Expedition 67 to the Gouffre Berger
The entrance to the world's deepest known pothole, the Gouffre Berger, is situated 6,000 feet up in the Dauphine Alps, near Grenoble, France.
It was first discovered by a caving group from the "Club Alpine Francais" who spent over three years in its exploration. In 1956, after three years of hard caving and steady progress deeper and deeper into the Cave, it was tackled by an international team, led by the French.
The Expedition which was backed by the French Army and Air Force, involved over 100 people and cost several thousands of pounds.
Two large surface, and three underground camps were set up. The Cave was finally bottomed at 1122 metres (3,650 ft.) below the entrance, and over four miles from the point at which it had started. At this point, the exploration was halted by a sump, a place where the passage becomes flooded to the roof. It was thought that this sump was impassable and no attempt was made to dive it.
During the following years, several attempts were made to bottom the Cave by teams from various countries, but the only ones to succeed were British. In 1962 a 38 man team, gathered from Clubs throughout the country, succeeded in getting 12 men to the terminal sump. I was a member of this Expedition and became more intrigued with the Gouffre Berger and its vast wealth of stalagmite formations and possibilities.
During the French explorations 1953-56, the river, which runs throughout the 'Berger' was dyed by fluorescene and it was proved that it emerged lower down the mountain, from the 'Vats' of Sassanage, which is now a show cave in this old world village. It was also noted that the many ornamental fountains also emitted green coloured water. All this proved one thing, that beyond the terminal sump in the 'Berger' there lies enough cave to add substantially to the world depth record.
In 1963 another British team reached the bottom of the Cave and attempted to dive the sump, but although they were ultimately beaten back by bad weather and flooded Cave, they did pass one sump into a small cavern, only to be confronted by another. According to the Geographical Block Survey, this could keep happening for one mile. During this period, my Club colleagues and I were preparing to return to the 'Berger', our intention was to try and find a route over the terminal sump. Our efforts were to be based on the fact that water erodes its way through limestone, finding lower levels and leaving its original path above. It was these theoretical old stream passages that we hoped to be able to climb into and so by-pass the sump.
August 1964 saw us back at the 'Berger'. We established our base camp at a depth of 1,500 ft. and started to climb into the roof of the gallery at a pre-chosen spot 100 ft. lower. This place (called the balcony) was chosen for our main project for two reasons - one, the Cave and river dropped abruptly for 100 ft. and secondly, the passage became much smaller after this point, which led us to assume that it was of more recent origin.
After our seventh day underground, our climbers managed to get into a gallery above the main Cave - the last 10 ft. of this very difficult 180 ft. climb consisted only of compressed mud and loose rocks - old river-bed deposit - just what we had hoped for.
The gallery seemed to end after about 50 ft. and we became somewhat disappointed but further investigation showed that it was a major fall which had been covered by stalagmite formation, in a short time we forced a tight route through the chaos of boulders which brought us out into a magnificant chamber. The stalagmite formation and its orange and white colouring, rate amongst the finest in the world, and to have been the first men to step into this chamber was adequate reward for the effort which it had taken.
Unfortunately, we were only able to continue for a few hundred yards before the floor once more gave out into the cavern below. However, our lights, which had long beams and had been bought specially for this purpose, could not find anything in front of us. Our plans then were to return to the lower Cave, go further down and climb again, but the weather broke and this section of the cave became flooded. We had no alternative but to withdraw.
We have had to wait for two years to return because after hailing our find as 'The First Major Discovery since the Gouffre Berger', the French closed the Cave to all teams other than their own.
After two seasons of access into the Cave, their report indicates that they did not quite get to the 'sump' although two men did descend the last pitch, the 175' 'Hurricane' and 100 m. short of the bottom.
After 18 months of preparation, which includes the making of equipment, writing for commercial assistance, and extensive training, we found ourselves once more at the entrance of the Gouffre Berger.
Our original team of 24 had been reduced, through various reasons, to 21, these men were in excellent physical and mental condition, and very enthusiastic about the project.
They were under no illusions as to what lay beneath their feet, as the majority were on the 1964 trip. They all knew that for the next two weeks they would see beauty and hell; they would never be dry; they would carry, drag, climb, walk, swim until they ached from head to foot; their only light would be what they carried; they would ultimately at the end of a shift sleep fitlessly in a damp sleeping bag, only to awake to the pitch darkness, which would be their start to a new day, after a struggle to raise a light they would find when they started to prepare a meal that their knife, fork and spoon had got 'trod in', but they would not complain too much, because that is speleology,. and speleology is their sport.
The first move towards our return to the Berger was in mid 1965 when we wrote for permission to descend the cave during August 1967. However, we were advised that such permits would not be granted until 1966, but the tone of the letter implied that permission would be granted.
Immediately 1966 was 'in', we re-applied and were ultimately granted permission on April 29th, but by then we had already commenced our practical preparations i.e. ladder making.
The following 16 months were very busy ones indeed, the cost of the Expedition we estimated would be approximately £3,000 and this would have to be raised.
This involved the writing of over 1000 letters asking for support in the shape of food, equipment and clothing, the results came slowly at first but gained momentum later. This greatly encouraged us and led us to believe that 'Speleology' or 'Caving' is steadily being accepted as a sport and a science, and not just recognised as a 'fringe' occupation.
It was decided that 24 men would be the maximum needed underground and 20 the minimum, as the photographers were to be allowed a free hand with as little 'sherparing' as possible, other than their own equipment, which was by now quite formidable. We ultimately finished up with 21 underground and 3 surface, all of which were parted from £40 for the 'kitty'.
Training meets were arranged for every third weekend, these included deep mine shafts, Pots and Caves not less than severe grading and Mountain visits to North Wales. This programme was supplemented with mid-week sessions of weight training and rowing, the latter being a very good exercise for ladder work.
As Ken Pearce was also arranging to visit the Berger at the same time, we agreed to equip the cave jointly, i.e. we would both supply 50% of the tackle needed to bottom it and his team would put it into the cave, and we would bring it out, thus saving both time and expense for both Expeditions.
The communications were to be supplied by the Technical Projects Unit of the B.S.A. under the auspices of Dr. Harold Lord, who had developed a new type mini-phone for this purpose - these were to prove to be the ultimate in cave telephones.
In the summer of 1966, a small party of us visited the area to arrange for a new camp site, and visit our good friend Messieur Petzl, who had helped us considerably in our negotiations. As Expeditions were no longer allowed to camp on the Moliere, we settled for a spot half way to the cave from the vehicles, this would be hard work initially but would be easier to and from the cave.
The only problem at this site was the lack of water, the only supply being a small trickle 1400 ft. away over rugged ground. To overcome this difficulty we obtained a high tensile polythene pipe to run the water into the surface camp - this later proved invaluable.
Finally, after 18 months of planning, writing, manufacturing and training, we set off for the Gouffre Berger, for what we were beginning to consider the 'Easy Bit'.
Friday (4th August) - The advance party totalling 17 men left for France in the early afternoon. They travelled in various private cars plus a lorry & trailer, which carried five tons of food and equipment, two drivers and one passenger.
On arrival at Calais, the lorry was impounded by the French Customs Officials who could not understand how three men were to eat 2 ton of food in four weeks. However, when our food officer later arrived on the scene, armed with 'papers' and 'lists', and an official looking 'book' he managed to get it released.
Saturday (5th August) was spent by all parties in travelling through France. The first of them started to arrive in Grenoble at 2 p.m. on the Sunday (6th August). On arrival at the Plateau, they found the Pearce Expedition already there and carrying their gear over the Moliere to the camp site two miles away. As they were there first, they 'bagged' the biggest camp site, but our smaller one was quite adequate. As our lorry had not yet arrived, the men had to manage the night without gear, as all but their sleeping bags were packed in it.
At a little after midnight on Monday a.m. (7th August) a call was received over the 'walkie talkie' radio saying that the lorry had arrived at the Maison Forestiere and would be arriving on the Plateau first thing in the morning. The Maison Forestiere is a small Cafe/Hotel at the foot of the 4½ mile long mountain track which connects the main road with the Sornin. This track is very dangerous, and in parts has sheer drops of up to 2000 ft. Duly at 8 a.m. the lorry arrived, and the work of ' sherparing'the gear to the camp commenced. All the men worked extremely well and by nightfall over 65% of the load was over at the camp site. Also during the day, the 1,400 ft. of pipe, which had been brought to convey a small remote water supply into the camp, was carried from the lorry and installed. There was now water in the camp. This pipe may seem to be an extravagance but without it water carrying would entail a ¾ of an hour's walk over very rough ground, plus great difficulty in filling vessels, so it was absolutely necessary, and saved many man hours (and tempers!)
