Româna Magyar

The Winds' (Vântului) Cave

in Pădurea Craiului Mountains, Romania


Introduction-History - Geological settings - Karst hidrology - Cave morphology - Climatology and Biology - Perspectives - Down


The Wind Cave (Pestera Vântului) is located near Șuncuiuș mining village (Bihor County), in the King Forest (Pădurea Craiului) Mountains, North -West Romania. In the last 30 years, this represents the largest cave in Romania, and now with the length of almost 50 km, the most extensive limestone labyrinth in South -East Europe as well. The small and windy entrance of the cavern has been known for a long time by the local peoples. In 7th of April 1957, the retired miner Dumitru BODEA showed the cave-entrance to one of the amateur- cavers from Cluj, Mr. Bela BAGAMERI, known as the father of the exploring speleology in Transylvania. After a very difficult crawling in the narrow and extremely drafting entrance passage, in a solitaire exploration he searched 600 m of active stream gallery. In the very next week, he came back with another few amateur cavers and alpinists, and in this moment a more than 40 years long exploration campaign began. Though only one entrance is known in the lowest (Northern) extremity, the length of the cave is growing fast from one expedition or weekend-trip to another: in 1958 the first fossil level and the second active sector was discovered: length = 3.022m; 1959 = 4463m. In 1960 the second and third fossil levels where partially explored: length = 5.180m. In 1962 the Great Meanders on the second flour where explored: length = 6.600m. In 1966 the CSA amateur speleoclub was founded (with more than 60 cavers at present) – the 1st of Mai and the 7th of November passages were discovered: length = 9.000m; 1967 – the upper part of the second active sector (Moravek terminus pasage) was explored: length = 13.750m. In 1968, the actual active terminus has been reached in a five days long expedition with 14 participants: length = 15 km. In the 1970-1971 period the White- and Red passages were discovered: length = 18.367m. In 1974 the length of 20 km is exceeded. In 1979 the length is 25.700m, and the 30km barrier is reached in 1982 during a 175 ours long expedition. 36 km in 1988; 39 km in 1989; 43 km in 1992; 46 km in 1996; 49 km in 1998. The huge exploration and surveying work is not finished yet. Every year in winter or early spring, a big souterrain-camp is organized by the CSA speleoclub, in average with more than 30 participants. There are several exploring and surveying teams, as well as novice cavers who try to know better the complicate passage-networks. The weekend trips are quite frequent in the cooler periods of the year, and approximately one km of new passages are explored every year.


The geological context of this cave is quite simple to understand: more than 60% of the surface of King Forest Mountains, are formed by carbonated formations, mostly Mesozoic limestones and dolostones belonging to the Bihor autochthon unit. The Recea Hill, which contains the Wind Cave, is formed by Middle Triassic (Ladinian) massive limestone, slightly folded and deformed during the Pregosau and Laramian tectogenesis. The 180m thick limestone is unconformly covered by Lower Jurassic (Gresten facies) clayey and clastic formations (fireclay, coallyclay, sandstones, orthoconglomerates), which leads to a peculiar covered karst. The hill represents a well developed synclinal, with the axis oriented longitudinally on N-S direction, and slightly fragmented by a series of transversal faults. Along the axis of the Recea synclinal, an evident parallel joint system is developed, intersected by many secondary transversal joints and faults. The multileveled Wind Cave, is developed mostly on this parallel joint system, many of the adjacent passages being formed on secondary joints or transversal faults.


The hydrological network is a tributary system to the Crișul Repede River, which crosses Șuncuiuș village. The Recea Hill is surrounded by a series of stream valleys such as the Izbândiș Valley on West, Șesii Valley on South and Mișid Valley on East. The origin of the water (in average 100 l/s) from the Wind Cave is quite disputed. The dominant quantity comes from the Șesii Valley through the Recea ponor, 3,2 km South from the exurgence of the cave, which was marked with radioactive tracer (I131). On the more than 5 km long main active passage, 18 tributaries were found on both sides. Part of the streams come from the hill-slopes through the litological contact between the karstified limestone and the clastic formations, or through the main joints and faults, such as the majority of the right sided tributaries. This water has a very low pH level (between 4,5 and 2,9) being extremely aggressive, and also a very high mineralization contain (max. 591,6 mg/l). Another part of the water comes from the looses of the Recea stream (left side), and Mișid Valley (right side). However, one left-sided large-debit secondary stream (CCA passage) has ambiguous origin, the hidrogeological link between the Wind Cave and the nearest Izbândiș karstsystem is very problematic by geological and tectonical reasons.


