Depth through thought

OUCC News 5th December 2006

Volume 16, Number 14

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Editor: Peter Devlin:

Note from the editor

Please keep the reports coming in.

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

22 Dec - 1 Jan 07, Dales staying at BPF, permits: Deaths Head/Big Meanie, Penyghent

BCRA Cave Technology Symposium.

Chris "speleo-geek" Densham

Members of BCRA's Cave Surveying Group and Cave Radio Group are joining forces to organise a one-day 'classroom' symposium to be held on Saturday 14 April 2007 near Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

This event will coincide with the Cave Surveying Group's weekend field meeting. Details will be available at later in the autumn but, in outline, the symposium will consist of a number of lectures, poster papers and practical demonstrations. It is hoped that abstracts of talks will be available in advance, and that papers based on the lectures will be available for publication by BCRA or one of its SIGs. In other words, this event has a slightly more formal basis than a mere 'field meeting' and is aiming to be similar to BCRA's Science Symposium in concept. Lectures will probably fall into three categories - a) theoretical, b) practical reports of work done and c) practical demonstrations.

The idea is to provide a forum for discussion of cave technology topics, with a particular emphasis on cave surveying, computing and electronics. However, the event could be extended to include discussions on other Special Interest Group topics, and so members of BCRA's EUG and the UK Cave Photography Group are welcome to contribute, or even to organise their own weekend field meetings to coincide with this classroom session.

The organisers are David Gibson (d.gibson[at] and Allan Richardson (allanr[at], who are happy to answer queries or accept offers of talks etc

A meeting with the Captain

Steve "El Presidente" Roberts

(Swildon's Hole, 16/11/06)

It is quite amazing what four months' lack of exercise can do to one's fitness. On several occasions on this trip, any HUD of my body condition would have been well into the red on heart rate, breathing, and incipient panic. Not good. It was just meant to be a gentle amble, getting me back into caving after my gliding accident.

It was obviously going to be "sporting" - heavy rain for the last few days, Port Meadow awash; the Swildon's stream at the entrance was fairly high and there was a good rush of water below the blockhouse. I sidled towards the dry ways; Gavin countered with "yer wuss!" so off we all went down the wet way. All? No - it transpired that Pip hadn't noticed our vanishing act into the spray-lashed pit, and had shot off down the dry ways to "catch us up". We were soon re-united, and made swift progress to Trat's temple.

The scene at the mud sump resembled the "how things work" basement of the Science Museum as buckets from the sump were emptied into a dam, teams lifted buckets from the dam and filled an overhead reservoir with a thick pipe leading back to another dam, which we had previously emptied down another pipe... Soon the water level was deemed by Gavin to be "big enough to walk through"; this proved to be a "comfortable" 5 inches or so of air. Gavin and I had neoprene hoods. Pip and Roman did not, but were mentally ticking their next purchase.

From here on it became hard work. I didn't disgrace myself by falling off the greasy chimney, but had a bit of a nasty soon after as I tried to go feet-first up what soon became an uphill crawl. All gauges hit the red, as I suddenly felt unable to breathe. Calm down; onwards. By the time we got to blue pencil passage, it was clear that going down to the stream would be Not a Good Idea, for me at least; also there was a fair old stream flowing down it, which I've not seen before. Over the top then... I decided to take advantage of the first flowing water for ages to relieve a certain internal pressure. Just as I finished, I heard voices of a team coming up blue pencil. However, this was likely a known team coming from Priddy Green sink, so they'd had worse.

Then the ducks of "the troubles" - which actually were fine, with good airspace and no obstructions. The squeeze, though, was a painful and desperate experience. My chest simply won't compress these days. Gauges on red again.

From here it rapidly got more pleasant. Swoosh down vicarage landing, stomping splash up the streamway, sump, streamway, climbs, to the ladder.

"Is that Steve Roberts?!".. I peered vaguely below the helmet of the trim, lean, fit wetsuited figure. A swift handshake and he was off.

"Who was that?", asked Pip.

"Clive Westlake" said I, "he was Chair of Cambridge University Cave Club in 1963".

"Blimey, I thought he was about 20!".. and then "I hope I look that good in a wetsuit when I'm 60."