

B.E.C.

Mark Hassell

Australian

Canada

None

Nick Hawkes

British

Peru

B.E.C.

Ian McKenzie

Canadian

Canada

A.S.S.

Matt Tuck

British/Canadian

Canada

B.E.C.

Juan Castro

Peruvian

Peru

None

(Les Oldham

British

Peru

None)

Note 1   A.S.S. = Alberta Speleological Society

Note 2   Due to personal circumstances Les was unable to take a part in the active exploration of the cave.

Location and Topography

Satellite photograph indicating the cave location.


Geology/Geography

The cave is located within the 100,000 scale Yauyos map sheet number 25-L which was mapped in 1996 by the Instituto Geologico Minero y Metalurgico (INGEMMET).  The entire mapsheet covers a half degree quadrangle which equates to just over 3000km2.  Several areas within the mapsheet including the area directly over the Pumacocha cave have been mapped in detail by Les Oldham while exploring for base and precious metals.  During the course of his mapping Les first recognised the potential for major cave development in this area.

Geological controls are the primary elements which dictate a cave's location and form.  Caves form in limestone, and the best caves are developed in massive limestone with little or no interbedded silts, shales or other non-carbonate dominated lithological horizons.  Within the country of Peru the best limestone for cave development is the Upper Cretaceous Formation known as the Jumasha Limestone.

The Jumasha limestones are dominantly a massive thickly bedded sequence of dolomites and limestones. Within the Yauyos mapsheet approximately 700km2 of Jumasha limestones outcrop, making the area highly attractive for speleological exploration and karstic studies. In the region of study this lithological unit has been estimated at approximately 400m thickness (Megard et al., 1996).  Directly overlying the Jumasha.  Formation is another limestone unit known as the Celendin Formation which was also deposited in the Upper Cretaceous and has also been estimated as having a thickness of 400m.  The Celendin Limestones are not as favourable for cave development due to common interbedded layers of gypsum, red-brown shales and some sandstones. Nevertheless caves can and do occur in this formation.  Below the Jumasha limetones lie two further Cretaceous limestone bearing formations, namely the Pariatambo and Chulec formations which together form an estimated 330m of potential cave bearing stratigraphy.  Jurassic age limestones also occur to the northeast of the principal area of study yet still within the Yauyos mapsheet.  These are the Lower Jurassic Condorsinga unit of approximately 1000m thickness and the middle Jurassic Chaucha Formation of an estimated 300m thickness.  In total therefore the region has over 2400m of limestone stratigraphy which has subsequently been thrusted and folded during a sequence of orogenic events. The deformation is likely to be closely associated to a period of intrusive activity during the Paleogene and Neogene epochs, which has left the limestones commonly tightly folded, and in many areas standing near vertical.  During this period of deformation it is likely that many of the predominantly limestone hosted mineral deposits for which this area is famous for were formed.  The principal mineral deposits of the region all have strong magmatic associations suggesting direct association with the Cenozoic intrusive activity.


Topographical map of the cave and immediate area.

Geology at Pumacocha.

The Pumacocha cave system lies between two active mining camps.  To the south is the San Valentin polymetallic mine and to the north lies the larger mineral district of Yauricocha known for its rich copper bearing limestone and shale hosted deposits.

The cave is located within the Jumasha Limestones adjacent to the contact with a large Miocene granodiorite intrusive.  The entrance to the cave is formed very close to the contact between the granodiorite and the limestones.  The presence of considerable cherty horizons which were located underground suggest that the mapped cave to date lies close to the lower contact with the underlying Lower Cretaceous Pariatambo Formation.

All limestones where the cave sinks are vertically bedded and this clearly explains the extreme vertical nature of the cave development.


The valley wall above the cave entrance showing the vertical bedding.

Geomorphological Controls.

Previous speleological expeditions to the Andes have commented on the lack of deep and well developed caves and have attributed this in part to an effect of the excessive altitude (Imperial College, 1975).  The argument proposed is that rainwater falling at such altitudes is less acidic since less CO2 has been absorbed during the descent.  As to whether this argument is valid or not is not here disputed, indeed the presence of acidic waters is clearly a pre-requisite for large scale cave development.  It is of particular significance that at the Pumacocha system all water draining into the cave, which drains a catchment area of approximately 30km2 is also draining over the granodiorite intrusive which in turn is rich in small sulphide veinlets and disseminations.  Oxidised sulphides are an excellent source of acidic fluids and would therefore enhance considerably any cave development in this area.

