Number 220 June 1966 The Belfry Bulletin – Volume Twenty – Number Six In last month’s B.B., a sentence in the article ‘Towards a National Council?’ caught my eye. The author says “Perhaps the most difficult part of this matter is to produce an argument of substance against a national Council. Should this be formed, and then followed up with affiliation to the C.N.P.R., it might mean that we poor cavers would be able to obtain grants from the state to build ourselves luxurious caving huts.” With all respect to the author of the article in question, I suggest that it is only difficult to produce arguments against this type of thing if one sticks to a purely materialistic view. Once this viewpoint is challenged and the outlook correspondingly shifted, counter arguments can be produced thick and fast. Here are a few samples…. Firstly, all arguments in favour of a National Council which are based on some form of increased efficiency such as better dissemination of scientific data; national availability of scientific experts and other forms of increased efficiency presuppose that it is a good thing for caving to be run the same way as an efficient factory or scientific institution. The thing that seems to be in danger of being forgotten is that caving is a PASSTIME – not a vital part of the export drive. Ask yourself a moment. Would you really like it if all the problems connected with caving were solved or within sight of solution? If, for example, a foolproof cave locating machine were developed so that there could never be any more speculation as to whether a particular dig might ‘go’? If such a powerful amount of scientific push had been brought to bear that there were no worthwhile questions left to ask? If communications: tackle: lighting: clothing: diving equipment etc. were all completely perfected? If surveying, photography etc. had been so well developed that these processes had been reduced to a completely routine following of instructions? The worker in leaves does so primarily for his own amusement and a drive to work him out of a job might be fun while it lasted, but what then? Secondly, all arguments based on the provision of bigger and better huts; government subsidies and helping hands of one sort or another presuppose that rich clubs are better than poorer ones. If we must generalise here, the reverse is probably nearer the truth. Any club which is spoon fed soon loses its initiative and becomes mentally fat and indolent. Clubs need a certain amount of difficulties to overcome. If one grants the ‘luxurious caving huts’ mentioned by the author, one must suppose that the inhabitants are much too comfortable to do any actual caving from them. The alternative seems to be the erection of vast caving barracks, full of brainwashed, regimented cavers. Lastly – as I feel this should be kept reasonably short – there is no point of expanding caving just for the sake of having greater numbers of bods around. Caving is – or was – more of a way of life and the best cavers have usually been those who have discovered the sport for themselves rather than those who have been ‘sold’ it. Caving needs individualists and a move to turn it into a mass sport will frighten off these people into some other – less crowded – pastime, in which there is more room for them to be themselves. This will be a great loss to caving. To sum up. There are those whose hobby is caving. There are also those whose hobby is organising. The latter are, by definition, parasitic on the former since they must have a group of people to use as their ‘raw material’ for their queer hobby. Such people will be happy organising any group of people who are weak minded enough to let them climb on their backs. Both mice and cavers go underground at times. Let us make sure that the resemblance goes no further. “Alfie” _______________________________________________________________________________________ The Royal Geographic Society are preparing a pocket size handbook by Lt. Col. J.M. Adam, R.A.M.C. This is to be published by Hodder & Stoughton at about 10/6. The book has been prepared by medical and non-medical men with considerable expedition experience and is designed to meet the needs of expeditions out of range of medical assistance. R.S. King.
B.B. 220/2 May 1966
NOTICE Will all Cuthbert’s Leaders who require a key to the cave contact Dave Irwin. His address is 9 Camden Hill Gardens, London, W.8. This should be done as soon as possible and a ONE POUND deposit is requires for each key. The deposit is returnable in full on return of the key.
Don’t forget the date if the A.G.M. and Annual Dinner! These will be held as usual on the FIRST Saturday in OCTOBER (which this year is October 1st.). _______________________________________________________________________________________
Mendip Rescue Organisation The Mendip Rescue Organisation is an ad hoc body which exists for the purpose of effecting cave rescue. It is run by a committee of wardens, who see to the purchase and replacement of equipment, the posting of notices at cave entrances and keep lists of cavers willing and able to help. Their main function is to operate the call out system so that a rescue may be undertaken smoothly and expeditiously. The record for the last complete year – as published in the Hon. Secretary’s Annual Report for 1965 – shows that this is done and that is why the Organisation receives the support of cavers on Mendip, both as individuals and through their clubs. But there is more to it than that. Everybody who caves on Mendip is considered to be a member of the Organisation. All are responsible for making cave rescue possible and are liable to be called for help. This can best be done if the individuals have had some experience of rescue work and a minimal knowledge of First Aid. To this end, the Mendip Rescue Organisation actively encourages the carrying out of rescue practices. These are best done by a party of eight tough cavers, who normally cave together and know one another well. Such groups are normally found within a single club, and for this reason clubs are encouraged to form such groups. This should be done whether or not the group can be called out in such an emergency, or whether the cavers come from nearby or a distance. The correct drill is for the group that wants a rescue practice to fix a date and time, choose a cave and subject, provide the team and let the Hon. Sec. of the M.R.O. know in plenty of time (two months is usually enough). The Hon. Sec. will then arrange for a warden to attend the practice in the role of umpire or adviser and to bring the carrying sheet and hauling ropes and demonstrate the correct method of using them. Ladders, lifelines and leadership should be provided by the team. Practices on these lines have been held by the B.E.C., the U.B.S.S., the Wessex, the Axbridge, the London C.R.O., the Border and Oxford University Caving Clubs. Others are contemplating following suit. Everyone who has the welfare of his fellow cavers at heart is asked to try to do likewise. The absence of the drainpipe of the Forty Foot Pitch in Swildons has created a hazard which has resulted in many cases of cavers being unable to climb. Some of these result in M.R.O. callouts while others are managed by cavers on the spot. It is felt that more could be done in latter way, now that the M.R.O. is keeping a pulley permanently on the iron bar in Suicide’s Leap. The parties will need a hundred foot full weight nylon line, which they can usually provide themselves, and the ladders must be hung from new fixtures on the far side of the pot. The iron bar must not be used for ladders. It was put there for rescue purposes only. Instructions on how to rig the hauling pulley have been posted in Maine’s Barn, and it is intended to leave with Mr. Maine a spare hauling ripe and carrying sheet. If it is used, then Nr. Maine will give a standby warning to M.R.O. O.C. Lloyd. Hon. Sec. B.B. 220/3 May 1966 Page 29
