Considine's Cave Dig (South End)
Present depth as 4th of April 2022 = 27.2 metres or 89.3feet.
Total Man-Hours = 2148
To fully understand the scale and complexity of this dig, reference should first be made to the 'Considines Cave North End' description on the 'Projects' Page (Click Here). A complete history of the North End dig is available in the 'Logs' commencing July 25th 2016 and concluding 30th December 2017.
North up. A drones eye view of the relocated infrastructure, the "winch shed" aligned with the rift directly beneath.
The excavation of the Northern half of the rift has all but concluded. Upon reaching a final depth of some 25.5 metres a small east trending down slope passage developed, here the diverted northern stream rejoined the shaft. After some four metres the passage and stream entered a parallel, immature joint, here the stream turned toward the south; hence the decision to dig out the previously shored up southern rift. Outstanding tasks in the northern half of the rift remain its survey, remove the infrastructure and secure the entrance on conclusion of the entire project.
The northern and southern halves of the rift yet remain separated by the timber shoring, which was installed from -2m to -14m; down through large, loose boulders and irregular occurrences of clay deposits. As the floor of the southern side is lowered the shoring is being removed and brought to surface. This procedure allows access to remain via the original fixed ladderway, then across a two metre long “Gantry”, down a second two metre ladder into, and onto the southern rift floor surface, which is at present at a depth of around seven metres below the platform.
Of particular note are the feature comparisons of either half of the rift, from an equal depth. Both east and west walls of the northern rift, at around -7m, begin to subtly undulate, mirror like, whereas both southern rift walls remain vertical, at an average of one metre apart. Below -7m both northern walls inexorably narrow to, and below -14m; this is the location of “The Plank”; the narrowest point reached is at the “The Pinch” at a depth of -22m.
From the nature of the exposed southern rift walls, cautious estimates suggest some twenty four cubic metres of spoil may need removal to reach “The Plank” at a depth of -14m; assuming the rift walls remain vertical and the same width apart. Research suggests weights of wet and dry clays as averaging 1.4 metric tonnes per cubic metre and the unidentified sandstones and hard shale like boulders average between 1.4 to 2 metric tonnes per cubic metre; therefore conservative estimates suggest around thirty four tonnes will require lifting to surface.
View north of new layout, winch shed to the rear, hauling area to the foreground.
View looking South at -6.5 metres, showing radius of the rift and stepped method of fill removal.
View looking North from the South side of the shoring, originally installed when the north rift was excavated. Beyond the shoring the shaft descends to the Plank at -14 metres, thence to -26.5 metres.
View looking up the hauling area showing shoring and shaft collar above, the pipework conveys a significant volume of the southern stream to the North shaft.
Phase 1. Preparation of the surrounding area and installation of a working platform,
tripod and associated infrastructure. Total man-hours 72 from 14 visits.
Phase 2. Removal of infill from the North End plus fitting heavy timber shoring at the South down to -14.5 metres. Final depth reached -26.5 metres at which point it became too tight. Total man-hours 1061 from 151 visits.
Phase 3. Relocate surface infrastructure to allow removal of infill from the South End with the eventual result being the entire rift will be emptied. Man-hours to date at the South End (25/10/18) 497 from 87 visits.
TB digging whilst a large Boulder in the net is winched to the surface
PC empties one of the kibbles into the barrow, this one a single boulder
Showing the size of the shaft and the enormous task of emptying it
Pegasus supports the “Guillotine”
As spoil was regularly removed from the southern half of the rift a narrow cleft was noted gradually increasing in width as depth was achieved. Minor concern was expressed as the cleft appeared to deepen, and widen, yet it offered promise of passage perhaps, at some lower point, large enough to enter. At -11m this cleft had become 0.4m wide, creating a large protrusion, in appearance to the bow of a ship. Unfortunately it appeared to be free hanging. Under normal cave conditions this formation would be passed without giving it a second glance, but, as digging continues downward this lump will remain as a threat to the poor sod working below, certainly for the immediate future, with no place to escape its mass.
Following extensive examination the majority of this lump of rock, aptly named “The Guillotine”, did, in fact, appear solid and secure at a point some two metres from its free hanging base; it was these lower two metres that focused the gravest concern accentuated by the eroded horizontal bedding and how far through this bedding water had penetrated. The chosen solution was to support it directly beneath itself with an RSJ, secured to the east and west walls.
