Regions > Western Cape

Drip Water Pot Cave

Peter Swart 19 November 1994

Introduction

During the summer of 1955/1956, Michael McAdam made the breakthrough in Ronan's Well, which extended the known cave length from 68m (225ft) to well over 366m (1200ft). (Keen, 1958) This started an extensive search for a second entrance to Ronan's Well, and it was during this period of surface exploration and survey that the entrance to Drip Water Pot was found. Although Anthony Keen does not mention the exact date of discovery, the date 4.11.56 is painted on the wall at the botton of the ladder chamber.

The cave is known to some members of the MCSA as Death Leap. As the slot at the top of the ladder pitch is rather narrow, Death Wriggle may be more appropriate.

Description

Just above the Amphitheatre, on the northern end of Ridge Peak, is a large, shallow, sloping depression, 70m long by 12m wide. At the top end of the depression is a small cave which may be Me Too, mentioned by Meyer.[TBD1] This cave is narrow slot, 11m long.

In the middle of the depression is another small cave which consists of a chamber about 7m long, with the layers of sandstone clearly visible as strata along the walls. The strata are between 5 and 10 cm thick. At the end of the chamber is a narrow passage which leads off into a choke of boulders in the middle of the depression. These strata dip at an angle of 17 degrees towards a bearing of 200 degrees (true). This cave has become known as Me Three.

The main entrance to Drip Water Pot is near the bottom of the depression. It is a slot between two boulders, and leads down to a small chamber formed by a number of large boulders lying against each other. This chamber can be reached via another higher entrance, under one of these boulders.

The cave has formed along a NE/SW line, and consists of four main sections. The ladder chamber, the NW side chamber, the Rack series, and the Rubble Room and extensions.

The entrance of the cave leads into the top of the ladder chamber which is about 18m high. The chamber is about 15m long, and varies from less than 1m to over 3m wide. A large boulder, 10m below the cave entrance, provides a convenient place to alight from the ladder and explore the cave. Below this boulder, the lower part of the boulder strewn, ladder chamber floor, slopes down towards the north-east. A number of colophon beetle exoskeletons have been found on the floor of this chamber. This cave is a natural trap could provide more interesting finds in litter below the entrance. Near the bottom of the chamber is a small dry sandy passage.

To the north-west of this chamber is a tall side chamber. It appears that at some time in the past, these two chambers were joined by a much larger passage, but this passage has since been all but closed off by a rock fall. This chamber it very interesting in that solution tube type structures, more characteristic of limestone, have formed in the ceiling of the chamber. While the northern walls of the chamber are smooth, water worn rock, the southern side of the chamber is formed by a boulder collapse.

In the sloping, boulder floor of the ladder chamber, just under the stepping off boulder, is a small passage which leads down into the collapse. Care must be taken when negotiating this passage as the floor, roof and walls of this passage are not very stable. This is known as The Rack passage, and leads down to a small chamber. Even at the height of summer, water usually trickles out of the roof of this chamber, and in winter, one cannot enter the chamber without being drenched. A shelf at floor level leads to The Rack itself. This is a 40cm wide, 20cm high passage which leads to the top of a 4m high chamber. The curving shape of the upper chamber, the height of the link passage, and the contortions of the caver's body while negotiating the passage lead to the name.

The chamber below has smooth wet walls, as all the water from the upper chamber finds its way through The Rack, and into the lower chamber. Water from the bottom of the ladder chamber appears to find its way into this chamber as well. This appears to be the lowest point attainable at the moment in this cave. (See Tjoklet's Grotto dye test)

About 6m above the stepping off boulder, is a small squeeze which leads to the Rubble Room. This is a 7m high, roughly heart shaped chamber, with a steep, rubble covered floor, and a stream running to the south-west, away from the rest of the cave. Past the Rubble Room is a flat passage, which, after 13m changes direction by 180 degrees, leads back towards the main cave. From the survey it appears that the stream in this passage feeds the waterfall from the roof of the Upper Rack chamber.

Survey and Exploration

In 1984/85 Anthony Hitchcock, Chris Larkin and I started exploring Drip Water Pot. On one occasion, we started to survey the cave, but never completed the exercise.

In 1985, a team lead by Bruce Alsen and Jean-Paul van Belle explored and partially surveyed the cave. Not only was the cave partially surveyed, but the survey consisted of three surveys of different parts of the cave, and none of the surveys appear to have any common points. Repeated attempts to make sense of the data failed, so we decided to resurvey the cave.

In October 1992, we used flourescein to establish a link between the water pouring over The Rack (See survey), and the stream in Tjoklet's Grotto.

In March 1994, Anthony and I surveyed the ladder chamber and the side chamber of cave. While Anthony completed the drawing of the entrance chamber of the cave, I went exploring and found the upper chamber which Bruce and Jean-Paul had described. We continued the survey down The Rack Passage. Anthony squeezed through the top of The Rack, and in the process managed to get himself very wet. There were some exciting moments as the boulder pile on which I was sitting moved a little. This was the same pile under which Anthony had crawled to investigate The Rack. We left the cave and had tea in sun. Before going home, we surveyed over the surface to the entrance of Tjoklets Grotto. A plot of the surveys showed the bottom of Drip Water Pot to be approximately 5m above the passage where the stream emerges in Tjokletss Grotto, and 105m away.

The next weekend, Joan Vlok and I surveyed over the surface from Tjoklet's Grotto to the entrance of Ronan's Well. Anthony joined us, and we continued the survey of the upper side passage, which we were sure came very close to the surface. If not for the dexterity of Anthony's toes, our surveying for the day might have ended here. He dropped the pencil down a rather narrow, awkward slot, onto a sandy floor. Recovery seemed unlightly. It was then that he removed the boot and sock from his right foot, extended the naked foot gingerly down the slot, and grasped the evasive pencil between his toes. We all felt much safer once Anthony had dressed and we could continue with the survey.

After surveying the upper side chamber, we continued with the suvery of upper main chamber and the long stream passage which Bruce and Jean-Paul had found. The passage ended in a narrow drop, and, as we did not have any climbing equipment, we did not continue. Once on the surface, we linked the entrances of a number of holes in the Drip Water depression to the main survey of Drip Water Pot. We also surveyed the deepest of these. The plot of these holes on the main survey showed that they are probably a separate entrance to the cave.

A week later we returned with rope, an extra ladder, a hammer and a chisel, and a number of wire hawsers. The chisel was to prove the most useful implement. I managed to slide down the 2m slot and continued to explore the passage. After 10m metres I could go no further, so I surveyed the passage and returned. This is where the chisel came in useful as a handhold.

This completed the survey of the currently known extent of the cave.


[TBD1] J.G.Meyer, Mountain Diaries (Unpublished) [TBD2] Keen, Anthony. Ronan's Well Extensions, SASA Bull Vol3, number 2 1958

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