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.
Martel 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 Gouffre 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 highlights were:
|exploration of the underground river of the Abîme de Bramabiau. Martel made the first through-crossing of the plateau de Camprieu in Southern France. This is often called the birthday of Speleology.
|he descended 100 meters into the Gouffre de Padirac. Martel and his cousin Gaupillat discovered an underground stream and followed it for 2 km in a dingi.
|he travelled to Ireland and England, exploring Marble Arch Cave in Northern Ireland and Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire.
|Martel and Louis Armand explored caves on Mallorca, e.g. Cuevas del Drach. They were invited by the Archduke Ludwig Salvator, who lived in Miramar.
|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 Aven Armand after his discoverer. But Armand was already 5 years dead, when the cave was opened to the public.
|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.