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Too Much " Foreign Stuff " In Caving Mags. and Journals ?

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
Note the question mark so its not a critiscism. I have been reading caving literature fo 60 years and in that time there has been a definite shift to include more foreign trip reports. I noted the same with diving mags to such an extent that I no longer bought them . The end for me came when I had a well researched item on HMS Formidable refused. Not as pretty as Belize I suppose. So for the caving literature I did bit of a tally up. The current issue of Descent has 10 images of UK caves and 18 images of foreign caves. The latter all very pretty and photogenic. Those supported by 16 pages of text out of a total of 38. At random I looked at a Descent from 1991. 15 images of UK caves and 2 of foreign caves. I next looked at a recent club journal for this year. 13 pages of text for foreign trips out of a total of 20 pages. Certainly things have changed as foreign travel becomes more affordable for all and ultimately editors can only publish items that they receive. Striking a balance is the hard part hence my question. Sad to say whilst I do appreciate the sparkling foreign photos I dont plough my way though the text. Maybe I am at odds with everyone else. Basically I dont give a toss how somebody got to Patagonia or wherever nor what they did when they got there.
Now if you look at this forum the balance swings the other way. In the first 50 new topics today only one relates to foreign caves. Clearly there is a divide between posts here and items published in print. ( OK I may be one or two out as I am only going by topic heading ). Interesting though I would say and not so easy to explain. Clearly a heck a lot more folk contribute to the forum than those writing for the printed media. I do know that club journal editors are struggling for material and may well welcome a treatise on Patagonia just to fill up the space. Some clubs used to do occasional publications for such material but more and more it gets fed into the club journal itself now. Like I said not a criticism merely a reflection on how things are now. I would much rather read about ten metres of new cave on Mendip than 1,000 metres in some far off jungle. Maybe I am in a minority after all so lets have some comments please.
 

marsrat

Member
Agreed. Would love to see more content based in the UK.

Think it's a self fulfilling prophecy, if you don't see material of digging/exploration in the UK - you begin to believe there is not much to be found and thus the cycle repeats itself.
 

Alex

Well-known member
Is there that much happening in the UK now though? As time goes on there's less and less to find and what you do find is harder and harder to actually achieve. So it may take several year's to get through, so nothing to report over that time. What I am saying is there's just simply less news related to caving in the UK now? Caver numbers are meant to be in decline also, so this is also means that news has to be filled with foreign going on. Let's face it, it's far easier to find new (not several years), and the potential is far greater abroad.

As for why this forum is the otherway, well most of the stuff we discuss here is not related to new discoveries or other news worthy stuff and the fact it's called UK caving not world caving.
 
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marsrat

Member
Is there that much happening in the UK now though? As time goes on there's less and less to find and what you do find is harder and harder to actually achieve. So it may take several year's to get through, so nothing to report over that time. What I am saying is there's just simply less news related to caving now? Caver numbers are meant to be in decline also, so this is also means that news has to be filled with foreign going on. Let's face it, it's far easier to find new (not several years), and the potential is far greater abroad.

As for why this forum is the otherway, well most of the stuff we discuss here is not related to new discoveries or other news worthy stuff and the fact it's called UK caving not world caving.
There's still exploration occurring in the UK, just less than before. I attribute it down to a lack of manpower/willingness rather than the number of leads decreasing (Priory Road is a great example of this). Anecdotally, I also agree it's probably a lot easier to find more passage abroad, and this is why it appears more often in publications (because to be honest, finding new stuff in the UK is hard simply due to logistics, underground travel time and a lack of keen volunteers).

I've had conversations with people who believed there was hardly anything left to find in the UK simply down to because all they read/hear about is foreign expeditions.

Though it doesn't help a lot of digs are kept secret until a breakthrough occurs (not to criticise them, I shroud mine in mystery too).
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Without in any way wanting to criticise Descent (which remains excellent) I think you make a good point OR.

Interestingly, what you allude to about caving literature mirrors the way the BCA Conference has evolved over the years. I'm a northern caver at heart and I watched it go from having multiple lectures on different northern caving areas to a "northern round up", almost as an afterthought. The content of these annual events now covers such a wide spectrum that, inevitably, many cavers will find the programme has many items which they're not really interested in.

