Grampian Speleological Group Newsletter
Number 122, March 2005

Newsletter @ g-s-g.demon.co.uk


GSG Annual General Meeting

The AGM was held in Winchburgh on January 22nd and was attended by 14 members. Below are highlights of the morning's discussions. Any member wishing to see the full minutes, please contact the Secretary.

Office Bearers Reports

Several reports were tabled - for those who could not attend the AGM, these are available from the Secretary and copies are distributed with this newsletter to GSG members.

The Treasurer reported a healthy surplus, despite the rise in BCA insurance costs which were covered by last years increase in subs. No increase would be needed for this year.

The Caving Secretary provided details of the new meets list - permits have been obtained for several Yorkshire trips. Members are encouraged to come along and to suggest other trips for the year

The Chairman reported that membership numbers haven't dropped despite the increase in subs. In his capacity as Hut Warden, he reported a significant increase in use throughout the year. The Conservatory is completed, and volunteers are required for hut maintenance tasks.

Election of Office Bearers

There had been no nominations for new members of the Committee, so the existing Office Bearers were re-elected.
Hon Recorder - Alan Jeffreys Secretary - Elizabeth Ellis
Tacklemaster - Peter Ireson Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell
Chairman - Peter Dowswell Treasurer - Ivan Young
Caving Secretary - Fiona Ware

Annual Dinner

Results were as follows:

Appin - 2 postal = 2 votes
Skye - 3 + 2 postal = 5 votes
Yorkshire - 5 + 5 postal = 10 votes
Derbyshire - no votes
Mendip - 2 postal = 2 votes
South Wales - 2 + 1 postal = 3 votes

Yorkshire was declared the winner

Publications

Caves of Assynt is the major focus for completion this year, and requires some surveys to be finished. Volume 5 of the Sutherland log is now available price £8 from the Recorder. Material for the Bulletins is requested well in advance of the print deadlines of March and October. Expeditions - Suggestions for expeditions for 2005 included Northern Ireland, Budapest/Hungary (Kate Janossy), Poland (Roger G). A trip to Staff in May was discussed, and supported by those present.

Other Business

The Protection of Children Act requires some consideration - with regard to taking parties of children underground. This will be discussed at a future Committee meeting, and any members with views on this should contact the Secretary.

Elizabeth Ellis

Many thanks to Elizabeth and Derek for hosting the meeting yet again in their home.


GSG Annual Subscription 2005

Thank you to those members who have paid their 2005 annual subscriptions. So far that is 114 of you with another 26 still managing to delay. This means that the BCA membership and public liability insurance for the 26 has lapsed, and they can no longer cave where insurance is a condition of entry. They will also find themselves ex- members of the GSG on the 1st April. If you are one of the 26, please either tell me now if you are resigning from the GSG, or send me a cheque for your 2005 subscription.

Ivan


First New Cave of 2005 found in Assynt

Martin Hayes has named the new cave he discovered near the Cuil Dhubh sink Storm Cave. He found it in during an interesting mix of snow, thunder and lighting on the 2nd January. As announced in the last Newsletter he didn't explore the whole cave since he had a single dimming lamp, was solo, nobody knew where he was and nobody else knew of the new cave. A group of us drove to Glenbain Cottage the following day intending to explore it. It was raining, the snow was thawing and the river was running several inches deep over the concrete ford below Glenbain Cottage. It wasn't much of a surprise to find Cuil Dhubh backed up with water running down the overflow channel to Deep Depression and a 2.5 m deep lake covering the entrance to Storm Cave.

The next visit was in drier weather on the 29th January by Martin, Ivan and Andy Peggie. This explored the cave to a large chamber sloping steeply down to where a large almost static lake stretched off for at least 7 m into the gloom. Photographs were taken, and we then attempted to stabilize the entrance. This is a hole down through glacial debris which is very easily eroded. We don't want this cave to suffer the fate of the nearby Uamh an Coire Domhain (Cave of the Deep Depression) whose entrance disappeared within two years. We built a rough and ready dry stone dyke around the inside of the entrance and extended it partly along the first part of the passage. It seems to be doing its job so far, but needs more work done on it and we'd encourage you to add to it when you visit the cave.

