The Tratman Award for 2020 goes to ….

The Tratman Award is granted annually to the best publication of the year, including books, journals and even individual articles. This report considers those that appeared in print in 2020.

The five judges took into account not only the quality of writing, but also the presentation: the binding, paper quality, printing and not least, accessibility and importance of the content. This produced a final shortlist, presented here in alphabetical order of author.

Chris Blakeley and Gina Moseley for their two-part article on Greenland in Descent (273) and (274)

This seamless, well-illustrated tale of expeditions to Greenland by two authors was an obvious fit for the Tratman Award nomination. The story unfolds as any good tale should, taking readers along for the journey while imparting information about the science involved.

Juan Corrin (ed) for Matienzo Caves Project 2010-2019

The Matienzo volume is a tour de force of organisation and record-keeping, commendably also using a dual-language presentation. It represents an immense amount of work and is justifiably part of this shortlist.

Martin Ellis for The Caves of Western and Central Thailand

The work that has gone into preparing this book is staggering. It is the third of a planned four volumes on the caves of Thailand and runs to a staggering 583 pages packed with data. The content is derived from a database maintained by the author, to which he has added reports by other cavers and made the whole available as a print-on-demand bound book with a special ‘caver’s edition’ that adds colour to the surveys. For anyone interested in the country’s underground, this is the definitive work for the region.

Dave Gill for Journeys Beneath the Earth

Dave tells us of his caving life in the revised edition being considered for the award. His autobiography is both engaging and captivating, so that readers are readily drawn into the next section. This is an extraordinary story of both exploration and social history – it deserves a place on every caver’s bookshelf.

Bob and Elaine Hall (eds) for SWCC Newsletter (137)

The concept of ‘improvement’ was introduced for the 2020 awards, adding to the factors that the judges take into consideration – a parameter that might apply to a journal series or new editions of books. The South Wales CC Newsletter received a commendation in 2019, yet here it is again with a repeat entry into the shortlist – which says a great deal about the standard and quality of its production.

Rob Taviner for the first two volumes of Somerset Underground

A phenomenal amount of work went into the compilation of these two volumes, producing a clear and visually attractive format using a clean, simple layout. These are, after all, guidebooks intended to be used in the field, and the degree of thought and planning is evident. That extends to personal visits made to each location together with carefully written descriptions, demonstrating the background research that should be undertaken by any good author. Suffice it to say that the content covers everything relevant to the caves and associated sites of the area.

The judges, having considered, debated, argued over and individually offered his or her opinion, agreed that for 2020 the Tratman Award goes to Rob Taviner for Somerset Underground volumes 1 and 2. These are outstanding works that deserve all the plaudits they have received.

Well-earned commendations are gained by all the other authors and titles, with Dave Gill being singled out as an especially worthy runner-up. Given the generally high (and growing, it seems) standard of publications in the UK, simply achieving a placement in this listing is in itself a true award.

For 2020 the judges were Joe Duxbury, Chris Howes, Alan L. Jeffreys, Martin Mills and Linda Wilson.

The Tratman Award is supported by BCRA, which funds the creation of an original, hand-crafted trophy made by Ceris Jones that is retained by the winner. The presentation will take place at a date yet to be determined. In the meantime, congratulations to Rob and all the commended authors.

Chris Howes, for the judges