GOUFFRE Berger, who he?
He am not person. He am cave. And now, if we could all start speaking properly, I shall explain.
To begin at the wotsname, Joseph Berger was a Frenchman and, in 1953, he discovered what was then the deepest cave explored by man. Situated in south-east Franceshire, Gouffre Berger is 3,680ft deep. That's two-thirds of a mile in old money.
You should make a note that "gouffre" means "abyss", "chasm" or more probably "pothole" in the peculiar language of our Gallic cousins. Gouffre Berger soon became the most sought after hole in the world for adventurers and that sort of person. It was like Mount Everest, only upside down.
It wasn't for the faint-hearted either. Six people have died exploring the cave, five these fatalities caused by flooding.
So, why do it? Well, the thing – if that's the word – is stunningly beautiful for starters. In general, I do not approve of either potholing or mountaineering. I acknowledge life has its ups and downs, but these activities take things too far. Many of their practitioners sport beards, which is never a good sign.
But if you cannot look upon Mother Earth without wishing to explore her bowels, then you could do worse than getting down to Gouffre Berger. Her caverns are huge, her underground lakes quite captivating.
It's another world down there, and arguably a better one, as there are no neds. Cavers are now better at their sport or game than they used to be –"Up or down which do you think?" – and it's possible to reach Berger's bottom in a day now.
But there are still sheer drops to descend, and I should advise wearing a hat. If you think you might suffer from claustrophobia, go the other way and stravaig up Mount Everest. Hat again advised.
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