On the Sunday Julian Walford and Bob Jones found the lake had dropped overnight and an inlet had been revealed that was vigorously churning the surface. Julian also managed to squeeze down through boulders into a crawl that led upstream towards the Cuil Dhubh sinks. He stopped at the top of a very muddy slope leading down into a pool. This had water cascading into it from an unseen passage round to the right.

A month later on the 26th February, while everyone else was setting records at Rana, the next visit found the entrance much as it had been. The lake, however, had dropped by several metres and Chris Chapman, Simon Turner, Peter Reynolds, Jerry Ingram and Robin Forrest could climb down a steep loose slope to walk along a few metres of streamway to deepening water where a wetsuit became desirable. Chris and Simon kicked and cut steps in the thick mud on the right hand wall for a rising traverse to where they could see the rift continuing rift for 10 m or more.

A mass assault on Sunday 27th February found the lake lower by another metre or two. It was possible to walk along to what was definitely a sump pool - though it too will probably drop still further as the weather improves. Roger Galloway and Peter Dennis dug into a muddy passage at the top of the rift that runs to the downstream sump, but this is likely to communicate upwards to a choked shakehole on the surface rather than bypass the sump. Julian took the Hilti drill and removed a lump of rock to widen the squeeze into the upstream crawl. He and Peter Dennis splashed around in the sumps and reported that the upstream inlet came from an impenetrable fissure. More photos were taken though the large population of steaming bodies meant that most of them were failures.

The survey was assembled by John Crae from sketch surveys in the hut log book and from his own observations. A full grade 5 survey is needed to more precisely relate the passages to surface features especially the Cuil Dhubh sinks and the site of Uamh an Coire Domhain.


Other Caving News

ASSYNT

APPIN/OBAN

George Kennedy was busy last year investigating caves in the Appin and Oban areas. He writes:-

YORKSHIRE


Vale Martin Bishop

When I heard of Martin Bishop's passing I was reminded of a line from an old hymn: "Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away". Perhaps a particularly apt metaphor in this instance as Martin had been so deeply involved in cave diving activities.

He spent many years as secretary of the Cave Diving Group and for a time was also one of the first cavers to live in a house almost literally on Priddy Green. Such proximity to Swildons's Hole often resulted in a visit to his workshop to cobble together some kit for a dive down the streamway. Martin was a good friend to the Grampian - indeed he was a member for a short while - providing help and advice to our budding group of club divers in the 1980s.

He died suddenly in February, at work, aged 54, and though it's not much consolation, I'm sure it would have been his preferred choice of departure. However, it means that another friend disappears into Memory Lane.

Alan Jeffreys


Waterproof 12-LED Head-torch

So far Julian Walford has bought and distributed several dozen of the 12-LED headtorches advertised in the last Newsletter. He still has a few left so you will need to hurry if you want one.

They come with batteries (2 x alkaline AA cells), have an elasticated headband and are excellent value for only £10. For more details look at GSG Newsletter 121.

Julian's contact details are:-

Tel home:- 01847 890658, email:- jdwalford at iee.org


Meghalaya Expedition 2005

During February, a team of 20-30 cavers from the UK, Europe and Meghalaya participated in the Caving in the Abode of the Clouds 2005 expedition to Meghalaya. Dan Harries, Fraser Simpson and Graham Marshall formed the Scottish contingent. A camp was maintained on the Shnongrim Ridge in the Jaintia Hills for the full 4 weeks of the expedition; a regular venue over the past few years yielding over 100km of cave passage. No easier leads are left and caving has become more arduous with constricted or partially flooded cave passages. Despite this another 10km was surveyed. Highlights included a significant new cave called Krem Wah Ser. Synrang Ngap was extended and is still ongoing. It now takes around 5 hours to reach the furthest point

Early in the expedition some cavers spent a few days investigating the nearby area of Sielkan. It showed considerable promise and a return is likely 2006. Others spent a couple of days in Simasi. They examined a cave first visited in 2004 and found many large promising leads. Towards the end of the expedition a group of nine visited the Rongdangi area in the West Khasi Hills. Caves in the Morasora River area were connected to the Mondel Kol system, now over 5.8km long. It is likely that there are many more passages, but the dense forest makes finding entrances difficult.

