Depth through thought

OUCC News 29th January 1992

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Lots of new people turned up to go caving on Mendip this week end, and seemed to have fun. I wonder if any of them will be back... Thanks to all those who helped out

It will be a shame if reports in the newsletter become substitutes for the time-honoured tradition of rambling hilarities in the log-book. All you new cavers, please feel free to recall your experiences on recent caving trips, or just enliven our world with witty observations or, if you're Dave Lacey, unutterably dull quotations.


Gavin will talk about SRT rigging next Wednesday, 9pm, North Quad Lecture Room. A must for expedition goers.

What we did on our Christmas holidays. ..

Not-caving in S. E. Asia
Mark, Sherry, Mike & Urs go East. -

The principal difference between going on a not-caving holiday and a regular holiday is that on a not-caving holiday you carry quantities of rope around in your luggage. We went to Thailand and first we went not-caving to Kanchanaburi, which is where the bridge is over the river Kwai. The French sent expeditions to this western area between 1986-88 and with Gallic pragmatism explored all the large river caves with entrances within 50m of either the road or the railway, commenting sagely that the area still had great potential, especially on the high karst plateaux. They also did a lot of catching bugs and measuring relative concentrations of CO2 in caves. We had no such ambitions.

Fired by the mention of high karst plateaux we rented horrible Honda step-thru's and headed off towards the relief on the horizon. A day of slogging miserably up 45 degree slopes covered in bamboo convinced us that this was not an effective technique (Mark, that morning, had optimistically suggested that we pack at least four ropes so that no one need get bored while someone else was rigging). The only cave found lacked horizontal development at depth; it also lacked horizontal development, and depth. We became bad tempered.

The next day we confined ourselves to riding our step-thru's for hundreds of kilometres through the mountains and spotting large entrances several miles away and the wrong side of the river Kwai. It would require a large scale expedition to tackle the logistical difficulties and the bamboo. Not-caving interest was added to this jaunt, however, by my losing the ignition key to my Honda on a particularly rutted stretch of not-road.  The bike was immediately hot-wired by a crowd of helpful Thais, but we had a few moments of anxiety given that at the time we were on the wrong side of a large reservoir crossable only by a sort of vehicle ferry-cum-barge which would stop running in an hour's time.

It was true that the area had great potential, but we had to tear ourselves away as we had Lao visas and were eager to go not-caving in the People's Democratic Republic of Lao. We thought we might be able to get permission to go to the Plain of Jars, an area of karst mountains and inexplicable body-sized stone pots. We left breathless messages on Tim's answerphone asking him to fax us a letter on University paper saying who we were (yes, we should have taken this with us) but despite Tim doing valiant battle with the International Fax people, we didn't manage to convince the bureaucrats.  Never mind, neither did Howard Jones; we felt better when we learned this.

After a while being in Lao became a dispiriting experience, consisting as it did of being ripped off at every turn, being forbidden from doing even quite reasonable things, having our money and things stolen and having to summon up the fortitude to deal with those jolly Soviet-style posters at every street corner showing, for example, the cheerful Lao agricultural workers contributing to the general well-being of the Lao people by feeding the Lao chickens on the communal farm. We were kept amused, though, by being interviewed by totally transparent Government Spies.

Our next destination was the Thai island of Ko Sichang, down in the south-east. This was an excellent choice from the not-caving point of view, having almost no depth potential and being moreover a tropical island with good snorkelling and fishing. We did survey the local caves, which the guest house manager, Toom, drove us to on his massive propane-fuelled trike with the Toyota engine and the buggy hood. Toom said that when they were boys he and his mates used to go into the caves to catch bats and fry them with chilli peppers and garlic. Nowadays, of course, it is illegal to fry bats. The best way to visualise caving on Ko Sichang is this: imagine Burrington Combe. Got it? Now put the whole lot in a sauna.

