Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reports from Hell - June. Towards the Highway to Hell.

You know that feeling when things go so brilliant for such a long time that you know it's just a matter of time when you gonna screw everything up? And so I did... Exploration is an obsession, once you taste it nothing else will taste remotely as good. It will give you all you ever wanted: self-fulfillment, the wildest childhood's dreams come true, people's respect, illusion of grandeur and the equally illusive promise of eternal life but it's a jealous and possessive bitch and if you don't keep it on a tight rein it will destroy  everyone around you...

Exploration wise I was about to embark on things that needed me at my best but I clearly wasn't there.
Did I become complacent? Or lazy? I've been lazy all my life but more than anything else I've lost motivation... I didn't see that the source of it, my inspiration, got destroyed by the obsessive nature of what I was doing. 
I had the open leads all over the country, burning mysteries just waiting to be resolved and I was sitting at home doing nothing, feeling sorry for myself , my life slowly slipping away through my fingers ... What happened to that guy from 2007 who would jump on a bus with a twinset and three other tanks, tent, sleeping bag, drysuit, 5 sets of regulators and bag of spares just to find a few metres of virgin passage?!

Despite of all my vanity and self-indulgence I used to have an ability to get myself off the floor when I hit the rock bottom; now I was almost there again and it was time to act. Somehow I knew straight away what to do: I had to go back to where it all began for me, to Hell Complex in Doolin, the place that shaped my best qualities as a cave diver, to where time and tide ( and something EELSE as I was soon to find out) awaited my attentions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Introductory Cave Diving course in Ireland. Report

So I had enrolled in a cavern course with Artur some time ago, did an open water dive in Sandycove, laying some line, do some belays, that kind of things, but the weather didn't really work out in Doolin for a while. Finally the stars aligned for the 9th and 10th, and off we went. In the meantime, owing to a little misunderstanding, the course had become Cavern+Intro. Yeah well, I wanted to see what cave diving was like, anyway, so cool.

First overhead dive is a demonstration dive. Artur would lay a line, I would follow. Simple. We go down. And back up. "You don't have to hold the line all the time." "Ah, right." Back down. 3m. A couple of belays later, Artur turns around, "out of air". Pass primary over. Put secondary in my mouth. We start back. Cut. So it begins… A couple of extra belays, we're over a drop to 10. Rock below, rock on both sides, rock above. Really cool. I'm not a big fan of caves in the dry. Cold. Damp. Oppressive. But just floating there, motionless, (dry, warm :) ), it's… different. Better. Much. Anyway. We drop to the bottom. A belay there and we turn right into a passage that turns into a big room. Lit passage on the left (an exit? yup), and in front of us the mudblock Artur told me about, reaching all the way to the ceiling. We follow up a bit, then it's time to turn around. Follow the line… Down, up, left. Out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Martyn Farr
      In UK and Ireland cave diving is practically a synonime of sidemount diving due to the nature of the underwater caves and difficult access to the most of them. Contrary to some people's beliefs sidemount diving was not born in the recent years in Mexico but many years earlier in England. For long Britons were breaking cave diving world records using sidemount configurations : in 1981 Martyn Farr and Rob Palmer made the world longest underwater penetration in Bahama Blue Holes and in 1991 Geoff Yeadon established world record through dive from King Pot to Keld Head... nowadays this great sidemount tradition is continued by people like Steve Bogaerts in Mexico.

I've learnt sidemount diving and cave diving under the direct supervision of Martyn Farr, Britain's foremost sidemounted diver and cave explorer. Since his first visit in Ireland in 1978 Martyn made many astonishing discoveries in Ireland, both in dry caving and cave diving. I had a privilige, over last four years to continue many of his projects only to confirm what he had already suspected: that Ireland indeed has one of the most unique system of underwater caves in Europe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A RITE OF PASSAGE – (re)discovery and exploration of the Creevy Rising Cave in co. Monaghan

This month Archaeology Ireland magazine (no.96)  features an article "EXTREME ARCHAEOLOGY: Going Underground in Monaghan" by Marion Dowd, Alasdair Kennedy, Artur Kozlowski and Sam Moore. It provides a scientific insight into the possible date, origins and functions of the man made structures that we found during the exploration in the Creevy Cave in 2008. Read my account of the research, discovery and exploration of this magnificent cave: A Rite of Passage. 

