Tratman Award Citations

Past winners and commended publications

The Tratman Award 2021


THE publications of 2021 were particularly fine, both in quality and quantity, causing the shortlist for the Tratman Award to be much longer than usual. The award is made annually to the author or editor of the best caving book, journal or article in a journal, the criteria including not only the quality of writing but also factors such as binding, presentation, entertainment value and worth to the caving community by reason of content, availability and – in the case of a journal – improvement on prior editions.


      To be considered for the award, publications must have a specific association with Britain or Ireland, for example by reason of nationality or country of publication, and for 2021 one title lying outside these provisos was singled out as deserving a special mention given its links with British cavers and clubs. Congratulations go to Thomas Arbenz for his editorship and production values for the third volume in the Cave Pearls of Meghalaya series.


      The independent judges (Joe Duxbury, Chris Howes, Alan L. Jeffreys, Martin Mills and Linda Wilson), having come to a decision, report this to the award’s sponsors – BCRA – which funds the trophy. This is made by Ceris Jones as an original piece of artwork representing the winning title and is retained by the author.


      For 2021 the long shortlist was reduced to the following, all of which receive a commendation:


Peter Burgess for Penwyllt, a self-published record of research into the area and industries surrounding the headquarters for South Wales CC and Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, now in its second edition. Praise for this work has arisen from several different directions.


Dave Gill for More Journeys Beneath the Earth, the continuing and extraordinary autobiographical story of one of Britain’s most experienced cave explorers, much of which relates to his work and influences in Malaysia including the Buda and Mulu national parks. The first volume of the set was equally commended in 2020.


Peter Kokelaar for All Our Own Water, another example of a self-published work and a hugely impressive one with a broad scope encompassing the caves and karst of the Gower peninsula in South Wales. Peter details not only recent and historical explorations, but much original research and theories of the area’s hydrology.


SWCC 75th Anniversary Publication edited by Andrea, Beth and Tim Lewingdon. The SWCC Newsletter was also commended in 2019 and 2020; this latest production has taken the presentation a step further by appearing in three volumes of very high standard, covering a wide range of both specific and general subjects.


The cave rescue in Thailand involving so many British cave divers resulted in two of those in the lead, Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, writing their stories in the form of Aquanaut and Thirteen Lessons that Saved Thirteen Lives respectively. As one judge commented, the first offers a compelling story that would inspire new adventurers while the second would help them to avoid ending in a coroner’s court. Incredibly impressive titles, both.


BCRA Review 2020, edited by Phil Wolstenholme, is a quality production – published in 2021 – that contains much of value to cavers whether or not they are members of the association (it is published on paper, but can also be downloaded from


And finally, two articles that appeared in Descent (280) and (283): Alison Moody for ‘The Bagpit Depression’(with added science content by Danielle Schreve and Paul Töchterle) and Andy Freem (aided by Antonia Freem and Peter Kokelaar) for ‘The Llethrid Saga’. In both cases the articles went well beyond a simple story, offering in-depth data, a survey and fine photographs that would both entertain and inform.


      Such was the overall standard that many of the commended titles might have won in a different year, and yet more might have made the listing. Inevitably, a decision had to be taken and for 2021 the Tratman Award goes to Rick Stanton for the hugely popular Aquanaut. Congratulations go to Rick and all the other authors and editors who, especially this year, should be proud to have attained a commended status.


Chris Howes, for the judges

Tratman Award, 2020

THE Tratman Award is granted annually to the best publication of the year, including books, journals and even individual articles. This report considers those that appeared in print in 2020.
    The five judges took into account not only the quality of writing, but also the presentation: the binding, paper quality, printing and not least, accessibility and importance of the content. This produced a final shortlist, presented here in alphabetical order of author. Reviews in Descent are referenced by issue number at the end of each citation.

Chris Blakeley and Gina Moseley for their two-part article on Greenland in Descent (273) and (274)

This seamless, well-illustrated tale of expeditions to Greenland by two authors was an obvious fit for the Tratman Award nomination. The story unfolds as any good tale should, taking readers along for the journey while imparting information about the science involved.

