Author Topic: Mike Boon  (Read 25021 times)

Offline Badlad

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Mike Boon
« on: December 22, 2014, 11:30:44 am »

Anyone got any info?  There are rumours of his passing.

Offline richardg

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2014, 09:55:47 pm »
Mike Boon... One of those notable explorers that many will have read about and many would like to have met....

Offline Sid

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2014, 08:59:54 am »

Offline paul

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2014, 12:14:56 pm »
Sadly it seems he has died. There's some news about Mike Boon on the American NSS Forum: http://www.forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=16675
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Offline rhychydwr1

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2014, 04:11:53 pm »
Sad news. RIP.  I still have his book "Down to the Sunless Sea".  No it is not for sale.  Should have got him to autograph it   :weep:

Offline Rich West

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2014, 05:21:26 pm »
Very sad news indeed. Some of Mike's exploits here on Mendip and in the New World were extra ordinary and very much spat in the face of 'elf n safety'. His contribution to caving and diving is way up there with any of the other hard men of British caving. "Down to Sunless Sea" is superb and one of the "must have" classic books for any serious collector. My copy is personally inscribed and signed and is NOT for sale. R.I.P. Mike.

Offline Badlad

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2014, 07:35:58 pm »
I received this via email.  Gather he had been ill for some time.

 Sad news from Alberta.
>
> Mike Boon, most recently resident in Calgary, passed away over the 
> weekend. Mike Boon is truly a legend in caving circles, commencing 
> his caving in the UK in the late 1950s and was the first adopter of 
> the "aqualung" for sump diving there. Tales of Boon will fill 
> volumes. He pioneered techniques for exploring dangerous river caves 
> in Central America. He was the author of a nice self-published 
> volume entitled "Down to a Sunless Sea". There are likely copies 
> around in caver's libraries and occasional used book stores. He made 
> many contributions to Canadian caving, mostly in Rockies 
> explorations. He caused quite a stir in the 1970s with a winter solo 
> exploration to distant reaches of Castleguard Cave. Truly, one of 
> the great personalities in caving history.
>
> There are plans at present for a memorial sometime in the spring.

Offline Joel Corrigan

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2014, 12:04:59 pm »
Years ago at the tail-end of an exped in Mexico Chris Densham & I heard tales of a crazy English explorer who lived close to the village of Cuetzalan.  Once we realised that it was Senor Boon we decided to track him down & offer to take him out for a beer as it seemed like the right thing to do.  After some amateur detective work we took a series of buses until eventually we reached a little hut in the middle of nowhere, only to find that he'd gone back to Canada the day before to claim some sort of medical benefit from the government (he did that quite a lot!).  We were both very disappointed not to meet him as the guy was a proper legend with a colourful past but we had an adventure along the way.  A great loss and I can't imagine him resting in peace as he's the sort of guy that'll be off surveying the further reaches of the afterlife....   

Offline ian mckenzie

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2014, 05:51:46 pm »
Mike had of course been inactive caving-wise for a long time, and most cavers here will remember him as a solitary and sometimes antisocial character.  Though I'm a long-time, now-retired caver myself, I came too late to have had the opportunity to go underground with him though he occasionally would camp with us on weekend caving trips.  He had a difficult time of it in his later years, with little money and some mood issues, but was aided by a few loyal friends.  I interviewed Mike for The Canadian Caver decades ago and would sometimes see him in the pub, but saw little of him after I moved from Calgary.

Those of us with jobs, dependable vehicles and airline tickets fancy ourselves as hard-core cavers, but Mike caved in a style and era where few others were willing to put up with the privations that went along with his focus and dedication to caving from the 1950s thru the early 1980s.

Offline paul

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2014, 06:07:46 pm »
I remember reading (probably in "Down to a Sunless Sea") an occasion where he was caving alone in Ireland and accidentally burnt down his tent and posessions within. He had to borrow an old suit from the farmer (whose farm he was camping on) to wear as all his clothing had gone.
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Offline SamT

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2014, 08:43:43 pm »

Ian - do you know Albi Sole then ? (off topic sorry - PM me maybe)

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2014, 05:32:32 pm »
Mike Boon, a caver I only knew by his (massive) reputation, must have been an incredible bloke.

