(This article first appeared in the NPC Newsletter 60 in  February 2004)

Following recent comments about activity levels within the club, it might interest some of you to know that someone from the club is actually doing some digging every week. Before you get too excited about this signalling a renaissance I should admit that it is still the ‘feared and fearsome’ Thursday night team or, more precisely, the tattered remnants of it.  When we accidentally misplaced Batty’s knees somewhere on Fountains Fell and he joined an NHS waiting list, Frank and I temporarily lost our raison d’être. We no longer had someone to provide order and meaning to our lives. No-one to channel the fearsome internal drives wrought by aeons of amoral evolution.  No-one to provide social status and certainty in a volatile world. We had, in short, no-one to say ‘Dig ‘ere’.

Fortunately, we fell in with the YSS and their efforts in Great Douk.  For those of you unfamiliar with Great Douk it’s on Ingleborough. (For those of you who don’t know where Ingleborough is, it’s that lump between The Crown and the Hill Inn). It has an impressive upper streamway that debouches into a large tree filled ‘ole where the stream sinks into chaos. For years this has been a focus of interest for many clubs searching for the downstream continuation, most notably, the Bradford and NCC (or so the old ones say) who dropped a shaft in one corner of the chaos into a savage, frequently flooded crawl which ended with a 20’ pitch into a large chamber containing crumbly walls and a floor that said ‘Ah used ter be t’ceiling. Eeeh! Them were t’days. Hic!’.

The situation suited me ‘n Frank not only down to the ground but quite a bit below it. On Thursdays we could stormtrooper into the dig, create all sorts of havoc in the general direction of down by the random application of dehydrated mini black holes, then, at weekend, the skilled lads would come along and make things pretty. In thus ways was the terrible crawl enlarged so that we now have considerably less scary access to the final chamber than the earlier explorers.

The problem of where to dig in the chamber itself was overcome by the application of quantum mechanics. It’s often said that ‘caves are where you find ‘em’. Consider this. Would you look for a cave where you don’t expect to find one? Of Course Not. So, the very act of observation implies a probability, however small, of the existence of a cave where you’re looking and, if you didn’t look there, there wouldn’t be one. At least, not from the observers frame of reference. A classic example of the act of observation influencing the outcome of the experiment or, in this case, where you start shovelling shit from.

We happily set about converting the chamber floor into a large and gruesome crater, which, after the weekend boys had been in, miraculously became a neat, scaffold-lined shaft.

Naturally the deeper this shaft became, the more difficult it was for the two of us to dig, lift and empty buckets but we gained help from a rather unexpected quarter when I suffered, for reasons that we needn’t go into here, what I believe is known in polite circles as ‘a severe blow to the head’ which left me with two things.

Thing the first is an impressive facial scar that came together with an urge to wear coloured headscarves and a gold earring, carry a cutlass and bury large boxes of trinkets in the sand-dunes at Southport.

Thing the second is, well….’companions’ that only I can see. Frank diagnosed the problem thus:

We all have a blind spot in each eye where the optic nerve connects to the retina. Our brains recognise this and ‘fill in’ the spot with appropriate information from the immediate surroundings. Now, a good bash on the head can create a second blind spot, known as a scotoma, which the brain also tries to fill but, since it hasn’t had a few million years of practice with this particular spot, the ‘filler’ can be somewhat bizarre.

(Note that this is not the same as always seeing naked ladies when you close your eyes. Other evolutionary forces account for this).

In my case the ‘filler’ that I see is cartoons. That’s right, Bugs Bunny, Mickey M, Road Runner, any of ‘em can pop up large as life. So, being practical people, Frank and I issued a blanket honorary membership to the lot of them and put ‘em to work. Frank would dig, I would haul buckets and whoever was appearing alongside me at the time would heave the crap over into the far corner of the chamber.

This worked amazingly well. No sooner had the bucket reached the top of the shaft than, whip, zipadeedoodah, it was emptied and back on the rope. But what, I hear those of you with incisive minds ask, happens if, say, instead of Superman appearing, I get Goofy or Dopey? Doesn’t that slow down the digging? The answer, of course, is ‘no’ because cartoons aren’t real and so don’t conform to our values of spacetime.  Even Snow White, I’ve discovered, can empty a bucket of neutron-dense sludge in, well, no time at all.

The flat-earthers among you may doubt all this but the experimental facts show that it works. We dropped the shaft about 15’ before finding a drafting hole that led into a rift going off from the chamber, descending another 20’ or so on the way. Currently the whole process is being repeated at the bottom of the rift where we are confident of baldly going……etc.

In summary then:

  1. The club still has active members.
  2. In addition to tried and tested forms, cutting-edge scientific methods are being fully utilized at the extremes of our sport/science.
  3. Members are open to all new ideas, including the uses of parapsychology.
  4. It is occasionally difficult to differentiate between cavers and cartoon characters.

Stay in this space-time continuum for further developments.

By John Illingworth, CC BY-SA 2.0

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