Author Topic: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot  (Read 18918 times)

Offline Jenny P

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Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« on: September 17, 2012, 03:53:29 pm »
Nettle Pot - Serious CO2 problems

There are currently very serious CO2 problems in Nettle Pot.  It is suggested that cavers stay away until further notice.  A warning notice about the problem has been hung from the bolts immediately under the lid.

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Offline Pipster

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 07:35:38 pm »
Anyone know anything else about this? Purposefully measured and detected, or someone unfortunate enough to encounter it whilst on a trip?

Just curious I guess.
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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 08:12:44 pm »
Not really measured as such - Martyn Grayson and I went down to the beginning of Red River Passage two weekends ago, and encountered a very stuffy situation, sufficient for us to head back up more or less immediately. Beza Pot was hard work, and we assumed that the problem was either high CO2 or low O2 - either way, there wasn't much of a draught down there apart from at the small junction chamber that leads to Hell, but it wasn't strong enough to feel good about. I assume that word must have got around, as I've not been down there before, so had nothing to compare it with. But from other comments I've heard, Beza can often be difficult on the return journey.

By the time I got back to the base of Crumble Pot it was better, and once at the top of that, no problems at all, so it was definitely from Crumble downwards that it was a bit thick...

Offline owd git

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2012, 09:11:58 pm »
We had also reported similar 28 july, though further up. not been back since, sorry if this isn't very helpful, O.G. :shrug:
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Offline mr conners

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2012, 10:33:13 pm »
I was on the trip with og and can confirm the pretty awful situation. This extended from the base of Elizabeth through the sting and into crumble and beza. Gutted really as I was thinking of a trip to dratsab. Let's hope it sorts itself out.  :(
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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2012, 12:47:04 am »
I've heard rumours that an open-mesh lid might be fitted soon, at least to try and get some circulation going - it could help. I was so attuned to the stale air that by the time I reached the Elizabeth pitch head, I swore I could smell the grass outside. I assumed this was just wishful thinking, but it turned out two of our party had already gone out, specifically to open the lid, and were sat at the top chatting.

So maybe an open mesh lid, over time, would provide the pressure difference to get things moving - the draught seemed to be coming up the passage from Hell - I've never been down there, but I assume it's tight. So where would that draught come from exactly? I've now seen a plan of the lower part of Nettle, so now know what the orientation is exactly of those passages relative to the main chambers (it did feel like the opposite direction), but that end of the system is nearest Oxlow, and the horizon close to the level of the floor of West Chamber. Looks like a heck of a distance to close though.

Offline al

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2012, 08:36:08 am »
Hell is intermittently tight, and the tight bits are more technical than tight, but, in between, there's plenty of room. I've always thought that Hell gets a good draught, as oppose to the Red River which doesn't seem to.

The current CO2 intrusion is affecting many more venues than Nettle, and, presumably, has something to do with the persistent low-pressure climate this year, and I would have thought that a general warning to cavers in the Peak to cave with caution (and a meter if you can) would have been more appropriate than highlighting a single cave where measurements have yet to be taken.
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Offline mmilner

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2012, 09:58:14 am »
The current CO2 intrusion is affecting many more venues than Nettle, and, presumably, has something to do with the persistent low-pressure climate this year, and I would have thought that a general warning to cavers in the Peak to cave with caution (and a meter if you can) would have been more appropriate than highlighting a single cave where measurements have yet to be taken.

There is now a general warning on the DCA web site:- http://thedca.org.uk/ You only have to mention these things to the appropriate people.  :)

Regards, Mel.
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Offline Rob

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2012, 10:52:14 am »
Forums and the internet are a great form of communicating potential issues like this.

Can I please just ask that people at least consider the potential implications to posting things on here. A number of venues have been shut down in the last few years based on reports with varying degrees of reliability, and I don't want this to be unnecessarily increased. Once a cave is shut, it can be hard to get it open again, even if the air is now fine down there.

My suggestion would be to alert the DCA of all bad air experiences, to send any meter readings to them, but only put a small notice on here about when and where if deemed very important. The DCA can digest the info and then conduct the appropriate response...
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Offline mmilner

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2012, 11:04:12 am »
My suggestion would be to alert the DCA of all bad air experiences, to send any meter readings to them, but only put a small notice on here about when and where if deemed very important. The DCA can digest the info and then conduct the appropriate response...

I agree totally. I have carefully worded the warning and not mentioned any specific site, etc. Tell DCA about any problems, that's what they are there for and can they then investigate and report back appropriately...
Norbert Casteret (Ten Years Under the Earth) and Pierre Chevalier (Subterranean Climbers) were my inspiration to start caving. (And I'm still doing it.) Secretary, Darfar Potholing Club, the Peak District.

