CAVING IN MALLORCA

PART FOUR

CAVERN DIVING
 

CAVES OF MANACOR

 

CAVERN DIVING IN MALLORCA

Pat Cronin

This last section of the journal was put together very much as an afterthought. It was never the club’s intention to mount a full-scale cavediving campaign on this holiday. Since there were a few qualified open-water divers in the party, we decided to check out the local dive shop in Puerto Pollensa, with a view to sampling the warm, clear waters of the Med.


    We mentioned to the proprietor of Scuba Pollensa that we were cavers and it would be nice to perhaps take a look at some of the local sea caves, such as Cove de les Dues Portes  or Cova de l’illa de Formentor. We were pointed in the direction of Juanjo (J.J.) Lavergne, the shop’s resident premier cavern diving instructor. Preliminary plans were made to visit some sea caves, unfortunately when the chosen day dawned, the sea conditions were too rough to allow diving at these locations.


J.J. suggested that we dive at Cova De Sa Gleda instead, and after a short conflab we all agreed. J.J. briefed us on the way to the cave over breakfast, he briefed us while we kitted up, he briefed us in the water and he checked us out in an airbell midway through the dive. J.J. was very thorough, full details of the cave follow immediately after this introduction.

A lot of the cavern diving in Mallorca is carried out in warm waters with crystal clear visibility, this water is just as wet and has the same non-breathable qualities as that of the cold, murky UK sumps. All the cave diving rules and techniques are as applicable here as elsewhere. Perhaps the greatest danger in Mallorca is the risk of complacency brought about by the ideal conditions, and the risk of the novice cave diver being enticed to bite of more than he can chew.


In the Pegusus, we are fortunate indeed to have three members well versed in the practice of cave diving. Pat Cronin, Barry Suddall, and Martin Bishop have all been there, seen it, done it and got the t-shirt. More importantly they are all still around to wear the t-shirts. Cheg, the Pegasus Godfather and a lapsed diver has also done his fair share. Under Pat’s instigation, the club now has a diving section, the twin purposes of this section are to provide a thorough and safe induction into the sport for the strong small nucleus of potential cave divers in the club, and also to arrange diving meets. Two tables produced by Pat are appended at the end of this journal.


The cavern diving reports and descriptions included in part 4 of this journal, are for the most part to give the reader an idea of the scope and variety of Mallorca’s sub-aquatic systems. They are not intended for use as guides for actually diving the underwater passages and sumps. Anyone contemplating diving at any of the sites is advised to contact divers who have previously dived there.

 

MALLORCAN SEA CAVES

Listed below are a selection of sea caves situated on the Pollensa peninsula. The list is by no means complete, but offers a choice of relatively straightforward open water type dives. They could all be done by a trained  diver using normal open water techniques given favourable tidal and weather conditions. Some of the caves surface in dry chambers, one of them (S15), even has a dry exit. Conversely others are submerged in their entirety. Plans of the caves are detailed in “501 Grutas”, and the locations are shown on the Pollensa map. Map co-ordinates are included below, I’m not sure how much use they’ll be, given that most of  the entrances are underwater. In theory these dives could be done as shore dives, but considering the logistical problems of getting your kit to the dive site, boat diving would seem to be the only practical option.

 

Pollensa is not the only place where such caves are to be found. Generally anywhere where the limestone mountains encroach upon the coastline and dip into the sea, then the opportunity exists for caves to be found there.


Just down the coast from Pollensa, in the Bay of Alcudia, a cave entrance was discovered by an open water diver during a decompression safety stop. Provision for this recently found (1999)  cave to be gated, was subsequently made in order to protect it’s fine formations from accidental damage being inflicted by casual visitors.


Continuing down coast, the magnificent entrance of the Caves of Arta is to be found in the coastal cliffs above the shoreline. Going down further one encounters the many caves of the Porto Cristo and Porto Colom regions. A résumé of the caves of these two townships and their surrounding areas, along with brief descriptions of other sites explored by British cave divers is included on the following pages.
 

