Party: Craig Wagnell (Quagger), Jim Stelmacker, Jason Wright and Felix Ossig-Bonanno (R)
Caves: Blak T and Doggegness

The weekend was here and we woke early to avoid the rain. We hadn’t been caving together for about a year and I think everyone was looking forward to catching up. I was picking berries with Quagger when Jim arrived to join us in the berry eating. Jason soon followed bearing the news that Jen wasn’t going to join us. Three of us had CICC shirts on!

Quagger and I piled into Jim’s car, but Jason elected to take his own. We drove out past Sproat Lake and soon took the abandoned logging road up to the cave. The last time I had been here was helping out on a VOC trip; Alex’s car had slid off the road and we had to rig a haul system to pull it back up! We parked just before this bit and walked the rest of the way to the cave.

At over 1.4km long Blak T is one of the longer caves on the island, and is named after Quagger’s friend Rick Blak who died in a tragic caving accident in Arctomys Cave (1991). “When Craig moved to Port Alberni the next year, he set out to find a cave over 1km long to honour his friend. It took 13 years, but he finally found a fitting tribute.”

We were soon suited up at the entrance and squeezed down into the dry stream passage that quickly opened up. We paused to look at the Chocolate Factory, whose shining black surface also had hits of purple and other small iridescent rainbows.

Iridescent colours on the Chocolate Factory

Jim and I had a look up Rolling Boulders and as we sent rocks bouncing down the chute, it was clear where the name cave from. As we continued we paused to look in several of the decorated side passages.

It was nice to have Quagger as a guide. Despite it being about 10 years since his last visit having surveyed (mapped) the cave he knew his way around better than any of as. Despite the abundance of decorations, it was sad to see the damage that has been done since its discovery, all the worse for Quagger who was the first to explore the system.

Speleothems at the bottom of Rolling Boulders.
Jim, somewhere CR in Candy Lane.
Jim at the entrance to the Sucking Duck

Continuing down the passage we picked our separate ways through the Mud Slingers (MS) room admiring hundreds of delicate straws in the Soda Shop. I again admired the spar crystals on the side of the Wabasso Slabs. Spar crystals form in the phreatic zone suggesting this part of the slab was once submerged below the water table.

Spar crystals at Wabasso Slabs

Continuing into Goober Palace (what a famous dog!), we where soon below Blak KFE (a pun on coffee. Rick liked tee, Quagger coffee) which is where Alex and I first dropped in to the cave system – we might just be the only two people who first visited this cave via that entrance! When we had abseiled in this first time Thunder Dome was a noisy place with a loud waterfall dropping down from the roof of the cave. The lack of rain over the last month made it a dry and quite place and enabled us to cross over into The Deluge which certainly wasn’t living up to its name. Jim had a look for bat bones in Dracula’s Lair, but couldn’t locate them… so we climbed up towards Zipo Pit where Jason and Quagger had disappeared. Instead of rapping down into the pit, we took the Egg Carton (E-C) crawls and explored the interesting sharp speleogens that created bridges and windows between parallel fissures. On the way out, I squeezed into the bottom of Zippo Pit, apparently the hole in the bottom hasn’t been dropped. It went a long way down, and likely connects with one of the main passageways.

Climbing back out, Jason had climbed up on the other side of the Deluge Room where you can also enter from the KFE entrance (Alex and I had first tried to enter the cave this way, but the Mind Bender Crawls had been sumped. I was the last one climbing back down into the room when I heard a rock break. I turned to see Jason in mid air falling to the ground. Landing on his back. Quagger rushed over to see how he was. It was about a 3m fall onto rock. Luckily in mid air, Jason had pushed the rocks away and they hadn’t landed on him. The pack he was wearing broke his fall, so remarkably he seemed okay. Jim and I suggested having a break, but after establishing he could move, Jason and Quagger rushed out of the cave – the idea was that if anything went wrong, the last place you’d want to be was in the cave. Cave rescues take a long time. A long time.

Jim and I plodded out. Jason seemed battered and sore but overall fine. Jim hadn’t been to the KFE entrance, so we headed over to have a look, whilst the others walked back out.

Back on the road, I wanted to check out an insurgence that had been one of the first caves i’d found when I had got to the island I had walked the entire road found Begginers Luck (which is right next to the road) and the roar of water was enough to peak my interest leading me to find the entrance to Doggedness (though I have only just found out that is what it is called). Back then the stream had been rushing into a small hole creating a small vortex. There was still water entering, but only a trickle. Jim and I worked at it a while pulling sticks and rocks away, and soon I slipped in and was supprised to find walking passage: ‘never judge a cave by its entrance’. I went as far as Twin Tubes – where the cave gets tight. I was surprised to see a sizeable fern there searching for light, trying to grow.

Timed photo of myself  to illustrate passage size. Taken just before the Twin Tubes (looking back towards the entrance).

We headed back, removing a few rocks from the road. Thanks guys for a great day!