István Eszterhás:

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The history of the UIS pseudokarst committee

1    The prior history
2    Formation of the UIS pseudokarst committee
3    The committee’s activities between the UIS congresses in Austria 1997 and Brazil 2001
4    The committee’s activities between the UIS congresses in Brazil 2001 and Greece 2005
5    The committee’s activities within the last three years after the UIS congress in Greece (2005-2008)

1    The prior history

Pseudokarst phenomena have long since been observed and described without being named as such. Erosions in the loess were characterized in China already 2300 years ago. The ancient Roman writings mention the lava tube caves of Mount Etna (HALLIDAY 2007). Many writings that inform us about pseudokarst caves in the appropriate style of the spirit of the age and the knowledge of that time are known to us from most countries of Europe from the late middle Ages.

We can find the technical terms "pseudokarst" and "pseudokarst phenomena" at the beginning of the 20th century for the first time. According to our current knowledge Walther von Knebel, a German geologist, first used this special designation in 1906 in his work "Höhlenkunde mit Berücksichtigung der Karstphänomene" (KNEBEL 1906). The Russian geologist F. P. Savarenskij classified the pseudokarst phenomena of loess and clay sediments in 1931. In 1941, the Italian researcher G. Florida wrote a study entitled: "Un particolare fenomeno pseudocarsico manifestato since algune argile" (FLORIDA 1941). After the 1950s the expression of pseudokarst primarily spread in the speleological work of the central-European (Czech, German) languages (KUKLA 1950, KOSACK 1952). Shortly after that this term had conquered almost the whole territory of Europe and America. Since 1982 the first systematic and independent pseudokarst symposia took place in Central Europe.
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2    Formation of the UIS pseudokarst committee

Several times during the scientific meetings on pseudokarst the need to establish a World Federation came up. During the concluding session of the 6th International symposium on Pseudokarst in Galyatetö (Hungary) on 22nd September 1996 the present researchers made five decisions. One of them was: "We ask the Secretariat of the UIS to discuss the possibility to establish the pseudokarst committee on the 12th International Congress of Speleology in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland) in 1997." (ESZTERHÁS - SARKÖZI 1996). The organizing committee of the symposium redirected this request to the Secretariat of the UIS and the Organizing Committee of the 12th Congress. The decision formulated in the request was finally heard.

A time and room schedule for the meeting of the existing 23 committees was presented at the congress in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The not yet founded pseudokarst committee (and the cave mineral committee) were not scheduled in that plan. Although place and time of the foundation meeting were announced after a quick reclamation and reorganization the information for the possible participants only spread orally.

The constitutive meeting of the pseudokarst committee finally took place on 15th August 1997 at 10:30 a.m. in room 618 of the cantonal grammar school in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Because of the organization problems described above only 10 persons from 7 countries assembled.

Bella, Pavel (SK) van der Pas, Jan Paul (NL)
Bosák, Pavel (CZ) Pavuza, Rudolf (A)
Eszterhás István (H) Schöne, Tilo (D)
Gaál, Ludovit (SK) Striebel, Thomas (D)
Mais, Karl (A) Tulucan, Tiberiu (RO)

The participants decided the foundation of the committee and voted the following chair:

Jiri Kopecky (CZ) – Honorary President,
István Eszterhás (H) - President,
Tilo Schöne (D) – Vice President,
Tiberiu Tulucan (RO) - Secretary

This chair enacted the first working plan of the committee.

It included:
• the registration of pseudokarstcaves in cadastres
• the foundation of special workgroups (geomorphologic, Mineralogical climatologically biological etc.)
• the attending of social contacts to other committees (vulcanospeleology, library etc.)
• a intensive publication
• the target expansion of the committee from the Central Europe to the whole of Europe and other continents (TULUCAN 1977).
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>p>3    The committee’s activities between the UIS congresses in Austria 1997 and Brazil 2001

Shortly after the foundation of the committee the president sent a circular to about 50 national societies and famous pseudokarst explorers in which he informed about the foundation of the committee, the plan for the future newsletter and animated the interested persons to collaborate. The first newsletter called “Nachrichtenbrief” was published in May 1998.

