Version francaise //
HISTORIC PICTURES //
The French lawyer Edouard Alfred Martel is often called "the father of
modern speleology". Between 1888 and 1914, Martel organized annual
campaigns to explore the subterranean world of Europe. Many of the
nowadays world famous tourist caves were first explored by Martel and his
crew: In France Bramabiau,
Armand. On Mallorca the Cuevas
del Drach, in England the abyss of Gaping
In an impressive number of publications - his
quotes some 1000 titles - Martel made the new science "speleology" known to a
wider public. At the end of the last century, Martel's books became best-sellers
and essential for any well-stocked library. Today they are treasured collector's
items, rarely to be found in the antique market. These WWW pages give you the
chance to study Martel's writings (probably the first published English
translation of most of his reports) and to have a look at fascinating pictures
from these early days of cave science.
1888Martel's exploration of the underground river of
Bramabiau on the 27th June, 1888, is considered to mark
the birth date of modern speleology in France. Supported by a team of
assistants and friends, Martel succeeded in making the first
through-crossing of the plateau de Camprieu at the foot of the Mount
Aigoual in Southern France, tracing the path of the subterranean stream
Bonheur through lakes and waterfalls.
For Martel, the crossing of Bramabiau marked the beginning of one of the most
astonishong scientific careers at the turn of the century. During the next 25
years, Martel explored in annual campaigns most of the cave regions in France.
Using sophisticated equipment he challenged the deepest potholes of his time,
descending into shafts up to 160 metres deep.
The lively reports of Martel's expeditions became bestsellers and essential
for every well-stocked library. Extracts from his most famous books LES CEVENNES
(1888) and LES ABIMES (1894) in the English translations are just a
mouse-click away from you!
1889Padirac, an impressive shaft in the Causse de Gramat near
the Dordogne river, is "bottomed" for the first time by Martel and his
crew. At a depth of 100 metres, they discovered an underground streamway.
Martel and his cousin Gaupillat continued the exploration in a collapsible
dinghy for about 2 kilometres. //
from LES ABIMES (1894)
1895Martel's field of research is enlarged, and new
expeditions abroad are launched. The highlights of his travel to Ireland
and England are the exploration of Marble Arch Cave in Northern Ireland
and the first descent down the 110 metres main shaft of Gaping Gill. His
description of the descent in the // Annual
Report of the Club Alpin is worth reading!
Invited by the Archduke Ludwig Salvator - a cousin of the Austrian
Emperor Franz Joseph - Martel and his factotum Louis Armand explore the
island's underground structure. In the Cueva del Drach near Porto Christo
they discover the greatest underground lake known at that time. Their
enthusiasm and astonishment is well-reflected in their report in Annales du
Louis Armand reaches the bottom of a shaft (which is
later named after him) and discovers a huge chamber with real a dripstone
jungle. In 1927 the Aven Armand is opened to the public and becomes one of
the most important tourist attractions in the region.
Exploration of Europe's largest gorge, the Grand Canyon du Verdon.
Nowadays a busy tourist site, this place was nearly unknown at the
beginning of the century. In his book LA FRANCE
IGNOREE (1928) Martel gives a detailled report of the first
"through-trip" in this white water dungeon.
What makes Martel's reports special is the extraordinary iconography. His
archives held thousands of photographs and drawings. The paintings of
his friend Lucien Rudaux are real pieces of art, which you may download (and
reprint in your caving journal, if you want - but please send a copy to Bernd
Kliebhan, Burgweg 15, D-35516 Muenzenberg. For commercial use please contact me).
Martels Forschungskampagnen/annual campaigns //
Schauhöhlen/tourist caves //
The story of E.A.MARTEL on DVD
You want to know more about the "Father of Modern Speleology"?
ultimate documentary film about E.A.MARTEL's underground adventures:
Journey into Darkness
a film by Bernd Kliebhan (1995 hr/ARTE). Available on DVD for 19 EUR + shipping in
English, French and German versions. Send your order to Bernd Kliebhan, Burgweg 15, D-35516 Muenzenberg
- email: bernd (at) kliebhan.de.