The next day, Tuesday (8th August) two men went into Grenoble shopping for the Expedition, whilst the remainder finished carrying the rest of the gear from lorry to camp.
By this time, Pearce's team were putting ladder and equipment into the cave, as previously arranged.
As a supply trip to the Boudoir was planned for the morrow, the evening was spent sorting food and equipment, whilst 4 men went into the cave to rig the Telefrique from the Holiday Slides down to Cairn Hall. This was later to save much time and effort.
The 'sorting' party then worked until dark carrying the food etc. to the cave entrance in readiness for an early start next morning.
At 6.30 a.m. Wednesday (9th August) morning, everyone was 'up' and 'out' doing a 'carry' to the cave before breakfast. Directly after eating, preparations were made for the descent, and at 10 a.m. 11 men set off for the hole. The Telefrique party were still asleep at this time, as they were very late back from the cave the night previous - they planned to follow later.
The descent to the Holiday Slides went very well - out of 50 assorted loads only one box of carbide was dropped, but it was all salvaged. The Telefrique, erected the night previously, worked extremely smoothly and saved much hard work. By 2 p.m. 4 men were down into Cairn Hall and moving off into the Meandre with gear, closely followed by the rest. This had, what was left, of a wooden floor installed in it - this was done by the French during 1965 & 1966. Although it was creaking and very unstable, it nevertheless was a great help. Five hours were spent in ferrying gear from Cairn Hall to the Boudoir, and by 7 p.m. it was all stacked in the ante-room. By this time the Telefrique party had caught up and were installing the telephones, they continued on down the cave.
Unfortunately, one of the party dropped a telephone. It was damaged but not beyond repair, it would receive but not transmit. At this point, his lamp (home made) exploded, he was then liberally sworn at by all. At 7.15 p.m. the party left the Boudoir, and the first men emerged onto the surface at 8 p.m. They were met by a violent thunderstorm, the sky being lit up with large flashes every few seconds. On reaching the camp, a good fire and a hot brew was awaiting them, having been prepared by the surface party. 10 p.m. and the telephone party called from the top of Aldo's pitch, and were instructed to return to the surface on account of the weather.
Thursday (10th August) was spent in rest and preparation, this was mainly to allow the Pearce Expedition a free run, as it was to be their main 'push'.
A big 'push' was also planned for us the next day.
Three men went in at 7 p.m. to carry on laying the telephones, as we had by previous agreement to lay them as far as the Balcony. It then began to rain, but Pearce's main assault team had gone in. 11 p.m. our party rang from the bottom of Garby's shaft and reported all was well. They phoned again at 9 a.m. Friday (11th August) to say that all three of them were very tired and were going to sleep in the Great Rubble Heap. They also reported that the Pearce teams were shattered and demoralised but were carrying on to Camp I, but several of them were on their way out and were not coming back, as they said they had a "strange feeling of danger".
At 10.30 a.m., three photographers left for Garby's pitch, they were to photograph the descent of the rest of the party, who followed shortly after. The rest of the party consisted of nine men, plus 2 tons of gear, however, they were in good spirits and worked very hard, so the stuff moved very well.
By now the telephone party were at Camp I and the telephones in as far as the Cascades of the Tyrolean. 1 a.m. Saturday (12th August) the team arrived at the top of Aldo's, they had now been on the 'go' for 12½ hours. It then took 4 men a further four hours to lower the gear down the pitch, whilst the rest ferried it through to the River Gallery.
At this point one of the men took ill and was not in very good shape, so it was decided to camp at this point. After a brew everyone went to sleep, it was 6 a.m. At 12 noon, the team were awakened by some of the Pearce team, who informed them that their attempt was being abandoned and that Pearce was withdrawing his men and equipment from the cave. As this could seriously effect our own trip, the Deputy Leader made contact with him and tried to re-arrange things with him but to no avail. He was told that he (Pearce) was withdrawing all his equipment and the telephones, and if we wished to use them we would have to make fresh arrangements with the people that he had borrowed them from (on the surface).
In view of this situation, plus the fact that one of our members was still ill, it was decided that the Deputy Leader, the sick man and one other should go out and try to sort things out. On their arrival at Garby's pitch, they heard noises like an express train, and found that torrents of water were pouring down all the pitches, this made it an extremely damp exit.
On arrival at the surface camp, they found that many of the tents had blown down, and that another member had arrived from England. They also found that Etienne Lemaire was still in camp - he is a Belgian friend of ours who had earlier helped in with equipment. He offered to go to Belgium and fetch equipment for us should we need it. A friend indeed.
Sunday (13th August) - underground the men carried on with the original plans, plus taking over the rigging of the rest of the cave - this by agreement should have been done by the other Expedition.
On the surface, the Deputy Leader contacted the Medical Officer, Dr. Kidd, who had just arrived, he expressed his wish to continue caving with us. Also Harold Lord was contacted, who was in charge of communications, he stated that he would maintain such communication while so ever there was someone in the cave. Ladder was also reborrowed from its owners. The situation had started to resolve itself.
A few of the Pearce team still wished to have a crack at the bottom, and expressed a wish to join our trip, and were duly accepted. They were all good cavers. We had an emergency stock of rope and ladder in the lorry, this was partly for rescue or replacement, and partly to cover us in the advent of a mishap with the Pearce transport, which could have left us in a sorry position. Our total amount of equipment would get us to the bottom, but we needed extra to hang from climbs, and also, we hoped, if anything 'went'. It was when this equipment was being collected from the lorry, that the Leader and the rest of the main party arrived. After a brief discussion on the state of affairs, a re-organisation took place, out of which we emerged in a strong position. We were about 3½ days in front of schedule, had all the gear we needed, plus a few more men, added to that Camp I was established, and its occupants in high morale.
Monday (14th August) was spent in rest and preparation in consideration of the new arrivals. We visited our good friend M. Petzl, who had helped us considerably with regards to camp site etc. and informed him that we would still be going ahead with our Expedition. He was very pleased to hear this - he is a very genuine speleologist. A fresh supply of paraffin was brought back to take underground, as that which was down there was of the wrong type and was highly volatile, this was causing us some concern.
We arose at 8 a.m. Tuesday (15th August) and prepared for the descent. M. Petzl, who had spent the night with us, insisted on lighting fires and helping us to carry gear to the cave, we certainly are blessed with good friends. Shortly before our descent, Ken Pearce approached our Expedition, via the leader, with regard to doing a joint trip, this we declined, as by now a three man team were nearly at Camp II and any alterations could jeopardise our own efforts, also there was not sufficient man power to balance equally between the two projects. However, we offered to let him know if and when we reached the bottom, so that if he could get sufficient support he would be able to come down and have a 'swim'. This he ultimately did.
At 11 a.m. we entered the cave with two packs each, and had a fairly good trip through the cave, and arrived in Camp I at 6 p.m. We found everyone in good form and the man who had been sick had come back into the cave now fully recovered. There were now 21 of our team (the full amount), plus the doctor, plus 6 of the Pearce team who had joined us. This made the Camp I area a little crowded, but it was certainly good for morale. 11 p.m. the three men tackling to Camp II returned from Claudines, and reported that the water was fairly low and not as desperate as we had thought it would be. After a short rest and some food, these three set off once more, to stay at Camp II - such was their spirit. The rest retired about midnight.
At 4.30 a.m. and 7.30 a.m. on the following morning Wednesday (16th August) we were awakened by the telephone urgently buzzing - both times it was warnings from the surface, as up above fierce thunderstorms were raging, and we were advised to keep clear of the canal sections. The three who had left for Camp II should have got there safely but we were not certain, as the phones were not yet through that far. We felt a little anxiety for them.
At 10.30 a.m., the whole camp was awake, after eating we split into several projects:-
1. Three men left to try for Camp II taking with them the telephone equipment followed shortly after by a three man supply team.
2. Three more men went back to Aldo's, to bring down more supplies.
3. A five man climbing team were to try and reclimb Pegasus Bridge and look for further possibilities. It was hoped at this stage that we might be able to open a 'dry' overhead route to Camp II thus maintaining contact whatever the weather, however, this did not come about.