COVA DE SA GLEDA (DIVE)

SON JOSEF
 

Prior to our visit to Mallorca we made preliminary tentative inquiries with cavers who had previously visited the island. This was with a view to finding local cavers or divers with whom we could make contact whilst over there. Martyn Farr suggested that we contact J.J Lavergne, Mallorca’s premier cavern diver at Scuba Pollentia. This information proved to be invaluable, not only was J.J. the island’s top cave diver and exponent, he also introduced us to Bernat, one of Mallorca’s most knowledgeable dry cavers.  Bernat had privileged access to some of the islands gated systems.

 

When we met up with J.J. at the Scuba Pollentia dive shop, he was arranging the final dive on a 6-day diving course with an Austrian student Horst Leinguvamper. J.J. invited our 4-man team of Malc Scothon (his first cave dive), Andy Walchester, Martin Bishop, and Al Steans to accompany them on this dive at J.J.’s adopted underwater project the Cova De Sa Gleda. J.J. led the dive, Horst videoed it from the rear. The 6 of us dived in Indian file, the middle quartet clinging to the guideline like limpets! J.J. has personally pushed and surveyed over 7Km. of underwater passage in this cave. We were privileged to be taken on a circular round trip within the first few hundred metres of the cavern, the standard introductory dive for student cavern divers.


The dive entry point was from the base of a large rubble heap, at the bottom of a collapsed doline at a depth of approximately 30 metres. At this point we were still in sight of daylight albeit rather dark and gloomy. A short (20metre) dive in appalling viz led at a depth of 9 metres to a vast crystal clear submerged chamber dropping to about 15 metres at its deepest point. The inner reaches of the cave dropped to more than double this. The prelined route was through magnificent pure white columns, with the walls festooned with curtains. The viz was gin clear except for when we encountered haloclines at various depths where salt water and fresh water attempted to mix. These Haloclines indicated the points where fresh water inlets entered the cave. The cave also exhibited fine examples of paleo-levels. These levels indicated the previous levels of the Mediterranean Sea in the dim and distant past. Hopefully we shall be able to do further penetrative dives at this same site in future years, meanwhile we eagerly await a copy of Horst’s video.


N.B. One great safety consideration when undertaking this dive is the presence of a large blind airbell in the roof of the first chamber. We surfaced in this airbell for a short safety check prior to completing a second circuit of the lined tourist route.


There have been a great many references to this cave both in Descent, CDG Newsletters and various other publications, although most of these have well and truly been superseded by the Grup Nord de Mallorca’s news release, some of these references have been included for the sake of completeness.


Included in this book is a copy of the Press release, which gives an up to date account of the current state of play, plus a great deal of useful background information. I am extremely grateful to J.J. Lavergne for forwarding this to me.

SURVEY OF COVA SA GLEDA ( ENTRANCE CHAMBER)

 

The following section comprises of a press release put out by the Grup Nord de Mallorca. Basically they are transcribed word for word from the article put out on the Internet. Where necessary, grammatical corrections have been made to make the report read better. I am extremely grateful to J.J. for allowing this report to be duplicated in this journal.

GRUP NORD DE MALLORCA (Cave-diving section)

Press Release; “Cova de Sa Gleda”
 

Cova de Sa Gleda (Mallorca, Iles Balears, Spain) is the largest subaquatic cave in Europe and among the six largest caves of this type with only one entrance in the world.


Cave divers from the Spanish caving group Grup Nord de Mallorca (GNM) have managed not only to break the record for Spain, but also the European record for subaquatic caves. They have also placed Sa Gleda among the top six caves of the world, which only have one natural entrance. The cave is now the largest cave of any type throughout the Balearic Islands.


After two and a half years work, members from the GNM have so far explored approx 10,500 metres of submerged passages and chambers. The final total for the cave could be far more as the group as yet have not completed detailed exploration of all it’s known parts.


The previous European record was held by the Keld Head System in the UK, with a total surveyed length of 8,000 metres. The previous Spanish record was held by the Cova des Coll totalling 4,880 metres of surveyed passage, 3,389metres of which is underwater. Interestingly, this cave is also situated on Mallorca in the village of Porto Colom, furthermore the record was established in 1997 by a team which included members from the Sa Gleda group.

Cave location.


The cave entrance is situated about 1.5km inland from the south-eastern coast of Mallorca, within the municipal district of Manacor. It is more or less midway between Porto Colom & Porto Cristo. Porto Cristo is famous for it’s two showcaves; Coves del Drach and Coves dels Hams.

