Playing ‘Wookey’

In 1934, a group of caving enthusiasts in the U.K., organised the Cave Diving Group – thought to be one of the earliest diving clubs – to explore a partially flooded system at Swildon’s Hole, in the UK, using a home- made respirator.

The following year, “a group of young Mendip adventurers, led by Mr F.G. Balcombe”, used Standard Dress (‘Hard-Hat’) diving equipment on loan from Siebe, Gorman & Co., to begin the underwater exploration of the Wookey Hole system.  This reliance on an umbilical hose, while allowing modest exploration, proved too cumbersome for meaningful exploration of the flooded system.

In 1946, the cave explorers (utilising equipment and skills learned during the recent war) re-entered the system using self-contained O2 rebreathers and over the course of the next two years developed an array of ‘specialised’ equipment (including powerful lights, compasses, depth meters, underwater writing pads, and telephone lines) together with techniques that allowed them to push further into the cave system and establish staging points for storing additional supplies of oxygen and soda-lime scrubber.


Categories: History

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