South Wales has a fantastic industrial heritage and so little gets the recognition, or preservation, that it deserves. It is such a privilege to meet people who are doing all they can to retain the knowledge, and try and move conservation forward. One of the most inspiring people I have met in a long while is Clive Davies who is an absolute gem of information on the Pontypool area. He has painstakingly constructed a wonderful working model of Glyn Pits, at his home ( The real Glyn Pits is now fenced off and heavily scaffolded) .
Cavefest 2019 - an event to mark up in your diary. 23rd - 26th August, the bank holiday, will see a massive gathering of like-minded people gather in Crickhowell for a great weekend of subterranean activity. Last year was superb; this will be much better... there will be trips for all levels of ability and a lot more besides. Watch this space.
Diver: February 2019
Nice little feature of our trip to Lanzarote in November 2018. Very well illustrated. Thanks to Helen Rider and Prof. Thomas Iliffe; and Jameos del Agua for allowing us access.
Cwmystwyth lead mines - Level Fawr: Gwent Caving Club visit to this beautiful area on Sunday. Lots to see, big, small and deep! A special note of thanks here to Wayne Hewitt and Steve Biddle from the Forest of Dean for your patience.. ... See MoreSee Less
Thai Cave Rescue: The First Books…
In June 2018 a dramatic cave rescue began in Thailand that was to grip people worldwide. As it drew to a miraculous conclusion it was inevitable that books and movies would follow. I was amazed when the first two books on the subject were received in December, less than five months from the conclusion of the event. To turn a book out in that time : very impressive.
The first book to drop through the letterbox was entitled: “The Boys In The Cave” * by first time author, American journalist Matt Gutman. The second, a couple of weeks later: “The Cave” by Liam Cochrane. The first surprising thing that strikes me as I construct a review is that both these works are derived from the same publishing house - HarperCollins. The accompanying leaflet for reviewers gives the contact for both books as Serena Stent, Harper360.
Gutman’s book: The Boys In The Cave
The front cover was subtitled “Deep Inside The Impossible Rescue In Thailand”. My instant reaction was that, while hardback, the book looked and felt cheap and tacky. The cover image, showing two distant divers in a tunnel was poor; the wordage and design overly sensationalised.
Given the short period of time given to the preparation of this book I was genuinely intrigued as to what might be disclosed, but a touch cynical as to quality. Barely was the book opened when a gross error stared at me from the Contents page. Chapter 13 was entitled The Wet Mulles. It referred to the Australian team of divers correctly known as The Wet Mules. On to Page 1. Instantly I noted that my friend, British diver John Volanthen, had his name incorrectly spelt as well. Throughout the book, and we are probably talking hundreds of times, John’s name was consistently incorrect.
By page 3 my attention was caught by the poor understanding Gutman had of the principal rescue divers. He referred to them as “naturally pessimistic.” This lack of knowledge of the people involved and the simple lack of caving/cave diving understanding was to crop up again and again. Historical research into the wider subject matter was also poor: Statements such as:
“Yet over the past 90 years more than 130 people from Britain alone have died cave diving.” A gross, inexcusable exaggeration, utter crass hyperbole. (That figure is much less than 25 !). It was equally evident that Gutman had a very poor grasp of the real cave environment. “In a cave spiked with glass-sharp stalactites a rope like that could easily snag or be severed.” Such statements are simply misleading or wrong!
The factual errors, the product of hasty compilation and poor checking, just kept appearing. Knowledge of diving was laughable: Gutman refers, for example, to “steel O-rings at either end” of containers to ensure they are waterproof !
Again, recounting the rescue that Stanton and Mallinson had conducted in Mexico, in 2004, we are told that “Six soldiers clung to a ledge above a subterranean river in relative comfort…” Clearly you cant let the truth get in the way of a good story. And on the very next page the incident involving the loss of a leading French cave diver is similarly dramatized incorrectly.
