Note that this is a re-print of the original publication, based on a scanned copy. During the process of converting the original paper copy to this electronic version, the original formatting, page layout and page numbers have been lost. All diagrams and surveys have been scanned from the original and are consequently of poor quality.
Annual General Meeting Report (1955)
Review: The Descent of Pierre St Martin
The Double Pots, Swildons Hole
Published by the Shepton Mallet Caving Club
The Mineries, Wells Road, Priddy, Wells, Somerset, BA5 3AU
The Editors apologise for the delay in publishing this Newsletter, but as discussed at the last Annual General Meeting there seems little point in publishing a Journal if we do not receive contributions from members. One member responded early to the appeal with the two articles appearing in this issue. We confidently waited for further evidence of literary talent, but as Mervyn Pullen once said, after many hours on the wrong side of the Stoke Lane sump "Its been a long wait".
Hope springs eternal and once again appeal for contributions. Why confine your hair-raising stories to the Hunters Lodge and the ears of credulous relatives or uninitiated friends?
Annual General Meeting Report
The 1955 Meeting was held in Shepton Mallet on Saturday 26th November, Mr Burnell, the President, took the Chair.
There was a good turnout of members, specially from the London and Cheshire groups. It was unanimously decided that the present officers remain with the addition of Roy Taylor. Miss George was kind enough to take on the job as Hut Warden. Members should note that the hut key may be obtained from Miss George at the Beeches on which property the hut stands.
There was considerable discussion on the provision of equipment and it was decided that a further hundred feet of ladder be made. The editors are informed that this work is well under way. It was also agreed that a new nylon rope be purchased. Dave Roberts has obtained this rope and it may be borrowed from Miss George. Will members please observe the rule that details of equipment used be entered in the Log Book. May we at this stage thank the member responsible for excellent preparation of the new Log Book.
It was felt at the Annual General Meeting that as so many present had long distances to travel it would be wise to change the date of future Annual General Meetings from winter to spring. It was therefore agreed that the next Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday, 21st April, 1956, at the Ante Room, Shepton Mallet Council Chambers, at 7 pm.
Much progress has been made in making the hut weather proof and providing amenities, however much remains to be done. For example a waste pipe is needed for the sink, the roof needs some attention, shelves, bunks and additional lighting, cooking and heating facilities would be welcomed. If each member could provide at least some articles or a few hours work we would soon have a hut equal to any on Mendip.
The Secretary discussed this dig recently with Professor Palmer, who stated in his opinion it was worthwhile continuing with the work. Dave Roberts is most anxious to carry on with this dig and will be pleased to hear from any interested member.
Club Badges and Keys
The Treasurer Mr CE Chivers has a limited number of official Club badges (cloth) at 2/-d each and hut keys.
Gen In General
Best wishes to Molly Pullen on her return to active service.
Best wishes to Dave and Muriel Roberts. (We are ready to receive applications for membership of son - daughter or both).
Congratulations to Cecil Chivers on his recovery after a recent operation.
Condolences to Fred Davies. There are worse places than Catterick, but we don't know where. (PS the secretary's wife thinks you look handsome in uniform!)
Congratulations to a certain new member on having the most distinguished beard on Mendip.
Cave Research Group
A large number of members attended the CRG Annual General Meeting at Abercrave in South Wales and later in the year at Wells. All CRG literature may be obtained from the Secretary.
Ron Cave and Ted Gloyn attended a meeting at Wells Museum on the 28th January 1956 to discuss with the representatives of other Clubs, the desirability of preparing a register of Mendip Caves. Your representatives voted in favour of this Register. A Committee was formed to take the matter further. Later in the evening Ted Gloyn attended the BEC Annual Dinner as Club Representative.
Review: The Descent of Pierre St Martin
by N. Casteret. Published by Dent, October 1955 - 18/-d
Here we have another book from the pen of N Casteret and all additions to the caving library are welcomed. I found that the title of this book was misleading as very little is actually about the original descent, and even the sub-title is only partly correct, "The thrilling story of the exploration and final conquest of the vast cavern of Pierre St. Martin in the Pyrenees", as there is a second part to the book which is nothing to do with Pierre St. Martin at all. This part is better covered by the title of the French original which was "Trente Ans sous Terre".