The thin profile of the bottom of the “Guillotine” meant that if it fell away its weight, and pressure, on any support would be magnified by its very narrow lower edge. So a 200mm x 100mm “H” section steel RSJ was obtained, even so another section of RSJ was added to the area directly beneath the point of contact to spread the load further. These two pieces were welded together for increased strength, the whole prefabricated item finished with a protective coat of paint.
Options to secure the RSJ to the rift walls were explored, including creating recesses in both rift walls into which the ends of the RSJ could be inserted to rest upon. The final decision was to prepare and drill heavy sections of angle iron secured in place to the walls with multiple 16mm galvanised steel pins. These brackets secured in place as a letter “L”, the RSJ when place in position was wedged up against the inside of the “L” to avoid it tilting forward, should, and if, pressure become applied. To reduce the chance of the RSJ tipping away from its vertical position a brace was fabricated which secured it to the west wall and by bolts to the top of the RSJ; rotation through pressure now significantly reduced.
Angle-iron support brackets pinned to the wall with 16mm bolts and re-bar pins to stop lateral movement of the RSJ
The RSJ with the added welded section in it's final position, under the "Guillotine"
The brace to reduce the chance of the RSJ tipping away from its vertical position
With the “Guillotine” now supported attention turned to avoiding it falling out eastwards, or sideways. Two lateral stemples were prepared, one located near the top of the “Guillotine” at around -11m, the other near its bottom, some 0.4m above, and inline with the RSJ.
It should and indeed must be clearly understood, all this preventative work and extensive precautions are just that, optimistic precautions; no guarantee can be applied or assumed, or is inferred that the “Guillotine” won’t actually move. To descend below the level of the “Guillotine” you do so entirely at your own risk.
The West end of the RSJ before the brace was fitted
Job done and now Safe (hopefully) to work below
Horizontal Image of the Site at minus 14 metres
Calculated floor areas at the minus 14 metre point are:-
North End (shown above the timber shoring on the survey) 1.35 square metres.
South End (shown below the timber shoring on the survey) 6.79 squre metres.
That is Five times the amount of spoil being removed at the South end compared with the North.
This photograph, taken by Roger Day from minus 16 metres shows the enormity of the task involved in emptying out this impressive shaft. The patterns at the top are caused by light penetrating through the different configurations of pallets used to construct the working platform. The builders ladder positioned at the bottom of the fixed ladder is a temporary measure until the "Platform" is installed at minus 14.25 metres.
The Platform (Minus 14.25 metres)
The idea of the platform emerged after addressing two particular issues; 1) The need to maintain access along the “Plank” into the northern shaft, and 2) Have a secure frame from which to suspend the next fixed ladder. During its conception other factors were examined not least construct a small level floor on the ladder frame where a brief respite from climbing could be had, whilst enjoying the view from this forthcoming loft eyrie.
With the aid of a laser level PC drilling the pilot holes for the 16mm bolts
The platform frame is simple, consisting of two galvanized scaffold poles, from their ends 16mm galvanized bolts locate into holes drilled into the living rock; securely tightened. At right angles to the poles, two lengths of angle iron secure the timber flooring to the scaffold tubes. On this platform floor rests the “Plank”; six inches wide it passes through the cleft and is secured to the original bracket fixed at the northern shaft edge.
The finished platform with the first section of ladder in place giving you access to the level floor, presently at minus 16 metres
Phase 4. With all the heavy timber shoring removed and the floor level below the access point into the North shaft via "The Plank", work can now proceed to remove the final 10 metres to bring us level with the lowest point reached in the North shaft and hopefully access into open cave. Man-hours to date at the South End (08/07/19) 1039 from 180 visits.
And the spoil heap just gets bigger and BIGGER
A view of the access ladder from minus 18.7 metres
Calculated floor area that requires removal in the South End at minus 18.1 metres is 7.47sq metres
At Easter time 2019, Martel & Basher Baines, members of the Bradford Pothole Club were in County Clare for their annual all things speleo and drinking expedition. (more drink than speleo if I recall). They had visited the Considine's dig the year before and expressed their interest in producing a video to be shown at the B.P.C.'s annual get together. The result of their efforts can be seen here .