Cave Exploration and Cave Description

On arrival in the area we examined the main sink and adjacent entrances which appeared to be part of a single cave complex.  In the absence of a local name, we designated the system as Sima Pumacocha, (SP), and the active entrance as SPI.  Two other dry entrances were noted in the small gorge downstream of the main river sink (SP2 and SP3).  Later yet another small entrance was found between SPI and SP2 which was then called SP1.5.

Due to the large volume of water flowing into SP I as well as a large quantity of dumped explosives in the main entrance it was decided to start by exploring SP2 and SP3.

Diagramatic section from Pumacocha to the presumed resurgence at Alis Springs



A view of the river - looking toward the entrance.


NB: All left/right descriptions below are "true", i.e. from the point of view of someone facing downstream.

 

Sima Pumacocha 1

Location: - E424208 N8630500 – local datum PSAD1956.

The first pitch was descended to a ledge at about -15m but not pursued further for the reasons outlined above.


Mark ascends the first pitch of SP1.  Note the rolls of explosives on the ledge!

Sima Pumacocha 1.5

Two small passages leading left from the entrance chamber in SP2 were followed to a stage where a connection could be confirmed with an entrance in a small depression about four metres from the entrance of SP2.

Sima Pumacocha 2

Location:-E424208 N8630500 -local datum PSAD1956

A strongly draughting entrance about 30m down valley from SPI in the left wall of a small gorge.

First a steeply descending rift passage led after 11 m to an 8m pitch (40m rope to natural belay at entrance) to the floor of a chamber.  From here two side passages on the left were pushed back to the surface at SP 1.5.  However the main way forward was a rift passage with two short (c3m) free climbs to the head of a 31 m pitch (40m rope, natural belay to boulder, deviation, 2 spits, 1 deflection and 1 natural thread belay).  This pitch ended at a large ledge/small chamber where a large aven could be seen entering on the far side at about five metres height that was not investigated.

From the floor of the ledge/chamber the next pitch ("Ammonite Shaft" 113m, 1 natural belay, 1 natural rebelay, 6 spits, 2 deviations) dropped down a large (c 20m x8m) rift to land on another ledge, "Blitzkrieg Bridge", so called because of the periodic rain of small stones from above.

To the left at the base of "Ammonite Shaft" a short horizontal rift passage at "Blitzkrieg Bridge" was followed for c 50-60m to an, as yet, undescended pot which will probably just come into the roof of "Huanca Gorge" - see below.


Ian assess the draught while Rob kits up at the entrance of SP2

The next pitch ("Cages on Highway Nine") was a free hanging 20m (2 spits) pitch immediately to the right of the landing point at the bottom of" Ammonite Shaft". This pitch ended at the head of a very large (c 10 x 15m) passage ("The Huanca Gorge") which descended steeply via a series of ramps and short drops passing an intriguing cruciform calcite decoration en route to a boulder blockage after c75m.  A short section of crawling and a two metre handline pitch was followed to regain the main passage now smaller in dimension (c 3x3m) still sloping at the same average angle which steepened to become a broken 40m pitch to a very high narrow (c 1m) vertical rift with a small inlet stream.  Downstream was blocked by a boulder fall after a few metres but a 2m climb gained a more spacious higher level. Then a short steeply descending passage (handline) led to a ledge about six to seven metres above a large active streamway ("The Shining Path" - c 4m x 15m) which is almost certainly the water sinking at SP 1.

On the left hand side immediately below the boulder ruckle was a window into a parallel stream passage sloping down to the head of a pitch.  This was not descended but from the noise almost certainly links back above the Shining Path streamway.

From the ledge above the streamway a short abseil (3m from natural belay) allowed access to a sloping ledge on the left of the passage about 3m above the river.  Upstream the water came down a pitch of unknown height and flowed off down a series of steep cascades.  The ledge was traversed to gain a short high-level oxbow on the left. Approximately ten metres of passage with two short,(c2m) free-climbable drops led to a small resurgence and pool followed immediately by a 25m wet pitch (2 spits, 2 rebelays) where several small streams entered and at the foot of the pitch the main streamway was regained at a large pool.


Rob surveying with Matt just above the "X-Files" ledge

At the far side of the pool a steep and powerful cascade of about eight metres ended at a large pitch of unknown depth.  This cascade was avoided by a sloping abseil on the left side to a large ledge ("The X-files Ledge") but the force of water precluded further progress at this level without a significant amount of upward artificial climbing.  However it was found to be possible to cross the cascade at the lip of the pitch and from this point a three to four metre free-climb of the right wall gained good natural belays.  Abseiling from these belays to further natural belays it was found to be possible to descend the pitch avoiding the water.  A spit was placed; the pitch was descended for 30-40m to the end of the rope.

