CAVING , SPELEOLOGY : History, Science, Method & More (PART 1)

There is no official written record about when people start to explore cave. From old remains, and food remains, human bones and painting on cave wall, which can be found in Europe, Africa and America, can be concluded that human has been familiar to cave, and cave was even used to protect themselves, to settle, and used as shrine since thousand years ago. Primitive human, Pithecanthropus had been recognized cave.

Mythology from counties tells that several gods, saints, and heroes live in cave. Zeus, Greek god was born in cave. Amatarasu, god of sun from Japan hid in a cave to create darkness on earth. People thought that cave is where ghost, dwarf, dragon, snake, flying horse, tuyul, golden goat and gendruwo live.

Eternal darkness of cave is full of unknown danger, chamber with weird shapes as never seen, anf it is more spooky and strange by moving torch light, sound of eternal quietness, the drop of water and river in distance, echoes of falling stones, rumble of invisible waterfall, sound of bats that fly in a sudden, and wide floor that ends to a valley, tunnel that gets narrower suddenly, creating strong emotions to every cave explorer.

Caving is recorded as an activity in the 17th century, by John Beaumont, a surgeon from Somerset, England, that later became mining expert and amateur geologist. In 1674, he was recorded as the first who did potholing, when he was with 6 miners, equipped with candles went down to 20 meters vertical cave and found 80 m X 3 m and 10 m height. He reported this discovery to Royal Society. Beaumont crawled into the tunnel depth for 100 meters. He stopped at an edge of a very deep and wide valley that candle could not lit up the bottom, ceiling or even the walls of the valley. His companions were afraid to go down. Beaumont asked them to be released downward after he tied his body with rope. Few meters from the mouth, the cave wall he stepped on was collapsed. He was hanging on the air and the rope was twisting, that he asked the rope to be released to the botoom. He reached the bottom , safely, but dizzy, 25 meters from the mouth. The diameter of the chamber was 40 meters, the height was 40 meters and he found abundant of plumbum.

Baron Johann Valsavor from Slovenia was the most meritorious person in describing caves between 1670 to 1680. He had visited 70 caves, made elaborate writing about what he had seen, completed with sketch, map, comment and finally published in 4 edition with 2.800 pages. Though he made the length longer for he did not measure with tool, but he estimated the distance, that the tunnel that he reported for 6 miles was actually only ½ mile, his book is easy to understand and very valuable. For his service, he was rewarded as the Fellow of Royal Society London.

Joseph Nagel, a mathematician, was ordered by palace in 1747 to explore and map cave system of big caves in Austro-Hungary kingdom. For his service he was rewarded to be palace Mathematician with his main duty was to watch scientific collections of the palace and the promoted as physician in Vienna University.

The first cave explored recorded was in 1818 when Caesar Hababurg Francis I from Austria visited Adelsberg Cave (currently the name became Postojna cave located in Yogoslavia). After the Caesar visit, a businessman Josip Jersinovic, local official, made the cave more accessible with lighting and visitors could buy ticket to enter the cave. Bridge, stairs and better walkway of 4 km deeper in the cave drew thousands of visitors.

Jersinovic knew the danger of vandalism by visitors that would damage the cave for decoration. Therefore he formed committee to manage every aspect of cave management. Gate with a lock was built. Torch emitted smoke is shifted to candle and oil lamp as cleaner light source. Visitors should fill guest book, buy ticket and should be accompanied by guide.

In 1897, the committee of the cave built railway inside the cave. Small train with two seats initially should be pushed by cave guide. The commercialization of the cave received criticism in 1881 in The New York Times, that the beauty of nature was over used for profit.

The first cave guide who was meritorious in developing speleology was Stephen Bishop. He was a mulatto slave. In the age of 17 he was employed by Franklin Gorin, a lawyer who bought a land nearby Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, USA. Now mammoth is including in the World Heritage for the effort of International Union of Speleology in 1981-1983.

In that period, only a bit parts of the cave known. Stephen Bishop was an ideal guide. He was brave, enthusiast for his job, dedicated, persistent and diligent. He could explain about geography, history, literature, Greek mythology and geology. A visitor wrote that none of the visitors of Mammoth could forget the personality of Bishop who knows every single part of the cave elaborately. Hen Bishop has spare time, he explored parts of the cave he had not known. Bishop found styx. In the first year as a guide, he lengthened the distance exploration. Publication on new findings about the cave drew visitors more and more. Gorin was getting richer and two other slaves were employed after trained by Bishop. With raft, Styx was able to be sailed by visitors.

But Stephen as the guide became the main attraction for visitors. Firstly, because as they could not imagine how could a slave could be so smart, intelligent, and charming. His stamina is something that can not be separated from Mammoth cave. He carried a visitor who was exhausted for 6 miles, looked for a visitor who was lost, hit his head on a rock and then faint for 43 hours. Within a year, visitors came in large amount. Wooden small inns were built by Gorin. Finally Gorin sold his land, cave, inns, and slaves to a rich doctor from Louisville in 1839.

In 1850, Mammoth cave became the rival of Niagara Fall in its popularity, when 226 giant tunnels, 47 high domes, 23 wells, 2 rivers (Styx and Echo) and 8 waterfalls. 4 buildings were built for hotel and 16 bungalows. In 1857 Stephen died, one year after he was freed from slavery, in the age of 36. Franklin Gorin, his first master remembered him as a self learner, a genius, a humorous, knows Latin, Greek, geology, but the most prominent was his ability to get along and know human soul.

Handbook of Himpunan Kegiatan Speleologi Indonesia