News: Pre Columbian Cave Art in the Caribbean

News: Pre Columbian Cave Art in the Caribbean

New research by academics from the University of Leicester and the British Museum, working with colleagues from the British Geological Survey and Cambridge University, outlines the science behind the largest concentration of indigenous pre-Columbian rock art in the Caribbean. Exploration and surveys of around 70 cave systems — part of an interdisciplinary study of past…

News: UNEXMIN: An Autonomous Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines

News: UNEXMIN: An Autonomous Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines

Thirteen organisations from seven countries across Europe are collaborating in an ambitious project to develop a submersible robotic system for surveying and exploration of flooded mines. The €5 million project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research programme, includes the development of a Robotic Explorer (UX-1) for autonomous 3D mine mapping to gather valuable…

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

Caves in an Ancient Land – 17th ICS Conference, Australia

It was never going to be cheap, but it sure was a lot of fun! Two members of SWCC (Claire Vivian and Duncan Hornby) headed to Australia in July for the 17th ICS conference. We also attended the pre- and post- conference excursions (i.e. 2 weeks of caving with local cavers!). Our first stop was Margaret River, south of Perth.

Margaret River pre-conference excursion

The caves are hot in Western Australia and get hotter as you go further in! Lightweight overalls a must, often stripping down to just a t-shirt. Fortunately caving is relatively easy with few technical aspects.

The Margaret River pre-conference excursion team.

We visited 7 caves during the Margaret River excursion, with the jewel in the crown being Easter Cave; incredible formations from start to end and we were only allowed to see half of the cave! Below are a few photos that came out best and don’t do justice to the sheer number of delicate and impressive formations.

Helictites, Easter Cave
The Question (which is: Does the formation touch the roof or not). Photo: Tim Moulds

The Lemon, Easter Cave Photo: Tim Moulds

The Epstein Formation, Easter Cave.
Claire at the Helictite Table, Easter cave.
You have to be careful passing through Easter Cave as almost all of the formations are within touching distance

Best way to describe Easter cave, is get all of the UK’s finest formations and line them up, that is just the entrance series to Easter cave… Seriously it’s that well decorated!

Yet, not to be totally overshadowed were Strong’s and Crystal Cave. Whilst not as profusely decorated as Easter, they also contained some magnificent formations.

Duncan wearing the Judge’s Wig, Strong’s Cave.
Looking up underneath the Judge’s Wig, Strongs Cave.

Christmas Star extensions of Crystal cave

This pre conference excursion was run by the Western Australian Speleological Group and we thank them – especially Tim,Greg and Luana – for their time and organizing an amazing excursion.

Crazy cavers at the WASG hut. Rob, Duncan, Claire, Tom, Luana and Greg

Conference week (23 – 29 July)

It was much cooler in Penrith near Sydney and our accommodation was a caravan park 30 minutes walk away from conference venue. It was sunny and t-shirt weather in the day, yet, thick coat time at night. A dedicated marquee held the poster displays, club stands and the speleo olympics. Presentations were held in the main Panthers building.

Pete and Angie Glanvill attempt the speleo olympics.

It was not all work and no play, we attended a mid-week dry canyoning trip in the Blue Mountains.

Claire at the top of the second pitch,dry canyoning in the Blue Mountains.

Our canyoning team (there were actually two other groups following different routes)

The conference week past in a flash ending with the traditional banquet. This started with a traditional Aboriginal welcome followed by food and much drinking. A slightly sad event as we were saying our goodbyes to new friends.

Jenolan Caves post-conference excursion

But it was not over! On the Sunday we met up at the Panthers event site, crammed ourselves into the back of a “trooper” and headed to Jenolan in the Blue Mountains for a week of caving!

Caves House, Jenolan. We stayed in a hostel behind the main building.

This excursion was larger with about 20 people attending with 10 different nationalities! The organizers had arranged a week of sporting caving and access into the show caves.

Decontamination was taken very seriously, with peoples kit sprayed to kill off any fungus that could potentially cause white nose syndrome.

Rigorous decontamination was carried out before anyone’s equipment went underground.

We were very privileged as one cave (the highly decorated Barralong) issues only 2 permits a year and the ICS excursion took them both!

Cave pearls in Barralong
A huge curtain impressively lit within the show cave, helectites grow from the wall.

Tuglow was to be the week’s “main event” with the entire group visiting the system in one hit, splitting up into several groups: the photographers doing the “gentle trip” and the full on “mega trip” with a guaranteed misery promised with an icy cold swim! Of cause the mega trip was a red rag to a bull to us and Claire and I eagerly signed up! Getting there involved a river crossing.

The original date for Tuglow was brought forward for fear of overnight rains swelling the river crossing.

Tuglow entrance involved abseiling (100m in 2 pitches), a high traverse above the stream with a sh*t scary bold step, big chambers, more abseiling, a “refreshing” dip (for the first time ever, being short actually meant that Claire did not have to swim!), then ladders up and out through fantastic flowstone chimneys. We were the last out and did a quick stomp up and over the ridge back to the cars to find a nice cup of tea on the brew. To top off an awesome day our excellent Australian hosts provided a BBQ back at their cavers hut!

