Letter from caving bodies to Stephen Brown Craven District Coroner
CLOSURE OF MOSSDALE CAVERNS
The following statement has the unqualified support of the individuals whose names are appended and whose support was enlisted as a result of a general meeting of cave rescue personnel held at Grassington on Sunday, 2nd July. The opinions expressed appear to be unanimously accepted by all other cave rescue personnel and speleologists throughout the United Kingdom.
This information has not been publicly released in any manner whatsoever and is brought to your attention as one of the relevant authorities in this matter.
Mossdale Caverns consist of a complex network of over five miles of largely horizontal passages, with the prospect of more extensive, unknown passages, extending over an area of several square miles.
Mossdale Scar itself is an unstable feature and is subject to considerable frost action, boulder fall and stream erosion, which leads to frequent changes of the structure of the scar face and the underlying cave passages. This weathering action makes the likelihood of the appearance of further restricted entrances to the cave system very great and such entrances may present routes into the caverns behind, which will be of greater difficulty and danger than the present known entrances. Such openings are particularly likely at the southern extremity of the Scar with connections into the Thin Stream section of The Western Passages, and also in the vicinity of the present New Entrance.
The closure of the present entrances to the caverns, by means of boulder blasting, or by concrete, will simply seal off the only reasonably negotiable entrances should access to the system be required at a later date for rescue. Any attempt to blast the full length of the scar is very likely to lead to the opening of several further routes into the caverns.
Mossdale Scar is a remote site and attempts to prohibit access are certain to be very difficult. It is therefore probable, in view of the structural considerations referred to above, that entry into this system by unauthorised parties will be gained in due course, even though the main entrance has been “sealed". ‘ In this event, any accident is likely to lead to a rescue operation of a more difficult nature than the recent disaster, and a greater risk to life for both the victims and the rescuers.
In view of these considerations, it is suggested that the present main entrance to the cave should be re-excavated, gated, and access closely controlled.
It is the opinion of the following persons that unless a course of action close to that suggested above is taken, there is a very- real probability of accidents and/or a future loss of lives in this cave system, with the attendant repetition of the effort and expense. It has to be realised that it is not possible to prevent eventual access to this system by cavers.
Dr. J.O. Myers.
Lecturer in Mine Surveying and Applied Geophysics
The University of Leeds. Past Chairman of The
Cave Rescue Organisation, and expert on the
hydrology of Mossdale Caverns.
Dr. G.T. Warwick.
Lecturer in Geomorphology, The University of
Birmingham. Expert in karst geomorphology and
cavern formation. Past Chairman of The Cave
Research Group of Great Britain and adviser on
caves to The Nature Conservancy.
Mr. L. Huff
Chairman of The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue
Mr. M. Hollingworth
Adviser on Cave Rescue to The Cave
Research Group of Great Britain, past
Chairman of The Cave Rescue Organisation and
Council member of the British Speleological
Dr. A.G. Fincham.
President Leeds University Speleological
Association. Chairman of Leeds Area Team
of The Cave Rescue Organisation and surveyor
of Mossdale Caverns.
Dr. K. Pearce
Chairman, The British Speleological Association
Adviser on Cave Diving to the
Cave Research Group of Great Britain.
In addition, both the Cave Research Group of Great Britain
and the British Speleological Association support the analysis
The Home Office.
The Secretary of State for Home Affairs.
H.M. Coroner, Skipton, Yorks.
The Chief Constable, West Riding County Constabulary,
The Divisional Superintendent, Skipton, Yorks.
6th July 1967