Depth through thought

OUCC News 18th February 2009

Volume 19, Number 4

DTT volume 19 (2009)

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Editor: Andrew Morgan

Trips this term:

Oxford Underground 'Guide'

Jamie has bought my attention a pdf flood information booklet on the Oxford City Council Website. On pages 40-41 there is a 'guide' to the culverts of Oxford.

The URL is

Lucky Dip and the Big Passage That Everybody Missed

Fleur Loveridge

I don't know why Tim and I felt like we had drawn the short straw. After all we were setting off down an unexplored passage in Er Wan Dong in Wulong County in China, which was probably 3m to 5m wide and just as high. But somehow we did.

The others were going to finish yesterdays lead, left just as it popped out into a large and decorated passage, but with Chinese footprints. As we had come in via a pitch, some small catchy rift and a certain amount of muddy gloop there must be an easier way out (or in) and Rob Garrett, Pete and Lou had gone to solve that mystery. This left Tim and me with the side lead – large, but gloomy with a veneer of mud which made staying on your feet a significant challenge.

We surveyed in for a couple of legs and the passage descended steeply down dip.

The walls were nicely scalloped, but brown, and there was a small trench in the centre of the floor where water must flow in the wet season. Luckily it was the dry season, because there must be a hell of a lot of water here at some other times. Tim was ahead with the book and I followed with the instruments. It became uncertain where to go and we had a furtle; it looked like things might get bigger ahead and we needed to find the best route. One more leg and Tim said “you're going to whoop”. I dropped the tape and came down to have a look.

“Bloody 'ell”. We were in a chamber 30m by 15m wide and 10m to 20m high. No, hold on it wasn't a chamber, it was a junction. The downwards “dip” passage we had been following had intercepted a significant 20m high “strike” passage running north south. The place was still covered in mud, but much was much drier and we thought our luck was in. Hence Lucky Dip and Lucky Strike passages were named. We surveyed one more leg north and had a quick look ahead – it was certainly continuing and I was desperately excited, but we had agreed to meet the others and needed to be out for dinner at the farmhouse where Mrs Wong would be cooking our tea.

So back through the mud, and we followed our noses to the previous days breakthrough and set about searching for the others and the hoped for easy way out. We traversed and walked up a beautifully decorated trunk passage, ascending the dip. There was lots of popcorn and stal and unfortunately, in places, Chinese litter too. The passage emerged at a large junction where we found the tackle sacks and after some shouting, the others. They had just worked out that they had connected back to “the large passage that Rob missed”; so called because on the original exploration here in Er Wan Dong he had failed to spot this 20m plus truck passage. Now here was some poetic justice, as we had all just come up the passage that Erin had missed (not to mention everyone else including Claire McElwain, Duncan Collis, Rob himself, and several others sent specifically to look for side passages here). And it wasn't a small miss either, you could have fitted a bus down it.

The good news was we were now only 20 minutes from the entrance, 2 minutes from the entrance to the farmhouse where we were staying, and hence dinner. With a little time to spare Pete and I went to derig the pitch and we now had a quick and easy way to access our going leads, so close to the entrance. I couldn't wait for the next days caving.

Continued in DTT next week.