By then it was time to acheive the aims which were set with the foundation of the committee. The registration of pseudokarst occurrences was continued by the countries. The relationship between us and the Committee for Volcanic Caves and for the History of Cave Exploration are close and friendly. We inform each other about results and attend the opposite presentations. We were looking for contacts to other committees (Ice caves, libraries etc.) but they did not succeed. The cooperation with the researches to root stalagmites, sandstone, granite and quartzite became more and more international. Most of the publications about pseudokarst (next to the disquisitions on symposia and conferences) appeared in different national publishing houses whose number we know approximately. The pseudokarst committee itself publishes two newsletters per year. For the UIS-Bulletin we compose an annual report of the activities of our committee.

National bibliographies concerning pseudokarst are finished in different countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany etc.). We proposed the protection of the pseudokarst occurrences to the Ministry for Environment (-offices). Some institutions accepted the proposal, others did not.

In 1998 there was an international workshop in Bayreuth (Germany), in 1999 the International Symposium on Pseudokarst in Arad (Romania). We know about several regional meetings in Europe, North America, Australia and China.

The evaluation of the pseudokarst topic during the 13th UIS congress in Brazil in 2001 was different. For example the Secretary-General Pavel Bosák reported about the UIS committee’s activities at the opening plenary session of the congress. According to the activities quality of the 24 committees the pseudokarst committee (together with 3 other committees) was counted to the highest category (BOSAK 2001). Unfortunately, the meeting of the pseudokarst committee was not planned by the organizations office but after the intervention of Jan Paul van der Pas it was inserted. At the congress only four reports concerning pseudokarst could be attended (ESZTERHÁS 2001).
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4    The committee’s activities between the UIS congresses in Brazil 2001 and Greece 2005

The summation of the pseudokarst caves was continuously carried out by the member countries during the last 4 years. Unfortunately, we do not have any concrete information. We know the facts of some countries cadastres very well: until 2005 1092 pseudokarst caves were edited in the Czech Republic, 896 in Hungary, 811 in Poland and 215 in Slovakia. The cadastre of the non-karstic caves in Hungary was published with numerous drawings and pictures (digital and on the internet). In that period our explorers paid more attention to the genetic of sandstone, granite and fumaroles' caves and of tafonis etc with focus on several areas around the world.

The number of publications rose constantly with the expansion of knowledge. We do not know the exact number of scriptures because they are published by hundreds of publishing houses in different places of the world. We constantly (every 2-3 years) asked the secretariat of the UIS to subsidize at least the publication and distribution of the newsletter. They did not answer at all. So to this day some Hungarian, Dutch and Austrian colleagues have to bear the costs for the paper.

In 2004 we organized the 8th International Symposium on Pseudokarst in Teply Vrch (Slovakia). Next to the presentations and the excursions we partly renewed the committee’s management board and asked the organizer of the 14th UIS congress in Athens to found a separate section for non-karstic caves. We also wrote a petition against nature and cave destruction in Spain that could be caused by a motorway construction site (ESZTERHÁS 2004).

The 14th UIS congress in Athens was very chaotic because of the lack of agreement of the local cave explorers. Altogether there were two reports about pseudokarst. On some days of the congress the meetings oft he several commissions took place. Unfortunately, the pseudokarst committee was not mentioned and therefore excluded from the programme. The attendees Eudovit Gaál and Georg Szentes found a solution for that problem. They simply engrossed a room and announced the time for the meeting. During that session we spoke about activities in and reports of different pseudokarst areas (SZENTES 2005).
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5    The committee’s activities within the last three years after the UIS congress in Greece (2005-2008)

First of all the research on root stalagmites was successful in that time. The discovery of new habitats succeeded in Austria and Australia. Several meaningful studies about sandstone and granite caves were published.

