Speleology : a leisure, an adventure !

My daughter : Perrine © Photo Thierry Maillard.
Visit of Bugadou's cave at Reilhac, Lot, France.

in the neighbourhood...

Few people know that many places are unexplored in their neighbourhood. Some people go very high, other goes very far, but adventure is under our feet. Wonderfull natural creations are hidden in the deep of caves and swallowholes.

Speleo's pioneers :

The ancients told us, till now, some rather awfull stories. It's with many courage that people like E. A. Martel and his companions decide to explore swallowholes, at the end of the nineteenth century. Their self control had often prevented them to die, like when their boat turned upside down the Padirac's underground river : the candles put out, the 12 degrees water chilled them...

Rigging the rope © Photo Pierrot Dutarte.
Rigging the rope.
Swallow hole of Cavanies, Lot, France.

Today's methods :

Nowadays, suitable equipments and a good practice make easier the underground progression. Our national Federation, the FFS helps us distributing safety rules that every member should respect. By a continuous learning, we can identify the real risks : the beginner is afraid when he hangs on his rope 15 meters above the ground, but he doesn't worry when he comes near the edge of a well without been fasten. Therefore, the speleo is seldom alone, he relies on the other team members. (We don't leave the last !).

You don't need to be Superman :

Unlike what show us TV's films, you don't need necessarily to be Superman to progress on ropes. Under ground, it's not recommended. In squeezes, each centimeters of chest measurement (or paunch stomach) are paid with a proportional amount of perspiration. This athletic leisure doesn't give rise to competition. It wouldn't go well with the stillness of caves and safety.

Learning and training :

Learning caving need efforts. How many times, have I been blamed because I treaded on the rope or I durtied a stalagmite ! First of all, the beginner should become independent in horizontal and vertical advance. Afterwards, he will learn how to put bolt in the rock to equip it with ropes, at the end he should be able to rescue an injured member of his party. He should feel for him and for the others warning symptoms of illness and chill. He should detect if a caver is too knackered. He should keep in mind the other underground risks : flood and CO2...

Protect the caves :

We always have in mind to respect and to protect caves and their fauna (bats). The speleo is'nt a "va sous terre" as Georges Marbach said. An article of Spelunca , headed "The vandals are with us", about the havoc of the Crotot's river cave in the Doubs french department describes a bad sight. On a distance of more than one kilometer, the speleothems have been destroyed with a sledgehammer, the biggest were painted with gaudy colours...

Pollution © Photo Pierrot Dutarte.
Underground Pollution.
Swallow hole of Cavanies, Lot, France.

Preserve the environment :

Put the head underground isn't bury one's head in the sand. The pollution's affairs are numerous although the sheep farmers understand that holes shouldn't be taken for mass graves. As part of preservation of the environment, we've made an inventory of "origins of water pollution" at the requirement of region Midi Pyrénées of France. Therefore every year, we take a part in cleaning polluted caves in conjunction with the environnement's office.


Last update : 03/24/98 by Thierry MAILLARD
© Nobody is allowed to reproduce these pages without my permission.