At this point the caver was once again coming under the main water flow. This and the fact that there was no floor in sight for at least another 15-20m prompted the decision to return rather than tie on the separate short length of rope in the tackle sack.


Sima Pumacocha 3

Location:-E4241 07 N8630438 -local datum PSAD 1956

Following the gorge downstream from SP2 across a large depression allows access to a small vadose trench ending in a large (c 20x5m, open rift aligned in a North/South direction with a noticeable outward draught.  From the lip of this rift a daylight pitch (c 120m) ends in a large (c 20 x 50m) chamber floored with boulders through which the draught rises.


SIMA PUMACOCHA 3 (Grade 1 Survey)


Survey Notes

1.                  For the Grade 4 sections of the survey all measurements were taken using either a 30 or 25m fibron tape read to the nearest centimetre, a Suunto Compass and a Suunto clinometer, both read to approximately half a degree.  The resulting data was recorded immediately.

2.                  For the Grade 2 sections of the survey distances were estimated from rope lengths and angles assumed because of the vertical nature of the passage.  This data was recorded immediately after exiting the cave.

3.                  The raw data was processed on a laptop computer within 24 hours using "COMP ASS" software to produce a centre-line and a computer generated passage outline. This was then imported into CorelDraw and the final survey drawn.

4.                  GPS readings were taken with a handheld Garmin 12 GPS receiver using local datum PSAD 1956. Unfortunately neither the exact time of the readings or the degree of confidence were recorded.

Equipment

The vertical and steep sections of the cave were traversed using SRT (Single Rope Techniques) and "Alpine Style" rigging (rebelays as needed to avoid rope/rock contact) was used as far as possible.  The principal rope used was a 9mm static rope from Sterling Ropes. Initially this was a comfortable rope to use for both abseil and ascent.  However despite careful rigging the abrasion resistance of this rope was not good.  There were problems with slipping of the sheath over the core that might have been avoided by washing the rope before use.  Also after only a short period of use flattened sections of rope were discovered. Although these sections were probably as strong as the more conventional rounded rope they caused a marked change in the friction characteristics for descenders (both racks and Petzl Stops) and gave rise to some worrying moments.

Wherever possible natural features or rock climbing protection devices - such as nuts and "friends" - were used as belays.  When this was not possible either pitons or self-drilling 13mm rock anchors (Petzl) were inserted using a hand held driver.  The members of the team provided their own personal equipment for rope work.  Everyone used a "Frog" system.

Travel and Accommodation

All team members assembled in Lima and then travelled to the area of the cave by road.  Accommodation was generously provided free of charge at an "executive workman's" hut belonging to the Llapay hydroelectric station, kindly provided by SIMMSA, approximately 15km from the cave.  This was at an altitude of only about 3000m as distinct from the altitude of the cave entrance, (c 4400m), which greatly facilitated altitude acclimatization.  The excellent free food, clean beds, warm showers, daily room cleaning and access to electrical power were also much appreciated.  By common consensus this was the most comfortable expedition in which any of the team members had participated.

Medical Report

All members of the expedition suffered to a greater or lesser extent from mild Acute Mountain Sickness caused by low oxygen levels due to the high altitude of the cave entrance. Fortunately the clinical signs were restricted to breathlessness and feelings of faintness on exertion, nausea and headaches.  Those suffering from headaches were easily able to control them with simple non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin and ibuprofen) and within four to five days everyone had acclimatized well.  This was helped greatly by being able to sleep at a much lower altitude. Oxygen and appropriate medications for treating the more serious forms of AMS (pulmonary and cerebral oedema) were included in the medical kit but were not required.

Because of the increased water loss through panting particular care was taken to avoid dehydration including the establishment of depots of water and electrolyte solutions within the cave. Apart from the above and a slightly infected small wound on a digit, which responded rapidly to topical medication, there were no medical problems

References

(a) Geological References

Megard, F., Caldas, 1., Paredes, J.& De La Cruz, N., 1996, Geologia de Los Cuadrangulos de Tarma, La Oroya y Yauyos. INGEMMET, Bo1etin 69, Lima, Peru.

(b) Speleological References

No direct references to cave exploration at or near Pumacocha could be found.  Below is a list of general caving references relating to Peru.

Bowser, R.J. et aI., 1973, "Imperial College Expedition to the Karst of Peru." Cave Science: Journal of British Speleological Association. No.52.

Di Mauricio, T., 1979, "Pedizione Peleo-Alpinistica in Peru" Speleologia 2, 28-29

Gilbert, A., 1989, Le Karst de Cochapata irma Grande. Spelunca  36 pll-17.