4. The photographers continued their work from the Balcony.
The two teams who set off for Camp II both arrived there safely with little difficulty, established phone contact, and found the first three there quite cheerful, although they had forgotten their stove. Not to be beaten, they had fabricated a Benghazi stove from an ammo tin and sand, plus paraffin. The supply team took equipment down as far as Gaches shaft and returned to Camp II feeling quite pleased. Then they were informed by the surface party that once more it was raining heavily, and were advised to stay put, but as they had no sleeping gear with them they decided to make a quick dash back to Camp I. This they did quite comfortably as it takes quite some time for the water to reach the level of the canals (actually there was little change in the water level). Pegasus Bridge was reeclimbed, and the photographers planned to go up there the next day. A new climb was started in the cloakroom, which looked very promising but it was on flowstone and difficulty was experienced in keeping bolts or pegs in. During the day several other probable climbs were investigated mainly with the high powered lights which we had brought for this purpose. It was discovered that there was definitely an overhead passage running above the canals but it had repeatedly collapsed into the lower stream thus giving it a viaduct effect, this made it an impracticable position. This system appeared to continue as far as Claudines and had it had continuity, it would have fulfilled our previous hopes. By 8 p.m. all had returned to Camp I, other than the party from Pearce's team who had set off to join the men at Camp II.
At this point we were concerned as to the condition of the weather, and if we would be able to get any deeper than we already had. After much discussion on the subject we were all resolved to have a go for the bottom, given half a chance. Just after midnight we all retired.
It was 1.30 p.m. on Thursday (17th August) when we awoke, after nearly 12 hours solid sleep. After breakfast 3 more men, including the Doctor, left for Camp II to prepare for an assault on the bottom the following day. They were preceded by 3 photographers, who were to photograph the canals, Claudines and on to Camp II. A three man supply team also visited Camp II this day, and returned to Camp I with the photographers. The climbers worked all day at the project in the Cloakroom, but had no success owing to the very soft flowstone. In Camp I, the 8 man team which remained retired before midnight - they were to join the Camp II party for the assault. In Camp II Ken Pearce arrived, he was going to dive alone.
At this time our 3 man tackling team had reached the sump. During their trip they searched the roof for possibilities and climbed one but to no avail. It appeared that the best chances of getting over the sump, lay in the rifts above the final canal.
We agreed to let Pearce, along with the six of his original team who had accompanied us down, have a go for the bottom first. Then we would follow in two parties 6 hours later, the latter party to detackle. The weather at this time was beginning to settle a little, and we were encouraged.
Camp I Friday (18th August) the 7 man team who were to join the bottoming party arose at 10.30 a.m. and after eating, set off for Camp II and the sump. They carried only one personal pack each, and made Camp II by 3 p.m.
In Camp II, the Pearce team left for the sump at 11 a.m. About this time our 3 'tackling' men arrived back from the sump, very tired, but in good spirits. They had worked very hard and thoroughly and done a great job. They quickly ate and retired.
At 3 p.m., the team arrived from Camp I.
At 5 p.m., the first of two five man parties set out for the sump, the second team followed an hour later, they were to detackle, and also contained the Doctor, as we thought this to be the most tactical position in case of mishap.
The first team met the Pearce team coming back at the bottom of the Hurricane. He had made a dive, but would give no news. By this time, our No. 2 party had reached the top of the Little Monkey shaft and were concerned that Pearce had not been met before this point. According to schedule, they should have made contact between the Grand Cascade and Gaches. On trying to find the phone to gain a weather forecast, it was found to have been removed - not by our teams. As the weather was still a bit uncertain, this caused a little concern. This team decided to wait at this point until contact was made, fearing that a further team would really cause complications on the pitches.
The first team made good progress to the sump taking photographs en route. On their return to the bottom of the Hurricane Shaft they found most of the Pearce team still waiting. Meanwhile, the 3 men who had tackled up to the bottom had come back down the cave to have a go at another climb, this turned out to be another one that did not 'go', they made contact with the 2nd party at the top of the Monkey just as the first of the Pearce team reached the top. No. 2 team had waited here for five hours, and was now depleted to two, as the other 3 had become extremely cold and felt that they were 'pushing it' to go further, and had returned to Camp II. However, one of the 'tacklers' volunteered to go to the bottom again and make up the 3 required. (The first time it had been known for someone to bottom twice in one trip).
At approximately 12.30 a.m. Saturday (19th August) the last 3 were on the ledge between the Monkey and the Hurricane, also there was some of the Pearce team plus our own 1st team, who had had to wait 1½ hours at the bottom of Hurricane for their turn to climb, they ultimately arrived back at Camp II at 3 a.m. and immediately went to sleep in wet clothes and sleeping bags. This trip had taken 17½ hours hard going. The trip from Camp II and back was compared with 'doing' Penyghent twice.
The No. 2 team had, by now, been to the sump and had investigated several possibilities and theories in the final canal and were on their way back detackling. The lower cave was cleared of gear back as far as Gaches shaft, where the majority of it was dumped for collection later. This team arrived back at Camp II at 7.30 a.m. Everyone slept until 3 p.m.
After eating, the gear was collected from Gaches, the Camp II party was then split into three smaller teams ready to evacuate to Camp I. At 6.30 p.m., the first team left for Camp I all heavily laden, as we had decided to do one big push of one trip each. 3 hours later the second team set off, they were followed at a similar interval by the third team who detackled.
Shortly after midnight Sunday (20th August) the first party arrived at Camp I. They soon fed and retired. At 4.30 a.m., the second party arrived, but had burst their sleeping bag container at Claudines, and their bags were carrying about 4 gall, of water. To cope with this, shift sleeping was arranged i.e. the photographers took photographs (as they had been doing - based at Camp I during the assault on the bottom). Approximately 5 hours later, the last team arrived complete with tackle from Camp II.
At this point the cave was cleared back as far as Camp I. Morale was very high -as it had been throughout.
Everyone was up by 10.30 a.m. and preparations were made for the withdrawal to the surface. The load amounted to 50 bags and 20 containers - total weight 1½ tons. 3.30 p.m. the exodus began, everyone worked extremely hard and the gear was steadily heaved up to the River Gallery, after which the party split up into small teams, and were stationed on and in between pitches, the lowest men moving up only after the last bag. Once more our 3 man team followed in the rear detackling. This move went very smoothly although it was extremely strenuous.
The first man surfaced at 7 a.m. on Monday (21st August) and the last one at 11 a.m. - the cave was now cleared. The rest of the day was spent in relaxing and drying out both clothes and torso's. Some of the gear was brought from the cave entrance to the surface camp, but no one needed encouraging to turn in early.
The following 5 days were spent in repacking equipment and ferrying it back up the plateau to the lorry. On the Tuesday night after coming out of the cave, a fine dinner and booze up was held at the Maison Forestiere, the following morning it was found that our Expedition had suffered its only casualties.
On the Thursday (24th August) after a day of carrying gear, a swimming party set off for Grenoble. Unfortunately as it started on its way back, a bearing in the gear box broke up. As we could not afford to put it into a garage, the lorry was parked in a lay-by in the town and two days were spent in stripping down the gear box and replacing the bearing. Credit due to the men who did this under such conditions. This necessitated establishing Camp IV - in the back of the lorry, as the 'mechanics' slept there.
Monday (28th August) the Expedition broke up and all members went their own ways.
Although we did not make a new world depth record, we are very pleased with the results of our Expedition.
We succeeded in getting a total of 21 men to the terminal siphon, and accumulated a lot of fresh data concerning the cave.
The investigations carried out in the final canal by the last team of 3, show that the water entering from sources other than the main stream is about 4° warmer, and must come from the surface by a much shorter route. The surface/underground relative survey shows that in this area, the siphon and canal is only about 300 ft. below the surface, this leaves much room for thought.
Several short climbs were made in this area up into the rifts, and we are convinced that if the siphon is to be overpassed - this is the spot where it will 'go' from.
Another theory which evolved, was that the Berger had, at a point about ¼ mile from the siphon, worn down into an existing cave system running from an unknown source in the Engins gorge, to the Vats of Sassenage. This ties up with the difference in water temperature - it also leaves the 'true Berger' yet to be followed.
We had hoped to set up a 3rd Camp in the final canal area (dry oxbow) so that more work could be carried out at this depth, but owing to the inclement weather conditions, the idea had to be abandoned.
One thing is certain, that out of this Expedition has emerged enough information to encourage a further trip.
As may be judged from the brevity of this report, there were very few problems of a medical nature. The majority of cavers taking part in the Expedition were young and in strong positive health. This factor together with the high quality of food supplied underground and the high morale was responsible for the low incidence of illness and injury.
There were no major illnesses or accidents underground. Minor abrasions occurred, especially the expected cases of "Berger Hands".* Even this was lessened by the plentiful supply and variety of hand creams available. Health on the surface was equally good and there were few cases of diarrhoea. The only serious injury was a non-caving one due to a car accident.
Medical supplies and dressings were available at the surface camp, camp 1 and camp 2 together with a do-it-yourself instructions for use in the absence of the medical officer. I would like to express the thanks of the Expedition to G.Q. Parachute Company for the loan of a Paraguard stretcher and to the various drug firms who generously donated supplies.
