The first written reports on caves in the Tatra are included in the so called "spiski" - a kind of handwritten guidebooks to the mountains. The most extensive of them is dated at ca.1630. It includes descriptions of access routes to many caves, extensive descriptions of their interiors, especiallv speleothems and methods of passing difficult fragments of the caves. The use of ropes for passing vertical sections is already mentioned there. Another "spisek" tells about using rope ladders, which should be attached to a stump laid horizontally across the pitch head. It should be stressed that the ore prospectors not only kept cave locations secret but even covered cave entrances with rocks and soil, hence many of these caves still remain unknown.
The caves of the Tatra and Pieniny
|Visitors in Krolewska cave in Ojcow in the first half of 19th century. Note a tree trunk as a substitute of a ladder in the left. Drawing by T. B. Stachowicz from ca. 1835.|
were not only a source of the "rock milk" for medicine of that time but also of cave bear bones, considered then to be "dragon's bones". The best known place from where to obtain both medications was the cave called then Mleczna Dziura (Milky Hole), today's Aksamitka. This attracted the attention of Johann Paterson Hain, court doctor of the Polish king, coming from Polish part of Prussia and working at that time in Spisz as a physician. He sent specimens of bones from this cave to Warsaw, to the son of his protector, the Spisz governor, Marshall J. S. Lubomirski. Hain studied the cave personally in April 1672. The soft moonmilk, because of its small specific weight, he called "white nothing" (Album Nihil). The results of these studies he presented in two letters published in 1672 in Wroclaw. He described the bones as "dragon bones". Their drawings were so accurate than J. Rosenmuller and G. L. Cuvier at the beginning of l9th centurv were able to ascertain on them that the bones belonged to Ursus spalaeus. A plan of this cave was drawn in 1672 by Hain's friend, father Waclaw, a Piar and the rector of a gymnasium in Warsaw; this is the oldest known Polish cave plan and one of the oldest in the world.
Caves of Podolia were also described in that time (for instance 1673,1683), and one of the caves was a visited curiosity. In 1680s stone staircase was built in its entrance gallerv. The cave's popularity is confirmed by the record of a senator's visit (he had a narrow, escape from fatality while he was lost within the cave).
The first printed detailed description in Polish of a cave appeared in 1691. The chapter "The Close Underground World" presents two caves from Ojcow (Lokietka and Ciemna). The former was then called Krolewska (Royal) as it was being shown to Polish kings when they visited the area as a great curiosity.
The first written reports of visits to the non-karstic caves in the Beskidy Mountains come from the beginnings of l8th century Something later, from 1720 are the first mentions of caves in the Sudetes ("Silesia Subterranea"), and in 1742 appeared the first printed note about caves in the Tatra, which mentions a widely known cave with bones of ancient animals.
Two Volumes of an extensive work by G. Raczynski "Historia Naturalis Curiosa Regni Poloniae" - a kind of a physiographic encyclopedia of Poland appeared in 1721 and 1736. It includes information on underground water courses, karst lakes and more than twenty caves, including Smocza Jama, Ciemna, Aksamitka, caves of the Cergowa Mountain, and it mentions more than ten
|Early acheological works in Zloty Potok. Etching by J. Cegielski from 1855.||caves from Podolia. The information from this work was later repeated by many Polish and foreign authors (for example F. E. Bruckmann, 1739). The caves became known even abroad. for example Aksamitka, famous in Poland for its "dragon's bones" was visited in 1751 by an Austrian scientific commission. Caves in the Swietokrzyskie Mountains where also shown to important persons. In 1778 one of them was visited by J. P. Carosi, the royal mine supervisor, who published an account in 1781 and 1785. Ihe Ojcow caves were at that time already famous and visits to them were quite popular. One of them was visited, with the whole court, by the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski. The first plan of an area with the course of a cave shown on it comes from 1790 (Smocza Jama).|