Hartmann, H. "Eine Hohle in der Kultstatte Kenko bei Cuzco ( Peru

Imperial College, 1984. "Imperial College Expedition report"

Maire, R., 1986 Une classique de la cordillere des Andes: La Sima de Milpo (-402m), Perou

Spelunca 5 (23) 28-31

Martinez, A. Romero, D., Romero, M., et C.Ribera, 1983, "EI carst del nord del peru expedicions HIRCA-76 I MILLPU-77" Speleon, 26-27, p147-180.

Martinez, D., 1977, "Expedition Speleologique "cordillera Peruvienne" Rapport de expedicion"

Bibliotheque de la F.F.S.14p.

Masriera, A., 1973, "Nota sobre la Expedicion Espeleologica esanola alas regiones karsticas del Peru"

Espe1eo1e.G 18 979-981.

Morales Amao (Cesar), 1970, "Primera expedicion cientifica de espeleologia. Caverna de Huagapo(Tarma)" Revista Peruana Andina Glacio1ogia, Lima V.8 p173.

Orville, M. 1977, "Recherches Speleologiques au Perou"

Spelunca 3, p98-102.

Ribera,C. & Belles X., "Perou" Dept Bio1ogia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona.

Romero, D., 1979, "MILLPU". Espe1eo1eg, 28, 539-541.

Rossell, G., 1965, "Cavernas, Grutas y cuevas del Peru" Lima, 54pp.

Sammartino, Y., 1982, "Perou 82 - Expedition en Foret Amazonienne D 'Altitude" Club Bagno1ais d'investigations souterraines.

Sammartino, Y., 1984 "Perou 82" Spe1unca 14.

Sammartino, Y., 1987, "Expeditions au Perou 1802-1986" Fed Fr Spe1eoi.

Sammartino, Y., Staccio1i, G., & K1ien, J.D., 1981, "Perou 79, expedition du groupe Speleo Bagnols Marcoule." Bagno1s/Ceze -Rapport d'expedition,183p.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1973, "Aportacion al conocimiento geoespeleologico de algunas regiones karsticas del Peru." Pe1eon, 20, p167-224.

Ullastre Martorell, J., 1983, "Cuevas Exoticas" Ediciones Grijelbo, S.A. Barcelona. pp 47-96.

Wilson, J.M. et aI., 1982, " Peru 82, Southampton University Exploration Society Peru Expedition"

Southampton University.

1987, "Perou". Spelunca 28, 10-11.

Unknown 1977, "Espeleologia a HIRCA -76" Muntanya 86, (690) p339-347.

Acknowledgements

The team would like to express their thanks for the hospitality shown towards them by the people of Laraos, the workers and management of the San Valentin Mine and above all the extreme generosity of the mine and hyro-electric station owner, Don Jesus Arias, who most generously provided both food and secure lodging for us during our stay.  In addition we wish to thank Jenny the cook and all the security personnel at the hydro-electric station for making our stay so enjoyable.

Our thanks must also go to Sterling Ropes for providing a generous discount on five hundred metres of rope.

Conclusion

The speleological potential of this area is immense - as shown by the results of just one small reconnaissance expedition.  At -430m Sima Pumacocha is the deepest limestone cave and the second deepest natural underground cavity yet explored in South America and, so far, has shown no sign of ending.  The presumed resurgence is approximately 16km distant from the entrance and almost 1000m lower in altitude thus there is great potential for a very extensive cave system.  There is also the exciting possibility that some of the shafts noted by expedition members near the Yauricocha mine may be higher entrances to Sima Pumacocha.  If a connection exists then Sima Pumacocha could be one of the deepest known caves in the world.

A full colour version of this expedition report is available.  Contact Rob for details.



 

John Stafford's Memoirs.

By Chris Castle

The March '97 batch of new guides at Cheddar included one whom we thought to be the famous actor Patrick Stewart, fallen onto bad times.  This was not the case; it was in fact John Stafford.  He had moved down from Northants, having previously lived in many parts of the British Isles, and had taken a job at the Caves for a quiet life until he retired.  He had to put up with cries of "Make it so" and "Belay that order, Mr. Worf'-indeed, he joined in with the fun and told visitors that he used to be a Starship captain.  Fortunately we have since become bored with the joke.

He enthusiastically accepted an invitation to join a trip around the Adventure Caving Route in Gough's Cave, and because there were three Johns he told us to call him Staff as that was what everyone, including his wife Anita, always called him.  I soon found out that he had been a keen caver in his youth, had been a member of the BEC, and had taken part in many of the early explorations of St. Cuthbert's.  "Are you the Stafford of Stafford's Boulder Problem?" I asked, and of course, he was.

