October 14th, 2012
The crash report was now released, no, not of the Honister Slate Mine, which is still operating. The owner, entrepreneur Mark Weir (45), died half a year ago in a helicopter crash. He was flying regularly from the mine to his home south of Cockermouth. On this special day, 08-MAR-2012, he started despite challenging circumstances, reduced visibility and low clouds. When he crashed close to the mine, he died, and left a partner and three children.
Now the report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch was not able to solve the mystery of this accident. There was bad weather, there were serious airworthiness issues with the helicopter, and he did not hold a night-flying qualification. However, none of these could be directly linked to the cause of the accident.
October 14th, 2012
The Barbarossahöhle is a rather exceptional cave in central Germany. It is a gypsum cave, which make less than 1% of all show caves. It is also located in the former GDR, and was operated by staff which was payed by the state. After the Cold War and the end of the Socialism the cave was privatized and almost went corrupt, as it was impossible to pay guides all year – like before -, when there are no visitors during winter.
But the cave operator was able to transform the cave management, developed the cave which permitted higher entrance fees, and started professional marketing. In a country, where caves are operated by non-profit organizations, this is rather exceptional. Another step in this effort is obviously this little clip, produced as a commercial.
Its in German, but there is only one sentence. The slogan at the end means: “Barbarossa Cave, for the active…” The German word they use is “awake”, which explains why they show the sleeping Emperor Barbarossa, a legend told about the cave. See
September 22nd, 2012
We are used to small robotic 4WD roving Mars. Now and then there have been speculations about caves on Moon and Mars. In the last two years numerous possible cave entrances were identified on aerial photographs, so there is now the need for a robot which is much better than the current buggies. What we need is a robotic cave explorer, a RoboCaver.
Lately NASA has payed Astrobotic Technology $500,000 for the development of such a robot. This company is owned by Carnegie Mellon University robotics researcher William “Red” Whittaker, who is convinced he is able to build such a machine. He thinks he will test the first prototype on Moon caves in the next three years.
We were astonished. Tests on the Moon? How about exploring Earth caves first? Too difficult?
September 22nd, 2012
The UNESCO has selected four new Geoparks on their 11th European Geoparks Conference in Portugal last week. Geoparks are listed by the UNESCO in an international list, but they are national institutions. Geoparks are areas or regions with exceptional geology, and are developed by the Geopark (-authority) for tourism and education. So, a Geopark is actually a local organization which does its best to explain geology to people.
One of the four new Geoparks is Bakony-Balaton Geopark in Hungary. It is located south west of the Capital Budapest along the Balaton lake and covers a famous karst area with 700 caves, hundreds of sinkholes, and more than 1,600 springs. The showcave Tapolcai Tavasbarlang is actually a 9km long thermal-water formed maze below the town Tapolca, and there is a show mine named Ajkai Bányászati Múzeum some kilometers to the north.
While the Geopark is just starting to develop tourism by creating a facebook page (?) you can always trust in showcaves.com to provide sufficient information…
September 17th, 2012
I have updated the website at the weekend. As most countries are more or less complete, there is not much change any more. Mostly I add semi-wild caves or probably some show mines. Nevertheless the site has now reached 4001 entries. I guess it will grow rather slowly in the future.
There are still countries which are only partly listed on showcaves.com. The most important one is probably China. I was told there are several hundred show caves in China. To list them all I should probably split the country into provinces. But actually there is no chance at the moment to find out more, as all relevant publications are in Chinese. The bigger caves, which want abroad tourism, have websites, and with google translate I am able to understand at least a small part of those sites. But that’s a very slow and annoying work.
Nevertheless, the online information on show caves increased tremendously during the last few years. When I lately updated the page on Grotta di S. Giovanni di Domusnovas on Sardinia, Italy, I found dozens of pages with actual content. A few years ago there was not a single page.
This has actually two consequences, a good and a not so good one:
- it is nice to find good data on the web and to be able to update my pages with high quality input.
- showcaves.com is no longer the only site with those infos.
Nevertheless I think the concept, to collect data of a high quality and provide overviews on countries and karst areas will still be helpful in the future. After all, most homepages are concentrating on a single cave, so we will not be able to cope with them in details, pictures, and actuality, but we offer other info helpful for the traveler.
September 17th, 2012
Actually I am still reading the news, and I will post any show cave or show mine related news to this blog. But I think there is nothing new at the moment, no new show cave planned, nothing which qualifies for the blog. So I will add a little miscellaneous stuff…
January 1st, 2012
Bluegrass Underground 2012 is actually a series of concerts held underground in Cumberland Caverns. It uses the huge chamber called Volcano Room, where stage and stairs are erected. The events are broadcast on Bluegrass Underground TV and on the web.
For more info see their website or search YouTube.
March 27th, 2011
At the moment there is an exhibition at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Natural History of Vienna), organized by the Cave and Karst Department. It is called Höhlen – Landschaften ohne Licht (Caves-Landscapes Without Light) and show the cave images of the most famous cave photographers. The exhibition shows stalactites and stalagmites, interactive installations, short presentatiosn of current research projects, an audiovisual room, an introduction into the drinking water system of Vienna, and an overview of the 28 show caves of Austria.
The exhibition was opened 29-SEP-2010 and will end in summer 2012.
March 27th, 2011
In May a 3D photo exhibition with the name Underground of Enchantment will open at the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center. It shows 3d pictures of Lechuguilla Cave, located in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Many of the photographs are from David De Roest, a Belgian photographer who specializes in 3D images. But there are also pictures of microbiologists working on discoveries from the cave as well as photographs from other caves.
Underground of Enchantment will open Saturday 07-MAY-2011, at the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center and will run through the summer. In autumn the exhibit will travel around New Mexico, Colorado and West Texas for 10 months. During summer 2012 the exhibit will be shown in the Visitor Center of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
March 27th, 2011
The newest novel in the Ayla series of author and archaeologist Jean M. Auel is named The Land of Painted Caves. The book is intended as the final novel of the series, the sixth and last installment, and tries to fix all the open ends.
The Earth’s Children series started with The Clan of the Cave Bear more than 30 years ago. It tells the story of the Cro Magnon girl Ayla which looses his parents in an earthquake and is adopted by a clan of neanderthals. But soon Ayla discovers that she is different and she has to leave the clan. Living in exile she makes friend with a horse and a dog, then she meets a Cro Magnon man from France, and travels with him across Europe meeting different cultures until they finally reach the Vezere river in France with its high population and culture. The newest book tells about her family life, the culture and believes of the people 20,000 years ago in the Dordogne.
What Auel does is simple: she uses the archaeologic knowledge to construct the background, then she tells all the details in a stirring story. As a result the readers learn a lot about the Palaeolithic while reading a novel. This strategy is actually not new, it was used by British historians in books about the Middle Ages, like Ivanhoe or books on the King Arthur legend. Inspired by such historic novels, the first novel of a stone age story was Rulaman by David Friedrich Weinland.
Much of the details in such books are speculation, we actually do not know about the religious belief of that time, we just interpret the findings with the knowledge from anthropologic examinations of still existing stone age cultures. So the book is actually a speculation. And as it is a vehicle to explain archaeologic knowledge, Ayla the heroine is the one who makes all the new inventions of the era, inventing the needle with a hole, domestication of animals, hunting techniques, and much more. Probably a drawback to the story, but a great way to speculate how important inventions were made.