Illuminating passages

If you are expecting an article on caving lamps then I suggest you turn to the next article - but then again........

I recently acquired a copy of "Caving and Potholing" by Donald Robinson and Anthony Greenbank. This 1964 publication provides contemporary advice on many aspects of caving techniques, equipment, and the various caving areas. First published in the founding year of our Club I thought a few sections worth reproducing in these pages, and leave readers to draw their own conclusions.

On lighting: "A very effective home-made light can be made with soft solder, an old cycle lamp front and ingenuity. Take the glass out so that bulb changing is simplified and, when ready to use, connect the plastic lamp flex to a Bell battery (oblong, containing three cells and having two terminals). This does away with the need for a switch. The battery is protected as follows: unscrew the terminals and push them through a thick piece of polythene sheet (500 gauge); wrap this round the battery, carefully folding the sheet at the corners; bind the unit with a section of cycle inner tubing; screw up terminals ready for connecting with the lamp. Batteries shielded like this are conveniently carried in the top pocket of a pair of denims."

On Crawling: Technically speaking reptation methods depend on roof height, and kind of flooring. The width of a passage can also affect techniques used. These are the main types:-

6ft - 4ft high: Walking and stooping with hands on knees where possible, as a resting position.
4ft - 3ft high: Progress on all fours with personal kit in mouth, alternating with a crouching walk on the haunches when arms get tired. This last position is a stationary recuperating posture as well. Running like an animal in a run-rest-run-rest sequence has the great advantage of keeping the knees off the floor, and lifting the body clear if a stream bed is your route.......
3ft - 2ft high: ........One other technique is to sit on a leg, and squirm forward lifting the lower thigh and buttock during each thrust with the leg."
2ft - 10in high: Try a flat-out crawl under the bed: you see the problem at once......"

On Surveying: "(Measuring) Distances: Most cave surveyors make do with tapes other than highly accurate steel tapes or chains. Satisfactory results have been obtained using ordinary woven tape, although these tend to wear out quickly and can vary in length according to dampness and humidity. Another method is to use a roll of non-stretch Empire tape with Magic Marker marks every 12in. Then again, some favour blind cord, well-worn, woven and about 1/4in. circumference, or better still, plastic covered wire.....

Passage widths are often recorded after using a measuring stick, say two feet long, and painted at 6in. intervals with black and white in a chequered pattern. This will also be invaluable for measuring lengths of very low bedding plane crawls. The stick can be pushed out ahead.

Heights within easy reach of the measuring stick don't give problems. Above this they can be measured by: climbing up with a tape if possible; using a fishing rod or light radio aerial mast; floating up a small hydrogen or hot air balloon towing a tagged string."

On Finding Caves: "Electrical resistivity methods, as used in geophysical survey work to reveal mineral sources, may show caves. Electrodes can be placed in the ground in a set pattern, and the resistance of electrical currents between them measured. This will differ, of course, for different rocks produce varying checks on the current. Readings from such tests have indicated caves, but accurate equipment can run in the hundreds of pounds price range.

On Water Tracing: "One of the problems of using fluorescein is in checking where it emerges. There are so many possibilities, and weekends are the only spare time - apart from holidays - when a caving group can make the rounds. It is all very much a blind date; not only may a party just miss the appearance of the dye by half an hour, but it might have flowed that way the previous week and disappeared.

Help can be given by farmers, fishermen, water bailiffs and others likely to keep an eye on local water supplies, whether streams or rivers."

On Photography: "Practice and organisation is needed for good results, but it is less expensive than flashbulbs. And you can use large amounts to illuminate big places........A useful tray can be made for the flashpowder from a shoe polish tin lid nailed to a pointed dowel - like an oversize golf tee. It can be stuck into mud, or a small heap of stones. But great care is needed handling the powder......Charge powder is best fired with Jetex fuse, bought at model aeroplane shops. About 3in. will let the photographer stand back in time......Of course, if the powder is in good condition, it will ignite in fine style - at the same time contradicting anything it may say on the powder can label about "smokeless" flashpowder. There is no such thing!"

On Mendip: "Besides the Pennines, Mendip is the other chief caving area in Britain."......"Exploration in Mendip is by no means at an end, although new discoveries - as in other areas - will be hard won only by digging and diving"

On South Wales: "This is a large area only half explored for many years"......"In the whole of Britain, this is one of the most exciting districts for digging, diving, or just exploring well-known systems."...."The whole area is one of the most thrilling in Britain offering scope for new discoveries. Many have been made in the last twenty years, and many more are certain to be pioneered in the next decade."

Chris Fry