Depth through thought

OUCC News 9th November 1994

Volume 4, Number 32

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Thanks to everyone who helped arrange and derange over the Mendip Madness weekend. Everything seems to have gone swimmingly over the party. Although things may have gone a bit too swimmingly underground on Sunday, as Dave Lacey may testify. Which subject of sumps brings me to comment briefly on a series of incidents in Sump 1 in Swildon's two weeks ago. Of the 12 OUCC cavers who visited the sump that day, three got into difficulties underwater. In all cases a seriously frayed section of pull-through line, hidden underwater in the sump, snagged on tackle. In one case, the frayed line tangled around the novice caver's helmet lamp-bracket, keeping her face almost completely underwater until she was freed by an attentive Anette in the sump pool. Luckily no-one was hurt, though some were understandably shaken. But the really worrying things is that no-one had thought to rerig the line to remove the danger for later parties. True, the rope may have frayed quite quickly, but I cannot believe we were the first to find it in that state. If there's a moral in the story, I suppose it is to be deeply wary of in situ tackle, especially in a place like Swildon's where too many visitors don't know what to do, or don't care, Rant rant rant... Anyway, well done Louise for having the bottle to redive the sump (same goes for Dave...).

Mendip Maaaaadness

If you had to ask why, you wouldn't understand. Lionel's Hole??? Four new OUCC members, (K)nobby, Olly, Dan and Alan were somehow persuaded to follow me down Lionel's for a "jolly" trip before the party. As a cave its got something of everything, a squeeze, a wet bedding plane crawl, a duck, a few climbs and finally stick-in-the mud passage. "Ah yes the next bit's quite interesting," was heard quite frequently. We had a good two hour trip though, (even John who gave away both his working lights). Getting changed out of my caving kit and into my dressing gown, I swigged a mouthful of vodka and was ready for a party. And what a party! The usual food, "rave in a cave", a slightly different firework display, smoke, firebreathing, vodka, vodka, vodka... Cries of "We want Waltzing Matilda." were replaced with 'I slept with Martyn Farr." I replied, "The darkness beckons." "Did he say that to you as well???" And my place amongst the Bradford lot was secure for the evening. Everyone (about 30 OUCC and 30 UBUPC) was really sociable and Quality Streets, the Jelly Welly and Paul M circled freely. It was good to see Martin L. and his wife, and Tom again as well as everyone else. What a night. What a hangover.

The following morning combined the worst ways to wake up. The throb of the head together with the utter squalor of the cave. Eventually Reed's was scraped clean. Outside, we emerged to a beautiful Mendip morning. It was far too nice to go straight back to Oxford so I tested the waters to see if a Swildon's trip might be in order. In the end (after John nearly got left behind in the Burrington Loo) some people walked along Ebbor Gorge, while two trips went down Swilly's as a hangover "cure." Knobby led Steve P. and me on a good rip down to Shatter Pot and back. The water levels were very high with a huge inlet pouring into the Wet Way. Where on earth is that water coming from??? Will finally drove us back to Oxford, knackered after an excellent weekend. Thanks to all who helped organise it. Next year I'm going to excel myself. Mad. Vodka. Mad.
Oh God.... tETley (I'M rEady fOr BeD)

Sherry and Mark's Adventures...
Part II: West Timor- a recce of Karst between Kupang and Dili

[Part I]
Timor contains large areas of limestone, the majority of which comes in two forms, the mountainous Maubissi limestone (Fatu formations) and the lower lying Coralline limestone. East Timor had been visited briefly by cavers from Western Australia in 1969 (Janicke, 1970), but to our knowledge no-one had visited W Timor in search of caves.

We landed in Timor, devoid of Indonesian cash, after the banks had closed. Our attempts to change money that evening proved fruitless and we were forced to spend the night in unusual luxury in the Hotel Sasando, the only place that took credit! The next morning we intended to head straight to Camplong where the guidebook indicated there were caves. En route to the bus station, however, we couldn't help but notice three cave entrances. Mark entered one that went into a large chamber, but didn't appear to continue. We made a note of them and decided we'd check them out when we returned to Kupang.

After a sweaty journey in a bus crammed with people, chickens, and the odd pig, we were deposited in Camplong. Due to a distinct Lack of success in finding accommodation we continued on to Soe on the next bus. The next morning we returned to Camplong to look for the cave that was reported. After asking directions a couple of times we found the cave; a fairly small chamber with two entrances in a crumbly limestone outcrop.

