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Volume 26(3), Dec. 1999

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Front coverIsotope geochemistry, Leon Sinks, Florida, USA
Marble speleogenesis,County Donegal, Ireland
Water studies in Wookey Hole Cave, UK
Karren-like features in Yorkshire, UK
Carbon monoxide in caves
Cango Cave: land values
Symposium Abstracts

Cover Photo by John Gunn: Fluorescein dye injection at the opencast fluorspar mine on Dirtlow Rake, Castleton, Derbyshire, UK.


(Gunn, J. & D. Lowe (eds))
Vol 26 (3) pp 99 - 100
Some comments and advice are given on the use of water tracing to demonstrate links between sinks, cave streams and springs. Although a wide variety of substances has been used, fluorescent dyes have been most widely used in Britain, particularly optical brightening agents (OBA), sodium fluorescein (CI 45350 Acid Yellow 73) and rhodamine WT (CI Acid Red 388). These all have the advantage that they can be detected in quantities invisible to the naked eye, and they can be adsorbed onto passive detectors (fluocapteurs). Unfortunately many dye users are unaware of the potential problems of the risk of false positive results.

In England, Scotland and Wales the permission of the Environment Agency must be sought prior to introducing any artificial tracer substance into the environment, otherwise there will be a risk of prosecution. If there is any possibility of the tracer emerging into a public water supply the relevant Water Company must also be consulted.

Before injection of the tracer, it is essential to place fluocapteurs, and to collect water samples, to determine the natural luminescence background. Detergents, some animal feedstuffs, and other domestic and industrial pollutants can introduce substances into the water that could be interpreted as all the common tracers OBA, fluorescein and rhodamine.

It is suggested that cavers should seek the support and advice of an academic, or other individual, with a track record of successful tracing work and access to a spectrofluorimeter. Otherwise it is considered that the most reliable method for tracing in non-peaty water is to use fluorescein and activated charcoal fluocapteurs. Users are warned of false positives caused by contamination by pollutants, or by cross-contamination from dye retained from a previous test; and they are also warned about apparent negatives caused by insufficient time being allowed for slow dye throughput, inattention to possible multiple outputs, or failure to monitor "unlikely" outputs at much greater distances. An example is given of failure to monitor the Bradwell springs in tracing from Dirtlow Rake, the workers having assumed that drainage was only to Peak Cavern.

It is also suggested that traces should not be published until they have been replicated in further operations.


(Cao, H., J.B. Cowart & J.K. Osmond)
Uranium and strontium isotopic geochemistry of karst waters, Leon Sinks Geological Area, Leon County, Florida
Vol 26 (3) pp 101 - 106
Abstract: The Leon Sinks Geological Area (Florida) is a mature karstic area developed on the Oligocene-Miocene Upper Floridan aquifer. This hydrological system is extremely vulnerable to pollution because of the very high permeability of the carbonate aquifer. The threat of water pollution in the study area makes the evaluation of the water sources of the sinkholes necessary.

Uranium and strontium isotopes are used in this investigation as tracers to determine the water sources of sinkholes. Uranium isotopes in water have been shown to be useful as tracers to distinguish sources of mixed waters. Isotopic ratios of strontium are often used as a natural flow tracer, as well, because the 87-Sr/86-Sr ratio of natural waters in Fisher Sink, Fisher Rise Sink, and Lost Stream Sink, which originate from the Water Table aquifer (Pliocene-Pleistocene), have higher 87-Sr/86-Sr ratios and lower 234-U/238-U ratios. The waters of Big Dismal and Hammock come from the Upper Floridan aquifer, which has lower 87-Sr/86-Sr ratios and higher 234-U/238-U ratios.

