Depth through thought

OUCC News 8th November 2006

Volume 16, Number 11

DTT Volume 16 Index

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

A note from the editor

Please keep these reports coming in ... DTT submissions are well up this term, so many thanks to the contributors. There are still some folks who have been caving with us who has as yet to make their first submission .... you know who you are ... I also know who you are ;-)

There are rumours of a "welcome to caving" party sometime soon ... stay tuned ... no fireworks (could be a positive to some, a negative to others ;-) ).

Here are the trips for the remainder of Michaelmas Term '06.

Fourth Week Trip to South Wales

Vrinda Manglik

I borrow tokens of wisdom from friends gone by and, like mantras, re-play echoes of their words. Reminders from dancers and yogis that "the physical precedes the mental," and that "the practice is observing yourself react to obstacles." Delving into the Earth, I found the physical challenges of my first caving trip to be a metaphor for obstacles in life. The real experiment was in observing my inner reactions, and saying yes to moments and journeys that would stretch and change me. Passing through small spaces, climbing upward, maintaining balance. Keeping calm, and accepting the outcome.

Embarking on an unofficial OUCC trip organized by Lou, ten or so eager [to-be] cavers geared-up in the Sports Complex on Friday night, and drove to South Wales under the clear night sky. We arrived at the simple hut built by Lou and Tim some years ago, and sifted through damp plywood to start a fire. It was my first time in Wales, and though I couldn't see much in the darkness, I was impressed by the clear air and the rolling green hills that reminded me of the San Francisco Bay Area. Leaving Tim behind to start the fire, we headed to the Lamb and Fox pub, where were charmed by Brian, the Welshman who owns the place. Here I got my first exposure to the incredible caving knowledge and passion of the experienced members of the OUCC, who recounted trips from far and near. Their legends of crazy cavers and thrilling streamways lured me in, and got me excited about the next day.

After a late night of post-pub socializing in the hut, Saturday morning was leisurely, with tea required to lure some out of bed. Nevertheless, we eventually headed out by car, and though the morning was a bit foggy, we could still see the black mountains in the distance, and horses, stone walls, and sheep with long tails. We drove to the South Wales Caving Club hut near the cave called Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, settled in, and cooked some food. I was impressed by the wall-sized cave study of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu-a secret map of the underworld which made me realize how complex, extensive, and river-like the world of caves is. Hardened snakes winding through the ground that require navigation-who would've thought!

To head into the cave, we split into two groups, each containing both novice and experienced cavers. It was fun to get into the caving gear-furry suit, oversuit, wellies, helmet, belt, gloves-though I kind of felt like a space cadet. We hiked up to the entrance of the cave in the misty grass, past some more sheep, and had a little safety-briefing before going in. Unfortunately, I don't know the vocabulary to describe the technicalities of what we did and saw, but I do know that we saw the Judge, some groupings of stalagmites, the Corkscrew, a little waterfall, and did some traversing. I think everything was shinier than I had expected, and I didn't expect to be using my knees so much. Because of the rain, we decided not to go to the streamway for the risk of flooding, but I hardly noticed the difference because everything we saw was so pretty and new to me.

The evening was fun, as the University of Bristol caving club initiated some caving games and strange party rituals. I think my lower-back is still slightly bruised from trying (unsuccessfully) to squeeze through benches, but I really liked experiencing the social element of the hobby, as well getting some exposure to Welsh and English culture. Returning early to Oxford Town, Oxford Town (everybody's got their heads bowed down-any Dylan fans?) [ed - well I remember it ... I'm sure the "oldest active caver in the club" does too .... what do you say Steve?]. I kind of got to treating other things like I was still in a cave-essays to be written were simply challenges to be surmounted-and everything requires support from friends and teammates.

Reflecting since my return, I think a cave, like a cathedral, is a physical depiction of the mind and soul, so grappling with its terrain can be likened to an exploration of our inner landscapes. We're reborn everyday-pushed from the warmth of amniotic slumber through tight spaces and external pressure into uncharted territory. Entry is enlightenment, but so is departure. Struck by the smell of the Earth, we stumble blindly from the passage and discover the memory of soil, grass, and rain. Parallel worlds-above and below-are discovered to be "something yet to be met and dealt with and loved and learned from and fought with" (Campbell 1989, 169). We reach out to explore the hidden, unknown, and underground to produce a reply from life. In doing so, we discover ourselves and the ways in which we relate to other people and the world around us.

[ed - for photos courtesy John Pybus see ]

-Campbell, Joseph (1989). The Power of Myth. New York: Doubleday Press. -Dylan, Bob (1963). "Oxford Town." The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Special Rider Music.

A farewell to Dirge

Steve "Where should I put this mars bar?" Roberts

Many OUCC members will know David "Dirge" Gardiner, bon viveur, odd motor vehicle aficionado, accordionist and sometime caver. In another surprise move in a life full of surprises, he and Sally are off to New Zealand in a couple of weeks.