Cave description.


The entrance itself lies on the course of a now non-active torrent and was formed when a doline (or sinkhole) collapsed onto the floor of the chamber 30metres below. This has left behind an opening of about 30m x 17m. It is worth mentioning at this point that many caves do not in fact have natural entrances, they are often only discovered when a section collapses or an opening is made by either natural processes or by man-made activities.


The chamber is about 80m long by 40m wide and has a west-east orientation. It’s floor slopes down both eastward and westward, there is a lake at the eastern end. From here the submerged portion, which is by far the largest part of the cave, is entered. The surface of the lake, measuring ~30m x 7m, lies 35m below ground level and coincides with the water table.


The subaquatic cave can best be described as being a complex network of submerged passages and chambers, which at times becomes labyrinthine. Curiously this part of Sa Gleda has a predominant northeast-southwest orientation which means that it runs parallel to the coast and not perpendicular to it, as might be expected.


The submerged passages and chambers of Sa Gleda show a wide range of evolutionary stages. In some, the corrosive processes of the water dominate, as such they are almost boulder free and adjacent passages have merged into one after their partitioning walls have crumbled away. In others, breakdown processes dominate where heaps of blocks, from collapsed ceilings, and broken speleothems (stalagmites, stalactites etc) are often found. Obstructions of this type are fairly frequent and they can divide chambers into two and even block off possible continuations.


The largest chamber so far found has some very impressive formations. It is 500m long, which is approximately the same length as five football pitches placed end to end. The distance between roof and ceiling oscillates at around 12m, and it’s width is typically between 40 & 50m, reaching 70m or more in some places.


The chamber was only discovered after one of the divers had forced a tight 50m passage through a boulder choke, this is a very stressful task when carried out totally underwater.

Geomorphology of the cave.


The cave lies within Limestone rock, which was formed between 10 & 5 million years ago during the Upper Miocene Epoch of the Tertiary Period. It is an example of what are termed solution caves, these owe their origins initially to the dissolution of bedrock along structural weaknesses such as joints & faults within the rock, and the bedding-planes between strata. Sa Gleda like many other caves has a long and complex history. The submerged sections of this cave were formed by the diffused infiltration of surface waters, as these had slow flow velocities, they tended to dissolve the bedrock along all possible joint openings. The result of this is the actual network of passages and chambers. The origins of the entrance chamber, on the other hand, can be attributed to the infiltration of surface waters through the doline, where the  velocities of the circulating water were higher.


During the Quaternary period, which covers the last 1.65 million years of geological history, the level of the Mediterranean Sea has both risen and fallen bellow it’s present level on numerous occasions. This means the currently flooded sections of the cave have been dry at times. During these dry periods speleothems were able to form.


More importantly, tell-tale bulbous growths can form on speleothems when they are only partially covered by the subterranean water because of sea-level changes. These growths can be dated by measuring the decay of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, and the results can then be used to help scientists determine when and by how much the Mediterranean Sea-level changed.


The Sa Gleda group have been collaborating with the Universitat de les Illes Balears and two Italian universities, Universita “Roma Tre” and Univerita “La Sapienza”(both of which are in Rome), by supplying them with samples of these growths taken from this and other caves that they have explored. The group have also taken other types of samples and specimens from the submerged sections of this cave to help other investigators with their research projects. They have also found a few pieces of pottery, which they have passed onto Archaeologists.


Grup Nord de Mallorca, Seccio d’Espeleobuceig / Cave-diving section has a small but very active group of members who, on average undertake 12 dives per month between them in the submerged sections of cave. The core of the group comprises 3 cave-divers; Francesc Gracia, Juanjo Lavergne and Bernat Clamor with Peter Watkinson in a support role.

Exploration history.


The first serious exploration of Sa Gleda took place in 1974 when Miguel Trias, G. Pulido and Lluis Roca (from the Speleo-Club de Mallorca) explored and mapped the terrestrial part of the cave. Around the same time as their exploration, another Mallorcan caver, Francesc Ripoli, carried out a subaquatic inspection of the cave’s lake. He discovered that it opened out into a large submerged chamber. Possibly because of the technical difficulties that existed in those times, he decided against continuing his exploration. The results of their work were published in Endins, the Balearic Caving journal in 1989. In recognition of the importance of his initial discovery, the Sa Gleda group have named this chamber “Sala d’En Francesc Ripoli”. During the 80s and early 90s the lake was again explored by divers, including the renowned Welsh cave-diver Martyn Farr. Once again only the initial chamber was explored.


