David William Gill 1941-2024


Staff member
Ever generous to friends and visitors to Sarawak, Dave came to meet us at the airport as we arrived for the Benarat 2024 trip. We made plans to meet again a few days later but he messaged to say he had flu and couldn't make it. We expected to see him on our way out but received the sad news that he had passed just a week later. Mulu, Sarawak even, will not be the same without him, he did so much for the place including most of the work which led to Mulu gaining World Heritage status in all four categories.

Another of Dave's major achievements was organising the Untamed River Expedition to PNG in 1984. Without Dave's skill and drive I doubt the expedition would have got off the ground. I was fortunate to cave with Dave on a number of his great adventures and will be forever grateful for the opportunities he gave me. Not least because it was by his invitation that I went on my first Mulu trip in 1991. I've enjoyed 13 more since then.

RIP old pal.


New member
RIP Dave, it was deeply saddening to hear news that Dave had passed away, he met us at Miri airport late December and seemed in good spirits then.
I truly owe my life to Dave's actions back in 1993, when in his capacity with Mulu National Park he called out a full search involving local trackers to find me when I had run off into the rainforest being chased by hallucinations of demons brought on by Dengue fever. A true caving legend who will be deeply missed.

Mrs Trellis

Well-known member
RIP "Grotty"

We did our Eldon probationer's together down P8 in 1965 iirc (Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham was top of the hit parade then) with EPC stalwarts Jim Kinsman, Soppy, Wacker and Geoff Dobson.

We met later after his return to Chinley - he gave the AGM after-dinner lecture on Mulu for our local cave group.

I'm very sorry I missed this in the New Year - I was far away.

Commiserations and condolences to all affected by his passing.


Active member
RIP "Grotty"

We did our Eldon probationer's together down P8 in 1965 iirc (Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham was top of the hit parade then) with EPC stalwarts Jim Kinsman, Soppy, Wacker and Geoff Dobson.

We met later after his return to Chinley - he gave the AGM after-dinner lecture on Mulu for our local cave group.

I'm very sorry I missed this in the New Year - I was far away.

Commiserations and condolences to all affected by his passing.
When ever I heard Dave Gills Name, I always think of that talk he delivered. I recall it was on the Nare exped. but I may be incorrect . If I recall, it was at the Devonshire in Mellor.


Staff member
I wrote Dave's obituary for Descent magazine. I'm repeating it here for those who may not have seen it.

David William Gill

12th November 1941 – 9th January 2024

Born Ancoats, Manchester, died Miri, Sarawak aged 82. A life well spent.


In his autobiography Dave suggested that his ‘late’ caving friends were now exploring the great cave in the sky. Sadly, for us, Dave has now gone to join them. Dave was, perhaps, the country’s most prolific and successful cave explorer. As testament to that his caving autobiography, Journeys Beneath the Earth, ran into two volumes.

Dave was drawn into caving whilst visiting the Peak District and soon joined the Eldon Pothole Club caving with the likes of Gordon Parkin, Dave Adderly, Paul Deakin, Alan Gamble and others. It was here he met the legendary Ken Pearce (of “if you’re not hard you shouldn’t have come” fame) and joined the 1967 expedition to the Gouffre Berger where a world depth record was attempted. It was the first of a lifetime of foreign caving expeditions.

World depth records were also prominent on Dave’s next four European expeditions to the Pierre Saint Martin in the Pyrenees. This was followed by trips to Poland, the Cigalere, Felix Trombe and Sima GESM. All involving some pretty serious caving especially given the equipment and resources available in the 1970s.

Back at home Dave was prominent in the Derbyshire caving scene. He was the C&A officer for the Derbyshire Caving Association, Newsletter editor of the National Caving Association and a controller for Derbyshire Cave Rescue. Dave also worked on the Caves of Derbyshire with Trevor Ford and Caves of the Peak District with John Beck and published the first ever cave grid reference index. He co-authored, British Caves and Potholes, with Paul Deakin; a heavily illustrated book full of wonderful black and white photographs.

Dave married Patricia in 1969 and had two sons, Mark and Leigh. He held a number of jobs throughout such a distinguished caving career starting out as a radio and TV engineer, an aircraft electronic technician, a maintenance engineer, an electrician, the development officer at Mulu National Park, and latterly; conservation consultant. Careers which fed more and more into his love of caving as the years progressed.

In 1982 Dave joined an expedition to Chiapas in Southern Mexico. The expedition was filmed by Sid Perou for the Realms of Darkness series. Dave and the expedition discoveries featured prominently in the film, named the Elusive Depths of Mexico. Unfortunately, Dave and some of the team, contracted histoplasmosis, a very rare disease picked up from the fungal spores of dried bat guano. Dave was very ill and in many ways lucky to survive; a full recovery took many months.

