Nov 292012

After a successful push into new territory in the third sump, the team still had to get themselves and their gear home again…back to and over Toad Hall, empty tanks into the three sleds and back 2.5kms to the first rockpile, over the first rockpile, and four sleds of empty tanks home to the surface lake. From there it was a quick march up the doline and more than a few loads of gear up the line to the desert above.

Cave radio in Toad Hall

Ron Allum sitting on his sleeping mat in Toad Hall, with his home made cave radio. This device provided underground to surface voice communication and allowed the Toad Hall team to report on the successful extension of the line in the third sump. The RDF that Ron invented also allowed the location of Toad Hall to be pinpointed on the surface 100m above.

Swimming home with rocks

Swimming home through the second sump. Note the additional cargo that’s been added to the sled – a few cave rocks. These aren’t decorative, as after the air had been breathed out of the 14 tanks in the sled, it was extremely positively buoyant. Fully flooding the buoyancy chambers at each end wasn’t enough to sink the sleds to neutral. Wedging rocks in the gaps helped but they tended to fall out until some bright spark came up with the idea of tying them on with string.


Another shot of the same sled, progressing home through the second sump and back towards the first rockpile. On the outward journey the central dry tubes were carefully packed with camping equipment and food. On the way home the packing was less careful and the gear expanded, as it does, and things didn’t fit. Prime among them was Dad’s white helmet and dry caving torch which can be seen perched on top of the pile, next to the empty reel. It filled with water during the swim and didn’t work again. The number of things hanging from the top of the sled demonstrates the slightly haphazard nature of the “we just want to go home” packing.

Rest break in Toad Hall

Back at the first rockpile, the sleds had to be emptied of their cargo so everything could be carried to the water on the other side. The team here is taking a rest break between loads. Only a few tanks left to go!

Sled lift

One of the sleds being hoisted up the side of the doline. Note the Australian flag on the top.

Hauling up gear

Nearly done…the sleds from the second sump are still covered in string where the excess baggage was tied on the outside. Tanks, drytubes and piles of regulators and wetsuits sit behind. From this angle on the sleds you can see the buoyancy control scubafeed system – the buoyancy chambers at each end could be controlled by a diver from one end. The sleds just needed a little more lead in the frame for the empty tank situation.

Gear pile

With the gear finally on the surface, the dive is done.

Ron Allum at the Toad Hall cairn

Ron hiked 4kms from base camp to reach the spot identified by his RDF device as being directly over Toad Hall. The cairn is still in place today.

Cocklebiddy 1983 group shot

With a celebratory beer in hand and the Australian flag in front of the group…check out the short shorts! From left to right in the back row we have:

Paul Aarbon, George Navas, Robert Gaillot, Chris Brown, Dennis Thamm, Robyn Allum, Peter Stace, Brendon Griffin, Simon Jones, Phil Prust, Charlie Tong, Peter Hudson, Graham Morrison, Stefan Eberhard, Peter Brown (local station owner), Darren Lille, Lester German.

Crouching in the front row are the three push divers, Ron Allum, Hugh Morrison and Peter Rogers.

For reference, here’s the map of Cocklebiddy that shows the exploration covered by the 1982 team, and that this 1983 expedition expanded on.

Cocklebiddy Cave


For another viewpoint on the exploration here’s Dad’s Cocklebiddy 1983 article covering the expedition as published in The Scuba Diver in early 1984.


Here ends the trip down memory lane for the original push dives into Cocklebiddy Cave. In case you missed the earlier parts, check out the 1979, 1982 and the first part of the 1983 expeditions by clicking here. Next week I hope to post some of the shots from the 2008 expedition which extended the line that Chris Brown laid on the end of Hugh Morrison’s 1983 line. The difference 25 years makes to the technology is amazing!


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

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  1. this is truly inspirational

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