UKMC Trip Report
5th November 2016
Roscobie Mine nr. Dunfermline
Andy P and James B visited Roscobie Quarry and Mine near Dunfermline. The aim of the trip was to assess the site for potential future exploration as well as tally up the plans from Rupert Massey’s visit in March 2016 and the diagram from Martyn Farr’s ‘Classic Darksite Diving’ with the original plans that Andy had sourced from the mid 1950s.
Roscobie is located to the north of the B914, 5 miles north of Dunfermline. We parked in the layby (below) which is just to the west of Bowley’s Farm (Postcode KY12 0SG). The layby is big enough for three vehicles, although was far muddier then the Google Earth image suggests.
The path up the hill is also much more overgrown then in the image and was not passable in our vehicle, although I suspect a 4x4 could make it. However, once over the crest of the hill the path flattens out and narrows considerably, so getting a vehicle up there would not make much difference to the walk. It is a five minute walk to the water’s edge – 8 minutes if carrying twinset, and fairly flat, apart from the last 40m before the quarry starts.
There are two flooded sections of the quarry. The section of interest is the larger of the two, although we had a quick look at the smaller section which might be diveable and have more hidden entrances into the 1940s section identified on the original plans.
Once at the quarry there is a decent size ‘beach’ which is relatively flat and would allow for several people to kit up at once. As Rupert reported there is bits of rubbish, including a few tyres, floating in the water at the south-western point.
The hidden entrances run along the eastern side of the quarry wall, with the visible entrances along the northern part. Below is a photo of Andy standing on the hill above the quarry with two of the three visible entrances in view.
Having moved all the kit up in two waves, we discussed our plan which would be to locate the southern most of the hidden entrances and hope to pick up the primary line. We entered the water and dropped down the eastern wall immediately to 6m and located the entrance. Visibility was poor but we think the entrance is about 6-8m wide. James tied off outside to the left hand side of the entrance and we transected the primary line almost immediately. Having connected our spool, we investigated the start of the primary line which is within the cavern zone and is not easily locatable as the line is in the silt and the same colour as it.
Visibility at this stage was max of 1m and very silty. The passageway heads east and drops away to approximately 13m in depth. After about 50m in distance the line (which is 6mil) turned right and then right again, opening up into a large passage with excellent (20m plus) vis.
As Rupert had reported previously there was a thinner line running from further along the mine to our left across the junction (now known as Spaghetti Junction). It doesn’t connect with the thicker main line but does run close to it. The primary line is tied in very tight to a block of rock where it makes its right turn – with drygloves this could be very difficult to locate in a silt out.
We continued following the primary line, heading south east for about 70m. The thinner secondary line was running along the top of the passage and the primary line at the bottom. The passage is perhaps 8-10m in height and so there was no snagging risk. The secondary line stops suddenly and the primary line continues, turning left and then left again at a dead-end. At this point we were at 17m depth and there was a cloud of brown stuff floating in the water above us at 13m. We both detected a chemical/oily taste.
We turned the dive here as James’s dryglove had sprung a leak and Andy was having issues with his helmet. We followed the primary line back out, through the cavern zone and left our spool tied in. Total dive time: 22mins.
Having swapped inner gloves over and wringed out the undersuit, we went back in for a second dive on fresh cylinders. We followed the same route around, turning left at the dead end and following the line north west. Just as we turned down a passage heading east and deeper into the mine, we turned the dive owing to a communication mix up.
Although we had plenty of gas for a third dive in the shallow section with the visible entrances it was now 1520hrs and we were starting to lose the light. We therefore decide to dekit and head back to the layby to warm up and head home. Total dive time: 27mins.
Prior to the turn the width of the passage is about 6-8m and the primary line is clearly visible from the opposite side of the passage. Since the line follows a route around the dead end, with nothing of particular interest and the brown cloud at the cul-de-sac, any future exploration would be advised to create a jump from one side to the other to cut out this dog-leg and save 10min or so of gas in the process.
Overall the mine has good visibility after the first 50m, however both the walls and floor is lined with black silt which sucks the light out of your torch and gives the place an ominous feeling, certainly compared with Aber Las. We didn’t touch any of the silt once inside the mine proper, but it would be very easy to cause a total silt out.
The part of the primary line that we explored was in good condition, although could do with a few more belays at times. The line changes from a silty covered white line to blue at the turn in the cul-de-sac. We found a drum of blue 6mil line at the junction which might indicate that someone else is updating the line currently, or pushing the line further into the mine. We left it undisturbed
We’re not 100% that our sketch of the line is accurate, however our route broadly tallied with this section of the mine, as well as Rupert’s diagram. The passage running at a diagonal from the dead end was not visible, nor was the alcove opposite it, however there was a smaller passage along the eastern side of the passage which wasn’t lined which might be that diagonal tunnel. Certainly there was no evidence of a cave-in or blockage.
We also didn’t get the impression that we crossed over another passageway almost immediately, however the visibility in this section was poor and it is therefore possible. If it is possible to locate that first passage in the silty section, then by following it south for about 200m you should come across the section of the mine from the late 1940s which according to the full plan looks extensive. Certainly that would be a task for those on closed circuit given the potential distances.
Pushing into the next North-South passageway after our turn point should confirm whether we are in the section of the mine that we think we are. Super-imposing Rupert’s plan from the March 2016 trip would indicate that the cross-roads he found is at the main passageway which looks like it contained the tracks for the mine cart (the passage two entrances to the left of where we entered on the map). This passage appears to go the furthest back into the mine – several hundred metres from the entrance.
We would also like to follow the secondary line north from Spaghetti Junction to see where it leads – possibly to one of the other hidden entrances or connecting up with the abandoned reel that Rupert located deeper in the mine. In any event, we would recommend moving this line so that it ends at the left hand side of Spaghetti Junction so that there’s no interference with the primary line.
Local Amenities and Phone Coverage
There was two bars of 3G coverage at both the layby and at the water’s edge which allowed us to phone in easily and accurately (not having to leave transit time to walk from the car to the water). There was a small shop in the village of Saline, 10 minute to the west along the B914 which accepts cards, however it didn’t sell any hot drinks – bring a gas stove.
There are two nearby dive shops which supply gas – K-Dive in Coatbridge (ML5 1BE) about 50mins drive and Divebunker in Burntisland (KY3 9BS) approx 25 mins drive. As we were coming from Andy’s home in Ayr we used K-Dive and got very good 240 bar fills (£4 per twinset).
Whilst there we also investigated nearby accommodation. We couldn’t see a campsite nearby however Roscobie Farm is a B&B with twin rooms starting from £35pp and couldn’t be any closer!
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