Juan Corrin (ed) for Matienzo Caves Project 2010-2019

The Matienzo volume is a tour de force of organisation and record-keeping, commendably also using a dual-language presentation. It represents an immense amount of work and is justifiably part of this shortlist. (Descent 278)

Martin Ellis for The Caves of Western and Central Thailand

The work that has gone into preparing this book is staggering. It is the third of a planned four volumes on the caves of Thailand and runs to a staggering 583 pages packed with data. The content is derived from a database maintained by the author, to which he has added reports by other cavers and made the whole available as a print-on-demand bound book with a special ‘caver’s edition’ that adds colour to the surveys. For anyone interested in the country’s underground, this is the definitive work for the region. (Descent 277)

Dave Gill for Journeys Beneath the Earth

Dave tells us of his caving life in the revised edition being considered for the award. His autobiography is both engaging and captivating, so that readers are readily drawn into the next section. This is an extraordinary story of both exploration and social history – it deserves a place on every caver’s bookshelf. (Descent 275)

Bob and Elaine Hall (eds) for SWCC Newsletter (137)

The concept of ‘improvement’ was introduced for the 2020 awards, adding to the factors that the judges take into consideration – a parameter that might apply to a journal series or new editions of books. The South Wales CC Newsletter received a commendation in 2019, yet here it is again with a repeat entry into the shortlist – which says a great deal about the standard and quality of its production. (Descent 275)

Rob Taviner for the first two volumes of Somerset Underground

A phenomenal amount of work went into the compilation of these two volumes, producing a clear and visually attractive format using a clean, simple layout. These are, after all, guidebooks intended to be used in the field, and the degree of thought and planning is evident. That extends to personal visits made to each location together with carefully written descriptions, demonstrating the background research that should be undertaken by any good author. Suffice it to say that the content covers everything relevant to the caves and associated sites of the area. (Descent 273 and 276)

The judges, having considered, debated, argued over and individually offered his or her opinion, agreed that for 2020 the Tratman Award goes to Rob Taviner for Somerset Underground volumes 1 and 2. These are outstanding works that deserve all the plaudits they have received. Well-earned commendations are gained by all the other authors and titles, with Dave Gill being singled out as an especially worthy runner-up. Given the generally high (and growing, it seems) standard of publications in the UK, simply achieving a placement in this listing is in itself a true award.
   For 2020 the judges were Joe Duxbury, Chris Howes, Alan L. Jeffreys, Martin Mills and Linda Wilson.
   The Tratman Award is supported by BCRA, which funds the creation of an original, hand-crafted trophy made by Ceris Jones that is retained by the winner. The presentation will take place at a date yet to be determined. In the meantime, congratulations to Rob and all the commended authors.

Chris Howes, for the judges

Tratman Award, 2019

The prestigious Tratman Award (in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978) is awarded annually for a caving-related, paper-based publication, to recognise excellence and encourage future improvement. It is one of the UK’s premier national caving awards, but is open to authors and publishers from Britain and Ireland.

First awarded for the publications of 1979, the Tratman Award was administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation when the foundation was a sub-charity of BCRA, but since 2019 (presenting the awards of 2018) when the foundation became an independent charity it has been directly awarded by BCRA. The judges are independent of the association and look for not only a high standard of writing and information content, but also factors such as the publication’s layout, print quality, binding and availability. The current award covers the publications of 2019 and was judged by Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills.

A very wide range of material was considered, including club newsletters and journals (and articles within them) as well as books. Many club publications have morphed into high-class productions at what seems to be an accelerating pace, which is excellent to see, and indeed one such is singled out this year. In future years, although this has always been within the judging criteria, additional attention will be paid to improvements in periodicals – that is, maintaining a high standard is important, but increasing the quality of the writing, layout and production will come under additional scrutiny.

The judges produced a ‘long list’, which became a shortlist and was then whittled down to those receiving a commendation, discussing and arguing merits along the way that gained and lost entries from the list. This finally produced the following titles, all of which are commended (an honour in itself), presented here in order of author or editor.

