Titan (cave)

Infobox Cave
name = Titan
photo = SpeedwellCavern.jpg
caption = Speedwell Cavern which provided initial access to Titan
location = Castleton
depth = convert|141.5|m|ft|0|lk=on [http://www.hitchnhike.co.uk/pdc/cave_guide_peak_titan.htm Peak District Caving] accessed 6 April 2008]
length = convert|17|km|mi|1|lk=onFact|date=April 2008
coordinates = coord|53|20|0.09|N|1|47|35.85|W|type:cave
discovery =
geology =
difficulty =
number of entrances =
access =

Titan is located at Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District and is the largest shaft of any known United Kingdom cave, being some 141.5 metres tall. The existence of Titan was revealed in November 2006 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/6122884.stm Cave boasts UK's biggest chamber] accessed 6 April 2008] , following its discovery on 1 January 1999 after cavers discovered connections from the James Hall Over Engine Mine to both Speedwell Cavern and the Peak Cavern. The previous record holder of the tallest underground chamber was Gaping Gill on the mountain of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales, which was believed for a long time to be the largest in Britain.

Dave Nixon, nicknamed Moose and guru of a group of Peak District cavers, discovered the shaft after finding an account by an obscure 18th-century academic, James Plumtree, in a university library. Initial explorations in the James Hall Over Engine Mine led to the discovery of a large shaft named Leviathan, before further excavations revealed the existence of Titan.


In 1793 Plumtree wrote a paper describing a network of passages and shafts that went beyond the well-known Speedwell Cave/Mine system near Castleton. His account took him down the Speedwell Canal and deep into the cave system, but his journal described mined passages (worked mostly in darkness) that went far above what had then been explored. The Plumtree account specifically mentions a way out to the surface some 230m above "by way of another man's mine".

Surveying showed that one of many shafts on the surface on the mineral rake in which Speedwell's mined passages are formed was the shaft of James Hall's Over Engine Mine (JH). The Hall family were one of the many families of Castleton engaged in lead-mining, farming, and inn-keeping—often simultaneously—and the family were often licensees of the George Hotel. At the foot of the shaft the "cartgate" level (where the lead ore was carted to the haulage shaft) was found to have no fewer than seven blockages, which took as many years to clear. Miners' initials marked on the walls of Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and JH confirmed this was one way at least that early miners ("t'owd man" in caving parlance) reached Speedwell Cavern from the surface far above.


Eventually a miner's workplace was discovered leading to Leviathan—a huge natural shaft altered by mining operations, 80m deep in total. Many relics from the mining operations were discovered there still in situ as the miners left them.

The team spent three years removing another huge fall of boulders before finally gaining entry to Speedwell Cavern at the Boulder Piles. Another huge blockage at the foot of Leviathan was excavated in an operation requiring the building of a railway and eventually the dig led into the Far Sump extension of Peak Cavern. This section of Peak was previously only accessible either by diving Peak Cavern's Far Sump or via Speedwell Cavern with very difficult caving.

Following New Year's Eve revels, Moose and his team went to this area of Peak Cavern via JH and arrived at the underside of an enormous boulder choke just a few metres from the upstream end of Far Sump. Despite the after-effects of a good celebration the group discovered a way up through the massive boulder pile and arrived at the foot of Titan. The echoes from their shouts and the waterfall crashing down indicated a huge shaft but their lamps showed what appeared to be the top about 60m above them—The Event Horizon.

This proved to be only a narrowing to a large ledge and the shaft continued soaring upwards into the darkness. A six-day climb led to the domed roof with no way on, but a passage from the West some 20m further down is believed to be the source of the stream that helped to form this massive cavern.

Blocked by a huge hanging boulder choke, the West Passage could not be explored as the choke was too dangerous to enter in its exposed position—circa 120 metres above the floor. A 46 metre-deep access shaft excavated from the surface took over four years to dig and now gives access to a bedding plane passage entering the main shaft near the top of Titan. Digging continues in an attempt to extend the system in other directions. The total length of the cave system exceeds 17 kilometres.

The cave is located at Castleton, Derbyshire, at coord|53|20|0.09|N|1|47|35.85|W|display=title,inline|type:cave (or gbmapping|SK1386281847).


External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/help/3681938.stm Britain's biggest cave discovered] . (BBC Video - requires Real Player or Windows Media Player)
* [http://www.hitchnhike.co.uk/pdc/cave_guide_peak_titan.htm Titan] - Peak District Caving info.
* [http://www.daveclucas.com/titangallery/index.html Titan Photos]

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