Author Topic: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms  (Read 1974 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Any other odd or outdated terms that you’ve noticed over the years?
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Offline 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.

Offline andrewmc

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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.

Offline 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 »

Offline mikem

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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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Online 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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Offline mikem

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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

Offline mikem

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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.

Offline mikem

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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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Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #25 on: July 08, 2020, 01:21:28 pm »
They are certainly related (the Tie Press in Sidcot being longer than it is wide).

Ruckle is used twice in this northern description from 1989:
https://www.braemoor.co.uk/caving/penyghent.shtml
The difference being that there is a route through a ruckle, whilst there isn't through a choke.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 01:44:59 pm by mikem »

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #26 on: July 08, 2020, 01:25:52 pm »
Could "flattener" be a literal translation of something like "press" eg the Cheese Press?

Mary Wilde, our esteemed librarian, has come up trumps with this.  The original French in Escalades Souterraines was laminor  terminal. Laminoir is the French for a bedding plane passage, so flattener is an uninformative translation.

Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #27 on: July 08, 2020, 01:28:50 pm »
& in Google translate "laminoire" is a rolling mill, so yes! It's obviously also related to our laminate.

(I guess it's more informative to the layman, that the books were being translated for, than the more technical alternatives).
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 01:41:46 pm by mikem »

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #28 on: July 08, 2020, 02:01:47 pm »
The difference being that there is a route through a ruckle, whilst there isn't through a choke.

I can understand your logic, but in common caving parlance, I'm not convinced. The latest Northen Caves, for example, describes the Notts II to Lost Johns' connection as: "Beyond here is involved route rising through a complex choke for 140 m to emerge at the top of boulder choke at end of Lyle Cavern High Level Series".

Offline zzzzzzed

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #29 on: July 08, 2020, 02:14:23 pm »
According to Google 'flat' comes from the old Norse 'flatr'.  Then I Googled it again and it said it came from the Scottish 'flet' (which could have come from the Norse I suppose).

Flatteners are used in the glass and steel making industries.

So it would be understandable for anyone who had worked in those industries to refer to a tight flatout crawl as a flattener.

That's just me guessing though.

Offline aricooperdavis

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #30 on: July 08, 2020, 02:16:37 pm »
The difference being that there is a route through a ruckle, whilst there isn't through a choke.

This was my understanding too; I'd expect a choke to be "choked" with boulders and therefore obstructed whereas a boulder ruckle is just... ruckled...

What happens when you find a way through a choke? Does it become a ruckle?

Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #31 on: July 08, 2020, 02:26:31 pm »
Down here we have Flat Holm & Steep Holm (Holm being Norse for island, although steep apparently is proto Germanic), one being wide & low, the other narrow & tall (cliffs), both have caves...

It seems that flat has come from Norse, whilst Scottish meant the floor of a house (hence its use for blocks of flats), & platform is also related, but is from Latin & French.

The difference being that there is a route through a ruckle, whilst there isn't through a choke.

I can understand your logic, but in common caving parlance, I'm not convinced. The latest Northen Caves, for example, describes the Notts II to Lost Johns' connection as: "Beyond here is involved route rising through a complex choke for 140 m to emerge at the top of boulder choke at end of Lyle Cavern High Level Series".
But was that route obviously open originally, or was it engineered? I agree that cavers aren't very good at differentiating all sorts of things!
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 02:45:46 pm by mikem »

Offline Duck ditch

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #32 on: July 08, 2020, 02:45:31 pm »
Although you might name something a hall or gallery, I’m assuming most say they have entered a chamber.  Americans say a room even though it’s the same language (ish).   A pit not a pitch. Has anyone in the uk called themselves a spelunker?

Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #33 on: July 08, 2020, 02:53:24 pm »
Chambre being French for room...

A gallery was originally a higher level walkway along the side of the room, where minstrels might play, or lined with paintings - hence an upper decorated passage. But now used for any space where art is displayed.

