TRIPA TOU PELAOU CAVE
Many of us have heard about the Tripa tou Pelaou cave (Hole of the sea) in Agios Mattheos which is said to have seven levels and to be connected to the sea.
Folklore and oral tradition:
There are many stories about the cave, one of which says that a cat was thrown into the cave and the next day it was seen swimming in the sea. Today we can take another look at that story. The constant temperature of most caves on Corfu is 17 C. Hypothermia is the most serious threat to a speleologist and an animal. If the cat was thrown into the cave, it would have broken a lot of bones and an injured cat cannot walk great distances in a cold cave and swim in the sea the next day. The animal would have died inside the cave due to its injuries and hypothermia.
Another story says that a lamb or goat fell into the cave and after a few days the animal's carcass was found on Paramonas beach.
It has been said since two or three generations ago that there is a large room on the sixth or seventh level.
There is also a story from a man who said that when he was young, 53 years ago, he entered the small opening which is located some metres below the entrance to the Tripa tou Pelaou cave, and ended up in the main room of the cave!
The first description of the cave dates back to 1811. The writer Stylianos Vlasopoulos was a Corfu judge and lawyer and also wrote various
scientific works including the book Corfu Notes, which he began in 1809 and finished in 1811.
Stylianos Vlasopoulos wrote about the Tripa tou Pelaou cave: "At the bottom of the entrance hole there seems to be the start of a flat downhill path going into the mountain. If you drop a small or large stone here, you can hear it tumbling down but it quickly stops and for seven or eight seconds there is silence followed by a loud bang like the sound of thunder in the depths of the mountain, indicating that the stone has hit a rock."
The writer believed that the stone sounded as though it had hit water. He repeated his experiments with stones of different sizes with the same result.
Using Galileo's formula, Vlasopoulos calculated that a stone falling for seven seconds must travel 735 feet or 147 ‘Italian passa’ (Venetian metres). A Venetian metre is 1.75 metres and that means the depth of the cave was 270 metres! Vlasopoulos assumed that the mountain in Agios Mattheos was completely hollow inside and that it could collapse from one moment to the next.
The writer Ioannis Bounias also wrote about the Tripa tou Pelaou cave in his 1954 book Corfu History and Folklore Volume 1 and said that a falling stone could be heard for about seven seconds.
Previous exploration of the cave:
Two French speleologists visited the cave in the past but the results of their exporation has not been recorded.
Exploration of the cave in 2019:
The cave has been visited in 2018 for the first time and after more research into the history of the cave and with the right equipment, the cave could be explored in the spring of 2019.
The entrance to the Tripa tou Pelaou cave is small. The first level of the cave has a depth of 8 metres with a slope to 13 metres. During the descent some sharp rocks needed to be passed and for that reason rope protectors were required.
After the main room of the cave comes the second level with a narrow passage 9 metres deep. Then comes the third level with an equally narrow passage 3 metres deep. The floor here is blocked by soil.
In the past many people have thrown stones into the cave but on the first level no stones were visible. Possibly the stones will be found under the soil on the third level. A connection with the small opening located below the entrance to the Tripa tou Pelaou cave was not found on the first level.
During the next visit the soil from the third level of the cave will be removed to discover if there is fourth level.
Flora & Fauna:
During a visit to the cave in 2019 several bats were spotted and on the floor of the first level there was a lot of bat guano.
Μπουνιάς Ιωάννης, Κερκυραϊκά Ιστορία - Λαογραφία, τόμος Α΄, Αθήνα 1954, σ. 65.
Βλασόπουλος Στυλιανός, Σημειώσεις περί Κερκύρας, σ. 4.