(Chapman, T., A. Gee, A.V. Knights, C. Stell & R.D. Stenner)
Water studies in Wookey Hole Cave, Somerset, UK
Vol 26 (3) pp 107 - 113
Abstract: Water samples were collected by members of the Cave Diving Group from the River Axe in Wookey Hole Cave between the Entrance and Wookey 23. The samples were analysed for all major constituents, enabling ion balances to be used to assess analytical reliability. The results showed that water in the Static Sump at the beginning of Wookey 23 had very much less magnesium than water in the Main Stream between the surface and Sump 22. This result was confirmed by the analysis of a second set of samples. The results of the remaining constituents showed that water in the Static Sump had the same origin as that in the River Axe. Only magnesium bicarbonate concentrations were different. A third set of samples included a sample from Sump 25. Results showed that the location of the "Unknown Junction", from where water flows to the Static Sump by a different route from the majority of the River Axe, is upstream of Sump 25. Analytical difficulties were caused by high concentrations of suspended calcium carbonate in the river during high water conditions in the winter of 1996/97, and part of the paper deals with analytical problems caused by such suspensions in the River Axe.
(Parkes, M.A., D. Johnston, M.J. Simms & J.G. Kelly)
Geological guidance of speleogenesis in marble of the Dalradian Supergroup, County Donegal, Ireland
Vol 26(3) pp 115 - 124
Abstract: Pollnapaste is a small but complex cave developed in marble of the Dalradian Supergroup near Lettermacaward in County Donegal, at the mouth of the Gweebarra River. Speleogenesis has largely been guided by variations in marble band lithology during inception and the early stages of void formation, but as the cave developed the influence of this banding declined. Solubility constrasts, between marble and metadolerite, and the configuration of the intrusions have provided later and greater guiding effects. Phreatic development appears largely strike-related, with only minor dip tubes connecting different segments. Metadolerite or quartz aquicludes have created perched zones of saturation, in which the early stages of the cave's development occurred. Breaching of these aquicludes allowed progressive lowering of the phreas and development of vadose passages along fractures cutting across the strike. There is no conclusive evidence for any pre-Devensian development of the cave system and the main passage development is presumed to be entirely late-glacial to post-glacial in age, although inception may have occurred much earlier.


(Bregani, E.R., T. Ceraldi, A. Rovellini & C. Camerini)
Carbon monoxide poisoning: a potential hazard to speleologists?
Vol 26(3) pp 125 - 126
Abstract: Many speleologists habitually employ acetylene lamps as an aid to cave exploration. Acetylene generated from calcium carbide burns incompletely in acetylene lamps, and production of carbon monoxide appears likely. In order to establish the potential hazard of carbon monoxide poisoning during speleological activities, an experiment was carried out during a rescue training exercise of the National Speleologic Rescue Service of Lombardy, Italy. Fifteen voluntary rescue technicians provided venous blood samples before and after 14 hours of caving, in enclosed spaces with poor air circulation. The data show a clear and statistically significant decrease of blood carboxy-haemoglobin, probably due to the effects of hyperventilation in surroundings that are effectively free of carbon monoxide.
(Craven, S.A.)
Land values around Cango Cave, South Africa, in the 19th century
Vol 26(3) pp 127 - 128
Abstract: The conditions surrounding the land tenure around South Africa's Cango show cave and the responsibilities for the Cave, beginning in the early nineteenth century, are discussed briefly. Details of local land prices, derived from historical documents, give a clear indication of the value of the Cave, and confirm that minor government officials and the land owners must have made a very good living from the Cave until their monopoly was terminated by the Colonial Government in 1891.
(Murphy, P. & J. Cordingley)
Some observations on the occurrence of channel karren-like features in flooded karst conduits in the Yorkshire Dales, UK
Vol 26(3) pp 129 - 130
Abstract: Channel karren-like features are described, occurring on sediment free rock surfaces in flooded conduits. Direct observation during times of increased flow indicates an origin, at least in part, due to abrasion by moving sediment.

Symposium Abstracts

Abstracts of the BCRA Cave Science Symposium 2000 held at the University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK, 25th March 2000
Vol 26 (3) pp 131 - 135


(Gardner, J.W.)
Comments on the paper "A history of cave exploration in the Northern Pennines, United Kingdom, up to 1838" by Craven, S.A.
Vol 26 (3) p 137
(Martini, J.E.J.)
Comments on the report "Speleothem deterioration at Cango Cave, South Africa" by Craven, S.A.
Vol 26 (3) pp 138 - 140
(Shaw, T.R.)
Comments on the paper "A history of cave exploration in the Northern Pennines, United Kingdom, up to 1838" by Craven, S.A.
Vol 26 (3) pp 140 - 141
(Murphy, P.J.)
Scientific Note: The underground flow of the River Skell, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, UK
Vol 26 (3) pp 141 - 143
(Chamberlain, A.)
Book Review: Dearne, M.J. & T.C. Lord, 1998. The Romano-British archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle. Researches into the site and its artefacts.
Vol 26 (3) pp 143 - 144

Thesis Abstracts

(Sharratt, N.J., 1998)
Ecological aspects and conservation of the invertebrate fauna of the sandstone caves of Table Mountain, Cape Town
Vol 26 (3) p 144
MSc Thesis, University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg), South Africa, August 1998

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