|Location:||Chatyr Dagh Plateau, Crimea. 2km from Mramornoye and 22km from Simferopol|
|Dimension:||H=100%, T=3-6°C, L=2,000m, VR=180m, A=992m asl.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|1927||first 200m explored by scientists.|
|1974||more passages including The Lake Hall and Kechkement Hall discovered.|
|1984||opened to the public.|
|2005||15m long man-made tunnel to the Treasury dug.|
The mountain ridge at Chatyr Dagh [from the Turkish - 'Tent-mountain'] is like a bath-sponge, it is honeycombed with caves. With a height of 1527 m, it is the second highest mountain in the Crimea. Over several decades cavers have explored more than 150 caves in the region. Local shepherds named the cave Emine Bair meaning, the shaft of the slope because the cave is located on the lower slopes of Chatyr Dagh. The cave is situated at an altitude of 992 m and is 2 km in length. It is formed on five levels and it is famous for its marvellous speleothems. The depth of the pools in the upper levels is 30 m and the total depth of the cave is 180 m. The cave was explored by cavers from the nearby town of Simferpol under the leadership of Alexander Kozlov. It was first opened to visitors in 1984. A descending man-made passage leads to the first chamber, The Northern Gallery. The next chamber is called The Main Hall in the roof of which there is an opening to the surface. This is the entrance that the first explorers used to enter the cave in the Middle Ages. Legend has it that they were lowered down on a rope made of leather. They used fackels or a bunch of burning twigs for lighting. The Main Hall is noted for its speleothems, massive stalactites and walls covered with flowstone. On the southern wall there are large stalactite curtains, coloured by minerals in the rock.
In 1927 scientists explored the cave for some 200m, to the Northern Gallery. In the 20th Century cavers found the bones of ancient animals, including a baby mammoth, which was 2.5 m high. The cavers claim that the animals fell down the shaft 20,000 years ago. Over the years rain washed earth into the cave, covering and preserving the bones. Remains of other animals found include rhinoceros, cave bear, cave lion, wolf, lynx, horse, goat, and hare, typical quaternary ice age fauna. Every year there is an archaeological dig in the cave. The students camp in the cave and dig up more bones, and it is claimed that there is work here for many more years to come. The bones are displayed in a museum in the cave, together with minerals from all over the Ukraine.
In 1974 cavers climbed up a wall and squeezed through a small hole into The Lake Hall. Today this hole has been enlarged and is reached by an ascent up an iron staircase. After a short distance there is a sheer drop which again is easily descended on an iron staircase. This leads down to The Lake Chamber. The original explorers had to traverse around the edge of the lake using a handline. Today, a fine iron bridge spans The Lake and horizontal, stalagmite tide marks show the level of the lake in years gone by.
Next is the 60m long Hall of Idols which also 60m high and shaped like a bell. It is a land of fantasy with two 7 m high stalagmites at the entrance which remind one of the chess pieces such as a King and a Queen. In 1984 cavers took 5 hours to reach this point. The tallest stalagmite is 10 m high. The stone figures appear to change their shapes in the warm light of the cave. The walls are of many colours brown, cream, and chocolate, according to the minerals in the rocks above.
In 2005 a 15m long man-made tunnel opened up a small passage leading to The Treasury, this chamber is not large but very picturesque. Helictites abound and there are also rare speleothem which look like the rays of the sun. They are called discs or shields and are 2 m in diameter. The Treasury is also the daytime habitat of the Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrium equinium). They leave the cave every night to feed and sleep in the Treasury during the day.
A winding passage leads to Kechkement Hall which was discovered in 1974 and named after a town in Hungary. It was hoped that a passage in the cave would lead to more chambers. In 1974 a team of cavers organised an expedition to descend a 50 m deep shaft, but it was too tight. The constriction is called 'The skin you alive squeeze'. Kechkement Hall contains a 5 m high stalagmite called 'The Host of the Cave'. It takes the appearance of a white speleologist and if you look closely you will see a caving helmet and a rucksac on his back. Cavers regard him as the guardian of the cave and say that he must be treated with respect.
From the Kechkement Hall we return to the Hall of Idols. Another path goes through the longest artificial tunnel in the cave. This leads to Dublanski's Hall, named after the great Crimean speleologist Prof Victor Dublanski. This chamber is most unusual. It is on two levels. Originally there was a lake in the lower level and over time the surface of the lake became covered with a sheet of stalagmite and a second lake was formed above it. Finally, the sheet of stalagmite gave way under the weight of the water. Today the chamber is dry, but the old waters levels can be clearly seen. At the base of the chamber tall white stalagmites called 'Candles' are growing. The passage continues through a 'Stalagmite Wood' which is formed by a series of two metre high stalagmites.
The cave now ends in three chambers, The Pink Grotto with its walls covered in pink stalactite draperies. The Monomah Hall with a 1.5 m stalagmite called Monomah's Cap or Crown, which is 1.5 m high with a white domed top. Next is The Hostesses Hall which is the lowest part of the show cave. On the way back we pass through The Lower Bair, renown for its array of crystals, the best in all of the former Russian States, we are told. From here we make our way back to the entrance. The guide explains that this is only a small part of the cave and cavers have explored much further into the depths of the earth.
Text by Tony Oldham (2007). With kind permission. [Based on a video on caves in the Ukraine and various websites]