Volume 37 Number 3 Article 5
White Scar - Beyond the Show Cave!
Saturday 15 July 2000
Party: Pete Dale, Duncan Jones, Peter & Julie Mohr, Dave Thompson, Angela Hare, Milton Grimshaw, Grant Griffiths.
A nice day and a good turnout, including a couple of new members. Everyone was there in good time and we managed to find a quiet spot in the car park away from the tourists. The White Scar staff were helpful and made us feel welcome, they counted us in, and counted us out: 8 x £2.50 = £20 (half the tourist price!) The price included a visit around the Show Cave including the Battlefield - we were even allowed to put the cave lights on!
White Scar Cave was discovered by Christopher Francis Drake Long (1902-24) in August 1923, when he spotted a resurgence rising from the cliff base. He crawled along the stream in shorts, with a candle on his hat, until he reached the main stream passage (the present by-pass passage was blasted through by un-employed miners in 1924). Long, the son of a York doctor, and a medical student at Cambridge, founded the "Troglodytes' university caving club, often using persistent bullying to recruit new members, including his caving partner, John Churchill! There is no explanation for his colourful middle names, and no way of knowing if they inspired his urge to explore. Unfortunately he had a tendency to depression; he was treated for manic-depressive psychosis in 1923, but he relapsed again and died from an overdose of chloral hydrate in 1924.*
The River, with Mr Long, White Scar Caves
This is a wet trip; only Grant was hard enough to spurn a wet-suite and do the trip in a fleecy. The real fun starts when you leave the warm lights of the Show Cave and start to swim Lake 1 - it may not be as far or as deep as one might imagine, but it was every man or woman for his or herself! Swimming, pulling along ropes, clawing at pipes, clinging to submerged ledges, oh what fun. Angela gave a demonstration of the correct use of a floatation aid - the main advantage of which seems to be that you drown more slowly. Just when you think you can go on no more - you are out of the water at Big Bertha. Pete Dale showed everyone his new way through the boulder choke - a low duck and tight wet crawl of about 2 metres. We heard Angela say "easy and we all followed except Pete, who used the dry by-pass. (On the way back, Milton, one of the new members, was so happy, he went through the duck 3 times to get the hang of it!)
Beyond the choke is the White Scar main stream passage, described in Northern Caves 2 as "a beautiful easy gallop' for over a kilometre. There are lots of ledges to traverse on, but who would want to do that when you can stay in the water, sometimes up to your neck, or fall into unseen deep pools? Most people managed the slippy climb on the left that reached a grotto with long straws, but alas it defeated Zig & Zag. Grant and Duncan wisely waited in a warm part of the passage while the rest of us swam valiantly onwards into an endless sequence of low wet pools and ducks to finally reach sump 1 - at which point we turned around and came back!
The walk back downstream was easy going. The roof is impressively high, and there are some nice decorations and flowstone, which are best seen on the way out. We all went up the boulders to the Sleepwalker Series, but some came back down sooner than others! The swim out seemed much shorter than on the way in; all too soon we reached the glare of the Show Cave lights and tried to mingle inconspicuously with the visitors.
Peter & Julie Mohr
* For details of CFD Long, see: SA Craven, Journal of Craven Pothole Club, 5 No.3, 1975 p.128-31, and Descent 118, June/July 1994, p.28-9.