HISTOTY OF GOUFFRE GÉANT DE CABRESPINE
( cave of Gaougnas)

2008 was not only the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the Gouffre Géant de Cabrespine but also the 20th anniversary of its opening to the public.
But, the history of our cave does not come down to these two dates.

Since time immemorial, the history of Gaougnas has been connected with the history of men of La Clamoux as vestiges discovered in the first chambers of the subterranean system bear testimony to the long occupation of the site which would date back to the Bronze Age.

Although the excavations in the rocky shelter of Gaougnas were not always led by scientific minds, they could allow to excavate a significant number of materials.

Serious studies, started by Doctor Cannac in 1934 and then conducted by Jean Guilaine, gave rise to numerous discoveries.

Then, the first written documents, dated the year 1570, show that, during the month of May of that year, the millers of Villeneuve Minervois and other villages downstream gather and buy part of the meadow adjoining the place called Gaougnas with the declared purpose of diverting the bed of the river Clamoux and therefore preventing it from getting lost into the "Reboul", a whirlpool in which waters penetrate at the entrance to the cave.

It was only under Napoleon III that the famous hole called 'Reboul' was blocked up with the construction of the present-day road linking Villeneuve to Cabrespine.

So, those building works filled in the attested loss of the river but they do not prevent it from finding new ways and returning to its subterranean bed. With those works, the entrance to Gaougnas was also blocked up and the cave had been forgotten for several years.

It was only in 1880 that the cave came back to life at Clamoux through a tragic incident: during the month of June of that year, Baleste Pierre, an inhabitant of the village, fell badly and died in the Barrenc. The local policeman of the village brought the injured body of the poor man up and he therefore became against his wishes the first speleologist who entered this open-air chamber which was both deep (about 150m) and spacious. The same Barrenc, from which can be seen coming out large curls of water vapour, thus marking the arrival of winter, was the scene of another less tragic incident a few years later.

In 1927, a dog which was thrown out into the Aven came back to its owner by getting out of the Gaougnas, thus demonstrating the link between both caves. The following year, the continuous action of waters makes the roadside lands at the entrance to the village fall away. Mr Bordel, who was the owner of the land in those days, had a cavern enlarged, explored a few galleries and found the way to Gaougnas.

It was after some twenty years and the determination of a handful of speleologists that the link between Gaougnas and Barrenc could be carried out in 1959 thanks to the clearance works which lasted more than 2 months. And a few metres of an underground river were disclosed.

Three years later, in 1961, a tint appearing in the water of La Clamoux confirms the legend according to which ducks thrown away into Le Reboul got out alive in front of the four Cathar Castles of Lastours. From that time, the existence of a large scale subterranean system between Lastours and Cabrespine has been demonstrated. Dozens of unsuccessful explorations were carried out in order to find the way permitting to enter this system. It was only during the summer 1968 that two speleologists, after a lot of efforts, forced the way of the river and, fascinated, came out onto the foot of the great chamber of Le Gouffre Géant.