Finally I would like to thank the Pegasus Club for a memorable and enjoyable caving trip.
* 'Berger Hands' is a condition which occurs after continuous soaking in water and mud, whereupon the fingers particularly, dry and split, becoming extremely painful.
The task of accumulating enough equipment for an expedition of this size is quite a formidable one. After the decisions as to what materials to use, and how to get it into the cave had been decided, it- still remained to manufacture, beg or borrow in order to obtain the equipment needed. This preparation took 18 months.
The total amount of food and equipment that ultimately went into the cave was 2 tons and after consuming food, carbide and paraffin, 1½ tons was returned to the surface.
One of our early problems was, how do we get all the stuff to France? We solved that one by the purchase of an ex Army 1 ton Morris Commercial lorry, for which we were fortunate enough to be able to borrow a trailer. Needless to say, by the time all was packed on board, both lorry and trailer were filled to capacity but nevertheless quite adequate for the job.
The other main items of equipment are listed as follows:
LADDERS - We took a total of 2,600 ft. of electron ladder with us. This was sufficient to get to the bottom and a little to spare to hang from climbing projects. This amount did not allow for any major extension which might be achieved, but this was covered by the agreement with Dr. Pearce to equip the cave between us, so releasing about 700 ft. of our ladder.
To get this ladder, we made 1,300 ft. of new to add to our existing stock of 900 ft. and the rest was borrowed from other clubs who had members on the Expedition.
The ladder specification is as follows:-
WIRE ROPE - 7/16" circ. No. of strands 6. Wires per strand 7 galvanised plough steel. Breaking strain 0.7 tons.
TUBE - aluminium alloy - ½" o.d. x 16 swg. Rung length 5".
METHOD OF FIXING - tube plugged both ends, wire secured with steel pin through end of tube and filled with a fibre glass resin/catalyst to complete the securing of the rung and to exclude moisture. This is a proved and tested method. When stripping some of our old ladder in order to save rungs, we found that after 5 years continuous use, the wire and pin within the resin were in perfect condition.
BELAY ENDS - a set of swages were purchased and all ends were talurited by ourselves.
ROPE - We had no hesitation as to the rope to use, as we had for several years used Ulstron rope with great success. We took with us 3,500 ft. of 1½” to 1¼” circumference rope. 1,000 ft. of this was new and the rest from existing stock. The older rope was cut for the smaller pitches, and the new left for the big ones.
CONTAINERS - As we have had experience of trying to get food down the 'Berger' in sack bags etc., we came to the conclusion that the most suitable method of packing would be in a stout polythene container fastened onto a frame. After much searching for a ready made container which would suit our purpose, we found a 10 gall, polythene jerry can with 2 necks, these were ideal in material strength and in shape, also the manufacturers gave us very reasonable terms which enabled us to purchase 20 of them. The problem then was making a reasonable access into them. We did this by cutting an opening approximately 6" x 4" into the side and then fitting it with an alloy and steel flange plate, which screwed up onto a neophrene seal - these worked very successfully. By virtue of the fact that they were fitted with two movable handles, they were very easy to handle, and to belay for hauling.
The frames used for carrying these containers were of the ex army aluminium type, designed for carrying mortar base.
We are pleased to say that food packed in this manner suffered no damage whatsoever.
We also experimented with cardboard tube containers, such as the type that lino etc. is packed in. They are very robust, are supposed to be waterproof and in addition we painted them with bitumastic paint. The idea was to take these as far as Camp I and then dispose of them, but alas they never got that far. One of them came apart at the top of Aldo's pitch and showered half hundredweight of 1 man 1 day 'goody' rations down 170 ft. (by all accounts quite a spectacle). The rest suffered a similar fate.
DINGHIES - The ex RAF one man type were used - these were placed 1 at Lake Cadoux, and 1 in the canals between Camp I and Camp II. We planned, if necessary, to use air beds along the final canal to the sump, but we managed this section with inflated exposure suits.
MARKING - All containers and bags etc. were marked with either reflective sheet, on which numbers were painted in black, or directly with reflective paint. This is a very useful method of marking as it enables the individual light to pick out packs at quite a few yards, and often saved them from getting left.
SLEEPING BAGS - Initially we considered using terylene filled sleeping bags owing to their drying qualities, but on further studying the subject, we decided that although ideal in material, they would be too bulky for our purpose so we settled for a good, not too big, down filled bag with a draw cord neck.
AIR BEDS - There is no alternative to an inflatable mattress, it packs small, weighs little and offers great comfort. These were selected from the LiLo range.
The sleeping bags and air beds were packed into polythene lined kit bags in 3 man units complete with stove and candles. The candles are used largely for acquiring instant light on awakening. For this purpose they are extremely useful.
STOVES - Once again we had no hesitation in selecting the 1 pint Optimus paraffin stove. This type folds easily, is self pricking and has no detachable parts to get lost, all very important features when they are to be used for caving.
TENTS - As on our previous expeditions, we collected an assortment of old tents for underground use, but as there were quite a lot of men in the camps at one time, they proved to be an encumbrance and we certainly would not use them again. Everyone finished up by sleeping without tents. We agreed, for future reference, that the ideal arrangement would be to take sheets of light weight tent material to lay across bunches of men if there was an abundance of drips. This would save direct impact of water onto sleeping bag.
LIGHTING - Carbide lights are the only practical rechargeable form of illumination that can be used on a prolonged stay underground and so obviously they are what were used.
To avoid constant lamp filling, the men converted hand lamps into gas generators, these gave a light varying from 12 to 20 hours which enabled one to 'do a shift' of 12-14 hours and still have light whilst cooking up in camp - all on one filling. For this purpose 3 cwt. of carbide, packed in 1 lb tins was used, 2 cwt was burned and the rest placed in emergency stacks. Personal auxiliary lights were various forms of small electric lamps, essential for the wet pitches.
One large Tilly light was taken down for assisting the photographers with general lighting. This also played a very important role at Camp I as general illumination, and did a great deal towards the comfort and morale of the teams staying there - this was affectionately known as the 'Sun'. Had the advantages of such a light been fully realised beforehand, there would have been another one at Camp II.
CLIMBING - As our main projects lay in the climbing into roof passages and avens, quite a lot of attention had to be paid as to the variety of equipment used.
The climbers were given a fairly free hand in this matter - as far as the funds would allow and the following items are the ones that they chose:-
Etrier Tapes etc.
Red Head Bolts
Socket Head ¼" Screws 50
Keys & Brackets for same
Ice Pegs 6
PERSONAL - Clothing was basically as follows from the skin outwards:- String vest (long sleeved) and string long Johns. Interlock woollen vest and long Johns. Woollen sweater.
Socks - first pair nylon with woollen soles. second - woollen climbing socks.
Boots - high ankled leather, with moulded sole.
Exposure suit - when necessary.
Boiler Suit - Nylon. This was specially designed for caving. Nylon was selected for its durability and very low wet weight properties. Another important factor was that it dried very quickly with only body heat to motivate it.
Gloves - Industrial. These were used mainly for hauling and lowering tackle.
Each man carried a change of clothes, including woollen hat, scarf etc for camp 'lounging', he also supplied his own mess tins, knife, fork, spoon, mug etc. Personal belaying equipment ranged from conventional waist length and karabiner to nylon tape harnesses.
SURFACE - All personnel supplied all their own effects for surface camping.
However, in order to get water into the camp from a very small inaccessible source 1,400 ft. of polythene tube had to be laid across some very rugged terrain. This, once in place, kept a constant supply of water 'on tap'.
RESCUE - To cover the event of a rescue having to take place, we took with us 1 neoprene anti-exposure bag, mainly for the wet sections; 1 carrying sheet and 1 folding stretcher. The first aid equipment was split into 2 main units and deposited 1 at Camp I and 1 at Camp II.
Holiday Slides 1
Holiday Slides 2
Holiday Slides 3
Relay Pits 1
Relay Pits 2
Relay Pits 3
No. 16 & Traverse
No. 24 & Traverse
Mast & P
No. of Belays
The extended exploration of large cave systems and most cave rescues are made more efficient and safer if a good communication system is available over which messages can be passed by unskilled people without difficulty. Up to the present time no equipment was available for the special duty of underground communication and all available telephones have been tried with various degrees of success. Of special interest are the Army telephones, types L & J, which can usually be relied upon to perform their duty; once! Unfortunately cavers, being what they are, will not appreciate the shortcomings of these units, which, while being supposedly waterproof do in fact let water in, but refuse to let it out again. Only a few days left like this will reduce the contents to a rusty useless mass.
