An experienced caver trapped in an underground cavern
overnight on Saturday says the experience was far from an
Lindsay Main, 62, was with his wife Alice Shanks and 16 other
cavers in the Kahurangi National Park when he ran into
trouble. The group were on their way out of the Pillar Cave,
near Salisbury Hut in the Tableland area of Mt Arthur.
Bruce Mutton, a close friend of Mr Main and Ms Shanks and an
experienced caver, said Mr Main had been unable to make it
through a 15m long tight section, about 100m from the cave
Mr Main said the experience "wasn't an ordeal" but left him
cold and wet.
The configuration of the passage prevented him from exiting
the way he entered, he said.
"You just have to be able to flex in a certain way and the
longer your legs are the harder it is to get around tight
bends," he said.
As his wife was the last in their group of four, she decided
not to attempt the exit and stayed with him, Mr Main said.
The area of the cave where he got stuck was a "very simple"
area of the cave, he said.
"Only one person had been through there before, and that was
the person who was leading this trip."
They had only recently discovered that particular area of
Constable Malcolm York, search and rescue incident
controller, said Ms Shanks stayed in the underground cavern,
about 60m in length, when she realised her husband could not
fit through the tight section.
"He was able to back-track out of the squeeze into the
cavern," Mr York said. "The other rescuers were able to pass
through extra clothing, equipment, food for them to be
comfortable for the night." Experts used explosives to widen
"Very precise, very small charges were just able to break up
the rock that was blocking the access. They [Mr Main and Ms
Shanks] were given high protection gear and were able to move
a good 60 metres away from the blast," Mr York said.
"It was just the sheer factor of him being taller, that
compared to the other people, he couldn't bend his body into
the gymnastic shape that was required."
The area of Pillar Cave the couple were in had a walking
passage and the narrower passage which people needed to crawl
through, Mr Mutton said.
"There were two right angle bends which made it quite
difficult. It just so happened that going in it was easier
than going out."
Mr Main told TV3 the explosives made "a pretty good bang".
"It shook the cave, even where we were probably 40m away."
After the couple were rescued, they were checked over by
medical staff and returned to Mr Mutton's home in Nelson to
They were in good spirits, Mr Mutton said.
Although Ms Shanks had a few bruised ribs from the trip, Mr
Main was uninjured.
Pillar Cave is located on the western side of Mt Arthur.