Depth through thought

OUCC News 10th June 1992

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Jim would like as much feedback as possible on what people have thought about the trips this year, and suggestions for caves next. This includes news of longer trips planned over vacations, and comments about whether or not to go to Belgium or Vercors (or somewhere else) next Easter.

The MNRC Newsletter Editor seems keen for informative contributions on Caving or Scientific news about Mendip. Anyone feeling creative', Most of you know of Andy Riley's sad death. Some of Andy's caving and climbing gear is being sold off, with the proceeds going to a trust. Graham is in charge of things at this end, so please see him if you want to buy anything (I bought a hammer in preparation for the huge leads on expedition this year), or if you have constructive suggestions about what the fund might be used to help.

Does anyone want to buy a new pair of Dunlop Steel toed caving wellies (for size 7 feet)? Remember, it's just a fortnight to go to expedition, and you may need 'em. See Tim.


SRT Training session this Friday (12th) at 6pm in New College School Gym off Mansfield Road.

Expedition News

Gear mending

Oh I screwed up! (says David). The dates I gave for the Van and tackle mending were wrong. They are in fact the 13th and 14th of June. It will all happen at 22 Harley Road from 11am.

Remember the AC Irvine Fund, which meets this Saturday. See Sean for details.

Caving news

St Cuthbert's weekend

It was undoubtedly a mission tinted with madness as Jim, Sasha, Steve, Tim and I sat in Tim's van in a traffic jam between Oxford and Swindon. There we were, heading off for a weekend of caving and craziness, fully tanked up with petrol, vodka, caving gear and enthusiasm, but without a single scrap of food. The question was 'would the Swindon Sainsbury's close at 7pm, or 7.30pm, in which case we were doomed, or would it be open 'til 8pm, in which case we might just make it, if the traffic kept rolling along at its constant rate measurable in millimetres per hour?'

As it turned out, we did get food (and more drink). On Saturday morning, after a traditional OUCC mega-breakfast and the inevitable excursion to JRat's we met Hutch and Andy (Cave) at the Belfry. They obviously thought that as Oxford people we would be punctual and in control of the situation, and consequently had both turned up at the arranged time of 10.30am. We, of course, were late and not remotely in control of any situation. Half our kit had been left at the MNRC and some more of it had been left in Oxford. Some of us changed and pacified Andy, whilst others scrabbled around madly.

St. Cuthbert's was great. Even though it was my third trip I was still amazed at how impressive and clean the formations are and at how interesting and complex the cave is in general. There is an endless amount to see, and its all pretty stunning. Andy gave us a good trip. He started off taking things steady, showing us the 'classics'. Later on we were furtling around in all sorts of tiny, insignificant passages and boulder ruckles, and ended up getting temporarily lost somewhere in the bowels of the Rocky Boulder Series. In the way of pretties we saw the famous Gower Hall, the beauties in Long Chamber(?), the many curtains in Curtain Chamber and the lone bacon striped curtain somewhere else.

A great day caving was finished off with a curry and some vodka. Let me point out that this was no ordinary curry. It was a curry monster vegetably, spicy, green, slimy and huge (half of it is still sitting in Tim's fridge, even though we ate our fill, everyone else at the MNRC ate their full and we had it again for breakfast!). The vodka consumption was equally spectacular. Everything was done in true Russian style. Fill glasses with neat vodka, make a speech, propose a toast, down the vodka in one, immediately follow it with a gherkin, then eat some more dinner. Ten minutes later, fill the glasses and commence the process again. By 9.30pm I was literally dead to the world - had to be given an alkaselza and put to bed.

Next day, hangovers? No. Swildon's. Tim, Jim, Sasha and I did the short round trip, plus some of black hole series, until I became too stroppy and we all turned back before reaching the black hole itself. Swildon's was very dry, despite all the rain we've been having lately, and the ducks were particularly low. Tim says this is because of a new siphoning system, enabling them to be drained more effectively. Anyone who has done the black hole via the bold step over the stream will know it is terribly muddy round those parts. That hasn't changed...typical Mendip.
Jenny Vernon


Symposium Report

The BCRA Cave Radio and Electronics Group Symposium - On Saturday 30th May, about 20 not-caving enthusiasts met to discuss the hi-tech aspects of caving. The meeting started with a talk from Phil Ingham, a geophysicist, on the geophysical techniques available for cave detection. These methods are more suited to industrial surveys, but there is some scope for cave detection. Seismology, magnetic surveys and gravity surveys are limited by the need for lots of computing power to make the results useful, and the small effects caused by caves. More promising techniques are ground resistance, from which it is possible to identify the depth and position of a gap in the rock (although not its size!). This can be achieved with relatively cheap equipment, and gives fairly simple results. The other method is to detect the extra low frequency transmissions used for communication with submarines. These signals penetrate into the earth and can be received with a simple receiver.