In 1997 the cave-diving section of GNM started it’s exploration and in 2000 the GNM announced that the Sa Gleda group had up to then explored 6,000metres of submerged passages and chambers in the cave, thus setting a new Spanish record for a subaquatic cave. Since 1997, the group have visited the cave on 160 occasions and have completed over 600 hours of diving.


Cave diving is without a doubt the riskiest form of caving there is. In fact, it is generally considered as being a very high risk activity, which requires both specialised equipment and training.


The sa Gleda divers initially started the exploration of this cave using just two compressed-air bottles, the minimum for this type of diving, but as the cave has got bigger they have been forced to increase the number of bottles they carry. Luckily for them, most of the submerged sections lie between 10 and 15 metres below the level of the water table, which helps to reduce the amount of air needed to be carried (the volume of air consumed per minute increases with depth, so a given compressed-air supply will last longer at shallower depths) *See table at the end of this article.


The furthest point reached so far is 1,700 metres from the lake.  To reach this point, the divers are carrying between three and four bottles and it is taking them about three hours just to swim there and back.  To this time, they are having to add about twenty minutes of decompression time (this is to reduce the amount of nitrogen absorbed by the body's tissues during the dive to a safe limit).  They decompress using a separate bottle, which they have left underwater for this purpose near to the lake. At the moment, the sa Gleda group have had to reduce their activities in this cave, as they are currently trying to raise funds for the necessary equipment that they will need to be able to continue and finish the exploration.

The sa Gleda group can be contacted as follows:

Juanjo Lavergne (Catalan, Spanish and English)


(+ 34) 659267106  E-mail: jjlavergne@readysoft.es

Peter Watkinson (English and Spanish)


(+ 34) 686 711 517

Grup Nord de Mallorca web page:

 

https://poliesportiupollensa.jimdo.com/clubs-esportius/grup-nord-de-mallorca-espeleologia/

The sa Gleda group also have a number of digital photographs available.
 

SUMMARY OF CAVES DIVED BY BRITISH TEAMS OVER THE LAST DECADE

Thanks are extended to Pat Cronin for providing a copy of the report relating to the expedition he undertook with Martyn Farr, Owen Clarke and Gareth Hardman in 1996. I am indebted also to Pat and to Tony Boycott for seeking out the earlier reports of Owen Clarke’s forays from 1988 through to 1995 and submitting copies of these to me.


Thanks too to Andy  Walchester for researching the descent references, and to Barry Suddall for searching out and loaning to me the pertinent C.D.G Newsletters. The above mentioned reports form the basis for the following résumé of caves.

COVA DES COLL (PORTO COLOM)

Prior to the recently explored extensions in Cova de Sa Gleda, this cave held the Spanish record for a sub-aquatic system with a surveyed length of 4,880m, 3389m of which were fully submerged. The place is a veritable labyrinth, with an amazing network of passageways running directly beneath the old part of Porto Colom town. The cave has been systematically mapped and surveyed by local and mainland Spanish cavers.


There is a short awkward section of dry caving leading down to the initial sump, making for a tricky carry of diving gear. After the constraints of this dry section, the sump is thankfully large. On the Dragon expedition of 1996, Martyn Farr was able to dive with twin side-mounted 10 litre bottles, whilst his guide and companion Xisco wore a huge 18 litre back-mounted tank strapped to an emergency bale out 7 litre cylinder.


The water has carved out such massive voids in the limestone below the town; the foundations of the buildings must be seriously limited. It is no surprise that several vehicles have collapsed through the main quayside road over the years to reveal gaping voids below. The space encountered below the toilet area has been used to good effect to dispose of the sewage!


Because the cave is an active resurgence, quite shallow and close to the ocean, haloclines are common. The presence of these haloclines accompanied by the copious quantities of light, easily disturbed muddy sediments, can create havoc with the visibility. Disorientation is a severe hazard to diving. More comprehensive dive descriptions are included in the Dragon team’s report, along with earlier reports from Owen Clarke’s previous visits. 