There were enough of us up north who recognised this to prompt us to have our own one day conference purely about projects in the Dales (the Northern Explorers Forum). The same has happened in the Peak District last year; these events have proved popular, enlightening and enjoyable. This demonstrates that there are plenty of cavers who find British caving projects appealing to learn about.

Again, this is not intended as a criticism of the awesome efforts of those who make the BCA Conference happen; theirs is a major commitment for which we should be full of asdmiration. Such national gatherings are a good way of catching up with old mates that you don't get to see often enough. Hat's off to the unsung heroes who do get the Conferences together, sometimes against all odds.

But . . . . Descent can only publish material which volunteers submit. The BCA Conference can only provide lectures which people offer to give. So perhaps we're all guilty of not encouraging a more balanced programme when perhaps we should be having more input ourselves?

I doubt sorting this out to everyone's satisfaction would be easy, or indeed possible. But I'm a glass half full person; I'm just gratreful for what we do have.
 
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The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
Some of the Mendip stuff has resorted to online blogs and closed Facebook Groups. I guess its easier to prod away on the home pc rather than get it up to scratch for Descent. That particularly with the photo content. As far as I can see there have been two small but interesting discoveries on Mendip this month with further good prospects. My old mate Mr O'Doc is both a Descent correspondant and club journal editor and I know its almost a thankless task. No doubt he will appear here with his take on things.
 

Ed

Active member
May be it is also easier for the younger generation to explore forgein than some parts of the UK away from home.
 

Badlad

Administrator
Staff member
You'll never fill a bi monthly magazine like Descent with UK based content. There just isn't enough of it. On top of that some groups seem to prefer to keep their UK activities a closely guarded secret so that limits content even more. I love reading about foreign caving exploits myself and I doubt i am alone. Many cavers cave abroad on quite a regular basis and it is often easier to write about foreign exploits than a Swildons round trip or another muddy metre of flat out crawling. Everybody has their own preferences on the content they like to read and no outlet can please all the people all of the time. I'd suggest, if anyone is like OR or Pitlamp, that they try to broaden their mind by engaging with peoples stories of foreign caving, some of them are really quite exciting. ;)
 

pwhole

Well-known member
As an editor of a club journal and a regional caving magazine, I'm finding it incredibly difficult to get content suitable for publication, and a 'quarterly' magazine (The Derbyshire Caver) is currently reduced to one a year at the moment (next issue imminent though!) due to the lack of submitted content. I'm having to practically hit people to make them write articles. I admit I probably raised the bar a bit too high on our last club journal, and admittedly provided about half the total content, but I had more time on my hands then, and I don't any more. Needless to say I haven't had enough submitted by other members to put another issue together - though I have had some, the delays in production are alsmot making some of them irrelevant,

Much of this is down to social media removing the 'news' aspect of a newsletter, and in many ways that's fine, as print deadlines hardly fit with 'news' any longer, and to some extent it does free up the space for more thoughtful or more detailed articles - as long as people will sit down and write them.

In terms of my own digging/exploration projects, I admit to being extremely cautious about releasing information publicly unless I know for certain that it won't jeopardise the project - again, social media being the main reason (secrets aren't secret for long), and the often terrifying behaviour of the general public, as rarely do we get the luxury of a project on private land. When I do it's rarely been with the permission of the landowner, but we've opened up some stonking sites in the process - and I do document most of what I do on our club forum ;)

I never read about foreign caves - not that I don't care about them, it's just not information that's useful to me as I'll never go - I can barely get out of Derbyshire, I have so much going on.
 

The Old Ruminator

Well-known member
We have been promised a stonking Chelsea S S Newsletter this month full of UK related digging sites. Then we have a very proactive couple engaged in producing it who regularly dig themselves. Add to that the quality of the production which is far better than some. When I get one I will let you all know. It can be done. ( Are there any caves in Patagonia ? ).
 

Rachel

Active member
I'm in agreement that reading about UK caving is far more interesting to me than reading about caving abroad. I like to read news about places I might be able to visit in the near future and I'm never going to be physically able to bottom some mega cave on the other side of the world. An article about a miserable, wet, scrotty hole near home though - that would get me reaching for my wellies!
 

marsrat

Member
We have been promised a stonking Chelsea S S Newsletter this month full of UK related digging sites. Then we have a very proactive couple engaged in producing it who regularly dig themselves. Add to that the quality of the production which is far better than some. When I get one I will let you all know. It can be done. ( Are there any caves in Patagonia ? ).
I've seen 1-2 pages of it, looks brill :) Should set the standard for UK based publications, really love the work of Mandy + Matt.
 

