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Historical Tidbits- Scărișoara Cave

  • Random tidbits for my current work in progress that I wanted to save so I could refer back to them in one easy to find place.

    Scărișoara Cave (Romanian: Peștera Scărișoara), is one of the biggest ice caves in the Apuseni Mountains of Romania, in a part of Carpathian chain. It is considered one of the natural wonders of Romania.

    First mentioned in 1863 by the Austrian geographer Arnold Schmidl, who made some observations and the first map of the cave,[1] it was later explored by the Romanian scientist and speleologist Emil Racoviță between 1921 and 1923,[1] who mentioned it and its origin in his 1927 work Speleology. According to the scientist Emil Pop, the ice cave was formed 3500 years ago, during the glaciations, when these mountains were covered by snow and ice, although the exact date when the cave was discovered is still unknown.[1]

    The cave is located at an altitude of 1165 metres above sea level. It is 105 m deep and 720 m long, and the entrance shaft (50 m in diameter and 48 m in depth) gives access through metal stairs to a large chamber, (108 m long, 78 m wide) - The Big Hall. From this point three openings lead to The Church (in front, with over 100 stalagmites), Great Reservation, Coman Gallery (left) and Little Reservation (right). The part that tourists can visit includes the entrance shaft, The Big Hall and The Church, the other chambers,which can be visited only with the agreement of the Speological Institute of Cluj-Napoca, being reserved for scientists.

    The glacier has a volume of 75000 cubic metres and it is 26 m high. The temperature is up to +1°C in the summer and down to -7°C in the winter. In the part for tourists the average temperature is around 0°C. Bats live in the ice cave, as do small bugs (2–3 mm long) called Pholeuon prozerpinae glaciale. In the Big Reservation a Rupicapra skeleton was discovered.

    Situated in the Apuseni Mountains almost 40 km away from the town of Campeni, in the North-Western part of the district of Alba, in the commune of Garda de Sus, Scarisoara Cave is one of the largest ice caves in Romania (it holds the world’s second largest glacier; the largest in the world is in Slovakia).

    One cannot say precisely the date when the cave was discovered, but it is mentioned in 1863 by Adolt Schmididi, an Austrian geographer who made the first observations regarding the cave and also its first map. Declared a natural monument and a speleological reservation, the cave (situated at 1150 m altitude) is famous for its glacier that is older than 3000 years. The area of the glacier is 5500 square m and the ice layer alternates between 26 and 37 m in thickness.

    Scarisoara Cave is 750 m long, but only 250 m of it may be visited. It’s 110 m deep, the entrance shaft is 50 m in diameter and 48 in depth and the access for tourists is done through a metallic ladder.

    “Zool of ice (Foca de gheata)” is right at the entrance – Scarisoara Cave.
    The cave has many sectors that have different names. Thus, right after the entrance one may see the Big Hall and afterwards The Church where there are more than 100 ice stalagmites, The Church being in fact the main touristic attraction. To the left of this hall, walking through a 70 m long gallery, one can reach both The Great Reservation and The Small Reservation. Visiting these sections is allowed only for scientific goals and with the agreement of the Speological Institute “Emil Racovita” in Cluj. The Gallery Maxim Pop lies at 105 m underground, which is the maximum depth of the cave. The other two sections of the cave are The Cathedral and Sanziana’s Palace, but they don’t contain ice.

    How come the ice never melts?
    Scarisoara Cave was formed during The Ice Age when the mountains in which it is nowadays situated were covered with snow and ice. The cave has only one opening in the upper part and so the air currents are formed that keep the ice still solid.
    In winter, the air temperature in the cave oscillates the same way it does at its entrance; in summer, the temperature reaches up to 1 Celsius degree and that’s why an ice layer in the floor of the Big Hall is melted, but only a few cm.
    The access for tourists is done through a metallic ladder.

    The old stories tell that in the cave a dragon used to live in ancient times, which the inhabitants used to call Solomat. The dragon used to steal a beautiful girl, either in the New Years’ Eve or in the night before Girls’ Fare at Gaina and he used to hide them in an ice palace that was never seen by the inhabitants.

    Another legend says that, there used to be two water basins that were full of water all the time. They were situated behind the lime formation called nowadays “La Brazi”. It is said that the person that kneeled before the basins, uncovered his/her face, drank the water and made a wish, that wish would come true. The only condition for that to happen was that he/she had the obligation not to tell anyone the wish he/she made.