The Cave Diving Group (CDG) is the world’s oldest diving club. It was founded in 1946 by cave diving pioneer Graham Balcombe. Today its function is to “educate and support cavers for recreational and exploratory operations in British sump conditions“.
Cave diving in the UK is not particularly straightforward when compared with overseas sites. It is quite possible to park a vehicle near to the cave entrance, kit up and pretty much fall into the water in many countries. This rarely happens in the UK. The only site that instantly springs to mind for having simple logistical access is Wookey Hole in Somerset.
In the main, a British cave diver has to be a pretty competent dry caver and they only tend to learn to scuba dive to be able to access passageway beyond a flooded sump. (A sump can be described as a submerged or flooded section of cave.) It is not surprising therefore that since its inception the CDG has attracted some remarkable characters and explorers.
One such character was CDG Chairman, Mike ‘Fish’ Jeanmaire. Brian ‘Scoff’ Schofield, current Chairmen of the CDG said, it was Fish’s honesty and his ability to both respect tradition whilst allowing frontiers to be pushed back, that made him such a good Chairman of the CDG. Fish was to hold the post of Chairmen of the Cave Diving Group for thirty years until his health started to fail him. Following his death in November 2010 the ‘Fish Award’ was created.
The Fish Award
This is awarded annually to a member who has made a significant contribution to the CDG. Whilst the nature of the contribution is not precisely defined, the guiding principle is that the individual should have served the CDG rather than any other organisation or themselves.
Previous Fish Award Winners
2012 John Buxton
2013 John Cordingley
2014 Clive Westlake
2015 Andrew Ward
Traditionally the award is made by the previous winner. Andrew Ward – the 2015 recipient – presented the 2016 Fish Award to Duncan Price at the Cave Diving Group AGM and reflected on why Duncan was nominated.
“Duncan joined the CDG in the mid-1980s and seems to have stayed. I have known Duncan since he joined and was the examiner for his pool test on a dark, wet night in Yate piggybacking onto a BSAC club’s training night. We needed a victim for the recovery part of the exam and the BSAC club kindly provided one. Unfortunately, the gentleman was of generous proportions, so this part of the test was more like a Greenpeace re-floating operation. I must have been lax in those days as he passed the test.
Duncan Price stood in the downstream sump pool of Young Boods’ Passage, Wigmore Swallet, Dorset — Photo Credit: Stuart Gardiner
From the start, Duncan has been active in all areas of caving and along the way found a reasonable amount of new passage. On top of this he has mentored new members as well as helping at training sessions where has passed on his expertise. Surveying was always a good session and a forte of Duncan’s. At one time or another Duncan has been the Welsh Section’s Training Officer, Secretary and Examiner – positions that allowed him to pass on his knowledge and experience that he gained as a trainee all those years ago.
Duncan continues to be active within cave rescue and for that we can all be grateful. He has always been keen on producing gear to his own design and rebreathers are a speciality with their names generating interesting, and arguably contrived, abbreviations!
But his contribution doesn’t stop with his practical help to the Group. he is also an accomplished writer, co-authoring technical bulletins on numerous cave diving topics. In addition, he has contributed to, or written, the CDG Manual, Wookey Hole book, and the Welsh and Somerset Sump Indexes. He was also short-listed for the Tratman Award in 2016 for his most recent writing, Underwater Potholer: A Cave Diver’s Memoirs.“