Reports of diving carried out in Yorkshire

Magnetometer Pot, Fountains Fell. Feb/March 1961

Operation "Maggie 1" 19.2.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon.

Styx Rising. This is some 300 yards from the entrance pitch, and is normally a static sump. In time of flood, water rises and flows up the steeply descending approach passage, rising up through a vertical distance of 70 ft. The cave is only accessible during periods of dry weather. On this occasion, only 3 supporters were available, and thus lightweight diving gear was taken into the cave. The breathing apparatus used was a modified D.S.E.A., oxygen being breathed on demand. The diving dress was a S.E.I.S.W.H. (Submarine Escape Immersion Suit with Hood). Lighting was by means of a 3-cell NiFe accumulator and cap lamp set. With A.Fincham holding the lifeline, the diver entered the sump. The passage sloped steeply at an angle of about 40, with a shingle floor. The roof was irregular with pendants and hollows, the character of the passage being similar to that of the approach to the sump. It was about 10 ft. wide, and averaged 2 ft. 6 in. in height. Peaty water made visibility poor, about 3ft. Considerable difficulty was experienced in making headway, due to air trapped in the suit giving positive buoyancy. An estimated depth of 8 ft. was reached at a point 12 ft. in. The passage continued, dropping steeply as far ahead as could be felt (a further 5 ft.). One small airspace was found about 4 ft. in.

This dive proved that there was no probablility of the sump being short and shallow enough to be passable to a free swimmer. It was decided that another dive should be carried out at an early date, using longer duration equipment and an aflo. (It had been the intention to use a Sgamtu and aflo on this occasion, but the smallness of the party prevented it). It was not considered desirable to use two divers as, if the passage continued to drop at the same rate, it would soon become beyond the range of pure oxygen apparatus.

Holes Junction. Here a water filled rift can be seen through a hole in the floor. The water is clear, and the walls are of bare rock. Despite considerable efforts by A.Fincham, the rift was still too constricted to enter, and certainly impassable to a kitted diver.

Operation "Maggie 2" 18.3.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon

Object: to reconnoitre Styx Rising using Sgamtu breathing apparatus and with better lighting facilities.

All the equipment required for the diving operation was arranged in 8 easily carried bundles, averaging 12 lbs. in weight. A support party of N.P.C. and S.U.N.C. (C.S.) members was organised by C.Green. The equipment was assembled and tested at Styx Junction, and the diver vented his suit here also, to avoid stirring up mud at the sump.

The water level at Styx rising was about 5 in. lower than on the previous operation ("Maggie 1"). Working on a nylon lifeline, the diver descended a steep shingle bank past the point reached previously. The floor deposit changed to a coarse gravel at a less steep slope, until a bare rock floor was reached at a point 15 ft. in from the beginning of the sump, at a depth of 9 ft. There were small banks of fine silt on either side of the passage which was 10-12 ft. wide. It remained level with a bare rock floor from here on, the height varying from 4-6 ft. The roof contained many hollows and pendants, similar to the approach passage to the sump. The visibility was fairly good (about 10 ft. provided the diver kept ahead of the cloud of fine silt which rose in his wake). The passage appeared to curve very slightly to the left, the general direction being SE. At a point about 70 ft. from the commencement of the sump, a block lay on the floor; it would be suitable for a belay if one was required. A little further on, the floor rose up a gentle slope of bare rock, slightly to the left, with no roof visible overhead. This was ascended until, with a depth gauge reading of 6 ft. (on floor) the line was fouling the roof behind. Blue water could be seen above and ahead, but no airspace was confirmed, although it seems highly probable that one exists. The cloud of silt now caught up with the diver, obscuring the view, and since to advance further up the slope to verify that this was indeed the "other side of the sump" would have made signalling to base difficult, and bearing in mind the distance to base, it was decided to return, which was done in poor visibility (about 1.5 ft.). The furthest point reached was 107 ft. from base. The diving base was on the edge of the rising, and about 13 ft. from the beginning of the sump; the distance travelled underwater was therefore approximately 94 ft. The diver was away from base for 13 mins.

As each item of equipment became ready for transporting, it was removed by the willing arms of the supporters, who made their way out of the cave piecemeal. The last member of the party left the cave at 7.30 p.m. exactly 7.5 hours after the entrance pitch had been laddered.


The first diving operation ("Maggie 1") which was made with insufficient lighting just failed to reach the bottom of the gravel slope at the beginning of the sump.

It seems highly probable that there is a large air surface within a few feet of the point reached during "Maggie 2", and unlikely that excessive depths might be encountered as at first feared.

A further dive should be made with 2 divers equipped with Sgamtu breathing apparatus and 2 aflos, only one of which need have a line reel. the 1.5 ft. block seen on the floor about 80ft. from the diving base would be suitable for a belay, and if so used, would prevent the line from pulling against the roof as the slope was ascended.


