Depth through thought

OUCC News 21st May 1997

Volume 7, Number 8

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Rob Palmer died very recently in the Red Sea. He was out there for a technical diving course, but the dive in question was after this had ended. Rob was using borrowed kit as his had gone missing in transit. He and three other divers entered the water from a boat using twin back mounts, diving on air with nitrox for stage decompression. Rob started sinking. The other three chased him down, one baling out at -70m and the others at -104m (bloody deep on air). Rob continued down. It is surmised that Rob blacked out and lost buoyancy. There was a 6 hour search with no results; body not recovered. (Info from Chris Howes). OUCC gives its sympathy to Rob's friends and family.

Sump Oil?

He's got paraffin , sump oil and a gleam in his eye Well, Will's got the paraffin but I'm a bit short on sump oil which is apparently just the thing to sort the club maillons out . If you have got some knocking around please let me know . Thanks
Andy King

SRT Practice

After the practice rescue at the weekend it seems like there are a lot of techniques related to hauling and SRT rescue that many people would benefit from learning about. So it has been decided to have a technical SRT practice on Thursday of 6th week (5th June) to practice everything from basic SRT, to pulley systems for gaining mechanical advantage and SRT rescue. It would be great if a lot of people could turn out for this, including those more experienced cavers as there is are a lot of skills to be passed on as well as to be learnt.

Practice Rescue Weekend

The annual first aid course and practice rescue was held over the weekend, in the Mendips. Overall, it was a very useful experience. It was just a shame that there weren't more attendees, particularly from the more experienced members of the club.

Richard Ward from the University First Aid Unit gave his normal excellent talk on Saturday, covering resuscitation, bandaging, splinting, etc.

On Sunday, we did the practice rescue. The scenario was that Terence had fallen and knocked himself out, and had broken his lower leg and wrist, at the bottom of the 12m pitch in Rod's Pot; to add to the confusion, I'd got myself stuck in a vertical squeeze, and was complaining loudly. The first wave, Rob and Alison, quite rightly ignored me while they checked Terence, and got him into the recovery position. Then Alison squeezed down past me (don't ask me how, I didn't think it was passable), and pushed me out from below. Rob and Alison started treating Terence for first aid, while I (now miraculously recovered) was dispatched as a runner.

When the second wave arrived, we split naturally into two groups: one group treating Terence, and packaging him into the stretchers; the other rigging a haul line on the pitch. Terence was placed inside the Neil Robinson stretcher (acting as a back board) and then inside the orange stretcher (for extra protection). With hindsight, it would have been better to put him inside just the Neil-Rob for the pitch hauling, and only putting him inside the orange stretcher for horizontal passages, where he needed more protection. Also, Terence tended to slip down inside the stretcher, and the Neil-Rob tended to slip down inside the outer stretcher: to overcome this, we need to find a way of anchoring one to the other. To make things worse, the rope attached to the stretcher, used for hauling, was somewhat loose; this meant that the attachment point reached the belays at the top of the pitch while the main stretcher was still some way lower.

Meanwhile, Kev, Olly and I rigged a haul line. We used our standard rig of a rope anchored at the top of the pitch, going down to a pulley on the stretcher (giving a 2:1 advantage), back up to a pulley at the top of the pitch, and then off to a pulley-jammer and a hauling system (giving a further 2:1 advantage). This was backed up by an independent lifeline. The hauling started off very smoothly, with a team of five hauling, Alison lifelining, me floating at the top of the pitch, and Nobby and Rob climbing up with the stretcher, protecting Terence from bumps. It might have been better to have two pitch ropes, one each for Nobby and Rob, but this didn't cause any serious problems.

It only took a few minutes to haul the stretcher to the top of the pitch. However, it was at this point that the problems started. We had planned to pull the stretcher out through a small hole at the top, following the line of the rope. This proved to be over-ambitious, as the hole was too small: the stretcher would probably have fitted through if the hole had been horizontal, but vertical hauling requires a bit more space. We therefore lowered the stretcher, rigged a new haul system, and tried pulling the stretcher through a different hole. Unfortunately, this too proved impossible, as it was impossible to get a straight pull through the hole from the available belays, and so the stretcher tended to twist and jam. The ideal solution would have been to place bolts above the largest hole, and then to guide the rope via a series of pulleys (requiring more bolts) round several corners to the haul team; but the environmental impact of these bolts would be unacceptable for a practice rescue. Eventually we gave up, and lowered Terence back down the pitch, where we could release him from the stretcher.

It is said that you learn best by making mistakes; we certainly learnt a lot about stretcher packing, and about the best way of rigging hauling systems. Also, everyone present got useful experience of rescue techniques. And nobody can be under any illusions about how hard a rescue from the bottom of a Spanish cave would be.
Gavin Lowe

For Sale - Unrepeatable Offer

Steve has finally bought a new (old) car, so the Hurtling Volvo of Doom is up for sale. Your chance to own a small slice of caving history. If no-one wants it in within a week, it's off to the scrappy.

This (t)rusty old battlewagon has done 145k miles, is rock solid reliable, but does drink water as well as petrol. Tax and MOT are about to run out. It'll get through an MOT with probably about £200-300 quid spent, and should then provide caver-proof transport for a year or so.

£50 to you guv, it's all I'd get from the scrappy anyway, plus something for the (LOUD) stereo and spares.
Steve Roberts