If it looks like you’ll be restricted to armchair caving over the festive season, make sure you get the latest copy of Descent to keep you in touch with the underground world. And congratulations are due to editors Chris and Judith, as October marked 30 years since they started editing the publication, and 20 since they became publishers.
Among this issue’s news, there’s an update on the BCRA-funded citizen science competition – ten caves with cryogenic cave calcite (CCC) were found as part of the challenge, with another one appearing after the closing date. And for those of you brought up on Blue Peter, you can make your own VR viewer to take a look at a virtual reality app that takes viewers into the Rising Star Cave in South Africa – after all, not many of us are going to fit through the 20cm chute to get into the Dinaledi Chamber itself! Meanwhile, Forest of Dean caver Paul Taylor, a prolific film-maker, is the 26thwinner of the Giles Barker award, which rewards excellence in any area of cave photography. There’s also an account of the outstanding shortlist for the Tratman award, which is given annually to a caving-related paper-based publication. This time the prize goes to Adventures Underground by Dave Haigh and John Cordingley.
In northern news this time, 42-year-old Jason Liversidge, who is almost completely paralysed from motor neurone disease, abseiled down Lancaster Hole. The CNCC has also launched an online booking system for the caves on the Ingleborough Estate. And there’s a tribute to Mel Gascoyne, who died in July.
From the Peaks, there’s a report on the beginning of Project 4.5 in Silver Hillocks Mine. And Tansley Dale Lead Mine has been reinvestigated by Eldon PC members this year. Orpheus CC played host to three Pakistani cavers from the Quetta-based Chiltan Adventurers Association, Balochistan. Their visit culminated in a supper and ceremony at the Orpheus cottages to mark 28 years of friendship, co-operation and partnership between the groups.
Among the news from Mendip is a story on the world premiere of the St Cuthbert’s Swallet film, Tales from Cuthberts, at Priddy village hall – complete with a Pearl & Dean-style trailer, courtesy of Pete Glanvill. The film was made by Andy and Antonia Freem. And after an absence of about 25 years, members of the ATLAS digging team have returned to the Viaduct Sink near Shepton Mallett to fulfil a promise to the landowner to replace its original welded angle-iron gate.
The sealing of Twll Du is among the stories from Wales. And there’s news of Dyfed Archaeological Trust undertaking a scheduling enhancement project for caves as part of a Cadw-funded scheme for 2018-2019. From Ireland there’s news of a 28-page guide to geo-tourism in counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim and Sligo. Even better, Rocks and Landscapes of the Border Uplands Region of Ireland will fit in your pocket when you’re out and about!
In South West news, Tony Boycott and Pete Glanvill visited Wellington Hole, the new discovery on Portland – and found out why Tim Rose recommended that a visit in calm weather is the best bet! Down in the Forest, Paul Taylor is taking over the news beat from John Elliott, who’s been correspondent for 25 years. And a complete survey of Woolaston Wood is now available, thanks to the combined efforts of Danny Copeland, Jan Karvik and Paul Taylor.
In Mines and Mining news, Chris Jones reports on going underground in Luxembourg. And among the international stories, there’s news from Austria, the US, Canada and China, including an expedition to Bisaro Anima, Canada’s newly established deepest cave, a joint British and Chinese expedition to Guangxi and Guizhou, and Toby Hamnett’s account of his caving adventures in America.
On the cave science front, an idea dating back to 2016 is now a reality. BCRA members had been asked how the organisation could increase interest in the field among academics and the wider caving community. And now a national cave monitoring centre, based at Poole’s Cavern in Derbyshire, is now on track. The BCRA also held their annual cave science symposium in October – this year at the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol – which featured a keynote speech from Professor Alistair Pike on his work on dating the stalagmite covering cave art.
The British Cave Rescue Council have been producing statistics of rescues but had fallen behind on the annual reports. The 2015 report is now in print, with later ones to follow. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the report contains a summary of 31 incidents that year.
This month’s main feature looks at the quest to link the deep, vertical Schmelzwasserhohle (known by the Brits as Wot U Got Pot or WUG) and Wadiland in the vast Hirlatzhohle system. In a five-page spread, Tom Foord reports on the efforts to create what would be one of the world’s longest and deepest caves beneath Austria’s Dachstein mountain range.
The Little Neath River valley in south Wales is well-known to cavers. Tarquin Wilton-Jones looks at whether a dry link could be forged from the notorious Town Drain. And Kevin Dixon reports back on his attempt to make a 3D laser scan of a huge sea cave in Shetland. As for the story that still keeps giving, there’s an update from Chris Howes on the coverage of the Thai rescue. Vince Simmonds has been digging in Hallowe’en Rift on Mendip for many years, and provides some observations on how some of the speleothems might have been damaged by natural processes.
If you’re casting around for Christmas pressies, take a look at the Speleo Reader section where this issue’s books range from Jennifer Gabriel’s edited collection on the Nakanai Mountain Ranges to David Farley’s Underground Worlds – a guide to spectacular subterranean places. And there are details of how to get your mitts on a copy of the BCRA annual review.
If you missed Hidden Earth (or it passed you by in a haze), there’s a four-page round-up of lectures, awards and competitions and photos of the event.
The spectacular front cover comes courtesy of Mark Burkey’s winning colour print at Hidden Earth – it shows Nicky Bayley at Marble Showers. And the back cover showcases another of Mark’s winning shots – this time of Jane Allen and Laura Appleby in Poetic Justice, Ease Gill Cavern – alongside Bill Nix’s victorious digital image of Mike Haworth in Knotlow Cavern.
Every issue of Descent amply demonstrates the dedication of the editorial team to bringing together all the latest caving news and stories from around the world. Descent is produced by cavers for cavers and is excellent value for money. Copies can be obtained from Wildplaces Publishing here. Take out a subscription now and if you already have one, check that yours is up to date!