The Archaeology of Underground Mines and Quarries in England

Covering a specialist subject, John Barnatt’s work – published by Historic England – offers very thorough explanations of how, why, when and where underground minerals and stone were extracted. The lists of references are comprehensive, and the production values and information content remain high on every page (see Descent 267).

Irish Speleology (24)

Appearing in the commended listing yet again, Irish Speleology under the editorship of Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy, has continued to maintain its outstanding level of excellence with issue (24). The blend of exploration, overviews, archaeology, geology and other sciences ensures that the content will appeal to a wide readership, with the design, reproduction and binding all demonstrating a high quality. (Descent 271)

The Earth Beneath My Feet

An exquisitely unusual publication by artist and writer Annie Farrer with cave diver John Cordingley, The Earth Beneath My Feet was published within the Stories in Stone community project with a donation from each copy going to cave rescue. This is primarily an art-based presentation that is intended to encourage readers to see details in the land that they might otherwise have passed over. (Descent 268)

SWCC Newsletter (136)

The ‘newsletter’ from South Wales CC is more akin to a perfect-bound journal and is well presented. It covers a wide range of subject matter, from home-turf explorations to expeditions plus intelligible science, all liberally spread with photos and surveys that are printed and displayed to great effect. This title has gone from strength to strength under the editorship of Elaine and Bob Hall and is a credit to the authors, editors and club, demonstrating what is attainable by a focused group. (Descent 272)


Robert Macfarlane’s Underland is an unusual offering, with thoughtful writing and imaginative descriptions of his explorations, which are many and varied. Cavers will readily recognise ‘character types’ and are able to follow up Macfarlane’s ideas using useful chapter notes and a bibliography. While not being written for cavers, it is nevertheless very suitable for a caving readership. (Descent 269)

Caves of Mid-West Ireland

In this latest guidebook to Irish caves – expanded by reason of area as well as sites – editor Graham Mullan, on behalf of the University of Bristol SS, has taken the publication to an extremely high level of presentation and quality of content. The amount of work involved must have been extreme, and it shows. (Descent 271)

The Caves of Northumberland

That a new caving guide is produced is excellent, but Chris Scaife has gone one step further in researching and publishing a guide to a ‘new’ area, documenting the sites within it in fine detail, making them more readily accessible to other cavers. (Descent 268)

Bumbling in the Dark

Bryan ‘Scoff’ Schofield’s posthumous collection of reminiscences, brought to the printed page after editing by Dave Ryall and financed by his club, the Bradford PC, forms not only a tribute to this noted cave diver but also reflects his quirky sense of humour. Bumbling in the Dark offers a superb read and will be an inspiration to future cavers. (Descent 269)

The winning publication is chosen from within the list of commended titles and for 2019 two received much discussion as to which would take the prize. SWCC Newsletter and Caves of Mid-West Ireland were both strong contenders, but in the end the unanimous vote went to Graham Mullan on behalf of the team producing Caves of Mid-West Ireland. Mention must also be made here for his involvement with the UBSS Proceedings, a long-term, highly praised and superbly produced academic title devoted to caves and their archaeology and exploration, which itself might have otherwise challenged the other commendations.

Congratulations to Graham and the UBSS for the award, which is also recognised with a hand-crafted trophy made annually by artist Ceris Jones. In a normal year the Tratman Award announcement and presentation would take place during the Hidden Earth conference (which has been cancelled because of restrictions imposed by the Covid-19pandemic); the presentation will now happen at a future date yet to be decided.

It remains to thank everyone who made suggestions for publications to be considered, Ceris for creating the trophy, BCRA for supporting the project and the judges for their time and input. In this we single out Ric Halliwell, who has helped to judge the award on twelve occasions, but has stepped down following the conclusion of the 2019 round.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award, 2018

The prestigious Tratman Award is given annually to an author for a caving-related, paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978, to recognise excellence and encourage future improvement – it is considered one of the UK’s premier national awards. The Tratman Award is judged by a team of independent cavers – for 2018 these were: Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills, with additional input from other cavers.

