Depth through thought

OUCC News 6th November 1991

DTT Volumes 1 & 2  index

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page


Why is it that if you play croquet against Cambridge your club can get grants of over £1000 from the sports committee, but if your club merely trains people in a tough and physically demanding sport, in which brains, brawn and teamwork are as much developed as in a blues sport like rowing, who then go and discover some of the deepest caves in the world, you can get merely a loan of £250 from the clubs committee? I wonder if your Local Education Authority knows how its student capitation fee is divided?  If you want to do something constructive here, then perhaps you could help me find out how sensible universities support their caving, diving, or mountaineering clubs. There, I thought it was time for an "Express style" editorial (not that I've ever read the Express of course...). Incidentally, anyone can contribute to the newsletter.  Just send me stuff before Wednesday lunchtime.


1991 Expedition Reports are now on sale at £2. Gavin is going to do a limited print run only, so only orders reaching him or David before Monday 11th November will be realised.

Tim is giving a talk at the Exploration Club Thursday 14th November, (Human Sciences Building, Banbury Road), on "Exploration in Britain", but you don't need to go 'cos he's giving the same talk again next term... Unless of course we find something new in between times...

Single Rope Technique training starts at 6.30 Friday 15th November in New College School Gym. Novices encouraged to come and find out how real caving is done. Alternatively, you could spend £50 and do a short professional course...

Expedition news

3rd Week meeting

Despite pessimistic predictions, last week's meeting held to discuss issues relating to future expeditions was both quorate and fruitful. The first issue discussed was deposits, and there was general agreement that something along the lines of the 1992 expedition committee's suggestion (see last week's newsletter) of a two tier deposit should at least be tried this year (it can always be changed in future if it doesn't work well). Fixer suggested a "cosmetic" alteration that found murmurs of approval because it didn't seem to sting very short visit old lags quite so badly, but we decided that the final tinkering should be done by the committee (since its they who have to raise the money to run the expedition).

Second, we discussed the A.C. Irvine applications, and Pauline agreed to come back with a copy of Dr Sills' letter apparently outlining how they wish us to do it, to see whether this issue has already been solved for us.

Third, we discussed the future of expeditions to Spain. Much enthusiasm was expressed for the 1992 return to the Picos, and one old fart pointed out that much of the old top camp area, once heavily snowbound, remained tantalisingly unexplored for the future.  We heard about Mark and Sherry's excellent finds in the central Picos, and some suggested we should try and be more supportive of such exploratory trips, as long as this did not involve "splitting" expedition resources or personnel in a damaging way. Of course, nothing was decided, but it was lively anyway!

Fourth, we discussed whether we should try and move the main Expedition meeting away from its historic summer BCRA venue. It was thought that this would be a bad idea, because it was important to make decisions about next year's expedition only after this year's, but well in time for planning for the Exploration council meetings this term. It was generally thought that the best solution was to encourage new recruits to the club to come to the BCRA meeting, so hoping to remove the problem that   undergraduates   are   otherwise underrepresented there.

Fifth, Mark suggested we send an expedition to the moon, so the meeting stopped. Thanks to everyone who took part.

Van Rouge

Tim wrote to E. Roberts, the University Marshal, expressing concern about the risk of having our new van nicked from the street, and suggesting a number of solutions needing University approval. I have just received a very helpful reply, the essence of which is that 1) we probably will be allowed to park next to the club hut. Whether this is physically possible (or sensible: Fixer suggested it might be so difficult we'd just wreck the bulb clusters, and better to park it somewhere "residential" like Harley road) has to be tried I think. I have talked to OUUEG and they are happy as long as we dent block their boat access, or stop them being able to use the hose to wash gear by the drain. 2) We may be able to park it at Iffley Road Gym, but have to seek Ted North's permission, and would be restricted to their hours (0730-2125). Roberts didn't favour wheel clamps, but suggested we buy an alarm system and steering lock (he provided information leaflets on these). Over all he favoured our parking by the hut, and will take the issue to Clubs Committee in 6th week. Wow! A helpful response from the University!