DEBBIE’S WELL

After diving at Cova Des Coll, The Dragon team proceeded inland to a site on the San Marcia road, which had been shown to them the year before. Although they had received reports relating to a dive several years ago, that had suggested the presence of a large underwater tunnel extending in both directions at the base of the well shaft, this was not to be. Their dive was curtailed at an impassable slot at a depth of 7m. The kitting up was an interesting exercise, as the water surface was 4m down the well, and necessitated the lowering down of the diver. This site is often rendered undivable due to infestation by rats, perhaps it should be renamed Debbie’s Unwell.

COVA DETS ASES  (DIVE)

PORTO COLOM
 

Approximately 1km north of Porto Colom on the SE coast of Mallorca is the small rocky cove of Cala Salgar. Park on the coast road and follow the wall with a garden gate in it northwards (i.e. left hand side.) for roughly 40 metres towards the shore. Cala Salgar is a long rocky inlet with no beach, and low sheer cliffs dropping straight into the sea. Follow the left hand side of inlet northwards, and the cave is to be found on the left hand side just past the headland at a depth of 3 to 4 metres shortly after passing a blind alcove at the same depth. An initial dive of 30 metres gives access to a large well decorated dry chamber, a further dive of 30 metres from the sump pool on the right leads to 350 metres of dry cave exiting on dry land by the headland. All dives are shallow and boast excellent visibility. No tackle is needed for the dry cave. The cave entrance is large and easy but is difficult to find in hazel thicket scrubland; in all Cova dets Ases is a 500 metre through trip. Approximately 70 metres from Cova Dets Ases main entrance is a tight body-sized squeeze alternative entrance.

 

This narrative was given to me verbatim by Martyn Farr, when I phoned him prior to our visit in October 2000. The report came straight off the top of his head. Although Martyn has a good memory, which can normally be relied upon, I obviously couldn’t vouch for the 100% accuracy of this description. This factor should be borne in mind by anyone visiting this site, especially by anyone contemplating a through dive.


Martyn’s team of 1991, including club member Pat Cronin, submitted a full expedition report to the Welsh Sport’s Council and also to the Cambrian Caving Club. This report should have been reproduced in one of their club journals, shortly after the team’s return. It would be worth checking this report out, or alternatively double checking the details personally with Pat or Martyn, if you intend diving at this location.


Pat informs me that they dived there on three separate occasions and confirms Martyn’s assertion that it is one of the most scenic and one of the easier cave-dives on the island. The survey is taken from Owen Clarke’s 1989 expedition report.

COVA CAMP DES POU

This cave/pothole provides a steeply sloping descent to –45m, where a loose boulder slope gives direct access to an undived 12m x 4m sump pool. The pool was found to be blocked by rocks on all sides at a depth of 6m, after an exhaustive underwater search. Serious digging below water would be needed to gain any hope of further progress.

COVA DEN BESSO

(PORT CRISTO NOVA, MANACOR)
 

This first dive report I have of this cave is by Steve Ainley in 1988 to discover a well decorated submerged passage. Further significant passage was also discovered the following year. ( Red Dragon 17/20).

COVA DES PONT

(PORTO COLOM)
 

Again the first report I have relating to this cave is from Owen Clarke’ s expeditions in 1988 and 1989. Dives were made by Owen in subsequent years to forge a connection with the newly discovered dry extension in the adjacent Coves del Pirata. A survey point placed by the Federation Balear d’Espeleologia and Speleo Club Garcia was discovered by Owen when he surfaced in dry cave. (Red Dragon 
17.1990/91 survey reproduced.)

COVA DEL PIRATA

(PORTO COLOM)
 

Pat dived a supposedly undived sump trending towards the sea 300 metres away. The entry pool was spacious and the water was crystal clear with an inviting bluey-green hue, appearing to offer every chance of open passage at a shallow depth. Pat and later Gareth Hardman systematically searched the walls of the submerged cave, in the easterly and southerly directions finding nothing. The remnants of an old dive-line trending south led nowhere.


A small extension was eventually found in a section of very restricted water heading northwards, this was followed for 35metres to a constriction, which the team were unable to pass on the day. The area still shows promise.