The problem really started, therefore, in providing a telephone which would survive the rigours of water and mud, violent temperature changes from a man's pocket into icy water, being left for months or years without attention, and finally withstand the onslaughts of the caver, who in general cannot be said to be sensitive to the requirements of electronic equipment. The telephone should also be small and light enough to be carried without encumbering the man, and in this way not attract ill-treatment.
These then are the basic requirements which existed before any development work began. Since then, however, more stringent specifications have been created. For after initial trials of prototype units, it was realised that great potential existed for this phone to be used for other purposes, such as controlling the Inductor phone and radio equipment and to be used in conjunction with a telephone exchange. The development was stopped at this point for all these new requirements to be built in.
Ideas on the possible form of the waterproof telephone had been formulated and forgotten for some years and it required the 1967 Gouffre Berger Expedition to provide the stimulation to get down to the manufacture of prototype units.
The container was first considered, not perhaps the obvious priority, but experience in other fields had shown that this always was the weak link for delicate apparatus and if one first designed the equipment, one was sometimes prohibited from using a perfect box because of design features of the apparatus it was required to contain. A die cast aluminium box was finally chosen and though not perfect, it was considered the best that was available, and not too expensive. Doubts as to its lending itself to carry waterproofing proved justified and this problem has not even now been completely overcome.
For economy a single transducer unit was to be used, this was cheaper and made for a smaller telephone than one containing a microphone and earphone. Tests showed that an aluminium diaphragm could permit complete sealing and would work even when covered in drops of water. The transducer chosen was a balanced armature earphone, common on army equipment in the 1950's and found in the Headset type DLR 5. This was fitted with a neoprene washer over a hole cut in the box. The lid was modified and a neoprene sheet used as a seal. This also served as a pressure balancing diaphragm when holes were drilled in the lid to allow air onto the outside of the neoprene sheet. This pressure balancing is very necessary to prevent the transducer diaphragm from forcing the balanced armature against the magnet pole faces, thus rendering it inoperable. The resulting container proved waterproof on test.
The low output of this type of transducer made the use of an amplifier essential and on the grounds of economy, it was decided that the amplifier should be associated with the transducer in the 'speak' position. This leads to maximum economy of batteries since power is only used when speaking.
Many hours of trials and circuit modification went into the amplifier design until finally there emerged a direct coupled two transistor circuit with transformer output. This incorporated some special features over and above normal amplifier design which can be mentioned. Although p.n.p. transistors were used, economies in components and improved stability was achieved by earthing the negative line, also by careful design of the switching arrangements two buttons were made to perform a wide variety of duties. These latter are as follows - Pressing the top button causes the amplifier to be switched on and a feed-back connection puts the amplifier into oscillation, thus giving an audible calling facility. Pressing the lower button breaks this feed-back and allows the amplifier to amplify speech fed into it from the transducer, i.e. this is the speak position, with both buttons pressed. Pressing of the lower button also causes a D.C. path through the line winding of the transformer. This permits signalling to the exchange or operation of remotely controlled equipment, as will be explained later. Releasing both buttons puts the phone on the standby condition, the amplifier is off and the transducer connected across the transformer to receive any incoming call.
For further economy of time and space, a printed circuit was designed and made for this amplifier. Extra connections for more components were provided on the board to permit lower output transducers, such as throat microphones, to be used.
Press terminals were fitted to the top of the phone and just enough room was left for a 9 volts battery. It was then complete, but in effect we were further from the end than we were before we started.
All sorts of possible improvements and ancillary equipment came to mind and were suggested. These consisted mainly of four separate units. The first was a surface phone which would be cheaper, easier to use, and more convenient than the Type W units as the first phone was called. The second was a telephone exchange to connect all these units together. The third was a new Inductor phone which could be integrated with the telephone system and finally a remote coupler which could be fitted to a commercially available radio or Q.P.O. land line to couple these systems into the special system outlined above.
The surface telephone did not present great problems. A standard modern handset was chosen and a "press to use" button incorporated in the body. The standard die-cast was used to house a 3 volt battery, transformer and call oscillator. A special transformer was wound to match the carbon granule microphone to the 600 ohm line and the ear piece. It also incorporated a feed-back winding, which, in conjunction with the microphone winding and a transistor circuit, made a call oscillator.
Careful design made the switching requirements very simple and again a printed circuit made for easy manufacture.
This unit, the Type S, will perform all the duties of the Type W, with the added advantage of not having to switch from speak to listen during the conversation. It is now available in three types. The first type is a straight forward phone with no calling facilities and this is meant to be used either as a remote control unit for the Inductor phone, or radio in combination with the remote coupler, or with the exchange. Neither of these systems requires local calling facilities. The Type S.C. incorporates a call signal and can perform all the functions of the Type S and also be used with the Type W when the two are connected directly. Both can call each other. The Type S.L. is a Type S phone incorporating a signal lamp to show which phone is ringing. This is useful when more than one phone is used in the same area, as would be the case on a Cave Rescue control. A Type S.C.L. is available incorporating all these features.
After completion of these two types of telephone, the urgency was not so great since there was available a basic system which would satisfy the main requirements of cave communication. Attention was next turned to other items which could be usefully included into the integrated communication system.
The first of these units was the Inductor phone system of speech communication. This system has been described elsewhere (Lord 1963) and will not be repeated here except for a very brief description. Basically it consists of a powerful audio amplifier of 600 watts peak power in the latest units and a sensitive audio amplifier for a receiver. The speech power is fed into a large coil which generates a magnetic field. This field is detected by a similar coil below ground and amplified by the receiver. Perhaps the most important of the advantages of this system are the lack of attenuation of low frequency magnetic fields and the lack of a need for tuning of the transmitter and receiver units.
The new equipments were used in France, on the Gouffre Berger, and communication was just possible through 1000 metres, about 3100 feet, of rock. Unfortunately powerful interference was met with from high voltage power cables and a local radio station which were in the vicinity. Filters on the equipment would no doubt rectify this.
The extremely heavy currents taken by the transmitter of the Inductor phone necessitates large capacity batteries and three 6 volt 6 A.H. lead acid units were used. Because of this it was possible to leave the equipment switched on to receive permanently because the drain on receive would operate the equipment continuously for more than two weeks. This fact immediately presented the possibility of leaving the units above the cave and remotely operating them from some convenient point via a telephone line. The units were therefore designed to be operated by one of the telephones described earlier. The telephone replaced the previously required headphones and microphone and the normal operation of the telephone buttons switched the Inductorphone from transmit to receive. By further modification of the circuit it was proved possible to connect the Inductorphone into the exchange and so allow any of the other lines to be connected to it.
The special features built into the Inductorphone circuit which allowed remote operation facilities are not available in commercially available devices, such as radios. A small unit was therefore built which could be plugged into a radio-telephone instead of the microphone/headset and send/receive switch and this permitted remote operation of the radio from any telephone, even one underground, via the exchange. This facility proved invaluable on the Berger 1967 Expedition, when it was possible to speak direct from underground to people on the surface some miles from the base camp equipped with a radio-telephone.
The Inductorphone system can also be used for surveying by using a small search coil on the surface and taking bearings obtained by measuring the angle of the magnetic field generated by the underground coil. Normally this is a fairly long drawn out business due to lack of communication with the people underground. (One cannot set up the surface Inductorphone until the position of the one underground is known, at least approximately.) The radio link made this fixing of the position of the underground coil a simple matter.
Effort was next directed to the design and construction of an exchange to permit cross-connection of the numerous lines which could be required. This used standard techniques for switching with four busbars allowing all eight lines to be in operation at one time. Again several features were incorporated for the special requirements of the Expedition and cave rescue.
The call system adopted was that which uses the closed D.C. loop principle, when any phone is operated a D.C. current flows in the lines and a transistor switch operates a lamp on the exchange. An audible alarm can also be switched on to allow the operator to move away from the board. On switching the call to the required line an 'Occupied' lamp indicates that the line is still being used.
The calling system is an oscillator which can inject a 500 c.p.s. note along the called line when the call key is depressed. At the same time a voltage of opposite polarity to the normal call voltage is injected and this senses if a phone is in fact connected to the line. A 'test' lamp lights if this is so. This is a very useful feature when a phone is in the process of being moved and is temporarily disconnected from the line.
A public address facility is also built into the exchange to permit announcements and two way conversations to be relayed. It is also used when the Inductorphone or radio is integrated into the communication system in order that the operator should know when a call is being made over one of these systems.
This is a description of the system as it is at present. Plans are being made to improve it in a variety of ways. The most important of these is to equip the ancillary units, the Inductorphone and Radio-Telephone, with a device which will allow the exchange to see them as another telephone. At present it is necessary to maintain a constant watch over the exchanges' public address to detect an incoming call. An improved circuit in the radio coupler and the Inductorphone will cause a lamp to light when a call comes in, just as in the case of one of the telephones.