Badlad - thanks for passing on the text of that email above. I think it may contain a small error, which you might like to suggest to the originator of the message. I don't think Boon was the "first adopter of the aqualung" for British cave diving - I think John Buxton (at least) may have used one beforehand (Skeleton Pit in Goughs?). Can any Mendip based folk confirm? I mention this purely in the interests of historical accuracy and it in no way diminishes the stature of the bloke (or the value of Badlad's post above). It might be worth passing this thought back to our Canadian colleagues before any permanent tribute is written?

For anyone interested, Mike Boon is certainly associated with the Aqualung very closely because he wrote a "CDG Technical Review" in the 1960s about cave diving with this apparatus. (Prior to this the established CDG members mainly used simple oxygen rebreathers, many sourced from redundant wartime equipment suppliers.) Boon was well qualified to be the author of this publication because he'd proved the Aqualung's value when he'd used it to make various advances, notably down the streamway in Swildons Hole. This is well covered by his excellent book, which makes compelling reading, whether or not you're a cave diver.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2014, 06:30:56 pm »
Derek Ford has (separately) just reminded me that Bob Davies' famous incident when he got lost during the discovery of Wookey's Chamber 13 was done on an Aqualung. (Derek was actually there in the support party.) I'm fairly sure this was before Mike Boon would have used one.

Many cavers will perhaps not fully appreciate the significance of getting these events in the right order. The CDG went through something of a revolution from rebreather use to Aqualung, which permitted many advances to be made. One problem with the oxygen rebreather was its depth limitation (considered to be around 9 metres maximum - and even that was pushing it). This is because oxygen becomes toxic when breathed under pressure. However the Aqualung, which allowed the diver to breathe compressed air, had far greater depth capability (as the oxygen in the air was diluted with inert nitrogen).

Interestingly, around the time when the limitations of oxygen rebreathers were becoming increasingly apparent, certain CDG members were already experimenting with nitrox rebreathers (which also have greater depth capability and the advantage of much better duration than the Aqualung). But it was people like Boon, who enjoyed massive success with the Aqualung and proved its value, which led to the nitrox rebreather idea being shelved. Thirty odd years later the advantages of mixed gas rebreathers could no longer be ignored, particularly as by the 1990s they could now largely be controlled with more reliable electronics. As a result most of the really extreme cave dives being done around the world today are completely reliant on rebreathers.

Offline Duncan Price

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2014, 10:52:22 am »
Bob Davies was the first UK cave diver to use an aqualung (i.e. open circuit compressed air) in a cave when he dived the Skeleton Pit in Gough's Cave in May 1955.  His epic in Wookey Hole occurred later that year.  Davies' use of open circuit diving equipment is pre-dated by Graham Balcombe who dived Sump 2 in Swildon's Hole in November 1936 using a modified version of his pump fed respirator used by Sheppard to pass Sump 1 a month earlier.  A small cylinder of oxygen was used to replace the pump and hoses and thus this was the first fully-autominous cave dive (save for the lifeline connecting the diver to base).  The modern aqualung hadn't been invented then so Balcombe employed the configuration developed by le Priuer whereby the breathing gas flow was regulated by the diver opening and closing the cylinder valve.  Cousteau and Dumas dived the Fontain de Vaucluse in 1946 using their aqualungs - reaching a depth of 46 m.

Boon was the first to pass Sump 6 in Swildon's using air in July 1961 and he is generally credited with being the first cave diver to mount his diving cylinder on his side rather than his back.  Interestingly Boon employed a two-point attachment set up with the base of the cylinder attached to a belt around his waist and the neck of the cylinder secured to a sling diagonally across his shoulder (very much like the "American Sidemount" configuration adopted in the '90s).  At the same time, Steve Wynne-Roberts, Fred Davies and others configured their lightweight oxygen-rebreathers in a similar fashion in order to pass constricted sumps.  Boon later took his cylinder off and pushed it ahead of him to pass the constricted Sump 7 in Swildon's Hole during June 1962 - the first "no-mount" cave dive.

