Depth through thought

OUCC News 18th November 1992

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Madness on Mendip

Darkness and rain were falling fast as I made my way up Burrington Combe to West Twin Brook, where rumour had it that odd things were happening last week end. Almost immediately it became apparent that in this sleepy cul-de-sac of rural Britain, peaceful haunt of blackbird and song thrush, green welly and barboured spaniel, twitcher and scout troop trainer, all was not well.

There, half hidden behind a hawthorn, stood a tall yellow shape, with oversized head and shifty attitude. He carried what looked like a clip-board. "Surveying practice", he answered, before I had asked anything at all. "5 teams, high speed surveying competition". "But haven't these caves been surveyed before?", I puzzled. "Oh no, they're not surveying these caves", he replied. "I see", I added. Though I didn't. Despite his distinctly educated accent, it was clear that he talked nothing but gibberish. Well-mannered gibberish.

I decided to investigate. Down Goatchurch, I encountered one of the so-called surveying teams. There, completely blocking the drainpipe, was a man in tie-dye top with a colander on his head. "I'm surveying", he answered, before I had asked anything at all. And indeed he was. With a piece of string, and candles for lighting. As if to prove it, he showed me a piece of completed survey. It was the far southwestern corner of Swildon's hole. "But this is the wrong cave", I prompted. "Really? Hey gang, he says this is the wrong cave", he shouted to his team, and they were off, scuttling over a ruckle of boy scouts.

I followed them to Pierre's pot, but was soon distracted. "I'll fucking kill them. Spent hour and a half in this sodding cave. No survey here. Bet somebody moved it. Bet it's Brennan or Seddon. Fucking kill them." An evil little creature scurried amongst muddy boulders searching for something precious. Gollom? No, Bown, he called himself, and he was mighty pissed off. When he did eventually find it, he exclaimed "nearly finished: now we've just got to find out how long a piece of string is". "Ah", I offered, and started backing off tactfully. But he insisted he show me the survey, of which he was very proud. It was of St. Cuthbert's. Clearly, it was time to leave.

But something kept me wondering, and I determined to follow them over the hillside, where small parties of lights were now converging. "Follow us to Read's cavern, it'll all become clear", shouted a woman in a bobble hat who had just been measuring a duck. I did follow them to Read's cavern, and nothing became clear. In fact the entire place was thick with smoke. Barbecues sizzled amongst shouts of "vegetarian perverts". Every few minutes a rocket would scream from one end of the cavern to the other, bouncing crazily off walls and roof (no doubt another innovative measuring tool). Sparklers flared, beer crazed cavers heaved and jostled on the dance floor. What did it all mean? But I was unable to get anything out of any of them, so taken up were they with gobbling tucker fucker smeared burgers and rubbing mud in each others' faces. Then I spotted a tall, lanky, accountant-like figure, seemingly more sensible than the rest. "What's the disco like?", I asked. He stood, half smiling, musing on my remark, perhaps wondering what he could charge me for it. and then he answered "Its full of rocks". So I gave up asking, and just had fun. Lots of it.


Steve Roberts invited me last month on a trip to do some diving in some resurgence caves near Cork. After getting pissed in the pub on the Friday night, I failed to catch the evening train and didn't make it to Cork until early Saturday afternoon. Whilst I sat around reading, waiting for Steve and Pete Bolt to return, they were diving in Dowerbridge risings.

This is a beautiful site, a large stream emerges from an archway by the road (no nasty carry here!). The left hand side of the resurgence is filled with ruddy great pipes taking water to a nearby steelworks. Previous reports had said that the two alternative rift entrances were too tight, but Pete proved them wrong by descending one to large passage through a tight squeeze. Steve then proved that his squeeze could be bypassed higher in the rift. The large passage was then pushed upstream for about 65m to a point where, at a couple of airbells, the way on was lost. A second easier rift entrance was then found from the inside. At this point they came back to the caravan to find me sat outside, and suggested I might like a dive that evening, so after fetching Michelle and Amy from Cork we all went to Dowerbridge risings. The plan was for Steve to dive to the end and push whilst I did a tourist dive between the two entrances. It was my first dive for ages so I wanted a nice easy start. Starting diving with a cave dive, after almost 2 years, was probably not very sensible. I should probably have done some diving in open water first.

