Next year, the Museum will re-open with a brand new gallery for showcasing the very best of our vast collection. During this temporary closure, Museum staff are hard at work selecting the objects that will be re-displayed; researching their history and writing labels to accompany them. We are working with local groups within the Craven community to make sure we don’t miss anything important from our new displays and last month we met with members of Craven Pothole Club who have kindly donated some amazing new objects that we can’t wait to display next year- so we thought we’d give you a sneak peek!
During early expeditions, cavers needed a huge amount of equipment. Members of Craven Pothole Club donated a collection of helmets and caving lamps dating from 1920 onwards, including Albert Mitchell’s carbide lamp and helmet. Albert was a famous local caver, Craven Herald reporter and founder of Craven Pothole Club in 1929. The carbide lamps donated were used until relatively recently. They worked by putting water in the top compartment with calcium carbide in the base. Water would drip down and produce acetylene fuel for the lamp. CPC also donated a (very heavy!) miners NIFE light with lead acid battery which the caver would clip onto their outfit.
We were lucky enough to receive an early example of a pressed cardboard helmet. As you can imagine, these could get very wet inside a cave and would often warp out of shape. The caver would have to re-shape the helmet after it got wet otherwise they would dry warped and they wouldn’t be able to put them back on! They now use plastic helmets with LED lighting.
Cavers first used early wooden and hemp rope ladders to descend into the caves. They started to use electron ladders up until the mid-eighties, but these were light and could easily break, so they moved towards using single rope technique (SRT). Cavers would use abseiling techniques to get in and climb out using rock climbing pitons (a metal spike driven into a crack which acts as an anchor) that clamped onto rock.
The Pothole Club members also told us about the process of mapping caves. Mapping is important in showing how caves join up and connect. This used to be done using a compass, climb meter and tape. More recently, caves would be mapped using radio devices from the surface and laser measuring of the caves.
We hope that these donated objects will give visitors an insight into how caving equipment has changed over the years and highlight some of the challenges faced by cavers as they explore the hidden world beneath Craven! We will also be acquiring a full caving outfit from the club that will take pride of place in the new Museum gallery next year.
A special thank you to our caver friends and members of Craven Pothole Club for their ongoing support of this project.