The judging takes into account not only the standard of writing and the information presented to cavers, but also factors such as the publication’s layout, print quality, binding and other factors. This produced a shortlist:

Karst of Ireland

David Drew for Karst of Ireland – a magnificent, scholarly work that, although it is not directly useful to sport cavers, is essential for a wider understanding of karst (see Descent 267).

The Tham Luang Cave Rescue – a personal account­’

Martin Ellis for his coverage of ‘The Tham Luang Cave Rescue – a personal account­’ in the Shepton Mallet CC Journal Series 13, (9), one of two shortlisted entries on the subject this year. Martin comes at the incident from a fresh perspective, and delivers a thorough and authoritative account of what happened behind the scenes.

'In Search of Wadiland'

Tom Foord for his article ‘In Search of Wadiland’ in Descent (265) for December 2018 (a second part appeared in 2019). His well-illustrated, informative narrative leads the reader clearly through the story of expedition caving in Austria and imparts the excitement of exploration.

'Mission Impossible'

Chris Howes for ‘Mission Impossible’ in Descent (263) for August 2018 (the following issues carried three more articles as continuations of the story), this being a very early, encompassing and widely praised timeline of the Tham Luang rescue in Thailand, written as it unfolded.

Škocjanske jame 1920-1940

Trevor Shaw, who is no stranger to the Tratman Award, for Škocjanske jame 1920-1940 – a well-researched beautifully produced and eminently readable historical coverage of this Slovene cave (Descent 262).


Any author achieving a commendation here should be justifiably proud. Of these, the judges deliberated for many hours over which should be declared the winner, in the end the unanimous decision going to Tom Foord, the result being announced at Hidden Earth in September 2019. Congratulations to Tom, who won a specially crafted trophy made by Ceris Jones that he will retain as a reminder of his achievement.

Alan L. Jeffreys, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award, 2017

Adventures UndergroundThe prestigious Tratman Award is given annually to a caving-related, paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978, to recognise excellence and encourage future improvement. It is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, and is considered one of the UK’s premier national awards. It is judged by a team of independent cavers – for 2017 these were: Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Martin Mills and Alan Jeffreys.

2017 turned out to be a superbly fruitful year for caving publications, providing the judges with an almost impossible task of choosing between several top class publications, any one of which, in a lean year, would have qualified as a winner. Despite increasing use of online electronic publishing (not qualifying for this Award), the publication of actual books, with all the inferred artistic layout work, editorial input and quality of production, remains a satisfying, long-term, flexible archive of knowledge and expertise.

The following were short listed and considered by the judges in 2017:

Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales 2

Packed with essential information and written by a group of leading experts in the field, this volume achieves a good balance between science and readability and was viewed by the judges as a fine example of a textbook for everyone. Edited by Tony Waltham and Dave Lowe, the layout is clean and attractive. A worthy contender. Commended.

Northern Caves. The Three Counties System and the North-West

The expansion of this latest version of the essential Yorkshire Dales caving guidebook by Sam Allshorn and Paul Swire demonstrates that much thought has gone into the presentation of data, the use of italics to signify departures from ‘main routes’ being a particularly good idea. There is also a great improvement in the location maps and surveys shown. All told, high production values throughout. Commended.

The Darkness Beckons (3rd revised Edition)

A sumptuous successor to previous editions, this volume by Martyn Farr expands its narrative to include world cave diving as well as operations and developments in the UK. A wealth of superb illustrations supports a well-researched text, which is laid out in an attractive, readable style. A magnificent piece of work which will remain a definitive history of cave diving for many years to come. Commended.

William Boyd Dawkins & The Victorian Science of Cave Hunting

This is a fascinating text, opening a window onto the burgeoning science – and politics – of cave palaeontology in the mid-19th Century. Written by Mark White of Durham University, it is well researched, attractively published and a much needed addition to the history of speleology in the UK. A worthy contender for the Tratman Award. Commended.

Adventures Underground

This book sets out to document Yorkshire explorations over the last 60 years. Authors Dave Haigh and John Cordingley have produced an almost perfect text, tracing a path between technical jargon and ‘popular’ writing resulting in a work which will appeal to all sections of the community. Lavishly illustrated, thoroughly researched and beautifully published, this volume will long remain the standard for how to communicate the appeal of caving in writing.