Immediately this facility is built into the units, it will be possible to connect any unit to another. For example, a radio-telephone could be connected directly to an Inductorphone and left completely unattended. The relevant transmit receive functions being automatically carried out from below ground and at the base radio. Such a device could be left over a cave system and warning of adverse weather etc. given from many miles away.
Other pieces of equipment which could be of great service to cave exploration are guide wire radios. These are, in fact, the frequency radio transmitters which use as an aerial any adjacent metal conductor. A signal is induced in this, a telephone wire, power cable, etc. and picked up by a similar radio up to several miles away. For communication up pitches, via the ladder; and between rescue teams, via the telephone wire, they could be invaluable.
Work is also going ahead to develop the Inductorphone into a general purpose unit which can be used for long range communication as described earlier, short range using smaller coils, guide wire using smaller coils and an associated metallic conductor; ultrasonic using a suitable transducer, both in air and for divers in water.
There is little doubt there is tremendous potential in this field and the next few years will see great improvements in communication on Caving Expeditions and Cave Rescues.
We are grateful to British Insulated Callenders Cables for supplying free of charge 6 miles of telephone wire, and to Messrs. Pye for the loan of two Cambridge radio telephones. Thanks are also due to Black and Decker Ltd. for the loan of an electric drill used in fixing the telephone wire to the walls of the Cave.
We are also grateful to S.G. Brown Ltd. and Suba Seal Ltd., for the use of their products.
Feed 30 men for a month. These were my instructions. Little did I realise what endless hours of work these few words were to mean to me.
Approximately 18 months ago when we decided to have our second crack at the Berger, Pete asked me if I would again be the Food Officer, a position I had taken on the 1964 trip. On that occasion we had 12 men in the Cave for a couple of weeks. Like a fool I agreed to his request, little suspecting that I would be writing over 1,000 letters and doing nearly 2,000 hours of research and writing and packing.
To a financially unsupported expedition such as our own, the greatest expense is food. We had estimated it would cost nearly 25/- per man per day, to feed them in the way necessary. Therefore the only way it would be possible to make our attempt was obviously to seek the help of National Food Manufacturers, and ask for either donations or favourable wholesale terms.
Owing to the fact that at present we are in the middle of a Credit Squeeze, donations were a little harder to come by than in previous years. This is mainly due to the fact that during periods of Severe Restraint the first cuts are always made on advertising and it is mostly through this source that Manufacturers donate to expeditions such as ours. Nevertheless for every 10 firms who either did not reply to my letters or gave a negative reply, there was the one who made us a gift or offered good wholesale terms. It is to these companies we are sincerely grateful as without their support this and other expeditions of this nature would never leave England.
Before beginning to write off for food, it first proved necessary to prepare diet sheets. Owing to the constant cold conditions namely temperatures of 36°F. and humidity of 90%, we based our diet on 5,500 to 6,000 calories per man per working day. We worked on a reversed diet system, instead of our Bulk foods being bread and potatoes, they were to be meats and sweetstuffs, high calorie, protein, and energy giving foods. This was then worked out to give us the following man days rations.
7 Days rations for 18 men on the Advance Team.
20 Days rations for 21 men on the Main Assault Team.
20 Days rations for 8 men on the Surface Party.
20 Days Travelling Rations for 21 men of the M.A.T., these were made up of mainly Chocolate, Biscuits, Nuts, Sweets. (Fast energy giving foods).
This when broken down to different commodities presented me with the following grocery list and a bill for nearly £1,000.
The total weight including packaging was well over 3 tons.
Honey & Jam
Tea & Coffee
Beans & Pasta
840 Man days
6 Dozen Rolls
1 Doz Packs
120 x 28 floz bottles
These bulk items were again broken down into the following:-
Meats. These ranged from Curries, Stews, Corned Beef, Luncheon Meats, Steak and Kidney Puddings, Sausage and Bacon. The majority of these were either tinned or dried, and the Bacon was very heavily smoked.
Fish. Tinned Sardines and Pilchards.
Biscuits. The plain biscuits were mainly of the Hard-Tack variety all packed in 22lb tins and gas sealed. These were our Bread substitute. The sweet biscuits ranged from Chocolate Orange filled to wafers, gingernuts, general mixed and creams.
Soups. An excellent variety which included tinned Cream of Chicken and genuine Italian Minestrone. For the lower camps we used dehydrated packets of 6 different flavours, to these we added our dried vegetables and made really excellent soup, this was also the base for our stews or curries.
Dairy Produce. Milk - this was available in three different types. Powdered, Granulated and evaporated. Butter - this was foil wrapped and packed in ½lb cardboard packets. Cheese was provided in two different types, tinned processed and polythene film wrapped Blue Stilton. For cooking we used oil which had been provided in ½ gallon tins. The powdered egg was packed into polythene bags and made excellent omelettes or scrambled egg.
Vegetables. These were provided in two types, dehydrated and tinned. The dried version consisting of Runner Beans, Leeks, Cabbage and Mixed Vegetables and the tinned containing such luxuries as Celery Hearts, Broad Beans, New Potatoes and 6 other types of vegetables.
Sweeteners. These ranged from Sugar which had been packed into 5lb polythene bags, to Glucose and Syrup which was mainly used in the mornings in our Porridge.
Beverages. No less than 6 different types, Drinking Chocolate, Tea (in tea bag form), Coffee (the Instant variety packed up into 3 pint units), and Fruit Juices which included Ribena, Pure Lemon Juice and Lemonade Crystals.
Cake. This was provided in three types, Double cellophane wrapped, tinned and a really excellent nitrogen-filled polythene-wrapped variety.
Preserves and Spreads. Jams included Apricot, Blackberry, Gooseberry and Raspberry, three different types of Marmalade, Honey and assorted meat and fish pastes.
Puddings. Included a wide variety of Milk Puddings and 5 different types of Fruit and Jellies.
Cereals. Oats were provided in packet or tinned form, and we also took Wheat flakes and Meusli, a Swiss cereal which included honey and dried fruits and nuts.
Miscellaneous. Beans and Pasta which included Spaghetti and Italian Ravioli. With the pickles and sauces we also added Curry Powder, Vinegar, Mustard, Pepper and Garlic flavoured Salt.
Travelling Rations. These were used for our working periods in the cave when we were between camps. These consisted mainly of Sweets, ten different types from Barley Sugars, Fruit Drops, Humbugs, and Liquorice Allsorts to the extremely popular Dolly Mixtures and Jelly Babies. To these were added Chocolate (4 types), Table Jelly blocks, Salted Peanuts, Crisps and Caramel Wafers.
Norwegian Emergency Rations. These were provided for use in the lowest section of the cave and was a complete diet of 2,670 calories. They were packed in aluminium tins and polythene sealed and weighed only 2 lbs. each, complete with a small cooker unit. They included Cereal Bars, Soups, Drinks, Jam and Glucose.
The packaging of this food varied from Tins, Polythene, Aluminium foil, Heat, Hermetic and gas filled and sealed packs and bottles and glass jars. Many of the donating firms specially packed their foods for us and for this we were grateful as it saved us a tremendous amount of work in the latter months when we were preparing the food for the underground camps.
The food was then made up into diet perfect ten man one day packs and the whole unit was then packed into adapted 10 gallon polythene Jerry-cans. These drums were fitted with a door with a clamp and neoprene washer which made the whole unit air tight and waterproof, enabling them to float when on the Lake Cadoux or in the canal sections of the cave. Out of the 400 man day rations which were packed for underground use only one 5 lb bag of Sugar was perforated and this was due to it being improperly packed by ourselves in Nottingham. The remainder of the food arrived in the underground camps, after in some cases 5 days of harsh treatment, in absolutely perfect condition. This I think proves the high quality and strength of packaging by the firms concerned.
As Food and Sleep are the two main pleasures in life on a trip of this nature, it was often very pleasant to return to the camps after a hard day's work and smell the delicious odours which arose from the often unwashed evil looking mess tins.
A quite typical day's menu follows:-
Breakfast. Porridge with Syrup, Jam or Honey added. This would be followed by Egg, Sausage or Bacon, Beans or Pasta, Biscuits, Cheese and Pickles, Jam or Pastes, Tea, Coffee or Fruit Juice.
Dinner. This is usually some 14 to 20 hours later and mainly consisted of Soup or a Curry with a soup base, followed by Meat or Fish with Potato and Vegetables - this was more often than not made as a stew or hash owing to lack of cooking utensils. Milk Pudding or Fruit with Biscuits or Rich Fruit Cake and plenty of hot sweet drinks usually rounded off the meal.
On top of this our only other food was in the form of our travelling rations.
