Ogof Draenen Life on Mars trip 29/12/2017

Unless otherwise stated, camera and setups by Tarquin, modelling by Peter Bolt, lighting by Tarquin and Peter Bolt, edits and gallery effects by Tarquin.

  1. Ice covering the road and parking area. This melted during the trip, making the Entrance Series a little more wet than usual on the way in, but back to normal on the way out.
  2. Bat skeleton in Sparrow, a side series part way along Squirrel Rifts. It seems odd to be perched on a drying mud bank without any sign of decay or staining to the surrounding area. It's almost like it was gently placed here after the body decayed. Lighting by Tarquin
  3. Looking out of the grotto in the Squirrel Rifts II side passage, with the dark space beyond being a 5 metre free climb down into the largest chamber in the Life on Mars series.
  4. Fallen stalactites at the entrance to the grotto. Lighting by Tarquin
  5. Small stal columns and botryoids lining the grotto. Lighting by Tarquin
  6. Flowstone column. Lighting by Tarquin
  7. Second half of the grotto.
  8. Stal on the right wall.
  9. Stalagmite on the left side. Lighting by Tarquin
  10. The main group of stalagmites, with the large one in the background almost looking like a giant hand.
  11. Anthodites covering the wall. Like most of the stal in the grotto, these seem very old. Lighting by Tarquin
  12. Anthodites. Lighting by Tarquin
  13. Anthodites. Lighting by Tarquin
  14. A very large cluster of anthodites. Lighting by Tarquin
  15. The squeeze leading onwards from the grotto, which is not tight, but requires turning a sharp corner, which initially proved very difficult for Pete's tall stature. At just under 6 foot tall, I found it relatively easy. A few inches can make all the difference, so they say.
  16. Small grotto part way through the squeeze, which takes the damage from any thrashing boots. Lighting by Tarquin
  17. Exiting the squeeze. After removing boots and knee pads, Pete was able to negotiate the squeeze, with me guiding his feet over a solid obstruction.
  18. After a pitch down and climb back up, is a second grotto.
  19. Not as elaborate as the first, but it does have an impressive stalagmite boss.
  20. Last of the stal before the bolt traverse, which we did not have enough equipment to rig. The passage ends shortly afterwards anyway, after another short pitch.
  21. Chamber between the levels, at the end of Squirrel Rifts II. This is the second largest chamber in the series, and contains a patch of unusual cryostal in the floor.
  22. As well as the usual beads and bulbous twigs, there are several calcite rafts - except that rafts don't really seem to make sense, given how cryostal is supposed to develop, since rafts form on the surface of water which is exposed to air, not ice. Lighting by Tarquin
  23. The extremely delicate rafts have larger blobs on one side, and dimples on the other. Lighting by Tarquin
  24. Cryostal rafts. Lighting by Tarquin
  25. Cryostal rafts. Lighting by Tarquin
  26. The unusual solutional etching of Life on Mars, which is reminiscent of 6th Heaven Chamber, and Carno - very different from the typical passages in Draenen.
  27. Natural rock bridge in Life on Mars, seen from the junction of the routes.
  28. Large fossil proto-shark dorsal spine (presumably Ctenacanthus) in the northeastern branch.
  29. Another fossil.
  30. Cross section through the fossil, showing the blood vessel holes through the bone.
  31. Grotto at the end of the branch. Lighting by Tarquin
  32. The first - and easiest - of the traverses in the southeastern branch. It is hard to convey just how difficult these traverses are, and how much effort they require. Jamming against the walls, trying not to slip into the narrower gap below without any footholds, and trying to find a part of the rift wide enough to fit through while slowly shuffling sideways. But thankfully just 20 metres long in total.