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Introduction to Speleology

Introduction, basic concepts and history

Sunday 1 January 2017, by Imeru Alfonzo Hernandez

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The exploration of caves and their study constitute the foundation of speleology. This activity, scientific - sporting, arises as such at the end of the 19th century in France, and the term is coined by the French explorer EA Martel (Dematteis, 1975) and later formally employed in writings by Emile Rivière (Pérez-Ramírez, 1982) . It extends through Europe in a few years and in the early twentieth century to America. This activity in its sportive aspect, offers impressive adventures in nature, since over the course of a weekend or in just one day, the spelunker can feel moved to a world as remote as may be the abyssal depths or the lunar surface .

On the other hand, scientific activities in the caves make important contributions within various specialties, such as Bio-Peleology, Geospeleology, Espeleoanthropology, Hydrospeleology, Physical Speleology, Speleopaleontology, Speleophysiology, etc. It is indisputable that the speleologist is a scientist and athlete; must have a minimum physical conditions to face the rigors of the underground world, since in the depths can be found from the comfortable horizontal caves to deep chasms or complex labyrinth systems. There are all kinds of cavities that require different levels of preparation and experience. The practice of this sport requires a greater degree of mental preparation. Isolation in an environment where both temporal and spatial references are lost, and the certainty of being sometimes very far from the exit in total darkness psychologically affect the explorer if you are not prepared for it.

In complicated explorations, knowledge, self-sufficiency and team spirit are fundamental, since the underground world can be fantastic or terrible according to the preparation or predisposition of the spelunker.

Basic concepts

There are some words commonly used in speleology, in the following list are appended those frequently used within a basic exploratory project, some of these concepts will be expanded in later sections.

Karst: Variable and irregular terrain, formed by soluble, fractured or semi-fractured rocks with good permeability. They are usually calcareous areas or with abundant carbonates, although they also exist in areas of more resistant rocks such as sandstones and quartzites, called pseudokasrt.

Speleology: Science and activity that aims to study and explore caves.

Cave: Underground cavity of natural origin. Product of the circulation of water or fluids, current or past that erodes to the encajante rock and generates a hollow of important extension or at least accessible by a human being.

Grotto: Natural or artificial cavity with limited penetration.

Shelter: Place partially covered by rocks that protects to some degree from the climate.

Sima: Vertical cavity of important development. (synonym of Haitón, local name they receive in Sierra de Falcón, Venezuela)

Sink: Oquedad, cave or chasm where the water of the cause of the rivers disappears for an underground journey.

Resurgence: Oquedad or cave where the water appears after having made an underground tour, this is known hypogeal travel.

Development: Total length of the horizontal projection of the course of a cave.

Elevation: Difference of elevation or depth that a cave has with respect to its main mouth, level 0.

Locality Karstica: Place or geographical extension in which the rocky outcrops where the cavities develop are located.

Limestone: Non-clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate (CaCO3)

Marble: Metamorphic equivalent of limestone, very compact and crystalline.

Sandstone: Classical sedimentary rock composed of detrital grains between 1/16 mm to 2 mm in diameter and siliceous cement. Its most common component is quartz.

Meteorización: Set of external processes (physical and / or chemical) that cause the decomposition and petrological alteration of the superficial rocks.

(C) 2007-2018 Imerú Alfonzo Hernández, All rights reserved, you can use the texts and images presented in this article, provided that the original source is cited.