The next day we headed out to look at the area North of Soe. This area, like Camplong and Kupang was in the coralline limestone. There were plenty of limestone boulders at the surface, bur few massive outcrops. We walked north of Soe and after asking the locals about caves we mere shown some man-made tunnels from WWII but no natural caves. There didn't appear to be any sinks or resurgences in the area. After a two days touristing (visiting the king of Boti) we headed further east to Kefamenu, or "Kefa" as it is known locally. Our curiosity was piqued when a trader in one of the hostels we stayed in mentioned that he'd come to the area to buy birds nests, and that the swallows in question nested in caves near Oelolok. The next day we headed out for Oelolok, stopping to visit Gua Santa Maria (Santa Maria cave) en route. Santa Maria cave was around 60m long and consisted of two large chambers with "skylights" illuminating them. The cave was used as a chapel by the locals who are largely catholic. It was in a Maubisse outcrop, a much more massive kind of limestone than the coralline variety, this Maubisse limestone usually occurs as large isolated limestone crags or mountains. There was a second, smaller cave behind the "chapel" cave that contained a concrete angel and an equally tasteful concrete Jesus, Lying in state inside.

As we headed towards Oelolok we noticed a sign for Gua Maria. another cave. We tracked it down with help from a local man, only to find that it was an artificial cave built by the locals of the next village along for use as a shrine (consequently it was full of virgin Marys and similar paraphernalia). Time was pressing on and it wasn't until the next day that me reached Oelolok. Rising up behind Oelolok were large limestone crags of the Maubisse type. We headed towards them across the paddies and; asked a man working in the fields where the caves were. He said there were cares in only one of the crags and he took us up to see them. It was quite a bash through the bush as the path was very indistinct but eventually we reached the top. The rock on top of the crag was very karstified, but unfortunately the few caves were very small. We asked if there were caves in any of the other surrounding mountains and were told that apart from Gua Santa Maria there were no other caves.

We headed further east via Atembua to Dili in East Timor. Despite rumours of trouble the week before, we had no trouble getting across the border. We had a brief detour to Maliana to look at what was reported to be a limestone area in a Western Australian caving report, however there didn't appear to be any limestone there, so after a night in Dili we headed back to Kupang.

We both came down with heavy colds when we got to Kupang, but nonetheless went to look at the caves we'd noted previously. We found another two entrances en route. Of the five coves, one was no more than a pit, three were boulder filled chambers, 10, l5 and 20m long respectively, and the fifth was a man-made cave with 2 entrances that looked as though it had been inhabited at one: time. The next day we went to Baumata, a village near Kupang to look for a resurgence we'd heard about. In typical Indonesian fashion, two friendly locals offered to show it to us. The cave had a gate at the entrance as it was a water supply, but we went inside and quickly surveyed it. The surveyed length was just 60m through the dry part of the cave. The watercourse ran parallel to this route at a lower level with occasional windows between the two routes. After getting out of the cave we took a dip in the "swimming pool" fed by the cave water, and headed back to Kupang.

Our time in Indonesia was coming to a close, and we flew to Lombok to spend our last three days snorkelling on me fantastic reef around Gili Trawangan. Although we didn't find caverns measureless, me had a great time looking for them, and it was made all the better by the hospitality of all the Indonesian people we met, especially those who showed us their local caves. There may be bigger caves to find in Timor, possibly in the higher Maubisse outcrops in the North of W. Timor, or possibly in the Eastern extremity of East Timor.

Thanks are due to Andrew· Wygralak of TESS, and Jim Campbell of Canberra S.S. for furnishing us with information about the earlier trips to Sulawesi and Timor. Thanks also to Michael T for helping us find carbide in Ujung Pandang, and to "Jeri" Sammu, Freddy Masu, Joni Lasfeto, Tonny Sanit and Agustinas Humau for showing us their local caves.
Sherry Mayo & Mark Bown

Assoc. Pyrenees de Spel. (1985 & 1956) Expedition Reports of the Thai-Maros Expeditions.
Janicke, S. (1970) The Western Caver (The journal of the West Australia Speleological Society) 10(2), 12-17.