Cave explorer and award winning cinematographer Gavin Newman has confirmed in the last few minutes that two more cave divers are flying out of London Heathrow tonight (Wednesday 4 July 2018) to join the cave diving rescue team in Thailand.
The Cave Diving Group
"If the Cave Diving Group was conceived in Swildon's Hole, then it was cradled and nurtured in Wookey Hole, where many have been the diving scenes enacted, from light-hearted water-romping to grim tragedy."
In 1935 the first documented cave dive in the world was conducted in Wookey Hole, Somerset by Graham Balcombe and Penelope 'Mossy' Powell. Using Siebe's hard hat diving equipment the pair penetrated 52mt / 170ft into the cave system and reached the seventh chamber. This was to kick start years of cave diving exploration in Wookey.
In 2003 Gavin Newman filmed a documentary about Wookey Hole capturing the known end of the cave system. After reviewing the footage Rick Stanton felt that the cave was still going. He subsequently pushed the system with John Volanthen in 2004 and 2005 and found undiscovered cave. (This was a record breaking dive for Wookey Hole exploration).
Gavin Newman subsequently filmed and produced 'Wookey Exposed'. It tells the story of the cave and the history of British cave diving. The new discoveries made by Stanton and Volanthen are in the films closing scenes.
The film won several awards including Best Adventure Film at the Kendal International Mountain Film Festival and the British Underwater Film Festival.
Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel are both members of the Cave Diving Group - the oldest amateur technical and cave diving organisation in the world.
This is not the first time Mallinson and Jewel have dived together. In June 2013 Chris Jewel took nine weeks unpaid leave to lead an international team to explore the deepest cave system in the western hemisphere, 'Sistema Huautla' in Mexico.
During the expedition Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel conducted the deepest dive in the western hemisphere. They travelled through dry cave to reach a depth of 1,464 mt / 4,803 ft. Mallinson and Jewel then conducted a dive to 81mt / 265ft reaching a total depth of 1,545 mt / 5,068 ft below the entrance of the cave. It is the eighth deepest dive in history.
"This was genuine exploration and it was really exciting," stated Chris Jewel. "We traced the water's route to a canyon seven miles away. We knew where it was heading, but we did not know what was in between."
Please send more help
Earlier today at around 07.00 UK time, a request was made by the British cave divers in Thailand and the Thai authorities, to send out additional personnel and equipment. Tonight Jason Mallinson and Chris Jewel checked in a plethora of equipment weighting 500kg / 1102 lbs onto the Thai Airways overnight flight.
"The divers are flying out 13 cylinders, four rebreathers, tubs of sofnolime (a substance that absorbs carbon dioxide in a rebreather), three drysuits and a pile of A clamp adaptors" stated Gavin Newman. The Thai air cylinders are fitted with A clamp valve fittings, and the British divers all have DIN first stages on their regulators. The divers are therefore having to fly in adaptors so that the local cylinders can be used."
It is expected that Mallinson and Jewel will be on site by tomorrow night, Thursday 5 July 2018.
How can you help?
Charitable rescue organisations such as the British Cave Rescue Council are generally not that well funded. If you feel that you wish to make a practical difference, please consider donating to this charity. The money will be used to support future cave rescues, ie purchase valuable equipment such as the Heyphones.