Staff started helping out with the abseiling, but his activity duties increased after I had a slight climbing mishap in July '98 and put myself out of action for a few months with various broken legs and things.  Staff continues to do this work at Cheddar.

His caving enthusiasm re-kindled, he has been on many Mendip caving trips with me, including many sherparing trips to Lloyd Hall for the CDG, and joined NHASA (Junior Section). In October of this year he visited Cuthbert's II for the first time, accompanied by myself and Rich Long, and I afterwards asked him if he would write up his Memoirs of his early teenage years exploring the cave.  This he agreed to do, provided I typed them up for him, which I have done with, I must say, great labour as I am a lousy typist.  However, I was helped by the fact that Staff, being of the older generation, can spell and string coherent sentences together.

A few explanations may be helpful.

"Knobbly Dog" - a hand climbing aid, consisting of a single length of ladder wire with short lengths of aluminium tubing swaged every 0.3 metres or so. One survives near the end of Cerberus Rift in St. Cuthbert's.

Pemmican - "A North American Indian preparation of lean flesh-meat, dried, pounded, and mixed with fat and other ingredients." (Chambers Dictionary).

The Shunt - a constriction in the old Cuthbert's entrance (abandoned in 1964).

Staffs Memoirs

The earliest trips in Cuthbert's could probably be best recounted by Chris Falshaw as my first visit did not occur until the "long trip" of the 20th/21st March 1954.

This party was particularly honoured by the presence of Bob Bagshawe Secretary and Treasurer of the BEC. Requests for vast expenditure on tackle for exploration of this new system had caused Bob some concern - he had to see if there really was a big cave so close to the Belfry.

The trip was absolutely amazing.  A fair amount of water was pounding through the cave, no fixed tackle, only rather primitive wire and wood ladders and heavy lifelines.  The main streamway from Pulpit Pitch was the normal route at that time which meant you were pretty wet throughout the trip.  Four hours was about normal to reach the Dining Room and each "outing" was about the same length so we had hot food and drink at about four-hourly intervals.

We newcomers - Bagshaw, Knibbs and myself - were conducted to the marvels of the Gours and on to the Sump. In many places throughout the trip one or other of the party would have a quick look into holes / passages not yet explored.  The main exploration involved the continuation of Cerberus Series into Mud Ball Chamber and the discovery of the Lake Chamber.

It so happened that the Lake was at a level where parts of the ceiling touched the water and gave an impression that the Lake might continue further than we could see. This, as you know, has proved to be a false hope.

Coase confidently stated that a vertical passage from above the Rat Run would lead to a particular hole in Everest Passage so he was told to get up there and prove it, which he did. I think Bennett went next, then it was my turn.  The others had gone up using a handy hold half way up.  That hold, and the rest of the boulder attached, came away in my hand. I was not far enough up the tube to push it to the top and it was too big to drop past me.  Instead of descending, getting rid of it, and starting again I was stupid enough to try pushing it up as far as I could, letting go and trying to wriggle up an inch or two before it landed on my head and then repeating the operation.  Again and again and again.  In true BEC fashion no-one helped at all, just rolled on their bellies laughing their socks off.  All except Bagshaw who had dozed off in the Dining Room while all this was going on, as far as I can recall.

Someone put that boulder carefully aside and, for at least a year, I had to check whichever load I was handed to carry out of the cave to make sure that it did not contain that bloody boulder.  Those good friends of mine did their best to trick me into carrying it out so they could present it to me at a Club dinner.  The phrase "boulder problem" they thought was most apt as I was then, or became soon after, the Club Climbing Secretary.

On this, my first, trip I probably also saw a sight that became synonymous with Cuthbert's trips. Norman Petty wore a stout all wool fireman's jacket under his boilersuit.  Whenever we were waiting at the top or bottom of ladders Norman would undo his overalls, produce a damp rag from his tunic pocket and carefully polish the uniform buttons whilst singing quietly to himself about Pretty Little Polly Perkins of Paddington Green.

More trips followed; many were concerned with more detailed examination of passages and chambers only briefly looked at in the earliest trips.  Not much remains in my memory of the details apart from being sent up for a good look round what became known as Pyrolusite Series.

On July 3rd with Waddon, Petty and Falshaw a real find was made when we pushed a simple squeeze into Rabbit Warren Extension.  The going was easy and new routes were in abundance.  Each of us must have had the thrill on several occasions of being first into a new chamber or passage that day.