I've known Dirge (initials DJG, hence the name) for longer than almost anyone. I first met him at Cambridge, when he turned up at the bar of New Hall (my girlfriend's College), carrying a crash helmet. Knowing a like-minded soul when I saw one, I offered him a beer, readily accepted. He was a little surprised when the barman reached down under the counter for one of my bottles of homebrew, which I kept a stock of there (it was better than the beer they sold, as the barman agreed).

He was at the time a student at Peterhouse, living in a College flat with a wide collection of Beano comics, weird records, bike spares, mechanical toys, and similar. Clad always in a red & black Dennis-the-Menace sweater, he was well known in the motorcycle club for having run over with his BSA B44 the porter who was the original for Skullion. "Arthur Sproat and his Roving Skullwanglers" (Dirge on accordion) were renowned fairly far and moderately wide for their eclectic selection of rousing folkish stuff and parodies (I should put some of them in the OUCC songbook). Who could forget their stirring rendition of "The man with the prehensile nose"?

Dirge came caving with OUCC quite a lot in the 80's, his initial experience being marked by my persuading him that it would be a good idea to carry a mars bar inside the chest of his wetsuit. After a trip down Disappointment pot, the internal chocolate smearing and chest-hair agglomeration was not a sight for the faint-hearted. Another memorable exploit was on a trip down Langstroth. I'd prepared the trip by taking three sets of diving gear to the downstream side of the sumps, diving one set through to the upstream side. Dirge couldn't force his way into the upper entrance, so went out, leaving the diving-though and de-rigging teams to it. Two hours or so later, three of us prepared to dive through - I went first to fetch back the spare sets for the others. Standing in the first airbell like an apparition from outer space was another diver. Dirge had wandered round into the resurgence cave, found the diving kit there, and despite having never dived before, thought he'd give it a go...

He moved to Shepton Mallet a while back, taking on the task of restoring a massive manor house, big enough for rooms to vanish from memory from time to time, putting to use his amazing talents for "acquiring" stuff and fixing more or less anything. We saw him at the last President's invite, and also the one two years back, where he turned up in the homebuilt 2CV-powered 3-wheeler that was the star of the show. Utterly terrifying to be driven in; joy-rides went down a storm with the children. (

I could go on. But already this is becoming like a very premature obituary.... Present at Dirge and Sally's magnificent farewell do, on Saturday last at Wookey Hole, were me, Sandra, Chris Densham, Kirsty, Ursula Collie, Tony Seddon, Joan Arthur and Paul Mann... and over 100 other folk gathered to wish them Bon Voyage.

Good luck to them in a new life, and may it be Au Revoir, not Adieu!

Variety is the spice of life

Peter Devlin

Bonfire Weekend [4/5 Nov 06] Diving the Wilf Taylor Passage sump proved, as it had been hoped, to be an easier carry and more pleasant diving that the Bull Pot of the Witches end. Ten minutes into the dive saw me at the restriction. An arm's length into the restriction I felt the peg I had left at the furthest point coming from the other direction, so I knew the connection was within grasp. Ten more minutes digging got me into passage that I had dug from the other side, but given that I was approaching thirds and being in a 5mm wetsuit was starting to get cold I decided to turn the dive. On the way back a side passage was found, which I didn't search as I only had my safety reel with me at that point. More experienced divers would have deployed their safety reel and had a look, but I only use the safety reel when I've lost the line. Many thanks to a strong team of Red Rose sherpas, (Beardy, Toby, Helen, Ray, Sam, Andy, Martin) for support. A return is planned Dec 30/31 when I plan a major 2 day push, leaving gear at the sump overnight and only bringing out bottles to be refilled. I'm hoping that by diving in a drysuit with a stage bottle I can complete all line relaying, survey the passage and explore side passages to bring this project to a point of relative completion before the year ends.

This was my first Bonfire Night at BPF, and though Johnny Braindead was absent I felt that a good showing of insanity was to be expected. I was not disappointed. Phil lit the bonfire with a truly impressive paraffin flame thrower, fireworks were lit sensibly and non-sensibly. Any car driving on the lane was considered fair game. Juka (spelling?) pulled up at one point and was greeted by a firework landing a meter or two from her car .... she got her own back later by shaving the head of Mike (one of the Manchester

cavers) ... the shaving game continued on the basis that Juka felt girls liked the coordinated look ... those who were there will know what I mean, those who weren't can joint the dots. Being a timid cave diver I stayed indoors most of the time fearing for my life with the fireworks. Once inside I found I had to move from room to room to avoid the indoor fireworks. Toby's rear window was found shattered in the morning .. I was told this was caused by an exploding cup. At 4am the sleepers were woken to saucepan banging and "Silent Night" ... hey ho!

On Sunday I hung around while Ian Lawton did some SRT training for a RR neophyte before heading off to Cow Pot where I rigged one of the routes. Ian duly signed me off to use the RR tackle store, so I went home slightly later than usual but pleased with the weekend.