What is Caving / Potholing?
Caving is a branch of earth science that deals with the study of caves. Speleo is derived from the Greek word spelaion (σπηλαιοv), meaning cave. While caving is a serious science, cave exploration also involves an element of sportsmanship, adventure and bravery.
Exploring caves, especially if they are still incompletely known, is certainly not without danger and requires skill and training. Sometimes the speleologists have to follow subterranean rivers where sections are completely submerged so that diving equipment is necessary.
We can compare caving as a sport with mountaineering, because the same techniques and materials are used to a large extent
Three types of caves can be distinguished:
The largest and most common are limestone caves. These caves are created by the action of water in small hairline cracks in the limestone soil. Carbon dioxide has dissolved in rain and river water. This produces carbon dioxide through a chemical reaction. The calcium carbonate in limestone combines very easily with carbonated water. Due to this succession of chemical reactions and the erosive effect of water, small cracks in the soil can grow into immense tunnel systems. The chemical and eroding effect also creates various forms of lime deposits such as stalactites/stalagmites and lime curtains. To give an impression of how big caves can be, we mention: the Flint-Mammoth Cave in the United States. This cave contains 485 km of tunnel systems. The deepest cave measured is in Georgia; the Voronja - Krubera, which has a height difference of 2190 m. Limestone caves are also common in Belgium.
The second type of cave forms in volcanic rock. When a flow of lava cools, the outside solidifies while the inner core, liquid lava, continues to flow. This can create long, even corridors. This type is common in the Canary Islands and closer to home; in the Sauerland.
The last type, the sandstone cave, is formed by erosion, through the action of wind and water. This does not result in extensive corridor systems, but is limited to the formation of small cavities. These are widely found in the US state of Utah.
Caving / Speleology as a sport
There are a number of caves where it is possible to practice caving as an outdoor activity under supervision. Due to the damage that caves incur due to larger-scale tourist use, more and more caves are closed for tourist use. Caves in the Ardennes that were (and are) often exploited by amateur speleologists and as an outdoor activity include the caves of Sainte-Anne, the Trou de l'Eglise and the Trou d'Haquin.
If you want to purchase materials when following a course or (independently) as a speleologist on a voyage of discovery, we have an extensive range and are happy to advise you.
See also: What is the function of your (basic) equipment in Caving?
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