TSG Journal (19)

The Technical Speleological Group in Derbyshire produce sporadic reports in the form of a journal, and issue 19 truly overshadows all previous productions. Packed with 205 pages of up to the minute information, this journal is full colour throughout. Editor Phil Wolstenholme is commended for an excellent example of what clubs can produce. Commended.

Irish Speleology (23)

Consistently an excellent example of what can be achieved in the world of regular journals, this latest issue, carrying no illustrations, is a compilation by editor Peter Barry of historical references to Irish caves from 1680 to 1893. It demonstrates what careful, thorough research can produce, is properly indexed and all in all, continues the very high standard set by the Speleological Union of Ireland. Commended.

Also noted:

Chelsea Spelaeological Society Newsletter Vol. 59

Successive editors of this monthly newsletter are to be commended for the attractive layout introduced by Mark Lumley in 2009, which has been developing ever since. The embellishment with colour from the July-Sept issue heralds even more improvement and sets an enviable standard to be envied by other clubs.


The winner for 2017 was very hard to select. Not only the extremely high standards, but the sheer quantity of publications rendered choice acutely difficult, and it should be emphasised that being short-listed this year is a specific recognition of publishing excellence. The Award was ultimately given to Adventures Underground by D. Haigh and J. Cordingley for a truly outstanding piece of work which, it was thought, would probably attract many people into the sport as did its predecessor Underground Adventure (1952). A very fine example to stimulate future authors. Winner.

It is noted above that to be short-listed for this award is, in itself, a mark of excellence and your work should be considered a prestigious achievement in its own right. While there can only be one winner, in effect, all the authors and editors have to be congratulated on the very high standards achieved.

Judges for 2018: Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Martin Mills and Alan Jeffreys.

Alan L. Jeffreys, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award, 2016

Red Rose CPC Journal (11)The prestigious Tratman Award is given annually to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978, to recognise excellence and encourage future improvement. It is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation. It both recognises excellence and encourages future improvement, and is considered one of the UK’s premier national awards. It is judged by a team of independent cavers. For 2016 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys, Martin Mills.

The 2016 awards saw a departure from the established norm, in that there was no announcement made prior to the presentation at Hidden Earth in September. Only then did the authors learn of the commendations and the eventual winner, which received a superb statuette of a caver bookend created by Ceris Jones.

Of interest is that from within the wide range of publications and articles considered by the judges for 2016, a significant number of authors and journals have previously been commended or won the award.

The final shortlist was:

The Castleton Mines
A finely researched and published work about the area’s mines, some of which intersect caves, by Jim Rieuwerts and Phil Wolstenholme. The subtitle ‘A descriptive and visual history’ indicates the content of this extremely attractive production.

Red Rose Cave and Pothole Club Journal (11)
This is a journal packed with the results of digs and extensions in and around the Yorkshire Dales (as well as details of the club’s activities, including the extensive conservation work its members undertake), with high-quality production standards.

Irish Speleology (22)
Editors Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy were commended for their work on Irish Speleology (21) published in 2013, and again gather plaudits for the depth and quality of this latest journal with wide-ranging topics and excellent research.

A Spider’s Thread of Shining Silver
A compilation of Mike Boon’s writings, in particular reprinting his classic and scarce Down to a Sunless Sea, by Andy Chapman – a welcome addition to most cavers’ libraries, making Mike’s authored pieces (with comments) accessible to all.

Underground Archaeology
Tratman Award winner in 2015 Marion Dowd again features in these listings, with another title concerned with Irish archaeology. Underground Archaeology is an incredibly important work in that it gathers all (!) known instances of finds in the country within categories as a one-stop shop for checking existing records.

Special mention also goes to the second part of the series of books on Meghalaya, India, edited by Thomas Arbenz. As with part one, published in 2012, Cave Pearls of Meghalaya is a superb compilation of text, surveys and photographs; this latest publication covers the expeditions from 2005 to 2009.

