Caving and Speleology

Speleology is the scientific study of caves and similar features, including their structure, physics and history. It is also concerned with how caves are formed and how they evolve. Recreational exploration, better known as caving or potholing, is part of speleology, since the study of caves requires the physical ability to climb into them. Speleology is crossdisciplinary, needing some knowledge of chemistry, biology, geology, physics, meteorology and cartography.

There are hundreds of caves in South Africa, and especially the Western Cape, varying from the tiny to large caverns. Access may be through easy horizontal systems or vast, complicated and dangerous mixed systems, some with deep pits and one with close to 5 kilometers of measured passageway. In 1980, through the good offices of the secretary of the Cape Peninsula Speleological Society, Dr. Stephen Craven, the South African Speleological Association’s Collection of books and journals about speleology, caving, and cave diving was deposited on long loan with UCT Libraries. Journals, received on exchange from similar societies around the world, make up the bulk of the collection, which includes over 350 titles, indicated in the catalogue by the shelf-mark prefix BDE.