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Caves in Poland

Michal Gradzinski STJ KW Krakow

There are more than 2500 known caves in Poland. They are of karst and non karst (pseudokarst) origin. The former are developed in karst rocks mainly in limestones and dolomites, rarely in gypsum and marbles and exceptionally in rock salt. Although the karstified rocks are widely distributed, the outcrops are rather small and occupy only about 2.5 % of the country area (i.e. about 8000 km2). The rest are overlain by loose Cainosoic age deposits. The non karst caves are developed mainly in various sandstones.

The Polish caves are arranged in seven main regions which are characterized below.

The Western Tatra Mountains (Tatry Zachodnie)

The Tatra is the only mountains of Alpine type morphology which occurs in Poland. They occupy the area of 785 km2 (in Poland only 175 km2). The karst rock (limestones and dolomites of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous age) build mainly the Western part of the Tatra range. They occur on the area of 50 km2. This area is practically the only region in Poland where large and deep caves are encountered. Because of that the everyday activity of Polish cavers, both exploration and training is concentrated in this area.

Now more than 650 caves are known in the Western Tatra Mountains. The total length of these caves exceed 100 km. The highest peaks built up of karst rock are higher than 2000 m and the main karst springs are situated at the level of about 1000 m. The majority of caves are located in the following areas: slopes of Bobrowiec, Kominiarski Wierch, the Czerwone Wierchy massif, Giewont, Kalcaka Turnia and Kopa Magury. The most of the longest and deepest caves are situated in the Czerwone Wierchy massif.

Recent years brought some new cave explorations in that area. All the significant achievements were the outcome of long, sometimes lasting for many years, conceptual and field work. The most spectacular was linking of Wielka Sniezna (the Czerwone Wierchy massif) with Wielka Litworowa (see article by Jokiel). The total length of the cave exceed 18 000 m. Other team from Wroclaw and Sopot explored a new series called "Przemkowe Partie" in Wielka Sniezna. Apart from that one exploration in the same cave was done. The last exploration was the discovery of a long series near the lowest entrance of the cave. It was done by Warsaw cavers led by Stefan Stefanski in February of 1997.

Another interesting discovery was the linking of Jaskinia Nad Dachem cave with Ptasia Studnia cave (the Czerwone Wierchy massif) done in 1991 by cavers from Nowy Sacz led by Anna Antkiewicz. Other exploration in the same cave was done by the same team. The length of Ptasia Studnia cave increased to about 5900 m. Important success was achieved in Studnia w Kazalnicy Mietusiej cave (the Czerwone Wierchy massif). In the winter of 1996 the team from Zakopane led by Krzysztof Dudzinski passed through a squeeze situated at the depth of 34 m. The squeeze had been attacked since the 1960's by various teams. The vertical extent of the cave was increased from -34 m to 235 m (-199; + 36). There were also other significant though smaller finds in a number

Distribution of caves in Poland

Distribution of caves in Poland; the caves mentioned in text: 1. Jaskinia w Ociemnem, 2. Jaskinia w Trzech Kopcach, 3. Diabla Dziura w Bukowcu, 4. Krysztalowe Groty in Wieliczka salt mine, 5. caves in lead-zinc mines near Olkusz, 6. Jasknia Wierna, 7. Jaskinia Studnisko, 8. Jaskinia Skorocicka, 9. Chelosiowa Jama, 10. Jaskinia raj,11. Jaskinia Niedzwiedzia,12. Szczelina Wojcieszowska, 13. caves near Inowrociaw,14. caves near Gdansk
of Tatra caves (i.e. Kozia, Ptasia Studnia, Sniezna Studnia - all situated in the Czerwone Wierchy massif and Bandzioch Kominiarski situated in Kominiarski Wierch).

The intensification of diving activity in the caves of the Tatra Mts. should also be mentioned. A dive in the terminal sump of Sniezna Studnia (1994) deepened the cave to - 715 m (the vertical extent reached 752 m). In 1996 Wiktor Bolek set up the Polish record of depth diving -50 m in a sump situated at the bottom of the Ciasne Kominy series in Jaskinia Mietusia. He thus extended the cave depth from -245 m to -258; the vertical extent being now 280 m. Another sump was dived through in the same cave by Krzysztof Starnawski who discovered a small series beyond. In November 1996 Krzysztof Starnawski with the assistance of Stefan Stefanski explored a new big sump series in Kasprowa Nizna cave. They started to dive from already known, but still having been unexplored, IV sump and dived through two new sumps. The first is 330 m long and -22 m deep, and the second 167 m long and -26 m deep. The next, VII sump, remains still unexplored.

All Tatra caves are situated in the Tatrzanski National Park and caving activities is strictly limited by the authorities. Only six caves are open for tourists. For visiting other caves special permission is demanded.

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