Edouard Alfred Martel

1859-1938


a rope dedicated to the Speological Institute at Cluj by Martel. This may give en idea of the equipment at this time. This rope was developed by Martel for his cave expeditions.
E. A. Martel on one of his most famous expeditions into Gaping Gill, Yorkshire, Great Britain. Painting by Lucien Rudaux. From the WorldMartel Gallery by Bernd Kliebhan.

Edouard Alfred Martel is the father of modern speleology, not only in France. He was the first one, who explored caves with a scientific interest. Speleology didn't exist at this time, and he had no geological background. He felt more like a Geographer, discovering new territory underground.

Martell was a lawyer, but he didn't like his profession very much. So he used the first possibility to become the first full time caver of history. He bought the ShowcaveGouffre de Padirac and made it a show cave.

Martel organized his cave tours in campaigns that looked like Himalaya expeditions. Many locals were paid to haul heavy equipment. The tours were made by Martel, his friend Lucien Rudaux who made paintings of the expedition, and the blacksmith Louis Armand who was responsible for most of the equipment.


Between 1888 and 1914, Martel organized annual campaigns all over Europe. Some of the highlights were:


27-JUN-1888 exploration of the underground river of the ShowcaveAbîme de Bramabiau. Martel made the first through-crossing of the plateau de Camprieu in Southern France. This is often called the birthday of Speleology.
1889 he descended 100 meters into the ShowcaveGouffre de Padirac. Martel and his cousin Gaupillat discovered an underground stream and followed it for 2 km in a dingi.
1895 he travelled to Ireland and England, exploring ShowcaveMarble Arch Cave in Northern Ireland and CaveGaping Ghyll in Yorkshire.
1896 Martel and Louis Armand explored caves on Mallorca, e.g. ShowcaveCuevas del Drach. They were invited by the Archduke Ludwig Salvator, who lived in Miramar.
1897 at the end of an unsuccessful campaign into Les Causses, Louis Armand persuaded Martel to visit a last aven. He discovered a huge chamber with huge Stalagmites. The cave was named ShowcaveAven Armand after his discoverer. But Armand was already 5 years dead, when the cave was opened to the public.
1905 Martel makes the first through trip through the Grand Canyon du Verdon. Although this is not a cave, the tour was very similar to exploring a water cave. Today a trail through the canyon is named after Martel.