Updates updates updates!

– The surveying trip went ahead as planned on 3rd May — two survey groups consisting of Shannon Group members alongside Chris Jewell, Simon Cornhill and (Mad) Phil Rowsell, completed the centre line survey from the start of 18-30 (the new connection) down to within 40 or so metres of the terminal sump, Sump 5 (“Long Way From Home”). 1.1+ km of passage has been added to the cave, and work is ongoing to produce detailed drawings of the route.

– A second survey group (myself and Madphil) returned on 5th May to survey the Mayfly Extension and George’s Choke — so within the space of 3 days we now have over 1.8 km of new survey data, leaving only the remaining stretch from the Sandy Chamber in JCP passage down to George’s Choke (around 1 km) to be completed for a full resurvey of the main passage, so that we can conclusively pinpoint how deep the cave is and where it has reached in relation to the surface.

– The last Shannon trip of the month was on Saturday 24th, with a mammoth group of eight people in the extension (including 6 QUBCC cavers — how about that??), tasked to investigate a lead at the very end of the cave (see 28/4/2008), survey the final short stretch of passage to the sump and check out some high-level anomalies on the way down. I’ve written a report that can be viewed on the Trip Reports page, and uploaded some photos from the trip courtesy of Damien…

– The June issue of Descent will be hitting cavers’ doormats and gear shops soon, so look out for our article on the new findings. To keep you occupied, here is Steve Bus’ and Aileen’s account of the breakthrough trips:

On the first trip a group of five cavers consisting of Aileen Connor, Chris Jewell, Simon Cornhill, Stephen (Jock) Read and Stephen McCullagh (Steve Bus) carried a capping kit, several dive bottles and a lot of food to the terminal dig. After an uneventful journey in, (George’s Choke was still standing after the big floods of January/February) the party split into two; Chris and Simon were to start the exploratory dive and Aileen and Steve Bus were to continue digging (Jock having retreated at an earlier stage due to work commitments the next day). To the surprise of the diggers, Chris came back a bit sooner than expected with news of dry passage on the other side of the sump! Within ten minutes Simon was in his dive gear and he and Chris returned through with instructions to investigate possibilities of a dry connection via the Balcony dig.

Fifteen minutes later, and with Aileen and Bus rooted in the dig, a few faint voices were heard. Then silence…. At this stage a bit of crowbar fever overcame the diggers and, after a few (read: many) interesting rounds of Kerplunk, a large hole in the roof was uncovered. However, after a few near misses and the death of the capping kit, both cavers decided that retreat was the better part of valour and concentrated on clearing the remaining rubble from the dig passage.

Eventually the diggers heard more muffled shouts from Chris and Simon. In the confusion of English and Irish accents filtered through several feet of boulders, Bus’ shouts of ‘Look up high’ required an answer of ‘18 30‘. After a puzzled conversation with Aileen, the decision was reached to put some food on and wait for Chris and Simon to return. A half an hour later, a bit out of breath and with huge smiles on their faces, they both emerged from the sump. The passage on the other side was big and went for a long distance. The 18 30 comment was also solved – Chris was confused as to why Bus was asking for the time. However the mix-up meant that possibilities higher up in the choke were left unexplored.

With the dry cavers keen to remain so, the decision was made to push through the dig rather than continue with exploration via the sump. Needless to say, the logistics of carrying more dive bottles through George’s Choke also contributed strongly to this decision. Unfortunately the newly formed boulder pile at the end of the dig was looking rather precarious, which meant that shoring was required. So we were back to Plan A – more scaf bars. With the Irish cavers busy with weekly work commitments, it fell on Chris, Simon and the newly arrived Hilary Greaves to perform the necessary duties during the week. They sourced scaffold bars and undertook a Sherpa and scaffolding trip down to the dig in preparation for a fresh assault on the dig face the next weekend.

So, on the second weekend a team of six – Aileen, Chris, Hilary, Steve Bus, Simon and Gaelan Elliffe – journeyed into Shannon to lay siege to the dig. The group didn’t expect it to ‘go’ on this trip, but it was felt that good progress could be made. A double assault on the dig-face was planned; Simon and Chris would dive through the sump and dig from the far side, while the rest of the cavers would lay scaf bars and, with the aid of a new capping kit, clear away the larger rocks brought down the previous week.

The dive team didn’t take long to go back through the newly named ‘Young, Free and Desperate’ sump (‘Young, Free and Single’ was Chris’ choice but we felt the altered name was bit more apt!) and digging progressed from both sides. With a bit of climbing and squeezing, Chris and Simon made progress up into a small chamber. From there it was quickly deduced that the two ends were a lot closer than originally thought: Simon’s and Chris’ lights could be spotted looking down through the large hole that Aileen and Bus had created the preceding weekend. After a few well-placed bars and a bit of gardening, a safe route through was engineered and the 18:30 connection was complete.

– Steve Bus, Aileen Connor


I don’t ‘arf treat you lot!

Fat Tony

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