Offline Fjell

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #34 on: July 08, 2020, 03:01:15 pm »
Flatholm or very commonly flatholmen, is a frequent island name in Norway. Always the same shape, usually with a varde on top to be helpful.

Swarth Fell near here is really Svart Fjell - Black Hill, which is obvious when you go there.

The thing about Norse names is they tend to be pretty literal. Even all the troll ones, once you believe in trolls. And who wouldn’t? All those power lines, it’s terrifying when you know the truth.




Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #35 on: July 08, 2020, 03:20:23 pm »
As are many European names, even English (although we tend to have lost the meaning, in the mix of Anglo Saxon, French, Latin, Norse, German & Celtic that makes up our language).

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Offline Fishes

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #36 on: July 08, 2020, 05:24:39 pm »
Gallery is also used to describe horizontal (or nearly horizontal) passages in mining

Offline Duck ditch

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #37 on: July 08, 2020, 05:43:41 pm »
Aven too.  Probably from mining.  I thought french too but wiki says an aven in French is a swallow hole.  Which then brings in swallet.  Not many of those oop north.

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #38 on: July 08, 2020, 06:23:26 pm »
Gallery is also used to describe horizontal (or nearly horizontal) passages in mining
Mining terminology is a whole other kettle of fish...

Aven too.  Probably from mining.  I thought french too but wiki says an aven in French is a swallow hole.  Which then brings in swallet.  Not many of those oop north.

I've always been intrigued by the word aven - especially since i found that in French it means a shaft, as seen from above, whereas in English usage it means a shaft, as seen from below. It's a curious inversion...

The etymology is strange too - it originally meant river in old Celtic languages. So the same root as the River 'Avon'. The word is still in use in Irish as 'abhainn', and Welsh as 'afon'. And from there to meaning swallowhole in French.

Like you I'd always assumed that the word was then borrowed from French, but is there really a case that it came into caving from an earlier mining term?
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Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #39 on: July 08, 2020, 06:35:33 pm »
Possibly avenir "to come up to", presumably same source as avenue.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2020, 06:46:28 pm by mikem »

Offline Andy Farrant

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #40 on: July 08, 2020, 07:01:23 pm »
As far as I understand it, a ruckle is a  term borrowed from the peat industry, a 'ruckle' being a pile of peat turves (peat 'bricks') stacked up for drying. These 'ruckles' could be a couple of metres tall. So, there is a similarity between a stack of peat turves and a pile of boulders.  Willie Stanton used the term in many of his papers and articles. See https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/woman-completes-a-ruckle-of-peat-in-somerset-news-photo/3267045

Offline Pie Muncher

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #41 on: July 08, 2020, 07:11:38 pm »

What happens when you find a way through a choke? Does it become a ruckle?

We call it a break through  ;)
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Offline JasonC

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #42 on: July 08, 2020, 08:37:31 pm »

What happens when you find a way through a choke? Does it become a ruckle?

We call it a break through  ;)

A chuckle?

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #43 on: July 08, 2020, 08:59:33 pm »
Another term for boulder choke that I've seen is 'Boulder Jam'

I think I read it in J.C. Coleman's Caves of Ireland (1965).
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Offline aricooperdavis

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #44 on: July 08, 2020, 10:15:33 pm »
Americans say a room even though it’s the same language (ish).   A pit not a pitch.

I'm not sure an American pit is equivalent to a British pitch, I think it might be closer to a British pot?

Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #45 on: July 08, 2020, 10:38:14 pm »
Do they bother breaking them into pitches?

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #46 on: July 08, 2020, 11:10:42 pm »
Possibly avenir "to come up to", presumably same source as avenue.

Possibly, but it would be odd that the French 'aven' and the English 'aven' would have completely different etymologies to describe almost the same thing.
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Offline mikem

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #47 on: July 08, 2020, 11:25:25 pm »
It will have the same root, but isn't necessarily from Avon / afon. May just be that we already had a word for an open vertical shaft, so used it for closed ones.

