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The jewel in our crown.... but the nail in our coffin. 



This is how new caves are found... Patrick, digging (Okt. 1995)In 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.

Soon 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 flooded.  

By the way, this mud is extremely agressive and eats away all metal gear within months. Some examples and pictures can be seen here.

But 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

Picture taking at the precise time of the discovery!  Dec. 1995As 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 weather!  Unfortunately, downstream we were soon blocked by a sump, and upstream, by a boulder choke…

The 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.


THE DIVE OF THE SUMP & THE “PIGS HOLE” September 1997, Luc Funcken  dives the sump, in quite terrible conditions

In 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 “? 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.

We 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.  Battery 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 CO? 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 out of two times we arrived at the Pigs Hole to find it flooded, so we had made the trip for nothing. The way to the sump goes through very muddy and dangerous galleries, that flood very rapidly when it rains outside.

Finally, 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.


15 November 2003 : THE SUMP IS PASSED!

In 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.  I 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. But it was clear that it would take months before our 3 metre tunnel would be drilled.


A very happy Paul De Bie, after the sump: 15 November 2003 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. 



Because of the high mineralogical value of the cave, it has been classified by the Belgian law as a "cave of Scientific Interest". (R?ion 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 steel doors. 

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

3 D survey of the cave, in Larry Fish's CaveX

Contacteer/contact us:  SC Avalon vzw
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