Wookey Hole Caves are the birthplace of British cave diving.
The Cathedral Chamber (or Chamber 9) is the base for most modern diving that takes place in the caves.
Much of the Wookey Hole Cave system is underwater. Most chambers could not be reached on foot until recent times.
Until the 1850’s, Chamber 4 was accessible at certain times of the year, but it had been flooded by the mill leat when the canal and dam were built and nobody had gone any deeper thereafter.
In 1935, Chamber 3 was the furthest place you could reach in the caves on foot. In that year two courageous divers, Graham Balcombe and Penelope “Mossy” Powell, walked along the river bed from Chamber 3 to Chamber 4. Their heavy deep sea diving equipment was not at all suitable for exploring caves.
In spite of this, Balcombe reached Chamber 7 later that year. And in 1948, using oxygen equipment developed during the World War II, he and his colleagues reached Chamber 9.
What makes this chamber so convenient for the divers is a wide curve of mud bank above the green water, big enough for people and supplies to remain dry.
The chamber is 30m high, its green water 20m deep, its vast walls red with iron oxide and shining with “flowstone” calcite formations.
Chamber 9 became a forward diving base for all the explorations to follow over the next 30 years. The blasting of a manmade tunnel, and advances in modern diving technology have now allowed divers to explore as far as Chamber 25 (known as the Chamber of Gloom).
Divers are hoping to explore beyond Chamber 25. Wookey Hole has many more secrets to reveal before exploration is completed.
You can see diver Michael Thomas here, surfacing with a Roman flagon found in the caves.