The site was a bit tight at the entrance for comfort on a first dive after a long layoff, but was OK when attempted feet first. And the fact I'm writing this means that reversing it was not too hard. The aim of the dive, as suggested by Pete, was to dive in the left hand entrance swim to the large passage, turn right at this point and come out of the right hand entrance. The left hand entrance was found second, but was the bigger of the two. My first attempt was head first, but the passage was a bit tight and I didn't like the idea of reversing feet first up a rift. So I tried it feet first, which was easier, as I could feed both the bottles and myself

down the rift. Also it made retreat easier if it became necessary which made it mentally much easier. Once you popped out of the bottom of the entrance rift the passage was of reasonable size. I then followed this passage until it popped out into the "main" passage which is supposed to be even bigger. I could not really tell as Steve had gone into the passage before me and stirred up the silt. At the line junction where I took great care to check how it was set up so I would know how tell which line was which if I had to return in poor vis. It was a good job I did as the junction- was not set up as per usual practice with a knot in the line leading out just after the junction. In this case they'd marked the ingoing line with a knot. Once I'd checked the junction I turned right into the downstream continuation of the main passage. This quickly degenerated into a rift similar to the first entrance. I was supposed to ascend this passage, removing the snoopies off the wall to aid in the photography next day and then continue out of the second entrance. Looking at the rift I decided not to remove the snoopies, as I was not sure I could get out as it looked tight, and the snoopies were all that was keeping the line in the passable part of the rift. I started ascending the rift and it was as tight as it looked, as I was not certain how long it was, or how much tighter it got, I back out. I turned round and headed back the way I'd come. I had no real problems getting out, the only real difficulty was my lack of practice.

Whilst I was doing my Doss dive Steve had dived to the airbells at the limit and was trying to locate the way on in very silty conditions. He mined his way through some tight, well silted passages for a few metres (hence my lack of vis) and had some interesting times reversing out as the line had pulled out of the largest bit of passage. His total time away from base was about 1 hour. You might also ask Steve about the boulder choke at which he terminated one of his dives. Pete found said boulder choke to be two large rocks on the floor of the passage between which Steve had dumped the line reel. The way on been clear and open ahead!

On the Sunday, whilst Steve and Pete went on photo trip in Dowerbridge rising, me and Amy went caving. We were supposed to go down a cave called Bat Cave (its name is in Irish, and I can't remember it, but that's a rough translation). The entrance is located in Carricktohill Quarry, and Pete said he would take us to the cave entrance as he was the only on who'd been there before. After 101Smins of looking we had only found one entrance and Pete wasn't sure it was the right one. Unable to find any other entrances we had to go down the one we'd got (it later transpired this was the right one). I then proceeded to spend a total time of about l-2 hours exploring at most 500m of passage, most of which was hands and knees crawling in a muddy boulder choke. This was enlivened by the occasional small chamber where you could stand up. All the passages either ended or were impossibly tight or horrible to be the way on. Therefore I failed to find the way on at all. If I'd realised I was in the right cave I would probably have tried to force one of the horrible passages that couldn't possibly have been the way on', but as I didn't, I didn't. So we had to retire to the pub for some Guinness. From the description the cave could be quite a nice trip. In all there is over a kilometre of passage, some pretty formations, digging sites for those interested in exploration and the possibility of doing a round trip.
Dave Horsley


To hug or not to hug...

I am confused. I keep getting contradictory advice about hugging. I looked it up in the dictionary and found the definition to be "To embrace closely; to clasp or squeeze tightly; to hold fast or cling to. To cuddle, to huddle, to lie close. A close embrace, a particular grip in wrestling". Well, that tells me what hugging is, but gives no indication whether it is generally a good thing or not. "To embrace closely" sounds fine to me, but I'm not so sure about "clasping and squeezing tightly". To help me decide whether I should hug people or not, I've been keeping my ears open for advice. Here are three useful tips on the subject:

  1. According to Joan, everyone in the cave club should be hugging each other more to help stop the club running into doom and destruction.
  2. According to the popular women's magazine, Cosmopolitan, "hugs lead to sex".
  3. According to Princess Diana (on the TV last night) "hugs have no side effects".

So, Joan's comment is a prophecy. OUCC can be saved from the ravages of disagreements between faction groups such as: young Thatcherites versus old Socialists, accountants versus real-cavers, meaties versus veggies, petrol-tank-fillers versus petrol-tank-emptiers and party-goers versus partypoopers (YOU know who you are!). But that still doesn't help ME personally. For the good of the group, obviously I should be hugging deeply, sincerely and often. But what is the best strategy for my own well-being? (Selfish bastard I hear you muttering). If hugs really do lead to sex, presumably I should be discriminant in my hugging behaviour (or then again, perhaps not). If hugs really do have absolutely no side effects, then what's the point of them anyway. I'm sure I do get some feeling when I hug someone, tinglingly good or shudderingly revolting, depending on the person involved. What's your view on the matter? I'd like to know, and should I be hugging YOU or not? Next week, DTT hopes to publish YOUR views.