Claire in the mainstream way of Tuglow, probably the best sporting trip in our visit to Australia.
Mark at the impressive gour pools in the main stream of Tuglow.
The gang at the cavers hut for a BBQ (Photo: Leda Zogbi)

Our last trip was Spider Cave, a trip made serious due to 3 very tight squeezes. Rescue beyond these would be impossible. A fourth squeeze, a very unpleasant tight flat out crawl gives access to a chamber with the unusual Palantear formation.

 Csaba the Hungarian photographer preparing his shot, he has specialised in 3D photos, Spider Cave.

Duncan with The Palantear

Like the previous two weeks, our Jenolan week passed in a blink of an eye and it was all too soon to head home. We were dropped off in Sydney and did some last minute sightseeing, the Opera House and Sydney Eye tower. It was then back on the planes for a soul crushing 24 hours of travel.

This post conference excursion was run by the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Speleological Society and we thank them – particularly Andrew, Peter, Mel, Dan, Mark, Steve and Chris – for their time and organising an amazing excursion.

Oddly Sydney does not look so big when looking down from the tower…

Here is the proof showing Claire and I were on the opposite side of the planet!


Duncan – For me it has to be Easter cave and the stunning formations it held, another “highlight” was passing the fourth squeeze in Spider cave in Jenolan, right on the limit of what I can physically fit, not a place to lose your head! The lowlight, well I guess that was when I blew $5 on a “pokie” in Panthers in less than 30 seconds…

Claire – The caving and making plenty of new international caver friends. These conferences are a great way to meet more cavers and get access to special caves that would be pretty much impossible otherwise. My favourite caves were the blindingly pretty Easter Cave in Western Australia and the fun, varied, sporting trip in Tuglow (Jenolan Caves). Ooh! And I mustn’t forget the kangaroos! I saw loads of them, including a field full of around 40 wild ones at one point, but it still wasn’t enough. Even briefly seeing a Huntsman spider (read VERY big spider) was a highlight as I won’t forget that in a hurry. I was also delighted that Spider Cave did not live up to its name and be filled with spiders. Lowlight was the over 24 hours of travelling time to get there.

Event: The 11th Balkan Caving Camp, 28th August to 3rd September 2017

Event: The 11th Balkan Caving Camp, 28th August to 3rd September 2017

The Hellenic Federation of Speleology has invited all cavers to join them in the 11th Balkan Caving Camp. The event is being held from August 28th to September 3rd 2017 in Leonidio in the Peloponnese in Greece and is being organized by the Hellenic Federation of Speleology together with the Balkan Speleological Union. The registration…

News: Speleo Film Festival 2017

News: Speleo Film Festival 2017

 SPELEO FILM FESTIVAL – Karlovac, September 23th, 2017. Your story…Your script…Your cave…Your choice… All cavers are welcome! The festival will be showing films created by cavers from all around the world. Don’t be shy, join in. The festival organization committee is pleased to invite speleologists, mountaineers, biologists, geologists, ecologists and everyone who shares our enthusiasm…

News: Researchers Extract Human DNA From Cave Sediments

News: Researchers Extract Human DNA From Cave Sediments

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany have developed a new method of retrieving hominin DNA from sediments, even in the absence of skeletal remains. In comparison with the amount of human-made tools and other artefacts available, skeletal remains of ancient humans and their ancestors are comparatively scarce and where such remains do…

News: Registration Opens for the Gouffre Berger 2017 Clean Up

News: Registration Opens for the Gouffre Berger 2017 Clean Up

  Cavers from all Fédération Spéléologique Européenne member countries are invited to participate in the international event “BERGER 2017”, a clean up of the Gouffre Berger in France, taking place between 1st and 15th August 2017. More Information and details of how to register can be found here and ongoing information can be found at the Berger…

News: Stunning New Discoveries in Bruniquel Cave

News: Stunning New Discoveries in Bruniquel Cave

New dating evidence has confirmed that Neanderthal man made their way deep into caves in France and created complex structures from broken stalagmites and stalactites. Bruniquel cave in the Tarn-et-Garonne region of southern France was discovered and first explored in 1990. A challenging 30m entrance series leads to larger, well-decorated passages containing animal bones and…

Expedition News: The Caves of the Kosua, Papua New Guinea

Expedition News: The Caves of the Kosua, Papua New Guinea

Far from the floods back home, a team of fifteen cavers, mostly from Ireland, spent Christmas and New Year exploring caves in the Papua New Guinea rainforest. The Kosua tribe own land near Mount Bosavi in the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea. In 2011/12 a successful reconnaissance expedition had explored caves around the…

News: Remarkable 5,000 year-old silver mine discovered in Greece

News: Remarkable 5,000 year-old silver mine discovered in Greece

A team of mining archaeologists, supervised by Prof. Dr Denis Morin of the University of Lorraine, connected with the UMR National Center for Scientific Research 5608 of Toulouse, has been investigating 5,000 year old silver mine workings in Greece. The scientists have used a drone to locate above-ground installations connected to the mining. It is…

Mining News: Life forms found in two-mile deep mines

Mining News: Life forms found in two-mile deep mines

The BBC reports on research work in two-mile-deep gold mines in South Africa where strange nematode worms have been found living deep within the rock. It isn’t only in caves that we encounter “cave-life”. What is the oddest living thing you have ever found in an old mine? Please tell us about the strange…