As of 31st December 2019 we have spent a total of 1386 man hours, lifted 5567 loads from 241 visits at the South Shaft!
Could'nt Organise Visits Involving Digging due to Covid 19. The surveys below show the floor area just prior to the three months period of lockdown.
After nearly four months self isolating the site could do with a haircut
The following photos were taken by Jim Warny on a visit to give a safety check of the infrastructure and prepare the site for a renewal of digging.
Looking down the hauling way from surface. The pipe carries surface water from the Southern end into the far North shaft.
Taken looking up from the present floor level at minus 21.5m showing the platform at minus 14.5m
Taken from the access ladder at minus 5m. The grey triangle is the platform installed at minus 14 metres to offset the ladder into a wider area of the shaft.
Taken looking directly up the access ladder-way from the present floor level of minus 21.5m
End of Year Report 2020
The affect of Covid-19 was extensive and profound, likewise health issues encountered. Significantly impacting spoil removal was the absence of “Popeye”; presently in the UK. Good fortune shone with the arrival of KLD who joined the Team late September; she is, without doubt a real asset. KLD’s attendance has allowed digging operations to resume as much as family commitments allow, and Covid-19 restrictions ebb, and flow.
28th December; the floor of the South shaft was measured at -21.85 metres, the end of the fixed ladder at 20.25 metres. Depth achieved this year is about two metres, the least during the digs history. Dropping stones, the depth of the southeast rift is conservatively estimated at six metres. This suggests the minimum, achievable depth is 28 metres.
Concerns over spoil volume removal, as the shaft’s diameter continues to subtly increase, are mitigated by the appearance of two protruding ribs from the east and western walls. In plan this creates a figure of eight shape; the smaller area the ladder way, the larger the main shaft. Whilst the ribs walls descend vertically in the main shaft area, their walls sloping down into the hauling way suggest this small 'shaft' may heal up.
Future ease of hauling depends on how these “Ribs” develop at depth, if the gap between them heals up this compromizes the centre of the hauling line. CC is presently designing a deviation system to guide the hauling line through this potential offset of perhaps as much as one metre. If these ribs do heal up, as increasing depth may prove, the area within them, the present ladder way, could be used as a hopper in which to stack spoil within.
These ribs are some 1.2m in front of the ladder way, and, if the hauling rope deviation becomes a reality, PC suggests preparations for a second staging be conducted whilst there's still a floor to stand on and work. This potential staging would also accommodate fixings to secure the relocated ladder route; where better than from such a staging? The platform could also accommodate the deviation device and assist in any maintenance.
The top of the northern shaft needs be covered with the proposed scaffold tube grill; Matt Randall has delivered twenty scaffold clips ordered by PC. Some heavy scaffold tubing requires purchasing to complete this project. With the issue of the dodgy pallet in the crawling way to the fixed ladder, it may be worthwhile inserting scaffold tubes under the area. In the meantime access to the ladder is under the edge of the working platform.
The winch shed requires maintenance; a waterproof cover is needed as the existing is deteriorating, and leaking. This may be undertaken in concert with replacing the two pallets beneath the shed.
During 2020 fifty-six sessions were conducted, twenty seven were maintenance and twenty nine were digging; compared to one hundred and twenty eight session in 2019. The digging sessions removed 570 kibbles and 53 nets, a combined weight of twenty six tonnes; an average of 0.9 of a ton per session. The time taken to bring a load to surface is an average of two minutes. Totalled digging hours; 160. Generator used some 45 litres of fuel, with a run time of some 130 hours. Top up oil to is not too easy to assess, but little enough was consumed by the engine. A winch drive belt developed a noise issue; minor adjustments resolved it. Some eight pallets were replaced in the working platform.
As of 28th December 2020 we have spent a total of 1639 man hours, lifted 6188 loads from 296 visits at the South Shaft!
Progress Report January to May 2021
Plague continued into 2021; Covid-19 travel restrictions seriously affecting excavation at the site. Itching to progress the dig; short to mid-term options were reviewed. With limited labour available, impending maintenance tasks, some requiring hours to accomplish were targeted for completion during this national imposed “Downtime”.
