Depth through thought

OUCC News, 9th October 2002

Volume 12, Number 9

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,


I actually went caving this week - hopefully this bodes well for the weeks to come. It was only a trip down Swildon's as a post-BEC dinner hangover cure. Sadly, the cave was bone-dry until we got to the old 40 pot. It would appear that due to the recent dry months, Bristol Waterworks are pumping every drop they can get hold off into their reservoirs. Makes for quite a different trip!

Some caving news to start with:

Sidetrack Cave: New cave discovered in Derbyshire: so far 0.5km long.

Titan: This has (not) been happening for so long that it is hardly newsworthy - nevertheless: With the gap closing between the surface dig and the choke in Titan an attempt was made to make a voice connection but this failed. However, conventional PMR446 two-way radios were taken to both sides and clear communication was possible so the distance between can't be far....

Knotlow Cavern: The air in Knotlow has recently been analised and the CO2 level was found to be at 2.7% - distinctly unhealthy!

Dow Cave: And in Yorkshire, the boulder choke in Dow Cave, Wharfedale, has reportedly been on the move, so take care.

Student Caving seminar

Steve Roberts asked me to put the next piece in - sounds like a good opportunity to gain some lobbying strength, so let's be positive and attend.

Hi: My name is Chris Jewell. I'm the president of Southampton University Caving club. I compiled the address list myself from the Internet so I'm aware some of the information may be out of date. If you have since left the club or handed over your committee position would you please forward this to the appropriate address.

At Hidden Earth there was a University forum where several of us discussed some of the problems facing Uni clubs. From that discussion the idea of a Student Caving seminar was spawned. Southampton offered to host the event because we know of an activity centre in S. Wales, which would be ideal. The concept is to get as many Uni clubs together for a big piss up, do some caving and discuss any issues or opportunities for Uni clubs. I've also been considering asking someone to put on training and perhaps asking clubs to give presentations on expeditions or trips.

We'd like to get the event off the ground before Christmas, before the momentum and enthusiasm is lost. At the moment I'm going to suggest three dates 23/24 Nov, 30/1 Dec, & 7/8Dec. I'd appreciate it if the presidents or secretaries could let me know which of those dates are good.

The activity centre is owned by Donald Rust, who is a caver himself. It's just down the hill from SWCC so OFD is right on the door step. He can put up 42 people in beds plus there are several large tents for the overspill. In total I'd imagine we could squeeze about 60 people in. Plus people could also stay at SWCC. I have no idea how many people will be interested and if I get a huge response then I may have to re-think this. So could you also give me a vague idea of numbers when you reply.

Donald has offered to do food as well, no idea of the cost but that might be the only feasible option if there are loads of us. Otherwise we could arrange some group cooking.

Previously we have paid about £3-4 per person per night but I will confirm the cost with Donald soon. Other than food & accommodation there will be no additional costs. We're not planning to try and make any money out of this; I'd just like to get all the Uni clubs together.

I hope you are all as enthusiastic as the people I spoke to at the conference because it could be a really good weekend.

Yours Sincerely, Chris Jewell (SUCC)

Chronicles of China 1

 (aka. don't try this at home): Rob Garrett

It was raining. It had been raining all night and now we were about to go caving. We didn't know where we were going caving, apparently that would spoil the surprise. We didn't know anything about the cave we were going to, apparently that would make it too easy. That's not how the Chinese put it to us but after 5 long months we'd learnt to paraphrase a little. Looking at the water flooding down the high street, "Does the cave have any water?" we asked. No, no water. Coming with myself and Erin would be: several members of the Chongqing Explonation [sic] Club, Chinese lemmings who'd we just trained in SRT and had no intention of letting anywhere near our ropes; a translator, who barely spoke English; Mme. Tan, a 64 year old grandmother and very important person who had organised all the local permissions for us to go caving; random others.

Having been ill previously, I had only come to Chongqing to help with the SRT training and had deliberately left everything except my helmet on the other side of China. However, this didn't stop me from being press-ganged into numerous foolish ventures. Fortunately, the caves are warm here so an old shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair of green farmer's plimsolls are pretty well adequate. As we drove up the valley in the early morning, raging waterfalls crashed down onto the new road from the cliffs above and disappeared over the abyss to the raging torrent below. "Are you sure the cave doesn't flood?" we checked. No, no water. Since no one had mentioned any vertical drops and we knew the cave had been previously visited we had deliberately left all our ropes back at the hotel, just to be safe. The jeep pulled off the main road and began winding up a dirt track pausing only slightly before plunging through a very flooded section. Finally we stopped in a small village miles from anywhere.

"Is it far to the cave?" No, no... only 10 minutes walk. Carefully storing our dry clothes in the back of the jeep we sheltered under an umbrella and set off. To our dismay, our bags of dry clothes had been plucked from the back of the jeeps by porters and were now getting wet. "They carry you ropes," explained the translator. "meiyou shenzi - we don't have ropes." An impromptu discussion followed after which, "No problem, farmer have rope."

10 minutes later we were all stood on the banks of an angry swollen river 12m wide. One of the local farmers, who were now our guides, waded across with one end of an old 10m hemp rope. We began to get nervous. He now stood waist deep in foaming water holding the rope taught for another lunatic to join him. One by one our whole party crossed while we loitered at the back. One of the porters stumbled while carrying a large wicker backpack and several of our supplies got washed away forever. Undeterred the show continued until even Mme. Tan crossed with an escort of four wiry farmers. When Erin crossed she, too, was given an escort and the resulting bow wave had the water almost up to her neck. Deciding I would be safer without an escort I waded across on tip toes, my emaciated legs offering no resistance to the flow of water allowing my clothes to stay almost dry.

Now the sun came out but for the next hour I regretted the shorts as we struggled up slippery paths through gorse and nettles battling our way up to the cave entrance. It was pleasantly warm as we gathered on the small overgrown ledge overlooking a spectacular valley far below. Banshui cave (pronounced Banshee) was behind us, a miserable low entrance guarded by a small portcullis that had rusted in place. We thought this would be a good time for lunch and said as much. "No, no we must get underground... There are white rats in this cave," they enthused, "very big."

The gate was prised open such that it was just possible to squeeze into the darkness. A 10m crawl through rat shit didn't even give my eyes time to adjust my borrowed LED headlight before we arrived in a small chamber, "Now we can have lunch!" they announced.

to be continued...