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Peak District Caving News August 2002

The Titan Surface Dig Nears Connection

Report FromEd.
Report Date08/2002.

After two years and ten months the Titan Surface Dig is almost through. The last digging session broke through into looser meterial and a small hole draughted strongly inward. A full report will follow soon.

previous related report - March 2002

Knotlow and Hillocks Pollution and CO

Report FromDave Webb D.C.A.
Report Date08/2002.

The unpredictable situation at Knotlow regarding pollution and consequent bad air in the lower regions of Knotlow Caverns has been well publicised in the past, but several recent reports indicate that the situation has once more seriously deteriorated. A number of us visited the site on Friday August 16th 2002 with a monitoring instrument and the results indicated that the carbon dioxide levels are currently dangerously high. Although there was a noticeable smell it was not strong, and this should not be regarded in itself as a reliable indicator. By the time you read this warning notices will have been placed on the lids of both Engine and Climbing shafts. Further to an earlier report, the brown sludge coating the walls in Waterfall Chamber is now believed to be sewage fungus. We are actively seeking to resolve the situation. Below is a full account of our visit by one of our team members.

This report from Ralph Johnson CCPC preceeded the one above from DCA:

Following our experience with bad air on 6th August (Dave Webb, Matt Ryan and self) a revisit was planned. Nigel Cooper, CCPC's resident gas expert, was unable to attend but was kind enough to loan the necessary equipment and to spend half an hour or so explaining the ins and outs of a 'flame safety lamp'.

On a pleasant Friday evening at 18:00 (16 Aug.) our group assembled at the grassy triangle close to Knotlow. The original team consisting of Matt Ryan, Dave Webb and yours truly had been supplemented by Dave Otterwell, Alan Scragg and John Taylor (DCA Access and Conservation Officer)

We quickly rigged the system as far as the Waterfall Pitch and, as Matt rigged it, I set about lighting the safety lamp which refused to ignite despite several attempts. Assuming operator error I climbed back up into the first big chamber and tried again- no luck. I continued moving uphill trying the lamp unsuccessfully at a couple of locations as I went.

It wasn't until I reached the bottom of the climbing shaft that I was able to light the lamp at the first attempt. Hanging the lamp from my harness I set off back towards the Waterfall pitch. It soon became apparent that as I progressed the flame decreased in size and as I approached Dave who was at the top of the pitch it went out! Matt, 'young Dave' and John had already been as far as the bottom of Fourways finding sewage fungus in abundance, this was also present on the walls in Waterfall Chamber. I waited until the three had climbed the pitch before giving them the details- there didn t seem any point alarming them since they had survived this long! The three young, fit cavers complained of breathlessness, hardly surprising under the circumstances. As I made my way out I repeated my attempts to light the lamp which again I was unable to do until I reached the bottom of the entrance (climbing) shaft.

The water in East level was also visibly polluted and those visiting this area reported the symptoms of high levels of carbon dioxide. No improvement in air quality was detected until the group reached Pearl Chamber. This was exactly the same as on our visit on 6th August.

It is significant that there is hard evidence of water and air pollution higher up the system than ever before and in a number of independent streamways.

I have discussed these results with Nigel Cooper who informs me that the 'confined space regulations' would not permit anyone to enter a hole in the ground or any confined space if the atmosphere failed this test. Miners refer to this problem as "black damp" which means that oxygen levels are depleted most likely in this case by being replaced by carbon dioxide.

previous related report - March 2000

Report of Poor Air Quality in Water Icicle Close Cavern

Report FromIain Barker.
Report Date17/08/2002.

On sat 17th of August there was very little oxygen in Water Icicle Close Cavern. Myself & Bog Bergman spent half an hour underground and exited the mine gasping and in my case vomiting. There was no smell and lighters would not light at the foot of the shaft or throughout the passages. We were both very short of breath and the prussik back up the shaft was made arduous because of this. If a large party were to enter while the site was in this condition the outcome could be grave. Please be warned. Iain Barker.

next related report - September 2002