The dry section of Cova del Pirata above and around the dive sites is extremely photogenic. 

 

COVA DE SERRAL (MANACOR)

The enormous collapsed doline on the headland, a mere 100m or so from the sea, heralds the site of previous unfruitful explorations by Owen Clarke & Co. A complex sump at the bottom of the doline had several thin white dive-lines radiating from the entry pool. Ian Williams and his support had previously laid 50m of line into a large passage near the right end of the pool. This led to a large chamber at a depth of 15m aligned along a rift. Half way along the main tunnel, midway up the left-hand wall, an unexplored 1.5m circular tube led off. At the end of the main sump pool another line terminated at a dead end after 25m. To the left of this a parallel rift was located, this was followed for approaching 50m to a slightly constricted area, the passage however could be seen to continue in clear water for another estimated 20m. Exit was made from this point in zero visibility. The hoped for connections to Cova de Sa Gleda and also the sea , were not therefore realised on this occasion.

 

The Dragon team also inspected Cova de Sa Marti, but did not dive there. They also visited the Caves of Drach, definitely the site providing the most exciting underwater possibilities, but despite repeated requests, permission to dive there was not forthcoming. A number of dives were also made at Cova dets Ases, Martyn has supplied a description of this site, this is included elsewhere in this journal.

WELL TO THE NORTH OF PORTO COLOM

This well was formerly the site for the provision of drinking water. However the  recent invasion of the sea has rendered the water brackish. The shaft drops 4m to a small chamber floored with shallow water. A small (even by British standards), passage from the North wall was followed for over 30m to a narrowing of the route. A second dive was made from the shaft bottom through a difficult and committing squeeze on the West side. At a depth of 7m a sizeable chamber was reached, this initially promised the possibility of a large submerged tunnel towards Cova des Coll, a few hundred metres away. Alas this proved not to be the case, and a much relieved diver was able to exit the well.

 

SUMMARY OF CAVES COVERED IN CAVE DIVING GROUP NEWSLETTER REPORTS

The following is a summary of cave-dives to which reports are at hand. It is by no means complete, further investigative research would no doubt reveal further information.

COVA DETS ESTUDIANTES (SOLLER) 


475400/4401070

First dived by British diver, Ian Williams in 1992. Various reports have been submitted to both descent and CDG newsletter since this date. This former showcave represents a serious dive, in 1993 the divers on Owen Clarke’s expedition reached a terminal depth of  -53metres. 

COVA DES PAS VALGORNERA (CALA PI) 


440430/4381130

By all accounts an extremely promising site first pushed by Owen Clarke and Ian Williams. Several extensions have been made by British and Local divers. The decorations in the large sumps and canals are described as staggering. Photos of these formations taken by Clarke’s 1993 team were used as the basis of an exhibition of  underwater photography in Mallorca, held in Pontypool shortly after their return. Unfortunately this impressive system is no longer accessible. The artificially drilled well gaining entry to the submerged passages has now been plugged with concrete by the land-owners.

NAZIL DEL DRACH (CALA MURTA- PORTO CRISTO)

A small coastal cave, situated very near to the caves of Drach. A hoped for connection to the show cave has been searched for on repeated dives by many cavedivers. The guides in the show cave categorically deny the existence of any passable underwater connection to the sea, claiming the water ekes in by a percolation. It is rumoured  that a tight connection has eventually been forced, I don’t know if this is true or not and unfortunately I don’t have any details.

COVA DETS COLOM (CALA FALCO)

A huge and beautifully decorated sea cave, accessible only by a 500 metre swim around the coast.

VALLEY OF THE FONTS (POLLENSA)

A postulated underground drainage system connecting two caves featured in “501” Grutas”, Cova de la Font (F6) 501640/4416080 and Avenc de la Font (F1) 501710/446210 along with several other sites, accessed via well shafts in private gardens. Permission to enter via these wells is difficult to obtain, unauthorised descents could prejudice further future exploration. Do not go down without the landowners blessing.

 

FONT DES VERGER (SOLLER)

A major resurgence cave, 600m above sea level, providing the main drinking supply for Soller. First explored beyond 2 short sumps by a mainland Spanish team in 1973. Major extensions by a number of British cave divers since then. The height of this cave above sea-level makes for an extremely arduous carry of kit, willing porters are a pre-requisite to diving at this site.

