As regular readers (ha!) of the web site will have noticed, this page hasn't been kept especially up-to-date of late. This isn't (only) because of the webmaster's utter laziness, it's actually got far more to do with the fact that most digging by QUB-related people now goes on under the auspices of the Shannon Group. Head over that way for up-to-date reports on their exploits, or read on for the historical record of the QUBCC diggers...
The Old Digging Page....
Welcome to the digging section of the QUBCC website. Here at QUBCC we are always interested in opportunities to find new cave passage (and do as little work as possible in the process).
The western Fermanagh region of Northern Ireland is surely one of the least visited caving regions in the UK & Ireland and there are many discoveries to be made. QUBCC is in a good position to add to the list of finds as we the most frequent student caving visitors to the area, bringing a good potential workforce with us every time we go.
This page will notify members of any digging trips (which will be separate from official club trips) and discoveries that have been made.
So don’t expect it to be updated all that regularly...!
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!
Well we've submitted all the materials required to Descent Magazine now, so I'll update this section with snippets of the breakthrough article whenever it's published (next month I think). In the meantime work is still ongoing in the Shannon Cave, and this weekend will see a humungous effort towards surveying the new extension (hopefully to Grade 5 level). We've gathered some additional workhands from England and hope to get the majority of it surveyed on a LONG trip tomorrow. Unfortunately I'm gigging, so can't make it! Otherwise I would definitely have been well keen to spend 16 hours down a cave taking readings and noting down measurements. Oh yeah.
Meantime I've uploaded Damien's photos of last weekend's trip here.
Righto, so an all-QUBCC trip went well yesterday; myself, Damien Datry (new
in the club) and Conál
McCartan (new in the club, down as captain for next year). We got down
to the end of the cave and I pushed the 10 Years' Hard Labour area, with
a view to getting a definite "yes there's big cave" or "no it just stops"....
unfortunately (!) it was still going quite similarly (tight, muddy, and
a little scary) when we left, but there's also a chance that it just loops
back on itself thus just being an oxbow... I need to discuss further with
Stevo to get a better idea.
There's much intriguing cave passage in the new extension! I think there's a whole lot of investigation to be done in the high-level stuff most of the way along -- even just by looking from floor level; the height of the ceiling at any given point changes dramatically all along, and where the changes occur you can often see additional passage emerging c. 25 m up... and/or some very strange changes in direction of the main passage.
- Damien took a couple of photos while we were there, I don't know how they've turned out but I've asked him to email them to me ASAP just in case any are worth submitting last-minute to Descent.
- A hand line has been left rigged at the climb down into the dry oxbow, the other side of the big (second) boulder choke in the main stream passage.
- I definitely think the new bypass needs a tad more shoring too, if not some gardening!
NOTE: We took an extra couple of cans of rice pud down to the dining room beyond the balcony choke -- but used up one of the old rusty/mouldy cans instead of the new ones. Anyone that's down next could you also use up the most rusty-looking can first as it looks like it'll disintegrate before too long! Make sure you take a penknife/tin opener though as the oldest ones don't have ringpulls. If someone has a spare old tin opener it'd be good to leave one in the daren drum.
Well, much has been happening since last I wrote, and I guess it's time for a round-up before any, ahem, BIG NEWS is released here... Efforts have continued over the last 12 months to get past the terminal sump at the end of the Mayfly extension of Shannon, but for a long time these efforts were making slow progress. Plenty has been going on in the meantime:
Steve Bus, Aileen and myself provided a talk on the Shannon Story So Far (featuring interpretative dance by Rónán O'Ceallacháin) at the SUI/ICRO Symposium in October. The presentation included a whirlwind 3D tour of the overground layout of the Shannon area, survey data of the last couple of years' progress and photos of the current cave passage and dig areas.
Next, the one thing we thought would never happen -- Steve Bus lost heart. Almost broken by the impenetrable barrier of Sump 3 (*sob!*), he travelled off to Germany, the USA and Australia just to get away from the shame. In the meantime, the rest of us just rolled up our sleeves and got on with business, starting work on a complete resurvey of Shannon Cave from Polltullyard entrance (a necessary evil, as there are no marked survey points in the cave from the previous survey for us to take reference from, nor to add further passage to). So by the time Steve was back from his travels and had stopped being so silly, we had the route through Polltullyard and the connection with Shannon already surveyed.