Brian Kharpran Daly and the Meghalayan Adventurers Association are currently in the thick of a debate concerning cave conservation. A new cement plant and limestone mining development in the Lumshnong area threatens the existence of caves including the Kotsati / Um Lawan system. At over 20km it is currently India's longest cave. A similar development is proposed to harvest limestone from the western face of the Shnongrim Ridge threatening many caves there. The debate is aired on an almost daily basis in both the Meghalayan and national press. During the expedition members of the team were interviewed by film crews and journalists to seek their views on the proposed developments. (State Govt directs cement plants to stop blasting ops, IBM to probe likely damage caused to Lumshnong caves:- http://www.theshillongtimes.com/A-5-feb.html)

Considerable progress was made in setting up a project to study the biology of the Meghalayan caves. Brian Kharpran Daly has made good progress in getting official authorisation for this. Brian, Simon Brooks and Dan Harries visited the zoology department of the North East Hills University in Shillong. Faculty members are enthusiastic about establishing a biospeleological research program. Simon gave a talk to students and staff on the cave mapping project, followed by Dan giving a review of the current state of knowledge of Meghalayan cave biology.

In conclusion, the 2005 trip was a considerable success both in terms of cave mapping and establishing the groundwork for further studies of the caves. Initial plans for 2006 suggest a return to Shnongrim Ridge where a smaller camp will be established for exploration on the Ridge, and to act as base for visiting neighbouring areas such as Simasi and Sielkan.

A full account of the expedition will be published in a future edition of the GSG bulletin.

Dan Harries


Meghalaya Calendar 2005

With the now traditional timing, this year's Meghalaya calendar has been printed. While most were shipped out to India with this year's expedition a few are available to members at £4 (£4.50 including postage). Again as in previous years it does not run from 1st January, but covers a complete year starting on 1st March. Order your copy from Ivan now.


Biospeleology Symposium in India

Dan Harries attended the XVII International Symposium on Biospeleology in Raipur, India in November 2004. He gave a presentation on the current state of knowledge of the cave fauna of Meghalaya. The main aim was to build up contacts with Indian academics and stimulate interest in further studies of the area. Hopefully this will result in partnerships for future research and allow the development of a co- ordinated program to study Meghalayan cave biology.

The presentation was well received and a number of Indian and foreign academics expressed an interest in being involved in the proposed work. At the end of the symposium a field visit was made to caves in the Bastar region in the south of Chhattisgarh state. Two caves were visited, they are fairly short, each with a passage length of the order of 500m and are partially developed as show caves. No lighting has been installed but some concrete steps and walkways have been built and it is mandatory to employ a guide from the park staff when entering the caves. Only a handful of short caves are documented in this region but it is possible that many others are present amongst the densely forested hills.

Dan returned with a fine addition to the GSG trophy shelf in Taigh nam Famh (see photo right). His travel expenses were supported by grants from the BCRA, the GSG and the Abode of the Clouds Expedition


Mendip Migration 2005

This year's Mendip Migration is in two parts. There will be a mixed party of Wessex and GSG members staying in the hut for the last week of April (23rd->29th) then moving to the Torrin Centre, Skye over the May bank holiday (30th April ->6th May). There should be some space in and outside the hut for other members to join in the activities in April (contact Peter Dowswell to book your bunk/tent space), but the Torrin Centre is theoretically full. It may be possible to find floor space and there are plenty of alternatives including camping, youth hostel and other hostels not too far away.