The actual length of the cave is very near to 50 km (3 km in airline extension), but there are many passages, which have never been surveyed. Also in the far sectors of the system, the exploration work is not finished. The vertical extension is around 120 m. Comparing with other limestone caves from Romania, the length/airline-extension ratio in very high - 16,33, being the second after the Hodobana Cave from Bihor Mountains, which has a ratio of 22,66 with a length of 20400 m. In great line, the Wind Cave is a multileveled complex system, which has a main active passage and three main fossil flours. Actually, the number of the fossil levels is higher, in some sectors are 6 or 7 levels in superposition, forming very complicated passage networks. From typological viewpoint, this cave is a lateral digression type, developed parallel with the subaerial stream flow, being characterized by a subsequent descending of the underground flow, controlled by the erosion rate of the hydrological network. This leads to epiphreatic morphological features, sometimes with very typical subsequent vadose modifications, well developed on all of the active and fossil passages. The most important galleries are: the Northern passage, the First flour passage, the White gallery (on 1st fossil flour); the 1st Mai passage, the 2nd flour passage, the 7th of November passage, the Red gallery, the P passage, the Lakes passage (on 2nd fossil flour); the Mikulas gallery, the MP passage (on 3rd fossil flour). Very characteristic is the water-table type stream passage, with large meanders and erozional levels on the walls, with extensive sandy accumulations. In some sectors, extremely complicated meandered galleries are interconnected, forming huge labyrinthic networks (the Great Meanders, the Horseshoe sector). The fossil flours and the stream galleries are interconnected by large pits and vertical shafts, sometimes very wet ones, being washed by waterfalls. Also some very huge chambers are developed on every level, without any exception by collapse origin, formed mostly on the intersection of joints or faults: the Big chamber (Active passage); the Titanic, Amphitheater chambers (first fossil floor); Iron, Hidden, Black chambers (second fossil floor); MP chamber (third fossil floor). The cave, being developed on a typical covered-karst, traditional Calcite formations are represented in very few places, which are out from the cover, or in the main joint and fault areas which permit the penetration of percolation water. The characteristic mineralizations are the aragonite and gypsum formations, very common on the fossil passages. Also some extensive clay-mineral and manganese-oxide accumulation are frequent on the active passage and on some fossil galleries in the far sector of the cave. The origin of the mineralizations (and the low pH of the karstic waters as well), is on the overlapping clastic deposits, which in some places contain secondary sulfuric accumulations represented mostly by pyrite.


The average temperature in the cave is 11,8 o C, being variable in the entrance area and the main passages of the close sector. The very powerful draft, which can be sensed in the entrance and in the far corners of the cave as well, is bi-directional being controlled seasonally. In winter, the cool air goes in, subsequently on summer erupting. The power of the draft (sometimes similar to a very strong wind) depends on the weather conditions, especially temperature. Because of the large temperature variations, the coleopteran fauna is very poorly represented. Bats are rarely observed in different sectors of the cave. Also very few bat- and some mice skeletons were found on the fossil passages. The most interesting findings from this point of view are some recently discovered footprints and claw-marks on clayey walls very far from surface, possibly belonging to a marten or fitch.


Because in the past decades, the survey techniques were different and not very exact, and also some big survey-mistakes were done, in the recent years the re-surveying of the cave with hi-tech equipment began. First the proper mapping-method was experimented, then in the last period the re-survey work started. The much more detailed and exact mapping will show us the real length of the cave, which in the first sector is in average with 30 % more than the previous survey results. This could mean that the explored length of the cave in fact exceeds 70 km. The perspective to find new passages or even new sectors in the Wind Cave is still high. From this point of view, the Middle sector which includes some high debit left-sided streams (CCA, Novisad passages), and also the far sector (the Advanced Camp-Supco area) has great potential. 
Vremir, Matei: The Wind Cave: The largest limestone labyrinth in South-East Europe. 

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