Depth through thought

OUCC News 30th October 1991

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Most of this second issue is taken up with suggestions for expedition financing, and administration of the new van. These are longish pieces primarily because current editorial policy is not to have an editorial policy. One purpose of the newsletter is to give everyone a forum for airing their views. So, if you write something that isn't gratuitously abusive (to me anyway), I'll put it in.

Incidentally, we need a name. "Depth through Thought" is just a suggestion, but others would be welcomed. So far, "Shagging the Hedgehog" seems a bit obscure, but I quite like "The Thrutcher". What do you think?


A.C. Irvine fund reports have to be delivered to Dr Sills, Dept. Engineering, by Friday 1st November.

Party at 16 Peel Place, Friday 1st November. Bring bottle and firework.

Gavin gives a slide show and talk on the Extremero Expedition 1991 next Wednesday, NQ lecture room, 9pm.

Expedition news

The Exploration Club Advisory Committee meets next week, with the full committee meeting in 6th week, This is when the University status of next summer's "Huerta del Rey Expedition" gets decided, so a polished prospectus has to be completed soon. If you know you want to go tell the committee now, especially if you're an undergraduate: it helps our case for support.

Last year a meeting was planned with the aim of broadening the discussion about the future of OUCC expeditions. That meeting is tomorrow, Thursday of 3rd week, 9pm, NQ lecture room. So far the agenda consists of very little, because I have only received one paper all year. That doesn't matter: you can bring things up tomorrow, but this is to remind anyone who is concerned about our directions that they should give it all a final thought before tomorrow.

Expedition financing is the one issue I have received a written contribution on, so I thought it would be helpful to include it here for people to ponder over before tomorrow, when you can add your comments and suggestions.  It concerns deposits, and its from the 1992 committee. (Ed)  

Deposits: 1992 committee's view...

"The expedition committee have thought about how the amount of personal contributions to the expedition should be worked out.  Here is our think: it would be a good idea to do this" all the time. Tell us what you think!

The amount you pay will be based on the amount of time that you spend on expedition. The first week of your stay will be the most expensive, with subsequent weeks becoming cheaper and cheaper. There will also be two charging bands, one for rich people and one for poor people.

If you are a rich person:
You come to Spain for an average of 15 days. We will charge you £91 for the first week, £363 for the second, £14 for the third week, and £7 a week for all subsequent weeks.   On average you will pay £156.

If you are a poor person:
You come to Spain for an average of 36 days. We will charge you £35 for the first week, £28 for the second week, £14 for the third week, £7 a week for the fourth and fifth weeks and £3.50 a week for all subsequent weeks.  On average you will pay £91.50. If you come out for the whole expedition you will pay £98.

We will also impose a 20% surcharge on you, whether you are rich or poor, if you can't make up your mind how long you are coming for until after Easter. You will not need to decide what dates you are coming until later, when we book your insurance.

More details for those who are really interested... If you are observant you will have noticed that all the charging rates are multiples of 7. We will therefore charge people per day, so the exact charging rates work out as follows:  

Time on 

  Cost Per Day

Rich people  Poor people 
1-7 days £13.00 £5.00
8-14 days £9.00  £4.00
15-21 days £2.00  £2.00
22-28 days £1.00  £1.00
29-35 days £1.00 £1.00
36-49 days  £1.00 £0.50

1992 expedition committee:  

Leader: David Monaghan 
Secretary: Pauline Rigby 
Treasurer:  Sean Houlihane 
Equipment Officer:  Mark Crossley 
Logistics Officer:  Fixer Bell 
Supplies Officer: Joan Arthur 
Science Officer:  Michelle Nickerson
Medical Officer:  Tom Houghton 
Mascot:  Flossey (ask Tony for details)

Van Rouge

2nd van document: David Monaghan

I sent the first consultative document round at the meeting on 16 October, and I have had a few replies (not many though). If you weren't there/ didn't get a copy/ have lost your copy/ forgot it etc. etc. then don't worry unduly. Read this and give me any comments that you have on it.