Over the last three years two international symposia were carried out: an international conference and an international workshop. In 2006 the 9th International Symposium on Pseudokarst took place in Bartkowa (Poland). We listened to 31 highly qualified reports and went to the sandstone caves of the Beskides (ESZTERHŔS 2006). The important international Granite Cave Congress in Corufia (Spain) in 2007 and its excursions into the granite areas of spanish Galicia and Portugal were successful (ESZETHERÁS 2007). This congress contributed to the higher protection of the Folón cave system. Also in 2007 the international workshop on root stalagmites took place in Teplice and Metuji (Czech Republic). We spoke especially about the very precise documentation, publication and future tasks.

The 10th Symposium on pseudokarst took place in Gorizia (Italy) in 2008. There were 22 reports concerning different pseudokarst areas of the world and with the possibility for an excursion we visited the Villanova cave which was formed by erosion of a sandstone layer between chalk strata. An important election to the board were held at the committee meeting of this symposium. István Eszterhás (H) proclaimed that he could not go on working as the president as he did over the last 12 years because of his state of health. After that the members of the committee elected the new president Jan Urban (PL). Asian and American Explorers were elected to the managing board.

We are happy to see that explorers of more and more countries and continents play part in the work of pseudokarst. Virtually all countries of Europe from Spain to Russia, from Sweden to Italy are represented in the committee. Also the explorers from North and South America, Asian and Australia are directly involved with their work.


BOSÁK, P. (2001): Commission and Working Group Activity - manuscript Opening Plenary Meeting of the 13. International Congress of Speleology, Brazil, p. 13-14

ESZTERHÁS, I. (2001): Activities of Pseudokarst Researchers on the 13. International Congress of Speleology - Nachrichtenbrief (Nr. 8), Isztimer, p. l-3

ESZTERHÁS, I. (2004): Report on the Pseudokarst Symposium - Nachrichtenbrief (Nr. 12.), Isztimer, p. 1-6

ESZTERHÁS, I. (2006): Report on the Pseudokarst Symposium - Nachrichtenbrief (Nr. 15.), Isztimer, p. 1-6

ESZTERHÁS, I. (2007): International Conference on Granite Caves - Nachrichtenbrief (Nr. 17.), Isztimer, p. 1-7

ESZTERHÁS, I. - SARKÖZI, Sz. (1996): Introduction - Proceedings of the 6. International Symposium on Pseudokarst, Galyatetö, p. 10-15

FLORIDA, G. (1941): Un particolare fenomeno pseudocarsico manifeste da algune agrile - Bolletino della Societa ei Sciencia Naturale ed Economiche di Palermo (vol. 23), p. 10-19

HALLIDAY, W. R. (2007): Pseudokarst in the 21 "Century - Journal of Cave and Karst Studies (vol. 69), USA, p. 103-113

von KNEBEL, W. (1906): Höhlenkunde mit Berücksichtigung der Karstphänomene - Druck u. Verlag von Friedrich Vieweg u. Sohn, Braunschweig, p. 183

KOSACK, H.P. (1952): Die Verbreitung der Karst- und Pseudokarsterscheinung über die Erde - Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen (B. 96.), Gotha, p. 16-22

KUKLA, J. (1950): Pseudokrasove jeskynfc u Loktu na Slovensku - Ceskoslovensky kras (vol. 3), Brno, p. 274-278

SZENTES, G. (2005): 14* International Congress of Speleology - Nachrichtenbrief (Nr. 14.), Isztimer, p. 1-6

TULUCAN, T. (1997): New U.I.S. Commission - „Inside Earth" Sonderausgabe von 12. Int. Kongress für Speläologie (Nr. 6. 97.), La Chaux-de-Fonds, p. 6

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Note of the editorial staff:
A grammar, orthography and rhetoric revision was carried by Hartmut Simmert (07/2008) on the basis of a submitted manuscript in german in consultation with István Eszterhas.
This revised manuscript was the basis for the english version.
Translation of the German version by Ulrike and Jana Simmert, Dresden 09/2008 and 01/2011