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Mar 05, 2003

MACBEAN'S SHELTER CAVE:

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Taylor

During the morning of March 5, I had to go down to Hague, near Falmouth, to link with NEPA. This still gave us the afternoon to work with, and we'd decided to check out Blue Hole, up on the hill south of Cherry's in Coxheath, that Tumpa had been talking up. Malibu had also heard of it but had never seen it. Tumpa told us it was very deep and that he knew exactly where it was. This sounded good; in preparation, the night before at Lilly's, we'd hung a rope from a tree and practiced switching from descent to ascent and visa versa. Even though we were bringing a 200 ft rope, we wanted to be prepared in case the line didn't reach bottom and the first person had to come back up. In between sips of Red Stripe, I'd demonstrated the methods, while a small audience watched, and then Ivor and Malibu practiced until they had it down well.

Not long past noon, Tumpa, Ivor, Malibu, and myself assembled at Lilly's, and then drove the couple of hundred metres south to where we'd park and climb the hill. From the yard where we'd parked, we were joined by a few more people who wanted to watch, and the troop of a dozen or so of us then trekked on up the bushed slope, Tumpa in the lead. After only about 5 minutes we came to a collapse feature, high on the hill, that was about 30 metres wide and 8 deep. This was easily scrambled into and we began a search for Tumpa's deep hole. He first took us to a little broken-down shelter dropping about 2 metres. Nothing there. We fan out, all of us in little groups and range all around the collapse. Nothing. I'd realized soon after we'd climbed down into this wide pit that this was all probably a waste of time. Nothing was right for a deep shaft; we were up on a hill, the look was wrong, the rock was wrong... it became apparent that this wide pit, this old collapse feature, was Tumpa's Blue Hole.

In my defence I have to note that I'd questioned him closely the night before about the nature of this supposed shaft and been assured that it was truely deep, that if you threw a in rock it took a long time to hit the bottom etc etc. So it goes. It's just another variation on Clive's Uncle.

On the other side of Lilly's, part way up the tower karst cliff, there was a shelter cave of some sort that people had been telling me about for years. I figured, what the hell, Blue Hole was a washout, lets see if there's anything up in the cliff that we can get into. After a brief stop at Lilly's, we walked across the recently cut cane field that lay between Lilly's and the cliff, and within 5 minutes found the opening. It was about 8 metres up a fairly vertical climb. Malibu took it upon himself to scramble up vines and trees to have a look. He reports it to be a medium sized chamber with some formations and generally a nice spot except for the climb to get up to it. This cave is well known in the area, has formations, and is not easily entered, so it seems suitable for a name. The cliff in which it sits is called MacBean's cliff, (or rock), so this makes it MacBean's Shelter Cave.
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