Exploration of Cliff Cave, (Pollaillte)
Ballyryan, County Clare, Ireland
Divers: Jim Warny & Michal Marek
With the discovery of Cliff cave last year we had high hopes on exploring and documenting more passage this year. At the end of the summer last year we explored a passage with a stream way feeding the sump we had just passed. During the summer we had very few weather windows to dive the cave.
For a successful dive we need calm and stable weather as well as flat sea conditions. As we were planning to explore the dry section behind the sump we needed to be prepared for getting stuck beyond the sump. To ensure this we did a series of setup dives to stage survival equipment beyond the sump. This was achieved by diving through the sump with sensitive equipment stored in sealed dry tubes. By August we finally had everything ready to do a push dive if we got a weather window.
This finally came on 3 of October; Myself and Michal set off around 9:00am, each carrying our usual cave diving gear plus a dry tube stuffed with things we would need beyond the sump. The dive through was routine for us as we have done this numerous times. It took the usual 60 min.
Once we got to the far side of the sump we stored our diving equipment in a safe place to ensure we would get back out several hours later, the sump is tidal!
Once we got to our base camp we both got busy transforming ourselves in to cavers. I wore a caving wet-suit under my dry suit for the dive, therefore eliminating the need to strip down entirely. This conserved a lot of heat although it meant on the dive in I was slower than usual due to the bulk of wearing the extra layer under the dry suit.
Once I was changed I fired up the stove and made a quick cup of tea before we set off. Comfort in our camp could be better by adding some mats for the floor to sit and get changed on.
The streamway leading off from the sump
Once we both were ready we set off up the stream way heading towards our previous exploration limit. The stream way we followed was spacious and less than waist deep. Michal made some video and pictures along the way while I did a rough survey of the passage.
Well decorated section of the main passage
Some of the sections along the way are well decorated with lots of straws hanging from the ceiling. The general trend in the passage is north, north east. No significant side passages where noted along the way. We soon arrived in the chamber where we had turned back on our last trip. From here a bedding passage leads off north east.
Jim Warny pushing ahead in the flat out crawl
I entered first and started crawling, a couple of meters in, the passage dropped down to stream level again. We kept on crawling for what seemed an eternity and every corner I turned I was hoping the passage would open up again. After an hour of crawling we began to lose hope of this happening.
Roughly 700m in, I passed a difficult squeeze where I had to remove several boulders to be able to pass through. Beyond this squeeze I could see another boulder blockage that would require large boulders to be removed; the stream can be seen continuing beyond this.
We both decided we had had enough for the day at this point and took a short break before turning around.
Michal Marek & Jim Warny at the turn around point
The return trip to the sump was swift. We had another break at camp before changing into our dive gear. We exited the cave around 17:00 making a total trip of 8 hours.
Not bad considering we did the following things in these 8 hours:
700m swim to the entrance.
1000m Dive through the sump.
1000m of stream way.
700m of flat out crawling.
And then all of the above again in reverse order.
The end of the dry section is now at approximately 2.7KM from the entrance.
Further exploration is possible but will require a much longer trip!
Survey, showing only the main sump in Cliff Cave
A full description of Cliff Cave can be found in "Caves of Mid-West Ireland. Clare, Galway, Mayo & Roscommon".
Jim Warny 2019