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Speedwell Cavern, which provided initial access to Titan
|Depth||141.5 metres (464 ft)|
|Length||17 kilometres (10.6 mi)|
Titan is a natural cavern near Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District, and is the deepest shaft of any known cave in Britain, at 141.5 metres (464 ft). The existence of Titan was revealed in November 2006, following its discovery on 1 January 1999 after cavers discovered connections from the James Hall Over Engine Mine to both Speedwell Cavern and Peak Cavern. Previously, the deepest known underground shaft in Britain had been Gaping Gill on the slopes of Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales.
Dave Nixon, nicknamed Moose and guru of a group of Peak District cavers, discovered the shaft after finding an account by an 18th-century academic, James Plumptre, in a university library. Initial explorations in the James Hall Over Engine Mine led to the discovery of a large shaft named Leviathan, before further excavations revealed the existence of Titan.
Eventually a miners' workplace was discovered, leading to Leviathan—a huge natural shaft altered by mining operations, 80 metres (260 ft) deep in total. Many relics from the mining operations were discovered there still in situ as the miners left them.
The team spent three years removing another huge fall of boulders before finally gaining entry to Speedwell Cavern at the Boulder Piles. Another huge blockage at the foot of Leviathan was excavated in an operation requiring the building of a railway, and eventually the dig led into the Far Sump extension of Peak Cavern. This section of cave was previously only accessible either by diving Peak Cavern's Far Sump or via Speedwell Cavern with very difficult caving.
Following New Year's Eve revels, Moose and his team went to this area of Peak Cavern via JH and arrived at the underside of an enormous boulder choke just a few metres from the upstream end of Far Sump. Despite the after-effects of a good celebration the group discovered a way up through the massive boulder pile and arrived at the foot of Titan. The echoes from their shouts and the waterfall crashing down indicated a huge shaft, but their lamps showed what appeared to be the top about 60 metres (200 ft) above them—The Event Horizon.
This proved to be only a narrowing to a large ledge and the shaft continued soaring upwards into the darkness. A six-day climb led to the domed roof with no way on, but a passage from the west some 20 metres (66 ft) further down is believed to be the source of the stream that helped to form this massive cavern.
Blocked by a huge hanging boulder choke, the West Passage could not be explored as the choke was too dangerous to enter in its exposed position—circa 120 metres (390 ft) above the floor. A 46-metre (151 ft)-deep access shaft excavated from the surface took over four years to dig and now gives access to a bedding-plane passage entering the main shaft near the top of Titan. Digging continues in an attempt to extend the system in other directions. The total length of the cave system exceeds 17 kilometres (11 mi).