The RRCPC VHS video tape & DVD collection 

 

 

There are over forty old VHS video tapes in the RRCPC Library. They are all listed on the website (V1-V41), but they are rarely viewed even by those who still have a video player. Mel said, “I’m looking for someone to copy them onto DVD – they are full of cave history and interesting and historic content,” or something like that. “Oh, I’ll have a go at that if you want,” I said without thinking.

 

After a bit of trial and error I worked out a way to copy the tapes. I connected an old VHS video player to our TV recorder, which was connected to the TV. Pressed ‘play’ on the video player and ‘record’ on the TV recorder and the tape was transferred to the hard disc. The TV recorder itself is old; it was designed to play ‘HDVDs’ but they never survived the invention of Blue-ray, however I popped in a blank DVD and downloaded the recording from the hard disc without problem. The recorder has all sorts of functions which I never used before. I was able to edit the recordings to cut them into shorter sections or remove unwanted parts such as adverts. One problem was that some of the tapes had nearly three hours of recording, but the DVDs only hold about an hour, so these tapes were divided into two or three sections before dubbing. At the end the DVD is ‘finalized’ to enable it to play on a computer or regular DVD player. I must have watched each tape two or three times to edit them so it took a couple of months to process all the tapes, and label them in cases before returning them to the RRCPC Library.

 

Mel was right, these old VHS tapes contained a vast source of information about caves and cavers – amazing caves, impossible cave dives, crazy cavers, technical stuff – it’s all there. The collection consists of three broad types of tapes: ‘home-made’ recordings, professionally-made tapes and programmes recorded off the television.

 

The home-made variety are mainly documentaries of Red Rose’s club trips including explorations to South Wales (1992), New Goyden Pot (1993), Sardinia (1996) and France (2000). The lack of any commentary and the one-hand-held technique gives them a surreal quality, but to see our young, fresh club members in action makes these a priceless record. The belay technique employed for a ladder that doesn’t reach the bottom of the pitch is a useful lesson and the record of the après-caving social activities could be used as evidence in court. Tape V25, although a bit patchy, includes some early history of Notts II. Tape V19 records the Jubilee events in 1996 – ‘Do in the Field,’ pig-roast and an interview with George Cornes. The best part is a short section by Ron Bliss entitled ‘Jim and the Rock,’ which records an epic battle between a large boulder

 

 

and Jim’s Sylvester – it’s a classic and should be on U-tube! The commercially made tapes are a mixed batch. ‘Diving from Past to Present,’ a history of diving, is one of the best. Others include Ron Bliss’s ‘River Lune’, Sid Perou’s films, a New Zealand travel film, cave rescue ‘Shout’ and others. ‘Cave Safe III’ is a well-made instructional video how to do SRT and various rescue techniques; there is a lot of useful information and new club members should be encourage to view this. I have to report that the VHS tapes of ‘Cave Safe I’ and ‘Cave Safe II’ are missing (borrowed and never returned to the Library), so if anyone has these, please give them back to Sandra & Mel.

 

The majority of tapes are home recordings of various TV programmes. The quality of these is variable and the sound is often poor. Nevertheless there is a superb range of subjects: Cigalere, Gaping Gill, Mexico caves, Ogof Draenen, Lechuguilla and many more. Several are well made productions about cave diving. There is only one TV movie - ‘Secrets of the Phantom Caverns’ – probably the worst films ever made. Apart from that, the collection is great; I would especially recommend the Maya flooded caves, Lowes Gulley, ‘Road to Certain Death’ in Spain and Kate Humble in Titan. There’s a full list on the RRCPC Library website.

 

This was a very enjoyable project. Certainly the programmes are educational, but for me the main thing was to see all these wonderful caves around the world, a hidden world, places I know I will never go to personally. Use your library.

 

Postscript:

The club library has a small collection of camcorder tapes from Ron’s collection which it would like to convert to digital format. These mini tapes are JVC – but could have been from a Canon camera. The JVC camera that takes these tapes is a JVC Camcorder GR D340.

 

If any member has any ideas on a way forward to converting these tapes to digital format please contact myself or Sandra Wilkinson – Club Librarian: Thanks.

 

Zig & Zag

 

 

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