About The Club

Formed in 1968, Canterbury Caving Group has 50 members, whose activities are focussed on the Punakaiki-Charleston area of the West Coast, as well as the marble areas of Nelson. Meetings are on the second Tuesday of the month at the St Marks Scout Den on Centaurus Rd, Christchurch.


Canterbury Caving Club History

by Bud Chapman, CCG Club Member since 16th July 1968.

The Canterbury Caving Club has just passed its 29th birthday on 16th July 1998. It was officially formed at a meeting held in the then traffic Department Lecture Room on Manchester Street, Christchurch. For the first official meeting, the club had been conceived on the 19th June 1968 by an interested group of people, including Sue Watson and Graham Wilson. Over the 29 years the membership and enthusiasm of club members has ebbed and flowed, membership has at times fallen to as low as 5 people and, at its strongest, had well over 50 active cavers.

The first official club trip is recorded in the club trip book as occurring on the 29th June when a small group of people visited Broken river Cave. Over the years members have been involved in the exploration of most of the major systems found in the South Island. In those halcyon days NZSS annual subs were $2.50 and $1.00 went to the CCG (they are now $55, of which only $10 goes to CCG).

The earliest days of the club were carried out through affiliation to the Canterbury Universities Students Association and a room was provided for meetings. Many a late night caving trip was carried out through the "service tunnels" that were exposed during the building of many of the university buildings. Wire rope ladders were constructed in the airforce workshops at Wigram and were hung from the balcony of the Students association to allow members to practice.

They were the days filled with internal politics, groups formed and failed internally within the club, votes of 'no confidence" were held, meetings ran along the lines of very correct meeting procedures. Oh, what interesting days they were!!!! So here the club is, almost 30 years on and we have survived, strong and active, carrying out exploration as we always have,
anywhere that there are caves to be found.

For anyone interested, the CCG archives are held by me. I have a full set of caving club newsletters, some of the earlier Meeting minute books and the trip books.

May the club be active for many more years...

"CCG is 30 Years Old"

by Moira Lipyeat - 12 August 1998

With NZSS approaching its first half century of existence next year, it is time to look back into our past, as well as having high hopes for our future. We can certainly be proud of those who forged the way for us and of our impressive safety record from a myriad of underground expeditions. What other sport can compare with only two fatalities and a handful of serious casualties during a fifty year period? After all, cavers abide by only two basic rules; care and cooperation. Our record in New Zealand caving definitely speaks well for these rules.

I have been reading early bulletins, newsletters and trip records and can sense the excitement of those numerous cave discoveries over the past fifty years. A glance at both North and South Island atlases indicate the extent of these discoveries. What work and dedication have gone into surveying, recording and preserving of so many caves in less than fifty years! The most exciting thing is that cavers are still finding new systems, extended passages and more scientific discoveries. I only hope we are as accurate in our recordings as the past generation has been.

With CCG celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, I felt privileged at the reunion in Punakaiki to be able to browse through minutes of meetings, trip reports, maps and every newsletter that had ever been printed by the branch. We are grateful to Bud Chapman for his dedication in collating all this material. It was a surprise to find that the club had been started following a newspaper article in the Christchurch Star in June 1968, titled "Who will come caving with me?" It had been inserted by an 18-year-old university student Sue Watson, the niece of Algy Watson - well known by many North Island cavers. Within a few weeks a group of 15-20 cavers and would-be-cavers were out prospecting in difficult bush-covered country in Westland. They surveyed known caves and forwarded numerous articles for the NZSS bulletins within the first year. Insects, well-preserved bird remains and fossils were studied and fully recorded. These folk were not just out for a Sunday picnic! They established a pattern of dedication to detail that I hope we continue to emulate.

I read stories of the discovery of Xanadu and surrounding caves in the Bullock Creek area. I shuddered when I thought of what the roads must have been like then. It took an hour to travel the four miles from the main road! The trip was even in a borrowed car, after coming from Christchurch on the night rail car to Greymouth. A branch of CCG was formed in Greymouth by Graham Love soon after that prospecting trip. Several other branches sprouted up soon afterwards in South Canterbury and Southland, started when CCG members transferred to these regions. I read of encounters with a very unfriendly land owner in the Punakaiki area. A shot gun incident was even rumoured! Fortunately that land has been part of Paparoa National Park since 1985. Epic trips were always fully reported and well documented. Anxiety obviously ran high when a group were trapped in Xanadu when Bullock Creek filled the caves in December 1970, while the unsuspecting group were far from the entrance. National news made big headlines of the Profanity rescue in July 1980 and television crews were on the scene during the Babylon episode of 1986. It is interesting that very little is ever recorded by the media of the numerous cavers who explore new or established systems, coming out safely and happily. They just get on with planning their next trip without much attention from people outside the clubs.

When Derek and I organised the reunion, we were amazed by the enthusiasm. More than a hundred folk who had caved at various times, with varied levels of expertise, gathered together for Queen's Birthday weekend. It was a pleasure to have such a large number of the Rodgers family present to show us how Xanadu had been found. There were also a number of original club members present at the reunion. Phil Woods spoke of exploring the countryside with his Venturer Scouts well before the club was formed. Peter Johns recorded his findings of numerous cave creatures during the same period. Paul Caffyn was able to show his wonderful slides of his early trips to Cave Creek, Armageddon, Gethsemane and other caves that we seem to have "lost" over the years. We learned of how some of the first SRT techniques were developed and experimenting with cave diving began in the seventies, when Tim Williams, Keith Dekkers and others dived the Cave Creek system.

To commemorate our reunion, we have had a 'fridge' magnet produced. CCG are selling these magnets for $2 each to raise money for Cave Search & Rescue. Already we have raised enough to buy a new 50 metre rope for a Westland rescue team. We hope to send a donation to the Nelson club to go towards the costs of scanning cave maps for rescue purposes. Another donation will be made to NZSS for Mickey Phones. We thank all those who contributed so far and invite everyone else who has not had a chance to support this worthy fundraising effort to contact Derek and Moira Lipyeat, 29A Celia Street, Christchurch; Ph.: (03) 384-2570. To conclude our celebrations, CCG will be holding our 30th AGM at a local restaurant on 14 September 1998. Past, present and future cavers will be gathering to share cave stories and learn more about the science and sport of caving from experienced current and past members.

Perhaps the next generation of girls will carry on the dreams of Sue Watson. One of our eight-year-old girls h as written an article for our local newsletter, saying how proud she was to have been allowed to explore some of the wonderful caves in the Punakaiki area over the weekend. I trust that cavers continue to preserve and enjoy the caves we have, as well as go on to discover amazing, new systems, more bones, cave fauna, etc. Who knows what is still out there awaiting discovery - maybe even another Megamania?!? But most of all, may future cavers continue to gain immense pleasure and satisfaction from being where very few others have explored before them.

After 30 years, the membership is still over 50 and cavers regularly travel the 300 kms to the west coast to explore and enjoy the caves found by the early members of our club. The only caves discovered in the last 10 years are Hollywood, a fragile and beautiful cave, and Megamania, a system of at least 12 caves near the Heaphy track.

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