The elegance of the Ammo Box

Some snotty nosed chiselers from DIT called me an old school caver, just cos I carried an ammo box. Well in response some immediate thoughts based on real experience.



1)      Try beat off a badger with a tackle bag (des’s story)


2)      Try defend yourself from an angry  landowner with a tackle bag steel container makes a good shield when he has a stick and you need to inflict what the Yanks now term “necessary subduing force”.


3)      British army squaddies treat you with far more respect when they see you coming towards them at 10 pm on a winters night in bandit country when you’re with a ammo box. 


(both of the above are based on real experiences in Fermanagh in the height of the “troubles”, 88 or 89. I was  most insulted as a to be refereed to as a dirty Taig, I was in fact a dirty atheist ! Interesting from the serial no’s on my Boxes, the army radio call back to base was able to tell me the history of my boxes before civilian life ! On the other hand the look of fear in those kids, the teen squaddies faces, and the fact that they were dropped in to watch us in the cold of a Fermanagh night put me off caving in the north until peace broke out. I was enjoying myself but the lancashire lad in the ditch outside didn’t know I was not a threat). Despite what they say about the DUP one thing I remember was Big Ian’s people were more interested in working with me on cave conservation than the southern minister, but eventually we got our north south document on Cave and Karst Conservation into the official policies on both sides of the border and that before the Good Friday agreement.!


4)      Would you fancy carrying your waste out of Pol Na Gollum after an O/Night exploration involving sleeping and poo-ing underground. (on the human waste side epically, tackle bags compress and are not air tight! Imaging a human waste bag in a tackle bag compressing and bursting in muddy links…….)


5)      You can use a ammo box stack as a step up to get that last little bit up to hang a sling when exploring and you don’t have a Garett Devitt present, Tackle bags compress.


6)      Empty Ammo boxes float when the caver you are with admits he can’t swim (despite what he told you earlier Tramore – sea cave- tide changed as planned, aim was to use the current to exit then he told me he lied about being able to swim….some beautiful sea caves under the Iorn Man, (you may slag Rebecca re. waterford trip but she was in caving territory)  another is to explore the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher in a sea king ( sea Kayak) for access  with caving gear, stop for lunch on the seastack afterwards you will be on soooooo many tourist videos) and for diving cavers there are the blue holes of Wexford and Clare ( summer or during big long high pressure weather only).


7)  Ammo boxes are normally carried from a crab and sling. This makes the box easy to move out of the way and thus protect the passageway. But also the sling can also be used as a climbing aid. Eg  If you have a light girlfriend and are exploring, you hoist her on your shoulders, she tosses sling over rock, light rope thorugh crab, haul her up, she rigs or  more slings together like the elastic bands we made slingers out of as a kid and you follow and hey pretesto you and she are in a beautiful piece of unexplored un charted cave. (So beautiful that we left it uncharted) 5) above also applied in some cases. Try doing that with a tackle bag and back pack!


 8)You try protecting a 35mm Nikon SLR worth ½ your summers earnings ( the other half going on fees) in a tackle bag.  That and a firefly were responsible for most of my underground photos (DIT photo students showed me how to print and process my own, sure that’s where Des Mc Nally came from if I remember right, unless senility is setting in)  


So folks enjoy the caves but remember for old farts like me there is method in our madness…….


By John Kavanagh Sr.