THE "GROTTE DES EMOTIONS"
The jewel in our crown.... but the nail in our coffin.
the summer of 1995 a bunch of crazy Avalon members started a dig in a small
sinkhole, in the bedding of a side-river of the Ourthe. After 14
weekends of difficult and sometimes discouraging work, they had made an
strictly artificial pit that
descended about 6 metres under the waterlevel.
Between the very unstable boulders, a cold draught could be felt. Not
much later, the discovery of Grotte des Emotions was a fact.
it became clear that this was not “just another cave”. The major part
(2/3) developed under the water level and was extremely muddy and extremely
dangerous. In wet weather, the biggest part of the cave are totally
By the way, this mud is extremely
agressive and eats away all metal gear within months. Some
examples and pictures can be seen here.
in strong contrast with the muddy and wet lower levels, the higher and fossil
levels of the cave were beautifully decorated with all possible calcite
crystallisations and formations. The
combination of both snowwhite formations and truckloads of wet mud, made the
exploration of these fossil levels a nearly impossible and often frustrating
activity. But we managed somehow
to do it, thanks to a very strict discipline.
Over and over again we had to remove our muddy oversuits and boots, so
we could explore the fragile zones in clean underclothing
said, the muddy lower levels of the cave are often flooded, but in dry periods
we were able to continue the exploration there and so we discovered an important
underground streamway, with a flow rate of over 80 litres a second, in dry
downstream we were soon blocked by a sump, and upstream, by a boulder choke…
systematic exploration of the “Grotte des Emotions”, in the years 1995
to1997, was a great adventure; a fantastic experience that nobody who
was involved, will ever forget. At
least 50 days have been invested in exploring, surveying, studying and
protecting the cave. The
cave is about 2000 m. long and 45 m. deep.
DIVE OF THE SUMP & THE “PIGS HOLE”
September 1997 cave diver Luc Funcken dived in the muddy downstream sump, and
much to everyone’s surprise he was back after 10 minutes, with the words “ça
continue!” (it goes on). A few
weeks later he dived it again, together with a fellow diver.
They explored behind the sump about 50 m. of big galleries, and made a
15 m high climb in an attempt to reach a higher fossil level. Downstream they
stopped at the foot of a new, small climb. The
sump was very short; only 5 metres or so, but was narrow and with a strong
current. So we had to forget about our ideas of free-diving it.
decided to start digging just above the water, at the right of the sump.
Soon this dig was called the “Pigs Hole” because it was
extremely muddy (and one is standing in waist-deep water!). At first, we were
digging in mud, but after two metres , we hit the solid rock.
powered drills and some powerful stuff replaced the shovels…
however the work just didn’t progress much. The way from the entrance
of the cave to the sump was very difficult because of the mud and especially
the bad air. The high CO² level made breathing difficult and dragging
around 20 kilos of batteries for the hammer drill was very exhausting work. Psychologically
it was very hard too; we permanently feared (and risked!) to get trapped by
rising water. At a certain place, a duck has to be passed (30 cm of air) and
in wet conditions the water could rise 10 metres above the duck!! And
even if we carefully picked out dry days with very stable weather, then one
two times we arrived at the Pigs Hole to find it flooded, so we had made the
trip for nothing.
at the dig, the rock was hard, and our technical means were not sufficient to
make a real three metre tunnel through massif rock.
And we weren’t even sure about the exact direction of the sump. Nevertheless,
in the years 1997-2001 we continued our attempts. But frankly, nobody believed
we would ever see the other side of that sump.
THE SUMP IS PASSED!
the Autumn of 2003 I again felt the desire to continue our work in the Pigs
Hole. We had just seen the driest summer since 25 years, and even now water
levels were still way below normal. In
two weeks time, me and Peter V. went several times to our dig.
had managed to get some very powerful stuff and things were looking good this
time. Progression was very slow (maybe
20 to 30 cm per week) but steady.
it was clear that it would take months before our 3 metre tunnel would be
The third time, Peter couldn't come with me, but some Dutch friends of mine (Marcel, Tjerk
& Martijn) were more than happy to carry the heavy gear to the "Pigs
Hole". And what we didn't expect to happen yet, happened!
After some work a small black hole suddenly appeared. I yelled in
it, and heard an echo! Only minutes later we had made it big enough to
squeeze through. The sump was passed! We quickly explored
about 75 metres of big galleries (that had been partially seen by the divers
in 1997). But we are fearing that a bit further a new sump will stop us. So
maybe, the whole story just starts over again. hoorbaar. But one thing is
certain: we are very close to a major geological fault that runs
straight to the resurgence, two kilometres away. Once we reached the fault,
everything will be possible.
PROTECTION OF THE CAVE
Because of the high mineralogical value of the cave, it has been classified by
the Belgian law as a "cave of Scientific Interest". (Région
Wallone, 7/3/2000). Recently it has been classified worldwide as
a site of the International RAMSAR-convention, which is a convention
for the protection of wetlands all over the world. (Moniteur Belge,
23/10/2003). So, this means that the Grotte des Emotions now has
the same status as the Tchad Lake, The Everglades or the Zwin. A bit over
the top, we think (but it was not *our* idea!). Finally the cave also
has a Natura 2000 status.
In the cave, all decorated zones are proteced by a very
discrete delineation. This work has taken many days. Nevertheless,
visiting the most fragile parts of the caves can only be done with extreme
precautions. One needs spare clean clothing, spare lighting and so
on because after having only done 20 metres into the cave, you are already
coverd with thick mud.
The entrance of the cave is sealed off by 3 consecutive
Visiting the cave:
The greatest pleasure for a caver, is to discover a new cave (or a part of).
The second greatest pleasure, is being able to show the cave to other
cavers. SC Avalon has always made a point of honour of this, and we
are proud and happy to guide you around in, or let you visit on your own, many
of our discoveries such as Système de
Bretaye, Weron-Dellieux, Contrastes, Bois de Waerimont...
In the case of the Emotions however, we had a very
difficult choice to make. The cave was so fragile and pure, and yet so
terribly muddy. Without doubt, it is the muddiest Belgian cave. And
would it even make sense to guide people around, a party of only two
cavers is already the maximum in the decorated parts of the cave. We talked a
lot about it in our club, and we even showed the cave to some external people,
so we could hear their opinion. Everybody's judgement was: it is not
possible to frequently visit the cave without damaging it.
Finally, the 3 official classifications of the cave
impose severe access restrictions too.
So, much to our regret, we must inform you that it is not
possible to visit the cave. We hope that you share our point of view: the
conservation of the cave is more important than our personal desires.
We invite you now to
visit a picture gallery with many pictures of the cave.
TIP: our website has a lot of information about cave
conservation and protection.
3-D survey of the Grotte des Emotions, made with Compass CaveX