Thursday, 8 January 2015
I recently stumbled across the story of Neil Moss while browsing through some Derbyshire history. It must be one of those events that lie dormant in the memory for decades because I recall quite vividly being horrified by it at the time.
Neil Moss (full name Oscar Hackett Neil Moss, (1938 - March 22, 1959) was the victim of a famous caving accident in England on Sunday, March 22, 1959. A twenty-year-old undergraduate studying philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford, Moss became jammed underground, 1,000 feet from the entrance after descending a narrow unexplored shaft in Peak Cavern, a famous cave system in Castleton in Derbyshire.
Initial attempts to haul him free failed because the rope broke several times. When he lost consciousness as carbon dioxide from his own respiration built up in the base of the shaft, he was unable to assist further rescue attempts made with a stronger rope. More rescue efforts were made: June Bailey gave up after six hours, "driven back by foul air," and caving veteran Bob Leakey, in a frogman suit, could not get to him. He never regained consciousness and was declared dead on the morning of Tuesday, March 24, after the final rescue attempt had failed.
His father, wishing to avoid further injury or loss of life in an attempt to retrieve his body, requested that it be left in place, wishing no one else to risk life or limb. The fissure was sealed with concrete and an inscription was later placed nearby. This section of Peak Cavern is now known as Moss Chamber.
It's not my thing, caving. I still find it horrific, the idea of dying like that. Yet expiring as a result of his own exhaled carbon dioxide would have been quite painless. It's the thought of it, his inability to struggle against that unimaginable weight of rock.
The stuff of nightmares.