II Dub Cote Cave, Horton in Ribblesdale


Dub Cote Cave is a small, rarely visited, cave in the Penyghent area. It is an old resurgence cave, believed to be a flood rising connected with Brackenbottom rising, or possibly even the Douk Gill system. On rare occasions, a considerable stream flows out of the cave, but normally it is quite dry, until a terminal pool is reached about 120 ft. from the entrance. It was thought that it was possible that beyond the pool a way into high level flood passages might exist.

Operation "Dub 1" 18.2.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon
Supporters: A.Fincham
K Ashton (NPC)

This dive was made with a D.S.E.A. modified, breathing oxygen on demand. Lighting was by means of a 3-cell NiFe accumulator and cap lamp set. Visibility was good, the only mud came from the diver's boiler suit ! The passage appeared to slope steadily down at the same dip as the bedding (about 15°), on a bearing of about 320. The floor was of smooth rock, strewn with sharp angular rocks. The height of the passage was 2 ft. at first, but after 12 ft. it increased to about 5 ft. The left hand wall was undercut at the base along the bedding. The passage widened, and there appeared to be a roomy way on ahead. The furthest point reached on this dive was about 18 ft.; a second dive of length 25 ft. confirmed the findings of the first. Maximum depth reached was estimated to be 8-10 ft.

Operation "Dub 2" 10.6.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon
Supporters: C.Green
A.Wilson (NPC)

Object: to reconnoitre using longer duration equipment, and to prepare a survey of the complete known cave from the entrance.

The diving dress worn was a Shawad: the breathing apparatus (Sgamtu) and aflo, etc. were taken into the cave and assembled without difficulty.

The diver soon reached the furthest point of the dive in February, and pushed on, examining both walls. The line to base caused great difficulty, continually snagging in the rocks on the floor, and making progress difficult. At a point 55 ft. from the commencement of the underwater passage, the depth was 9 ft., and the roof was 3.5 ft. high. Within a couple of yards the roof lifted to 5 ft., and shortly after, the passage ended against a vertical wall. The end of the passage appeared to be a cross rift, but no way on from this point could be found. Friction on the rope made signals impossible, and the return to base was made in poor visibiliy, winding the rope in and removing snags on the way. The divier was away from base just over 20 minutes.


The result of the second diving operation was disappointing in view of the promising appearance of the underwater passage entered on the first operation. It is just possible that a low way on may exist which was concealed by fallen rocks. There is no denying the fact that in times of heavy rain, a heavy flow of water rises from the cave. However, an important factor is that the cave is almost at the bottom of the limestone: the entrance is only 12 ft. vertically above the basal conglomerate (as deduced from the outcrop 50 ft. south of the entrance). The conglomerate is less than 20 ft. thick, and it lies unconformably on steeply dipping Silurian Slates.


III Bransgill Cave, Horton in Ribbledale


This important rising was examined by the C.D.G. on 11.4.54, (C.D.G. Derbyshire Section Review for 1953-55, p.4) when "Price found closure to the bedding plane". It could not have been thoroughly looked at on this occasion.

It was further examined by E.J.W. on 19.4.60 (C.D.G. Review for 1960, p.3), who found that the water rose strongly from an 18 in. high bedding plane 60 ft. from the entrance on the north side of the cave. About 100 ft. from the entrance was a deep pool which looked as if it became active in flood conditions. The dive carried out on 19.3.61 was in this pool, and since it is uncertain whether any actual diving was carried out on the occasion of the visit in 1954, the operation was named "Bransgill 1". The above water portion of the cave was surveyed on 24.6.61 by J & R Squire and E.J.W.

Operation "Bransgill 1" 19.3.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon
supported by members of
the N.P.C. and the S.U.S.S.

The BA (Sgamtu mod) was tested in the stream at the cave entrance, and worn by the diver for the 100 ft. crawl to the pool. Dress: SEISWH.

The diver walked down a steep slope of pebbles mixed with mud and coarse gravel, and was totally submerged within 10 ft. from the edge of the pool. The bottom of the slope was reached at a depth of 11 ft., when the floor comprised bare rock with scattered boulders and gravel gently sloping downwards. At this point the roof height was 7 ft. The diver followed a rock wall, keeping it on the right hand, and moved in a general direction of SE. At a distance of 49 ft. from base, the depth was 17 ft. A way straight ahead 4.5 ft. high and 5 ft. wide could be seen, with the floor sloping still deeper. Visibility was about 10 ft., with no signs of current. Signals to base did not appear to be clearly received, probably due to rock pendants, and so it was decided to return. The bearing on return was NNW, visiblity about 1 ft.


It seems highly likely that the pool is a backwater, active only as a flood rising. The point reached in the dive was fairly free from mud, and was probably part of the active streamway. A further dive should be made by 2 divers, both prepared for a long dive. There is a high probability of extensive passages between the rising and the Hull-Hunt Pot systems on Penyghent, but it is likely that the lower reaches nearest Bransgill are more or less totally submerged, and even if the way ahead remains as roomy as at the beginning, it is doubtful if air spaces will be met for some distance.


