Development of speleotourism

History of speleotourism

One of the centers of the birth of caving is France, she also became the undisputed leader in the popularization of this science and sport (here unwillingly begs the analogy with J.-I. Cousteau, also a Frenchman). Books by renowned speleologists Edouard Alfred Martel and Norbert Castere were published in huge numbers; the whole of France was closely following the course of Michel Sifr’s months-long underground experiments; state and military assistance played an important role in “record” expeditions. And in other countries, too – for example, the United States, Bulgaria – speleologists have often made the front pages of newspapers and television screens, becoming no less famous than movie stars, astronauts, and politicians.

In the USSR were organized institutes of karstology and speleology: All-Russian – in Perm and local – in Ufa (both on a voluntary basis), a speleological station in Kungur, the karst and speleological commission of the Geographical Society of the Russian Federation in St. Petersburg. Karst and speleological research is coordinated by the Commission on Karst and Speleology (with the main leadership in Perm), which is subordinated to the Scientific Council on Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation. In Moscow and in other Russian cities, speleological sections are organized, united by the Central Section of speleotourism under the TSSR.

Unfortunately, despite this, speleology, especially after the beginning of Perestroika, in our country was in the position of stepdaughter: the official sports and tourism authorities not only persecuted it, but also not encouraged. As a result, the younger generation knows about speleology, even of the recent past, only by hearsay, and therefore is not immune from repeating the mistakes of others. Plus they use inaccurate and outdated maps and schemes of the caves and are little aware of the details of their passage and description. Finally, the rest of the country’s population, who read with interest about the conquerors of peaks and poles, is deprived of the opportunity to become acquainted with the remarkable achievements of our speleotourists and the fascinating adventures of exploring the Earth’s bowels.

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The main difficulty of speleotourist trips is in passing the underground routes, due to the great diversity of the cave relief – (wells, blockages, narrow cracks, underground rivers, etc.).

As a rule, a speleological route consists of two parts – above-ground and underground. The complexity and conditions of passing the first part (on foot, on skis, by boat or by any other means), as well as its duration depend on the location of the cave, its remoteness from settlements, the complexity of approaches, the time of year, etc. The second part is characterized by the category of complexity, which is determined mainly by the relief and length of the caves and the climatic conditions in them.

The karst caves of the Republic of Bashkortostan have been known to the local population since ancient times. They are often mentioned in the Bashkir folk epos, and the first written information about the caves of the Southern Urals can be found in the travel notes of Arab merchants (XIII century). The beginning of the purposeful exploration and study of caves in Bashkiria probably dates back to the second quarter of the 18th century, when in 1734 an expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences, headed by I.K. Kirillov, was sent to the Urals to study its natural conditions (Kudryashov I.K. History of karst exploration in Bashkiria // Notes of the Bashkir Branch of the Geographical Society of the USSR. Vol.2. Ufa, 1960). During the routes of this expedition in 1760-1774 the first 12 caves of Bashkiria were described.

Later, during the next two centuries, speleological studies were not carried out independently, but along with the geographical study of the Southern Urals and Pre-Urals. As a result, about 45 caves were explored and described by different scientific and industrial organizations by the middle of the 50-s, and the total number of caves known in 1960 reached 100 (Sokolov Yu.V. To the History of Bashkirian Cave Studies // Svet. Bulletin of the Kiev karst speleological center. №2(4). Kiev. 1992). Since the 1960’s, when the special groups and sections of cave explorations were organized by the universities, industrial and tourist organizations of Bashkiria, the speleological investigations became more systematic. Since then the caving science of Bashkiria began its independent development. Already in 1978, i.e. in less than 20 years, about 350 caves were explored in Bashkortostan, including 187 – in carbonate rocks and 63 – in sulphate rocks. In 10 years (by the end of 1988) the number of the known caves in Bashkortostan has increased to 478, and as of January 1, 1999, to 696.