Finally we headed back to the far West again (you may have gathered that our wanderings had been something less than efficient) to Sanglaburi, near the Myanmar border. We were shown round Heaven Cave by its resident monk (with Mark at the back of the party muttering "Hey, the shit don't stick to the Speleo-monk") who showed us the very spiky bathtub-shaped fossil gour where he spent three days meditating. Our survey of Heaven Cave has a few unusual features, like 'Monk's Bed' or 'Monk's Chair'. The next day Sherry fell down a blind pot and broke three ribs and collapsed her lung and we all went back to Bangkok via a very horrible rural hospital in Kanchanaburi. It just goes to show that caving is Foolhardy and Dangerous and probably nearly as bad for you as getting toast crumbs in the bed, or voting Tory (but just as easily avoidable).
Ursula Mead.
Next week: what really happened in Yorkshire at New Year...

Expedition news

After many meetings and too much food, the expedition committee have come to some decisions:

  1. Dates of Expedition: The red van will leave Oxford on 29 June 1992, and will return to Oxford on 21 August 1992.
  2. Travel: Dave Bell will circulate details of various means of getting to Los Lagos. We will probably operate a subsidised transport scheme for those who are coming out at the beginning of expedition or going back at the end, so that they get part of the costs of their travel met by the expedition. Consult the logistics officer for details.
  3. Gear: There will be a preliminary gear order soon.  Orders should be in by the end of the second week in February. This order is for things like kneepads, and possibly furries and oversuits. If you want to spend lots of money, you should wait until the main gear order which will be in a couple of months.  See Mark Crossley for information about this.
  4. Personal Contribution: We will be using the revised system that was discussed last term. It works as follows: 
    Rich people £100 +£10 per week 
    Poor people £50 +£5 per week. 
    If you spend part weeks with the expedition then you will be charged pro rata at the weekly rate. This system is experimental, and we do not know how much money it is going to bring in. Thus the usual caveat applies: "Although the personal contribution is in principle returnable, we cannot guarantee to return any credit to your account if you are unable to come on the expedition after you have paid your contribution. Neither can we guarantee that there will not be a further increase in personal contributions should the expedition make a loss." While David has been involved with the running of expeditions they have always made a surplus and have always returned contributions to those who wanted them back. Trust us!

So, that's the story so far.  Please let us know as soon as you can if you will be coming on expedition. As soon as you are reasonably sure then pay the fixed part of your personal contribution. When you know the exact dates you will be coming then pay the balance of your contribution. We have no money yet, so please pay as soon as you can.
Love from the expedition committee.

Ireland at Easter

The Club has a part share in "Paddy Maloney's" hostel, which is in the middle of Doolin, County Glare, fire. This has been booked for the week ending on Easter Sunday, from Monday 13th April to Sunday 19th April. Paddy Maloney's officially has room for 24 people, but this will be quite well filled by another club (Cambridge, who booked the place.) At the moment there are six places left, so get your name to me as soon as possible if you want to go. If more of us want to go than can fit on the floor, there is a main hostel across the road and apparently a campsite too. The cost of this place is about ~30 each for the week. Travelling on a Monday, the Holyhead-Dublin ferry is about £69 each way for a car with four people, so accommodation plus ferry plus petrol is about £80 each. There is also a coach from Birmingham/ Leeds to Ennis (near Doolin) which costs about the same as a share in a car. Whether we take the minibus or not will depend on numbers going. Oh yes - the campsite costs £l per tent per night plus £l per person per night. A deposit has been paid for Paddy Maloney's, so, if you want to go, please give me £5 soonish, and at least by the end of February.
Chris Densham

Exploring here..


Tony and Tim had a go at pushing a nasty little squeeze in an inlet in the Dallimore's' extensions last Sunday (after successfully removing the Teak Furniture and taking some pictures of the formations in the high level galleries). Tim got a bit stuck, but got as far as poking his head into a new rift. Unfortunately it leads upwards, but one more trip should tell us whether or not it was worth the effort.

West Carno Adit

There are rumours that things were found (and much was surveyed) this weekend up in Wales. Gavin knows the truth... Perhaps you can read more about it in the log book soon.