Two sightings of Plantation Stream were found and possible continuations of routes located.  One of those was what I believe is now known as T-Junction Chamber.  A very short length of exit passage was partially blocked with good stal.  The passage appeared to continue beyond this stal but not with any certainty so we did not touch.  Years later, following the discovery of September Series, the explorers (King & Co?) pushed Cross Legged Squeeze then were stopped by a stal formation.  As they could see a chamber beyond the stal they broke through to where we had been in July 54.

Apart from the actual caving we were also working on a scheme to rig fixed tackle so that more caving time could be devoted to exploration.  Coase, Bennett and I all worked at the Avonmouth Smelting Works. Don found that a load of steel ladders had been stripped out of the site by a demolition contractor with a yard in Shirehampton.  Don, Roy and I then spent many lunch hours dashing to the yard in Don's car, unbolting ladders into moveable lengths, then a hurried return to work.  By trial and error with wooden mock-ups it was found that the maximum length of ladder we could introduce into the cave was (I think) 5 l/2 feet.  On Thursday nights the ladders were sawn, drilled and fish plates prepared in Clive Seward's garage which was handy for the Wagon and Horses, the Club Thursday night boozer, near St.Mary Redcliffe- no longer in existence.  (The pub, not the church).

The Sandhurst club had been asking to see our new discovery so they were invited to assist in the installation of the fixed tackle.  This must have been quite a trip.  I managed to avoid it!  Get Kangy to tell you, it was his first time in the cave (Feb.55). On this general topic, the Knobbly Dogs used at that time were far better handline aids than the chains and ropes now in the cave.  You could grip the KDs much better despite cold, wet hands.

The fixed tackle made a considerable difference to the time and effort of getting in and out of the cave. Conditions had previously been so severe that Jack Waddon wrote to the firm which had supplied pemmican to the '53 Everest expedition, explaining our problems and asking if we could purchase any old stock.  They kindly sent us the last two tins as a gift.  The parcel arrived just as Jack was leaving for Mendip so he brought them along and added them to a couple of tins of bully beef in a Cuthbert's surprise stew.  I am still grateful that I was not on that trip as various people became ill on the way out and none was at work on the Monday except for Jack whose cast iron stomach was unaffected.  Concerned about the state of his friends he looked at the manufacturer's notes enclosed with the letter.  It seemed that everyone had eaten at least a twelve man-days ration in that single meal. The pemmican really was concentrated!

Our apres- caving meals took a turn for the better when the owner of the Miners' Arms (cafe, not pub) began offering cavers suppers, as much as you could eat for 3/6d (17 1/2p) at any time of night or day by prior arrangement.  The meal comprised of a bowl of soup, meat and three veg followed by bread and marmalade till you gave in.  He really did serve us at 3.30 am when asked on more than one occasion.

A trip I recall from later that year was the start of a high standard survey.  To begin with, all the tackle had to go to the Duck. Coase, Petty, Collins and myself dealt with this rather awkward job, passing numerous items from hand to hand whenever we could not get along carrying the gear.  Alfie, of course, started composing a song to go with the shouted checks on items being passed along.  The chorus was something like:

First tripod forward
Second tripod back
Third astro compass
UP Fourth man's crack!

The kit eventually reached the Duck and the first leg of the survey made back to the Gours.  We then had to push on in order to get out by closing time.  All went well until we were up the Entrance Rift and Petty, who was in front, decided to try a different way of getting through the Shunt into the bottom of the Entrance Shaft.  For the benefit of those who never met him I should mention that Norman was over 6 feet tall.  How he managed it I do not know but he seemed to get himself doubled up the wrong way round and was jammed in there for Gawd knows how long. When we eventually surfaced closing time was horribly close.  Without changing out of our filthy wet overalls we put a cleanish sack on the driving seat of Don's car and he drove to the Hunters with the other three of us hanging onto the outside of the car.  We passed money in and the hilarious mob within passed mugs of beer out through the windows to us.

Mention of the Entrance Shaft reminds me that part of the shoring was a large board stating that:

Climbing is Dangerous
and is Prohibited
by order
G. Robinson Manager Gough's Cave

As I am now employed by Cheddar Caves I find this memory rather amusing.  I had originally taken a sign from the other side of the road.  Older, more responsible, members told me to take it back because it must be National Trust property.  This I did the following Saturday after closing time and took the Gough's Cave sign instead which was deemed to be perfectly O.K.

Round about this time we started to break through the Bank Grill in Gour Rift.  King and I were there one day thumping away with hammer and chisel and were, we thought, about to succeed.  Both of us were nearly out of carbide but as there was a small stock in the Dining Chamber, went on hammering away.  We eventually gave up when our lights were seriously low and sped to the Dining Chamber to re-fill. The whitewashed wall on which messages were left said that Don's party were on their way out and were very sorry but had used all the spare carbide supply.  The other spare carbide supply was in Pillar Chamber and it is probable that the time Kangy and I took to get there has never been bettered.