 

SKYLIGHT CAVE, CALA MILLOR. MANACOR
 

Details of this cave were given to me by Dean, an open-water diver I met whilst diving at the site of Spilia Kyklopa (Cyclops Cave) in Cyprus.


The cave entrance, typical of many such Mediterranean Sea Caves, is accessed by an easy shore dive. The cave is a popular site for open-water divers, Dean was taken there by Albatross Diving, {What flavour} Cala Bona. Tel:- 0034 656811745.


The entrance lies at –8m, where a gently sloping tube 1.5m in diameter, gradually snakes it’s way to –10m. Here a shaft of light spectacularly enters from daylight up above. This piercing light is reminiscent of a sign from the almighty, just like the scene from the film “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.


From the lowest point, the tube flattens out and widens, before slowly rising to break into a large dry chamber. It is possible to climb out here and de-kit, prior to wandering around the well-decorated cavern. The impressive dripstone formations are bathed in an eerie half-light filtering through the water from a shallower entrance. Unfortunately there is no dry egress from the cave.


There is good visibility throughout the dive, with no sand or silt on the rocky floor to be disturbed. The dive can be undertaken wearing standard open-water equipment and no dive-line is needed, the use of a hand torch though is recommended.

ISLE OF DRAGONERA

Popular site for open water divers, off the far eastern tip of Mallorca. French divers have recently discovered a large cave entrance there, and a number of smaller caves were explored by British divers in 1997.

STONEFISH CAVE (SANTA PONSA)

The entrance to this cave in the cliff face, below sea level is accessed by boat. The huge entrance chamber almost reaches the surface, but the entry point is –18m. The way on lies at floor level where a very distinct halocline is encountered. 100m of line was laid out by Stefan Koschke wearing back mounted cylinders, to a point where further progress needed side mounted kit. Exit in zero viz was further complicated by a profusion of scorpion fish. The line was removed to prevent it being a hazard to open water divers.

Just in case you thought cave-diving wasn’t dangerous enough.


“ The Scorpion fish, or Stonefish, or Rockfish, is a cousin of the Dragonfish, and, like it, a member of the family Scorpaendae. It is likewise venomous. Here the similarity ends, for the Scorpion fish is as repulsive in appearance as the Dragonfish is gorgeous. The Scorpion fish is called Stonefish and Rockfish because it lives on the bottom among rocks, close to land in both warm and cold seas. It’s body is lumpy and rocklike in appearance, and poisonous spines grow from it’s head and back. It has been called, with good reason ,the most venomous fish in the world, and there are many authentic instances of human beings dying, in terrible agony, from the sting of this fish.”     J.Cousteau

Scorpion Fish, Aka Stonefish or Rockfish

 

DESCENT AND CDG NEWSLETTER REFERENCES 

Over the last decade, there have been various references to Mallorcan caves published in the Descent magazine and CDG newsletters. With the exception of one report submitted by Nigel Atkins of the Pennine Caving Club, all these refer to underwater caves. Although most of these are now definitely yesterday’s news, the references are listed here for the sake of completeness. It is also possible that in the instances where caves have been investigated and explored by British teams, reports may be included in club journals as well as the publications mentioned above. These would be worth checking out by any interested parties, or better still efforts could be made to contact the original divers personally.

 

DIVING TERMS EXPLAINED

 
TABLE TO ILLUSTRATE RATE OF GAS CONSUMPTION AT DEPTH.

 

Consider; A diver elects to visit a sump which is 20metres deep and takes 15minutes to traverse, the way is constricted with occasional poor visibility. He would first say “I have never been through this sump before, therefore things will be a little uncertain so my breathing rate will be higher than the normal equivalent of 25litres per minute. I will estimate that I will consume gas at a rate of 30l/m” All calculations have to start off with a figure for assessment.


From the 30 position in the left hand column of the table, move across until you intersect the vertical 20m depth column. Where the two meet that is the 30l/m consumed at that depth, i.e. 90 litres per minute in this instance.


Now consider the THIRDS RULE; An inward journey of 15mins, a return journey of 15mins with 15mins of air in reserve gives a total time needed of 45min.


