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Torricellian Chambe...
 

Torricellian Chamber Rescue, Yorkshire Area, c1950 information requested  

 

(@bernard-biales)
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19/01/2020 8:49 pm  

My late wife was involved in a rescue from a Torricellian chamber in Yorkshire (or nearby) around 1950.  I would be grateful if anyone can direct me to sources of information about this rescue.   There may have been a relevant article in Nature around this date.


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(@bernard-biales)
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19/01/2020 9:48 pm  

I found her note (that goes with a poem that involves the Peak District) -- Mabel Davison at the time (nee Neaverson, later Hokin, Hokin Neaverson, and Neaverson Biales.  1949 Speleological Society Expedition.  Leader Bob Davies, another diver, Davy, David Hughes.  Her joke was "We are all Davy's".  Half a mile in air and then a half a mile mostly under water for the two divers.  Davy lost his mask and was trapped in the chamber.  Bob Davies came back while Mabel, over a phone line Davies had laid earlier, "talked to him for hours over the phone, joking and flirting with him so he wouldn't start to panic."  It was totally dark.  During the return, "his oxygen tank valve jammed when he was almost back, but he just make it."   I believe she told me even getting the air filled tunnel she penetrated involved some tight squeezes. 


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(@john-cordingley)
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20/01/2020 8:29 am  

Some of this information seems inaccurate or muddled between different incidents in different cases. I can confirm that the well known "Torricellian Chamber" is an airbell about 65 m from base in Buxton Water Sump, in Peak Cavern (at Castleton, Derbyshire). There was an early 1950s article in "Nature" about this site but it was a report of a scientific investigation of water levels related to periodic flooding and makes no reference to any rescue effort. This article was reproduced in a Cave Diving Group Newsletter a number of years ago (with permission from the publisher).


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(@bernard-biales)
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20/01/2020 2:21 pm  

John,  That is interesting.  That the Nature article (how do I find it on this site?) does not mention the rescue I take as being neither here nor there.     Given the size of the group, I think the "Expedition" title may have been sort of ingroup humor.    Mabel's note on the rescue was written as a part of a footnote to a poem on the Peak District done in 1972.  When she told me the story in the later 1980s, it was the same as the written account.  At the time, Mabel was a student at Sheffield University.  She went on to become quite a distinguished biochemist in Toronto and mainly Madison, Wisconsin.  

What it sounds like is this small, but very early and dramatic, incident may have been lost to scuba history.    Possibly some of those participants could be traced.  But I doubt if they are alive.  Mabel's sister, Mary Smith, is still living in Sheffield (there is also another sister) Dorry.   They may have some familiarity with the story.  I think it may deserve to live as at least a footnote to British cave diving.  Thank you for the information.


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(@john-cordingley)
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21/01/2020 8:59 am  

There is a database of publications on this site but it's a member only benefit, so you can't access it without the password. However, the index to it is available to you by hovering over "Resources" above, then over "Newsletters", then clicking on "Newsletter index", in case you want to delve. (I just had a quick glance for you but couldn't immediately find it as I'm very busy with other stuff as I type.)

Someone else may post here if they can easily tell us the reference. Meanwhile, I'm going to email a couple of other folk who know a lot about the early Peak District diving in the hopes that they can tell you the reference to the reprint in the CDG Newsletter.

Once you know the reference you could contact the BCA Librarian (found via "British Caving Association") and she will almost certainly scan & email the article for you.


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(@john-cordingley)
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21/01/2020 5:47 pm  

There was a successful rescue around then from a large airbell less than 20 m into the Resurgence Sump at Peak Cavern. One of the stranded divers was, from memory, Ken Hurst from Sheffield (I think there was a total of two divers who had to be helped out.) The airbell is called the Schoolroom. Could this have been the incident in question, if the facts have become muddled?