The next discovery came in February 2008 while surveying beyond the Border Climb in JCP passage. While surveying the first (of probably 100 still to come) boulder choke of Shannon Cave, Les Brown noticed an anomaly in the water flow -- a new, previously unnoticed inlet had been found! And with a very large water flow coming through it too. A few theories are floating around (hee hee) as to its source, but until we can get the survey data properly laid out (and maybe a little dye tracing done?) we won't know for sure. Steve Bus' original description of the passage is as follows:
Four of us (Les, Ronan, Aileen and me) went surveying down Shannon yesterday and it went really well especially after Les noticed that there is a mysterious second streamway which seemed to appear from nowhere! Half an hour of digging and a George's choke like squeeze lead into a narrow rift-like inlet which contributes more water than the Polltullyard streamway. How we missed it I don't know - though it does appear in a middle of a boulder choke (which one I hear you say).
We can't figure out where the water comes from, but due to the dodginess of the entrance (we didn't have any digging/shoring tools which made an interesting time moving boulders), only the first 10m were explored. However, it looks like it keeps going.
- Steve Bus
Later reports are that it is still going, but it's increasingly tight, dodgy and wet. That's never stopped us before of course, but with so much work to do in Shannon it's just been added to the list for the time being. In the meantime, more Important Stuff of Note has been discovered in the past week... Here's the official word from the Shannon Group, 25th March 2008:
A brief update.
Over the last week we had Chris Jewell and Simon Cornhill over here diving. On St. Paddy's weekend they managed to pass the terminal sump in Shannon to find the continuation on the other side. At the same time a voice connection was made from our dig to the new extension.
On Easter Saturday after a brief digging session from both sides (Simon and Chris gracefully volunteered to dive through again to help) we made a dry connection for us landlovers.
The new extension is big - maybe a kilometre - and of impressive dimensions. More to follow in due course.
- Stevo, Shannon Group
So that pretty much brings us up to the present day. Survey data has been recorded up to a point shortly before the decorated sandy chamber in JCP (please leave the tape marker and measuring reel in place!), although we may now be inclined to skip to the end and get the new passage surveyed. A proper report of the breakthrough and ensuing discoveries will be forthcoming, but in the meantime I've written a report on the first QUBCC reccie trip into the extension last week (see the trip reports page). Enjoy!
Big news! This taken from Descent magazine:
George's Choke Yields to Saintly Power
by Stephen Macnamara
George's Choke, photographer Chris Jewell, subject Stephen Macnamara
Canyon passage in the Mayfly Extension, photographer Chris Jewell, subject Stephen McCullagh
The downstream terminal sump, photographer Chris Jewell, subject Stephen McCullagh
New digsite at terminal sump, photographer Chris Jewell, subjects Stephen McCullagh (L) and Stephen Macnamara (R)
The Shannon Group has been busy over the past couple of months, and the hours of toil have paid off. On Saint Patrick's Day (17th of March for the heathens among you), George's Choke finally relented, to admit a group of three cavers into the downstream Mayfly Extension. The extension, named by the first explorers in the eighties, became inaccessible after the repeated collapses of George's Choke. The nails were put in the coffin when the original cave entrance series collapsed about fifteen years ago.
The 2005 breakthrough from Polltullyard into Shannon allowed a new assault on George's Choke to begin in earnest at the start of 2006. Some fifteen trips of gear transporting, digging, scaffolding, cementing, photography, surveying and lead pushing have been made, the average trip length being nine hours.
In September 2006, the group made a significant push through the worst of the choke into apparently stable, large boulders beyond. This trip was curtailed by light failure. Undeterred, we returned in the next month. Unfortunately, the choke now decided to reassert itself, almost incarcerating one of our key members ... and another retreat was necessary. The subsequent trips were spent redoubling the scaffolding effort and applying lashings of quick-setting cement (mixed in a few saucepans which were retired from culinary duties for the purpose).
Saint Patrick's Day was bound to be a lucky one, and we decided to retry the push. Back in the large stable boulders, an interesting right angle squeeze at floor level was immediately followed by a tight slot under a boulder into water. One further squeeze up through boulders found us looking into a sizeable chamber with the stream emerging in front of us. A short stroll led us out of the boulder choke and into the clean-washed streamway of the Mayfly Extension!
In comparison to the boulder-strewn passage upstream of George's, the downstream extension is a luxury. Three hundred metres of stomping passage is only interrupted once by a minor choke. Much of this length is beautiful canyon streamway.