The total amount of free gas required for the trip is calculated thus; 3 x 15mins = 45mins total. 45mins x 90 litres per min = 4050 litres of air.


This total amount could be supplied for example by using twin 7litre bottles charged to just over 290bar ( 2 x 7 x 291 = 4054litres).


The above table is suggested and meant only as a guide to illustrate how to calculate the gas required for a hypothetical cave-diving trip. All tables must be used with the greatest of caution, and any calculations must be checked by a competent diver.

Free Gas;           The actual amount of useful gas contained in the cylinder.
Quarters rule;     Same as the Thirds rule only more conservative.
Thirds rule;        The normally used method of air management, Third in, Third out, Third reserve.
Sixth rule;          Same as thirds rule but more conservative.(used normally with scooters.)

NB. The above table was constructed as part of the Pegasus dive-training program presently being undertaken by members of the Pegasus. It is primarily for the illustration of how different rates of breathing, related to surface consumption, can be equated to levels of stress or panic at depth. It’s role is to show as a simplistic series of figures the rate at which a diver may expect to consume the litres of free air available to him in his tanks should a problem occur. This allows a diver to accurately plan his estimated air consumption within the scope of his ability and the demands of his project.


Permission is not given for the use of this table by unauthorised personnel

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The information contained and collated within this publication has been gleaned from many and various sources. Most of the reporting and photography is the result of personal visits to the caves in question by club members. Reports and descriptions of caves not as yet investigated by Pegasus personnel are all obviously based on other cavers accounts. No excuse is given for the sometimes blatant plagiarism in reproducing these accounts, the premise being that the end justifies the means. Thanks are however gratefully extended to all those who have either knowingly or unknowingly contributed to this particular publication. This publication is not for resale, and has been solely put together for the use of Pegasus members and associates.

Particular thanks and acknowledgement are proffered to the following;

  • Juanjo Lavergne & Martyn Farr for the supply of material and photographs relating to Cavern-diving.

  • Des Marshall for the descriptions of how to find cave entrances as given in his interim guide to Mallorca Caves. This was especially useful as regards caves that we’d not personally visited.

  • J.A.Encinas S, his book 501 Grutas was our bible when caving in the Pollensa area. Most surveys reproduced in this journal are from his book.

  • Cave Diving Group personnel for dive reports & surveys.
     

Further Reading:

  • 501 Grutas Del Termino De Pollensa by J.A.Encinas S

  • Mallorca Caves an interim guide by Des Marshall

  • Walking in Mallorca by June Parker

  • Landscapes of Mallorca by Valerie Crespi-Green

  • The Underground Atlas by John Middleton and Tony Waltham

  • Descent Magazine.

  • CDG Newsletters.

  • Endins (Balearic Caving Journal)

Area Maps of Pollensa, Soller, Inca, Arta, Formentor and Aucania Scale 1:50,000 are also recommended. They are available from Stanfords International Map Centre at 14, Long Acre, London.

Photographic Acknowledgements;
Original photos by Pegasus Club Nottingham members. Malc Debbage; Lee Hollis; Andy Walchester

Other Photos; Martyn Farr; Juanjo Lavergne; Planet Earth Pictures/Carl Roessler; Equipe Cousteau; Clik Clak Photos; Caves of Campanet; Caves of Hams; Caves of Drach; Caves of Arta; Andreas Petsas/Transdivers.

 

A special mention is made of my long-time friend and one-time Pegasus member “Tokyo” Paul Herrod. Paul was my first caving partner, without him I would never have become a caver, and this book would never have been written.

 

Thanks to our leader, Lee for sharing his unparalleled knowledge, (within the club membership), of the caves with us, and taking us caving.


Thanks to Malc Scothon, Malc Debbage, Andy Walchester and Lee Hollis for the photographs.


Thanks to the “Chester House of Print,” for producing this journal in accordance with Cheg’s meticulous standards.


Special thanks to my daughter Jodi, for the infinite patience shown in trying to educate a complete computer illiterate in the intricacies of operating a PC.


Final thanks to my wife Judy, for letting me go caving with the lads so often, while sitting alone for hours at the hotel. Or on one memorable occasion, alone in a forestry commission car park, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night.

The end

of Occasional Publication Number 9
 

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