Continual maintenance is essential to achieve the high level of safety required to operate this site.
The New heavy duty black plastic weather canopy fitted over the winch shed and hauling area
Completed maintenance included, servicing the winch motor, testing the communications (phone system) and the signalling system, fitting a replacement weather canopy to both generator and winching sheds, preparing the new spoil area behind the winch shed, installing a weather screen across the open end of the winch shed, installing the scaffold grill over the northern shaft, replace the dodgy crawling way pallet, replace several pallets in the working platform, fit a new lifeline, replace the lower shaft collar pallet and cut out the lower shaft collar in the hauling way.
View northwest of north shaft with scaffold grill cover; left are two scaffold poles to improve support to the replacement pallet which forms the crawl way to the fixed ladder
View northwest, of replacement red pallet secured in position; directly above the south shaft, (-23m)
Showing the access ladder between the staging at -14.5m and the current flooor at -22.5m
The galvanized scaffold grill measures four by two metres, installed across the entire top of the north end shaft (-26.5m); located a metre and a half beneath the extant working platform. This will eventually be the finished, safe cover for the northern shaft, once digging is concluded. This grill addresses the issue the owner may experience now owning an open shaft greater than twenty five metres deep; when initially the hole was barely four metres deep. The galvanized grill will be covered further to avoid potential loss of livestock, and The Pegasus Clun Nottingham reputation.
View of the scaffold grill taken from the crawl way
During design of the scaffold grill consideration was applied to the area which, for the moment, contains the hauling way. Two four metre poles were installed, north-south, which allowed the multiple two metre lateral, poles to be fitted parallel to each other at 250mm centres. From the extreme north end of the open rift entrance, up to, and beneath, the recent replaced, crawling way pallets. There remains a gap of some two metres between the end of the four metre poles and the galvanized RSJ’s covering the south end of the surface rift. Upon cessation of digging this area will be covered by extending the scaffold grill, in which will be the access lid. No lock intended.
From the 23rd January to 31st May, the nineteen maintenance sessions totalled sixty five man-hours.
The eight digging sessions totalled forty eight man-hours, resulting in one hundred and eighty kibbles raised and eleven large nets; an estimated weight of almost seven metric tonnes.
A detailed description of all the activity during this period (January to May 2021) can be seen in the 'Logs' Here
The above plans (© P.C.N.) compare the shape of the shaft at regular depths. Surveys have been taken at -18.5m, -20m and -21.5m. The image above displays the change in shape and how me south shaft is presently not connected to the northern shaft.
The dashed outline of -21.5m floor level shows how the shaft continues to increase in size and alter shape toward the south end. The developing southeast rift, though narrow at present has an estimated depth of a further four metres. This places its invert just below that of the stream in the lowest part of the northern shaft.
Progress Report 1st June to 30th September
Though Covid-19 remains present, during this period digging sessions were reasonably regular; generally producing thirty kibbles per digging session. A result of PMcG’s methodical enthusiasm and the extant winching capability. However, to operate efficiently under some circumstances requires a team of three. The physical absence and humour of Tony “Popeye” Boycott and Kate Lavender-Duncan is sorely missed.
August saw a “round trip” created by Jim Warny, by clearing the 0.3m wide rift passage, once back filled by Cheg, during digging operations in the North End shaft. This snug passage headed south; its 0.7m height and 0.3m width did not appear too interesting, as this point of the shaft, immediately below “The Pinch” increased in size and continued on down.
Within the South End, between -20m and -24m, development of three features; “The Ribs”, “The Tongue” and “Paul’s Pot”, significantly reduce the floor surface and volume of spoil requiring removal; depth will be achieved swiftly.
About -23m, a semi-circular, vertical, bedrock feature emerged from the floor; this ragged, sharp toothed feature developed as "Paul's Pot" up against the Southeast rift, narrowing upon descent. At -26m access was gained, squeezing along the two-metre-long Southeast rift into a confined vertical cavity. Within this cavity, on the north side, a one metre long, 40mm wide cleft descends. Issuing forth, through this slot, flood water enters the dig, on at least one occasion reaching -12m.