We quickly reached the downstream terminal sump, where the water disappears to resurface three kilometres later at Shannon Pot, the source of the Shannon River. An old dive weight was still lying on the ledge beside the sump. We did not spend too long here because the water level had risen by half a foot. The squeezes in George's Choke were decidedly wetter on our return, and somewhat alarmingly, the normal crawl out of the choke had sumped off! Fortunately, we found a high level route before making a sprint for the surface.
On the latest trip, we checked the terminal sump for diving possibilities with the help of Chris Jewell and his diving mask, and concluded that there was indeed potential. A climb up into the boulder choke above the sump leads about ten metres further downstream, and then drops back to stream level, with a voice connection back to the sump chamber.
However, non-divers need not despair yet. About fifteen metres back from the sump chamber, before the boulder choke starts, Steve McCullagh spotted a sculpted ledge running along the left wall just below ceiling level. With a boost from Steve, I climbed up and crawled twelve metres into this sheltered tube, which seems to skirt around the edge of the passage and hence bypass much of the boulder choke. I rigged a handline and we soon made five metres' progress through easily removed rocks. This is the most pleasant digsite we have encountered in Shannon yet, with a solid floor, wall and ceiling. Some minor shoring will be necessary, but the site seems very promising.
Work on the survey is continuing in parallel with digging. In addition, George's Choke needs a bit more shoring work to make it safe for the level of traffic we expect over the coming months. We need more members please!
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....
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:
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.
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.
- Steve Bus digging hanging death
- Les fixing his sleeve
- Stevey Muh looking dramatic
- The passage to hanging death (cool walls)
- That passage again
- The start of the dodgy digging (bit out of date that photo)
- Poltullyard main pitch
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.
On the Monday following the SCF a digging team of Steve Macnamara, Steve Mc Cullagh and Mark Stockdale decided once again to visit the huge kerplunk game that is the little Gortmaconnel dig site. The upstream boulder chamber which has reieved much attention in recent months was beginning to show signs of a way on until the rough application of Stevie Bus's 'poking stick'(TM). After a few miuntes poking a loud rumble was heard and a swift exit made by all. The collapse which followed continued for several seconds but boulders could still be heard falling over an hour later. The strong draft fom the dig indicates a possible connection with a lesser known pitch below the entrance series but enthusiasm for the dig has been somewhat waning since. Future plans now include less digging and more blasting of the upstream squeeze beside the dig, the poking stick, however has been retired and now seeks a place in Les's cabinet of 'things that nearly killed me.'
On Saturday Les Brown, Steve Macnamara had another trip down Prods to reach the top of the aven. I decided to stay at the top to see if we could establish a sound connection between the top of the aven and the surface. Considering we had no real idea where this should be after a half an hour of searching the most likely spot was found. However unbeknownst to me the other two didn't reach the top of the aven due to high water conditions so all the noise I was making wasn't really of any use. Nevertheless we are now certain that this was the correct shakehole. Even though the potential dig would be very easy we have decided not to open another entrance into Prods for conservation reasons. Nevertheless in the future it may potentially yield an easier route into and out of Prods in a rescue scenario.
On the weekend of the 21st March after rain that would frighten Noah, Stevebus and stevemuh were forced to go back to John Thomas to have a look at a dig last investigated on the 25/1/03. After 2 hours and shifting almost a ton of mud it was decided that where we were digging was remarkably close to a recently rediscovered chamber. After checking this out we found to our dismay that it led directly into it via a mud slope. (Remarkably this had been suggested to them 6 months ago - Ed.) We hastily decided to abandon the dig and head to the pub via a trip to Cat's Hole.
The dig/bolting down pigeon pot has been suspended until it gets a lot warmer during the summer. On a derigging trip in January it was noticed that the passageway in which we were on has taken a lot of water recently (Even though it is at least 20m above the normal flow) this has ended up removing loads of mud which is always welcome. It also served to remove a lot of mud from the top of a rather deep hole in the floor. This was the same mud that we used to crawl accross!!. Plans have now been formulated to bottom this hole in the next trip down. The aven above the well of souls (search for the holy grail) will also be bolted up.
Over the last few months Les Brown, Stephen Macnamara and Stephen Mc Cullagh et al have had several trips down Prods pot with the objective of bolting up an aven. Having never tried this before we have eventually refined our technique to putting four bolts in a trip. The bolts only take about 30 minutes each but trying to sort out the safety ropes takes a lot longer. At the present time we are now 25m above the floor which is a further 7m up from the stream. It is estimated that another 10m of bolting upwards maybe required. On some of the trips it has been noticed that the aven takes a considerable amount of water. Guesses to the origin of this water have ranged from gortmaconnell sink 200m away or the sumera river 500m away.