The winner for 2016 was difficult to determine, given the high standards involved, with the Red Rose Journal coming out on top. The award follows in the footsteps of the club’s 2010 commendation for the previous journal, and this latest publication is a very worthy winner and many congratulations go to the club and editor Ray Duffy.

Tratman Award, 2015

Archaeology of Caves in Ireland The Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by independent cavers; for 2015 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought). From an initial shortlist (to which titles were added and subtracted) the judges argued the strong and weak points of each title, taking into account the standard of printing and binding as well as the inclusion of an index where appropriate, the layout and the quality of writing. In alphabetical order of author, the final shortlist was:

Michael Adams: One Man One Pan
A wonderful, personal tale of exploring caves in China over the course of two early expeditions

Peter S. Burr: Mines and Minerals of the Mendip Hills
In a two-volume set, an incredible amount of research is packed into a thousand pages that is already the definitive work on the subject

Ralph Crane and Lisa Fletcher: Cave. Nature and culture
Cave is unusual in that it succeeds in crossing divides, merging legend and fact, science and art – any caver willing to be challenged with new ideas will enjoy this book

Marion Dowd: The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland
Marion’s impressive work on caves and archaeology in Ireland is extensive, interestingly written, beautifully presented and well indexed: a superb publication

Elaine Hill and Adrian Hall (comps): Northern Sump Index 2015
A description of ‘index’ hardly does justice to this invaluable resource from the Cave Diving Group; the amalgamated surveys at the rear were especially appreciated

Dewi Lloyd (ed): NPC Journal 2015
After a 28-year break, this latest Northern Pennine Club journal brings a host of quality material to readers, providing a finely presented and valuable archive of exploration in the Dales

Duncan Price: Underwater Potholer
Simply a damn good read from this cave diver and explorer, written on a personal level

Michael Shaw, David Poyner and Robert Evans: Aerial Ropeways of Shropshire
Another high-quality account from the Shropshire Caving and Mining Club; while the title might suggest a dry, obscure publication, it is eminently readable by any enthusiast

Trevor Shaw and Alenka Cuk: Slovene Karst and Caves in the Past
Past winners of the Tratman Award, Trevor and Alenka have broadened the appeal of cave history, making the text more accessible to a wider Slovene readership

After much discussion, made vastly more difficult by the high number of excellent publications considered, the Tratman Award for 2015 goes to Marion Dowd for The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland. Congratulations are due for her outstanding work ‘from which the sun shines’ to quote one judge, who also suggested that it ‘should act as a model for similar regional books in Ireland, the UK – and indeed Europe’, a sentiment backed by the other judges. The remaining works are all highly commended, in itself a prestigious achievement. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which will be presented at EuroSpeleo 2016.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award, 2014

Gouffre BergerThe Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by independent cavers; for 2014 these were Joe Duxbury, Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought).

An initial shortlist was drawn up, after which discussion ensued. Aside from the obvious value of being written well, other elements that affected the judges’ decision included the quality of photographs and diagrams, inclusion of an index where relevant and the printing and binding. The shortlist was reduced to the following books and journals (presented here in author order):

Editors Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy for issue (21) of Irish Speleology, another superbly produced and impressive volume in the series.

Mining in Cornwall and Devon by Roger Burt and others, a readable volume packed with research and analysis, accompanied by a CD carrying yet more data.

Matt Ewles and Gary Douthwaite for editing The Journal of York CC & North York Moors CC (2), raising the bar even higher than for their previous commendation for the first issue.

The proceedings of NAMHO’s 2011 conference, 50 Years of Mine Exploration edited by Kelvin Lake and David Poyner and published in 2014 as a packed volume worth waiting for.

Caves of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Jean Shaw, published as part of the excellent caving atlas series by Michael Laumanns and a thoroughly researched history and gazetteer of what is known in the country.

John Wilmut, Chris Proctor and David Jean for Exploring the Limestones of South Devon published by the William Pengelly CST, nicely produced as a walking guide to the area.

