Cerjanska pecina


During 1996, members of Student Speleologic and Alpinistic Club explored 900 m of new galleries and resurveyed Cerjanska pecina (pecina = cave). The length of the cave was increased to 5190 m, and the new denivelation is 173 m. (The current length of the cave is 6.025 m - see the updates of the recent explorations). Explored for the first time in 1976 by SOB, the cave was once the longest in Serbia with the surveyed length of 4240 m.

There were plans for its touristic exploitation during the seventies. Therefore, the relatively narrow entrance was widened by blasting, and low crawls at the entrant part were deepened by digging. However, this active stream cave was never put into speleotouristic use. The next spring, the stream washed away wooden beams brought inside to serve as bridges over deep pools, and new river deposits turned the entrance part again into a low and wet crawl. Believed to be thoroughly explored, the cave remained mostly unvisited untlil the autumn of 1995, when members of ASAK visited its far parts, finding a continuation of the main gallery. In July 1996, the cave was resurveyed, including the majority of the new galleries.

Cerjanska pecina is located in the village of Cerje, near Nis in southeastern Serbia (250 km from Belgrade). The entrance to the cave, at 515 m a.s.l. is a swallow hole of a small stream named Provalija, the resurgence of which is Kravljansko vrelo (vrelo = spring), 2800 m northwest, at 310 m a.s.l. A tracing experiment performed in the seventies proved the connecton of the swallow hole and the spring. At that time, an unsuccessful diving attempt at the spring was stopped because of equipment troubles at the depth of 15 m. No diving attempts were done ever since to connect the Kravljansko vrelo spring and Cerjanska pecina. According to the result of the recent survey, the spring is located 400 m from the sumps which end the cave, and 34 m below them.

On the hill slopes above the spring, a 123 m deep pit "Jama iznad Kravljanskog vrela" is located at the altitude of 450 m. On 1996 New Year's eve the pit was resurveyed and its position corrected (hopefully). A strong air current blows from the boulder choke at the bottom of the pit indicating the presence of a voluminous gallery - most probably connected with Cerjanska pecina. The previous researchers' calculations showed that the pit was located exactly above the Salomna dvorana (Collapse hall), the terminus of the former survey. It was believed that the boulder choke at the bottom of the pit correspond to the decametric boulders which make the ceiling and the walls of Collapse hall. However, the new survey showed that the pit is located 350 m east from the closest galleries of Cerjanska pecina, and that the bottom of the pit is close to the level of Kravljansko vrelo spring, below the sumps at the current terminus of the cave Cerjanska pecina.

Small map of Yugoslavia with the location of Cerjanska pecina (gif, 13 k)

Click for a large map of Serbia and Montenegro with the cave location (150 k)

Small map of cave surroundings (gif, 5 k)
Click for a large map of the cave
surroundings (19 k), with the locations of
adjacent caves and the overview
of their hydrologic links.

Rough geological survey of the cave area (gif, 11 k)
Click for the geologic survey (40 k)
of the area with the legend

The cave Cerjanska pecina is characterized by small dimensions of its entrance part, and big dimensions of its main gallery - mostly by the height which exceeds 20 m. It is evident that the present entrance parts have no genetical links with the main gallery. A fossil gallery of great dimensions, ending in boulder,discovered just beyond the crawl in the entrance part, might be a connection with old entrances, now buried below the eroded sides of the amphitheatre which comprises the swallow hole of Provalija stream.

Low resolution survey (4 k). Click for detailed survey (15 k)Cerjanska pecina is a wet cave. Even in summer, when the stream bed is dry, the pools in the crawl are full of water. Further on, a stream flows through the main gallery, to the sump at the 3rd km. Except the Visoki kanal fossil gallery, which is really dry, the rest of the cave had no active flow (at the time of our explorations), but numerous deep pools made the progress very difficult. Since wetsuit caving is not a common practice in Serbia, crawling through the puddles near the entrance and stepping through the pools was usual and clearly unpleasant. The part of the cave between the 3rd km sump and the Collapse hall (named "Moon gallery") is particularly depressing. The walls in this part of the cave are formed in dark, almost black limestone, which erodes in very sharp shapes, and the floor is covered with deep whirlpools full of water. To ease the survey of the far end of the cave, a small bivouac was established near Collapse hall.

Climbing to upper portions of almost all the galleries, even the remote ones, revealed allogenic pebble and rounded boulder left in the niches at all heights. It is clear that the cave had been completely filled by allogenic material which was removed later. Looking at the present topography, it is hard to picture the stream capable of such act.

Ceilings of some galleries are composed of a strange mass, looking like decomposing limestone. The microscopic analyses of the samples showed that the limestone was once altered by hydrothermal waters. There are few thermal springs at the bottom of the hill 5 km west from the cave. The exact nature and role of thermal waters in the genesis of Cerjanska pecina awaits to be clarified in future explorations.

There are lot of places in the cave to search for new leads, mostly in the area beyond Collapse hall, and in the high parts of the main gallery. Some difficult leads await to be pushed: the diving connection between the sumps at the end of the cave, and the Kravljansko vrelo spring, and the digging at the bottom of Jama iznad Kravljanskog vrela which could provide an easier access to the far parts of the cave.


September 1998: current length is 5715 m

After the 96-hours bivouaque in August 1998, and another exploration in September, the bypass of the sumps at the end of the cave has been discovered. The terminal part of the cave has been resurveyed, as well as new galleries, bringing up the new length of 5715 meters. The new gallery, wet and wide and some 300 m away from Kravlje spring, awaits to be explored and surveyed.

Diving attempt of Kravljansko vrelo spring in September 1999

In September 1999, speleo divers from SOB dived at Kravljansko vrelo spring. A sand and mud blockage at 15 meters stopped further progress. New diving attpempts are planned after the period of high waters (in spring), with the hope that the blockage will be washed away.

October 1999: current length is 6.025 m, and the denivelation is 176 m

During September and October 1999, ASAK made two bivouacs in Cerjanska pecina. The passages leading to the gallery at the end of the cave (named "via Kravlje"), were widened. Unfortunately, it showed up that "via Kravlje" ends soon in sumps on both ends. The downstream sump is only 200 meters away from the Kravljansko vrelo spring. Further explorations in this direction are possible for cave divers only. New galleries in this part of the cave have been surveyed, bringing the total length to 6.025 meters, and the denivelation to 176 m.


text by Vladimir Ljubojevic

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