The above is an extract from last years report and B.E.C. members will know that a great amount of time has been put in by club members on perfecting rescue techniques in Cuthbert’s – work which paid off when it was used on a real rescue recently. Members may not, however, know that our Caving Secretary and Assistant, Dave Irwin and Keith Franklin have both been made Wardens of the M.R.O. The extract from the annual report has been published in the B.B. at the request of the Hon. Sec., M.R.O. to give B.E.C. members a little more information about the M.R.O. and its activities. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Are you keeping SATURDAY OCTOBER 1ST. free (For you-know-what?) _______________________________________________________________________________________
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From time to time, articles on Cave Photography have appeared in the B.B. The first of these was in B.B. No. 39 for September 1950 and was for the benefit of beginners. It was called “Starting Cave Photography” and was written by the late Don Coase, who was amongst our best cave photographers at the time. The second article appeared in B.B. No. 69 for May 1953 and was written by “Pongo” Wallis, who was on of the first members to take up colour photography and who described some of the techniques of colour photography in caves. The third article – again by Pongo – appeared in B.B.’s No 115 and 116 for August and September 1957 and was on Stereoscopic Photography. All these articles are still worth reading and copies of these B.B.’s are to be found in the club library. By way of contrast, the author of this article is not in the same class today as Don and Pongo were in their day, and he has only two excuses to offer for writing on this subject at all. One excuse is that it has, after all, been some time since a general article on cave photography appeared and things have changed quite a lot in the intervening period of time. The other – and more pertinent reason – is that there is a temporary shortage of material for this particular B.B. as the Editor used up nearly all the stockpile last month. The Camera Let us start by looking at cameras. Very few people choose a camera just for taking down caves, but some may think of buying one or moving on to a better one, with caving particularly in mind. As Don pointed out in his original article, it is possible to get very reasonable results down a cave even with a cheap camera providing it is used within its limitations. In general, there is a vast range of cameras available today and any attempt to do a Which?” would need more space than the whole of a B.B. so a few general remarks are all that can be made. Firstly, what size film do you want to use? 35mm is very popular and perhaps more in use than any other now. Reels come in 20 or 36 exposures and colour slides work out about 1/- each. The large number of exposures on one reel is useful, if a little frustrating at times. With fast black and white film using available lighting (not flashbulbs) it is possible to be extravagant with film at very little cost. A further advantage of the 35mm size cameras is that, when taking colour, nearly all projectors will take the 2” x 2” slides which result. On the other hand, larger sized films give better definition and have the additional advantage that, when taking colour (which is very expensive compared to 35mm!) shots can be trimmed down to 35mm size and better pictures composed by this method. Having more or less decided what size film you are going to use, the most important consideration is the price you are going to pay for a camera. These days, cavers are often seen with cameras which, in Don and Pongo’s day, nobody would have been able to afford, however keen they were. You may only want to do some cave photography as a sideline and not spend too much on the camera or have lots of other things to spend the money on. Apart from second hand cameras – which can sometimes be bought at very favourable terms – there are roughly three main price brackets. The first are cheap cameras up to roughly £10. Some of these are quite reasonable for cave photography as there is no point in having a complicated shutter in any case and, if a reasonably fast film is used and lens stopped down, a cheap lens can perform quite well under these circumstances. Page 30 B.B. 220/4 May 1966
The next price range is roughly from £10 to about £35. For this sort of money you will get a good lens and a multispeed shutter (which you don’t really need) and some of the cheaper reflex cameras come within this range – at any rate at second hand prices. The last category is the “sky’s the limit” and for more money you get interchangeable lenses, coupled rangefinders, pentaprisms, built in exposure meters and a host of other gadgets. Now it happens to be an awkward fact that – if you consider a camera just for caving purposes – nobody makes anything like the ideal camera, and so any camera you choose is bound to be a compromise, unless of course you have picked it mainly with non-caving photography in mind. The ideal caving camera would be tough, and able to stand at least the occasional knock without damage. It would have to be a good quality lens, preferably interchangeable so that a wide angle lens could be used when required. It would be a reflex so that you could see exactly what you were going to take, even in the poor light available (many ‘ordinary’ view finders can hardly be used in caves as there is not enough light) and you would also be able to check that the scan was correctly in focus. On the other hand, the ideal caving camera would only have a simple shutter (since really short exposure times are rarely necessary in cave photography) and would not have a built in exposure meter (apart from flash, all other lighting is far too dim to register on an exposure meter) and neither would it have any form of double exposure prevention. Most cameras today have a single lever or button which cocks the shutter and winds on the film. Flashguns are not always the most reliable of devices in the damp atmosphere of a cave and this means that, if the flashgun doesn’t go off, a frame of film has been wasted. It has already been said that a camera along these lines cannot be bought and so the choice must be a personal one. In the opinion of the writer, the best choice would include facility for changing lenses and for the camera to be a reflex. Failing that, he would plump for a reflex with as wide an angle single noninterchangeable lens as possible, and failing that again, a camera with any good lens. In the cheap camera category, he would go for as good a lens as possible and a robust form of camera construction. (to be continued).