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The caves of the Southern Urals and Pre-Urals have been studied for different purposes. They were investigated by archaeologists, hydrogeologists, geologists, biologists and other specialists. JSC “Bashkirgeologiya” for a number of years examined the caves in order to assess the suitability of their use in the national economy (Martin, Bagaeva, Alekseev, Malov, Smirnov). Meanwhile, for all the variety of studies, the main part of the caves was discovered, examined and described by speleologists-tourists.

In general, the history of cave exploration in the Southern Urals and Pre-Urals can be divided into two main stages, each of which is subdivided into separate periods:


Speleology – “mountaineering on the contrary”, but not only – mountains and snow, underground rivers, waterfalls, rocks and wells, ringing of metal equipment and light of carbide lamp, heart that beats as if it is about to jump out of chest, blue-blue during the day, but shrilly black and very starry night sky in the mountains, hands freezing in the stream of underground waterfall and sunset shining on the waves of warm sea…

Speleology can be seen as a type of sports tourism or a scientific section, but in one way or another it is associated with expeditions. They are the brightest and most interesting side of speleology.

Participation in expeditions requires some preparation – theoretical, technical and physical. You can get it in caving clubs (many, by the way, operate at universities). In some schools and palaces of creativity there are children’s speleo-sections. Classes, most often, are free. For training and first trips may be provided equipment. Over time, however, you will have to buy their own, as well as dumped on the club / expedition equipment.

History of speleotourism

Speleology – from the Latin “ѕreleo” (Greek “ѕrelaion”) – cave. The science of caves. This term was introduced in 1890 by the French explorer E. Rivera. Tourism – from the French “tourism” – a walk, a trip.

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In the XVII-XVIII centuries, man again began to take a closer look at the caves – still a small cross, but already with a clear interest. The wave of geographical research and the development of natural history also pushed the purposeful collection of information about caves, especially the most accessible ones. Shepherds and hunters, treasure hunters and adventurers, geographers and colonizers, adventurers and solitary explorers – these were the main suppliers of scarce information about caves in that distant time. But gradually in many countries, not only in Europe, but also in Asia, and the New World appear quite scientific descriptions, the first maps of caves. In Russia we find references to caves and the processes occurring in them already in the works of M.V. Lomonosov:

“Rain water filters through the mountain insides and carries with it minerals, and enters into these cavities through squeezing and dripping, leaving such an amount of stone material in them that it fills all these cavities in a few time.

In one phrase – almost the entire karst process: dissolution of rocks and redeposition of dissolved minerals in the form of speleothem decoration!

In 1723, the first world record related to cave research was recorded. In the Macocha Abyss in Bohemia the first explorers reached a depth of -138 metres below the level of the entrance. A quarter of a millennium ago!

In the 19th century the spearhead of speleological research reached Italy. Within two years the world depth record was surpassed twice. (1840 in the Padriciano Cave: -226 m, 1841 at the Trebic Abyss, depth -329 m!).

By this time speleology is spreading all over the world – from Australia to America. While it is still just speleology – caves are studied, everything is unknown in them. Each penetration into the mysterious and hostile to humans underground world requires a fair amount of courage explorers. Especially when it comes to descending into vertical chasms. After all, there is nothing – no nylon ropes, no steel cables, much less special facilities for the descent and ascent on them. There is no talk about special clothes and lighting. The arsenal of pioneers is a hemp rope and a ladder with wooden steps – not much for caving research! [13]

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As for Russia, by the beginning of XX century became known only those caves that, apparently, it was simply impossible not to notice. These are Kungurskaya and Kapova in the Urals, Balaganskaya on the Angara in Siberia, Verteba in Podolia in Ukraine, Bakhardenskaya with its warm waters in Central Asia, Proval in the Caucasus, Big Buzluk in Crimea. The first half of XX century Russia was clearly not up to the caves. They are engaged in solitary explorers, small groups.

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