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Well, because the various people involved with pushing the Shannon Thang further have been so busy over the last year, doing what they do best, there has been some neglection of the writing up duties… But fear not! Here are some recent articles from two highly-regarded caving publications….

Fat Tony


As published in Descent magazine, April 07:

More Leads Than You Can Shake a Stick At.

by Steve Bus

Over the last 12 months or so the Shannon Group have been carrying out some exploration in Shannon Cave. Within this period, at least fifteen trips have been made to the George’s Choke area of the cave, in the hope that a breakthrough can be achieved into the known passageway beyond. Although the digging is going well and a breakthrough is predicted in the near future, we have often been distracted by the many leads which were spotted during the long gear-carrying trips.

During late December/early January a number of exploratory trips were planned for the Mistake Passage area of the cave. On the first trip a bit of awkward climbing and a few well-placed bolts brought Steve (Bus) into a large high level chamber. After a bit of exploration an easier climb up was found. Within minutes of being joined by the rest of the party of Tony (Fat), Steve (Jock), Nigel and Ronan, an interesting phreatic tube was discovered (see photo [coming soon – Ed.] ). The passage led for about 100 m to a large gaping hole. We presume that this leads back down into the main streamway.

On the next trip Steve (Bus) and Eoghan M went looking for scaffolding bars which were deposited previously at the far end of Mistake Passage. At the entrance to Mistake Passage lies the only part of the cave which involves getting wet. Figuring it would be a long digging trip in a wet furry, a bypass was sought. Within minutes a tight rift was pushed into a large chamber which had a rather unappealing rift heading off in an upstream direction. Following this tight (and loose) passage for about 100 m, an awkward climb back down to the streamway was gladly taken. Although the wet section of the cave can now be bypassed, it is predicted that this bit of passage won’t be travelled often, as it easily deserves its new name of Pisstake Passage.

On the most recent trip, one of the high-level chambers was revisited, and after a bit of futering around another large chamber was spotted heading in a downstream direction. Unfortunately no easy access was found and we have no immediate plans of entering it.

All in all at least 350m of high-level passageway has been found in the last year or so. These passages appear to be found anywhere you dare to climb up, though when you look at the roof you’ll understand why more have not been pushed!

A survey of the new passageways in relation to the main Shannon streamway will be made as soon as George’s Choke succumbs to the digging onslaught.


Published in Underground, the SUI‘s publication, Jan 07:

Shannon Cave – An Update

by Steve Bus

Over the last 12 months or so the S3 group (a loose coalition of ex-uni cavers mostly made up from QUBCC) have been carrying out some exploration in Shannon cave. Within this period at least twelve trips have been made to George’s Choke, in the hope that a break-through can be achieved into the known passageway beyond. Beyond this choke is the carrot of 400-500 m of stomping passageway terminating in an undived sump with potentially a few unpushed leads. The dig itself is reputed to be around 20-25m long and has a notorious reputation for trying to entomb unwary cavers.

The first half of the boulder choke has now been shored with copious lengths of connected scaffold bars reinforced with concrete. However, we have now reached the ‘crux’ of the problem – a tight squeeze surrounded by loose boulders. On two of the trips the squeeze was pushed into a small chamber with a huge boulder (solid) making up the roof. Leading off is a small passage between secure boulders where the stream can be heard yet again. Unfortunately the way on has not been found but not all leads were pushed due to a combination of failing lights and the nasty habit of boulders in the squeeze conspiring to entomb us. The end of the small passageway must be very close to the break-through point. Plans have now been made to shore the squeeze before further progress is made.

During the long, long gear carrying trips to George’s choke, a number of high-level leads have been spotted. Several of these have now been climbed and at least 200m of passageway was found. On one particular outing a climb was pushed to 15m above the streamway whereby a ‘bold’ step lead into a high-level oxbow approximately 40 m long. The passage contains many impressive formations but the crowning glory are the helectites, some of which are at least 10 inches long (see photo [coming soon – Ed.] ). These high-level passageways appear to be found anywhere you dare to climb up, though when you look at the roof you’ll understand why more have not been pushed!

A survey of the new passageways in relation to the main Shannon cave will be made as soon as George’s choke succumbs to the digging onslaught.



The digging noticeboard has been fairly quiet recently but QUBCC diggers (and others) have not been. We’ve been quietly moving equipment down to our next project in Shannon Cave which will either be George’s Choke or the terminal choke upstream Mistake passage. The trip to this region of the caves takes about 2.5 hours without any gear but loaded down with scaffolding bars can take up to 4.5 hours.

Over the last 6 months since the breakthrough there have been at least 12 trips (5 to the end) and we’ve managed to find three large high level chambers along the streamway with potential for many more.

George’s Choke may require a lot of shoring but it would be worthwhile in the end as the Shannon stream goes for at least another 500m to a large undived sump with the potential for a dug by-pass.