So, what is the general consensus on how the van should be run? Well, there isn't one (yet).


Most people seem to think that the van is best run by a single van monitor, who is in control of the finances and of the maintenance.

On the question of finance, the general view is that it is best to run the van from a separate account, although several people have pointed out that OUCC accounts are not in fact the mayhem that I suggested and that it would be possible to run the van from the OUCC current account. The reason suggested for this is that it will save administration costs and that it will allow the club to bail out the van account should the need ever arise. Supporters of this scheme also point out that it means that the club only needs one competent treasurer in the club rather than two.

The question of what the club should pay to hire the van has not had much attention.  Some people seem a bit worried that if the van account runs at a grotesque surplus then the club is somehow losing money. However the van is run, OUCC plc should be better off; but varying the hire fee will change the account that the money ends up in. You should think about where you want the money that we save to go - to the OUCC current account or towards a new van.

Something that only occurred to me a few days ago, and wasn't in the last document, was the need to assert some control over the van monitor's expenditure should she be given control of the money as well. An example should elucidate the problem: I want to fit front and rear nudge bars to the van  because I think they will make manoeuvring it less traumatic for inexperienced drivers. These cost about £180 each (the cost of 2 new headlights). Gavin thinks that they are a waste of money because we are not likely to destroy 2 headlights. If I were made van monitor then there ought to be a way for Gavin to prevent me spending lots of club money on things that he thinks are unnecessary (provided that the rest of the club shared his point of view). One way to do this would be to set a limit on the amount that the van monitor can spend without first getting the express permission of, for example, the club committee. This point may not seem very important now, when we think we trust everyone, but it may be useful in the future so that the club has some way of ousting a profligate van monitor.  Any suggestions as to how this should be done?

Hiring of the van

So far I have had the complete range of views expressed to me.  The increments of strictness seem to be hire to anyone, hire to anyone provided an OUCC member is present, hire to anyone provided an OUCC member drives, hire to OUCC members for personal use only and, finally, hire to nobody.

The decision may be made for us by the insurance company, who may set a limit on who can use the van (despite the nominal "any driver over 21" policy). The definition of "hire" is also a crucial one, I think that it all hinges on whether you make money on the deal or not, but I am not sure of the definition of "making money" (for example, can we recoup the costs of the tax, insurance and depreciation that we would have paid whether the van was in use or not). The insurance problem is being looked into, but presumably there is no point hiring the van to people unless we are going to make money on it. Dave Bell is the man to see about van insurance.

Assuming that we can hire the van then there are several suggestions. Mark Crossley pointed out that it would be a good plan to charge a deposit (he didn't say how much) returnable provided that the van comes back in good condition with no more damage than it started with. Tachographs are cheaper to run than we thought at first, and a common view is that these should be used whenever the van is hired to people. The return of the deposit could also depend on the return of a tachogram that showed that the van had been well treated. Presumably if the van is caught speeding then we get the ticket even if it is on hire to someone else?

Hire of the van is, I feel, the factor that is most likely to cause friction and animosity. I think it is vital that we have a set of written guidelines that the van monitor can use to make a decision about who can hire the van. In this way there can be no accusations of favouritism. It would be good if these could be drafted before the OGM, so send ideas and suggestions to me as soon as possible.

Future expenditure

The trip to the Mendips on Sunday revealed lots of faults with the van. There is at least; £100 pounds worth of work needed urgently, and a wants list thereafter that will take yet more cash to satisfy. Some of the ideas that I mooted last time have now been costed:  

Tachograph to fit in dashboard c/w new dashboard and speedo (fitted)  £800 
Tachograph to fit on dashboard (fitted) £750 
Front nudgebar (fitted) £180 
Rear nudgebar c/w towing bracket (fitted) £160
New Speedo f?? 
 The Final word

Remember to make your views known. Tell me, in writing, what you think the van policy should be (and/or write suggestions for the newsletter - Ed). I am trying to cut out all the pointless talking at the OGM where we all talk for a long time and then form a working party. Consensus is the aim, so please take part and have your say.