The diet was supplemented by Vitamin Tablets as it had been noted from other large expeditions of this nature, that lack of sunlight, improper diet and lack of proper washing facilities brought about minor skin disorders. And whilst on the surface these are not serious they can prove very uncomfortable and irritating underground.
Although most of the team stuck to fairly straight forward eating habits, we had those who practised very adventurous cookery. They had such delicacies as Fried Cheese and Pineapples, Cold Rice Pudding and Sardines and Curry a la Cheg, to which his basic ingredients appeared to be any type of meat mixed up with ¼ lb of Picalilli and what ever type of food was close to his hand at the time. To this was often added liberal amounts of mud and dust but this never seemed to spoil the appetite. Pure Lemon Juice was added to every conceivable thing but proved best in Tea, in fact PLUDGE (as it became affectionately known as) was our most popular beverage.
Foods with the stronger or very savoury flavours seemed to be most popular, these followed by fruit or fruit juice helped to clean the palate. Out of all the foods there was none which was generally disliked and very little food was actually wasted. We certainly found that good food brought about good morale and made our trip certainly extremely pleasant.
Outline of our aims.
The Photographic programme planned for this Expedition was ambitious right from the outset. We were determined to be more professional in our approach to the whole concept of underground photography. Whilst photographs taken on our previous Expedition to this cave were very good, they tended to be rather limited in their position in the cave and also their inactivity. The Gouffre Berger presents a completely new problem from the photographic point of view by virtue of it's tremendous length and the time taken to cover it. Consequently, as underground camps are set up, so a large number of photographs tend to be taken in or around this camp. The resultant coverage, therefore, of the whole cave had been very sparse in the past, with vast areas which because of their position or difficulties, had not been photographed.
It was one of the prime aims of this photographic team, therefore, to shoot in as many of these difficult areas as possible. In order to do this, one thing became obvious -the photographic team had to be a self-contained unit that was able to travel independently of the main party. It's members also had to be freed of the tremendous burden of having to ferry the main expedition's equipment and food. Past experience in this cave had shown that whilst camps were being set up and all the equipment was being brought into the cave, very little photography was done because everyone was so exhausted. The same applied when parties were withdrawing from the cave.
It was also decided that because the cave was so extensive, the photographic party should be able to split in half if necessary, and the two halves be able to work separately. This was to give us a tremendous flexibility in the event of new discoveries, or one party getting cut off by floods etc. Of course, to do this successfully, we had to duplicate every single item of equipment, which made a serious difference to the weight and bulk of the gear we had to take underground.
We also realised that while we were firing off flashbulbs to expose one colour transparency in one camera, we could also, at the same time, expose a black & white negative in another camera. This would satisfy the demand for black & white prints of the resulting pictures, as well as colour slides. So we had to devise a means of doing this easily, as to the best of our knowledge, this had never been attempted before, under caving conditions.
Deciding upon and designing equipment.
As anyone who has taken, or tried to take, photographs underground will know, there probably does not exist a camera which is ideal for all aspects of this kind of work. Many cameras are, of course, excellent but tend to be very expensive. As not one appeared to be THE camera, it was decided to approach nearly all the camera manufacturers or importers in an attempt to borrow equipment for the duration of the Expedition. Our basic needs were 2, 35mm cameras for our colour slides and 2, 120 rollfilm cameras to give us larger black & white negatives and the resultant better quality prints. On top of this, ideally we needed a spare 35mm camera in case one was damaged.
We were therefore delighted when Messrs. Ernst Leitz and Messrs. Ilford Ltd. responded to our request and offered cameras of their manufacture. This solved our 35mm problem, and an Exa camera owned by ourselves became the spare. As regards the 2¼” square camera we were again fortunate in being offered the loan of an early Rolleiflex by one of our member's employer. The second camera was an early Rolleicord which we had to buy. So at last our complement of cameras was complete. We now had to devise a means of being able to use a 35mm camera and a 2¼” square camera at the same time. After some experimentation, we designed a special bracket which supported a Rollei and the Leica side by side as an integral fully aligned unit. So by screwing this unit onto a tripod, and lining up one camera, we could be sure that the other camera was pointing in the same direction! Exposures were to be made by opening the shutter of the Rollei on 'B', firing the Leica in synchronisation with the flashbulb, and then closing the Rollei shutter. Two shots for the price of one!
The next problem was tripods. These had to be fairly rigid because of the combined weight of the two cameras and the bracket, and yet still be light in weight. Therefore, the very small, telescopic tripods normally used for cave photography were ruled out because of their poor rigidity. Messrs. Actina Ltd., were kind enough to offer us an excellent Bilora Tripod and Gitzo S.A. of Paris loaned us a small professional Gilux Tripod. These two tripods were supplemented with one of our own as a spare in case of damage or loss, both very real possibilities.
Lighting could be either electronic flash, flash powder or expendable flashbulbs. Electronic flash presented it's usual problem of high cost and comparatively low output, and also that when it's batteries had become discharged, the whole unit became 'dead weight'. In view of the already large weight of equipment, any extra weight was to be avoided. There is also considerable danger in using high-voltage equipment in extremely humid conditions. The caving was likely to be hazardous enough without adding our own!
Our experience during our previous expedition to this cave showed that flash-powder, however carefully mixed and stored was quite liable to explode!
Therefore it became obvious that flashbulbs would have to be used. They had several advantages, one being their very high output, a very important factor in such places as the River Gallery, which are really enormous. Their comparative lightness meant that the photographers would have much easier loads to carry when they went out from camps to work.
In view of our aim to take as many action photographs as possible whi le they were actually happening rather than posing them afterwards, it became obvious that we would need several flashguns that would all fire simultaneously. Several different types of guns are available but are rather expensive, and as we were unable to borrow them, it was decided to attempt to design a very small light system ourselves. After some testing, we produced 8 very light flashguns capable of firing all types of flashbulbs. These, when coupled with 8, 30 foot extension cables enabled us to illuminate quite a lot of cave at the same time.
Our lighting was further complemented by a white umbrella which was used to give a very soft light for close-ups.
We were fortunate in being given a large number of big flashbulbs by Messrs. Harringay Photographic Supplies, and Messrs. Osram (GEC) Ltd., donated a large number of small AG1B bulbs of their manufacture. The balance of the huge number of bulbs that we took with us were purchased. Both white and blue bulbs were taken for several reasons. 1. Most of the bulbs donated to us were blue and were very useful when using daylight film which had already been started on the surface. 2. Blue flashbulbs, if used with artificial light films give a blue cast, which can be used to give some very attractive effects if used in moderation and in conjunction with white bulbs. 3. For work in very large halls, white bulbs were used as they produce more light than blue, a fact that really utilises the film speed to it's best advantage.
Whilst considering film speed and type, it was decided that, if possible, the colour and black & white film should have the same speed rating. This would mean that both cameras would use the same apperture setting, which should lessen the possibility of errors in exposure. As we were used to working with Kodak Tri-X black & white roll film and it's very useful speed of 400 ASA, we looked for a colour film that could be used at that speed. We found that Kodak High-Speed Ektachrome film, when rated at 400 ASA and given the appropriate processing, gave quite excellent colours. Consequently Kodak film was used exclusively by this Expedition.
Our complement of equipment was now nearing completion. Messrs. Hanimex Ltd. were approached for the loan of one of their wide-angle lens for the Exa camera, to which they agreed. Cable releases were supplied by Messrs. Arrowtabs Ltd. We also acquired a very useful Tilley Lamp which ran on paraffin. This had a built-in reflector and turned out to be very useful as a fill-in light for foregrounds and also as a general purpose lamp for focusing.
Having assembled all our equipment, a means of protecting it underground had to be considered. Messrs. Commercial Drug & Chemical Co. were approached to loan us one of their aluminium camera cases, to which they agreed. This waterproof case proved to be very useful, if somewhat delicate for the rough handling it received underground. The rest of our equipment was packed into ex W.D. Ammunition cases supplied by Messrs. Childex Ltd. Quite frankly, these ammunition tins cannot be bettered for caving use. They are so strong that they can be knocked about with no damage at all and at the same time they are totally waterproof. All cases were numbered and marked with reflective tape so that we could find them easily if they had been dumped in the wilderness of boulders that seemed to surround us most of the time. Throughout the whole trip, we had to check carefully on sites as we left them, to avoid leaving an item behind, as everything became covered in mud and blended beautifully into the background!
Two trial meetings were arranged in Derbyshire caves before our departure, during which several alterations were made, mainly to the design of the camera brackets. The Tilley lamp was tried out and was very successful. These two meetings were very important as it was the first time that the 4 members of the photographic team had actually worked together underground. We also used these occasions as an opportunity to try out the Kodak film at 400 ASA, and were very pleased with the results.
