Tragic Incident in South Wales: The Disappearance of Diver Roger Solari

Incident LocationDiver Full Name
South Wales, Agen AllweddRoger Solari

In 1974, Roger Solari went on an exploration into Agen Allwedd Cave together with his friend, Martyn Farr. They were both experienced divers, but pushed the limits too hard as Roger encountered an unfortunate incident. Are you enjoying our cave diving videos but have not subscribed yet? Please consider subscribing to our channel! Ogof Agen Allwedd, also known as Agen Allwedd, is one of the longest cave systems in Wales.

Exploring Agen Allwedd Cave

In 2005, some divers explored Agen Allwedd to map out the elusive connection that leads to Daren Cilau. They started digging the inlet, during which they uncovered about 984 ft (300 m) passageway in the system. The passageway is so beautiful, ending with the Corkscrew Chamber. The passageways of the cave are more than 20.2 miles (32.5 km) in length.

Entering the Cave

When you are entering the cave, you will pass through the short series at the entrance, then to the first boulder choke. There are other round passages that you can explore within the cave. You will need to crawl when you first enter the cave’s long entrance passageways till you get to the large passageways that are easily accessible even without any special diving equipment.

Round Trips and Passages

One of the round trips is the Grand Circle. It is towards the mainstream passageway and it has four boulder chokes (these are passages that are blocked out by rocks). Another round passage that is within the Agen Allwedd is the long, damp, and exhausting Southern Stream Passage. You can also explore the outer and inner circles within the cave.

Flooding and Caution

One of them is the Turkey Stream way. It is an amazing stream with pools. If you want to explore those round passages, be ready to spend about six hours on each, and mind you, those areas are prone to flooding. You will need to take caution if your adventure is during the rainy season. The waterway at the third boulder choke is most of the time occupied with water, and when there is an extreme flood, you cannot pass it to the second boulder choke.

Explorations and Discoveries

The confined section of Turkey Stream way that is beyond Northwest Junction also becomes inaccessible during heavy floods. Brian Price and his partners were the first to investigate the cave in 1949. In 1950, David Seagrove & Harold Hicken found their way into the passageways. They kept exploring till they got to the first boulder choke.

One of Hereford Caving Club expeditions

In 1957, the Hereford Caving Club took the exploration further by breaking the first boulder choke that had prevented them from accessing the main part of the cave. John Parker & Jeff Phillips, and some others explored the Agen Allwedd Cave systems in 1971 and 1972. In 1972, John and Jeff discovered 1969 ft (600 m) of a new passageway.

Roger Solari Takes Over

They had just added another 1476 ft (450 m) to the extension of the passageway downstream of those sumps previously discovered. But John lost interest in this exploration, so he slacked off. From the point where he stopped his exploration at Agen Allwedd, Martyn Farr, who had been inspired by the series of past diving adventures of Parker, took it up.

Martyn began exploring the cave in 1973 and, in 1974, he and Roger Solari went together for the longest cave exploration during that time. It was on this adventure that Roger encountered the unfortunate incident. Roger Solari, without a doubt, you could call him one of the most gifted cavemen in Great Britain.

He had undertaken several dives in different places, including Yorkshire, South Wales, and Ireland. He was a dedicated and rugged man when it came to cave diving. Roger was an introvert by nature, but he was still popular and well-respected wherever he went. He considered nothing difficult to achieve and he was always found pushing through to success.

He was just twelve years of age when he began diving in his homeland—the Forest of Dean. He became so familiar with this forest due to his continuous exploration; its secrets and geology were known to him. He began his academic research on the “Forest Mastersystem”. His goal was to write about different caves and mines found within this forest region.

He attended Birmingham University, where he graduated with good honors in physics. Roger was the president of the Speleological Society at his school. He created the Cave Project Group and was also a member of the Forest Rescue Association. On Saturday, June 15, 1974, Roger Solari entered the Agen Allwedd Cave together with Martyn Farr.

Martyn Farr was a leading exploratory cave diver and caver. He is one of the world’s most famous divers who has gained so much popularity in the cave diving community because of his tremendous discoveries in cave diving. Roger and Martyn were going to explore and extend the passages of Agen Allwedd Cave to continue from the place where John Parker, one of the best divers, had stopped.

Remember that in 1972, John Parker and Jeff Phillips discovered 1476 ft (450 m) more passageway length than the previous length, making up 1969 ft (600 m) of new passageway length. One month before their dive, Martyn already dove into this cave system. Unfortunately, Roger wasn’t able to come because he injured his knee.

The Discovery of a Dream Passage

During this exploration, he reached the point where John Parker left his exploration and he was very excited because he discovered a huge passage that led into the darkness. He raced down the passage to find out where it let to. According to Martyn, it was a passage which all cave divers dreamt of finding! Unfortunately, he couldn’t continue his exploration on this day because he didn’t have enough air in his tanks.

One month later, on June 1974, Roger and Martyn were about to start a long exploration. They were going to dive into the downward stream sump four in the mainstream. Each of them came with three air cylinders, a pair of boots, and a line reel. Everything went really well until they reached sump four. Roger was one leading the dive while Martyn was following closely.

Roger had a line reel of 400 ft (122 m) with him. He had been laying line with it. Martyn, on the other hand, had a 1000 ft (305 m) reel. During the dive, Roger indicated that he had difficulties with his sinuses. However, Roger was not new to the kind of difficulties he was experiencing. He had similar difficulties while diving in the past; this adventure was just like one of those difficult ones in the past.

