Neil Moss (caver)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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[1] 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.[2] 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.[2] Moss never regained consciousness and was declared dead on the morning of Tuesday, March 24, after the final rescue attempt had failed.[3]

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,[4] wishing no one else to risk life or limb.[5][6] 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 was thought that he became stuck because he had moved a boulder at the bottom which had trapped the ladder, thus preventing him being pulled up by rescuers. The distance between the rungs of the ladder was too great for someone of his height to reach through the remaining gap.

The story of Moss's death was widely publicised[7] and appeared also in American newspapers and Australian newspapers; it was retold in the novel One Last Breath (2004) by Stephen Booth.[8] In 2006, filmmaker Dave Webb - a Derbyshire caver himself - produced a dvd on the story titled Fight For Life - The Neil Moss Story[9]


  1. ^ "Oxford Student Trapped in Cave 300 Feet Deep". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1959-03-23. p. 1. 
  2. ^ a b "Oxford Student Trapped in Rock Crevice is Dead". Rome News-Tribune. 1959-03-24. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  3. ^ "Frogman in Cave". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1959-03-24. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  4. ^ "Cave Becomes Youth's Tomb; Rescue Fails". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1959-03-25. p. 1. 
  5. ^ "Student's Body to be Left in Shaft". The Age. London. 1959-03-26. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  6. ^ "The Man in the Shaft". Time. 1959-04-06. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  7. ^ Pathé, British. "Pothole Tragedy". Retrieved 2017-11-26. 
  8. ^ Booth, Stephen (2006). One Last Breath. Random House. ISBN 978-0-440-24270-3. 
  9. ^ "Neil Moss Story" (pdf). Mountain Rescue. Retrieved 26 November 2017. 

External links[edit]