In keeping with our intention to photograph the rest of the teams in action, the two photographers in the advance party went into the cave, about 2 hours in advance of the main party, on their first trip into the cave. The idea was to set up our equipment and shoot the main party as they descended a pitch and then move on quickly before they overtook us, or we got in their way.
However, as soon as we were ready to shoot the first pictures, our flash equipment failed to work. Subsequent examination showed that we had inadvertently shorted out the battery during transit from England. End of photography for that day! So we had to start ferrying gear with everybody else. In actual fact, the entire advance party found themselves in the position of having to carry the majority of the expedition's equipment and food into the cave during the first week. The main party did not arrive until the Monday of the second week and consequently we were a photographer short and had to await him for replacement batteries. So the rest of the first week was spent photographing with open flash using 2 spare battery capacitor flashguns which fortunately we had taken with us in case of such eventuality.
As soon as the third photographer arrived, we were able to start using the flash equipment properly, and after a few early frustrating moments - successfully. One important criticism of the Leica M2 we were using became clear at this stage. The flash contacts on the camera are not the normal 3 mm co-axial type used on virtually all flash equipment, so we had to use an adaptor, which added just one more point where bad contacts could occur, and frequently did! Under normal conditions, I have no doubt that the adaptors are perfectly reliable, but under caving conditions, were not.
For several shots we found that after setting up a posed photograph with careful lighting etc., and taking this shot, perhaps a man would arrive on the scene and re-enact it. If we took a quick grab-shot without him knowing, invariably, the second shot was the best. This at least proved we were right in trying for action shots as often as possible.
Exposure presented it's usual problems. Flash guide numbers are calculated assuming an 'average' room, and therefore, factors must be used to allow for cave conditions. The trouble starts when it is realised that a chamber with white formations reflects a tremendous amount more light than does a big dark hall. Also, this white chamber reflects about one half as much light again if it's walls are glistening with moisture, than if they are dry!
One rather interesting effect was tried with some of the photographs that were-done as a complement to the food manufacturers who had donated their products to the expedition. That was to cover the subsidiary flashbulb with the red wrapping paper off a sardine tin! The resultant light was quite complementary to the grandeur of the stalagmites it was illuminating.
When using the method to expose, of opening the Rollei shutter on it's B setting before firing the Leica on 1/30th second, we became subject on the black & white film to light-streaks from the helmet lamps of the subjects. It was difficult to compromise between asking the models to blow their lamps out and thus telling them they were going to be photographed, and risking the light streaks to shoot a spontaneous picture.
When the opportunity arose for one of our team to go to the very bottom of the cave, only one camera was taken, along with a simple battery-capacitor flashgun and a handful of small flashbulbs. The reason for this was that the trip itself was known to be extremely arduous without any extra encumbrances in the form of photographic gear. This bottom section of the cave has defied photography to the previous expeditions, and so we were particularly anxious to shoot some film down there and especially at the terminal siphon at -3650ft. However, fate played it's trick of steaming up the lens, not on the outside of the camera where we were particularly watching for it, but on the INSIDE of the lens. Therefore we were extremely disappointed in having one of the most important films ruined.
After it had been exposed, film was immediately transferred to a sealed polythene bag containing silica gel which absorbs any moisture that the film may have absorbed whilst in the camera. This was very successful, as no film suffered from the effects of dampness after this treatment.
On withdrawing from the cave, the same dilemma as before presented itself. That is, there was far too much equipment to be carried out, to spare the photographic team for photography! Every available man was needed to move the 70 odd kitbags through the top 1600 tortuous feet of the cave. Some of these kitbags were weighing up to 70 lbs. So, unfortunately photography suffered again in this entrance series of the cave. This, coupled with the fact that the main team withdrew from the cave much more quickly than planned, once it's objectives had been achieved, meant that we were only underground for 11 days instead of the 20 days we had anticipated. So that although we were very pleased with our work, our coverage of the cave was not as great as we would have liked.
We feel that several lessons can be learned from our experiences both by ourselves in future expeditions and by others contemplating underground photography.
Our techniques were indeed ambitious as to the amount of photographic equipment needed to take the sort of pictures we were after, and also, in our approach to the lighting. This was absolutely necessary in view of the cost of the expedition, and to the amount it was relying upon the photography. However, under normal caving conditions in this country, to use that amount of gear would be ludicrous. A much simpler arrangement of one camera, one tripod and a less complicated system of flashguns, would suit British underground photography. However, we feel that for the task we set ourselves, our system worked extremely well, especially considering it was a completely revolutionary approach and also possibly the biggest still-photograph project an underground expedition had ever attempted.
One fact that was noticed on perusal of the resultant pictures, is that on occasions when a complicated lighting set-up was used, with several flashguns firing simultaneously a simpler lighting would probably have been more effective. These results are obviously open to individual interpretation, but on occasions, too many lights can lessen the effect of depth and darkness which is always a permanent feature of caves.
More than ever, this expedition demonstrated that to achieve any results at all, the photographic team must be entirely self-contained and separate from the main party as regards carrying equipment. The same applies in this country, in that a trip must be a photographic trip rather than an ordinary caving trip with a photographer tagging along to grab as many shots as he can in his spare time.
However, we are very pleased with these photographs of the Gouffre Berger, and it remains for us to extend our very sincere thanks to the equipment manufacturers for their extreme generosity, without which, these pictures of the world's deepest cave could never have been taken.
J. E. Fell
G. W. Cooper
H. W. Mares
A. C. Huntington
Dr. H. Kidd
Pegasus Club Nottingham - Leader
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham - Climbing Projects Officer
Pegasus Club Nottingham - Deputy Leader & Food Officer
Pegasus Club Nottingham - Equipment Officer
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham - Photographic Officer
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Pegasus Club Nottingham
Termes Club Nottingham
Termes Club Nottingham
Termes Club Nottingham
Eldon Pothole Club
Eldon Pothole Club
Eldon Pothole Club
Eldon Pothole Club and B.S.G.
Buxton Speleological Group - Medical Officer
Pegasus Club Nottingham
British Speleological Association
British Speleological Association
Geo. Aylwin & Son.
Beecham Foods Ltd.
British Sugar Corporation Ltd.
British Egg Marketing Board.
R. Brooks Ltd.
Geo. Bassett Ltd.
Bennetts Jams Ltd.
Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd.
L. C. Edwards Ltd.
C. H. Elkes Ltd.
Fisons Foods Ltd.
Glaxo Laboratories Ltd.
A. B. Gibson Ltd.
A. C. Finken Ltd.
Glenvilles Foods Ltd.
H. P. Sauce Ltd.
Long Clawson Dairy Ltd.
Joh Laerum & Co.
Morning Foods Ltd.
Mel bray Ltd.
Norfolk Canners Ltd.
Parkinsons Sweets Ltd.
Pearce Duffs & Co.
Roche Products Ltd.
Ratcliffes Bros. (Honey) Ltd.
Symbol Biscuits Ltd.
Smiths Pickles Ltd.
Smiths Crisps Ltd.
Sams Bros. Ltd.
Shaws Biscuits Ltd.
Standard Brand Ltd.
Sec Foods Ltd.
J. Sainsburys Ltd.
Tetleys Tea Ltd.
Tate & Lyle Ltd.
Turners Bakery Ltd.
T. G. Tickler Ltd.
V.I.V.O. Foods Ltd.
Welch & Sons Ltd.
Wrights Biscuits Ltd.
Baxter Woodhouse & Taylor.
Betts & Broughton Ltd.
Blacks of Grenock.
Brican Trading Co. Ltd.
Cascelloid Division, Bakelite Xylonite Ltd.
P. B. Cow (Li-Lo) Ltd.
H. Golay & Son Ltd. (Acquastar)
Hall's Barton Ropery Co. Ltd.
Industrial Pharmaceutical Service Ltd.
Geo. W. King Ltd.
Ladysmith Busywear Ltd.
Marathon Knitwear (Nottm) Ltd.
Martin, Black & Co. Ltd.
Meridia Engineering Co. Ltd.
Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
P. H. Muntz, Barwell Ltd.
Optimus (London) Ltd.
Premier Lamp & Engineering Co. Ltd.
Prices Patent Candles Ltd.
Robert Shaw & Co. Ltd.
Saxonclad Trimla Ltd.
Southwark Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
A. M. McWhirter.
Royal Children Hotel.
E. P. Watson Ltd.
S. G. B. (Great Britain) Ltd.
Owing to the technical nature of the Photographic and Communication Reports, the Manufacturers concerned have been acknowledged within the text.
GEOGRAPHICAL BLOCK, AREA MAP & SURVEY