CAVING , SPELEOLOGY : History, Science, Method & More (PART 2)


If in the 17th  and 18th century  caves were explored by adventure, officially Speleology was born in the 19th century for the work of science by Eduard –Alfred Martel. In 1866, his father, a paleontologist took him to Hahn Cave in Belgium when he was 7 years. The impact of the visit to the beautiful cave was very strong that he was wiling to make cave and its environment as study object for his future carrier. He visited caves in Pyrenes, Suis, Italy in vacation and he was graduated his geography study from university in 1877 as the best graduate.

Without no one guiding him, he created discipline and tidy method and changed method to explore cave. After experimenting for 5 years , since 1888, trying various method and equipments, he held Caving campaign. On every summer, he would go with his fellas, two carts of equipments and logistics, and camera. Villagers passed by them thought that they were circus troupe. Later when they knew that they went to explore cave, they became amazed and call them as Satan conqueror.


When they faced sinks, his fellas assisted him systematically setting stakes of iron and tied rope around the hole, that no one pass this and fall to the sink.Pulleys are set. They wear uniform that they designed with many pockets in a model of coverall (workpack) resembled pilot or mechanic. He put various tools in the pockets such as whistle, 6 big candles, magnesium rod, lighter, flint, hammer, 2 knives, measurer, 2 thermometers, pencils, compass, notebook, first aid kit box, chocolate candies, a bottle of rum, and French soldier telephone her carried on his back. He used rope safety system. He tied rope on his body to descend or ascend stairs and this method is still used as basic principle.

He stepped on Rabanel sink, 233 meters,  nearby Marseille, France. For 45 minutes he was hung on 90 meters height and spinning in the darkness, his fellas assisted him to fix the problem immediately.


To measure the depth of a sink he should count the difference barometric pressure between the bottom and the upper part. Horizontal distance was measured using tape measure. He made sketch on cave he visited. He did smart measurement to measure cave ceiling height. He made a paper balloon, and he attached sponge containing alcohol. Sponge then lit. The hot air inside the balloon lift balloon that is attached with rope. When balloon reached the ceiling, he measured the rope to know the height from floor accurately.

Speleology base as a science are mapping and measure the size of cave. In the modern era this could be done by compass, clinometers (to measure degree of floor flatness and ceiling height), barometer and metal measure tape. Using teodolit is possible but this tool can not be used optimally in dark situation, moreover if one should measure very low , winding , watery and narrow tunnel. The more modern way is using cave radio, a transmitter and receiver tool. Speleologists have certain system to record data in cave, natural formations as stalactite, stalagmite, river and then parse those data into speleologic cave map.

carbonic acid substances and oxygen are measured in a specific tool. Acidity of water is determined on Ph meter. Those are needed as additional data for studying life in cave.  Complex taking picture method using double lighting used to record cave visual. Geiger counter is used to record radioactive contains inside the cave. Sampling method is used to analyze minerals, sediment, organism and water.

Method to track water using rhodamin, flourescin, isotop, Lycopodium spora,  to determine the direction of river stream to analyze hydrology. Water tracking method often shows clue on unknown caves. Seismic method can determine underground chamber. Radiometric and isotopic analysis on stalactite and stalagmite can be used to determine climate in the past (until 300.000 years ago).


More than 80 minerals discovered in carst cave. Calsit, gypsum, aragonite, geothit and birnesit are often found.


Guano is bat’s, swallow’s feces living in cave and the best natural fertilizer. Insects digested by birds or bats consist of chitin that can no be digested that is rich of phosphor. Bat’s urine is rich of nitrogen. Fresh guano of bats contains 12% nitrogen and 2%phosphor.

Decomposition of guano created various minerals and final results of guano reaction with Calsit mineral is phosphate.
If we learn stalactite and stalagmite in cave, we would consider how long it took to grow 1 cm. The answer is not easy as one region to another stalactite-stalagmite growth depends on annual climate cycle. In tropical region, where rainfall is high and soil on carst contains CO2 in the form of humus, that the growth rapid is faster than desert which has less rainfall, and shortage of organic material as CO2 source. Stalactite and stalagmite consist of carst sediment CaCO3 precipitated by rainfall carries the carst sediment. The sediment then dissolved as rain contains carbonic acid in organic matters (humus contains roots, decaying leaves, dead animals and so on) that are passed creating Carbonate Acid (H2CO3). This carbonate acid dissolve carst, CaCO3, as demonstrated in lab. Even marble, the hardest Calcsit mineral can be dissolved by this carbonate acid. And then created CaHCO3. Inside the cave this solution releases (diffusion) CO2 into the cave, while water will drop to the tunnel tat sometimes the humidity can reach up to 100%. The precipitated material CaCO3 creates stalactite, stalagmite and various cave decorations. According to research, stalactite-stalagmite grow less than 2 mm a year and sometimes only 1/10 mm, when there is no rainfall. We can imagine how many years it takes to grow 1 cm of stalactite-stalagmite.

Scientists make research on animals living in cave. Since 19th century, biologists study wide range of animals to determine genus, species and name the animals, analysis their life cycle, behavior, food cycle. And as the anatomy of animals in cave are distinct than on surface,  scientist are also interested to study the evolution of them, Cave is an ideal evolution lab. Anatomic differences are adapted to different function as the dark environment. Eye degeneration yields in more sensitive features on sense of touch.  Scientists use electron microscope to study the structures. They also undertake genetic s biology and molecular biology to the animals.

Speleogenesis is theory of the formation of cave. Cave is formed from various process:

  1. Lava Cave: formed by lava flow
  2. Littoral Cave : formed by water flow
  3. Fissure Cave : formed by cracking rock
  4. Salt Cave : formed inside salt layer
  5. Tallus CaveL
  6. Sand Stone Cave
  7. Glacier Cave
  8. Carst Cave is the most studied cave.


International  speleologists who are popular are Davis (1930), Daviss(1860), Grund(1903), Swinnerton(1932), Bogli (1970). They raced to convey their theories.

  1. There is no cave that is formed in simple way through a uniform process. Every cave always contains of components formed in different ways.
  2. Initially cave was formed by carst dissolving mechanism by carbonate acid under water surface, This process is known as chemistry erosion or also called as corrosion , that created phreatic tunnels full on water.
  3. The next process is the decline of water surface and then water from surface enters phreatic tunnel that starts to be empty. Surface water blends with sand, mud, gravel widen the cracks and phreatic tunnel mechanically. This is called as Corrasion process.
  4. Combination of corrosion and corrassion continue cave forming as the surface water descends until phreatic tunnel is dry, empty. This tunnel is called a fossil tunnel. That is how stalactite and stalagmite grow.