The touches of humour such as the description of Rick Stanton entering the cave and diving with an old car inner tube strapped to his back was engaging as was John Volanthen’s comment on the same equipment: “You’ll look like a cockwomble.” But perhaps Jason Mallinson will not feel quite so amused when Gutman writes disparagingly: “Mallinson, who is as chatty as a brick wall,…”
Liam Cochrane’s book: The Cave
Having been critical of the shoddy “race to the bookshelves” demonstrated by Gutman I was suitably primed as to what to be on the look out for in The Cave. The cover on the second book – an image of the Wild Boars football team gathered on the surface - was altogether more attractive from my perspective than that selected by Gutman. Unfortunately the image on the back cover was confusing and would better have been left out altogether. Despite the fact that the two authors came from the same field, namely news correspondents, and the format of each book was essentially the same, it was very quickly apparent that their respective offerings were like chalk and cheese. Cochrane’s writing, was easy to read and the pages flowed naturally. Gutman’s book was clearly intended for an American audience, with some terms that we in UK might struggle to understand. Likewise all his distances are quoted in feet, yards and miles while Cochrane uses metric, which seems so much better, certainly for a European audience.
I was hunting for errors in The Cave but found few. There were 337 pages and it seemed evident to me that those few extra weeks taken in production were crucial. Final comment: The Cave is by far the better book in all respects. It will be interesting to see what other offerings appear on the bookshelves in the near future.
The Boys In The Cave: (hardback and £20.00)
The Cave: (paperback £15.99)
The Queen's New Year's Honours List:
The British Cave Rescue Council - BCRC - is both delighted and proud to announce (28th December 2018) that the following national awards and honours have been announced this evening for members of the BCRC team who were involved in the Tham Luang rescue in Thailand last summer.
George Medals (GM) - Rick Stanton and John Volanthen
Queen's Gallantry Medals (QGM) - Chris Jewell and Jason Mallinson
Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) - Josh Bratchley, Connor Roe, Vernon Unsworth
Congratulations to all the recipients.
The image here was taken back in mid October 2018
Left to right: Josh Bratchley, Chris Jewell, Jason Mallinson, (Geoff Yeadon - President of the Cave Diving Group) John Volanthen, Connor Roe, Rick Stanton
Congratulations guys, a very well deserved recognition to an outstanding achievement 😀....
Congratulations guys a well deserved honour. I look forward to seeing the pics of the presentation 😀 absolutely fantastic.
Most of the 2018 EUROTEK speakers. Missing from this photo are the folks who made the magic happen: Rosemary Lunn (co-founder / organiser), Mark Dixon (organiser), Room Captains Sally Cartwright, Paul Mee, Michael Thomas, Robert Thomas, Naomi Watson, Front desk staff Georgina Brown, Aleksandra Ciesielka, Laura Greene, event staff Benjamin Spencer-Kibble, Kath O'Brien, Barry Smith and speakers Rick Stanton and Richard Harris #dreamteam ... See MoreSee Less
A wet Tuesday this week but time to snatch a lovely bit of cave in Kingsdale, Yorkshire. This is Yordas Cave, a nice and easy SRT trip - with sporty photographic potential. Thanks to Kevin Gannon and Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
Coniston Copper Mines: a spectacular through trip if ever there was one. A little bit of a walk to get to the upper entrance, but this is the Lake District so absolutely wonderful scenery. Thanks to Rachel Smith (here), Kevin Gannon, Dave Mcdonough and Dylan (Bryan Norton).. A lovely day out! ... See MoreSee Less
Was there....on the surface, this summer, Martyn. Stayed in Padirac. Closest thing I got to caves was certain local showcaves - LaCave turned out to be the best!
Amazing and rare visibility in the Cabouy resurgence, Lot, today. Thanks to Pete Mulholland for handling the lights. A real privilege to get to see this place. Its rarely (whenever i have dived here) more than three metres. ... See MoreSee Less
Pride Of Britain awards a couple of minutes ago on ITV. Five of our great Thai cave rescuers... sadly missing Rick Stanton. They were Joined by the boys they had helped.... what an incredible evening for all concerned. In the background here: Tim Peake and Prof Brian Cox.