Boon also advocated using only 1/4 of one's air supply for the inwards dive reserving 3/4 for the exit and any emergencies.  This pre-dates the modern thirds rule which is usually attributed to Sheck Exley.

My only contact with Boon was seeing him in one of Sid Perou's films on the history of cave diving and second-hand information from correspondents in Canada.  Like many other pioneers in the activity, Boon's reputation and achievements were legendary.

Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2014, 11:59:29 am »
Excellent information Duncan; many thanks.

Offline ian mckenzie

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2015, 10:35:52 pm »
Mike at the Belfry. Date taken unknown.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mendipcaveregistryarchive/12773822285/in/photolist-


I'm told that the person in that photo is Nick Pierce, not Mike Boon.  Doesn't loook like Boon either.

Offline Sid

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2015, 08:18:06 am »
The photo came from a series of five negatives all named as Mike. I hope its appreciated I rely on the photographers original notes as first reference.

I will check the negs tonight and if anyone else has info its always appreciated.

Paul.

p.stillman (@) mcra.org.uk

Offline Ouan

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2015, 01:26:18 pm »
For a detailed history of Mike Boon's early diving on Mendip (and a couple of photos of him) see "The Shepton, Cave Diving Club" by Mark Sims in Shepton Mallet Caving Club Journal Series 12 No. 8 (Autumn 2005).

Offline cobz

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2015, 02:03:40 pm »
Mike Boon

