Over a month ago some diver from the North who reads the technical diving forum, let's call him Mr Sneaky Peevalve, has written an official complaint to the county council (the owner of the cave) saying some quite uncomplimentary things about a post I put on the forum on 18th of November (which he also reprinted without consulting me nor forum administrators) and essentially stating that the cave management was at fault for letting someone as 'unqualified' as me to cave dive in their cave system.
In the wake of his action I presented all my relevant diving and cave diving qualifications (including Full cave taught by Martyn Farr in the sumps of South Wales) and insurances to the management of the cave. However, since an official complaint was issued to the district council, the management of the cave was forced to undertake some action and to refuse me, I hope temporarily, a further access to the cave.
I wonder what sort experience, when it comes to Irish or British sump diving, qualified that person to judge my actions but apparently he was trying to make a vague impression that he was involved in the past in ‘assessment’ of cave divers. Since he showed appalling lack of knowledge and utter ignorance on the conditions and the techniques used in Irish and British sumps I seriously doubt if he ever dived in any of them.
I'm always amazed by people who never take any mental effort to try to think outside of their ego, to understand that maybe that tiny universe they have created in their minds and that revolves around them is only one of the many, that the fact that they don’t understand something doesn’t automatically mean that it’s wrong. They stopped learning at some point of their life, and armoured with a portion of knowledge they acquired in the past, they walk proudly around and judge everyone else with that arrogant attitude of someone being in the known…If only they could see how pathetic they are...
Not brave enough to say what they think publicly on the forum, they are courageous just enough to plot behind your back and to feed third parties with lies and unqualified, biased opinions - and all of that out of the lowest of human motives, hidden behind the mask of benevolence and servitude to the society. Well, I guess there will be always individuals like him in every community and you just have to live with that.
Ok, I’m done. I could go on and on, my anger and bitterness was so huge at the time, but I won’t. I don’t want to lower myself to his level. I speak my mind openly and sign my words with my own name – I was never ashamed of it and if I ever had to remove my report from this forum it was only to protect other persons or institutions.
And most of all, if I have problem with something or someone, I direct my objections to them in a first place, before anyone else.
Operation ‘Grapes of Wrath’
So it was that the human envy won a battle, but not the war. I couldn’t go back to the Swann’s Way to continue the exploration, true. But nobody could stop me from trying to forge the connection from the Prod’s pot - Cascades system…
Some surveying work was in order first to see where the best spots for a potential link were. The surveying trip to the ‘secret passage’ in the Cascades showed that the low crawl below ‘Echo’ chamber that terminated in a sump had the biggest potential. Bringing cylinders to that point was something else. The smallest possible setup was chosen, 2l and 3l tanks, and a torturous carrying through the cave commenced, one cylinder at the time.
The first sump was passed on a third attempt with more ‘dry’ passage found behind. Shortly after another sumped section appeared but this could be bypassed through some higher level gallery. Very committing vertical squeeze dropped back to the stream level and it was there where the hopes for any further advance on that day have been shattered into the little pieces. Literally. I was in the middle of the squeeze when a tempered glass of the mask I carried on my neck broke against a rock. Being equipped to the minimum I didn’t bring the spare one – with only a short sump behind there was no need for that however I felt here was nothing I could do in terms of exploration if next sump should appear; which exactly happened after another 10m or so… Aaaaghh … I was done for the day. Surely I could try to tackle it without the mask, I expected the visibility to be none anyway, but with all that additional task loading with line laying, anchoring with the siltscrews and route finding I felt it would be only a waste of the precious gas which had been carried there with such an effort, unless I was extremely lucky. I opted for postponing the assault on the second sump, I secured one cylinder in a high level spot and retreated to the first sump. The dive out was uneventful tough my sinuses could have seen it differently
Operation ‘The Lion in Winter’
A week later, together with my friend Waldek Furmaniak from www.NadajemyTv.com I was on the way to Blacklion when the sudden hit of winter stopped us around Navan. The trip was rescheduled and a few days later we were back again on the road to Fermanagh. The original plan was to reach a caving hut on the Marlbank Loop, set up all the gear – cylinders, cameras, lights etc., spend the night there and attack the cave early in the morning. But when we reached Florenscourt the major flaw of that plan became apparent: the untreated back roads were like a glass and we would need something more than luck to drive up to the hut situated high on the Marlbank plateau. Since giving up without at least trying, no matter how daft the adventure would be, is against our deeply rooted national traditions (With saber against tanks - Z szablą na czołgi ), we attacked the Marlbank Loop east route immediately . The car managed to climb merely a few hundred meters before its wheels started spinning around on the icy road and we started sliding backward down the hill. Not funny… In some crazy manoeuvre Waldek managed to turn the car around (which was even more impressive when you think that the road width matched the car’s length) and we drove safely down to the main road. The plan had to be changed. We drove to the scouts hut and decided to attack the cave on the same day. Cladagh Valley was beautiful, capped under 20cm of snow. Three hours later I reached my previous limit and started preparing myself to explore the second sump. This proved to be shallow but very awkward. The vis was gone immediately at my entry into the water. Few metres into the sump I tried to anchor the line with a siltscrew but the silt was too soft and shallow to let it stay firmly in. I couldn’t proceed without a belay point, not there.Giving up was very far on my list though; I returned to my dive base and removed all the line from the sump, which by that time turned into a dark coloured soup. The siltscrews were not working, I needed some better plan. Maybe some stones or pieces of rock to belay to? I looked around but all I could find were some small boulders. I grabbed one of them and threw it into the sump. I removed my helmet which anyway was too bulky for the job and dived again. Moving on by touch I located the boulder, pushed it further into the sump and belayed the line to it. Finally some decent belay point. I was in some nasty, soft silt filled bedding plane and there was only one thing I had to make sure – that the line I left behind was properly belayed. With the new wave of reassurance I pushed forward with my head tilled to one side – the clearance between the floor and the ceiling was no more than 30cm but the way on must have been somewhere there! After few meters the way on ‘felt’ to be opening but I desperately needed another belay point. There’s not much space for an error while diving with 2 and 3l cylinders, ‘the line job’ must be spot on. The Force was with me and after a short search ‘by touch’ a suitable flake was found. 4 metres further and much to my surprise I finally broke through the sump and surfaced in some, well it’s hard to call it chamber, let’s say an airspace, 2x1m. I crawled over the mudbank and from there a narrow, steeply ascending rift brought me to an astonishing, beautifully decorated 10x4m chamber from where a few leads headed off. I felt I was on a verge of the breakthrough. I tried the more promising one - a vertical drop among the boulders that soon developed in a tight rift heading North. Good draft and fresh air could be felt but I was stopped by constriction created by calcited boulder. Behind, a bigger passage could be seen. I wasn’t giving up yet, I planned to try to shatter the boulder with a lead block from my harness but I decided to check the other leads first.
I returned to the top chamber and followed SE lead, a flat out crawl that after only 10m and without any warning emerged at the top of the recently surveyed chamber, a known ground: the connection between Prod’s Pot – Cascades and Marble Arch system has been established.
Official sources stand that Marble Arch system is 4.5km long while the Prod’s Cascades 4.1km. Further surveying work will follow. Together with new discoveries and previously unsurveyed sections the total length of the new system is 9km, which constitutes the longest cave system in Ulster and the third on the island (afaik), however there’s much potential within the system to extend it even further. Exploration continues.
The video material from the exploration ( registered by HD GoPro Hero camera mounted on my helmet, many thanks to Marek Klonowski, http://www.klonu.pl/ ) is being edited by Waldek and I should post it in the next couple of days.