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Subterranean Pleasure

Date: 21/06/08
Submitted by: Iain Miller

Received a rather odd e-mail from a notable camera fiend, the noble Brother Andy Mcinroy, asking if I would be interested in assisting his good self in accessing a foreboding sea cave on the Antrim coastline, to photograph the cave from the inside, thus (hopefully) recreating the only known C1900 etching of the caves internals. He has been somewhat fanatically collecting info stretching back a century or two on the myths, legends and rumours surrounding the greatly unknown caves of the Antrim coastline.

The Great Cave of Runkerry was the object of his desires; it would have been rude not to join the insanity!

So, 8am Saturday morning we met at the Giants Causeway car park and sorted a humungous assortment of toys for the days activities. A fellow camera fiend (Cathal) arrived to join the fray, (our eye in the sky) a cliff top voyeur, it you will, and so we the mossied off to Runkerry Head.

A brief recee of the cave mouth and it’s possible access points reveiled a direct abb to the cave mouth was a massive NO, NO!

A short abseil down an unpleasantly greasy groove about 400mtrs to the East of the cave entrance was made and several excellent wanders back and forward Westward were made along the sea level platforms, to transport the mound of toys to a horrendous looking Impasse. The impasse was a funnelled groove that was throwing MASSIVE waves up, over and onto the platforms above. Muggins made the first crossing, taking a 60-metre rope with me, and the Tyrolean was sent up. Several tooing and froing ensued ferrying the toys, until bang, I was hit square on by a monster greeny, entered the washing machine for a second or two and coming out a bit bedraggled, thank heavens for the Tyrolean and cows tail! Once all the gear was across, Andy followed and BANG, he entered “The Green Room” too. (Surfer speak, I’m told) We then made a tad scary 50ish metre traverse along a superb horizontal fault 20 feet above the raging maelstrom below, several times, as the toys dictated. And so we arrived at our proposed harbour/launch pad into the cave.

Things were indeed about to get silly!

A bombproof belay was set up and 300 metres of static 6mm was flaked to await the paddle into the cave. Andy was charged with the belay duty of the static line, whilst I readied myself with the mighty vessel. Holding the dingy in front of myself, mattress style, a foolish leap of faith and BANG, the vessel was launched. Due to a convenient natural breakwater to the West the swell in the 80 mtr entrance channel was about 8 ft and non violent if perhaps a little atmospheric! For the next 100 or so metres I paddled along the entrance channel and into the cave.

Exit light, Enter Night, take my hand your off to never never land!

Another 50 metres into the cave it happened, an involuntary adrenalin fuelled primal scream was emitted, most embarrassing, hope no-one heard. (How wrong was I) A suitable perch was found for photographic purposes, ascended to, belay rigged, and static line tied off. And so the return journey was made to the ever tentative brother Mcinroy! Once back at the harbour, we sorted the gear and discarded the excess toys. DOUBLE BANG, the mighty vessel was launched again, Andy on engine duties hauling the static line and me on steering duties fending off the rocks/cave walls with the paddle, upon entering the cave, Andy emitted an almighty involuntary Primal Roar!!! HAPPY DAYS, the location/atmos/stupidity does indeed hit the primal cord. The cave is about 100ft high and 30ft wide and stretches inland to infinity? Truly awesome gothic architecture!!!

Andy got himself settled on the perch and sorted out the task at hand.

From here the whole process was reversed, toys removed, ropes taken and a happy return was made to the cliff tops and an understated emotional reunion with Cathal.

It was kind of surreal to be wandering through the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre later, amid the masses, each carrying a mound of toys, mid afternoon, all that was left to do was throw them in the boot of the car and regain anonymity!

Altogether a truly awesome experience!

“previously climbed, non-tidal sea stacks”….Bless….Is there someone in Inishowen that need a hug?

Photo of Route