Unlocking the Secrets of the Earth in Ukraine’s Caves

The recreational pastime of exploring non-commercial cave systems, referred to as caving or spelunking, takes dedicated enthusiasts to some fascinating destinations, including Ukraine’s magnificent cave systems – most notably the caves in the Chatyr-Dag Mountains of Crimea. While spelunking is the recreational aspect of cave exploration, speleologists focus on the scientific aspects of this activity, with the two overlapping to an extent as speleologists can be considered to be spelunkers, while spelunkers can be most helpful to speleologists by gathering vital scientific information during their underground expeditions.

One such speleologist/spelunker is Kateryna Medvedeva from Kiev, who became the first woman in the world to descend in a cave to a depth of more than two thousand meters and has a number of championship medals for her caving skills. As a subdivision of geology, speleology encompasses hydrodynamics, mineralogy, archaeology, biology and other related disciplines.

Explaining that the term ‘caver’ is generally used for someone with knowledge of current exploration techniques, in a published interview Ms Medvedeva described caving competitions in Ukraine as largely taking place down steep slopes above ground, noting that the competition held in Kharkiv took place below a bridge, proving entertaining to spectators. International caving techniques competitions make use of two basic categories, one of which is the Single Rope Technique (SRT), with the other consisting of a test where participants must descend for 30 or 120 meters with the fastest being the winner.

When asked what triggered her interest in speleology, Kateryna Medvedeva told of her experience in the caves of Chatyr-Dag when she was fourteen years old that made such an impression on her she started a hobby group for cave exploration, putting her on the path to an exciting career where new discoveries may unlock the secrets of the earth.

While spelunking is a very exciting sport, it can be dangerous for participants, and devastating to the fragile ecosystems of caves, which should be a prime consideration when exploring the caves of Ukraine. Using a responsible tour guide specializing in caving will go a long way to ensuring safety and steering clear of ecologically delicate caves.