Tourists trapped overnight in 100-metre deep French cave

Three tourists had to spend Sunday night underground in a cave in southwestern France after site personnel shut off the exit at closing time.

Tourists trapped overnight in 100-metre deep French cave
Photo: AFP

Three Spanish tourists were left trapped underground in France’s Padirac Cave on Sunday after failing to hear staff announcing that visiting hours were over. 

It is believed that the visitors at the famous cave in the Occitan department of Lot were using a new audio guide system with headphones that prevented them from hearing the closure calls.

Once they realised access to the staircase and lift that take visitors back to the top had been closed, they called out for help but all staff at Padirac Cave had left by then, French daily 20 Minutes reported.


#padirac #france

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It remains unclear whether the trapped tourists had mobile phones with them or if they were unable to get network signal underground.

In the end it was a case of “mañana, mañana” for the Iberian trio, left with no other choice but to spend a surreal night underground.

On Monday morning, staff were shocked to find the disgruntled tourists at the site.

They have since decided to press charges.

The experience could have been even more unpleasant for them had they been caught underground during the violent thunderstorms forecast for much of metropolitan France on Tuesday.

Padirac is a chasm – a deep fissure in the earth's surface or vertical cave of sorts- meaning the locked up tourists might have had to cope with heavy rainfall falling on them as well.

Padirac, France’s most popular underground site, receives 470,000 visitors a year.

This is the first time in the thirty years since it opened to the public that there has been an incident.

Visitors at Padirac descend 75 metres via a lift or a staircase before entering into the cave system, which is 103 metres deep and 19 kilometres long.  

The cave, contains a subterranean river system that is partly navigable by boat, and is regarded as one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena of France’s Massif Central.


#gouffre #padirac #francia #france

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Prehistoric French cave granted Unesco status

UN cultural agency Unesco granted its prized World Heritage status to a prehistoric cave in southern France that contains the earliest known figurative drawings.

Prehistoric French cave granted Unesco status
The famed Chauvet cave in France filled with prehistoric paintings has been awarded Unesco World Heritage status. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

UN cultural agency Unesco on Sunday granted its prized World Heritage status to a prehistoric cave in southern France containing the earliest known figurative drawings.

Delegates at Unesco's World Heritage Committee voted to grant the status to the Grotte Chauvet at a gathering in Doha, where they are considering cultural and natural wonders for inclusion on the UN list.

The cave in the Ardeche region, which survived sealed off for millennia before its discovery in 1994, contains more than 1,000 drawings dating back some 36,000 years to what is believed to be the first human culture in Europe.

"I had the chance, I should say the privilege, to visit the cave… and I was literally stunned by what I saw, which revolutionizes our views of our origins," France's envoy to Unesco Philippe Lalliot said after the vote.

A French lawmaker for the Ardeche, Pascal Terrasse, described the cave as "a first cultural act".

"This artist has now been recognized," Terrasse said. "May he forgive us for waiting 36,000 years to recognize his work."

Unesco said the Grotte Chauvet "contains the earliest and best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people, which are also the earliest known figurative drawings in the world," Unesco said.

"The large number of over 1,000 drawings covering over 8,500 square metres (90,000 square feet), as well as their high artistic and aesthetic quality, make Grotte Chauvet an exceptional testimony of prehistoric cave art."

The opening of the cave, located about 25 metres underground, was closed off by a rockfall 23,000 years ago.

It lay undisturbed until it was rediscovered by three French cave experts in 1994 and almost immediately declared a protected heritage site in France.

"Its state of preservation and authenticity is exceptional as a result of its concealment over 23 millennia," Unesco said.

Mammoth, wild cats, rhinos 

Access has since been severely restricted and fewer than 200 researchers a year are allowed to visit the cave, which stretches into several branches along about 800 metres and at its highest reaches 18 metres.

The painted images include representations of human hands and of dozens of animals, including mammoth, wild cats, rhinos, bison, bears and aurochs.

More discoveries are expected to be found in remote parts of the cave as yet unexplored.

The cave also includes remnants and prints of ancient animals, including those of large cave bears that are believed to have hibernated at the site.

Researchers believe the cave was never permanently inhabited by humans "but was instead of a sacred character" and "used for shamanist ritual practice".

With the cave itself closed to the public, authorities are building a full-scale replica of the site nearby, which is expected to open in the spring of 2015.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization oversees the system of granting coveted World Heritage Site status to important cultural and natural sites.

Obtaining the status for sites is a point of pride for many nations and can boost tourism, but it comes with strict conservation rules.

Unesco delegates are meeting for 10 days in Doha to consider the inscription of 40 sites on the World Heritage List and issue warnings over already-listed locations that may be in danger.

Other sites given the status this year include a vast Inca road system spanning six countries and ancient terraces in the West Bank that are under threat from the Israeli separation barrier.