Offline Rob

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2012, 11:06:39 am »
Good work Mel  :thumbsup:
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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 11:33:23 am »
Yeah, that's partly why I hadn't mentioned it here until now, as I was trying to find out if there was any other data available - and also one bad day doesn't prove much, unless it's corroborated elsewhere. A few discussions have led to a conclusion that 02 meters might be a useful addition to regular trips in the area though, if only to provide more data to feed in to the equations.

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2012, 01:09:29 pm »
Thanks all for the info.

As I said, I was just curious as to how the DCA warning (17th September) came about.

Understanding the basis of the warning can be useful information in making a decision where/when to visit a particular site, general area, or region. For a general example, my decision making would be different, if I knew that deadly high meter readings were take in an entrance shaft over a long period of time, or knowing if only a short section was affected where people found breathing heavy, on a single a trip. In the first instance, this would clearly be a definite no-no! But I'd also have another peice of information which I could use to weigh up the CO2 risk at nearby venues. In the second instance, knowing this information would perhaps avoid a knee-jerk from the non-caving community, but still gives us the important information we need (e.g. we could choose to avoid the sections affected).

Totally agree with comments made by all.  :)
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Offline global_s

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2012, 04:40:17 pm »
Has anybody been down here since the warnings came about? Had a really fun trip down Maskhill on Thursday night and looking for something for tomorrow in the area. :)

Offline al

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2012, 05:32:40 pm »
Has anybody been down here since the warnings came about? Had a really fun trip down Maskhill on Thursday night and looking for something for tomorrow in the area. :)

On Tuesday 16/10/2012 with three other experienced cavers, and having notified DCRO's duty controller and a reliable callout person, I carefully descended Nettle in order to sample the air quality which had been previously reported as containing a high level of carbon dioxide. The meter used was DCA's Crowcon Gasman single gas monitor, and sampling was done continuously, hoping to use the logging feature of the instrument. Readings direct from the LCD display were also noted, and these are shown in the table below.

Surface 0.01%
Top of Gulley Pitch 2.08%
Foot of Gulley Pitch 2.22%
Top of Crumble 2.31%
Window to Beza 2.34%
Foot of Beza 2.41%
Foot of Shakes 2.37%
Foot of Fin Pot 2.47%

The Gasman started alarming at the foot of the Bottle Pitch, and, while descending the pitches down to base of Fin Pot, the air quality slowly deteriorated by around half a percent, but not to a dangerous level. The effects, however, were very noticeable when returning up the pitches, when symptoms similar to working at altitude were noticed - panting etc. However, having access to the meter readings, and seeing that the levels were not dangerous was reassuring, and the return journey and de-rigging was done without any major problem.

My personal conclusion looking at the readings taken on the trip is that the levels of carbon dioxide in Nettle are now not sufficiently high to cause major concern, they are considerably less than Lathkill Head upper entrance, and the latest passage discovered in Water Icicle Close Cavern.

But cavers do need to be aware that there is currently a general problem with higher than normal concentrations of carbon dioxide in some Peak District caves and mines. Cavers need to know the symptoms, the likely problems and have a preformed plan when visiting any cave in the area.

Ideally cavers should carry an oxygen meter - these are certainly cheap enough for caving clubs to purchase nowadays.

As winter approaches, and temperatures drop, we should expect to see CO2 levels decrease in caves. Knotlow, a much better ventilated system than Nettle, was already back to normal last week.

If any body drops Nettle (especially Beza and Crumble) in the next few weeks, please drop me an email and let me know your experience - gasman@theDCA.org.uk

Cheers
Al
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Offline global_s

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2012, 07:49:31 pm »
Cheers Al, think I'll go and have a look down there then!

Offline mmilner

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2012, 08:15:38 pm »
I've just added a link to Al's post to the DCA web site. Thanx for the report!  :thumbsup:

Regards, Mel.
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Offline Brendan

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2012, 09:24:00 am »
Good work Al. Would be interesting to repeat after some proper cold weather


Ideally cavers should carry an oxygen meter - these are certainly cheap enough for caving clubs to purchase nowadays.

Just as a small point - an oxygen meter will only tell you what the oxygen level is - CO2  and other gases can still be present at dangerous levels with normal oxygen concentrations, it just depends on what gas has been displaced. Even if you have an oxygen meter reading normal levels, if you are getting symptoms of bad air, the most sensible course of action is to leave.
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Offline al

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2012, 10:25:13 am »
Just as a small point - an oxygen meter will only tell you what the oxygen level is - CO2  and other gases can still be present at dangerous levels with normal oxygen concentrations, it just depends on what gas has been displaced. Even if you have an oxygen meter reading normal levels, if you are getting symptoms of bad air, the most sensible course of action is to leave.

