Depth through thought

OUCC News 4th February 2009

Volume 19, Number 2

DTT volume 19 (2009)

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Trips this term:


Rob Garret

Some details have been omitted to protect the guilty...

Like all good stories this one starts with a bunch of pirates in search of treasure. In this case silver, buried deep in the Orient.

And, like all good caving stories this one also started with getting lost en route. Alas the resemblance to any good stories of any kind pretty much ends there - for starters, instead of wandering blindly amidst the Yorkshire Moors (think 'Othello' if you really want the pun to work, or perhaps don't...), we were driving blindly round and round a maelstrom of a small town somewhere in Southeast Asia. We were on an island and all we had to do was get to the other side, just over the hills... We knew there was only one road over the hills, quite a major road, we just couldn't find it. Our first logical attempt saw a double-lane dual carriageway inexplicably end without warning. Back to the last junction to try an alternative - this one ended at a security barrier with no space to turn round and traffic queuing behind us. We waved an "Octopus" at it and it let us through to where we could turn round and exit by waving the "Octopus" again, charging us 0.00 credits for the privilege. And so it continued through Town East, Town West, Town North and Town Centre. Every time we thought we'd made a breakthrough we would be stopped by officious security men, inexplicable culs-de-sac, or a statue of a large golden ox wishing us a happy New Year. OK, the ox didn't actually stop us, it just kept jumping out on us, in a way that only inanimate objects can, to remind us that somehow we had completed yet another circuitous loop. Or was it another loopy circuit?

By now we were running low on petrol so we pulled into an obscure side road that led to an insignificant village and a 'road closed' sign but which also had a petrol station. We asked the natives for directions and were slightly surprised to be directed towards the road closed sign. Apparently the giant X did mark the way.

Having solved this problem smoother sailing lay ahead. My sources had informed me that the mine we were going to pirate involved swimming to get in, which I'd partly confirmed with a previous recce identifying 3 possible entrances all wet and a wind-surfing board used by previous pirates in an attempt to avoid swimming. Consequently we were well-prepared. We walked nonchalantly past the barbecuers celebrating the Chinese New Year, sidled behind the public toilets, slipped through the undergrowth and hopped over the wall into the entrance pit.

Here we silently changed into wetsuits, doffed our hats, donned our helmets and prepared to explore the unknown. Alas my sources had, like the road signs, misled us. The water was pleasantly warm, even in winter; the first entrance sumped immediately and the second never reached waist deep. Nevertheless we eagerly explored its sweaty depths.

Easy walking passage - for the person in front with clear, blue water and a flat floor. For those who followed, however, the water was a Weston-Super-'marish brown-grey colour. Wading through this subterranean wonderland with its sunken shafts which had to be traversed around could be compared to negotiating the hidden plunge pools of OFD streamway but phrases like "don't come close to" or "not even worthy of being included in the same sentence as" don't quite capture the scene. As the water became shallower we became aware of an obvious through-draught. Did it come from this overhead shaft with wooden props and hacked out steps? Perhaps. But the number of sleeping bats at the top (and their digestive by-products on the climb) persuaded us to leave this lead for another time. Continuing on we did however find two new (blocked-up) entrances (perhaps we were in Wales after all?) and a not very intelligent rat (we clearly weren't in Nimh).

Returning to the third prospective entrance the water did just reach the waist, briefly, but the main lead ended not long after at a boulder choke (diggable?).

However, we had passed a shitload more bats (so to speak) and another highly prospective climb. We'd also made it out of sight of daylight (just) and plans are afoot for a return (sans wetsuits) to scale the (even sweatier) higher levels, of which there should be several. We didn't find any silver but the true treasure of the orient awaits...