Opportunity to join Gloucester Speleo Society Trip to Montenegro

Following a 2004 GSS reconnoitre, in league with Serbian club Speleo Odetse Beograd, Mark Tringham is planning to return to Montenegro for 2 or 3 weeks from 5th August 2005 for an expedition. The plan is to return to a high graded area called the ??ijevo plateau (E on map attached) and Mala River Gorge, not too far from the capital Podgorica. New exploration potential occurs in a high mountainous karst area, with mostly vertical potholes potentially leading down to resurgences in the nearby Mala gorge approximately 1000m below and several km distant. The area has not been explored much before and offers good potential for new exploration. GSS only have about 5 members able to go and need some extra experienced cavers to make the trip worthwhile. If any GSG members are interested, please contact Mark by email on mtringham at vpc.co.uk.

High Pasture Cave - surface excavation starts

Steve Birch reports that a 8' x 4' trench has been opened up inside the 'U' shaped structure. This is above the point where the geophysical survey found anomalies that (Steve hopes) indicate the prehistoric entrance to the cave. After only a few inches they have found a layer of fire-cracked stone and plenty of archaeology: pottery, bone, charcoal, arrowhead (Bronze age), stone hammer, red ochre and other Iron Age artefacts. With so much so soon and perhaps another two to three feet to go it could take quite some time to excavate the entrance if the finds continue at the same rate.

The plan is to excavate the old entrance and install a second larger shed nearby where the public can view static displays and watch excavation proceeding inside the cave over CCTV. Steve has been working hard to obtain all the permissions required and to get the grants needed to fund it.


Expedition to Staffa

A proposal has been sent to National Trust for Scotland and Scottish National Heritage to conduct a Baseline Survey of the sea caves within the Staffa Site of Special Scientific Interest. The literature identifies 8 caves in the cliffs around Staffa, namely Boat, MacKinnon's Cormorants', Gunnar Mor, one unnamed cave on the north west cliff, Goat, Clamshell and of course, Fingal's Cave. Of these, Boat cave, the unnamed cave and Goat cave are stated as only being accessible by boat. Hence in the first instance, the work will focus on the 5 caves where access should be feasible on foot around low tide.

The proposal is to survey and photographically record the caves in great detail. In addition, it is hoped to undertake a sample survey of the sea life in the caves and record the shape and size of the columns. The aim is to provide a baseline against which changes in the caves can be monitored and undertake some brand new research work.

The current proposal for surveying is to use a 'Total Station', a device which combines the best elements of a theodolite and a laser range finder, to provide as output, the x, y and z co-ordinates of each point measured. Combined with this, is the intent to make a photographic record covering all of the cave floor, walls and ceiling. However, the possibility of sea damage on what is an expensive piece of equipment, plus uncertainty over how long it takes to make these records, might mean that a lesser quality survey will be produced.

As a consequence, the proposal to NTS and SNH is based on three trips to Staffa. The first, proposed for Saturday 7 and/or Sunday 8 May, is to confirm accessibility of the caves, conduct preliminary assessments of effort requirements and generally get to know the island. The second trip is proposed to take place around either Saturday 23 July or Sunday 21 August or Monday 19 September. The key feature of these dates is that very low tides are predicted so as to help access to the caves. The favoured date is 21 August. Initial estimates suggest that the trip will require 5 days on the island. The plan is to hire a boat to take us out in the evening so we can start work first thing the following day and carry on through until the boat comes and picks us up 5 days later. The third trip will require a boat and planning for that awaits gaining experience from the first two trips.

This proposal offers a rare opportunity to visit a location where commercial trips provide less than an hour's time on the island, barely enough to see Fingal's Cave. If you are interested, then please contact me so I can book your names in. It is likely that the preliminary trip will be limited to 11 people, being the capacity of the cheapest boat. The hire cost for this boat was £175 last year, so it represents good value for money. The summer trip needs at least 5 people, but the work is there for up to 11. Costs will be higher, reflecting the need to hire equipment. Some support is being sought for this. Obviously those who want to go on both trips will get preference to those who only want to go on the preliminary trip.

If you want to know more, then please contact me.

