TRIPA TOU PELAOU CAVE
Many have heard about the Tripa tou Pelaou cave (Hole of the sea) on the top of the mountain in Agios Mattheos (440 metres), which is said to have seven levels and to be connected to the sea.
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. 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, 2 kilometres as the crow flies.
Today, we can take another look at those stories. The fact that a cat lands on its paws does not mean that it has nothing to do with a fall. In 1987, veterinarians at the Animal Medical Center in New York (USA) examined the injuries of 132 cats who had fallen from flats over a five-month period. The animals suffered chest, lung and head injuries, fractures and broken teeth. 37 percent of the cats immediately needed life-saving help. 30 percent came off with somewhat milder interventions. An equal number of cats were monitored for a few days, but did not require treatment.
In the history of the Tripa tou Pelaou cave, the cat did not fall into the cave but was thrown into it. Throwing a cat into a vertical cave would have caused it a shock and - most likely - a lot of broken bones.
The temperature of a cave is 17-19 degrees Celsius. Hypothermia is the most serious threat to a speleologist / caver and an animal, especially when you are injuried! A cat with broken bones cannot walk a long distance in a cold cave and swim the other day in the sea, the animal will die very soon. And if a lamb or goat fell into the deep cave and reached the floor of the first level, we cannot believe that the (severe) injured animal would have jumped into the depths of the other rooms.
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, 54 years ago (1965), 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.
With the current calculation methods, we can determine that - depending on the size of the stone - 7 seconds represents a depth of about 180 to 240 metres.
Visits and explorations of the cave:
Unfortunately Stylianos Vlasopoulos did not explore the cave from within. An exploration in first half of the 19th century would have solved many questions.
It is said that in the past two French cavers visited the cave, but there is no description of their exploration.
In 1965 Spiros Kapegeorgopoulos, Nikos Kapodistrias (Glavounos) and Christoforos Armeniakos (Violas) went inside the cave.
Spiros Kapegeorgopoulos (with the hat) and Nikos Kapodistrias (Glavounos).
Explorations of the cave in 2018 / 2019:
The cave has been visited by Speleo Corfu in 2018. After more research into the history of the cave and with the right equipment, the cave could be explored in the spring and the summer 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.
Flora & Fauna:
During a visit to the cave in spring 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.
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