Depth through thought

OUCC News 4th May 1994

Volume 4, Number 21

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Congratulations to Tony for building on Steve's work and extending the Brownhill system still further this weekend. Thanks to all those who helped me take a few photographs underground, and to Gavin for supplying the bizarre piece on the psychological cause of spelunking printed below.


Muriel's new address is:

58 Tan Yard Brow
Gorton Manchester
M18 8UJ
ph: 061-223-3306


Paul Mann is having a housewarming party on Saturday, and his new address in London, to which you are all welcome. However, being a stone age Mac-user, I couldn't access the PC disc he gave me, so you'll have to ask him for the details

Brownhill, Brownhill...

What shall stem the tide of human progress? 'Twas nothing but an bottle.---

Kingsdale was at its summer best as we walked up to the cave lugging tackle bags and cylinders, so Tony could dive. Sliding down the entrance pipe I squeezed my way slowly along the rift, bottles and flippers clanging behind. Catching up with Andy Tharrat just before the first pitch I discovered that Tony's bottle had wedged itself vertically in the rift, a crowbar job. Frustrated, we turned round and bottomed Bull Pot.

Sunday morning found a different team, still including Steve and Andy Tharrat back at the first pitch. I picked up my gear and set off down to the sump. There Tony squeezed on one wetsuit over another and before long had got ready. Passing him his goggles of far-seeing vision, his trusty flippers of balance and speed and his line of homeward returningness, Tony sang a few lines of "Ancient Times", sorted out a faulty valve, and dived gracefully into the Guinness-looking sump. For an hour and ten minutes we kept warm till all of a sudden, a splash, a light, and a cold Tony re-emerged. As we helped him take off his equipment we learned that he had laid another 65m of line. This makes about 450m of sump which still continues in much the same direction in a fairly large silt-bottomed passage. What can I say? After he'd dived I'd muttered, "He's good Tony is." "Yes", said Urs nodding, "I think so.

Grabbing a "55" I headed on up. Oomph, bang, urhh, clang, crash, urhh, oomph up the pitches to the stuck bottle. Half-a sweat-filled, face-scrapping hour with Bernie's crowbar. This is a hammer and chisel job I decided as my light failed, so I made my way out knackered and grunting. Well done everyone, another classic O.U.C.C. weekend.
James Hooper (His hat is SO super)

Vesper Pot

It was Saturday morning, and due to going to Bernie's for a drinkable mug of tea, I had found myself not on any of the lists of caving trips, Urs had been making. So it was suggested, that Rob, Steve and myself, went on a trip, ourselves to get some rigging practise. After another hour or so's messing around, we had been convinced and got the necessary gear together, and headed off for Kingsdale in the red van.

After a very pleasant walk up to the entrance, and a leisurely change, we headed on in. We were soon at the first pitch, which Rob whipped a ladder onto, and then the second... and so it was we arrived at the top of the third pitch. This we rigged for SRT, and down went Rob, however it wasn't as long as it said in the guide book. Never mind, this next pitch must all be part of the pitch, so Steve rigs a very nice Y-hang, only to find that the rope doesn't reach the bottom.

It was; shortly after this that we remembered, that between the second, and third pitches, there was a climb down some large steps in the waterfall, which could be avoided by a pitch. About this time we also realised that, we hadn't brought enough gear to do this pitch. So I was sent to climb back up, released the rope, and climb back down, by which time the next pitch had been rigged, and Rob was just starting down. He got half way down, and had just passed the rebelay, which Steve had rigged off a convenient flake, when I heard a crash, followed by a clattering, and a shout from Rob. The convenient flake was no longer there and had actually bounced off Rob's shin, and down to the bottom, of the' pitch, where it just missed Steve. As I discovered, when I followed down, a rebelay isn't actually needed. When I had got to the bottom, we decided after looking at the last pitch that we didn't really have time to do it, and be out in time to walk back the Marton arms in daylight, so we headed out. The return trip was much more efficient, and we were soon on the hillside, changing in the evening sun, having had a good trip, in which we had all learned something.

