Surf Ace Dig
8 December 2007 by Tom Foord
Having pretty much written off Broadside NW on the last trip, John and I were keen to return to the ‘Surf Ace Dig’ (previously without the space in the name!) in Priory Road, which we had started working on for a couple of hours at the end of the last trip. This dig had started out very promising, as an easy sand dig heading northwards off a corner in Priory Road. The passage seemed to be a reasonable size, perhaps 1.5 – 2m wide to start with, but gradually filling with sand until a too-tight tube continuedÂ ahead over a slight mound in theÂ sand floor.
We had been trenching the floor to a good depth so that it was easy to work in a kneeling position. But as soon as we attempted to continue pushing this trench forwards we hit a large boulder buried in the sand on the left, and seemingly cemented in against the wall. As we excavated around this boulder it became apparent that it was a big one, extending along the wall for at least a metre. It was not going to budge, so we attempted to skirt it to the right. Unbelievably, here was another boulder, almost a miror image of the one on the left. But between them was a gap, just wide enough for a drag tray to slide through. It looked like we were in luck.
Unfortunately as we pushed forward between these boulders, the gap began to gradually narrow, eventually becoming a narrow slot only a couple of inches wide. In addition the tops of these boulders also sloped upwards the further into the constriction we got. We were being gradually pinchedÂ out.Â It was now evident that the ‘boulders’ were in fact walls, and we were entering a tiny tube in solid rock with a narrow vadose trench in the floor.Â The mound in the ‘sand’ floor actually consisted of solid rock just beneath the surface. We managed to hammer and pry a few large pieces off with the crowbar, which allowed us to squeeze forwards and get our heads through the constriction and around the corner ahead. It was not good. A tiny winding canyon led off round the corner, completely hopeless for progress (except perhaps for the bat who had left a few droppings of mouldy poo on the floor beneath our noses).
The only real hope now was that we had entered a roof tube,Â with the main passage somewhere beneath us. We had a go at digging down just prior to the start of the constriction, but it was hopeless. The walls just closed in as we went down. There was no indication of a place to dig, so we decided enough was enough. Another dig written off!
Having a lot of time on our hands, we took the outward trip very slowly, stopping for several experimental photo opportunities using our Scurion lamps for lighting (no flash guns). The results looked pretty good, particularly some shots of the huge gypsum crystals above Southern Stream which we lit with John’s UV LEDÂ causing them toÂ fluoresce a pale green colour. Hopefully some of these photos will be soon to follow in this article.