Additional views: Tim Guilford

I feel strongly enough about just 2 issues to raise them here.

  1. Whilst its important to have a responsible van officer, I think the accounts should go through the Treasurer. The van is a club asset, the club should feel responsible for it, the club treasurer should -manage its accounts along with our other operations (equipment, trips). Giving one person sole jurisdiction over how much comes in and how much goes out couldn't be acceptable, so any 2nd treasurer would have to go through the club treasurer anyway.  Have a separate account, and plan for future expenditure as the van ages, sure, but a separate self-financing, self-governing one person company (potentially making itself a profit out of the club)?
  2. Hiring. I think its a pipe-dream to believe that we can run a little business hiring the van to other clubs to make the club money. Hiring vehicles trashes vehicles, quite apart from the nightmares surrounding the rules, rates, and responsibility. Surely the best way to make "plonker" (Steve's name for the van) serve OUCC caving is to keep it maximally available for caving trips primarily, and perhaps OUCC non-caving trips secondarily (e.g. - BCRA Conference, or OUCC Climbing wall trip). In my view, having it available for trips at short notice is almost as valuable as having it reliably for long-planned week-end trips. If we start booking to other clubs, we'll lose that freedom.


Swildon's 2nd week

A mad weekend. Virtually everyone seemed to want to go through a sump this time (except Mr Monaghan), and Tony went through 5 of them (his own version of the Long Round Trip). How he managed to get through the evil smelling cow-shit of sump 4 beats me. Perhaps he held his breath. Lots of people seemed to have a good time. On Sunday at least there was no hanging around at the ladder pitch, despite the ominous signs of 300 cars on Priddy Green. Mind you, several people had to spend most of the evening waiting in the Queen Vic. for the Short Round Trip party to emerge after their epic 8 hour grovel to the Troubles and back, via Swildon's streamway 4 and the infamous Blue Pencil Passage. Well, if a novice decides to come back just one week after their first trip looking for something "exhilarating", we've got to try and put them off somehow. I wonder who that was... Yet again, no light failures all weekend: clap for the lamp-post.

An Old Fart Remembers...

Yorkshire. A name to conjure visions with. The crunch of snow under the wheels as we were parked somewhere. Where? I didn't know. Everyone piled out of the minibus and went into a changing hut apparently run by the Gentlemen's Caving Club. I was given four ladders, and in my borrowed and holed wetsuit walked for miles up what appeared to be the Pennine Way, but as it was under two feet of snow it was difficult to tell. I would liked to have given the ladders away but they had frozen to my hands. The entrance: Sell Gill. My second cave. I cautiously went down the ladder of the second pitch as the sun came out above, melting enough snow to run down my neck, neatly caught by the torn collar of my suit. I could just see the floor as the lifeline came taut and I was told to climb back up as it wasn't long enough. Was the sight of a hundred foot high waterfall cascading into a chamber big enough to hold hang-gliding rallies in worth it? It must have been.

Eeeh, we were tough in them days. Nowadays, of course, they have installed heaters in the changing rooms and the track to Sell Gill is covered over and illuminated. The escalator to the main chamber is a great boon. Strange to see "young people" as I believe they are called, pouring water down each others necks and smearing themselves with "instant muck" from packets in a vain attempt to recover lost glories. Now, when I were a lad...

Yorkshire is quite a big county with many caves. Why not go down some of them now, in the company of a responsible caving club?
Steve Roberts

Last week's sillies

Nobody got a single answer fully correct last week, so I keep the prize. The answers were:

  1. "Mountbatten's chamber" is a shattered terminal chamber in Tynings Barrow, so named 'cos its a nasty way to end.
  2. The "Blue Meanies" are the extraordinary formations between "The Restaurant at the end of the Universe" and "Painkiller Passage" in Daren.
  3. Pulling through, you only need 1 rope to reach "the spout" in Swinsto hole.
This week's silly

OK, this one's just for novices: How many sumps have been passed in the main streamway that flows down Swildon's hole ?