Ten years in the dark


Allow me to explain

I began caving in 1991, and have been caving ever since. I would say that my life does not revolve around it, but that would be a lie. My wife and baby both accept that if there is a choice between a day on the sofa together or a scrabble around in the heart of the earth, the earth wins over.

When I mention to people that I am a caver, the responses are usually similar to each other:

Well, I did it once, then once again, then 300 times more.

I'm not claustrophobic. I know people that are. They go caving too. It is not as claustrophobic as most people assume. In Sarawak Chamber in Good Luck Cave, the walls of the chamber are 400 metres apart in one direction, 700 metres in the other and the roof is 100 metres above. One of the members of the first team ever to reach it suffered an acute attack of agoraphobia!

It is cold, so I wear warm clothes. I often end up sweating and welcome a cool breeze. It is wet. Sometimes. I try to avoid water. I am a human too. I don't like the water either, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs. It is muddy. But many women pay good money to have mud slapped on their faces. I choose caving and I have a shower afterwards. Sometimes it is small, but I don't like that, so I do caving where it isn't that small. I don't like contorting my body through small passages.

It can be dangerous. There are several things that can go wrong, I learned by my mistakes and through the mistakes of others what many of them were. There is no way of removing the dangers completely, just like there is no truly safe way to cross the road. What we can do is make it as safe as possible, to prepare for all of the foreseeable problems, never take undue risks and most important of all, learn how to help each other if there are any problems. At all times, I rely on my team mates to keep calm and to help me if I have an accident. I would do the same for them if the need arose.

Finally, yes, it is dark down there. That's why I have a light.

Get over your fears. Get in touch with nature - better than hugging a tree. See something more beautiful than you realise. Come and challenge yourself and feel the rewards. Come and join with us underground.