Cambridge Expo 1983

Cambridge Underground 1984 pp 35-36

Reality is an illusion caused by alcohol deficiency

(or Why Stellerweg rotated this year)

In 1980, when CUCC started to explore the new route in Stellerweghohle, surveying was, for the first time, considered a priority. So it was that a party of two surveyed from the Big Pitch to the head of the Big Rift using the CUCC Suuntos. The same surveyor returned a few days later with a different companion, to survey out from the Big Pitch to the entrance, this time with the EXCS Suuntos.

Back in the camp, calculators were punched, coordinates scribbled, and the survey hastily drawn up. The surveyors looked at each other in some confusion. The cave seemed to be floating, airborne, across the valley and over a cliff. Unable to recall that it had been in daylight with a sense of exposure, they came to the conclusion that it was plotted in the wrong place.

The surveyors retired to Bar Fischer to consider the dilemma. All problems dissolved in a haze of Reininghaus bier fumes as the truth dawned. One R.J.Shackleton, who had been in possession of the EXCS compass for some time, was in the habit of storing it in the top of his fridge. This has resulted in a slight magnetic adjustment, so the survey was now plotted not to grid- or true-north, but to fridge-north! What was needed was a little calibration, so, armed with a map, both compasses, and several more bottles of ale, the party set out to take bearing on local landmarks.

An hour or so later, it was decreed that the compass was 134° in error and the survey redrawn accordingly. Since it was now inside the hill, all seemed to be well. The compass quietly vanished from sight and all accompnying evidence was destroyed.

1981 saw a connection between Stellerweg- and Schnellzughöhlen, but serious surveying was carefully avoided. 1982 saw CUCC at the bottom of the system, and a lot of surveying was undertaken to avoid ever going there again, but Stellerweg was not rigged and hence the biggest closed loop kept its secret.

1983, and out heroes connect the new entrance, 142 (née 132), into the system. Now comes the critical mistake. Wide-eyed, innocent and pleased with the glory brought to CUCC by pretty surveys, CUCC connect everything together with a half-mile closed loop through 142.

Back in England the greedy computer devours all the numbers and prints out the misclosure, about two inches vertically - pretty good that eh? But what's this? Just over a quarter of a mile out horizontally?!?!?!?

Detective work soon revealed that a slight rotation would make Stellerweg fit very nicely. In fact, the figure turned out to be 46°. But 46+134=180. And 180° is a much more probable figure for a compass error than 134°. Also, when the compass was traced, a sober experimenter found it had precisely the error expected. Thus the survey as published should rotate the section from the entrance to the Big Pitch by 46° clockwise. The streamway from the Big Pitch to the Big Rift needs translating appropriately, and the conveniently unsurveyed Big Rift is a lot shorter than shown. None of the remainder of the system was surveyed with the duff compass, but a big section of the Sonnenstrahlhöhle survey is also wrong, but that didn't have a north arrow anyway (guess why !).

It is expected that the survey will be redrawn correctly when enough additional passage has been found to justify the work involved.

A.E.R.Waddington (now sober!)