Oxford University Cave Club

Proceedings 5 (1970)

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Report of OUCC Expedition to Spain, 1969


The Expedition, Caves Explored

A G Brooks
F E T Sanders
Mrs C M C Sanders
G C Cox
J Davies
J G Sheppard
G J M Dare

The Expedition

Personnel, Caves Explored

On the evening of August 26, 1969, five people - Francis Sanders, Jim Sheppard, Geoff Dare, John Davies and Guy Cox - left Oxford in the Sanders' Land-Rover, with equipment in a trailer bought by the expedition. In spite of sundry minor troubles we arrived in Southampton with time in hand. Here we were joined by Andrew Brooks, and left on the night boat to Le Havre.

We drove down through France, picking up Christiane Sanders, the seventh member of the expedition, in Le Mans. On the 29th, we crossed into Spain at the Col de Somport. From there we drove down the Mediterranean coast to Murcia, then inland to the little village of El Sabinar, near Nerpio, where we met Dr Michael Walker, senior member of OUCC.

He was leading an entirely separate archaeological expedition to the area, investigating rock-shelters in which (inter alia) cave paintings had been found. In exchange for a contribution to our petrol expenses, we were to join forces with Dr Walker's expedition for a week, and search for caves containing paintings. In the event, many of Mike's personnel had left by the time we had arrived, and he and the remainder left soon after, so we were on our own for most of the time. Unfortunately, the area proved to be totally barren of true caves, though full of rock-shelters (abandoned meanders at high level in the gorges). We were therefore somewhat disappointed by the 6 September, when we left El Sabinar for our usual stamping grounds in the Cantabrians.

On the eighth we set up camp at Barro, near Llanes, and our work in the area is detailed in the following pages. We were concerned with the Sierra de Cuera, a fairly low (up to 1200 m) range seaward (north) of the much higher Picos de Europa. The two ranges are separated by a valley which descends almost to sea-level. The Sierra de Cuera is formed of Urgonian (Cretaceous) limestones, whereas the Picos consist of Carboniferous limestone, which our past experience had suggested were less rich in caves.

We were not disappointed in our choice of area. We were, however, somewhat disappointed by the weather, which was extremely wet and flooded not only the caves but also our campsite. In spite of this, a lot of worthwhile work was done, and the area will well justify a further visit. We left Barro on September 26, spent one night at Castro Urdiales (scene of two OUCC expeditions) and then came back through France to Le Havre. We arrived back in England on September 30th.

Caves explored

Personnel, The Expedition.

(grid references on the 1: 50000 military map, sheets 31 and 32)