Bob Mehew, Tel home:- 01704 569107, Robert.Mehew at tesco.net


Forthcoming Meets and Events

Please send your requests and suggestions for other meets to me. Request permitted caves for the Annual Dinner weekend NOW to get your favourite on the list - I haven't received any suggestions yet and it's first come, first served- I can be contacted at home on 0131 667 3698, or at work on 0131 247 4345 and f.ware at nms.ac.uk.

Fiona Ware - GSG Caving Secretary


Elphin Caving Centre

The hut survived the tremendous winter gales almost totally unscathed. Roger found a couple of roof tiles from the bunk room roof on the golf course and replaced them. Further along several tiles just below the ridge were displaced slightly and a broken one was replaced by Ivan. This shows that fitting clips to all the tiles when we constructed the roof and not just at the edges was a wise precaution.

You may ask what happened to the curtains in the sitting area. They were removed when it was repainted and an attempt at cleaning resulted in complete disintegration. We plan to fit blinds instead.

Hut fees are £5.00 per night for non-members and £2.50 for GSG and BEC members. Reduced to £3.00 and £2.00 for children, students, the unemployed and OAPs. Camping is at a reduced rate of £2.00 only when the hut is full. Day fees are £1.00 for members and £2.00 for non-members.

If you want to stay in the hut please contact the Hut Warden - Peter Dowswell as soon as possible to check if there will be space (01456 229250, hutbookings at gsg.org.uk).

Hut-building

There are plenty of jobs to do to keep keen hutbuilders from caving when the weather is inclement. We still have to complete the painting of the seating area, fit the new front door, upgrade the lighting in the shed to something that will work without much flicking of the switch, and either repair or replace both showers. I suspect there won't be any major projects starting for some time while the Hut Warden sorts out his own new home.


Membership News

New Members

Paul Baxter, John Crowsley, David Morrison, Lewis Press, Rob Rolph, Richard Simpson

New Addresses

Alice Dowswell, Stephan Honig, Jerry Ingram

Other changes

Mary Harrison email, Lisa Kamphausen mobile, Philip Miles email

Graham (Jake) Johnson and Rebecca Campbell

At 11.30am on Monday 14th of February, the marriage of Graham Johnson and Rebecca Campbell took place in Smoo Cave in North West Sutherland. The wedding party, tastefully attired in climbing boots, waterproof jackets and trousers, listened to the call of fulmars and a tumbling waterfall as the ceremony was conducted in this magnificent amphitheatre.

At the ceremony with Jake and Becky were: - Raymond Hoy, John Ross, Colin Coventry, Rory, Liz Ambler, and Janet Hoy, and Cap the dog. After the ceremony, the guests repaired to Colin's house for refreshments.

Hearty congratulations to Mr and Mrs Johnson on this unique and happy occasion.

Raymond Hoy

Jake and Becky weren't the first to wed in Smoo Cave. On the 28 June 2002 the Northern Times reported on the wedding of a couple from Dumfries. It was reportedly a quiet wedding apart from the waterfall - just like Jake and Becky's!


Internet Caving

The GSG site maintained by Andrew Brooks is at:- http://www.gsg.org.uk/

Other Scottish caving clubs:-

Aberdeen University Potholing and Caving Club

Glasgow University Potholing Association

The Newsgroups of alt.caving and uk.rec.caving are now almost unused. To find out what is really happening in the caving world (in the UK at least) go to the ukCaving forum on the ukCaving.com site at http://www.ukcaving.com/

The next site might not be about caves but it is certainly about the Underground - with a capital 'U'. This has a fascinating collection of information on and pictures of abandoned stations and other tunnels not accessible by the general public. One old station (Aldwych) has been regularly used as a film set and the WWII deep shelter shown is used for document storage. Well worth a visit. http://www.starfury.demon.co.uk/uground/


Assynt News

Email for the Newsletter can be sent to:- ivany at gsgroup.demon.co .uk, Email for the Bulletin should be sent to:- goon90 at hotmail .com


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