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Punkva Caves

Characteristics / History

History, discovery and making the Punkva caves accessible

In 19-th century there was relatively wide research interest in the Punkva springs and its caves in the surroundings. Doctor Jindřich Wankel tried to make his way up the Punkva stream to some predicted unknown caves when there was low level of water. But corridor flooded with water - so called siphon prevented him from his journey.

His grandson professor Absolon later continued successively in Wankel’s research with the working groups. In 1909 - 1914 they discovered gradually the dry part of the Punkva caves:

„…On September 26, the research journey started on the dry ground of Macocha floor and it was finished on January 31, 1914. On the third day the hole naturally eroded in the rock was cut and we began to crash boulders and take them out piece by piece. Finally I could crawl carefully among the rubble of boulders with my colleague Ješek and then drop down on the rope. We got into some unpleasant space where there was a mixture of boulders on the floor. We squeeze our way and climb down and down among the rock giants. Finally the water surface shone - we’re by the Punkva at last!

But it’s just only a siphon! We look for some next continuation, for some next draught which we lost somewhere down. We’re led up to a small hole, for sure. My colleague Ješek stands on my shoulders and then he takes me up as well. We crawl on our bellies through the cannal - now we can crawl on knees, our voices call out echo - when suddenly, is it possible? We couldn’t breathe beingastoniched. In front of us there is some huge space. We call and our echo dies somewhere far back. Where the searchlight is able to shine we can see fantastic stalactite of the bayonet shape and at the back there are white walls! But it isn’t true, with the help of our reflectors we can see a lot of stalactites standing out of walls. Such moments deprive a person out of all reason. But our position is in the place where we couldn’t climb down previously. We could move only forward! I don’t know how it is possible but now we can climb down only on rock ledges on the left near the ceiling and we support each other and finally reach the space.

A memorable moment of historical importance in the research of Moravian Karst just comes. A man starts his wanted revealing way to the floor of Macocha abyss…“

So much for professor Absolon’s words and experiences when he saw first the underground of the Punkva caves. This way, so called dry way, in January 1914 they succeeded in connecting Pustý žlev (Waste ditch) with Macocha abyss.

Professor Absolon tried to uncover the other branch of the supposed cave space between Macocha and Pustý žleb (Waste ditch) - the corridors situated a bit deeper on the active stream of the Punkva. He used the machines for this purpose. Lieutenant Slama’s drilling group succeded in making their way up the Punkva stream to the first unknown areas after the blast of ceilings. Besides corridors where the Punkva flows through some dry cathedrals with beautiful stalactite decoration were discovered. Soon after that discovery their part was open to public. The first Czechoslovak president visited these areas and the largest space was called Masaryk’s cathedral.

Professor Absolon co-ordinated next research work up and down the Punkva stream. The biggest trouble was to overcome 40 m deep so called „Bad siphon“ (Zlý sifon). Breaking through 400 m long drained gallery the group succeeded in reducing level of the underground Punkva by some metres. But in spite of the fact it was necessary to draw water with the pumps from the siphon - it was very demanding and dramatic.

Professor Absolon describes the moments of connecting Macocha abyss with Pustý žleb (Waste ditch) through water way. „Divíšek gets on the boat secured on the rope and all the time he is pulled down by the whirpool to a circling moment but he has the possibility to drop down the ladder made of wire to the empty vertical drainage pipe.

Divíšek hangs the ladder on the rock tooth. He disapppears out of our sight the roar definitely stops, obviously. Nautily sucks only the well-balanced level of the straight siphon knee - but what happens? At once we can hear the thundering of Nautily, the ceiling of siphon rose over water level - Divíšek can see the lights from the other side from his point of view and he can hear some cheerful exclamations - the last missing part, the last connection was found out. It’s 8 p.m. It happened on February 5, 1933. We finished the difficult phase of the duel with nature, one for all, all for one, the twelve of us from pumps and from exploration service…“

The tunnel was brokem through then over the Bad siphon and since 1933 visitors can sail on boats through Macocha water cathedrals to the surface after the excursion of the dry cave parts.

The first discovered parts of the Punkva caves were lit and open to public even in 1909. In 1920 Masaryk’s cathedral was made accessible on boats. The sightseeing tours have been given in present extent since 1933.

In 1947 today’s operational building was constructed and a new entrance was broken through and in 1955 the sightseeing route with the installation of new lightning was renewed.

The last reconstruction of the whole sightseeing route and building was made in 1996. This general reconstruction caused not only service improvement for visitors but also the protection and improvement of the conditions in the Punkva caves. New electroinstallation is hidden, the intensity of lightning is reduced. The old corroding railing was replaced with the stainless one.

A new element is bridging over Front cathedral which opened the visitors a new view of its rich stalactite decoration. There were installed some automatic machines for the multi-language interpretation.

The electronic protective system, the automatic telephone and the industrial television are used for the protection of the valuable cave formations.

Since 1933 when the electrically driven boat ride started the whole flotilla has been renewed and improved several times.

Today’s boats are in perfect condition, corosion-resistant and cannot be sunk. The sightseeing route of the Punkva caves is on high technical and estetical level nowdays.