Author Topic: Balch's illuminant  (Read 475 times)

Offline Graham Proudlove

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Balch's illuminant
« on: August 30, 2020, 06:43:32 pm »
We know that Balch (1937) told us that:

“…candles are by common consent the most dependable illuminant, as they cast no treacherous shadows…”

There is a modern take on this that goes something like:

“Balch’s dependable illuminant, It is a candle, bright, It casts no treacherous shadows, for it gives no ruddy light"

Questions:

Is this the right text, if there is an actual right text as opposed to a passed around verbal which gets alteterd with repetition and time.
If there is a right text and this is not it please can someone supply the right one.
Also, if this is written down somewhere please can I get the citation details.

Thanks,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Graham Proudlove

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Balch's illuminant
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2020, 07:52:25 pm »
The Balch quote, of course, comes from Mendip - Its Swallet Caves and |Rock Shelters (p.10). Peter Johnson quoted this on page 33 of The History of Mendip Caving (1967), with the addition "- to which the modern caver adds 'because they give no bloody light'!".

Whether Johnson was actually quoting someone else, I don't know.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Balch's illuminant
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2020, 09:30:10 pm »
On further reflection, I remembered where I had read the full ditty. It's on page 5 of the Wessex Cave Club's "Pioneer Under the Mendips" (1969). It reads:

"Balch's dependable illuminant,
It is a candle bright.
It casts no treacherous shadows,
For it gives no bloody light!"

Offline tamarmole

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Re: Balch's illuminant
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2020, 12:11:35 am »
Were many serious cavers using candles as late as 1937?  I would have assumed that by this time most cavers would either be using carbide lamps or home brewed "bell battery" electric  lamps ( Mr Fellows ancestors?).

Offline mikem

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Re: Balch's illuminant
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2020, 07:15:19 am »
Nobody in the book's photos has any source of light obvious (& they are mostly wearing flat caps), but Balch was 68 by then, so hardly "cutting edge". The original line is followed by "though electric lights are a good standby in such emergencies" (as the flames blowing out).

Offline Graigwen

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Re: Balch's illuminant
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2020, 09:29:47 am »
Were many serious cavers using candles as late as 1937?  I would have assumed that by this time most cavers would either be using carbide lamps or home brewed "bell battery" electric  lamps ( Mr Fellows ancestors?).

I last used candles for exploration in late 1970 in the Great Crosscut Adit at Dylife. I believe I quoted Balch's words about shadows to my companion when a short distance into the adit we came across a winze. In order to ascertain if it was flooded or not I was obliged to kneel down and touch the surface of the water - it was impossible to tell by candlelight.

(Candles were used because we were in the middle of a geophysical survey and were carrying as little additional metal as possible. The equipment was so expensive that fearing for its security we did not remove it before going underground. It is the only time I have gone underground wearing a three foot diameter blue plastic hoop and a bulky box of electronics strapped to my chest.)

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