Speleology (from the Greek. Spélaion – cave and lógos – word, doctrine) – a complex science, a branch of natural science engaged in a comprehensive study of caves – their geological origin, morphology, mineralization, microclimate, composition and properties of cave waters. As well as the organic world of caves (including speleofauna), the remains of an ancient material culture and modern practical use.
Speleology, as a branch of geology, namely karstology, mineralogy and hydrogeology, studies natural caves – their origin, evolution, age, morphology, mineralogy, ecosystem, hydrogeological and microclimatic features of the caves, their modern and ancient fauna, enclosing rocks.
The unreasonably wide application of the concept of “speleology” has come into fashion in Russia: the word “speleology” is often understood not only as a science that studies caves, but also sports tourism associated with the passage of caves. In fact, they should be distinguished: caving is a science, and sports and tourist destinations associated with visiting caves, as well as activities for organizing underground excursions for the general public, are related to caving. In English, these concepts are strictly separated: scientific speleology – speleology, sports – caving. The concept of speleology should not be confused with the so-called spelestology – the study of man-made underground structures: quarries, adits, urban communications. So-called “diggers” go to urban underground facilities, in particular to the sewer.
From the history of the study of caves
The first mention of karst phenomena in Russia is contained in the book of the Arab traveler Ahmed Ibn-Fadlan about his journey to the Volga in 921-922. Describing the territory of the Volga Bulgars, he notes the “bottomless” lakes: “… And these are three lakes, of which two are large and one is small. However, of all of them there is not one whose bottom would be achievable. ” These round-shaped lakes are known as Chistoye, Kuryshevskoye, Ataman. They are located in the vicinity of. Three Lakes (Tatarstan) and can be attributed to the failed basins of complex genesis. The written statement of Ibn-Fadlan about the “bottomless” lakes is significantly ahead of time in the footnote of the unknown editor to the “Book of the Big Drawing”, which G. A. Maksimovich dates from 1689. This is the second written mention of karst in Russia and the first mention of ice caves.
In 1720, V.N. Tatishchev, visiting the vicinity of the city of Kungur indicated that the caves are the result of “breeding” (dissolution) and collapse of the rocks. In 1732, I.G. Gmelin visited the Kungur cave and drew up its plan. A great contribution to the formation of knowledge about the underworld was made by M.V. Lomonosov. He proved that the caves have a physicochemical nature, explained the formation of “scale” on the walls of the caves by precipitation of calcite from an aqueous solution, proposed Russian equivalents of the Latin terms “stalactite” and “stalagmite” (“upper droplet” and “lower droplet”), substantiated causes of air movement underground and the formation of cave ice. At the end of the XVIII century. organized in different areas of the Russian Empire organized by the project of M.V. Lomonosov academic expeditions. In the works of I.I. Lepekhina, N.P. Rychkova, P.S. Pallas provides information about many Volga (Bornukovskaya), Ural (Divya, Kapova), Caucasian (Failure), Crimean (Big Buzluk), Altai (Charysh) caves.
In the XIX century. With the opening of a large number of universities in Russia, cave research has been intensified. However, they are usually applied in nature. A more thorough study of the caves began in the 30s of the twentieth century.
The second half of the XX century. became the era of great speleological discoveries. A large role in them was played by the development and improvement of technical means, tactics of overcoming various obstacles, special equipment, communications and life support during multi-day expeditions. Organizational achievements also played a large role: speleological unions and associations arose in more than a hundred countries of the world, in 1953-1997. Twelve International Speleological Congresses took place; in 1965, the International Union of Speleologists (MSS) was created. The growth of speleological discoveries was accompanied by a no less rapid growth in the number of scientific publications that described the results of research, made regional and theoretical generalizations. The collective work of cavers of all continents led to an understanding of the unity of the underworld, its high environmental vulnerability. Caves possess not only amazing attractive qualities, but also the ability to accumulate and store a variety of information about the natural conditions of the past. As the Czech archaeologist K. Sklenges aptly remarked, caves are the “petrified memory” of mankind. To use this information, read the stone annals, save it for posterity can only people directly working underground, that is, cavers.