The "half a mile, mostly underwater" is definitely wrong; no-one had been into an underwater cave in the UK anywhere near that distance in 1949. It was the late 1970s before such penetration dives were made. 


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(@john-cordingley)
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21/01/2020 6:54 pm  

One of the people I asked to look into this has just sent a message to say he's on the case and will post something on here when he's had chance to read contemporary material properly. I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it for you.


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(@bernard-biales)
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21/01/2020 7:48 pm  

If you send me your email or your confederate's, I will send the relevant part of the poem and the footnote.  The footnote says that Bob Davies had discovered the chamber in question and put in a phone line. "The entrance tunnel was about a half mile into the cave and the passage way from the entrance to the chamber was about half a mile long and in most places totally of running water."    I suppose those numbers may be inaccurate, but  Mabel was a very serioys scientist and spoke carefully.

skywayparkblue@aol.com or bernardbiales@mit.alum.edu


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(@john-cordingley)
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22/01/2020 7:35 am  

Ah - that wording is subtly different. This is being looked into for you by others who have easier access to the contemporary literature; one of them will no doubt respond in due course. It'll be interesting to learn the outcome, as none of us is aware of the incident (although that may just mean we're not familiar with published information about it).

Let's see . . . . 


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(@john-cordingley)
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22/01/2020 8:15 am  

Have found the reference for you of the reprint of the Bob Davies paper, originally published in "Nature":

Davies R E, 1999 (reprint date), Water at a depth of -5 ft discovered by diving in Peak Cavern. Cave Diving Group Newsletter 130 (January 1999) pages 4 - 6.

The original paper (bearing the same title) appeared in Nature Vol.166 p.894 (1950) and the copyright is owned by Macmillan Magazines Ltd.

The paper makes no reference to any rescues - but it does tell us that the divers involved with Davies were F. G. Balcombe, D. A. Coase, W. H. Davis, C. W. Mack and J.A.Thompson. As a record of their efforts to perform a detailed scientific experiment in an underwater cave, shortly after the war, this paper is fascinating. 

 


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(@john-cordingley)
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22/01/2020 8:48 am  

There is further background information about Bob Davies in this short obituary:

https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=19701.0


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(@bernard-biales)
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22/01/2020 9:31 am  

Correction -- two words evaporated from my last.  It was supposed to be:  The entrance tunnel was about a half mile into the cave and the passage way from the entrance to the chamber was about half a mile long and in most places totally full of running water.  

Is there some place with a map or imagery of this thing?  Has it changed over time?  Does the access vary with the seasons? Rainfall?  Was it lost to history as brave chaps don't make a big deal about such a minor (and totally terrifying) incident.   Of course these people had recently been through the war -- I believe Mabel was bombed twice in Sheffield -- terrifying stuff in the telling.  I don't believe Mabel ever did scuba, though her  son did some.  Not caving.

The trapped diver was on a ledge in the chamber.

Thanks (as Mabel would say) "ever so" for info.   I developed claustrophobia in 1986 as the odd result of a medical incident (that happened on a vacation with M) and cave diving seems beyond the pale to me.   


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(@bernard-biales)
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22/01/2020 9:33 am  

Also, as I was a bit unclear, the list of names comprises four people on the expedition (not three).


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(@bernard-biales)
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22/01/2020 9:50 am  

As I reread it, the text is not clear to me -- Was "Davy" David Hughes or were those separate people.  In which case Mabel would be the only support. "

"Bob came back, rested, then took him another face piece."  If the underwater section was only 20 meters (the location you mentioned earlier), why did he have to rest   Was the passage way a real nightmare.  "I talked to him for hours over the phone, joking and flirting with him so he wouldn't start to panic.  It was a chancy business, and his oxygen tank valve jammed when he was almost back, but he jus made it."  "hours"  -- even if it seemed like hours and was somewhat less, what was the hangup?

 


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(@john-cordingley)
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22/01/2020 10:09 am  

OK, let's see what my contacts come up with.


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