MALHAM COVE by John Southworth
John Ogden and I visited the Cove one summer night with the intention of diving in the resurgence to see what the possibilities of further exploration were. We had heard that the length of previous exploration was seventy feet to a slit too tight to allow anyone wearing diving gear to pass, and also that the entrance to the Cove had to be dug out which took many hours on previous dives there.
On checking the gear we found we were short of weight belts and a diving line, but this did not put us off. On reaching the Cove a coin was tossed and Oggy had the pleasure of diving first, He kitted up and I slipped a loop over his wrist, which was one end of a 120 foot nylon climbing line which was to be a make-do guide line. It was not long before he found the right place to dive, but things seemed to be going badly for Oggy, who pushed frantically off the bottom lip of the cave in a desperate effort to make headway. This went on for ten minutes or so, after which he surfaced and told me it was very tight, with plenty of loose boulders about, and the current was very strong, making it awkward to keep down without the aid of a weight belt. He then took the bottle off and gave it to me so that I could have a look.
Putting the loop round my wrist I dived and immediately was jammed by a boulder sticking into my chest. I removed this and then pushed my way forward down the crack. Progress was painful and it took quite some time to pass the four foot tight section and much precious air had been wasted in the struggle. Once through the entrance the passage developed into a wide bedding plane about two feet high which I followed for seventy feet in good visibility. The tight section was directly in front of me and on looking through it I could see quite a large chamber, so at once I inserted myself into the squeeze. It could be plainly seen where other divers had tried this by the abundance of scratch marks on the rocks, and I myself was for giving up at one time when one of the projections pulled so hard on the high-pressure hose that it nearly ripped the demand valve out of my mouth. However, another few hard pushes on the side and I was through into the chamber, whose roof I had the pleasure of meeting only a second or two after the squeeze.
Stupid as it was, I had forgotten I was not wearing a weight belt, which automatically made me shoot up to the roof at quite an alarming speed. That was not so bad after the initial shock - the problem was how to get back down again for the return journey! Checking on the contents of the bottle I noticed it was only quarter full, so after a quick look round the chamber to make sure the dive did carry on, the return journey started.
The best way I found was to do a hands and knees crawl upside down on the roof slowly making my way to the crack.This was quite funny because twice I shot back to the roof of the chamber and it was only on the third attempt that I managed to get my hand on the upper edge of the crack and pull myself in. It was a lot easier on the way out owing to the force of the current, and once through the tight section I shot off down the seventy foot bedding plane and up the entrance rift to bob up to Oggie's welcome light. We had had enough for one night and decided to go home and return to the dive another night with much more equipment.
On the next visit, a week later, were four more divers, myself, Oggy, Dave Stewart of the Happy Wanderers and Bill Frakes of the B.P.C. plus hordes of other members of our Club and Bradford and also two Newspaper Photographers. The plan was for Oggy and myself to dive first with two hundred feet of courlene guide line and to go to the end of the line and belay it if no air space was met.
I went first and told Oggy to follow me as soon as I was through the tight entrance section. This I passed and finned my way onwards to the squeeze, at which I removed my main bottle, pushing it in front of me with the coil of guide line, but keeping my small reserve set on (the reserve set is another bottle and valve which is used if the main set develops a fault.) I then put the main bottle under my arm and set off swimming again, paying out the line as I went. The type of passage changed from a chamber into the kind of bedding plane passage encountered on the first section of the dive, and this I followed for some thirty feet when a mechanical fault developed in my reserve kit. Masses upon masses of bubbles were streaming out of the reserve demand valve and knocking my mask off, which I had to keep clearing before I could get any sense of direction. It was pointless for me to go on with the dive so I decided to return to base. It was as I was turning round, that the wrist lamp bracket which Ken Taylor specially made for me to use on this dive, got jammed in a rift, I struggled for quite some time to release this and it was only by one very sharp painful pull that I did it.
On returning to the squeeze I found Oggy struggling through, who on seeing me encased in bubbles started to make his way back wards out of the squeeze. I then took the main bottle from under my arm and pushed it in front of me and negotiated the squeeze. Once through we both made our way back to the entrance and out of the rift to daylight.
The story was told to Dave and Bill who both decided to have a dive to where I left the line reel in the bedding plane and carry on exploring from there.
They negotiated the squeezes easily enough and on reaching the line reel set off up the bedding plane for another forty feet, until they found they were both very short of air, so they returned to base, floating the line out with them. The total length of line from the entrance to the farthest point was one hundred and fifty feet, the last forty feet being dived by Dave and Bill. The passage we are now diving in does not seem to me to be the main stream passage because the first section of bedding plane between the entrance and the squeeze, has quite a fast flowing current in it, and the second part of the cave has hardly any flow at all. The water flow seems to be lost just past the squeeze and it would be a good idea to have another look round the chamber.