When I learned that Mike had died I was filled with a deep personal sadness. The two of us had become close friends during his time in Yorkshire, often in the company of Pete Livesey and Bill Frakes.
When he first moved to Yorkshire sometime in 1963, Mike lodged with Bob Leaky for a number of months, during which time he introduced Bob´s children to caving, especially his son Julian.
It was around this time that Mike joined the Bradford Pothole Club and became acquainted with Livesey. A strong partnership quickly formed between them, and being like minded ,they formed a formidable team that pushed back the boundaries of the possible, culminating in the early descent of Mossdale Pot.
It wasn't long before Pete suggested to Mike that he should move to Huddersfield.
As a result, he stayed in Lindley with the Livesey family for a month, during which time he wrote himself a reference for a job at a local school. This application also included his version of Mrs Liveseys signature as she was a well known head teacher. He got the job and held it for three months.
Pete knew that I had a spare room in Golcar, Huddersfield, so he came round one night to see if I would take a lodger. I agreed to meet Mike and discuss arrangements. He stayed for more than three years. It turned out to be one long roller-coaster ride from start to finish, climbing, caving and endless parties with femail students from the Oastler Teacher Training College.
This was about the time arrangements were being made for the 1965 Jamaica expedition with Pete, Tich Morris and Ray Stoyles. The house would often be full of expedition chatter, especially when Tich was there to discuss progress as the departure date drew close, also to deal with the sponsorship materials which were stored in Livesey´s barn.
When the team returned from Jamaica, Mike had to find work. He tried a number of jobs, the longest of which was a spell with Huddersfield Corporation as a bus conductor. Not that they would make much money from Mike, as he granted free passage to the elderly, anyone looking poor, and pretty young ladies.
Mike was always thinking of ways to earn a crust, that would also give him the freedom to do the things he most wanted to do. His next move was to enrol as a student teacher in General Studies at a Technical Teacher Training College in Huddersfield. During that time, I already had a steady job. But, in the days following his acceptance on the course, Mike convinced me to pack my job in and enrol on a course at the same college, which I did.
Somehow we both ended up having teaching practice at Wakefield Technical College, and Mike found out that Leakey´s daughter Benita worked at Wakefield central Library, so we went round one day and took her out for a surprise lunch, needless to say, we met again.
Down to a Sunless Sea was written around this time after spending countless hours in the library, there also was a resurgence in his poetry, with one poem relating to a "Walnut Faced College Principal"
It was whilst at college that Mike consolidated his reputation as one of the leading cavers of his generation with an exploration of an extension to Marble Arch Cave in Northern Ireland. This was some years after his now famous dive in Swildens Severn.
During the Christmas-New Year 1966/67 he and I stayed on for another week or two after all the other group members had returned home. It was then we discovered and explored extensions to the Screen Hill Passage of Marble Arch Cave, which included the largest section of cave passage in the system.
One day in between our caving trips to Screen Hill, Mike suggested that we should visit a farmer friend on the Marlbank Rd. Mike has had a long association with the McGovern family and this related to his stay a few years earlier after problems with his tent. When the door opened, Mike was welcomed as a long lost member of the family by Mrs McGovern who ordered us to stay for lunch where she promptly set about making a fresh loaf of bread for our forthcoming meal.
The following Easter a diving trip to Marble Arch Cave would be the last time we would be away from Yorkshire, caving with our three friends Bill Frakes, Colin Vickers , and John Ogden. All three were to perish in Mossdale, a tragedy that left Mike visibly shaken, and as far as I can remember , for some reason, he didn´t go underground on the rescue, but there again, I could be mistaken.
A short time later Mike investigated the possibility of taking a degree at McMaster University in Canada. He could then combine his studies with his literary and caving ambitions. At that time there was a fairly strong caving club at the University, which included Charlie Brown, who Mike had caved with in Jamaica. After Mike left for Canada we had very little contact.
Occasionally my farming neighbour would knock on the door and tell my wife, that a strange man had been hanging around the house, of course that was Mike who had come over to see his mother but was also searching out old friends. Interestingly, on that first occasion Mike "hitchhiked" from Canada! He managed to attach himself to a large party of children, and by helping out with the administration like collecting all of the tickets to hand in for processing, he became included in the group. As a result he got a free flight to France. Search as they might, the flight attendants could not find that extra passenger. He then hitch hiked to the French coast where after a lot of enquires with the owners of the moored yachts in the harbour, got a lift across the channel to England. Boon was the only person I knew , who had the persuasive personality to get away with that kind of manoeuvre.
In the mid seventies, Sue and I made our first visit to the States. But first we visited Calgary where we stayed with Mike. The accommodation was a dark, dingy boiler room in the basement of a small block of flats, very basic as one could imagine, it was typical for Mike in his later years.
We lost contact when he went to live in Mexico.

I must end this short memorial by saying:-

To be a person who new Mike was a privilege.
To be someone who caved with Mike was a privilege.
To be one of a group which included Boon, Livesey and Bill Frakes, sharing all of the good times we had together, was a privilege.

Mike was a very talented individual. Although he lived many miles away in Calgary and when neither of us were in contact with each other, he will be missed, left with memories that took place only yesterday.

Offline nickwilliams

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2015, 02:42:45 pm »
Thank you for taking the time to write that. I really enjoyed reading it.
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Offline Graham Proudlove

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2015, 09:47:00 pm »
Fantastic recollections, and wonderful to read about. But what's your name? The most infuriating bit of this forum is the anonymous contributors!


Offline Dolly

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #22 on: January 25, 2015, 01:04:25 pm »
Thank you Dave C for relating all those lovely stories about Mike. I remember him telling me of his free flight when we were at PSM in 1972...only he could get away with that! I particularly loved the bit about:
"He tried a number of jobs, the longest of which was a spell with Huddersfield Corporation as a bus conductor. Not that they would make much money from Mike, as he granted free passage to the elderly, anyone looking poor, and pretty young ladies."
That's him all over! :clap2: :clap2: :halo:

Offline axbridgecaver

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2015, 01:19:11 pm »
Mike Boon plays a leading role in the exploration of Yochib - The River Cave by C. William Steele.

My number one in caving books.

Offline richardg

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Re: Mike Boon
« Reply #24 on: January 25, 2015, 09:39:10 pm »
Excellent recollections... Thank you..