Overall: Another fantastic year ! Good company, good food and good digging. We made a fair amount of passage and the Breakthrough Fairy rewarded us with a couple of pitches. One of these we know only too well; the other was a Christmas present, we have only just unwrapped it and have not tried it on yet.
Diggers: Anja Matthalm, Ian Gregory (Slug), Les Oxborough, Mike Butcher, Nick Gymer, Paula Matthalm, Rose Clayton, Thomas Matthalm, Claire Cohen, Mike Wilson, Rosie Audsley, Simon Meade-King, Jeff Price, Roger Galloway, Annie Audsley, Paul Clayton, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Sam Batstone, Rupert Fear, Alice Audsley, Paul Brock, Caroline Allen, Tony Audsley, Chris Batstone.
Digging Sessions: 60
Hauling Sessions: 26
Holes Drilled: 128
Bags Hauled to Grass: 1058
Length Gain (m): 33
Depth Gain (m): 4
Soggy Bottom Crew:
(An account of the breakthrough appeared in the Journal of the Wessex Cave Club, (No. 333).
2014.060: Saturday, 27th December (1100 - 1700)
Alice Audsley, Annie Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, John Williams (Tangent), Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Roger Galloway, Rosie Audsley, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley
Fine early on but very much colder later in the day. It was a bit of a complex day with little sub-teams carrying out little sub-tasks; chaining bags, clearing the face, surveying to the end, fixing belays at the top of the pitch and such like.
Chris, Sam and Rupert were the first to arrive and Chris' report on their activities is below:-
Chris' Report: Arrived at the dig fairly early as we were eager to see if last week's Fairy
Dust had worked on the boulder [It had (T.A.)]. Sam started mucking out at the end with
Rupert pulling the skip back to soggy bottom and Chris filling bags.
Rupert then went into the tube to assist Sam with filling the skip which is
now working at the limit of its rope. Several skip loads were hauled back to
a very "Soggy Bottom". We then took to playing sardines passing each other
to take turns to peer into the abyss. Chris lowered the video camera and
light into the abyss, whilst desperately trying to avoid sliding off the
rubber mat head first into the hole. A marker knot was tied in the lowering line
and the camera retrieved without incident. With the video mission
accomplished we returned to SB and began hauling the 12 bags out to join up
with the main hauling party at the Builders ladder.
Meanwhile, more of the team had appeared and Rosie, Alice, Roger and Tony started shifting the pile of bags from the bottom of the builder's ladder towards the bottom of the Engine Shaft.
Meanwhile (yet again !), the rest arrived, so Caroline took over the windlass from Roger. Paul, Nick, Roger, Annie and Tangent went down at various times and variously completed the line survey to the head of the pitch and/or fixed an array of resin anchors around the pitch head. Tony and Rosie went to the end to see what was going on there. Paul dropped the weighted tape again and marked the depth as somewhat over 25 metres, which confirmed Chris' measurement of the amount of 'camera line' payed out. So last week's reading of >30 metres was over-optimistic.
In a final flurry of activity, quantities of hot Glühwein were consumed underground and, in a haze of alcohol fumes, all the bags of spoil were removed from the cave and hauled to grass; a grand total of 108 bags in 24 kibbles.
We finished off with sausage rolls, walnut cake, flapjacks and Chris' chicken, bacon (and various other ingredients) soup.
A fitting end to the year's work.
2014.059: Sunday 21st December (1200 - 1700)
Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rupert Fear, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley
Caroline, Brockers, Rupert and Tony started off with breakfast at the farm shop, then wandered over to the dig and met up with the others.
We started off with a hauling session, with Brockers and Sam at the sharp end, clearing back, Caroline and Paul C in Soggy Bottom, Chris in Humbug, Rupert at the bottom of Annieversary (he claims to like being wet and uncomfortable), Tony at the top of Annieversary, Nick on the ladder loading the skip and finally, Alice at the blasted slot hauling and stacking. That's the gruesome detail for part one.
The situation, once the digging face had been cleared of loose rubble was quite interesting. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately depending on your point of view, last week's efforts to gain access to the cross-rift had made a substantial section (~100Kg) of the left hand wall detach itself and roll over to land right over the interesting part of the T-junction, effectively blocking access to the hole. Well, what the Hell, it was looking altogether too promising, better to be blocked off for a while. Many a good dig has been ruined by a premature breakthrough.
