Depth through thought

OUCC News 3rd November 1999

Volume 9, Number 20

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Despite forecasts of very wet weather again this weekend, the "novice weekend" on Mendip proved excellent. I'm hoping that some of the newcomers might write in with their stories of what it was like to be confronted with the entrance squeezes in Sidcot on your first ever trip underground, or to have to swim up the Longwood streamway in heavy water conditions on your third. Still, I managed to do two caves traditionally not fit for wet conditions, Thrupe Lane and Longwood, and needless to say they were brilliantly sporting. Longwood was particularly scenic with a strong stream flowing down the great chamber area, making the long sloping climb down to the master stream very beautiful. Pip managed to find herself in Reynolds' Passage by following the water, but perhaps she'll tell you about that (yes, she lived)

Thanks to the MCG for excellent hospitality at Nordrach Cottage, and for thos e who did all the cooking (as usual...)

This Weekend

Come to Yorkshire! The club are staying at Greenclose, which is on a track off the B6480 road (grid ref SD 720 693). For detailed directions see We also have permits for Lost Johns and Rumbling Hole. I have a few names already, but I'm expecting more. So let me know.
Rich Doyle


This one is based on Gavin's Expedition Rescue Guide. I think it is rather funny: Lev Bishop

OUCC Expedition to locate victims; Change quickly.
as well: as soon as possible to keep
it may be pulled through a
lot you should be widened to avoid
sheltering in hours, before going to be carried forward;
to keep track of
a light failures . 9 What to keep you
have somebody can
use the corner, probably a fairly easy, as
a pair
finds the nose,
seal your gear, so
ask them onto
a point
still have no responsibility
for injured cavers should also being trapped. by
Gavin Lowe / here.

Berger Closed

I thought I'd drop a line. Cave politics are getting very heavy at the moment, here in the Vercors, France. The Maire [Mayor] of Engins has closed the Berger. He is using the fact that the cave is in the catchment area for the town of Sassenage [which is true] to say the cave should be closed.

This is his knee jerk reaction to losing a court case to stop him demanding a 10 000FF caution before visiting the Gouffre Berger. He lost. He also lost the right to control access to the cave. His reaction was to have the commune vote to close the cave. He is trying to use new laws which control access to areas considered as sources.

All this wrangle has come from the arguments over payment for rescue. In France rescue is "free". BUT someone has to pay. The law in France puts the bill at the door of the commune where the accident happens. For a small commune this can literally break the bank. In this case the commune can apply to the Prefecture of the Department to help pay the bill. Hence, at the very least, a large rescue will cause a commune to undertake a very heavy administration effort to organise the payment of the bill. For small rescues the communes just have to cough up! In the case of the Berger the Mayor was asking clubs to put money up front to cover rescues, which goes against rescues being free. The base problem that needs to be solved is a commune's liability for paying for accidents on its own territory. It should, more logically, be paid at national level. This, in my opinion is the problem to be solved. With the new "Arete" [commune law] the commune of Engins have side-stepped this issue and entered even more complicated territory!

The arguments over the cave being part of the perimeter for a source opens up another vast can of worms. New European laws are demanding that access should be stopped to around used as sources. For example perimeter fences have now to be erected a certain distance [120 /150m] from the source [which is happening just behind my house]. The problem is with cave "sources" is they can be entered. A true source would be due to filtered percolation water. Cave springs are basically resurging rivers which have little filtration in most cases. To classify a whole cave as part of the perimeter logically would mean stopping access to the whole catchment area, which in most cases is completely impractical! Yet this is the argument the Mayor of Engins is using. If this principle is used throughout Europe, 100's of km2 would be closed to the public! Basically a cave source should be treated as an open river and any water rising from it treated in the same way, as an open river.

This is a problem that could affect caves throughout Europe and I think all cavers should be aware of what's happening here. I'm interested in people's views.
Paul Mackrill.

Cave of the Witch's Eye

3 copies of the video of the 1989 2/7 expedition for sale. £7.50 each (plus postage - 75p - if needed). First come, first served.
Steve Roberts.

Expedition '99 T-shirts

If anyone would like a 1999 expedition T-shirt please let me know now, as the order will be going in this week.
Paul Mann