Mark Wright and Robbie Shone for Gouffre Berger, a beautifully presented volume – even with a slipcase available – covering this classic cave’s history as well as a modern description, backed up with sumptuous photography.

The final decision was unanimous, granting the 2014 Tratman Award to Mark Wright and Robbie Shone for Gouffre Berger with many congratulations for their fine production. The remaining works are highly commended, each a prestigious achievement on its own. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2015 conference.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award 2013

Mendip UndergroundThe Tratman Award has been awarded annually since 1979 to a caving-related paper-based publication in memory of E.K. Tratman, who died in 1978. It covers books, journals and articles published in a calendar year and is administered by the Ghar Parau Foundation, but judged by three independent cavers; for 2013 these were Joe Duxbury, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills (though other opinions were also sought).

As usual, a great deal of discussion ensued around a short list of titles that grew longer before becoming shorter. It is worth mentioning Thomas Arbenz’ editing and publication of Cave Pearls of Meghalaya, given its links to UK expeditions, but although it is of a superb standard it lies outside the scope of the Tratman Award. The final shortlist was winnowed to the following, here presented in author order:

Tim Allen and Frank Pearson, for the linked articles ‘A Midge-infested, draughtless no-hoper ...’ and ‘We should have gone to Aygill’ in Descent (230), which the judges picked out as particularly evocative of digging.

Peter Barry and Alasdair Kennedy (eds) of Irish Speleology (20), which clearly presents not only solid information, but also maps and surveys with a range of highly interesting topics – an almost perfect example of what a journal should be.

Martyn Farr for the attractive Classic Darksite Diving, covering cave diving sites in Britain and Europe and data-packed with locations and details on how to safely undertake dives.

Dave Gill for ‘Bottoming the Berger – on Ladders’ in Descent (235), an article which brought an element of speleohistory to the fore in an engaging and entertaining manner.

Alan Gray, Rob Taviner and Richard Witcombe for their work compiling Mendip Underground, a monumental task to have been completed work on a regional guidebook to such a high standard.

Jim Rieuwerts for Adventurers in the Lead Trade, not forgetting the photography of Phil Wolstenholme that made this well-researched volume so highly visual.

Tony Waltham and David Lowe for Caves and Karst of the Yorkshire Dales, another in-depth title that will become a standard reference for the area.

The final decision went unanimously to the comprehensive and attractive Mendip Underground. Congratulations therefore go to Alan, Rob and Richard, who we are sure would wish to also note the involvement of a huge number of other cavers in checking details of references and cave descriptions, and producing surveys and photographs, with (once again) Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley’s fine touch in layout. The remaining entries above are highly commended, a prestigious result on its own. The award is a piece of original artwork by Gonzo, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2014 conference.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award 2012

Tratman 2012The Tratman Award is presented to the author of the best caving-related publication of the year, being judged by independent cavers who make their recommendations to the Ghar Parau Foundation, which funds the award. The judges for 2012 were Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills, who also sought opinion from a wider readership and, with four judges available, where required were able to exclude themselves from discussing any title causing a conflict of interest.
A wide range of books and journals was considered, creating a shortlist that was whittled down to six for further discussion. These were:

Derek Hawkins’ Bath Stone Quarries, a fine photographic record of this complex of mines, oft visited by cavers and mining enthusiasts alike.

The Cave Radio & Electronics Group Journal, in recognition of the long-running specialist nature of this publication (the current issue is no. 80), being maintained at a high standard and a credit to the production team.

Tim Allen for his series of articles on the Three Counties breakthrough published in Descent issues (224) and (225), bringing the accurate story to cavers in a complete and timely fashion.

Earth Colours by Marie Clarke, Neville Gregory and Alan Gray. Another fine hardback book from the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive stable, it is packed with information and photographs concerning ochre mining on Mendip.

Phil Hendy’s series of caving features in the Mendip Times, a free local publication; these have placed caving in front of the public in a good light for the past five years.

Slovene Caves & Karst Pictured 1545–1914 by Trevor Shaw and Alenka Cuk, a softback book concentrating on the region’s photographs and illustrations, many of which are accompanied by biographies.

