Depth through thought

OUCC News 11th November 2003

Volume 13, Number 19

DTT Main Index

OUCC Home Page

Editor: Anette Becher,

Editor's bit

Well, I did get to go underground last weekend, but -as it turns out- unbeknownst to myself I was uninsured at the time.

If you want to inform yourself about the state of affairs concerning Public Liability (PL) Insurance for cavers, or wish contribute to the lively discussion, a good place to start is here: uk.rec.caving, Insurance thread, from about message 20 onwards. This just may be something to add to the agenda for the TGM?

Read below how Clubs and landowners have responded initially:

BCRA PL Insurance terminates - land owners closing caves

Unfortunately, despite great efforts by those involved at the sharp end, the BCRA have been unable to renew the PL Insurance previously offered to cavers and caving clubs, meaning that since 07/11/03 cavers or cave clubs have not been insured.

The BCRA pages are currently devoid of any official statements concerning this rather unfortunate situation. The BCRA home page still states under the heading 'Insurance: Public liability insurance is available and a travel insurance scheme for caving expeditions.' I have (just) asked BCRA chairman Nick Williams to comment on this, but perhaps not surprisingly I have not heard back yet. I imagine (hope) an official statement will appear soon.

Some clubs, such as the Red Rose have responded by cancelling all club meets, and some of those that have agreements with landowners based on Public Liability Insurance (the BEC, for example) have closed access to caves that fall into this category (Cuthbert's, all Charterhouse Caves). Next, a slightly modified excerpt from the excellent BEC web pages:

'As of 7/11/03 the BCRA insurance ceases, therefore the BEC or its members are not insured. In order to protect the lease agreement it has been necessary to close St. Cuthbert's to ALL. Any breach of this action could have serious consequences for the club.

The following letter was received from Graham Mullen regarding access to Charterhouse Cave systems - please note that as of midnight tonight all Charterhouse Caves are closed until the insurance situation is sorted out.

"Thanks to the ongoing uncertainties about the insurance situation for cavers, I feel that we will have little choice than to close the Charterhouse caves with effect from midnight Friday. This closure will remain in place until we have written confirmation that suitable insurance cover is in place.

If the situation improves before Friday I will immediately send confirmation of this to you all so that the caves might remain open, however, as the situation is so fluid, it is safer for me to issue this notice now. I am sorry if some of you feel that there has been a lack of consultation over this exercise, but the truth is that the situation has been changing too rapidly for this."'

So, be aware of this issue when you next go underground!

New Gear Shop in Oxford

Bill Ford-Smith

Hi guys, Dunno who the right person to inform about this is, so I'll bug all of you! A dude who used to work for YHAAS (used to be my Regional Manager, hence connection) has opened a new gear shop in Oxford; by the sounds of it, it is probably better than all the competition (including us!).

Anyway, this is relevant to yer impecunious students, as he's offering the usual 10% off for students (just wield yer blue Oxford card thing at him), plus contract discounts (translation: buy a whole bunch of gear and get bigger discounts). He might also be worth talking to around discount evening time. The guy to talk to is Len Darnton and the contact details for his shop are:

Two Degrees West, Unit 1 Dartington House, Little Clarendon Street Oxford OX1 2HS

Car-boot Cave Hunting - Hang So Doi (Bowl Cave)

Chris Densham

Finding caves in Vietnam requires spending hours scrutinising maps followed by days sweating through the jungle. Alternatively, you can ignore the maps and wait until the Vietnamese have built some roads. Then wander along the side of the road and when the air feels cold walk into the nearest cave entrance.

We avoided the 8 km walk down from Nuoc Nuit by flagging down a large empty truck that appeared as we reached the road-side. After setting up a squat in a roadside tin hut whose owners were absent and working on the roads elsewhere, we set off along a line of culverts under the road. A small sumped resurgence lay behind the second culvert, and behind the next culvert 50 m along from that was a small entrance named by the road builders as Hang So Dua (Chopstick Cave). Entering this, we found 500 m of passage, with muddy rifts and crawls opening out into a pleasant enough streamway which sumped upstream, and which we mud-traced downstream a few hours later to the resurgence sump. Culvert 4 had no stream, no draught and no cave. Directly behind Culvert 5, a full 400 m walk from our adopted shack (whose owners had since returned and fortunately invited us to stay), was the walk-in entrance to Hang So Doi (Bowl Cave). This provided a source of natural air-conditioning for the construction workers who were living in the culvert. From the log book entry by:

'Full team including guide and translator enter to push, survey and photograph. Very pleasant start compared to Chopstick Cave, dry gravel/cobble floor. After low bit, cave opens out to pleasant walking passage with plenty of gour and stal decoration. Deb, Martin and Paul surveying, Chris and Woody scouting, Mr Thach and Mr Du jollying along. After wet-looking side passage, [the main] passage eventually closes to a wet, muddy crawl. Chris braves the cold and squalor in his pants and returns to announce it is still going. Muted enthusiasm. Deb and Chris survey on, whilst the rest begin to capture the splendour on celluloid.

Some amusing asides: "Mr Thach, please don't hit that stal with your hammer while you are the photo model". And: "Mr Du, I know you are hard, but would you please wear a helmet if you're in the photo?" - but all progresses smoothly.

Near the entrance, half a film later, we binned the photography and headed back to the sharp end. A quick carbide fettle in the wet side passage was interrupted by Deb and Chris returning with the cave having closed down. We surveyed the wet bit to an inlet sump and picked off the other side passages.

'1185 m, mostly pleasant. Not quite the full jungle experience, but then again, you can't beat a bit of "car-boot caving"'.

Back at the shack our 'jungle' porters told us that while catching fish in a small river on the opposite side of the road, they had discovered a low resurgence cave. We crawled through the ducks only to find rats at the far end 200 m later. The next day, continuing along the road, Mr Du led us up the hillside above Culvert 6 to an enormous fossil remnant of possible past military significance (i.e. a bomb shelter). This turned out to be a through-cave, with the passage only slightly longer than it was high, but spectacular nonetheless. We returned to find Howard, Martin H, a crate of beer, and a truck, ready for the journey back to Son Trach.