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March 30, 2005

PRINTED CIRCUIT CAVE, aka Rock Spring Cave

Main Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 16.3" N, 77 34' 14.2" W, +/- 5m
Farmyard Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 12.8" N, 77 34' 07.4" W, +/- 10m
Double-Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 14.7" N, 77 34' 04.1" W, +/- 10m
Positive-SE Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 17.2" N, 77 34' 05.6" W, +/- 10m
Positive-NW Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 20.5" N, 77 34' 08.6" W, +/- 10m
Emitter Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 22.2" N, 77 34' 17.1" W, +/- 15m
Northwest Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 23.8" N, 77 34' 13.9" W, +/- 15m

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack

Time in: 9:00 EST, Time out: 12:00 EST


The day began with a return to Printed Circuit Cave to continue our search for entrances to this complex river cave. The day before, we had entered the cave via the main entrance, counducted the assessment, and then finished off the afternoon by hunting for more of the known ten entrances. Dietrich and I had found, and partly explored, a passage that we believed to be part of the system, and this morning we would return to it and carry things further.

We had decided to split the team into pairs for the morning, and then link back up for the afternoon. Ivor and Elizabeth would explore the downstream terrain above Printed Circuit, and D and I would hit our previous passage, and then search for other entrances in the upstream areas. Dietrich and I and had soon made the hike to refind our first target, and had then headed in.

Facing southeast, a smallish entrance, (wpt 183), takes the waters of a seasonal stream. Within 10m, the passage becomes low and wet, requiring crawling through water, between stals, with only enough airspace to keep one's chin barely above water. Beyond this mildly intimidating section, the passage becomes larger and easier. The day before, I had followed it until I had reached a T-junction, and then returned to the entrance. This time, once we hit the junction, we climbed down the 2m drop into the joining, larger passage, and headed in the upstream direction. I suspected that we might have come in from the Farmyard entrance, in which case heading upstream should pop us out at a pair of entrances to the east.

Dietrich and I made good time, following our new passage as it slowly became somewhat smaller, feeling a current of air moving past us, and feeling very optimistic about things. Within 30 minutes of having first entered the system, we saw light ahead. This was very good, since it matched what we thought should be happening if we were truly in Printed Circuit, and since we would also not have to return to our initial entry-point. The last 50m of our travel from the junction had involved much crawling over rather painful rock and formations, and we were not keen on having to repeat it. As I got close to the light ahead of us, my optimism faded as I saw large boulders blocking the exit. There were small gaps around them, but on the other side could be seen logs and other debris that had apparently been washed into what looked like an entrance pit, during Hurricane Ivan. I suggested to D that he have a look at it, and we both crouched in the final metre of the passage and searched for any possible egress. To the left, the gap seemed just large enough to squeeze through, but it had a large log jammed across on the outside. To the right it was more clear, but probably too small. Dietrich took the iniative, and began to try to clear the log from the opening on the left.

D was to do great work this day. By using a smaller branch that he found, he levered, pried, and pushed the log further and further from the gap. After some fifteen minutes of this, he finally had things clear enough to attempt to squeeze through. He wormed his way in, and up, and gradually moved away from me. I cheered him on, and he was soon out. Inexplicably, I heard him say, "I bet you always wondered where white people came from, didn't you?", which brought a laugh from me although I had no idea what he was talking about. I followed through, finding it surprisingly easy thanks to D's efforts, and after scrambling out of a very small overgrown pit, saw before me two small children staring open-mouthed, while a woman, their mother, looked-on with a smile on her face. D's comment while climbing out suddenly became clear; I laughed much harder this time.

About five metres away was the second opening of the double-entrance that we'd hoped to find. We indeed had things sorted out for this part of Printed Circuit, and had made good progress. The other opening of the double-entrance held a pool and was being used by people of the district as a water-source. While Dietrich had been working away on clearing the route out, the family who had been there filling buckets must have heard vague talking and thumping coming from what appeared to be a small grassy depression. Eventually, two white men, with helmets on their heads, had popped out of this. It was little wonder that the children were so amazed at the sight. I like to think of the stories they must have told their friends afterwards, and assume that our bizarre arrival from the underground will be a memory that will stay with them for many years.

A GPS position was taken, (wpt 184), which matched perfectly with the KHE map, and our other two previously referenced entrances, and then D and I headed off to look for the two "Positive Stream" entrances that are also noted in the KHE map of the cave. We wandered through farmland in the right direction, and after about ten minutes saw ahead of us a small building in the middle of a fine field of coffee. Shouting out a "hello", we were answered by a man who was working in the field ahead of us. A minute later, we had the pleasure of meeting the farmer who tended this fine stand of coffee, who not only had no problem with us crossing his land, but offered to show us a couple of holes close-by. Although I got his name, I didn't write it down and have forgotten it. I will try to get it again at some point in the future, and will then amend these notes accordingly, for he was a great help.

On his land, at no great distance from where we had met him, we were shown three other openings, (wpt 185, 186, 187), that lie at the downstream end of seasonal streambeds. These were all heavily silted, thanks to Hurricane Ivan, and could not be entered without some serious digging. They were GPS referenced, and the positions match the two "Positive Stream" entrances of Printed Circuit, as indicated in the KHE cave map, and the upstream entrace to Swanga Cave, (determined over the next few days after we had referenced other entrances in the area). It was good that we found these from the outside, because if we had reached them from the interior of the cave we could not have exited from them and would not have been able to get positions. Part of what we hope to accomplish is enabling monitoring of the studied caves, and if we cannot find an entrance from the outside, the process is made much more difficult.

It was now approaching noon, the meeting-time with Ivor and Elizabeth for the afternoon session, so we thanked the farmer who had helped us, found our way to the road, and hiked back to Miss Buckle's to join the rest of the crew. Once we were all linked again, we heard that the others had found, and GPS marked, several entrances in the downstream area of Printed Circuit, so between the four of us, we had knocked off about 6-7 of the entrances to PC, and made great progress in just the first several hours of the day. We would now move on to the two Harties caves, across the river from Printed Circuit.

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