Depth through thought

OUCC News 3rd December 1997

Volume 7, Number 16

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Hope you are busy filling in your rescue usefulness forms, and just to say that the Draenen is in fact in the Gwent Cave Rescue Team's area - sorry for the minor mistake.

Thanks to Nobby for organising the expedition dinner last weekend, and taking up the strain of having to deal with Kevin attempting a full room traverse (I had nothing to do with it). Thanks also to Brian and Carol at the Lamb and Fox for hosting 20 rowdy cavers with characteristic tolerance.

Cavers will be sad to hear that Whitewalls was subject to an arson attack last week. The damage seems to have been contained.


Can anyone who is planning on going to Mendips this weekend please let me know asap please. Cheers,
Fleur Loveridge

Christmas is coming.....

Or more importantly New Year is coming. Yes it is almost time for the annual Bull Pot Farm style New Year. If you were there last year then you will know about fireworks and dog-snogging, if you weren't then you don't know what you could be missing. I am told that Boswells sell fireworks all year round, and I am determined to get at least one out of Bull Pot of the Witches this year. Bring your woolly jumpers, your Santa hats, you Xmas puds and your vodka. There will be wine, there will be snow, there will be smoked filled rooms, what more could you ask? See in the New Year the OUCC way.
Fleur Loveridge

Pleasures of Yorkshire

It was nice to tick off one of the trips that I haven't yet done - Rowten Pot - especially so since we had a bunch of keenies rigging in for us. "Oh, Oxford, eh.... I think I've read a book about you lot". I duly introduced myself as "the man who knows about engines".

Andy, Nobby and I followed them down. What an amazing place. The lift-shaft of the gods. It's like a small-scale "Just Awesome". No wonder it's so popular with the Elliot clones - especially considering the devious but satisfying rigging. This caused Andy a little grief at one point - hung up two feet off the deck is amusing for a while, especially those not hung up - but eventually his heroic struggles prevailed and we continued on down to the sump.

Here we amused the riggers by farting about with bottles for "Cave Diving Lite". A small "clink" might have passed un-noticed, but I'm glad I looked, because it would have been embarrassing to leave my car keys in the sump pool. I went through - it's quite low and cobbly - and tugged on the line for Nobby. I picked up the kit from him, leaving him boggle-eyed in the airbell, and returned the kit to Andy. Great gushings of loose air as I emerged - bottle no. 2 nearly empty. Andy was not fazed by this, and cheerfully dived through on about 2 cubic feet of air.

A pleasant stroll out. I had to go and get my rucksack from where Olly and Bill had left it at Simpson's. So Kingsdale was treated to the sight of me wandering about around the Turbary road in swimming trucks, string vest and shoes trying vainly to find my clothes as the sun set. I can never find Simpson's easily. Just as I was about to give up, having looked, honest, in every shakehole. I spotted it, tugged on my trews and ambled down to the car in the last of the light under a clear sky with Venus and Jupiter shining bright. Still only 5 o'clock.

The pleasures of a short trip on Saturday - even if we did have to wait a couple of hours for Olly and Bill : a pint in the Marton, back to Southerscales for a good nosh, then back to the Marton again. Mike Thomas was there, Ian Wilton-Jones was there, Urs and Tony were there, everybody was there. What a lovely place the Dales is.
Steve Roberts

Renewable Cave Formations in New Mexico

On Saturday I went caving in New Mexico. There was no horizontal sleet, just lots of sunshine! There was not even any limestone, since the area around Los Alamos is mostly volcanic rock. However, in one place a hot spring had deposited a thick layer of travertine over the years (crumbly CaCO3 formed in the open air), and this layer was thick enough to create a small but very pretty cave, Falling Rock Cave.

Dave Jagnow, conservation chairman of the NSS took me to see Falling Rock Cave, together with Carol Hill, the author of Cave Minerals of the World, and their caving spouses Le Vonne and Alan. (Alan works with lasers and has met Graham Naylor, though did not know he was a caver!) We had a momentary panic when some walkers came over to investigate as soon as we entered the cave - we thought it was the landowner whose land we were, needless to say, trespassing on. I was stopped at the first grovel by a floor covered in white crystals. "Don't worry" said Dave, "they'll grow back soon enough if you crawl on them. Here, have a taste!" The strange waters flowing into this cave have deposited a salty tasting deliquescent (?) mineral that crystallises out in the winter, then gets re-absorbed in the humid summers. Strange stuff.

Further on, there is a chamber which feels like you are crawling over broken glass - a foot thick layer of calcite fragments formed on the surface of a pool no longer there. Dave had conservation taped this area, but pack rats had come in and removed all the tape! A handy excuse... Just below this, the final chamber - but it was nearly full of water. It was like climbing into a huge geode - the roof was covered in 'pool fingers', large single crystals that somehow form above, below or on the water surface (Carol was busy working out theories on this). And the best thing was the Rootcicle, a completely mental formation somewhat reminiscent of the curliest helictites in Draenen, formed around roots that have come in from the roof.

A very jolly and very little cave, many thanks to Dave for the invitation, and the others for making it such a sociable trip. We stopped off at a nice restaurant for some Marguritas and hot chilly New Mexican food on the way home.
Chris Densham

More Life on Mars

Things were not looking good for Ben and Lev. Not only had the frontline strikeforce of Tim and Lou turned back but the only back-side warming up the substitutes bench was large, unmalleable and generally ill-suited to the new finds at the end of Life on Mars. Ali, Keith, Paul and I had been happily negotiating the round trip in the wrong (wet bit first) direction when there was a call from above the Round Trip Connection. A third body was required to shift rocks and I was least uninterested.

Life on Mars and the new extensions are a weird series of small red chambers joined by short rifts, boulder ruckles and squeezes. The first (harder on the way back) rift squeeze was a walk in the park. The second rocky squeeze went unnoticed by Ben or Lev, but held me in its vice-like caress for more time than I cared for. The third squeeze (precarious rock) had been the breakthrough dig on the previous trip and this was engineered into non-existence. The next squeeze was the crux, a feet first manoeuvre reversing out of the body sized rift and under the wall, but over a large spiky rock for just enough pain. This was followed by the final obstacle, another squeeze beneath a tight sided, rock arch then corkscrew up through tight passage to the dig.

Only room for Lev at the dig-site and Ben on the far side of the arch, so I got to drag Tim's prototype spoil "Tube" to a sort of stacking area. We widened the approach passages whilst Lev first levered the primary rock obstacle from his path then squeezed through. Fifteen minutes later there was room for normal sized cavers to join him, and we pushed on. Short rift, then a chamber, not large but looking good. A way on at the far end to another chamber, then a crawl and another chamber. Several ways on, the most obvious choked with mud after a few more metres ("Arse!", said Lev.) We had a cursory poke around each chamber but nothing immediately jumped out at us and the draught had all but gone. Found 40 to 50m all told generally heading south so the new stuff is getting on for 150m in total.
Jonathan Cooper