My thanks to Miro and Sasha for inviting us up to talk to the London Diving Centre last night. What a great bunch of people. So... I would certainly recommend any London based divers to get involved with these guys - 380 Finchley Road. Great hospitality; great night. Thanks for making us so welcome.
The Thai divers celebrated at the Prezzo Restaurant, Mayfair, the night before the "Speakers Reception" at Portcullis House, Westminster (Monday 22nd October 2018).
What a fantastic Sunday evening and the Cave Diving Group applauds their achievement in a time honoured way. Again: the CDG may be a very small group but we hold our heads up. Proud to be British.
Yes, technology has arrived... Just a quick reminder to anyone interested... there is a cave diving talk in London this coming Thursday evening. Always entertaining !
Saw him speak earlier this year near Cirencester. An excellent evening; informative and entertaining! If you possibly can, go along on Thursday .... it will be well worth it
This image was just enchanting from the instant it appeared... You don't have to travel half the way around the world... just keep looking and find the right people to help! ... See MoreSee Less
Two images of the giant lava tube running to the Atlantic from the Corona volcano, Lanzarote. The image of Helen, in the red suit, was taken in Jameo de la Gente while the second shot was taken just inside the "upflow" entrance to Puerta Falsa. Its a very easy through trip but it feels very special. Thoroughly recommended. ... See MoreSee Less
Atlantida Tunnel, Lanzarote, yesterday morning... water 18 degrees, superb visibility and following in the footsteps of some amazing pioneers. Sheck Exley had an absolute epic here in 1983 and Olivier Isler reached the end of the tunnel a few years later - over a mile out beneath the sea. Thanks to Helen Rider and Prof. Tom Iliffe for immense help and patience with the images... ... See MoreSee Less
Lanzarote Corona volcano... all done for this trip. The lava tube leading away from here is one of the longest and certainly the most fascinating tunnel of its type in the world. We have the pix and the video. What an excellent trip. ... See MoreSee Less
Lanzarote Corona volcano... all done for this trip. The lava tube leading away from here is one of the longest and certainly the most fascinating tunnel of its type in the world. We have the pix and the video. What an excellent trip.
Atlantida Tunnel, today. A screen grab of the upper level of this mighty lava tube. Tom Iliffe on the left and Helen Rider on the right. On this dive we saw a blind white crab and a remipede, but I am quite sure that Tom saw a lot more. What a fantastic finale to our Canary Islands trip.
Coronas volcano and one of several impressive collapses of the lava tube roof. Person standing at the left side for scale. From this point to the next entrance “up flow” is over 1100 metres, a really interesting subterranean trip in massive tunnel.
