Norbert Casteret


a stamp to the honour of Norbert Casteret, France 2000.
Casteret Exhibition at the Museum of the Underground World, ShowcaveAven de Marzal.

Norbert Casteret was born in 1897 in Saint Martory, Haute Garonne, and died in 1987 in Toulouse. For half a century, from 1920 to 1970, he was probably the most important speleologist of France. He is sometimes called father of modern speleology, although this is already applied to E.A. Martel, who lived one generation earlier. Working primarily on caves in his homeland Pyrenees, he not only explored caves, but also wrote numerous autobiographic books about his explorations, which were very popular for decades. During the 1950s and 1960s they were translated into many other languages.

Casteret was a very good sportsman, and one of his most famous saying is "Speleology is sport in commission of science". He was physically fit all his life, playing soccer, diving, skiing, rowing, pole vault and others. Also he was rather small and slim, which made him a very successful discoverer.

He started with some pretty dangerous explorations, where he dived naked into a siphon, only with water tight packed candle and matches. Later he writes in several books about this, and warns not to copy this dangerous lapse. After his first adventures he learned the techniques of caving from E. A. Martel. Martel, the founder of speleology wrote the foreword to his first book.

Unlike Martel, he was not a speleologist by profession. He studied and worked as a notary public. But he also studied prehistory at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse. This knowledge was very important for his later prehistoric discoveries.

At the Fontaine de Vaucluse, an important karst spring in the Provence, a museum named Le Monde Souterrain de Norbert Casteret exists. It shows cave exploration equipment and the mineral collection of Casteret.


19-AUG-1897 born in Saint Martory, Haute Garonne.
1923 Caverne de Montespan, Haute-Garonne, discovery of prehistoric sculptures.
1926 various caves in the Cirque de Gavarnie discovered, especially the Grotte Glacée Casteret.
1927 Rivière souterraine d'Izaut.
1928 Human remains, probably from Roman times, discovered in the Grotte de Girosp.
1929 Casteret discovered engravings in the Grotte d'Alquerdi.
1930 Discovery of the ShowcaveGrotte de Labastide.
1932 first exploration of the Grotte Cigalère.
1933 La Grotte Dite de Peyort. Gouffre Martel, l'Ariège.
1934 cave explorations at Morocco.
1936 Grotte de Houaliech.
1937 Grotte de Labouiche, together with Joseph Delteil.
1938 Gouffre Grotte d'Esparros.
1941-1947 exploration of the Henne Morte.
1947 depth record -446 m in the Henne Morte.
1950 Casteret and his daughters Maude and Gilberte discovered five ice caves in the Cirque de Gavarnie.
1952-1953 Pierre Saint Martin.
20-JUL-1987 died in Toulouse.


Casteret wrote more than 43 books, which made him very popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Here are the probably most important ones. Many of this books were translated into other languages. Dix ans sous terre (Ten Years Under the Earth) is still available in English, see the Books section.