Offline shotlighter

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #48 on: July 08, 2020, 11:58:37 pm »
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.
I've also come across "creep hole" in some of Nellie Kirkhams write ups. IIRC she  used the term to describe some small passages in the very early bits of Ecton. 

Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #49 on: July 09, 2020, 12:36:43 am »
Sounds a bit Enid Blyton does 'creep hole'. Mind, she used to have a cave or mine in most books.

Offline Duck ditch

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #50 on: July 09, 2020, 06:29:05 am »
Creep comes before a slump.  Especially on digs I’ve been involved in :annoyed:
Dripstone instead of Flowstone or is it a curtain or a drape.


Offline nearlywhite

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #51 on: July 09, 2020, 07:18:10 am »
I'm not sure an American pit is equivalent to a British pitch, I think it might be closer to a British pot?

Pits don't have a defined shape and can be open or closed. Also, Avens are Domes - even if they aren't very dome like.

Do they bother breaking them into pitches?

They call them 'multi-drops' and they are considered very technical.

Offline Andy Sparrow

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #52 on: July 09, 2020, 10:10:50 am »
But what were the words in the original French, as someone else did the translations?
'gut' is possibly a translation for 'meandre', a tall rift

There's a passage in the Dent de Crolles described as 'gut'.  All very low-roofed.  Intestine like rather than tall rift I think.
Andy Sparrow



Offline Fulk

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #53 on: July 11, 2020, 11:43:09 am »
In Cadoux’s book One Thousand Metres Down the term gallery is used quite a lot, apparently just to refer to a passage; I think that this book was translated and published for a non-specialist readership. e.g.

‘Going along a low gallery barely five feet high for some 15 metres . . .’ (Interesting mix of units.)

‘Several galleries offered exits from the hall. They chose the largest . . . a diaclase . . .’

You don’t often come across diaclase these days.

And what about:

‘Wedged tightly in this flattening-mill or rather drawplate . . . . Fancy his having penetrated into this awful cat-run without knowing whether he could get back!’

Offline Fulk

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #54 on: July 11, 2020, 01:54:52 pm »
Quote: 'Dripstone instead of Flowstone'

I was under the impression that 'dripstone' forms by water dripping from the roof, while 'flowstone' is deposited by water flowing over a surface – so two different things.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #55 on: July 11, 2020, 10:05:39 pm »
I'm not sure an American pit is equivalent to a British pitch, I think it might be closer to a British pot?

Pits don't have a defined shape and can be open or closed. Also, Avens are Domes - even if they aren't very dome like.

Do they bother breaking them into pitches?

They call them 'multi-drops' and they are considered very technical.

Generally any vertical component that requires climbing is called a pit. Multi-drop is a term commonly used for a cave that involves multiple pits, not necessarily a single pit broken up into pitches. Nearlywhite is correct in saying that a pit with rebelays is considered technical, since they are relatively uncommon (a result of their being unnecessary).

Offline Subpopulus Hibernia

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #56 on: July 11, 2020, 11:39:21 pm »
‘Several galleries offered exits from the hall. They chose the largest . . . a diaclase . . .’

You don’t often come across diaclase these days.

The only place I've seen it is in that book - I think it's just the word that the translator settled on and it never really stuck in general caving parlance.

I think it means what we would refer to now as a rift?
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Offline langcliffe

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Re: Obscure or Obsolete Caving Terms
« Reply #57 on: July 12, 2020, 01:02:31 am »
‘Several galleries offered exits from the hall. They chose the largest . . . a diaclase . . .’

You don’t often come across diaclase these days.

The only place I've seen it is in that book - I think it's just the word that the translator settled on and it never really stuck in general caving parlance.

I think it means what we would refer to now as a rift?

Absolutely. It's commonly used in French to describe rift / joint passages, and the translator seems not to have translated it.

 

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