Descent Handbooks and Yearbook

Handbook 1970During its long life, Descent has produced a variety of handbooks and one yearbook, offering cavers a ready source of information about clubs, groups and the sport of caving. The magazine typically contained a questionnaire that club secretaries were asked to fill in and return, and this was the main source of data that was collated along with information supplied by the regional and national bodies.

The first Descent Handbook for Cavers was published in 1970 as an A5, 28 page booklet. The next edition quickly followed, in 1971, extending its pagination to 34 pages of information, while the third appeared in 1974 and ran to 44 pages. The contents list also expanded, recording details of caving film for hire and accommodation as well as equipment and services, cave rescue organisations and the background to the newly emerging Ghar Paru Foundation.

Handbook 1971In 1977 the next iteration of the handbook sported a glossy card cover and 48 pages and was perhaps the last of what might be termed the 'traditional' handbooks. It was another ten years before it was replaced, this time by the new publisher, Ambit, with the 1987/8 Caving Yearbook. Now 112 pages long, it had grown in stature with a square spine and articles on topics such as cave surveying with a micro-computer, video underground, a descent of the Gouffre Berger and a six-mile dive to the heart of the Nullarbor in Australia.

The final production also belonged to Ambit Publications, with the release of a small ring-bound, looseleaf volume: The Descent Caver's Handbook, this published in conjunction with the National Caving Association in September 1994. It was packed with data and produced in a format that permitted updates so that cavers could switch pages for a more recent one, or add a new section. As far as is known, this only happened once, with a new set of pages produced in October 1995.

Handbook 1974
Handbook 1977
Yearbook 1978
Handbook 1994