Interview #2: Yuri Kasyan, Ukraine

“Interview” is caving club “Pod RB” initiative dedicated to discussions with cavers from all around the world. What they share about their life above and under the ground, their caving experience, stories, dreams and future plans you can find in the following lines…

Tell us something about yourself in terms of caving experience.

The roles are changing throughout the years. Especially, when taking into consideration that I am already 40 years dealing with speleology. In our club I am leading the training and education process for new speleologists, all in all I am club leader as well. On national level (Ukranian Speleological Association) I am a vice president and project leader of ‘The abyss call’ (aiming at exploration of some of the deepest caves on the planet – Kruber – Voronya and the area Aladaglar in Turkey). My roles also include leader of the Ucranian Speleological Association Cave Rescue team and lead editor for the Association’s magazine ‘Svet’.

What made you start exploring caves and why are you still doing it?

I am still exploring caves as I still find it interesting. For me the speleology consists of 3 main features: 

  • Travel – as you visit different places
  • Adventure – as the nature of vertical speleology involves descending and ascending, which have an element of adventure
  • Exploration – meaning, not only entering a cave but looking for something new, e.g. new passages

To which club/organization you feel you belong? Tell us something more about this group of people or organization, something about the main drive behind your activities and projects.

I am a member of the Kiev Speleo Club and the Ukranian Speleological Association. The Association’s main project is ‘The abyss call’.

Which is your favourite cave or area of exploration?

To date, my favourite cave is Berchilskaya (-770m), this cave is situated 180m higher than the entrance of Kruber-Voronya, with a depth potential of 2400m. I can say that I have just recognised this cave and in an earlier period, probably, I wouldn’t fall in love to such a degree. The most exciting period for this cave exploration began in 2014, when I initiated the cave exploration as part of the project ‘The abyss call’. This is a very old cave with many huge fallen blocks and really narrow passages. In general, a really dangerous cave. Thanks to this cave I became an expert in blocked passages. Some of these passages are with depth to 40-50m. Until so far we haven’t had any incidents there. Our plan for Berchilskaya is to reach its potential depth of 2400m.

What you have learned (in general about yourself, friends, life, etc.) through caving?

Man needs some kind of base in his life, a constant. You may change the places, where you live, the job, your wife… But the base remains, for me this is the speleology.

If you have experience with cave incidents would you share with other speleologists, so we can all learn from your experience. What is your advice to fellow explorers in case of an incident?

In case there is already an injured speleologist, there is not much left but to organise a rescue mission. 

I think that it is more important that cave incidents are prevented in the first place. Further to that and based on my experience I would suggest the following preventive measures against eventual cave incidents: 

  • To not have more than 8 hours of progressing and exploration. After this, the speleologist should be on the surface or in an underground bivouac. It is a priority to keep within the time limits but not to push for finalising the set objective, which often results in delays with the control time. 
  • The given tasks to be adequate to the speleologists skill sets 
  • Good preparation (fitness levels, technical and psychological) 
  • For longer underground stays, to operate during the day, meaning to keep the natural biorhythm, which people have on the surface.

What is your approach toward new speleologists and beginners? How do you attract new people, what is the course duration, on what you put emphasis on during the training process?

Lately, we are attracting new speleologists through the social networks. We have two courses on an annual basis – spring and autumn one. During the courses I am led by  one of Plutarch’s main statements, which applies to each learning process: ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled’. The most important is to intrigue the course participants but not to be overwhelmed with knowledge. You need to inspire the new speleologists with your own example, to make them want to become as you are. If this happens, they will compensate with the knowledge they need at a later stage. In order to inspire people to explore caves, more important are the good, personal example and the motivation.  

If there is something more you feel like sharing with us, it will be a pleasure to hear more.

I think there will be less and less people dealing with speleology as there are more and more interesting and easily accessible activities. Speleology is not the most interesting and attractive hobby and on top of that is quite hard. It is much more pleasant to go mountaineering, climbing, canyoning or biking. Speleology is for a specific type of people. Generally speaking, we all have senses, through which we perceive the world – eyes, nose, ears. Some of the people predominantly perceive the world through their eyes and others through their ears or noses. There is a specific type of people for whom speleology is attractive, most likely due to their senses and how they make sense of the world around them. The topic is quite long and interesting. Why is it interesting for some to go into the mud and to explore caves?  I am keen on researching this topic and through this research outcomes to be able to assess for whom caves would be interesting. It is a very interesting matter. 

On another note, I have big plans, which include the discovery of two caves deeper than 2000m and to participate in the exploration of a third one. The first one being Berchilskaya, situated on Arabika, the second one Guylchetay in the mountain Aladaglar in Turkey and the third one W La Donna in Italy.

Photo: Gergely Ambrus
The interview was held on the 2nd of July, 2019 in Ruse by Teodor Kisimov 

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