Depth through thought

OUCC News 13th October 2004

Volume 14, Number 8

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Editor: Pod:

Special Draenen Birthday Souvenir Edition

Mystery Article

Geoff O'Dell

Found amongst some old caving papers of mine. I can't recall who wrote it or what book it came from. Anyone recognise it?

The main reason for my love of cave exploring is the fascination of discovery. What fierce exultation, sensual, almost erotic, in violating the virginity of a cave! What delight to get right away from organized existence, where everything is subject to rules, is foreseen and accurately timed! What joy there is in setting out to try one's luck, to forget the time and whether it be day or night, to confront with muscles, heart and brains an aspect of Nature that is both beautiful and hostile, whose hidden snares and wonders you meet with every step forward! To be able to commune intimately with this, your beloved, is sheer delight. The cave is not a lifeless place, it is a living thing to which we have to give ourselves; a thing that can be gentle and also be a savage whom changes in temper can render dangerous. And the harder it treats us, the happier we are to master it and make it ours. We need a Nature that is violent, hostile, and in-human. Man was created for action that is violent. For what has God endowed him with muscles, instincts, reactions, powers of judgment, if not to give battle? He is built for fighting, and it is but natural that he should seek an opponent in the unknown places where he has to call upon all his physical resources.

Others have taken to speleology for the beauties of the world below; they have assuredly been disappointed. True, that world is beautiful in its uncouth nature, in its colouring, in the luxuriance of its architecture. It is a joy to visit Marzal, Orgnac, Betharram; there is other and more intense delight in discovering these palaces of calcite, the small recess where the torch strikes fine from the jewels reposing there. But beauty is only an accessory; it is a real pleasure to find it underground, but do not go there to find it, for you will certainly be disappointed.

What I love most is to do battle with the waters of an underground river, to hold my own against water that tries to freeze my blood, to scale walls where danger lurks, where fear is gnawing at my heart. I want something that demands concentration, something that makes me suffer. I like freezing in foul-smelling tunnels where the slime glues me to the bottom. I need that sort of thing to obtain the full enjoyment out of the small crystal I find, the small incrustation built up by dripping water, to win a greater appreciation of the good, warm sun, of the enjoyments of the life I come back to on emerging from below. Search your inmost hearts, my fellow speleologists; then consider well and tell me whether these last are not the real motives for your activities in caves!

Happy Birthday to Draenen! 

Steve Roberts

Ogof Draenen, as a cave not a dig, was 10 years old on 7 October - an event celebrated by drink and nosh and a bit more drink at the Lamb and Fox. OUCC were out in force, as were many grizzled veterans of the Thursday night digs and the breakthrough via Big Bang pitch and the subsequent frenzied explorations in '94 and '95. Simon couldn't go but sent a birthday cake, and a traditional pineapple was on display to ward off evil spirits.

Work in the cave, of course, continues. Saturday saw Fleur, Pybus and others furtling around in Rainbow Canyon (which gave rise to the thoughts that (a) they might not be back in time for the do, owing to encounters with the area's famed flying boulder display and (b) if that were the case, they'd have a bloody long wait before anyone came to push mars bars to them through the gaps), and the new grade five centreline survey linked up from entrance to the furthest reaches of Dollimore's. Being not at my fittest, I was allowed to pootle along with the near-entrance survey team. Quite a treat, as we went in via Big Bang pitch, and even on my earliest trip into the cave (discovery of Life on Mars, which I see from the MCC journal 5 was on 3 Dec 94) this had already been bypassed. It's a spectacular way to enter the big passages. What a trip that must have been 10 years ago!

Surveying these days seems to involve lasers and LEDs galore. I quite used to like licking the mud off tapes, actually; it provided valuable roughage otherwise lacking from the traditional diet of mars bars. Still, the lasers provided enough amusement to compensate as Lou demonstrated her unsuitability for a career as a sniper, rendering the whole party incapable with uncontrollable fits of the giggles. Just how old are we?

A jolly good day out. I must do it again sometime. Soon.