A CAVE in south Mayo — the deepest of its kind in Ireland or England — has been navigated by an Irish-based Polish cave explorer who described it as ‘a journey to the centre of the earth’.
Artur Kozlowski reached 103 metres below ground in the Pollatoomary cave, surpassing the previous record of 90 metres attributed to Britain’s deepest cave, Wookey Hole, in Somerset.
Pollatoomary had been located initially by leading British cave explorer, or speleologist, Martyn Farr in 1978 close to the Aille river, which rises in Mayo’s Partry mountains. The river runs underground some 10km southeast of Westport, and reappears three kilometres further on at Bellaburke where the underground cavern is located.
Mr Kozlowski, who was trained by Mr Farr, explored the area in May of this year. Initially, he recorded a depth of 86 metres, swimming in cramped confines in poor visibility through the Pollatoomary cavern.
In July, he returned with fellow speleologist Tom Malone and tied off his line at a depth of 103 metres after a three-hour dive. Some ‘uncomfortably constricting’ and ‘occasionally tight’ sections of the cave opened up into a passage beyond 70 metres, which dropped further at a 35-to 40-degree angle, said Mr Kozlowski.
“There’s an awful lot of wriggling in tight corners. It really can only be compared to space exploration, in that we have climbed the world’s highest mountains, explored parts of the ocean, but the subterranean is the last frontier,” said Mr Kozlowski.
And the Polish explorer discovered he was not alone on his journey. “Imagine when you are swimming along, or negotiating very tight spaces, and suddenly an eel careers into your mask, jaws open and eyes piercing. The eel is harmless, but the effect when you are concentrating is pretty electric,” he said.
Mr Farr paid tribute to Mr Kozlowski’s ‘very exciting achievement’, saying that the Pollatoomary discovery establishes once again that Ireland has some of the finest subterranean caves in western Europe.
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