It was possible to squeeze onto the top of the 'boulder' and look down the rift, which it would have been possible to descend were it not for the boulder. We fixed a lead weight to the end of our thirty metre tape and Paul lowered it down the hole, but it seemed not long enough to reach the bottom. I say seemed because it was not a very heavy lead weight, so it was a bit difficult to tell if it was touching bottom or not. We will try again next week with more weight and a longer tape. There was a lot of passing and re-passing in the tube (which in itself is an interesting exercise), while we all had our individual examinations of the end.
Then followed another dialogue with the Goddess in an attempt to persuade her to spirit the boulder away. She may; one can never tell with Goddesses.
The cross-rift extends a short distance to the left and right of the central boulder and is most likely a washed-out mineral vein. The short length of conveyor belting seen in the photograph is a wimpish attempt to keep the diggers out of the annoying trickle of water which flows here.
By the end, all bags were stacked at the bottom of the builder's ladder. We left them there, waiting patiently for another day and exited to Chris' home-made leek and potato soup and Sofia Hawkes' stollen cake. There was more besides, but I was too knackered to take it in; it had been a hard session.
2014.000: Sunday, 14th December (1300 - 1630)
Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Kirk Ruddle, Lou Jenkins, Luisa Puddy, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Rose Clayton, Sam Batstone, Sarah Payne, Tony Audsley
The Soggy Bottom Crew's outing for Christmas Lunch at the Priddy Good Farm Shop.
Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Nick Hawkes, Paul Brock, Paul Clayton, Sam Batstone, Tony Audsley
A long and hard session. Brockers had to work in the morning and was not able to join in the fun until later. Caroline was suffering from the snuffles which had affected several of us recently; she acted as surface support. Rupert was working all weekend, so he missed the Christmas lunch on Sunday as well.
Chris and Sam went to the end and started clearing the pile of rubble with Paul C hauling back and Alice bagging and stacking in Soggy Bottom. There was a lot to come back and this was quite an extended session. Nick arrived 'fresh' from Halloween Rift (if that is possible) and started moving the bags from Soggy Bottom to the bottom of Annieversary, while Chris collected some moving pixels at the end of the dig.
By this time, Tony had got his act together and went to the approach to the cross rift to enter into a private discourse with the Goddess of the dig - we'd better draw a veil over that.
Meanwhile, Brockers had joined the hauling party and all the bags were hauled up Annieversary and stacked on the top ledge.
Then all out to servings of Chris' home-made artichoke and butternut squash soup. On the surface, it was bitterly cold and all the oversuits abandoned outside froze hard into ghastly contorted shapes.
Then to Hunters' to celebrate Roger Stenner's 80th birthday.
2014.057: Sunday, 7th December (1200 - 1645)
Alice Audsley, Caroline Allen, Chris Batstone, Paul Brock, Rupert Fear, Tony Audsley
There was no point in us all going down so we divided into two groups. The surface team of Alice, Caroline and Paul manned the phone and did a huge amount of clearing up the surface mess. Very necessary as 'a tidy dig is a happy dig'
Rupert wanted to try an experimental descent to see if his battered skeleton would stand the strain. He made it almost to the end of the tube with care and was OK. Welcome back !
Chris carried the blue tackle bag down to Soggy Bottom with the kit in it - also three rocks that I put in while he wasn't looking so that we would have something to throw down the shaft at the end of the tube. Can't see why, but he wasn't greatly amused when he found them. Less so when he got to the end of the tube and found a pile of rock there as well.
The situation at the end of the dig has changed dramatically, as reported previously (23 November). The photograph shows the approach to the terminal cross-rift. There is the usual unhelpful lack of scale, but it was impossible to get an arm into the trench or a bare head into the upper arched section. However, it was possible to throw rocks at the back wall and some of these would bounce off and fall through an invisible slot in the floor. I had the 'bright' idea to use my cave camera, which has a microphone setting, to record the stone throwing and then process the recording to get accurate timings of the drop. This was not an unqualified success. In the event, the stones bounced, either off ledges or from wall to wall for a total of around 4 seconds before the final faint but deep BOOM !
Here is a recording of a rock going down the pitch; the centre section is amplified to pick up the final BOOM - hence the rather uneven quality. Sorry about the beeps - I was overawed, it's been a long time since we have any decent open space.
About all that this tells us is that the pitch is narrow at the top, but is deeper than anything we have had thus far and that there is likely to be a considerable void at the bottom. Chris might have got his wish granted - "please can I have somewhere where I can stand up". Yes Chris, even wearing stilts.
A very cold trio exited from the cave. They were revived with steaming bowls of soup (spicy butternut squash and carrot) provided by Chris.