Martyn indicated that Roger should head back when it was not resolving. Roger and Martyn were diving together but independently. That is, any of them could decide to return to the surface anytime they wanted to. That was part of their diving plan. Roger was very determined to continue the exploration because he was very interested in it.

When Roger’s line ran out about 400 ft (122m) into the sump, it was obvious that they reached a depth of 50–60 ft (15–18 m) and the passage was further descending. Martyn checked his pressure gauge and saw that he almost reached his first third limit of air but decided that he would carry on. He knew that Roger had a little bit less air in his tanks and they communicated underwater that Martyn was going to continue alone and Roger should head back.

Martyn carried on the passage that was going deeper. About 150 ft (45 m) later, just when he knew he should return to the surface, he noticed a gravel bank that had a steep upward slope. At this point, Martyn checked his pressure gauge only to find out that he was already well into his second third of air.

Martyn’s Desperate Escape

Despite this, he ascended this slope assuming there would be an air pocket where he could breathe for a second. He went higher and higher and was about 3 ft (0.9m) of depth, just under the water surface but discovered that there was no air space there! At this point, Martyn only had a half-bottle of air left that he had to use to get out of the cave.

This time, Martyn had pushed the limits really hard and quickly made his way out. While going out, he saw Roger at the roof of the passage at 3 ft (0,9 m) depth. Martyn signaled to him that it was time for them to return to the surface. Martyn dropped his reel at one side while Roger held onto his line.

They needed to get out because they were both desperately low on air! Martyn reached the deepest point and started to go back along the tunnel. However, because of his fast rate of ascent, he suffered from acute pain in his ears. While he cleared his ears, he waited on the line for a few minutes but Roger wasn’t showing up.

Martyn realized that he didn’t have enough air to go back into the tunnel and search for Roger, so he went ahead back to the surface. Martyn felt great relief when he got to the surface. He waited for some time, thinking that Roger would return to the surface too, but he didn’t. He began to wonder what could have happened to him.

He became uncomfortable, but there was little he could do. He was running out of air. This was the major reason why he could not wait for Roger while in the cave, and what any professional diver should do. But now that he was out of the cave and Roger was yet to return, he had to take the risk of returning to the cave with his air reserve.

He got back into the cave. He began to pull the line, but it was slack. When he went about 430 ft (131 m) further but still experienced the same thing, he discovered that the line had been cut at about 30 ft (9 m) after the point where the lines were joined. At this point, Martyn didn’t have sufficient air.

It was no longer safe for him, so he returned to the surface and waited endlessly for Roger to return. When John Elliott and his friends returned that night from their nine-hour dive nearby, they met Martyn, who told them that Roger was yet to return from the fourth sump. Immediately, they reported the situation to the police and the cave rescue team.

Search and Rescue Efforts

John Parker was also called. He was one of the best available during this incident. On Sunday evening, they attempted to dive to recover Roger’s body but were hampered by poor visibility caused by heavy rainfall in South Wales. They were there all through the night but later suspended the search when they could not see him.

They waited for a few days. The following Thursday, they returned to Agen Allwedd. The search team consisted of ten divers, including John Elliott, John Parker, & Colin Edmond, a diver who was from that region. This time around, they were going to the terminal sump where they last saw Roger. They took it upon themselves to search out the body and bring it back to the surface.

John Parker and Colin Edmond went into the cave while others waited at the surface. After a while, Colin returned to the surface after reaching the third sump, reporting that the visibility was still very poor. Parker continued the search alone. Parker had four air cylinders with him for the dive. He had gotten to the fourth sump and had laid more than 500 ft (152 m) of line, though he was still diving in poor visibility.

With all his efforts, Roger’s body was nowhere to be found. Parker also returned to the surface; it was just about three and a half hours after Colin surfaced. The ten divers all had a brief meeting and concluded that the search should be called off to avoid further risks. They had spent ten and a half hours in a fruitless search for a dear diving partner—Roger Solari.

Unfortunately, they could not retrieve Roger’s body from Agen Allwedd, and what had happened to him within the cave became a mystery to the cave diving community to date. One might think that he had been entangled and that was why he cut the line from the reel. All his diving buddies and the members of his cave community in South Wales, Yorkshire, and Ireland, where he had dived before, would sincerely miss the cheerful heart of Roger Solari.

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Who explored Agen Allwedd Cave in 1974?

Roger Solari and Martyn Farr explored Agen Allwedd Cave in 1974.

How long are the passageways in Agen Allwedd Cave?

The passageways in Agen Allwedd Cave are more than 20.2 miles (32.5 km) in length.

Are there any risks of flooding in Agen Allwedd Cave?

Yes, certain areas of the cave are prone to flooding, especially during the rainy season. Caution should be taken when exploring these areas.

What happened to Roger Solari during the exploration?

Roger encountered an unfortunate incident during the exploration of Agen Allwedd Cave in 1974. The details of what happened to him remain unknown.

Was Roger Solari’s body recovered?

No, Roger Solari’s body was not recovered from Agen Allwedd Cave. Despite search and rescue efforts, his fate remains a mystery to this day.

Rebecca Penrose
Rebecca, an experienced blogger, delves into the world of diving accidents, sharing insights, stories, and valuable lessons learned. Dive in and explore the depths of underwater safety.
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