Let’s face it, County Monaghan was never much of a caving region: the whole area was investigated in 1964-65 by members of Irish Caving Club (ICC) and as a result only three major caves with active streamways were described and surveyed: Fin McCool's Cave (400m of passages), Tiragarvan (300m) and Poll'd (a 70m long passage containing a 13m pitch). Since then, some small extensions were made by diving in Fin McCool’s Cave and in the Tiragarvan River Cave in 1973; in the latter an estimated further 135 metres of dry passage was discovered. But as the Irish Troubles worsened County Monaghan became a caving backwater, its border with Northern Ireland making it a convenient Republican bolt-hole and consequently a no-go area for cavers. No further exploration took place, and its known caves became quietly forgotten in caving circles.

Much of the winter of 2008 I spent on research and it was then when I came across the first edition of the Irish Caver journal from 1965, almost entirely devoted to the area north of Carrickmacross town. This was where the ICC had published the outcome of their Monaghan exploration. Although it was a fascinating read, the journal didn’t leave much to dream of in terms of further exploration: according to the ICC “the chance of finding anything else in this area comparable to these three caves is now 0%”. Not that I was particularly disputatious of their bold statement, but it was just asking to be challenged! Ironically taking the lead from the first Irish Caver it was clear to me that the Creevy Rising should be re-checked first.. The ICC had investigated it in 1964 for about 10m, reaching a narrow rift that closed down to water level with “submerged arches visible under the water”. That was all I needed to read to start my trolley rolling.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


So those were my thoughts down there. I didn't give up yet but I'd spent the last quarter wandering blindly from wall to wall, from the collapsing ceiling to the boulder strewn floor and as a result my morale was quite low… No, certainly I wasn't giving up, it's just what I was doing simply didn't work... I knew I had to keep trying, trying to the last breath but what if I was doing something wrong? You can't expect  good results if you do things the wrong way, no matter how many times you repeat it. I was 33 and I've learned that lesson in a past in a hard way. And I didn't have THAT much time here to keep repeating ineffective procedures. I need to focus. Clearly keeping going up wasn't working, the way out there was blocked. But where am I in the first place and how did I get here?! I understood that staying at -30 m was a bad idea – my synapses clogged by dissolved nitrogen from breathing compressed Air at that depth didn't make me the sharpest tool in the drawer plus at -30m I was using 4 times more gas than on the surface. With my current surface breathing rate surly between 25-30l per minute I was too scared to finish that calculation... Focus, focus! I knew I needed to go up but I needed a plan firstly. So again - How did I get in that dark shithole?! Why is the way up blocked? Feeling like a character from one of the Kafka's novel who just woke up in some strange, alien world with no recollection of the past ( I reckon my short term memory was gone due to nitrogen narcosis and stress ) I kept interrogating myself. 

Monday, June 13, 2011


We arrived to Bellaburke around 2pm, briefly chatted to the landlord and had a look at the resurgence. The water levels were low but the visibility was nil, the entrance pond filled with brown murky water. A plan to bring Megalodon rebreather and to have a couple of goes through the -33m squeeze by taking off and putting the unit back on ( for a practice before a push below -103m) was immediately dismissed.
The old nylon line from 2008 was completely fucked and not wanting to go home with nothing done I decided to put a fresh 4mm polypropylene line down to the squeeze and perhaps a little bit beyond, -40m ish. With a single tunnel – a small shaft with a couple of squeezes going vertically down to -45m, what could possibly go wrong, right? ;))