Volume 32 Number 3 Article 8
Sig Pot, Barbondale
Diggers: Eds, Braindead, Chaz, Pete, Geraaard, Christine
Sig Pot was first discovered by Fran Dike during a walk through Barbondale early in 1994. A quick examination revealed a hole in the turf into a small crouching-sized chamber. The left wall was made of mud with a few boulders but the right wall was solid bedrock. A narrow muddy slot led on down with no stream and no draught.
Being a thorough organiser and pillar of the local community, Fran set about getting the farmer's permission, which was granted on the condition there was no mess. Over the next weeks and months Fran set about finding a team to dig the pot, preferring to take on more of a supervisory role herself. Eventually she managed to persuade her housemates Johnny "Braindead" Baker and Chris "Eds" Edmonton (ULSA) to have a go. On two evening digging trips, they succeeded in getting down about 15 foot into the sloping muddy slot to where it got narrower and the way on appeared to be through a choked bedding plane at the foot. It appeared that more serious digging was required to make a space at the bottom to dig.
With the prospect of more hard work and squalid conditions, enthusiasm waned and the pair sought the greener pastures of the Gouffre Berger. After the holidays, on September 4th 1994 Fran managed to con Chaz Frankland and me into having a go at it. The first thing to do was to remove a boulder from just inside the entrance to allow easier access for a big digging bucket. This accomplished, and some precautionary shoring effected the clearing of a workspace at the bottom of the slot could start. The hauling was awkward with Chaz just inside the entrance, me digging at the bottom and Fran on the surface finding places to hide the spoil. Ten or fifteen bucketfuls later there was nearly enough room to start digging into the bedding plane when the floor suddenly gave way leaving a squeeze into a chamber below. Somewhat surprised I squeezed through into the side of a 3m x 1.5m high passage going upstream and downstream with a small stream in the bottom. With a couple of awkward boulders out, Chaz followed.
Upstream was 10m of stooping to two tight roof inlets and a tight inlet emerging from a mud and calcite choke. Downstream the water sank in boulders under an even and the passage again became mud-choked. We congratulated each other and with no leads going we decided to piss off out. While Charlie was making his way out I pulled back a boulder to reveal a 3-inch slot in the stream bed with a 15 foot shaft below. Charlie went and got the lumphammer while I started digging. After an hour or so of frenzied hammering the top was wide enough to get through and Chaz slid down. But it was choked at the bottom, mostly with the rock we had thrown down. We set of back to Fran's house content with our afternoon's work.
News soon got around and during the following week Braindead and Chris were back on the scene. They started a dig at the upstream end of the passage through the mud choke. They were on the verge of breaking through when imminent closing time caused them to retreat. The very next Saturday (10th September) I returned with surprise digging partners Geraaard and Christine Bleakley. Not wanting to steal Chris and Johnny's glory a second time we confined our efforts to the bottom of the 15ft pot. With the squeeze at the top, the big digging bucket was soon made into a narrow bucket and quite a few loads of gravelly chocolate porridge were pulled up. Geraaards carbide conveniently gave up after a couple of minutes under the brown shower at the bottom and he had to leave the digging to Christine and me. A low bedding plane degenerated into a small tube where the water could be heard running away ahead. Soaked and muddy we left it for another day.
Johnny and Eds were back on the scene soon enough. They carried on digging in the upstream direction eventually emerging in open passage, the continuation of the misfit streamway in the upstream direction. However after 20 ft the roof started to lower and it ended in a choke of liquid mud and gravel.
On Friday September 30th Fran and I both had a day off work so we decided to go and survey Sig Pot, which wasn't a very hard job as there were only about a dozen legs. We were able to admire John and Eds's handywork. It was indeed squalid. We also put a couple of planks over the entrance to stop livestock falling in and did a surface survey back to the cattle grid in order to get an accurate grid reference for the entrance.