On the following weekend Tony Dunn and I eventually opened the Bank Grill and Tony went through. He came back to say that it did not appear to be worth pursuing.  As far as I know this is still true.

That autumn (55) was really the end of my "early" Cuthbert's.  I had failed my exams which finished my deferment from National Service. In the November my call-up papers arrived, but I was not aware of them.  I had crashed my motorbike the night before and have no knowledge of the next four days.  It could have been worse but I was wearing an ex- WD crash helmet purchased from Roy Bennett three hours previously.  After two more medicals the Army still wanted me.  Due to argumentative skills learned in the Hunters' and the Belfry I persuaded the Army to leave things long enough for me to have another go at the Great Traverse of the Black Cuillin of Skye in May 56.  This I managed with John Attwood and returned to find that the Glosters wanted me next Thursday.

Thank you for asking for the stories of caving with the wonderful characters concerned.  I am glad to say that last week I had my first visit to Cuthbert's II - many thanks to Chris Castle and Richard Long who acted as guides and minders.  In another few days I shall be at Alfie's Geriatric Dinner - 50 years after my first club dinner which I regret to say was the Wessex.


 

Club News

Firstly, for those who have not already heard, I have some sad news.  Frank Jones passed away at the end of last year.  An obituary can be found below.  I am sure that I am not alone in saying that his seat by the fire in the Hunters' seems strangely empty - although Quackers is doing his best as a stand in for Frank.

Tony and others are soon due to return from their Meghalaya Expedition and news of their exploration will be in the next issue of the BB.

Phil Rowsell has sent brief news of his six months digging in Tasmania - he has mentioned something about a new shaft in a system on Mt. Anne and the possibility of a new Australian depth record. Somewhere in Tasmania there are some poor knackered cavers gazing at a calendar and thinking of the rest that they will have when he returns to Mendip!

Work has begun at the Belfry on clearing the ground for the new extension.  Contact the Hut Engineer for details of future working weekends as this issue will be too late for the early March one.

A new computer has been installed in the Library courtesy of Becca Campbell and Bristol Waterworks.

Finally, although there has been a fair deal of trips by club members in recent months the Logbook reveals only a fraction of this activity.  There are two good reasons to fill it in.  Firstly, it is an historical record for the use of future cavers. Secondly, if it is not used more, the extracts from the Logbook section of your BB is going to read like a personal log for the few that bother regularly to write up trips.


 

VALE: Francis (Frank) John Jones.

1944-2001.

Frank joined the BEC in the early 1960s whilst he was living at his parent’s home in Clifton.  At the time he was working as a draughtsman.  He caved through the mid 1960s, frequently in St. Cuthbert's (which seems to have been his favourite Mendip cave system).  He then joined the Merchant Navy - his departure from which launched the countless jokes about a "discharged seaman".  Moving to Priddy at the end of the decade he remained in the village until his death from a heart attack while at home in mid December 2001.


Frank near Quarry Corner in St. Cuthbert's Swallet on the 5th of January 1964.

Photograph by Roger Stenner.  Also present on the trip were: Dave Irwin, Joyce Rowlands (now Franklin), Brenda Plummer ( Wilton), Joy Steadman, and Kevin Abbey.  Other sites visited on this photographic trip included Mud Hall, Pillar, Boulder and Upper Traverse Chambers.  For a more recent (albeit posthumous) caving trip by Frank see Tony's article on Hunter's Lodge Inn Sink.

His well attended funeral, with well over eighty mourners, reflected his popularity and his ashes were scattered in a number of places locally - indeed there are now plans afoot for a lasting memorial to one of Mendip's (and the BEC's) true characters.

If you have more information or stories about Frank, and particularly about his caving years, please send them to the Editor for publication in the next issue.


 

Extracts From The Logbook.

14/11/01: Eastwater Cavern ( Soho Dig): Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Went down to survey dig and check possible leads with no bang fumes.  Andy made it into '"Thank God" Chamber, which was good. Squeezed through into rift and had good look around. Rift continues on, generally pretty narrow (5 inches), but seems to be wider at bottom.  Narrow part for next 2-3 metres, needs to be widened.  Tried to squeeze through, but well tight!  Not the mega nightmare previously thought, but definitely a project. Climbed up rift, but no way on. Surveyed our way out. Good trip. Not all is lost, but guess this will be next year's/summer's project!

