Main Rising Push Dive, Speedwell Mine - Wayne Sheldon

Saturday, 27 September, 2003

Underground: Martin Groves, Ann Soulsby, Wayne Sheldon, Richard Hudson, Rupert Skorupka

Surface Support: Nigel Kinge and Krysia Lawandski

Access to the dive base was undertaken down James Hall Over Engine Mine (JH). Martin, Ann and myself went underground at about 11am, Martin took his time going down so he wouldn't overexerts himself, then on reaching the bottom of JH he would get kitted up into his dry suit which was already underground. Myself and Ann also took it steadily as we were carrying very heavy bags. I arrived at Main Rising at 12.45pm, just after Ann and about fifteen minutes after Martin, who was already preparing his bottles.

I set the Heyphone up to call the surface at the pre-arranged time. We were keeping in communication with the surface in case there was any problems and rescue would be required; we found communication to be good, very clear. Martin dived in to the sump at about 2pm, I spoke to the surface on the HeyPhone to tell them that he had dived and they informed us that Richard and Rupert were on there way down JH. Richard was the support diver, with Rupert as sherpa. They set off twenty minutes before Martin dived into the sump.

Martin had planned to dive through to the the airbell, kit up some other bottles (already in the airbell) with valves then get ready for the push dive to the limit and hopefully further. There was a dingy in the airbell, so Martin was planning to sit around for a bit before he continued his dive to a pre planned depth of at most -80m then decompress on his way back up then eventually back into the airbell to sit around for a while, possible a couple of hours before diving out of the sump. Richard was to dive into the sump, about three hours after Martin to find him in the airbell then bring a couple of cylinders out for him. Would it go to plan?

Back at the cold base, myself and Ann were waiting for Martin to return but this time we had come prepared with warm clothes. In my case, I had a dry furry suit, dry thermal top, my thin gloves and thick gloves, scarf and two balaclavas, and a couple of pairs of socks. To top this off, I also had a bivvy bag to climb into it while I was waiting - it would be a long wait. Rich arrived with Rupert and much gear at about 3pm; one hour after Martin had dived.

Surface was told that Rich had arrived and was kitting up, ready to dive into the sump.

Richard took one hour to kit up and he entered the sump at about 4pm, exactly two hours after Martin had gone. Richard's plan was to dive to the airbell, dumping an oxygen cylinder at the -6m level, to find out whether Martin had returned after his push dive, if he hadn't, he would dive down to the top of the New Leviathan and look down, probably with Martin coming back up, decompressing as his tables instructed him to. We informed the surface that Rich had gone.

Richard came back after about two hours but he hadn't been diving for two hours. He spent most of it sitting in the airbell waiting for Martin to return, as he had arrived at the air bell just after Martin set off. When Martin returned, Rich helped him take kit off and then spoke to him about what he had found. They swapped places so Martin could sit in the boat and Richard, who was very cold, got into the sump, put his gear on and dived out to join us sherpas.

Rich reappeared; we helped him onto dry land, while Ann had the kettle on so we could warm Rich up. With Rich being cold, he didn't want to hang around so he dekitted, had a warm drink then went straight to the surface via JH with Rupert. The surface was radioed to tell them that Rich was on his way out and that I would let them know when Martin reappeared.

After about 30 minutes, a light appeared in the sump and it remained stationery at -6 metres level where he was decompressing for about 30 minutes. Surface was told that he was in the entrance pool decompressing and we would inform them when he had surfaced. He surfaced about 20 minutes later. We informed the surface when he had surfaced and we all had a laugh between us. Krysia on the surface could tell we were all in good spirits - especially when Martin announced that his nappy was saturated, Krysia said that he probably had nappy rash. While having a brew, we all chatted about what had happened.

He had dived down from the airbell to the head of the New Leviathan but found that the line had been washed up; it was the line he removed on a dive during the bank holiday weekend so he had to re-line this part of the sump. A new line had to be attached at the head of the New Leviathan then an exhilarating descent was made down this impressive shaft, touching down at -66m, the Remembrance Way was followed to a depth of just over -70.2m at which point the line reel ran out. Gazing forward a wall could be seen ahead and it appears as though an elbow has been reached. This was 2.5 metres lower than the limit John Cordingley had got in 1995. After about five minutes the ascent began. Following forty minutes of decompression a rendezvous was made with a very cold Rich in the airbell. They exhanged places and Rich headed out with a cylinder to meet us sherpas.

Martin finished dekitting; bags were packed with the kit we were taking out of the cave. The bottles were to be left as well as some other kit. We told the surface we were on our way out and they would meet us in Castleton. Martin would walk downstream to Block Hall in his dry suit then complete the packing of the bags then continue out. One thing I noticed about Speedwell, was that the water was very low and there was hardly any water going into the Pit Props passage, then it was dry all the way to the Bung Hole and probably dry all the way up the Far Canal as well. We carried on out, into the muddy Colostomy Crawl, with too many bags and was relieved to get to Treasury Chamber. After this, it was straight out to the surface. Krysia was there at Peak Cavern entrance to meet us. We surfaced at about 10:45pm. It was a very good day, the result that we wanted and it paved the way for Martin to return next year.