Titan was discovered by Dave “Moose” Nixon and his team in 1999 following an arduous and protracted dig to establish a dry route from Speedwell Mine, and an equally challenging dig up through a 35m boulder choke. They entered a vast cavern stretched upwards beyond the reach of even the most powerful lights, but using specialised climbing techniques the great shaft was climbed and topped out at a staggering 145 metres above the floor, making Titan the largest and highest enclosed underground space in the UK.
Several inviting side passages warranted investigation but the sheer remoteness and physical demands of hauling the equipment necessary for exploration up to these great heights led eventually to a plan to forge a route from the surface to intercept both the top of Titan and the most promising of the unexplored passages known as West Passage.
The idea of driving straight down to the top of the shaft was considered but dismissed as impractical. The vertical separation from the surface to West Passage was calculated at around 40m, but a nearby depression had revealed a connection via a natural shaft filled with loose material deposited during the interglacial period some 50,000 years ago.
However, what appeared to be a relatively simple excavation of this loose material was to lead to a three year test of patience and commitment, but as Moose says “no-one said it would be easy!” The film’s dramatic sequences vividly illustrate the frustrating ups and downs of cave digging and the camera captures unique footage – some of which has been broadcast on BBC and ITV – as the team is followed on their drive towards their goal. It is a story of extraordinary endeavour and persistence.
The total amount of tape used for this project amounted to some 30 hours, all of which was logged and sorted before editing down to 1hr and 20 minutes of completed film. It was first shown at the Hidden Earth cavers conference in September 2008. A rough edit was produced in 2003, but I am grateful to Emma Porter, one of the organisers of HE, and members of the Titan team for encouraging me to dust it off and get stuck in to finishing it!
Post Script. After a few months’ break work was resumed digging vertically down though a stubborn choke to intercept West Passage (which should have revealed itself -18metres!) We are now at a depth of 30 metres and still going down……!