Nov 222012

In 1983, twelve divers reached the first rockpile, carrying tanks over to the second sump. Six divers then swam the second sump to camp in the darkness in Toad Hall. And three divers pushed on, into the third sump.

Second sump rest stop

Rest stop in the second sump, sleds against the roof. Ron Allum on the left and Phil Prust on the right. The line dangling from the spare reg on the left is a neck strap.

Toad Hall

Welcome to Toad Hall. It’s a long way to the top, but less gear to be carried over for the third sump push with only three divers going ahead. The camping gear was taken to the flat section at the top of the chamber.

Top of Toad Hall

Phil Prust takes a rest break at the top of the Toad Hall chamber with a tank. Note the single tank carrying pack as seen on the tank Hugh was breathing off in the first sump. Someone else is setting up camp in the background.

Camping in Toad Hall

Phil waiting for the billy to boil in Toad Hall. All of this miscellaneous equipment has been swum through the 1km first sump, carried over the first rockpile, swum through the 2.5km second sump, and carried up the rockpile in Toad Hall. It’s a lot of work for a cup of tea! Drinking water and orange juice was carried as the cave water was too salty. Note the helmet propped on the rock to light the job at hand.

Sleeping in Toad Hall

Phil Prust, tucked into bed in Toad Hall with a redundant torch by his side. High humidity made everything damp.

Guideline in the third sump

Hugh lays yellow line into the third sump. The white line was laid by the French brothers Frances and Eric Le Guen who had dived the cave in September 1983 using Aquazepp scooters to push 1500m into the third sump. In October 1983 the Australian team was determined to regain their cave and their record. Removing the European white line from the third sump and pushing beyond into unknown territory was a good response to the French invaders and their lead stealing activities.

Reeling into the third sump

Reeling into the third sump, Ron (L), Hugh (R) and Dad (behind camera) headed for the end of the cave. Hugh is carrying a spare single tank under one arm for when the cave gets smaller at the known end of the tunnel. In this photo you can see the large passage size earlier in the system has started to shrink. The dangling regs and underarm tank carrying technique indicate that clips haven’t yet been invented in Australian cave diving – but when the tunnels are huge, who needs them?

Beyond the end

At the end of the cave, Hugh moves to a more streamlined configuration for checking out side passages and finding the way on. This photo was taken approximately 6km from home, and with this configuration Hugh investigated a number of side tunnels and managed to push 1790m into the third sump, or 240m past the end of the French line. The end of Hugh’s line was not surpassed until Chris Brown reached it in 1995.

The end of the line

The end of the line, in defence of the record. Hugh Morrison holds the furthest extent of the line laid by the French brothers, with his yellow line ready to go. This picture was the evidence that the French exploration had been passed.


Coming up next week, the swim home, cave radios, derigging the cave and group shots. If you’ve missed an episode of history, all of my Cocklebiddy exploration posts can be found listed here. If you’d like to stay updated without checking back, you can subscribe via RSS or email (scroll up to the top and enter your email under “Follow me on the web” and click “Subscribe to articles”).


  3 Responses to “Cave diving through history: Cocklebiddy Cave, 1983 (Part 2)”

Comments (3)
  1. Wow – this is an amazing record of a dangerous dive. It indicates how much equipment, planning and practice is involved. You’ve gone to a lot of effort and it’s very clear and detailed. These are courageous people on an historic adventure. Thank you very much for sharing this, it’s very useful to me as a screenplay writer to have this ref for my research… cheers!

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