Jan 282015

Cave survey in progress

About the cave

DD31 aka Swain’s Cave was discovered and first entered in 2012. It extends to over 2.4kms of streamway passage leading to a terminal sump shortly before the expected resurgence on the surface. The entrance is in the same doline as DD4 Jones Ridge Cave which has been known for decades but this little gem didn’t reveal itself until very recently. Combined, the tunnels in DD4 and DD31 add up to over 5kms of passage. I had caved in DD4 previously when we inserted Harry into the terminal upstream sump and I was excited to have a look at the downstream half of the system.

Straws in DD31

About the trip

The first thing that struck me about DD31 was that there was a lot more decorations, and a lot less mud. Not to say that it’s all cleanwashed but DD4 was a spectacular mudfest (as you can see in the video here). DD31 is also known for the basalt boulders which are embedded in the limestone. These hang from the ceiling in the rooms through the first section and in some cases have straws hanging from them.

The aim of our little jaunt was to complete the survey of a small offshoot passage that was explored on a previous trip and confirm its direction. As I regrettably drowned my Lumix under Rye Pier shortly before Christmas, I was stuck with the dSLR if I wanted any shots. So I packaged it up into the pelican case and provided Peter, Nina and Moo with a strobe each. The first bit of caving was slow because decorations are awesome and it was hard to go past some of the early scenes. Further in we got into low, wet and rocky crawls – it would have been great to video these with the Lumix but I wasn’t prepared to risk the real camera so close to the water without a housing.

About the photos

The top photo here was actually taken on the way out. Peter is a determined cave surveyor (as evidenced by his waiting up for our return from Elk River trips to see what data was obtained) and produces stunning maps. I wanted to capture some of the fiddly, occasionally tedious work of mapping a cave. The small offshoot passage at the end that needed to be surveyed didn’t necessarily lend itself to cracking open the pelican case. As such I persuaded Peter to get the survey gear out all over again in this very nice chamber back near the entrance. I like the angle of this shot…next time we will have to have a go capturing the real thing in action.

The second shot is in one of those beautifully decorated chambers. This one was handy for photography because the stream dropped down, allowing me to shoot down onto the scene. Moo has one strobe on the ground behind her to provide the backlighting, and another in her hand to light the others. Peter is strobing the passage at the back though I’m suspicious that the strobe in question may need a service to improve the light output. I love the lighting here, and the big smiles, and the way the straws stand out from the background.

It was a great day underground, emerging just as the last of the light dropped out of the sky on a windy summer evening. From here Moo and I went on to Tank Cave for more artistic photography – coming up next week.

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