24 April 2022

Comms training

It was time for another rescue training! And this value would practice our communication skills. We have several ways of communicating from underground. And it is important; being able to tell the surface you have found the casualty, and ask for whatever it is you need to get around safely, is crucial. So we need to keep skills updated.

We met at Great Orme. Tony, our communications officer, would lead the practice. When I rocked up the first thing I saw was a gleaming Go Below vehicle; Miles was there! I hadn't seen him the entire year. We didn't have to change as the idea was not to go beyond the tourist parts of the mine. I just grabbed my bag that contained my helmet, some water and an extra jumper. It was actually quite cold! And we had a bit of a chat, but soon we went indoors as that was more comfortable.

The first task was to communicate via Cavelink. If you place them close to each other, they don't need antennae to detect each other. So it was just us practising using them. And soon we indeed had a text exchange going. But now we needed to practice setting them up outside.

We started with the Cavelink. It was a bit dry outside! You normally try to put the ends of the antennae in a puddle of water, but there were no puddles. We just used pegs to connect them to the soil, of which we hoped there was enough moisture in it to transmit the signal. We tested the signal; it was poor. Oh dear. We chucked some water on the pegs. That helped a bit! Then we clipped the crocodile clips to the metal posts of a fence. These fence posts would undoubtedly reach deeper than our pegs! So a bit more chance to connect with soil moisture. That worked. We got our communication working. 

Now it was the turn of the Nicola. A Cavelink allows you to send text messages; a Nicola allows you to speak. It's a sort of underground walkie-talkie. We just connected the machine to the same antennae. That didn't work so well! We couldn't hear the other side. Some tweaking solved that in the end. But then we tried the next option, which is sort of the backup if nothing else works. First World War style field telephones! Just two telephones with a long cable in between. That worked. And by the time most people were really really cold. I had my cave jacket and my extra jumper, but some people were only in jumpers!

We tidied everything away again, and had a short debrief. And then we all went home again! It was still quite early, and we hadn't set a foot underground. It suited me fine! I was still tired from my brief adventure with Kate, and the next day I would have the next adventure already. And it was useful to be reminded of all three of these means of communication. And it had been a nice selection of people; only two Thursdaynighters, and I hadn't even been the only woman. And we had Miles! That doesn't happen very often…

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