It was after this that I first met Dave as we prepared to go to Papua New Guinea in 1984. This was one of the most audacious expeditions ever to leave British shores. Originally the concept of legendary caver Mike Boon, Dave took over the leadership at an early stage and I can honestly say it would never have got off the ground without his determination and drive. The Untamed River Expedition was Himalayan in style but explored some of the biggest river caves in the world, an amazing trip none of the team are likely to forget.

The success of the expedition deservedly enhanced Dave’s reputation and the invites to join other expeditions soon flowed in. He caved in Java and Peru followed by four expeditions to China, two to Irian Jaya, and a trip to Russia.

In 1988 Dave joined his first expedition to Mulu, Sarawak under the leadership of Matt Kirby. A thirty year association and love for the country followed and he returned with Matt in 1991. Through Dave I managed to get invited on this later expedition and this started my own long association with Mulu for which I am ever grateful. I was able to return the compliment as Dave joined me for an expedition to northern Vietnam the following year.

In 1991 Dave accepted a job offer by Sarawak Forestry as development officer at Gunung Mulu National Park. In many ways this was a dream job but not one for the feint hearted and the work posed some serious challenges. Living with the heat of the tropics, no phones or internet, maintaining aging show cave infrastructure, understanding a new political system and further developing the assets of a truly magnificent National Park, might well have been beyond many of his counterparts, but Dave took to the work like a duck to water.

Warmly welcomed by the local community, Dave soon met and married Betty Usang. Together they had a daughter, Racheal, and Dave embraced Betty’s son Jeffrey.

After a few years stationed in Mulu, Dave was assigned to the newly instigated Karst Management Unit and moved to Miri. This involved travel throughout Sarawak to visit most of the 14 identified karst regions of the country. Caves were surveyed, investigations made, reports and management plans written to these little visited limestone outcrops, all the time treading carefully through the minefield of local and national politics.

During the ten years Dave was stationed in Sarawak he assisted and participated in all the British expeditions, including those to the remote Hidden Valley. As part of the job he accompanied other nation’s expeditions including those of Korea and Japan. He escorted most VIP visitors, including politicians and royalty, to see Mulu’s greatest spectacles such as Sarawak Chamber and the Pinnacles. He initiated a series of expeditions by American cavers to the caves of Gunung Buda to the north of Mulu NP. These were highly successful expeditions but heralded his last in Sarawak for some time as the politics of such an amazing job overwhelmed him and Dave and family ended up back in Manchester in January 2001.

Perhaps Dave’s greatest achievement during these first ten years in Sarawak occurred in 2000 when Gunung Mulu National Park was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dave was the driving force behind the nomination and wrote much of the supporting documentation, although as a foreigner this was never acknowledged in Sarawak.

Having given himself to Sarawak, I can only imagine the difficulty of arriving back in the UK after such a rewarding spell in the tropics. Dave, of course, just got on with life. His thoughts soon turned to the Nakanai Mountains of PNG, where the Untamed River Expedition had taken place. He worked hard to make this a protected area which might eventually gain World Heritage status but this is yet to happen. In 2006, at the age of 65, Dave led a new team back to the Nakanai. This was an enormously successful expedition discovering new river caves including the spectacular Mageni Cave. The expedition featured in the National Geographic magazine and caught the attention of the BBC Natural History Unit. This led to a less than satisfactory return trip to make a BBC documentary.

After ten years ‘out in the cold’ Dave was able to return to his beloved Sarawak. He continued his work on all aspects of caves and karst, writing conservation and management plans, and had recently become a volunteer consultant to the Sarawak Forestry Corporation. He authored the Gunung Buda management plan in 2018 with the area gaining National Park status, reward for his long commitment to the protection of the karst area. He continued his interest in protecting the Nakanai by working with consultants from around the world and he co-authored ‘Caves of the Nakanai’ with Jean-Paul Sounier and others. He was about to publish a rewrite of the Giant Caves of Borneo which we hope to see soon.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable outcomes of his work with World Heritage and all the friends he had made around the world was that he could enjoy travel with his daughter, Racheal. Together they made trips to Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Slovenia, Jordan, Iceland, Canada, Cambodia, India and New Zealand. What truly memorable trips they must have been.

Always generous with his time, Dave came to Miri airport to meet me and members of the Benarat 2024 expedition as we arrived. We had a good chat and made plans to meet up over the next few days. Unfortunately, Dave had to cancel as he became ill and within a week he had passed away. We’re all going to miss him, but one thing I know is for sure, that great cave in the sky is going to get a lot longer with Dave up there exploring it.