News: Descent 260 Now Available

Descent 260 should by now have landed on mats all around the country! If you’re not a subscriber, we hope this short round up will whet your appetite and send you over to Wildplaces Publishing to get your copy, or if you’re lucky enough to have a caving shop anywhere near you, call in and get a copy from them. We run these articles because we genuinely think Descent is fantastic, and we want to spread the word as far as possible. And if you or your club have a caving publication you’d like us to cover so it can reach as wide an audience as possible. We’ll happily cover books, journals or newsletters, just get in contact and we’ll do our best to help!

Newsdesk is a great way of staying up to date with news at home and abroad with a multitude of short and fascinating news pieces. As many will know, Paul Diffley’s Ario Dream film about exploration in the Picos de Europa in northern Spain recently won a major award, and is now available on download. Do get a copy, it’s great. If you fancy some caving abroad, the 2018 international youth training place is taking place in the Swabian Alps in Germany from 28 July to 11 August. The note gives you brief details. Former BCA Legal Officer Bob Mehew flags up important changes in the data protection acts in the UK. This is one article all club cavers need to read. This is something that no caving club can afford to ignore. It’s not as daunting as it looks, as Bob explains, and its better to do a little bit of work now than a lot of work later if a complaint is ever made about your policies and procedures!

Work being done on a stalactite collected many years ago by pioneer diver Jacques Cousteau might well provide valuable information on climate change, and in Sicily, work is being done with drones with a view to exploring lava tubes on other planets, but users do need to be careful not to damage any stal! For anyone interested Meghalaya, which features strongly in this issue, the two-volume book Cave Pearls of Meghalaya will be right up your street and it’s now on special offer. The book contains both expedition reports and surveys.

An outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2012 might well have originated in a bat colony in a Chinese cave. The disease has not resurfaced so far and there are hopes that a vaccine might be able to be produced. But please don’t take things out on the bats! They need all the help we can give, and that’s the message the Bat Conservation Trust would like to get over to cavers. They are very much hoping that the Bat Advice Service will be able to continue in the face of funding cuts. Please help them raise the money needed to keep this going, and the Newsdesk note tells you how to contribute to their valuable work. Work is also continuing in the US on White Nose Syndrome and ways to combat the disease are still being sought.

For the gamers amongst us, you can now run old computer caving games on your computer! There will be a lot of nostalgia value and fun involved in that! You can also now play Julian Todd’s 1984 game, Mineshaft again, via download or online! But don’t blame us if you spend hours trying to complete the game. It even defeats its creator these days, so we’re told.

You’ll find all this and much, much more in Newsdesk. This really is only a very short taster of what’s on offer.

Around the regions, Ogof Draenen continues to dominate Welsh news. There’s a report on a recent multi-agency meeting held by Cadw in an attempt to arrive at what is known legally as a community resolution to the damage caused to a scheduled ancient monument by the illegal dig at Twll Du. Talks are continuing and in the meantime, cavers are urged not to use this entrance as if they do, they will be committing a criminal offence. Cadw’s position is that the entrance must be permanently closed, as permission would not have been given to open it due to the proximity to the old tramway and the threat to its stability. The article makes Cadw’s reasoning on this quite clear. Anyone using this entrance is liable to prosecution by the police who are taking an active interest in this problem. In happier news, Josh White reports on the recent conservation work undertaken in Draenen to remove items left behind in old camps in the cave, although he also reports on instances of deliberate damage and mess left behind by cavers. Josh will be organising further conservation work in the cave, so if you can help, do contact him. The article provides contact details.

In news from the Peak District, the Derbyshire Caving Association is hoping to get the immensely useful Peak District Caving website back up and running following the closure of Hitch ‘n’ Hike, who hosted the site. Rowter Hole has been rebolted and work continues in Bull Pit. In Irish news, there’s an entertaining report on the 33rd SUICRO Symposium, held in October in County Fermanagh and news of new finds in Leitrim. Work continues at Deelin Beg Pot in County Clare. On Mendip, Liar’s Sink won the annual JRat Digging Award, and in sad news, we say farewell to Robin Whitehead, founder of the Bracknell District Caving Club, and Alan Fincham, who will always be remembered for his work on the caves of Jamaica.

The International News section features a new depth record in Canada and other successes there, work in Tennengebirge in Austria and further extensions in Croatia.

Many people these days get their first taste of caving at university and CHECC (the Council of Higher Education Caving Clubs) is doing great work (and throwing very impressive parties, too) with newcomers to the sport. In Down the Deep Pit you can read an account of the adrenaline rush gained from the highs and lows of a first SRT trip which included a toad rescue!

Meghalaya in India has long been a destination of choice for many cavers and a stunning seven-page spread showcases this popular area, with an account of the 2017 Abode of the Clouds expedition. The photographs are jaw-droppingly good and the article will no doubt whet people’s appetites for more of a good thing. In contrast, discoveries in Treak Cliff Cavern, Derbyshire, prove that you don’t have to take a long-haul flight to find new cave. Descent now brings you an account of probably the country’s worst kept secret. Also in the UK, there’s the story of the 2017 Hidden Earth conference held at Churchill on the Mendips.

Viewpoint puts the spotlight back on Ogof Draenen, with a very personal and thought-provoking look at cave conservation and the concept of wilderness in a British cave by Fleur Loveridge.

Bryan ‘Scoff’ Schofield touched the lives of many cavers and cave divers. Here, his friends pay very moving tributes to a man who devoted so much of his life to caving and who kept his sense of humour to the very end.

In Gear Review, John Cordingley provides a review and appreciation of his beloved CS Mudlark oversuit, a loved and much-abused friend! Belay Point rounds off the edition with two interesting letters on recent reports of carbon monoxide in a Derbyshire shaft. And don’t forget to look at the Calcified Ads. You might well find something of interest.

Every issue of Descent amply demonstrates and rewards the hard work put in by the editorial team. There are as many news items and features as ever, all presented to the usual amazing standard. The front cover is a shot of Marcel Dikstra in Kren Sakwa in Meghalaya and the back cover showcases Clive Westlake’s stunning photo of formations in Ogof Capel in the Clydach Gorge in Wales. Copies can be obtained from Wildplaces Publishing here. Make sure you get your copy every time it appears by taking out a subscription, and also make sure that yours is up to date! Go on, you know it makes sense… and you must know someone who has a birthday coming up soon, or for the incurable romantics in the caving world, how about giving a subscription as a Valentine’s Day present!