22 September 2016 by John Dale
After waiting for well over two years for a suitable opportunity to arrive, Adrian Hall decided; at very short notice, to take advantage of excellent weather conditions to dive The Font for the second time. Adrian Hall, Richard Wilsdon (who attempted the dive in 1982) and myself got ready and the intrepid three-some headed down to Bogg Hall only to find the resurgence blocked by a rather large tree.
The tree had clearly rotted at its base and a heavy loading of vines in the upper branches had ripped it out of its root system in the limestone cliff above the cave entrance. Water was straining heavily underneath the trunk but as it was clearly a recent fall it had not had time to silt up on the upstream side of the behemoth.
Clearly a long term solution needed to be found and it was decided that it may be best to wait for a strong flood then attempt to winch the trunk away from the entrance to the cave.
The "Oh my Ears and Whiskers" dry entrance was laddered to make shifting diving gear easier and the base of the entrance climb was reached without incident. Adrian made his way up the "tourist route" past the entrance sump while the diving gear was taken through the short connection passage. The duck was reached quickly by Richard and Adrian, both of whom free dived under the boulder. Well - Adrian used a bottle and regulator claiming that they were easily at hand. I pushed camera gear through the squeeze and slithered over the top of the boulder to meet a confused Adrian who really didnt like the look of The Drain. Richard showed the way forward, feet first and on his back while dragging the diving gear then Adrain followed. Both used the right hand exit into the main passage while I forged straight on towards The Wedge and exited into the main passage that way.
The water levels appeared normal with small airspaces and a very good flow of water through the passages.
Adrian, on reaching The Font first was treated to a splendid view of the otter who relinquished The Font to the diver and swam off up the first passage on the right. Adrian thought the otter was about two and a half foot long and I mused about the potential of coming face to face with it on the way out through the low airspace passages of The Drain.
After kitting up; Adrian located the old dive line on the far side of The Font and dissapeared into the depths to leave Richard and I "bubble watching". After about ten minutes the bubbles ceased completely for quite a while; prompting thoughts of checking Adrian's car for useful kit and retiring to the pub.
(Un) fortunately the bubbles started to rise again and after a dive time of sixteen minutes Adrian finally surfaced.
I set a camera up to record Adrians observations - in order to circumvent later embellishment which may have upset Jerry Gibbs (one of the pervious folks to dive The Font). Adrian stated that The Font was initially funnel shaped, narrowing down to a ledge at 10m where the rift narrowed and stepped down to The Squeeze at his previous limit. By moving cylinders around he passed the previous obstruction and found himself in a dark, murky environment where he could only feel a slight undercut which would only just take a boot. The flow here was very low and visibility was poor - in stark contrast to his (and Jerry's) previous dives where the main issue was the extreme pressure of water welling up from below, this pressure being sufficient to spit twigs and gravel upwards towards the divers face - while trying to force them against various projections.
The final depth achived was 19.4M, a depth consistent with Jerry's previous limit of 18M under very different conditions.
All three were puzzled about the relatively strong flow exiting The Font yet "low flow and poor visibility" at the limit of exploration. No doubt this will be debated long into the future.
All three of us exited, with myself having a mild panic as he followed Adrian through The Drain as he swam underwater in the large cross section of the passage while I attempted to use the now very gloopy small airspace that was available. Squeezing over the top of the boulder going backwards was definitely worse than going inwards as one's face is forced deep into the water due to sheving of the roof on the outside of the squeeze. I gazed forlornly at a dangling regulator while attempting to turn his head underwater.
The warm twenty degree air outside proved very welcome and we retired up the path to Richards's house. Here we said goodbye to Adrian, who had just found out that he had been posted to the Falklands. Richard then found that Mrs Wilsdon had left the premises locked and had gone out. As my car keys were in the house this left the intrepid duo stood shuffling around in wetsuits until the cold drove them into the potting shed. Here Richard's main topic of conversation; for an hour and a half, involved immensely detailed instructions on how to organise a cheap funeral.
Mrs Wilsdon finally turned up to find Richard and I sitting in the potting shed wearing her best gardening hats.
The good lady was apparently so embarrassed that a "once in a lifetime" event took place and I was treated to both a hot shower and food in the Wilsdon residence; with the only stipulation being "not to look at the bathroom" as the poor Mrs Wilsdon had been waiting for a new one for over 30 years - at which point Richard quickly interjected, apologising for leaving his underwear in the Bidet.
The Font awaits its next victim.