The first part of the book does deal with the exploration of the cave, from its original descent in 1951 until the time of writing this book, in 1954. Norbert Casteret was not with the original exploration team in 1951 with the result that the first descent of the caves entrance shaft and the work done that year is dismissed in less than a page.
The happenings at the cave during the following year do not take much more space even though Casteret was present this year, but this was the year when disaster occurred and Marcel Loubens was killed. As Casteret says in the book "I cannot bring myself to write down what happened". Having covered the first two years work in a few pages we then come to a very full and well written account of the work done at the cave during 1953 and 1954. It is here that we score over the original French version of the book on as much as the manuscript of the 1954 expedition was given to the translator, John Warrington, after "Trente Ans sous Terre" had been published.
It was during the third year at the cave that most of the exploratory was done and the account of this work is excitingly written so much so that once you have started reading you find yourself with the explorers themselves, "... quickening their pace to seek what might be beyond every one of the stalagmitic formations" which we hear twice in two pages, "...is declared unique by specialists". Having read all of Casteret's other books I read the second part of this one more as a duty than out of enjoyment. What makes this especially so is that we have a return to the "I am the great and clever Casteret" style, something which we had lost in "Darkness Under the Earth" and part one of this book.
Well, after saying all this about the book, what did I think of it? I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in caving who can purchase, borrow or purloin (other than mine) a copy to read it. The first part, which is much more than half of the book, is well worth reading and is written in an interesting manner, but the second part I would easily and willingly have done without - especially if it brought the price down a little. In my opinion it is not Casteret's best book, I preferred "Darkness Under the Earth", but it is still a welcome addition to the all too few number of caving books which are available.
The Double Pots, Swildon's Hole
How deep do you think the Double Pots in Swildon's Hole are? Mr Balch in "The Mendip Caves" speaks of them as having 'deep water', and on different occasions I have seen people fall in and either swim or walk out. Never having fallen in myself but having heard reports that some people who fall in swear that they did not touch the bottom, while I have seen people standing with the water only up to their chests, I decided to find out the answer. Was there a shelf and then a deep pot in the middle to account for these conflicting tales? Or what was the result?
With this object in view a party of four gathered one day on Mendip and set off for Swildon's armed with plumb-lines, tapes measures and what have you. Having paid our bobs we made all speed as far as the Double Pots and there set up our apparatus.
"Two feet" called out the bod on the plumb-line. "Two feet", "Two feet one inch". By this time one member of the party was already bored and he decided that the easiest manner in which to find out the answer was to jump in. As he was the smallest person present I waited to see if he kept his head above water and then as he did, joined him. Having made a full survey of the upper pot we transferred our attentions to the lower one. A couple of readings to find out what we were in for and three of us jumped in. Not the fourth member though, he decided to remain dry. A helping hand soon changed that.
The results of these explorations were as follows. The upper pot was found to have an almost level small boulder covered floor, the slope of the floor being such that the water was one inch deeper on the side where the stream entered than where it flowed out. The findings for the lower pot were identical. The depths of water in each pot are, two feet to two feet one inch for the upper, and three feet one inch to three feet two inches for the lower pot. These depths assume that there is no water flowing in the main stream of the cave so to find the depth at any given time it is only necessary to add on the depth of water where it flows out of the pot.
In "The Mendip Caves", Mr Balch mentions that the lower of the Double Pots is the deepest pothole in the cave but one of the pots further upstream will be found to be deeper, in fact we nearly lost the smallest member of our party (and surprisingly enough that was not me) in it. If nothing else the establishment of these figures gave us greatly increased confidence when circumnavigating the pots on the return journey and it was surprising how easily we managed them. The only explanation that we can think of for people 'having to swim out' is that due to the shock of falling and of the cold water they did not really try to stand up on the bottom.