Underground boating in Vranja jama and Gradišnica
Highest water levels - 2014-03
This year's February was quite dynamic weather-wise. After catastrophic sleet, which wrecked Notranjska and later, the bountiful rainfall, the capacities of the fields of Karst were filled to historical water levels. Rakov Škocjan was, after quite a few years, so full, that one could, without much effort, row a boat to the ending of the Zelške jame, while on the Veliki naravni most, the efficient Franjo had already put up a new plaque at the spot of the highest water level.
But high waters bring a multitude of problems. The ones who fared the worst were the inhabitants of Planinsko polje, who could only watch helplessly as the water flooded their houses and buildings. With the help of firemen, the army and volunteers, they tried to save anything they could, but as a rule, a human can hardly beat the force of nature. Cavers, however, are often thrilled by high water levels, as the conditions outside are often reflected in the underground as well. The caves at the northern edge of the Planinsko polje were filled to the brim this time, which was checked out by many cavers, yours truly included.
Vranja jama is one of the most interesting cave, where we can observe the rise of the water levels at a nearby field. The entrance is close by and we don’t need any caving equipment to visit – you can also leave all your lighting equipment at home. Usually we visit it in the daytime and it is even easier to recognize on photographs with daylight. It’s interesting in any season, the most perhaps in winter, when the small lake forms into interesting ice sheets due to the low temperatures.
During this time’s record water levels, I thought it would be very interesting to shoot a bit of a different photograph of Vranja jama – definitely not something we’re used to. I wanted to get rid of all daylight, which gives it its distinctive mark, so I headed toward the cave with my trusty crew (Mojca, Boštjan, Andrej) during the evening hours. The first time around we were failed by the equipment, but the second time everything worked as it should. The only difference was the water – it fell down about half a meter in the week-long space.
But we didn’t stop only at Vranja jama. Heading to the north of Logatec, we can track the flooding waters at the beautiful cave of Gradišnica. I’ve written about it years ago, when we went through the main attractions of the cave in a smaller team and also made a photograph of the Putick Hall. At that time, the hall was dry and we could hardly imagine it full of water, during which time it holds around 250.000 m3 of water.
Sunday’s tour was numerically filled to the brim, as we were joined by our German friends as well. At the abyss at the entrance, we made two descents for better fluidity and had a hard time taking all of the boating and photographing equipment all the way to the Putick Hall. The point of the cave where you usually land on a rockfall cone after descending into the hall, was ruled by water. So to ensure not landing in the water, you must first prepare a boat, into which you try to descend as elegantly as possible. The lighting of Janez during the descent and Bole in the small boat was solved by Alex, Timo and me, which launched enthusiasm over group creation.
The ride across the underground lake is, of course, a special adventure. In the dry months, we can only marvel at the height of the ceiling of the Putick Hall, but this way, we can easily see it up close. The height of the flooded hall can be seen on the photograph, which you can see around the middle of the video below. It is only this way that we can see the large dimensions of Putick Hall.
Time was rushing us, and we had the annoying part of the visit to get through. We had to carry everything to the surface, unrigged the abyss and fill up our cars, so the award in the shape of a pizza was definitely well deserved. In case you have not had enough of this writing, you can also peek into the gallery and watch the below GoPro puzzle of the visit to Gradišnica.