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210 × 148 × 15 mm
224 pages
100 illustrations, 79 in colour
01 Mar 2015
  • £15.95

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Cave Nature and Culture Lisa Fletcher, Ralph Crane

To enter caves is to venture beyond the realm of the everyday. From huge vaulted caverns to impassable water-filled passages, the karst topography of Guilin in China and the lava tubes of Hawaii, from tiny remote pilgrimage sites to massive tourism enterprises, caves are places of mystery. Dark spaces that remain largely unexplored, caves are astonishing wonders of nature and habitats for exotic flora and fauna.

This book investigates the natural and cultural history of caves and considers the roles they have played in the human imagination and experience of the natural world. It explores the long history of the human fascination with caves, across countries and continents, examining their dual role as spaces of both wonder and fear. In Cave we encounter the adventurers and ‘cave hunters’ who pioneered the science of caves, and the explorers and cave divers still searching for new, unnavigated routes deep into the earth. This book explores the lure of the subterranean world by examining caving and cave tourism and by looking to the mythology, literature and art of caves.

This lavishly illustrated book will appeal to general readers and experts alike interested in the ecology and use of caves, or the extraordinary artistic responses earth’s dark recesses have evoked over the centuries.

Shortlisted for the Tratman Award 2015’ — Award

Caves are seen as a source of creation and wisdom, as well as a source of our worst fears. In both cases, they represent the unknown. This book provides an intriguing opening into that poorly understood underground world and the mysteries and secrets (both imagined and real) that lie deep within it.’ — Australian Book Review

‘The adventures of cavers who have pushed the boundaries of cave study make fascinating reading . . . The book presents much food for thought, and left me pondering the subject for several days. Surely, the mark of a Good Read.’ — Geoscientist

‘[Cave] examines the position of caves in our culture in the broadest of senses and with some considerable success . . . It is both well written and mouth-watering to look at . . . beautifully produced and illustrated, interesting to read and deserves a place on the bookshelf of most cavers and speleologists.’ — Cave and Karst Science

Cave is unusual in that it succeeds in crossing divides, merging legend and fact, science and art any caver willing to be challenged with new ideas will enjoy this book.’ — DarknessBelow.co.uk

‘This insightful and well-written book by Ralph Crane and Lisa Fletcher takes the reader on an amazing journey of the importance of caves from a cultural point of view and how these natural wonders have played a special role in mankinds evolution and search for something more . . . Apart from the amazing information contained in this book, Cave also boasts some amazing photography of not just the caves themselves but also artwork throughout the ages . . . an insightful and historical look at caves from various points of our history that includes a variety of genres from science to mythology and even tourism. If you are fascinated by the history of caves then this tome is definitely a must read!’ — ImpulseGamer.com

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Lisa Fletcher is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Tasmania, Australia. She has published widely on literature and the environment.

Ralph Crane is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Tasmania. He has written or edited twenty-five books, including Cave: Nature and Culture (co-authored, Reaktion 2015).


1. What is a Cave?

2. Speaking of Speleology

3. Troglodytes and Troglobites: Living in the Dark Zone

4. Cavers, Potholers and Spelunkers: Exploring Caves

5. Monsters and Magic: Caves in Mythology and Folklore

6. Visually Rendered: The Art of Caves

7. ‘Caverns measureless to man’: Caves in Literature

8. Sacred Symbols: Holy Caves

9. Extraordinary to Behold: Spectacular Caves

Notable Caves


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Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements