As it stands the Seth Pit comprises an oil drum shaft protruding from the centre of Catter Beck. This cave can be bottomed in less than a minute and largely involves scampering down a rift half filled with scaffolding. I can hear your thoughts now, ‘Pretty boring and insignificant, yet another overly keen North York Moors digger!’ The fact is this little hole has quite a story to tell!
The day started when my wife who was bedridden in hospital with the imminent arrival of our first born child suggested that I went caving. I managed to convince Chalky to do something and Sparky was supposed to be washing his wife so he wouldn’t be around. The plan was to head down Jenga for a spot of mining.
On my arrival at the parking area the sky was blue and cloudless then from nowhere the heavens opened. It was like a monsoon. Then just as quickly as it started it stopped. Shortly after, Chalky arrived stating that he had checked and water was still not reaching the Excalibur sink. Then from the steamy haze like a mirage appeared Sparky carrying his caving kit. Suddenly it was like Tuesday. Straight down Jenga and the mining commenced.
Not long after, the drill happened to burn out so we emerged for a breath of fresh air. We went to the cars to let the dog out and Chalky noticed a small trickle of water flowing from the track above from the earlier monsoon into the stream bed and sinking right next to the bridge, just a few meters up stream from Jenga. We scratched around with our bare hands as all the tools were still down the cave. After scraping a bit of gravel and pulling two or three small rocks out, a hole appeared with an incredible draft. A little bit more scratching and suddenly the surrounding debris gave way opening up a very large hole and the falling objects dramatically crashing down the newly opened rift. We all jumped back, there was a real risk of one of us falling down. What can only be described as giddiness came across us. We chucked dinner plate size slaps down trying to gage its depth. We estimate about sixty feet. The top 4 m comprised a series of interconnected slabs of bedrock but below was what appeared to be solid rift walls.
We quickly became aware that if we weren’t careful we were going to create an enormous hole that we would not be able to stabilise. We backed off and discussed what we should do. To leave a hole of this size and depth open is just dangerous. We laid a wooden ladder and some scaffold boards over and decided we were going to seal it like this. The dilemma was in order to explore it tonight we would have to enlarge the hole, probably beyond a size we could cover over. We decided that this hole was likely to be spotted by someone in the next day or two and we would get blamed anyway. So we called Dickwad, then the Yorkies suggesting they came down hoping we could pass the blame.
Whilst waiting for the others we decided to ring the landowner and confess. Somehow Sparky (Landowner liason officer) quickly got hold of a number and proceeded to dial. After announcing himself as the bloke who shoes some random blokes horse he established a conversation describing what had just happened. As he did monsoon number 2 happened which hampered the conversation somewhat (most likely this was actually due to Chalky’s ear mung in his phone). Basically he was told that we would leave it as safe as possible and we would email him explaining what had happened and how we could proceed from there.
As the call ended the rain stopped and we walked the 10 m back to the hole when what can only be described as a wall of water in the beck approached the hole. We sat for half an hour watching our new prize drink the entirety of the flooding beck. After a while it was almost full and large pools started to develop around the hole where bubbles emanated all over from the air that had been forced from the chasm below. Then the beck spilt over to the next sink. All the time a massive whirlpool was present in the beck. As this happened the others all turned up! Scepticism soon waned and to try and prove the depth of this thing I plumbed it with an old horseshoe tied to an SRT rope.
We decided to retire to the pub and hope the flood pulse soon passed so that we could make it safe. After a couple of pints, a fine selection of pickles (including a hole jar of pickled beetroot) later we headed back down. The river was still in flood and that was that!
I think a few people found faith that night after the, ‘What-if’s’ had been discussed. If we had gone straight back down Jenga would we have ever found this? Would we have drowned down Jenga? If we hadn’t of stopped to ring the land owner would we have descended the new hole and drown? Had my son ‘Seth’ been born a few days earlier we most probably wouldn’t have found this.
That was in July 2012. Since then an oil drum entrance has been fitted and digging progress was overtaken by flood debris. The hole has been abandoned as an active dig. However it has proven to be a valuable asset when water tracing in Jenga. We know that the water that flows down the Seth Pit enters Jenga in a number of places, suggesting that any progress would be through fractured fissures rather than a single passage. As such the prospect of furthering this dig is not likely to continue. The general consensus is to permanently cap the entrance.
Latterly I was telling an unnamed game keeper about this hole who told me a story of when he was pinching some sand out of the dried up beck around the location using a JCB. He recounted how a large hole appeared in the beck which he hastily covered it over with large rocks. So as it transpires we didn’t discover this hole at all!