Library News

Cave Science, August 1991
Is it me getting more of an old fart, or is it that this issue of Cave Science actually has interesting things in it? There's a whole lot of stuff on RADON. Despite the fact that I am supposed to be our Deptl. Radiation Safety Officer, I've never really managed to sort out Curies, Sieverts, Bequerels and all that. Nonetheless, when you read that Cuckoo Cleeves has 400 units at the entrance of Radon, (over 200 and the Government reckons you should take action) and 16000, yes sixteen thousand, inside, you start to worry. In fact it's not quite as bad as it sounds - even here or in the worst affected Peak caves, you would have to spend 5-6 hours underground a week to clock up the max. recommended level for Nuclear Industry Workers. Even the most ardent Dallimore's' furtler probably doesn't manage that  But bad news for caving instructors and the like. Now I know why Elliot's brains are addled.

Also - a very interesting and sensible article on anchors in caves. Even quoting Dave Rose (who he?) as an authority. All good reading and at your local Cave Club Library now.

We also have bought "Darkness Beckons II" (just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water), the new edition of "Caving Practice and Equipment (sounds of people falling into deep slumber) and have subscribed to the new journal "International Caving" - from a caravan in Swindon to your town (Tim has borrowed this and not given it back - ha, the shame!) (Not true! Ed). All to be reviewed next time.


After shagging the hedgehog...

You've been meaning to do it for months. The holes keep getting bigger. Each time you go caving another soul destroying sound of "riiiiiiipppppp" is emitted from your ailing oversuit. From the oversuit's point of view (and you bank balance's), sadly the illness is chronic. There is no cure, but there is temporary relief from suffering; a deferment of the inevitable oversuit death.

Mending oversuits is easy, and if done properly and carefully, the repair can last for ages. The problem I find is that you have to think in advance. The glue manufacturers claim their PVC adhesive needs to dry for 24 hours. This is not long enough. Patches stay on much better if the suit is left for at least 48 hours, and the general rule seems to be 'the longer the better' (it's true after all - Ed). Also placing heavy weights on the patched area whilst the glue is drying gives more permanent patches (thanks Pauline for this advice). Here's what you do:

  1. Find your ill oversuit and locate all the holes and rips and coming-apart seams. Find some pieces of patching material. Old oversuit material is best and probably can be found in the hut (or ask a senile caver). Cut patch to cover large area around the wound, and cut the corners rounded.
  2. Clean and dry patch and wound.
  3. Sew up hole using heavy duty sewing needle and thick (leatherworker's) thread. A light needle and fine cotton is crap.
  4. Rub some special solvent onto the area around sewn-up wound: particularly important for shiny PVC oversuits (Petzl, Mac). The solvent dissolves a thin layer of this shininess to leave a rougher surface, enabling glue to bond better. Also rub the underside of the patch with solvent,
  5. Smear thick layer of glue onto patch and area around wound. Allow it to dry slightly until tacky, then press the patch onto the oversuit.
  6. As mentioned before, leave the layers of glue to bond for at least 48 hours, preferably being pressed together by some weighty object.

That's all there is to it. An alternative method, if you don't have any patching material handy, is to make an extra specially good job of the sewing (really small, tight, neat stitches), rub over with solvent, and then just smear a thick layer of glue over the stitching and leave to dry for 48 hours. This glue layer hardens and protects the stitching from abrasion underground. This short-cut method is particularly successful for repairing seams.

A pot of PVC glue costs about £4 from rat products, whilst a new oversuit costs £40. Surveys show that 9 out of 10 cavers would prefer to part with £4 than £40.  Happy sewing and sniffing!
Jenny Vernon.

Last week's silly

There are 21 passed sumps in the main streamway that flows into Swildon's hole (although some will dispute this, since one is a fork...). Mehmet(?), one of the club's well known cave divers, came closest with a guess of 20, for which free drink.

This week's sillies

Again, a free drink for the first correct answers...

  1. How long is the world's longest cave dive traverse?
  2. What is Mendip's deepest entrance pitch?
  3. How long does it take the BEC to reach the Upper River Yee?