PS: bolting progress can be viewed here.
Woah, been a while since the last dig update. Over the last few months enthusiasm has waned somewhat down Pigeon Pot. A complete survey of all found so far has appeared in the winter edition of 'Undeground' (Issue. 58) but little more work has been carried out since. The team of intrepid diggers have moved to a new site and have begun bolting up an aven in the upstream section of Prod's Pot. It is estimated to be about 30 meters in height with a strong water flow and at the time of writing the team have almost reached the top. Reports from this week's trip have not yet been received but its expected that we'll know fairly soon if its gonna go.
OK this section should have been updated ages ago, but anyway. The dig down pigeon has hit a slight snag as of recently. Two weeks ago (Sat 8th) a digging team of Stevey Muh, Stevey Bus and Mark Stockdale went down to the now named 'Temple of mud' (no explaination required) with the intention of climbing the mud slope at the far wall and bolting upward to look for a way on. After several bolts it was obvious that it was going nowhere. A dig has now begun to dig (yep a real dig for a change) through the mud slope and so far it appears to be going somewhere, albiet slowly. Enthusiasm has been waning somewhat but the guys assure me that they'll give it another go. As always volunteers are very welcome.
As everyone is by now aware there has been a concerted effort, mostly by Stevie Bus and Les to push Pigeon Pot 2 is search of the elusive 'mastercave' to disprove Les's phd. So far after a hard summer's digging a reasonably large section of passage, (widely known to have broken Brian Cullen) has been discovered and appears to be continuing, after a bit of dodgy climbing and what has become known as crowbar fever! Les's most recent Grade One survey can be viewed here. The last trip in the end of July of myself, Stevie Muh, Eoghan, Stevie Bus, Laura and Les found two possible ways on: one high level continuation above the last pitch requiring some bolting and a horizontal dig above the climb down to that pitch. If any recent work has been carried out please pass on any details and ill put them up.
I think it is worth mentioning here the on-going dig down Pigeon Pot 2 since it hasnt been written up yet. For a few weeks now a team of Stephen McCullough, Stephen Macnamara (both QUB) and Les Brown (honorary QUB) have been working to bolt accross the 3rd and 4th pitches previously only swam accross. Progress has been slow but steady and from what I can see appears to be going well. An outline grade 1 survey carried out by Les seems suggest that there is still much passsage way to be found and the dig seems promising and surprisingly safe for a QUB dig. Obviously it should be Les writing this and not me, but hopefully the survey will appear here soon. Mark.
Stephen McCullagh, Mark Stockdale, Stephen Macnamara (All QUB) Garret Devitt (ICE), Went down John Thomas again with the intention of pushing the going lead. After only five minutes of digging the tight squeeze was pushed but unfortunately it closed down around the next corner. The other dig spot was further investigated and it too was found to be too tight.
Going back to the first small chamber a small hole was found with a significant breeze coming from it. This is where we intend to dig the next time.
On the 29th of December a group of student cavers entered John Thomas with the intention of going into the Purken -Warbeck extension. However, even though it was a very wet day we were surprised to find the duck going up to the climb had almost sumped. Steve Mc Cullagh (QUBCC) then went looking for other ways around the near sump and came across a highlevel passageway with footprints. At the end of that passageway a difficult muddy traverse (8m drop) was passed leading to a squeeze into another seemingly blind pot. The pot was eventually descended (-4m) by Steve Mc Cullagh and at the bottom a drafting dig was found. After roping in Brian Cullen (Trinity) the mud dig was passed by steve into a smallish chamber which had a small ascending tube leading off. The tube was followed for 4 m into a rift (3m high) which lead off 5m into another dig (Which John Gilbert (Trinity) has begun to dig). Across the rift the tube was seen to go on and was followed upwards for another 20m until a tight downwards section was found. More digging was used to enlarge the section. At this point it was decided that this could be left for another day. As the danger was that one armed pressups would be needed to get back out if a larger section was not found around the next corner.
At this point I need one skinny volunteer who would like to be cave bait, that is, I'll tie a rope around their legs and use them to go cave fishing down the tight passageway. ;-)
QUBCC returned to Fermanagh for a joint weekend with Kevin Street this weekend past and got a bit of digging done on Saturday (don’t know if any was done on Sunday, possibly?) Most of the club trooped off to the dig at Gortmaconnell Sink to try and make more progress there. Not much change from last time though: the dig tends to back up a bit and the floor of the pool is heavily silted making digging difficult. It may be necessary to try and bail the pool out or pump it out to get to the bottom of the pool allowing it to be dredged and start removing more gravel. Anyway, some work was done in digging down just outside the mouth of the cave although it is planned that a full attack will be made on the site during the forum at Easter.
