Golding River Cave
Feb 19, 2007
Team: RS Stewart, G Van Rentergem, G Shiffer
Notes: RS Stewart
This was our sixth attempt to enter Golding River Cave, following upon visits in May 2005 (Stewart, Conolley, Slack), October 2005 (Stewart, Hyde, Gottgen), March 2006 (Stewart, Van Rentergem, De Splenter), June 6, 2006 (Stewart, Slack, Taylor, Pauel, Yovandich), and October 15, 2006 (Stewart, Conolley, Pauel, Slack, Lee, Comer). It was also the first time we met with success, this because of an incredible effort by Guy Van Rentergem.
The plan for the day was to again look for Entrance One, something we'd only done once before (during the first visit on May 12, 2005). The entrance is described as being difficult to find, and in fact was only discovered by way of Entrance Two, underground, during the initial exploration by the Karst Hydrology Expedition (KHE) in 1965. The title "Entrance One" denotes that it is the first reached by way of the regular approach track. It was said to be small, and set between boulders under an overhang that extends for tens of metres along the hill-side. We'd searched for a couple of hours on May 12, looking into every nook and cranny, but had not found it. But because Entrance Two had given us so much trouble (as described in the notes for Jun 6 and Oct 15, 2006), I thought we should have another go at One.
Guy had not been along during the previous two visits, when we'd split and removed rocks at Entrance Two, so, of course, he wanted to see what the current situation was like. We decided to do that first, before we began the search for Entrance One. The usual track was taken to the western side-valley that holds the shaft, and we were there in about 25 minutes. As Greg and I looked on, Guy worked his way down into the open, upper part of the shaft (which was still in the same condition as the previous visit, Oct 15/06), and after he assessed the situation, he advised us that he might be able to squeeze through if he could shift a rock or two. His notes for the day, found here, supply a good description of what then ensued, and should be read along with this account. But, in short, he managed to worm his way down into the pit, on-rope, to finally crack Entrance Two. It was incredible. Four visits worth of hauling, splitting, prying, and even carrying a generator (Oct 15/06), had created just enough room for Guy to get through.
Guy shouted up to us to not follow him, and that he'd try to make his way to Entrance One and meet us there. He headed off along the underground stream passage he'd descended into, and we headed back overland to the "house-sized" rock that sits in the river below the area of Entrance One. This only took about ten minutes, and we then chopped our way upslope to the west and found a good place to plant ourselves in the suspected area of the entrance to await Guy's arrival.
A map will be found below these notes that shows the passages that Guy needed to travel through to reach us. As will be seen, it was not particularly easy. However, he had a copy of the KHE map with him (small and laminated), a compass, and we had faith in his abilities. I estimated it would take him at least 30 minutes, even if he found the route quickly. After 30 minutes had passed, I began to whistle very loudly every minute or two, to let him know where we were in the event that he came out some distance from us. This continued for about 15 minutes, and then suddenly, just up the hill above us, I heard him shouting that he was out. We scrambled up to meet him, to congratulate him, and to finally learn the exact location of the mysterious Entrance One.
Guy showed us where he'd popped out - a little squeeze under a large boulder that was right in the area where we'd hunted for it for so long in May 2005. But "difficult to find" is certainly accurate - it looked just like hundreds of other little voids scattered along the hill-side. There was, however, a definite breeze issuing from the gap, strong enough that we should have felt it May 12, 2005. To speculate, in May 2005, the passage was flooded to the roof in sections, with this not allowing a wind to flow between the two entrances. Of course, we might have just not stuck our heads under that particular boulder to notice it.
To ensure that it would not be lost again, I flagged liberally at the entrance, and set regular flags about 30m inwards, especially in the difficult outer section (the first 10m of the passage is through voids between boulders). After I came back out, I got a good GPS position (since improved), studied the look of the entrance area long and hard to commit it to memory, and then set a series of flags straight down to the river.
Guy's solo journey through the cave that day was one of the best bits of caving ever done on the island. Few people would have had the nerve to make that swim alone, with no guarantee that airspace would continue ahead. (I very much doubt that I would have done it, especially without a life-jacket.) And his tremendous effort was only made possible by the efforts of many others who worked so hard clearing Entrance Two. The recovery of Golding is one of the JCO's finer achievments, and any who enter the cave by way of the now well-marked Entrance One should pause for a moment to say "thanks", before they crawl in.
We strongly advise everyone who reads this to not try entering the cave via Entrance Two. It's still very dicey, with unstable rocks above that will definitely fall some day, perhaps when you're under them. Don't be tempted because you're aware that Guy did it - he's a very experienced caver, and knows what not to touch.
Notes for the next visit, on May 6, 2007, when we finally carried out the assessment that should have been done in 2005 as part of the Parks In Peril Project, will be posted and linked-to from here very soon (date of this writing is Sep 13/07). It will include the position and bio data.