SWCC have recently tried to compare some of these methods as reported by Stuart France, but with little success. Even the dowsing results were wrong, although self-consistent between different dowsers. One interesting method mentioned for identifying possible dig sites is to walk round when there is snow on the ground. The warmer air in the cave can cause a patch of melted snow. There are also certain ferns which like warm damp air and may indicate a draughting shakehole. Stuart has started to try and define a standard for survey data held on computer. There are now several survey drawing programs, now able to draw passage outlines as well as centre lines. (soon to make arm-chair caving a real possibility) It appears that the problem is in standardising the way in which people survey caves, e.g. which way is left and right for the x-section, do back-bearings have negative distances, the numbering of survey stations, etc. There is also a plan to create a central store of survey data (in electronic form) which could be accessible to anyone wishing to extend a survey in the future. Some clubs have apparently expressed doubts as they consider survey data to be personal, rather than public domain. Any comments? Dave Gibson, the cave radio theoretician, suggested that for a development cost of around £25,000 it would be possible to build a dead-reckoning position indicator to use underground, using accelerometers and solid-state gyroscopes. Also on show were various electronic gadgets, like the PWM dimmed lamp, for continuously variable power output, and a motorised video camera for lowering down shafts.
Sean Houlihane

My first caving trip, by Emily Manning (aged 12)

"On Sunday the 26th May I went caving. I set off from Jenny's house and me, Tim, Jenny and Gavin (actually David - Ed) travelled in Tim's (non-rust) van all the way to a caving hut near the Mendip hills. After going through a hailstone storm (big as marbles) we arrived to find no electricity. Jenny, me and Tim stuffed our faces with chicken legs. Jenny went off to the pub. Me and Tim followed soon after. We talked and walked back to the hut got to sleep lam. Got up very early had pop-up croissants and chicken legs then drove to Swindons hole. Got changed and set off. The start of the cave was a triangle hole in the floor we went down. I thought it was going to have no air! I was wrong. The walls were slimy but there was lots of footholes and handholes. It was pitch black I was very glas I had a light. We walked along, squeezed along and slithered along. We came to a very steep drop with a waterfall along one side and a steel ladder. No way I thought. But there I was a minutte later holding on to the rope and finding footholes on the ladder swining under a full pelt waterfall. Wow what an experience. We carried on up and under in and out and came to Sump 1 a little hole in a pool with a rope and you had to hold your breath and duck.

We ate our chocolate bars and set off back the wet way the ladder was much more easier on the way back. It was very muddy and my bum was soaked. We came to a small gap with a long drop. We walked along it (very dodgey) then we were enclosed with rock on both sides going a long way and we were blocked (oh dear). We climbed straight up and I scrambled around trying not to think about what might happen if I fell. I got to the top and scrambled and slithered and popped out to a bright sunshine and sky again!!"

Emily was so taken with her first caving trip that she spent much of the following week hand writing a booklet on caving, of which the above is an extract. She also wrote a quiz designed to test your aptitude for caving...

Emily's Caving Quiz...

  1. What item of clothing should you put on first?
  2. Do caves take 5 years to form?
  3. Which common animals are you likely to find down a cave?
  4. What colour is a animal's skin?
  5. What should you sleep in in a cave bedroom?
  6. Is the deepest cave 4,306 feet',
  7. Can you use soap granules to make stalactites?
  8. Was there a waterfall in the cave I went to?
  9. How many rooms in a caving hut?
  10. What rock are caves made out of?
Score: 10 out of 10 = Natural caver; 7-9 out of 10 = Pretty good; 4-6 out of 10 = A bit more practice needed; 1-5 out of 10 = I should choose a different sport. Answers to Tim please, and the usual prize for the highest score (see, caving is a competitive sport).