What Spelunking is...

In Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:3, (1989), pp.727-735, is the paper "Spelunking as a .Manifestation of a Counterclaustro-phobia," by Wayne A. Myers, M.D. The abstract follows:

Material is presented from the case history of a patient whose interest in spelunking (cave exploration) was found to be an unconscious expression of a type of counterclaustrophobia. Both oedipal and preoedipal determinants of the claustrophobic anxieties are delineated. Of particular note in this instance is the testicular element in the genesis of the patient's claustrophobia. His confusion of the movements of his testicles into his inguinal canals during childhood defecation with the movements of the faeces themselves lent an especial intensity to his fear of being flushed away from the mother by an expulsive anal birth from the claustrum. Childhood anxiety aroused when his testicles would become trapped in the inguinal canals was an important forerunner of the adult fear of being trapped in confined spaces. A counterphobic element of the spelunking per se was his enjoyment in hanging suspended by a rope in caves. In this manner, he was able to act out (by virtue of his body-testicle equation) his identification with, and control over, the disappearing testicles in the setting of a claustrophilic union with the mother.

Some highlights from the text: "Mr. A. was a thirty-seven-year old single man who came to me because of an anxiety attack while spelunking. He had often descended into caves before, but this time had lost his footing and fallen into space. While swinging wildly on his safety rope, he felt terror and was only barely able to pull himself up to safety.

"His mother had become depressed when he was five, after his eight-year-old brother had fallen to his death down an elevator shaft. The mother was never the same thereafter....In adolescence, he gave up trying to soothe her and became passionately involved in spelunking....

"...When I asked about the walls closing in on him [in a dream], he noted: 'At least I you have a chance to run for it, it's not so bad...Being trapped is the worst thing. You have no's like what used to happen to my testicles as a kid. They'd go up the cord in my groin, just like the rope I'm always swinging on in my dreams, and I'd have to wait for them to come down. Half the time I didn't know if they were dropping down in the bowl and would be flushed away or if they were mired in shit there. It was a nightmare....

....He became aware of further childhood memories of his testicles moving into the unguinal canal when he moved his bowels. He realized that part of his interest in spelunking, especially the descents on ropes, came from his confusion of his faeces, his testicles and his dead brother, and from his wishes to regulate the ascent of his testicles into the canals and the descent of his faeces into the toilet bowl. He also came to recognize that part of his anxiety in caves derived from the fear that he would be flushed down the toilet by the rejecting mother....

"....the treatment was terminated prematurely. I should note here that Mr. A. regained his avid interest in spelunking.

In his review of the literature, the analyst comments: "Asch sees a projection and displacement of the ambivalently perceived maternal object onto the enclosing space, and wonders if this is the origin of the symbol of the cave as first object. He notes that when the anxiety in claustrophobia is libidinized, the tension becomes an aim in itself and may give rise to spelunking as a pursuit. This case supports that view." Dr. Myers concludes: seems clear that Mr. A.'s interest in spelunking is related both to his claustrophilic wish to be reunited with the mother (loved dead brother)-cave and his counterphobic denial of his clilustroF:i6bicfcars about entering into, and remaining within, the cave- mother (feared dead brother)... ....In spelunking, Mr. A. especially enjoyed hanging suspended by a rope (a variant of the inguinal and umbilical cords) in the air in a dark cave. In so doing, he became the mobile testicles, the fetus, the phallus, and the resurrected dead brother in utero-all riding up in the inguinal canal in a manner he could now control by pulling himself down to safety at will, a form of identification with the aggressor. "The patient's childhood understanding of the connection of the sperm-producing function of the testicles and the issue of procreation helped to link separation and castration issues in his mind. Spelunking thus served a multiply determined counterphobic purpose for Mr. A. and helped him to deny anxieties from a variety of psychosexual and ego-developmental levels."

(The proposed mechanism would presumably not account for female cases of spelunking).