Author Topic: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms  (Read 1946 times)

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« on: July 07, 2020, 09:28:53 pm »
I've been reading a lot of old caving literature during the lockdown and I've come across a lot of obscure terms that I find quite intriguing.

A lot of these are the result of words being translated from French and not really sticking.

Boulder Ruckle
- Older term for a boulder choke. Seems to have fallen out of use in the 60s? It’s quite a friendly, open term, a lot less definite than choke.

Flattener
- I came across this great term in Australia, where it’s widely used for a low, wide squeeze. I was surprised to find it in Pierre Chevalier’s Subterranean Climbers, so it possibly came into English in the 50s via a French translation. I must try and use it a bit myself...

Cat-run
- This is used a fair bit in the classic old French caving books, and implies some sort of narrow, crawly passage.

Gut
- Used a bit in Subterranean Climbers, seems to mean a narrow twisting meandering passage.

Gallery
- A world you see a lot in the old literature, used a lot by Martel - the definition I found in Guy de Lavaur’s Caves and Cave Diving is that a gallery is a high-level passage above a streamway, but Martel seems to have used it for any fine broad, passage, dry or not.

Siphon
- A sump. Or sometimes a duck. Used a lot by Martel, seemingly obsolete in English by the 60s.

Any other odd or outdated terms that you’ve noticed over the years?
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Online mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2020, 09:46:17 pm »
Although not caving, there is the boulder ruckle at Swanage. Cat gut is a passage in St Cuthbert's, NHASA gallery in Manor Farm, & you can still siphon a sump - so that just leaves flatteners (although it also made it into US glossary of karst terminology)...

Offline wellyjen

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2020, 09:50:19 pm »

Gallery
- A world you see a lot in the old literature, used a lot by Martel - the definition I found in Guy de Lavaur’s Caves and Cave Diving is that a gallery is a high-level passage above a streamway, but Martel seems to have used it for any fine broad, passage, dry or not.

Upper Gallery in Peak Cavern certainly matches that definition. A fine, broad, (mostly) dry passage above a streamway.

Boulder Ruckle I've heard used and used the term myself in recent decades.
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Offline Fishes

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2020, 10:14:47 pm »
I've specifically heard the term boulder ruckle used many times to describe the route down to the streamway in Jug Holes upper system. Not really a choke in this case but describing a complex series of routes through roof breakdown.

I've also heard syphon and gallery used quite a bit but I have spent a lot of time with older cavers.

Offline AlexR

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2020, 10:16:19 pm »
Gallery and Siphon are also still standard terms in German caving.

Boulder Ruckle may have been in use amongst climbers as well, given the crag of the same name at Swanage.

Edit: Completely missed mikem's answer who beat me to it on the boulder ruckle front.

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2020, 10:57:46 pm »
Sleets Gill has its 'Main Gallery'; I suspect there are other similarly-named places?

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2020, 11:01:56 pm »
Sleets Gill has its 'Main Gallery'; I suspect there are other similarly-named places?

Cellar Gallery and Gandalf's Gallery (Ingleborough Cave), and Tate Galleries (Lost John's) spring readily to mind.

Online Fulk

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2020, 11:09:56 pm »
Ladder

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2020, 11:24:18 pm »
Sleets Gill has its 'Main Gallery'; I suspect there are other similarly-named places?

I don't doubt that there's many passage names with the word Gallery in them, just whenever I see it I assume that the passage was explored in the first half of the twentieth century. I don't know of anyone using it to name a passage in recent decades.
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Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2020, 11:32:03 pm »
I don't doubt that there's many passage names with the word Gallery in them, just whenever I see it I assume that the passage was explored in the first half of the twentieth century. I don't know of anyone using it to name a passage in recent decades.

Gandalf's Gallery (Ingleborough Cave), Tate Galleries (Lost John's), and Grand Gallery (Marble Pot) spring to mind.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2020, 11:42:51 pm by langcliffe »

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2020, 11:35:15 pm »
Ladder
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Offline andybrooks

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2020, 11:50:57 pm »
I recall that Norbert Casteret liked to use the word "reptation" (crawling).

