Depth through thought

OUCC News, 2nd October 2002

Volume 12, Number 8

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,

Hello & Welcome (back) to the academic year 2002/2003. Barring any major disasters at this end, DTT will resume its regular Wednesday evening appearance as of today.

BCRA conference


Last weekend, a sizeable OUCC contingent represented the club at what, in my opinion, was one of the best BCRA conferences in the last few years.

I thought the venue in Monmouth was great - close to town, yet in a leafy green area, the directions were clear, the provision of free parking space was much appreciated (we managed to find somewhere to park hours after the conference had started on Saturday), the camp site within staggering distance, and the beer was highly drinkable!

The conference was very well organised and I would like to thank Paul Mann and his team for a very enjoyable weekend. Hopefully he will carry on in his capacity as conference manager for the next few years. (Admirably he does it all for nothing!).

Rather unsurprisingly (this year's excuse was my attempt to help CD move a powerpoint presentation from a PC onto a CD - the hard way) we got there for lunchtime on Saturday and missed the OUCC talk. Unfortunately, one of the few talks I did attend, the Tuva lecture, was more of a lesson on how not to talk about not much to talk about.

Jonathan Sims' after-dinner snack of grasshopper legs, beetle and dragon fly larvae (the frogs were a bit on the rancid side) provided a tropical variation on the usual crisps and peanuts theme.

Had a great time - let's do it again.

Last Gasp of the Van Blanc

Chris Densham

Those with long memories may recall one of the club's less useful assets, namely the White Van. In recent years this has served less as a means of transport than as a potential blackmail threat to the University Bureaucrats, along the lines of "Give us some money or we might actually use it and kill somebody". However this approach can only be used sparingly and the Iffley Road Sports Complex had started sending threatening e-mails about the rotting hulk occupying their car park. Sadly it was time for the Van Blanc to depart this earthly paradise. It was not hard to appreciate their point. Parked next to the boaties gleaming maroon Range Rover, resplendent in sponsorship logos, our club vehicle cut a forlorn figure. However, the engine roared into life with suitable application of jump leads to the empty space once occupied by a battery. John soon arrived to give me backup on the way to the scrapyard, and off we went with only one swift jump start required as I stalled on the way out of the car park. The nearest scrapyard that would take the beast, even for a £25 fee, was in Witney and I must confess to a frisson of fear to be travelling so far without the slightest vestiges of legality, never mind a battery. I reasoned that the police don't normally stop me when I am driving, so why should they today?

Of course, the police did not need to stop me. The van did that itself perfectly adequately along the A40. Fortunately John was there to give me a jump start and we were off again with only minor embarrassment. At the next round about, the engine died once more. We were just working out how John was going to manoeuvre his car to get his battery connections close enough when a blue flashing light appeared. Sensing a personal "Liberty and Livelihood" threatening situation developing, I decided to adopt a gormless but harmless approach to the officer as he walked over to inspect.

"We were just about to jump start it - the electrics have died" I began. "Well actually, it hasn't got a battery in it" (or tax or insurance or MOT I thought). I needn't have worried, the policeman was one of those helpful types imbued with a sense of civic duty. He stopped all traffic on the roundabout permitting John to effect the required eccentric manoeuvre. As we started up again, the policeman was tactful enough to glance away from the empty tax disc holder. He held up the traffic once more, which I noticed had backed up impressively behind us, and we were away once more. One final conk out in Witney later, and we reached the scrapyard barely half an hour after it was due to have closed. Then it was time to shed a tear, and 25 quid, and turn our backs on another chapter in the club's history.

Chris and Rob dig Draenen (again)

Rob Garrett

This was just going to be a Sunday trip as Chris was busy with work. A Saturday evening drive to the homely Blackwalls, a sociable drink in the Lamb and Fox, and then an early start. It almost worked too as Chris started serving tea in bed at 8am but despite this initial momentum we still didn't get underground until midday approached. As Chris crawled into the entrance of Ogof Draenen it slowly dawned on him that his light wasn't performing very well. Before his feet had left the sunshine he was reversing. His light, which had been working when he left Oxford, had failed due to a broken wire. Still, better here than 1 hour in, or 700m down in Spain or China for that matter. As we sat around by the entrance myself, Ben and Clare (both of Morgannwg Caving Club) were getting eaten by midges and soon abandoned Chris who went to fetch a replacement light from his car while we set off underground.

At the far end of Indiana Highway we paused to let him catch up and soon heard him approaching. The cave had very little draught and was unusually warm but we still weren't prepared for the sight of Chris steaming along with his furry suit and oversuit both suspended from his waist by a pair of braces. His new furry was far too toasty for the big boulder hopping passages of Draenen.

Our destination was suggested by Ben as somewhere that had received scant attention for the last few years but which had some interesting leads. The idea was to find a route into the missing streamway beyond Into the Black's boulder choke, which is what everyone is trying to do, a breakthrough being long overdue.

The first lead we checked out was a small phreas in good rock which looked really promising except for the mud which filled it to within an inch of the roof. The whole area draughted and although this particular lead had a smaller draught it had better rock. The constricted nature of the passage just back from the dig meant that although the digging was initially easy the three of us passing spoil back down the passage couldn't keep up. Eventually we left the lead before Chris could block himself in, or bury me completely.

The next lead was a small draughting rift which ended at a rock blockage which was quickly removed to leave just a squeeze into a taller, wider extension heading in a very promising direction. Unfortunately, amongst all our digging tools we'd neglected to pack a Lev and despite Chris' best efforts the squeeze needs just a little hammering to make it passable. Once passed, it will be easy to hammer though...

More promising leads remained enticingly unpushed but the pub was calling and it was time for a swift exit. To our surprise we made it out in time for last orders. However, the best surprise was a delicious cooked meal which had been prepared for us by Tim and Lou who were also staying in Blackwalls. After the excitement of Spain, it's good to be back.

And here is what Chris wished to add:

Nicely vague about where we went, Rob!

Can I append an anal entry (ahem)?

Wot no Crowbars?

To all those who go digging anywhere in the Dollimore Series of Draenen, can I suggest that people leave their digging tools at the Out of the Blue junction? I can remember the time when this place sported 4 full size crowbars. Not any more! It really is a pain to have to drag in more tools, or face playing 'hunt the crowbar' before setting off for your dig of choice. Not everybody wants to go digging in the same scrot pots!

Steaming CD (last time we played 'fetch the drill & battery' - games for all the family...)