European Space Agency Training in Sardinian Caves
added Sept 2012
The highlands of central-eastern Sardinia known as the Supramonte comprise one of the largest karst areas on the island: sharp limestone cliffs, lush canyons, mysterious caves and underground rivers. It is 35,000 hectares (135 square miles) of terrain, much of which is uninhabited and barely explored. Active scientific exploration of the caves started in the 1950s, and they have become a boon to scientists, sport spelunkers, and now, interestingly, the ESA, the European Space Agency, which uses some of them as a training site for astronauts.
photo credit: ESA-V.Crobu
related article here: The Caves of Gairo
A Drive-Through Cave! added July 2, 2018
The San Giovanni grotto is in SW Sardinia in Domusnovas, a hill-town of 7,000 inhabitants in the Sardinian region of Carbonia-Iglesias, 40 km 25 mi NW of Cagliari. The grotto is remarkable in that it is an 850-meter karst cave, totally paved with asphalt. You used to able to drive through it! You didn't have to learn how to spelunk, rappel on a double-rope harness, or any of that stuff. You just buckled up and put the pedal to the stalactites. This sin against nature (or marvel of engineering) was built in the 19th century in order to facilitate the transport of material from the nearby Sa Duchessa mine. There are two other "cave roads" like it in the world: one is the Grotte du Mas-d’Azil in the French Pyrenees and the other is the Grand Arch of the Jenolan Caves in Oberon, Australia.
I said "used to be able to" because, alas, the Environmental Protection Agency of the semi-autonomous region of Sardinia (kill-joys that they are!) declared it a national monument and put it off-limits to motorized traffic. You may, however, still walk through. It's well illuminated. It's a great find for cavers on foot because there are side branches that shoot off further back into the rock where there be dragons and such. Even small, hidden lakes. Just in case, bring along that double-rope rappeling harness.