Meanwhile Kate and I were off investigating a draughting hole we had spotted the previous Saturday but had not explored fully due to lack of equipment at the time. It’s about 50 metres west of GM-S and is a crawling height hole into the side of a small mound (about forty metres in diameter and three metres high). The entrance was partially choked with small boulders and broken glass – but after removal (involving lying on top of said glass and scrabbling with one hand trying to get at it all) and careful disposal we could see a water worn passage leading off. When we got in we found a well-worn vadose passage which ended after about 15 metres and which has two small exits to the surface which could be cleared out. There is probably not further dig potential, as the small streams which run in the floor have all sunk to reach the cave at the edge of the mound. Downstream is too low to follow and briefly rises three metres from the cave entrance to sink again. The water is heading for GM-S and thus most likely on to Papist Passage in the Prods’ System. We have named it Spider Cave as there are literally hundreds of giant black spiders (up to about two inches in length – I kid ye not!) and their egg cocoons hanging from the walls and roof – not one for the arachnophobes amongst us! Survey will be posted here soon.
This is from Stevey Bus on results of the second half of the afternoon on Saturday past...
We searched a number of holes and after exploratory digging in some I found a small hole in the ground where I could hear water dripping for a fair distance. After almost two hours of lying on the surface pulling stones out and pushing stones further in we finally enlarged the shaft for Stevey Muh to enter. It went down 12 feet into a rift. Steve exited and I entered and followed the rift, which unfortunately closed down after 8 feet. The rift extended down for about another 6 feet but looked to be closing rapidly at the bottom. There might possibly be a dig on the floor of the shaft but would require a lot of work. Anyway there was a 4-inch long stalactite in it so we are calling it a cave.
The QUBCC diggers were on the move again this weekend, making a second attack on the site visited last weekend.
When we got back down there, a lot of silt had been washed back in but twigs in the roof of the cave(!) showed that the waterlevel had reached somewhere about 4 ft deep but was only about 8 inches deep when we arrived. The big rock in the bottom of the pool (which refused to move the previous week despite much encouragement) resisted all attempts to be shifted despite wobbling in an infuriating manner. Kate and I had to content ourselves with widening the entrance to the hole by crowbarring off the VERY rotten walls of the gap to make it wider (and found a frog inhabiting the dig at the same time, much to Kates surprise!).
Enter Steve “I've got a big metal pole” McCullagh and Simon Carson. Within two minutes of use of said metal pole, Steve had the rock levered to a more favourable position allowing the pool to completely drain in about 2 mins: encouraging, so we thought. It took us another half hour to get the rock out but alas, more silt has got in and the pool is backing up again. We tried to dam back some of the water further upstream to prevent more silt getting in, but it looks like the best thing now is to dig straight down through the silty bottom of the pool, and we decided to leave it til a drier day when the pool isn’t as deep as there has been a hell of a lot of rain in Fermanagh over the days previously. Meanwhile, I am formulating my design of a device, which will allow me to scoop gravel and silt off the bottom of the pool. Think I’ll need the help of the Bearded Lady...
The members of QUBCC's digging team, B.L.O.K.E, (Bearded Lady's Ould Karst Excavaters) were active this weekend in a digsite near the Florencecourt/Blacklion area. Steves Bus and Muh, Simon Carson and me (JD) spent Saturday poking about around a few leads including the Monastir site, previously spotted (which we are leaving at present, despite obvious potential!). The site we finally settled on is a surface dig, taking a reasonable amount of water. At the start of the day the situation was that the water was sinking into gravel at the base of a rock face. Now, with a proportion of the rock face removed by crowbar, fingers and on several occasions, head (Muh) about 5 foot of progress has been made. The water is continuing to sink in gravel in the floor which will require a bit of time to get it all cleared out.
We are planning to make a second attack on the place next weekend and will be grateful to anyone that wants to come and lend a hand. I dont think any dye-tracing has gone on at the site, so I dont know which direction it is heading, but I could be wrong, ask one of the Steves.
One piece of advice: if you want to join in, BRING GLOVES!
For historical value, here's the current fate of the BIDI (British-Irish Digging Index)... it never really caught on, but hey I might get round to resurrecting it some time. -TF