Party: Craig (Quagger) Wagnell and Felix Ossig-Bonanno
Photos: Felix and Quagger

Out of all the caves on Vancouver Island the one I’ve probably visited the most is Kiku Pot. I wasn’t there when it was originally discovered back around 2002, but when I first visited this cave last year after meeting Quagger we pushed a bunch of leads revealing new extensive virgin passage. This led to us resurveying the cave. We got a lot done last season, but the project was far from finished. So when I returned to the island for a month of work at Horne Lake we regrouped to complete the task.

On the last trip I was on we headed in through the mud crawls, through Dog Bollocks and began surveying up from Hachiko Palace; discovering what was later named The Frisbee Room (due to its large size and the excitement it caused – a reference to Woody). This led to the serendipitous discovery of Pandora’s Boxer; a bypass that meant we no longer had to go through the mud crawls and risk damage to the delicate speleothems. It was an important find that made access to the back of the cave much easier.

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Hundreds of straws hang from the ceiling of Dogs Bollocks. Pandora’s Boxer now allows an easy bypass avoiding needless passage through this area.

A couple of weeks later whilst on a weeklong trip to the Glory ‘Ole area I got an email letting me know about the latest find: an decorated extension off Woody’s Playground (Blak’s Canyon). My mouth was watering as I looked at the passage and symbols denoting decorations.

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The decorated extension leading off from Woody’s Playground, know as Blak’s Canyon.

Several days later I was back in Port Alberni. We headed down past Akita Way. I had a 50′ length of garden hose wrapped around my waist; I pushed it ahead of me as I wormed my way through Badger’s Bypass. The idea was to siphon water from a bathtub that would allow as much better access to the deepest parts of the cave. The phreatic tube that led onwards had a floor of bedrock and was significantly higher up than the dip in the passage where the water was catching. Inserting one end into the water we ran the pipe down the passage. I tried priming it with my mouth, but after many unsuccessful attempts decided to look at the other end. From the little bit of fluid dynamics I remember from university, the biggest resistance to pumping water through pipes is height: Egrav = mgh. I dug a trench through a gravel bar that was the highest point in the pipe. I tried priming it again. It made a huge difference in the effort required, but again I could not get the water flowing. I concluded that the drop in height wasn’t enough. And we called it a day, deciding to return with more pipe (I measured out 55 lengths of my gumboots).

Left: At Akita way; just about to remove the hose. Right: The trench dug into the gravel bar, lowering the amount of energy required to move water through the hose.

We headed into the streamway under Kelpie’s Leap that had required me moving a lot of rock last season. We surveyed to the T-junction, stemming down the pit where a waterfall continued to run despite the lack of rain and down to the sump.

Left: Quagger peering down into the sump depths. Right: Quagger climbing back up from the sump.

The next day we returned with another 50′ length of hose, a 5′ (just in case) piece, and another with a valve. Again we tried to get the water to drain, but issues with air locks as well as leaks between the pieces of pipe led to us abandoning the siphoning plan. Luckily we had a contingency, and whilst I was pfaffing with the siphon system, Quagger had enlarged the first bit of Badger’s Bypass. I started working from my end and we soon had it Quagger friendly.

We re-scooped the passage I had scooped last season, and managed to push the cave even further before heading out; occasionally cursing the pipe we now had to carry back out… especially when I dropped the hose down Kiku Pit!

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A strange straw bridge between a stalagmite and column (past the bathtub).

The next day we returned to survey. We surveyed everything past the bathtub. When Quagger crunched the numbers that night, we were all pretty excited; it was getting longer and longer the more we pushed!

The next day we again returned. But this time for some photo pfaffing in Blak’s Canyon, one of the only parts of the cave I hadn’t yet seen. I was pretty impressed. Most of the passage was calcite and we ensured our boots where clean from mud before we dared enter. There were some tricky downclimbs, and the cave yoga required to minimise damage was quite tiring.

Some of the highlights included a folded shawl that ran down the wall before forming a column, the spar crystals in the numerous crystal pools, and probably the prettiest formation in the cave: Buddha Bob.

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Felix next to Buddha Bob. Photo: Quagger.

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The cave location still has not been released as there are still some management issues Quagger would like to sort. One of the main ones being the pressense of a rare troglabitic species of Diplura. Thought to be endemic to the island, its presence has only been confirmed in two caves on the island. One of them Kiku.

There is still some work left in Kiku Pot, but I am glad that it seems to be mostly at an end (there are still some loose ends for Quagger and Tawney to tie up). It has been a pleasure to see this project almost to its end, and I hope more people can enjoy what Kiku has to offer in the future.

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Strange dinosaur dog below Kelpie’s Leap. (Formed via dirty calcite and rocks).

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