Depth through thought
OUCC News 26th November 2003
Volume 13, Number 21
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Editor: Anette Becher, firstname.lastname@example.org
Breakthrough in Eastwater Cavern, Mendip
Congratulations to Graham 'Jake' Johnson, 'Mad' Phil Rowsell, Paul Brock and various helpers, who broke into blank area beyond Morton's Pot in Eastwater Cavern, Mendip on Saturday. There was debate as to whether this was the biggest or the second biggest question mark on Mendip - in any case, any questions to Jake please, who should be able to answer them soon.
Breakthrough x 2 in Yorkshire
Martin Holroyd, aided by various NCC members, found 30m in Greenlade Inlet, Aquamole, Kingsdale. The dig continues in a rift.
The NCC dig in Scalesmoor Pot on Scalesmoor also saw a minor breakthrough of about 10m, with bad weather preventing further digging this weekend.
"Ghar Parau" by David Judson.
One of the classic expedition caving books. It recounts the 1971 expedition to the Zagros mountains of Iran, which eventually found a going cave that went to -730 metres:
"We were both amazed and annoyed that the cave, rather than gaining size and ease with depth, was actually getting progressively harder. The climb up was accomplished with a difficult move on an overhanging calcite false floor. Fortunately it was furnished with good solid stals for the pull-up. [...] Climbing over more calcite, the way on and down was altogether much larger. Only a 7-metre overhanging drop prevented us from gaining entry to this fabulous-looking passage, the twenty-fifth pitch. Eventually a descent was effected by tying together various odd slings and belts-it was quite tricky! The ensuing passage was huge - at least a metre wide and very high. We rushed on down, only to be stopped by the long-awaited pitch - the twenty-sixth. We climbed down about 2 metres to a small ledge, and from this vantage point the foot of the pitch seemed to be about 10 metres below us. The cave at last appeared to be getting bigger - at the very moment that we had run out of rope! 'Well that's that, it's as far as we go!' "
The depth potential was about 1800 metres. A big team returned the next year.... and if you don't know what happened, read the book! Suffice it to say the phrase "being Ghar Parau'd" entered caving's stock phrases.
Reading between the lines, the expeditioners weren't a very happy bunch; a collection of individual hard-men rather than a team. The book is a good read, though Judson does tend to end every other sentence with a exclamation point, which gets a bit wearing. Some decent photos are included.
The book kicks off with an assessment of where best to go for deep caves... Judson went out to the Picos with OUCC in 1963, and reckoned that it wasn't a good area because of "the extremely shattered nature of the limestone". There you go then.
"Underground Adventure" by Arthur Gemmell and Jack Myers.
Another classic, this time about cave exploration in the Northern Pennines in the 1940's. The book is a series of stand-alone chapters, each about the discovery and exploration of a cave. Little Hull Pot; Simpson's Pot; Disappointment Pot and Hensler's passage; Notts Pot; Lancaster Hole and EaseGill - all big names, echoing hugely down the 50 years or more. So do the names of the cavers - Gemmell, Myers, Cornes, Leakey, Burgess, Oakes, Taylor... hard as nails and mad as a bagful of ferrets. The style is matter-of-fact, restrained, and completely gripping.
"The ladders, totalling 120 feet in length, were quickly rigged and I began the descent. The first thirty feet to a comfortable ledge was quite tame. Then things became really hectic. First, a shower of water from somewhere high above began to spatter on my head and shoulders. Then the wall against which the ladder hung ended abruptly and the beam from my headlamp lost itself in the darkness. I looked around and to the rear but again could see nothing. The shaft had broken into a hall of great size - one which my imagination made greater still. I looked below. The ladder trailed away into the gloom, but I realised with a quickening pulse that it was swinging free. Below was blackness. All the rime the falling water was beating a tattoo on my head and pouring down my neck. I felt awfully alone."
Brilliant stuff. I read this one in one shot, late into the small hours.
Jonathan 'JC' Cooper
Rhiannon Hicks has set up a biospeleological recording website at http://www.biospeleology.carreg.org.uk. It features a page for sending in sightings.