To choose a winner proved incredibly difficult, in particular being a close call between Earth Colours and Slovene Caves & Karst. In the end, the judges came down in favour of Slovene Caves & Karst, given its sheer quality of research, readable content and fine presentation.

Congratulations therefore go to Trevor and Alenka; this is not the first collaboration we have seen from this pair, and we trust it will not be the last. All the shortlisted authors also receive our congratulations for their commendations and should note the prestige conferred: to attain a shortlisting is in itself an achievement. The award is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at the Hidden Earth 2013 conference.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award 2011

The Tratman Award is presented to the author of the best caving-related publication of the year, being judged by three independent cavers who make a recommendation for the award to the Ghar Parau Foundation, which funds the award. The judges for 2011 were Ric Halliwell, Chris Howes and Martin Mills, who also sought opinion from a wider readership.

Both books and club journals were considered and a shortlist was produced for further discussion. In alphabetical order of author or editor, the titles were:

Caves of the Peak District by Iain Barker and John Beck ­– an excellent guidebook published by DCA. The publication year was printed as 2010, but the volume was not released until too late for consideration in 2010, so – as the rules permit – it was shortlisted in 2011.

Decades in the Dark, edited by Alan Jeffreys and subtitled ‘50 years of Scottish caving’, covers the history of the Grampian SG from 1961 to 2011.

Sheffield University SS 50th anniversary journal 1961-2011, a club history with similar coverage, edited by Rob Middleton.

Shuttleworth Pot into Witches Cave II, edited by Pete Monk and published by CNCC, being a comprehensive and timely documentation of the cave’s exploration (a factor that the judges felt that other caves would benefit from).

Aspects of the History of Slovene Karst 1545-2008 by Trevor Shaw, a fine piece of research immaculately presented to the reader, just as we would expect from this author. It is also dated 2010 but was not available for consideration until 2011.

After much deliberation, from among these commended publications the judges unanimously decided that the 2011 Tratman Award should go to Decades in the Dark. In reaching their decision, the judges noted that it contains a high volume of material written specifically for the publication (rather than only reprinting past articles), it is liberally scattered with photographs and the text is interesting and readable (this publication is far more than a chronology).

Congratulations therefore go to Alan ‘Goon’ Jeffreys and his team from the Grampian SG. All entries in the shortlist should note the prestige that is conferred here, though there can only be one winner. The award itself is a piece of original artwork by Mark ‘Gonzo’ Lumley, which was presented at Hidden Earth 2012.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges

Tratman Award 2010

Tratman 2010For the 2010 award the rules were rewritten and clarified (the rules appear below) and judging reverted to a requirement for three independent cavers to make recommendations to the Ghar Parau committee for ratification. For 2010 these judges were Chris Howes, Alan Jeffreys and Martin Mills.

The judges considered a wide range of publications, including both books and club journals. From among the many the final shortlist became: Matienzo, edited by Juan Corrin and Peter Smith, this being an amazingly packed book devoted to the exploration of this area of Spain and including maps and data on CD-ROM, Is That So?, compiled and edited by Rob Taviner in support of the Mendip Cave Registry and Archive, Wookey Hole by Jim Hanwell, Duncan Price and Richard Witcombe, being both a superb book as well as a club-based publication, and the Red Rose CPC Journal (10) edited by Paul Swire.

It is worth noting that although the latter journal bears a 2009 imprint, its publication was delayed until 2010 and thus it was eligible for consideration this year. It is an excellent example of a general rise in production quality of club journals, both in design and printing, which the judges noted across the board and which we hope will continue.

All these titles are therefore commended but the final decision was, it must be stressed, an extremely difficult and close one to make with Matienzo and Wookey Hole competing for the award. Thankfully, as there was no award made in 2009, the Ghar Parau Foundation committee offered to support two prizes in 2010, so both editorial teams accepted awards at Hidden Earth in September, on behalf of the many cavers who had input into the respective projects. Congratulations go to all involved. The award itself is a framed piece of original artwork by Mark 'Gonzo' Lumley depicting the respective books.

Chris Howes, on behalf of the judges