LANCASTER HOLE by John Southworth
The object of the dive was the upstream sump in West-Montagues. The divers of the party were John Southworth, John Ogden and Dave Stewart of the Happy Wanderers and Bill Frakes of the Bradford. Also helping to carry gear were Jeff Morgan of the Happy Wanderers and Dave Cobley and Colin Vickers of the Bradford.
The party assembled at the entrance pitch to Lancaster Hole on March fifth 1966 with what seemed to be an impossible pile of gear for the dive, consisting of six diving bottles, five twenty pound weight belts, flippers, masks, demand valves, three hundred feet of courlene line and all sorts of odds and ends including a tool kit and a mouth organ. The carrying of the gear to the sump was very hard and hot work, the average load being fifty pounds of very awkward and bulky gear.
Once at the sump, the party had to rest some time before kitting-up. Whilst equipment was being checked, Colin Vickers played on the mouth organ, but this is rather a terrible ordeal to go through for more than half an hour. He only knows one tune and he doesn’t even know that properly.
When Colin had been made to stop, Dave and Bill approached the sump and to our surprise found a line already in. Nobody had heard of any dive in this sump before, and the general idea now is that the line was washed in from the downstream end of Bull Pot of the Witches which has been dived for three hundred feet.
Dave and Bill dived and returned after some time, estimating that they had gone about a hundred and fifty feet into the sump. John Southworth dived next and followed the guideline for two hundred feet to a wooden line reel with another line attached, which he followed for a further two hundred feet to where the end was belayed. He then returned, being short of air making a total dive there and back of eight hundred feet. John Ogden then dived for three hundred feet but had to return only having a small bottle. The party then called it a day and all made their way back to the entrance pitch.
The size of the underwater passage is stupendous. It starts as a sloping bedding plane at an angle of forty five degrees, which continually becomes wider until the sides cannot be seen. This goes down to a depth of forty five feet and then the passage becomes horizontal, its height being twenty to thirty feet, and width about fifty feet. On the first two hundred feet of this passage there is one point where neither roof, nor walls nor bottom can be seen and this must be quite big because visibility was about thirty feet. There are also three holes in the floor about thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide with no sign of the bottom which stretch the width of the passage. Also there are many cross rifts, shooting off in all directions. On reaching the end of the first two hundred feet, the roof and walls close in and the passage becomes about ten feet wide and five feet high and continues for another one hundred feet until the passage gains in height up to about twenty feet at the point where the end of the line is belayed.
The only explanation as to how the guide line has become four hundred feet instead of the three hundred feet that was left in Bull Pot, is that the first line must have uncoiled itself whilst being swept downstream. Another attempt at the sump will be made to clear up the mystery once and for all.