NPC Newsletter 40, May 1996

The Further Exploration of Rawthey Cave

Rawthey Cave is located on the bank of the River Rawthey immediately downstream of the more well known Lady Blue's Underwater Fantasy, which drains a large area of limestone on Wild Boar Fell. Rawthey Cave is in a narrow band of vertically bedded limestone which drains the area of fell that extends south towards Bluecaster Hill. It was first explored in 1974 by Oliver Statham and Geoff Yeadon and later in 1976 by Bob Hryndyj and Steve Thorpe, reaching a point just into sump 3.

Realising that there was potential for dry cave beyond the sumps it has seen recent attention of Phil Murphy and Andrew Goddard, supported by members of the NPC.

Soon sumps 1-2 were relined and exploration into sump 3 could begin. This proved quite difficult due to the appalling visibility and the difficulty in navigating around banks of silt. Most of the walls were nowhere to be seen. The divers were disappointed to meet an underwater boulder choke after only a short distance. Boulders removed from the base of the slope caused the choke to slump. Nevertheless progress was possible and a hole was opened up on the left wall.

In spite of the freezing conditions (between Christmas and New Year, which rendered all diving gear, and even the diver, unusable within seconds of surfacing), the support team examined several promising looking leads on the surface. Digging prospects look good and work is planned.

On the left of the choke, a vertical slot below a large poised flake could be followed. Phil then boldly squeezed up between the flake and the wall and easily surfaced in a large airbell thus passing sump 3. The airbell was large with several dry leads. There was no obvious continuation to the sump. Luckily a search below water revealed a slot in the south wall and 12m of line was soon laid to a boulder choke. This was dug until an opening was made and the divers could pass through. After a difficult section weaving through debris the divers soon emerged into a large tunnel. This was perfectly straight and shingle floored. After 20 metres the passage started to rise up a gravel slope and the divers surfaced in a large passage at least 15m high. Unfortunately this sumped again after only 20m.

This new sump turned out to be a total distance of 15m surfacing at the foot of a large boulder choke some 5m high by 5m wide. Two giant perpendicular flakes of rock acted like a guillotine across 90% of the passage. The stream was issuing from beneath the flakes. At the top of the boulder slope there is a body sized hole with a black void beyond. The boulders are approximately 0.3-0.4 metres square and could easily be moved.

Prospects for this site look really good so watch this space!

Report: A R Goddard

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