17/11/01: Priddy Green SinkiSwildon's: Mike Alderton, Rich Bayfield (S.U.C.C.) and Chris (S.U.C.C.)

Priddy Green Sink through trip (not bad for Chris's 5th trip) had a look at possibilities for blasting drainage from Mud Sump from this side, but nothing looks promising.  No ladder on Twenty, despite hundreds of cars when we left, so set up hauling line for Rich and Chris.

28/11/01: Welsh's Green Swallet: Madphil and Andy Heath (C.S.S.)

Tourist trip to have a look at dig etc.  Not as muddy as expected.  Now off to "Tassy" ( Tasmania) for six months.  See you in June!

5/1/02: Rhino Rift: Ivan Sandford, Rob Harper, and Adrian Hole

Typically disorganised trip in - left keys in Land Rover, rope too short etc.  Dug passage to Stal to a workable size.  Cold, wet, squalid - but made good progress until water became a problem.  Skip needed. Ivan of the opinion that no breakthrough imminent, but still a good site - must go back with wetsuits.  Rob found squeeze easy.  Ivan did not - mainly due to having to have RH stand on his shoulders to get through.

12/1/02: G.B: Mike Wilson, Tom, and Ben

Steady trip to the Ladder Dig. Looked at the RH dig and took some photos of same.  Out via standard route.

Dollimore's Series: good digging to get connection!  Headed south downstream to choke, where we had a prod at a couple of likely spots before turning our attention to the choke.  Climbed up and removed several rocks before being halted by a precariously balanced slab (above head) and several of its pals - will go back with another type of persuasion!  Onto Yellow Van Passage where the connecting duck was more than that, but did find likely spot in the roof tube to wait for fumes to clear.  Turned and made way out.  Around nine hours.

Subcategories

The BEC's series of caving reports cover a wealth of knowledge and experience.Most of these were written many years ago but still contain very pertinent information covering many aspects of the clubs activities.

 

Been down St Cuthberts? Buy the report and get a free survey!

Less well-known than many of Mendip's other major cave systems, St. Cuthbert's Swallet offers much to those whose interest extends beyond mere sporting activity. Not only does it contain fine pitches and streamways but it has numerous large chambers, some beautifully decorated, intricate phreatic mazes and up to seven distinct levels. It is without doubt Mendip's most complex cave system and, not generally realised, it contains perhaps the finest and greatest variety of formations in the area. Among its displays are found magnificent calcite groups such as the 'Curtains', 'Cascade', Gour Hall with its 20ft high gour, 'The Beehive', Canyon Series and the 'Balcony' formations in September Chamber, all of which are without peer in the country. There are also superb mini-formations including floating calcite crystals, over twenty nests of cave pearls, and delicate fern-like crystals less than four millimetres long; a variety that few other caves can boast.

Access is strictly controlled by the Bristol Exploration Club. Conservation was the prime reason for wishing to control access to the cave. To achieve this aim it was decided by the BEC at their 1955 Annual General Meeting to introduce a leader system. St. Cuthbert's Swallet was one of the first caves in the country to be so protected. This action has often been the centre of controversy. However, the fact remains that, after thirty years, the cave is essentially still in pristine condition and proven justification for the leader system.

The St Cuthberts report was written and compiled by D.J. “Wig”  Irwin with additional material by Dr. D.C. Ford, P.J. Romford, C.M. Smart and Dr. J.M. Wilson. Running to 82 pages and containing a vast array of photos and a wealth of information this doesn’t just deserve to be on every cavers bookshelf, you should get one for all your friends too (well maybe).

Copies can be purchased from the Belfry or Bat Products for a very reasonable sum.


Also Available as a PDF download from the downloads section from the publications menu

The monthly newsletter will remove ‘internal’ members items from the regular Belfry Bulletin and hopefully be able to update our members more frequently on news, BEC events, local caving related events, any internal stuff members may like to know, dig updates, gossip, etc. etc. It will also contain a rolling calendar which will list both BEC and member events and any other cavers related events on Mendip and the wider community where appropriate.

The newsletter is totally internal to BEC membership and will not be distributed outside of the club, unlike the BB which is exchanged with other clubs and  eventually published publicly on the website.

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The Belfry Bulletin is the journal of the Bristol Exploration Club.

The current editor, always welcomes articles and pictures as this journal is what the members make it by sending in contributions. As well as his postal address published in the Belfry Bulletin, he can also now receive articles by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The entire archive of back issues is available here entirely due to Andy Mac-Gregor. Over a period of four years Andy has scanned and converted to text via OCR every single issue. When you consider that most of these were printed on a Gestetner duplicator you'll appreciate the scale of this achievement.