The Dinas Silica Mine, Glynneath, is accessible all year and provides an excellent mine experience for all levels of ability. Its a great place to take a complete beginner and it also presents an excellent cave diving site when weather conditions render caves unsuitable. As you can see from the image all you really need is a helmet and a decent light. Cave divers might also be interested to read more (re: location and access etc) - see "Classic Darksite Diving" (available on line at www.farrworld.co.uk) ... See MoreSee Less
Glynneath Iron Mine: Today massive slabs of rock have peeled away from the roof in some areas. This is quite understandable when you realise that the roof supports have fallen and rotted to the extent that you see here. The once mighty tree trunks are now strewn along the floor and there is little or no substance to the wood; the timbers disintegrate at a touch and are virtually as light as cardboard. Visitors to such environments need to be very careful ! ... See MoreSee Less
Glynneath Iron Mines: spectacular sized tunnels and good clean air. As you can see the timber supports have long since rotted and there are significant areas of collapse. Thanks, as always, to my excellent model Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
Fond memories of taking school groups in Pontneddfechan’s Silica mines with Ed Wood, John Brakespeare
The annual Hidden Earth Conference is always a highlight in the British caving world. 2018 was no exception. Held at the Churchill Academy, at the edge of the Mendip Hills, it was notable for a wealth of excellent presentations. Rick Stanton was understandably the main draw and the main lecture theatre was FULL (overflowing) to hear the momentous Thai rescue story first hand. Rick was then joined by his team-mates, there was a standing ovation, and "master of ceremonies" Les Williams presented the divers with tankards as tokens of caver appreciation. Saturday evening was also special in that the ever popular and outstanding film-maker Sid Perou (seen here) was the guest speaker. I am sure I speak for the entire caving world when I thank the entire Hidden Earth team for all their hard work. Guys you do a fantastic job. Roll on 2019... ... See MoreSee Less
Well said Martyn thoroughly agree..thankyou
Superb conditions in Bridge Cave, Ystradfellte, today. Low water in summer is great but to bring out the very best in a cave such as this you need to see it in flood. Crossing the river was quite difficult below the cascade shown here. Seeing the place lit up was wonderful. Thank you Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
A derelict drift mine shows how quickly nature reclaims its world. This coal mine was abandoned less than 10 years ago but the amazing pressures brought to bear on the roof supports is evident in these images. The main tunnel appears in relatively good condition but the side tunnels are far from stable. On top of this is the very real danger of "GAS" so people should not enter such places unless competent and equipped with a gas meter.
The flood escape route in Ogof Ffynnon Ddu ... a lovely sporty section of passage with a wonderful streamway down below. Thanks to Rachel Smith for hanging around and Phill Thomas and Celestine Crabbe for the lighting. ... See MoreSee Less
Dan yr Ogof: Cloud Chamber - discovered in 1966 and still as spectacular as ever. A visit to DyO2 is a classic trip and I am indebted to my assistants last Saturday... Phill Thomas (in the yellow suit) Celestine Crabbe, Rita Mallinson Cookson and Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
Dan yr Ogof really is my favourite cave. No one could ever fail to be impressed by the wonders to be viewed in this spectacular system. This is another part of the grotto on the Green Canal side of Cloud Chamber in DyO 2. Thanks to my great team 😀 Phill Thomas, Celestine Crabbe, Rita Mallinson Cookson and Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
Flabbergasm Chasm in Dan yr Ogof 2. What a privilege it feels to visit this stunning straw pillar. This whole section of cave is utterly spectacular. Thanks to Phill Thomas, Celestine Crabbe, Rita Mallinson Cookson and Rachel Smith. ... See MoreSee Less
Dan yr Ogof and obviously the same place: Corbel's Chamber in the 1937 Series. Beautiful place, yes, but I am curious as to which of these two images people prefer? Thanks to Rachel Smith for patience.
Top one, hasn't got the torchlight on the right side above the cavers head. That said they are both a millions times better than I could manage (in front of, or behind the lens!)
Top picture both are good
The bottom for me .
Dan yr Ogof, South Wales: After rain this cave is pretty sporting! Thank you Rachel Smith for getting a touch wet around the ears!! ... See MoreSee Less
Coal mining in The Forest of Dean. Paul Baverstock shows us how its done in the confined conditions. The mine dates back to the mid 1800s and its still hard work today. Two images on the surface showing the grading machine, separating the three sizes of coal and the sacks ready to sell.
CAVEFEST 2018: Thanks to Paul Baverstock and Ian Jameston we were given an excellent trip into two coal mines in the Forest of Dean yesterday. This is Morses Level, dating from the early 1800s, which the lads are still quietly working and conserving the mining heritage. Absolutely fascinating and a real educational experience. (Thank you Jamie Larke for setting this trip up and inviting me along.)
Come on down to our first mobile shop at Cave Fest near Crickhowell, hope to see you over the weekend, here till Monday early afternoon. See Gwent Caving Club site who have organised a great event. 🌺 Martyn here to sign books 10ish in the morning and early evening 😀 ... See MoreSee Less