Photographs of "Paul's Pot" when first exposed situated in front off the South East Rift and the partially excavated pot, at this point around two metres deep
These irregular flood events occur following protracted rainfall or cloudbursts. Proven by finding stored tell-tales migrating from their locations; particularly off the “The Plank”, (-14m). Further to this incredulous realization, a plastic container was found perched upon the RSJ at -12m. Such inundation is believed to occur when Coolagh River and its tributaries overwhelm the lower parts of system. Accumulated flood water, swiftly disappears. Locals, upstream of Poulclabber, have long described flood water erupting from poultaloons along the dry river valley.
Silts deposited from ebb and flow of flood water is noticeable in Pegasus Pot; ninety metres south of Considine’s cave. Here, the passages below “Beaver Pot” and the third pitch, “Clod Pot”, but with the exception of the pristine white, “Pauline’s Palace”, the place is mired with a fine silt. However, at the bottom of the second pitch in the original part of the cave, there is far less mud, it is a cleaner place, suggesting this area may well be a place worth digging.
As “The Ribs” developed in the shaft the digging area has moved subtly south, doing so means the digger has, on occasion to stop digging, go to “The Ribs”, reach up and wrestle a stuck kibble from “The Gap”, inbetween “The Ribs”. A variety of methods of landing the kibble next to the digger, were discussed and dismissed. On the 27th September, as digging commenced, PC trialled a 6mm travel line. Secured on the headframe and a bolt above “Paul’s Pot”. The affect was immediate; minor adjustments allowed the “floating kibble” to pass above “The Ribs” to literally arrive into the digger’s hands. Slack in the arc of the line allows the receiver to be closed safely, as normal. One bonus of this system is a faster turnabout; the digger barely moving from the spot to remove an empty and hook up a full kibble. A further bonus was the travel line, under load lifting a full kibble, significantly reduced a kibble swinging as it began to rise. Winching process is speeded up by not having to accommodate the kibble handling around “The Ribs”, seemingly, a small amount of time, it means the winchman has virtually no break between lowering and raising a load.
Surface maintenance required preparation of a new spoil area, trimming back foliage, servicing the winch & generator and developing a swiftly deployable 2:1 hauling system. Below ground; installation of fixed ladders to -22m and implementation of a deviation to allow the main hauling system assist hauling from “Paul’s Pot”. With the recent reduction in floor space, depth gain is expected to be swift.
Surveying established multiple survey datums around the -22.5m horizon; measured by tape and laser level. Established in “The Gap” at -22.5m, is a datum relating to the precise centre line of the Hauling Way; a 50mm diameter yellow survey disc: survey discs supplied courtesy of “Popeye”.
Commitments occasionally affected attendance, yet over the four months, one hundred and eighty-eight hours were spent over thirty-three sessions. Twenty excavating, eleven maintenance and installing equipment, including facilitating excavating “Paul’s Pot” and installing the tyrolean for the kibbles; two sessions were surveying. Conservatively thirteen tonnes were raised; 19 nets and 344 kibbles.
As of 18th October 2021 we have spent a total of 1970 man hours, lifted 6959 loads from 354 visits at the South Shaft!
Considine’s Cave (South End) Review For 2021
Throughout the first quarter, Covid restrictions dramatically impacted progress; enormously so. To make use of the enforced “downtime”, significant maintenance issues were dealt with. A galvanized scaffold tube frame was constructed a metre below the working platform; an open framework, forming a secure cover for the shaft, -26.5m. Future maintenance, such as replacing platform pallets or running power cables, may be conducted without undue concern of slipping into the depths. The longitudinal scaffold tubes were extended along either side the shaft collar. Between these parallel tubes, lateral bars were fitted, offering a more substantial support for the timber pallet floor of the access way to the top of the fixed ladder. This scaffold tube frame will accommodate construction of a one metre cube frame of tubing; creating a secure entrance; its proposed, finished height above adjacent surfaces, will segregate cattle from the shaft. Further enhancing PCN’s respectful relationship with farmers.
Personal circumstances yet prevent Tony Boycott and Kate Lavender-Duncan attending sessions; a significant loss. Fortunately, Paul McGrath joined the Team at the end of April. At that time the South End shaft floor was level, at around -22.5m having an area of nine square metres. From the outset PMcG produced an average of thirty kibbles a session. Exposing a sequence of fascinating, natural features. At this time the area behind the winch was cleared, increasing spoil stacking capacity.
