Speleology is the science dedicated to studying the natural cavities of the earth’s subsoil , that is, caverns, caves and underground water courses . It is a discipline that is part of geomorphology , although there are also those who associate it with a sport or recreational practice, known as caving.
However, it is not only the recreational or sporting aspect that interests speleology, since its journey through caves, grottoes and other subterranean formations provides enormous amounts of information to hydrogeology, geography , biology and even archeology and paleontology . At the same time, there is lifesaving in the cave Communication” in the 1960s. The historical context, known as speleosocorro .
As can be seen, speleology is a complex field of practical and theoretical knowledge (especially geological, geochemical and geobiological) in which complex topographic descriptions are carried out and all kinds of underground discoveries are cataloged: minerals, life forms ( especially animal and microscopic), fossil findings, etc.
Its formal practice began in 1895 , when French lawyer and nature enthusiast Édouard-Alfred Martel (1859-1938), considered the father of the discipline, founded the French Speleological Society.
Since then it has been carried out throughout the world and with great interest, since the depths of the earth’s crust are still little known by humanity . Some prominent names in this discipline were the French volcanologist Haroun Tazieff (1914-1998), the Spanish geologist Noel Llopis Lladó (1911-1968) and the Ukrainian speleologist Guennadi Samojin.
What does speleology study?
Caves are often a microcosm of ecology , therefore those with a professional interest in the biological sciences such as zoology, botany , mycology , entomology also pursue speleology in order to examine native plants and species . of animals that grow and thrive within a cave system.
Speleologists could also study how the resources found within the caverns can be exploited or examine how they might have formed there. They may also work as cartographers , developing maps for caves used for either recreational or tourist use , in order to create the safest route through a cave to ensure its safety .
At the beginning, the people who visited the caves were looking for objects for their own benefit and not to improve knowledge. These pioneers of cave travel were the travelers and explorers of the 16th century. The search to improve and acquire more knowledge that occurred in Europe during the Enlightenment was in charge of giving each aspect of nature greater importance in the natural environment, which made some scientists of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century investigate and carry out studies about the caves for the first time.
Improvements in the lives of the rising bourgeoisie and the migration of the rural population to the cities increased interest in sport and the environment . Naturalists arose , groups of young people who showed interest in the environment.
By the late 19th and early 20th centuries , science specialization had grown and improved, and geologists , biologists , and archaeologists had already begun to study the caves. This caused the need for an interdisciplinary approach to study them, with the aim of studying the structures more deeply. Then the term “caving” came to be Chinese . In addition, it was used to define the scientific study of caves , along with the basic specialization of scientists. The birth of speleology was led by Édouard Alfred Martel, which made the first forays into caves and founded in 1895 the first Speleological Society in France .
What is it for
Speleology is a science that serves to carry out studies on caves and caverns , their morphology and topography . It also serves to classify underground discoveries that have to do with the area of geology or biology . It is used to study the different natural phenomena in order to obtain information about how our ancestors lived and the evolution of species of living beings.
Types of Speleology
Depending on its context and, therefore, its practices, speleology can be classified into:
- Karst caving. That which is carried out in large underground cavities, usually generated by the activity of water in the most soluble rock massifs (limestone or dolomite), or in gypsum, saline massifs or even under glaciers. Its name comes from the Slovenian word kars , which refers to the stony and barren land, typical of cold latitudes .
- Volcanic caving. That which takes place in volcanic cavities, that is, those created by volcanic magma during eruptions or violent tectonic movements, or by displacements of materials from volcanic regions, which give rise to the so-called “lava tubes”. Contrary to kars , these underground cavities are usually less steep and drier and warmer, but at the same time made of more complicated and rougher materials.
- cave diving That which takes place in flooded or underwater caves, that is, diving in submerged caves. It is the most Each type of memory has its own operation, although all of them cooperate to carry out a complete memorization process. This is complex and challenging practice of speleology, and one of the riskiest activities in underground study, which requires complex and specialized equipment, as well as specialists both in speleology and in the practice of underwater work.
Preserves underground resources , focuses on the study of rock types, lithic industry samples , ceramic remains , paleo-anthropological studies , the formation of cavities and chasms , the different spelothems , including the relationship of man with caves.
Material and equipment for speleology
To carry out caving explorations, the following equipment is necessary:
- Jumpsuits – These are usually made of polyester or polyamide.
- Gloves: made of PVC.
- Boots : made of rubber called wells.
- Harnesses : that provide confidence and security.
- Chest Harness: Provides stability.
- Bagas or anchor ropes.
- Descenders : it can be simple or with brake.
- Blockers : the most used are the “fists” and the “crawl.
- Hulls : with electric “led” lighting or with mixed lighting (electric + acetylene ).