IV Witches' Cave, Easegill, Westmorland. N.G.R. SD 660800


Witches' cave lies in the NW bank of Easegill Force, below Casterton Fell. It is known that in periods of wet weather, a large stream flows out of the entrance and down the Gill. The nearest point to it which can be reached by road is near Gale Garth Farm, on the Bull Pot Farm road, over threequarters of a mile away across rough country and 350 ft. higher in altitude.

The cave is a roomy bedding plane cave, with bare rock floor, and widens out considerably inside the entrance. Nearly 200 ft. from the entrance, a pool with a pebble bottom ends at a vertical rock face. By the use of scaling ladders, it is possible to climb up this face for about 15 ft. to an upper passage which ends in a 20 ft. ladder pitch into a deep pool, most certainly connecting with the pool nearer the entrance.

Operation "Witches' cave 1" 17.9.61

Divers: E.J.Whaddon
Supporters: D.A.Raine
All N.P.C.

Both divers used lightweight diving dress (SEIS), and Sgamtu Mod. B.A.s together with aflos. In addition to scaling tackle, this gear made the carry from the road (and back again) somewhat arduous, but it was expected that the length of the dive would rule out the use of short duration B.A.s. A pool in a rock basin outside the cave entrance was conveniently situated for testing B.A.s and venting suits, while the scaling ladders were erected inside the cave. It was thought that a submerged way under the overhead route might exist, but since pat of the diving kit had already been taken up the scaling ladders, the original plan of diving from the base of the 20 ft. pitch was adhered to. Some of the weights were dropped by accident down the pitch, and diving for them revealed a 13 ft. deep rift down which they had apparently dropped. The bottom of the rift being too tight for further progress, they were considered as lost. The two divers took it in turns to search round the walls and floor of the terminal chamber on a line. Visibility was poor, less than 6 ins. The average depth of water was 7 ft., but rifts running E-W in the floor went down to an average of 10-12 ft., after which they became too tight. It is possible that they are the sources of the stream in wet weather. In the SW side of the chamber a low underwater crawl was penetrtated for 10 ft. into warmer water, possibly a backwater.

The base of the wall behind the ladder pitch was investigated and the 13 ft. rift crossed. A bedding plane crawl at an average depth of 6 ft. on bare rock led gently upwards, and E.J.W. emerged close to the scaling ladders, after having passed a 17 ft. sump.

There was little further that could be done that day, so the arduous return journey acroos the fell with the kit was made, this time in darkness.


It is doubtful if continuation large enough to take a diver exists. Any further dives should be carried out after a dry spell, to take advantage of low and clear water.

Divers should enter the terminal chamber via the 17 ft. sump, to avoid the need for ladders, (and additional possibility of getting mud dropped into the water). The rifts in the floor should again be examined in clear water. There are a couple of water-filled rifts near the cave entrance which may lead into backwaters that could be examined.


V Spring Trap Cave, Wharfedale N.G.R. SD 976706


Spring Trap Cave is situated on the east bank of the stream which rises out of Black Keld, and is a quarter mile downstream from this important resurgence. In wet weather, water flows out of the cave into the stream. Halfway between Spring Trap Cave and Black Keld is another rising close to the bank of the stream, and which is only active in wet weather: it is choked with pebbles, but it seems likely that both it and Spring Trap Cave are flood risings for the Black Keld system. A windpump close to Spring Trap Cave apparently draws water from the same system.

150 ft. from the entrance to Spring Trap Cave a static pool sumps. The length of the pool varies with the weather, but at the time of the first dive it was 50 ft. long and averaged 2 ft. deep.

Operation "Spring Trap 1" 25.6.61

Diver: E.J.Whaddon
Supporters: K.Ashton
J & R Squire

Using a Sgamtu breathing apparatus and working on a line, the diver entered a submerged passage similar in character to the passage before the sump, 6 to 8 ft. wide and averaging 3 ft. high at the centre. It dipped gradually until a point about 50 ft. from the commencement of the sump was reached, when the floor rose, and at a point 55 ft. from the start of the sump, an air space was entered, approximately 15 ft. long and widening to about 12 ft. at the northern end. The diver had now come to the end of the rope, so returned. The floor of the pasage was bare rock, with small silt banks at either side. In the pool before the sump was an enlarged joint about 1 ft. wide and 5 ft. deep.

Operation "Spring Trap 2" 16.9.61

Divers: E.J.Whaddon
Supporters: R.A.Jarman (CDC & BPC)
R.A.Elliot (BPC)
D.A.Raine & R.Wilkins (NPC)

The water was higher than on the previous dive, due to heavy rain the preceding week, and the edge of the pool was nearer the cave entrance. E.J.W., leading and laying line, the divers progressed for 50 ft. along submerged passage, and arrived at the point where the sump had commenced on the previous dive (marked by lowering of the roof and sudden lack of stalactites). It was decided that the air space previously reached might not now be usable, and that there was little point in continuing the operation.


A further dive should be carried out by a pair of divers at a time when the water level is low. It should be borne in mind that continuous rain soon affects the water level of the risings in the Wharfedale area.


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