OUCC Proceedings 3 (1964)


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The most outstanding event of 1963 for the O.U.C.C. was the Oxford-Derbyshire Spelaeological Expedition to North-West Spain, 1963, on which members of the club joined forces with a group of Derbyshire and northern cavers in the Picos de Europa, this being the third annual expedition to this region by the O.U.C.C. Unofficial meets in the vacs. have been enjoyed by many members; on one of these much useful work was done and the survey of Yordas Cave was undertaken.

The start of Michaelmas Term brought with it the harvest of new members. In this we were very fortunate to find many having previous experience of caving, so the usual fall-off in numbers after the first meet was not so noticeable this year. Our novices' meet was to the Burrington (Mendip) area - Goatchurch Cavern, Sidcot Swallet, and Rod's Pot provided a varied introduction to caving. A fortnight later we were back on Mendip; this time we split into three groups. Most visited Balch's Cave (thanks to Cerberus S.S. for providing the leaders) whilst others bottomed Eastwater Cavern and a small party took photographs in Hunter's Hole. The meet to Agen Allwedd was very enjoyable. Many parties were formed and all tastes catered for, one party being underground for 13 hours. The last meet that term was to Derbyshire where Oxlow Caverns proved a satisfactory choice. Of the indoor meets, a further talk by Reg Howard on the 1962 descent of the Gouffre Berger was popular with the freshers. The talks on Spain 1963 and Biospelaeology both given by our own members, were immensely successful and our thanks are tendered to the speakers.

Hilary Term brought the news of fierce exploits by some members in Yorkshire during the vacation, which will form the basis of a future article, but this enthusiasm has not been communicated to the majority of our members, and attendance at meetings and meets has been rather low. The Caves of the Term evening was poorly attended, but Monty Grainger's entertaining and interesting talk on The Survey of Gaping Gill brought quite a good attendance. At the Annual Dinner and A.G.M. we were able to welcome Graham Stevens as Chairman for 1964 - 5 and Roy Musgrove as Secretary; and wish them and the new Committee all success. It is pleasing to have a young lady on the Committee once again, for members must be reminded that not only is our President, Miss. M.M. Sweeting, Ph. D. of the fair sex, but so also was one of our founder members, Miss Carola Anderson, whose presence on the Agen Allwedd meet in Michaelmas Term was a welcome event. A talk has also been given on Caving in Ireland by U.B.S.S. given by Mr. F.H. Nicholson, B.Sc.

Two Mendip meets have been successfully held, to Swildon's and St. Cuthbert's Swallets, and one in S. Wales to Tunnel Cave (again). Regrettably a meet arranged to explore Knotlow (Chapeldale) Mine in Derbyshire was cancelled at the eleventh hour owing to transport failures, but two members took a group of novices from the city into Hillocks Mine amidst thick blizzards in the middle of February. Other members have visited Aggie again, and Birks Fell Cave in Upper Wharfedale, which it is hoped may be surveyed shortly.

In the past few months the number of caving accidents and incidents has been frighteningly high. At one time there were about eight call-outs in three days. Most have been accidents of the avoidable type, like lamp-failure, getting wedged and being flooded. Some may consider those latter two are not avoidable but when four parties are trapped by floods five days after a flood warning by a Rescue Warden was put out in the National Press, then one is probably justified in attaching blame. Getting lost, above and below ground has also been common and should not occur. More alarming, as far as O.U.C.C. is concerned, is the number of University and Technical College clubs that have been involved in these incidents. The fact that most incidents are avoidable suggests that inexperience may be the cause, and it is true that the transient membership of University and Technical College clubs can lead to a lower proportion of experienced leaders that clubs based on the main Northern towns such as Keighley, Skipton (Craven P.C.), Bradford (B.P.C.) etc. It would be interesting to see the "Cave Accident Statistics" of C.R.G. Occasional Publication No. 7 supplemented by recent events, and an analysis made of the type of caver involved. Having traced a cause, we may then look for a solution.

We suspect that many University and Technical College clubs may attract hefty sporty chaps who do not realise that potholing involves technique and judgment as well as fitness. They soon find themselves inveigled to lead "hard" parties which really require that skill and experience to decide which risks are justifiable and which are not, that is only acquired from years of training with an established club such as the two mentioned earlier.

The training such clubs offer is a more gradual and intensive training that that of student groups. There is a constant watchfulness over caving conditions and consideration (so often lacking among the more athletic members of the student fraternity) for the other members of the team. The Dowber Gill Passage always takes a fair number of student caving incidents each year. It seems the ideal cave for the athletic chap as it involves no ladders, and therefore to his way of thinking, no skill. Easegill Caverns likewise make an appeal to clubs lacking large amounts of tackle.

We suggest that the function of student clubs is to provide an adequate training in technique and judgement, not to aim for the most severe of potholes (which usually involves missing out some of those "soppy" potholing classics we were trained on such as Sell Gill Holes, Bull Pot of the Witches etc.), for which harder pots students should be encouraged to join another club (e.g. S.W.C.C., C.P.C., B.P.C., W.P.C., N.P.C., B.S.A., Eldon P.C. etc.). The policy of O.U.C.C. has always been to provide an adequate ALL-ROUND training in basic technique, basic exploration and expeditioning, and to do some of the classic holes, so as to fit our members for harder things when they join an established club on leaving Oxford. Thanks to this policy the club has never had a major accident, and although we think it serves a useful purpose, it is up to our readers to judge from this and other journals whether the existence of a club run by students for students can be a good thing.

Editorial note: Three points have arisen with regard to the article on Dunald Mill Hole in our last issue.

Firstly, the author of "A Guide to the Lakes" is Thomas West. Secondly, the author of the item from this book was Adam Walker. Thirdly, an important article by J.P. Smith, published in 1890 by the Barrow Naturalists Field Club has come to my notice. This article included a survey, which shows certain small discrepancies compared with the new survey. These are being investigated and a report will appear later.