PeteHall

Moderator
I never read about foreign caves - not that I don't care about them, it's just not information that's useful to me as I'll never go
I'll second that.

I (typically) only leave the UK every other year to visit family overseas, so what happens in foreign caves is of no consequence.

Given how environmentally focuses a lot of cavers seem to be, it's surprising quite how many foreign expeditions occur.

If clubs organised a two week expedition each year (which dozens of people attended), to push a local cave instead, perhaps there would be more local discoveries to report on? There must be hundreds of UK caves that have ended at a choke, that could be worked through, over the course of a week or two dedicated effort from a decent team.
 

Pitlamp

Well-known member
If clubs organised a two week expedition each year (which dozens of people attended), to push a local cave instead, perhaps there would be more local discoveries to report on? There must be hundreds of UK caves that have ended at a choke, that could be worked through, over the course of a week or two dedicated effort from a decent team.

The nearest we've come to that is perhaps the credit crunch expeditions in the Peak District, resulting in some notable breakthroughs. It's sometimes like that on Gaping Gill winch meets, when those in camp get really focussed on specific projects.

Re Badlad's remark: "You'll never fill a bi monthly magazine like Descent with UK based content." - he's probably right (and I doubt anyone's suggesting that). It's all about balance really. I think OR's point is that he'd like to see the balance shifted back a bit in the direction of British content at the expense of foreign material.

I also agree with Badlad that there are some very well produced reports of overseas exploration. I've produced plenty of material myself about foreign expeditions, so I'm not sure why he's thinking folk like me are narrow minded. It's just that we have preferences.
 

Goydenman

Well-known member
A really useful thread this one thanks folk.
I too would like to see a shift in balance more towards reports on UK caves
The Northern Explorers forum and Peak District credit crunch show good level of interest and need to hear more from each other
It helps if people are open about digging/exploration and we try to model that I also see not always possible
Descent crew and HE crew do an amazing job (THANKS) and I am challenged by this discussion to offer them reports and lecture.... on my to do list now!
At HE I love the area round ups and at the same time bit frustrated at the rush to get through the reports left thinking that several ones would have been great as a separate lecture
Lastly there is still much to find in the UK, yes hard to get into, would love to see and support ....... big dig events where cavers worked together to push things forward
 

skippy

Active member
Yep, I must admit to thinking the same re the last few issues.. however, as its already been said, a publication is only as good as the content that's submitted therefore we as the UK caving community should really be putting pen to paper..hang on, still in the 90's...and submitting stuff.

But, as with anything that goes into the public domain and more to the point, a publication that folk pay good money for, submitters may be reticent to send stuff thinking it may not be worthy.
Take for example the CPC Record. Pitlamp and I are both major contributors to our quarterly journal. Most of the time it exceeds 50 pages of articles and colour photos.
Now Pitlamps submissions are fantastic...Mine are more like 'What we did on our holidays' type of reports.

I would not necessarily submit to Decsent a piece about my first ever trip into Daren as I would imagine most Descent readers would not be arsed whether I was hanging out of my hoop after I finally fell out of Cnwc, completely spent....or, maybe I'm wrong as it might take the reader back to their first epic in wherever. But that is the type of thing I submit to the Record....Also in this issue of the Record, there is a review of a romantic fiction novel that contains a chapter about GG:unsure:. Again, not something I would send for publication in Descent.

Basically, if we don't like the content, its in our hands to do something about it and let the editor make the final cut.
 

JohnMCooper

Active member
We have been promised a stonking Chelsea S S Newsletter this month full of UK related digging sites. Then we have a very proactive couple engaged in producing it who regularly dig themselves. Add to that the quality of the production which is far better than some. When I get one I will let you all know. It can be done. ( Are there any caves in Patagonia ? ).
Read it this morning. Even the one foreign article, Les Ecouges Canyon written by Tim Gibbs, held my attention. Well done to the Voysey team who produce it.
 
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