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2020, 12:03:59 am »
I recall that Norbert Casteret liked to use the word "reptation" (crawling).

Love that word!
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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2020, 12:23:56 am »
But what were the words in the original French, as someone else did the translations?

Offline Ouan

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2020, 03:37:31 am »
But what were the words in the original French, as someone else did the translations?

I'm doing this from memory, so there will be errors...
'cat run' was probably translated, by a non-caver, from 'chatiere' which (from Google) appears to be a cat-flap, but in our context is a narrow squeeze.
'gallery' translated from 'galerie', still used for a dry, horizontal passage
'siphon' from 'siphon', French for sump
'gut' is possibly a translation for 'meandre', a tall rift

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2020, 08:06:35 am »
That just leaves reptation & flattener.

Offline Laurie

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2020, 08:34:16 am »
Oh dear! Does make me feel old.
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Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2020, 08:45:20 am »
That just leaves reptation & flattener.

Doesn't the word "reptation" have a biological origin, describing the particular sequence of muscle movements used by worms? I have vague memories of reading that in a caving book (can't remember which) when I was just starting out as a teenager.

I also thought boulder "ruckle" is more of a southern expression. (I was surprised by mention of its use as far north as Jug Holes). I don't think we've got many boulder "ruckles" in the Dales. They're normally just called boulder "chokes".

I always thought "gallery" was simply a literal translation from the French "galerie" (as already mentioned above) but there are many of those in the Dales. Garm's Gallery is another example, named fairly recently (2014, if I remember rightly).

Weren't a lot of the classic French caving books (Casteret, Chevalier, etc) translated into English by non cavers? If so they'd perhaps use literal translation of words rather than searching out existing British terms. This might explain why some of the words popular among cavers of the 1960s and 1970s crept in to mainstream British caving, where previous generations hadn't used them.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2020, 09:45:42 am »
Doesn't the word "reptation" have a biological origin, describing the particular sequence of muscle movements used by worms? I have vague memories of reading that in a caving book (can't remember which) when I was just starting out as a teenager.

It's a term used by Casteret when describing crawling techniques in Mes Caverns, Chapter 3.

"...montrons comment vaincre ces obstacles et comment pratiquer cet exercise aussi pénible que passionnant de la reptation souterraine."

He goes onto compare it with the movement of worms: "etirement vermiculaires".

I have only come across the term in Casteret's books.

Offline Roger W

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2020, 10:10:08 am »
Reptation - whatever its origins - seems to have crept into the scientific vocabulary, being used to describe the thermal motion of very long linear, entangled macromolecules in polymer melts.

Have a look in Wikipedia: there are some interesting formulae there which might be used to estimate the speeds of cavers of varying height making their way through narrow convoluted passages.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reptation
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Offline Pitlamp

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2020, 10:22:47 am »
Langcliffe - that was it - thanks!

Roger W - never knew that; cheers for pointing it out.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2020, 11:04:11 am »
That just leaves reptation & flattener.

Flattener is a term used by Hatt in his translation of Chevalier's Escalade Souterraines. It occurs a couple of times in the chapter describing the exploration of Grotte Chevalier. Unfortunately, I don't have the original version, so I can't check what it is a translation of. Maybe the BCA Librarian can check?

Offline T pot 2

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2020, 11:24:06 am »
Creep hole was one used in the 1950s this comes from a  Sheffield star newspaper article concerning the discovery of a cave during the construction of the taddington bypass, sadly the cave is lost.

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2020, 12:59:54 pm »
Cat flap would make more sense as a squeeze, than cat run.

Google translate relates reptation (in French) to crawling, apparently it's derived from the Latin "reptare" to creep, which is also where reptile has come from ("reptilis" creeping).

de Gennes is the Nobel winning French physicist who seems to have applied it to entangled polymer chains "moving past each other like snakes", which is a bit more recent (1970s).

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2020, 01:09:41 pm »
Could "flattener" be a literal translation of something like "press" eg the Cheese Press?
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