The terminal choke in Mistake passage is a strange one. A dig in the stream may well become too awkward but we’ve managed to climb high up (approx 25m) just before the choke so there may well be a way of getting round it. This passageway has huge potential as the stream comes from at least 1km away (proved) and it may also be part of the illusive link to pigeon pot in east Cuilcagh 5 Km away – Now wouldn’t that be a through trip to remember!

We have also started doing some preliminary investigation in Co. Antrim, so go see the website.




Well it’s finally happened! After years of digging down Polltullyard the diggers have broken into Shannon Cave. Steve Bus’ report below is from an email post today. Enjoy:

Hello all

For those of you not on IDC you mightn’t have heard that after a large number of digging trips we have eventually broken into Shannon Cave from Polltullyard. For some unknown reason even though we had figured that we had still a lot of work to do, on the saturday of the breakthrough we decided to bring down a videocamera and a camera with flash. Video recorded images of actual exploration are in the link below although most people seem not to be able to open the source a different version will be uploaded soon.

Over this summer (and indeed over the next few years) we intend to have many trips into the system to first explore then survey the system. The potential of the cave for new discoveries is such that on the first trip I managed to find a large phreatic tube (Roughly circular about 1.5m in diameter) that is not on the survey but leads of for at least 10 m around a corner. Although entering it would have been easy the shear exposure (10 m above the streamway) prevented me from doing so.

At least another two going leads (not on the old survey) have been spotted and we’re only about a quarter of the way through the system!

To put this in context. We (Stevemuh and me) have been actively digging in caves in Fermanagh for the last 5 years and all we’ve found is about is a measley 50 m of new passageway. The formations in the cave are pristine and probably the best I’ve seen. So on Sunday we taped off some areas of the cave to keep them that way.

As for access and other details see Les’s email below. However, if you’re keen you are always welcome but the entrance system, the old Polltullyard cave and the newly found passageway, are quite difficult so be prepared for a difficult (So much so that one of the passages is being called the Re-Birth canal – watch the video) but very rewarding trip.

– Steve Bus

From Les Brown:

Well its taken a several years of on and off digging and then 9 months of hard work but we have managed to engineer a route back into Shannon Cave! So, the official new entrance to Shannon Cave is via Polltullyard. Needless to say Shannon is probably the most dodgy cave around. It is exceptionally loose (that is the WHOLE cave not just the dig) and the new route is bloody awkward being not just tight but tight for a fair distance. Yes, Dave Ma we found you another Crucifixion Crawl! Full details should be appearing in the next issue of the SUI Newsletter.

I’ve uploaded a few short video snippets from this weekends exploration here – all are in Quicktime MPEG-4 format.

They can be played on VideoLan available here. So firstly, the list of diggers over the last 9 months, Ash (TCD), John G (TCD), John M (DCU), Ronan (DIT), Steph (DCU), Mark (QUBCC), Eoghan M (QUBCC) Stevie (QUBCC), Stevo (QUBCC), OZ and me. If I have left anyone out let me know.

Well that’s the easy bit over with. Next plan is to survey from Polltullyard to Shannon… yes folks that’s well over 2.5km of passage. I think we are going to need more folk.

As for access, we are presently using taping off fragile sections of the system. Due to the dodginess of the system and difficulty with route finding we’d politely ask that if folk want to get into the system please have a chat with us first. Or even better tag along on one of the many trips that we’ll be having into the system over the next few months.

– Les



Right so its been a while since the last update. However thats not to say that all digging has been put on hold. The new year has seen frantic digging commence again in Poltullyard. The dig known once as hanging death has been safely secured with techniques that would make even Blue Peter proud (toilet roll tubes and sticky back plastic reportedly) and is beginning to create interest again despite Les’s recent encounter with falling rocks. Stevey Muh and a few others are away dwn again today so keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime there are a few photos of the dig here for your amusement.



OK its been a while since the last update but its safe to say that we’re well back into the digging season again. For everyone who hasn’t heard (Im sure there’s someone) Les’s long abandoned Polltullyard dig has once again attracted interest. The downstream section (nicknamed ‘hanging death’ for the boulder’s remarkable ability to defy gravity) has long been known to extend into the now inaccessable Shannon Cave system. The plan this year is to push the blockage (using scaffolding, an apparant Fermanagh first) an estimated 20 meters, and break into Shannon avoiding the now collapsed entrance series. So far several trips have been made and last week two shiny new Petzl Permanents were placed at the Polullyard pitch head apparantly allowing a freehang totally clear of walls and water in normal conditions. Some work on the dig site was also carried out by Steve Muh, Steve Bus and Les (and probably others, email me to claim a mention). From what I can gather they’ve moved tonnes of previously excavated rock to make way for more digging and are now dying to get going. Keep an eye here for more info.