Brendan, you're absolutely correct in saying that the best advice in the presence of any bad air is to leave the system.

However, this is not what tends to happen - people can and do carry on caving in atmospheres containing quite debilitating levels of CO2, and I think that cavers need to be aware of the symptoms and the problems that may ensue if they do carry on caving - particularly in the Peak District where this problem seems to be most prevalent.

You’re also quite right to point out that an O2 meter may indicate values which look OK in the presence of toxic levels of other gases, but so far (fortunately) we have found that O2 depletion does correlate with CO2 increase.

And I would recommend an O2 meter simply because they are affordable, and an O2 meter is far better than no meter.
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Offline Gollum

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2012, 11:25:28 am »
If Derbyshire is so bad wouldn't it be an idea for all Derbyshire clubs to get a meter? What is DCA doing apart from sending out warnings. We can't just keep restricting access because fat lad got out of breath coming out a cave/mine :ang:
If we keep restricting access then i'm going to have to spend more evenings and weekends at home with her and the kids so SORT IT OUT :furious:
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Offline graham

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #20 on: November 04, 2012, 11:52:05 am »
What is DCA doing apart from sending out warnings.

What do you suggest?
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Offline al

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #21 on: November 04, 2012, 12:43:24 pm »
If Derbyshire is so bad wouldn't it be an idea for all Derbyshire clubs to get a meter? What is DCA doing apart from sending out warnings. We can't just keep restricting access because fat lad got out of breath coming out a cave/mine :ang:
If we keep restricting access then i'm going to have to spend more evenings and weekends at home with her and the kids so SORT IT OUT :furious:

Now, now!! You mustn't call him "fat lad"! I have it on good authority (and in writing) that he's very fit.  :lol:

To be fair, the DCA had to issue a warning, having received such an unfavourable report. Unfortunately the report wasn't accompanied by any meter readings, and we all know that Nettle can be very strenuous - the effects of depleted oxygen can seem much worse than they would in a horizontal system like Hillocks. However, we organised a trip down Nettle to actually measure the levels of CO2 at the earliest opportunity.

You're right. It would be good if all clubs owned and used a meter - the same should go for all centres operating in the Peak (surprised they don't already).

What can DCA do? DCA can educate cavers about the problem - and if you look in the new DCA Handbook, there's a page about it with some very good advice.

DCA can monitor the situation. On DCA's behalf, I'm now collating all statistics on this, ranging from basic, subjective reports to meter readings, and continuing the work which Christine Wilson started back in 2009. It is important that we do not lose this information.

As well as other cavers sampling other caves and mines, Christine took readings on a regular basis in Bagshawe Cavern between 2009 and 2010 and, based upon this work, she managed to get a correlation from of the figures, the findings of which she presented to the BCRA in 2010. Constant temperatures over 9 deg Celsius will cause the problem, especially when accompanied by regular low pressure - the theory seems to be holding true.

As cavers, we all need to be aware of the problem, to recognise the symptoms and to anticipate the problems. Lack of oxygen doesn't always make you think straight and the reactions of different people can vary dramatically, physiologically and psychologically. A total novice might just give up in the face of breathing difficulties, while your rock 'ard Northern caver will tend to soldier on until it's almost too late.

We do have a problem in the Peak (although it wasn't too bad during 2010 and 2011, was it?) and we should treat it like all other caving problems. As I said, I'm keeping a record of all reports (including NIL reports) - so please keep me informed!
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Offline global_s

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2012, 08:35:31 pm »
Well that was hard work - not because of the CO2 I just found going up in such a tight space a bit tricky. Quick question...where an earth are the P Bolts for the top of Elizabeth Shaft?  :unsure:

Offline mmilner

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #23 on: November 04, 2012, 09:50:59 pm »
Well that was hard work - not because of the CO2 I just found going up in such a tight space a bit tricky. Quick question...where an earth are the P Bolts for the top of Elizabeth Shaft?  :unsure:

See page 2:14 of the DCA Handbook and page 101 of the CoPD? Can't be any more detailed, soz.

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Offline al

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Re: Serious CO2 problem in Nettle Pot
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2012, 09:59:39 pm »
Quick question...where an earth are the P Bolts for the top of Elizabeth Shaft?  :unsure:

If you descend the Gulley Pitch with your feet against the wall, when you get to the bottom, the top of the Elizabeth Shaft is to your left and slightly behind you - the big hole to your right also goes into Elizabeth, but is chossy and dangerous and not bolted.

What was the air quality like?
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