As digging progressed, one natural feature became problematic, “The Gap”. This 0.250m wide, vertical slot evolved between projecting “The Ribs”, precisely in the centre line of the Hauling Way. Often having to reach a kibble, jammed in “The Gap”, became a frustrating task for the lone digger. Clambering about to wrestle it loose was frustrating and unnecessary. Particularly as the work face gradually moved south and depth increased. Focusing on reducing task loading for the digger, a version of tyrolean was trialled and successfully adopted. Secured to the surface tripod and a bolt belay, at -24m on the dig face, this travel (Guide) line runs through a jammer at each belay, allowing either operator make fine adjustment to its length. Ensuring loads avoid contact with walls and RSJ during hauling. Connected to a pulley by three mallions, the kibble descends normally to -15m. Here it follows the travel line as it curves away south, guided/suspended by the travel line up to the working face. As depth increases so further belays will be required.
A complete hauling cycle takes some three minutes; from working face to surface and back. Of itself, a minor period. However, this period represents an increasing workload for the winchman. With little or no time between hauling cycles to take respite, it has become physically demanding. On arrival at the work face, it takes but seconds for kibbles to be swiftly exchanged for the next cycle. Landing at surface, discharging a kibble into the barrow takes less than twenty seconds, it’s during this brief hiatus, the winchman needs prepare capstan, rope and No-Go-Back-O-Scope for returning an empty kibble to the face. To offset these physical affects, it’s worth having a minute’s break, perhaps every five kibbles?
As the shaft was excavated “Paul’s Pot”, (0.9m diameter), appeared. Descending from its top edge at -22.5m to -26m; formed in the eastern wall of the main shaft. Beyond the immediate squeeze, in the small cavity beyond, a narrow, vertical crevice descends further, (depth needs to be plumbed), from which may be heard running water. This water course is likely that sinking in the northern shaft, at -26.5m. As more spoil was removed the ragged, eroded wall, surrounding “Paul’s Pot” enhanced this curious feature all the more. Opposite, “Paul’s Pot”, a bulbous formation emerged from the western wall, “The Tongue”. As the floor lowered, “The Tongue” threatened to reduce the diggable area; potentially even forming a floor of the shaft. Presently, a 0.6m corridor, with gravel floor, extends from “The Ribs”, four metres to the South Rift working area; formed along the fault.
Final observations of 2021 are the strength of draught emerging from the Crevice within “Paul’s Pot”, drying the shaft walls up to -15m. Second, the vertical edge, exposed by PMcG below and adjacent the south -24m datum, considering adjacent features, it may herald another pitch?
Storms Arwen and Barra damaged part of the weather canopy, successive gales also contributed. Maintenance need include replacing the damaged canopy with metal sheeting, kindly offered by PMcG. Most important, the field reservoir requires thought and a better, finer filter and work on unblocking the pipe to the cisterns; each also needs cleaning.
Manpower, (attendees) for 2021
Cathal Mullane, Des McNally, Jim Warny, Matt Randall, Martyn Farr, Lenny Smith, Paul McGrath, Cheg Chester, Pat Cronin.
38 Digging sessions
36 Maintenance sessions
3 Survey sessions
97 Generator, hours run.
17 Cans of fuel
32 Metric tonnes (Conservative estimate)
Running Totals 2016 to 2021
3083 Manhours total (North and South Ends).
1050 Manhours (North End)
2033 Manhours (South End).
6197 Kibbles (South End)
923 Nets (South End)
7128 Loads lifted (South End)
250 Metric tonnes (Conservative, collective estimate)
35kgs is the figure now applied as a conservative, average weight for net and kibble.
(Applied even though a net can weigh between 60kg and 100kgs).
If a working day of eight hours is applied, the time spent for one man is 385 days.
120 euro for generator petrol, (multiple contributors).
140 sterling for the replacement 9mm lifeline.
145 sterling for scaffold clips, (many left in stock).
90 euro for galvanized scaffold tubing.
30 euro for crap quality plastic sheeting.
1 Wheel barrow kindly donated by JW.