15 Eylül 2020

As the four-wheel-drive Land Rover jeep from the MTA Cave Research Unit[1] climbed the slope, we were filled with fear. It was the first time we would enter the “Kara Cehennem (Black Hell)” cave, whose name we heard many times from different people and in different places, and we would map it. In the distance, a clean container was visible on a slightly sloping slope where the Obruk Plateau descended into the Konya Plain. The scout said “There, the cave is over there. When you go near the right side of the container, you will see a whole four-five meters deep. That’s the mouth of the cave.”

I am standing in the upper right corner of the photo. I have an orange jumpsuit. The tall person in front of me (left) in yellow overalls is Emrullah ÖZEL, a geographer, geomorphologist. I don’t remember the other friends individually. I remember that someone from the Biology department of Ankara University entered the cave with us.

Emrullah GÜNEY, who was actually a Geomorphologist, drove the jeep in that direction. When we reached the cave through the wheat fields on the edge of the plain, a citizen was waiting for us with a rifle on his shoulder. Since we were in the first jeep, we got out of the vehicle and started talking to the old man. The old man said, “Why did you get here?” Emrullah said very politely that we came from MTA, there is a cave called Kara Cehennem (Black Hell) here, that we will enter the cave and draw its map. The old man, after examining all of us in detail, snapped at us; “There is no gold here, go look elsewhere.”. We tried to calm the old man down since we were afraid of his rifle. In the intelligence work we did before we came to the cave, it was revealed that a man lived here, slept in the mouth of the cave for twenty years, spent all his possessions here to find the gold here (?) and could do anything for it. Indeed, this man’s demeanor didn’t seem strange, as we have seen so many people who have gone mad about treasure hunting before. Emrullah politely persuaded the old man to drink tea. The man took us to the container and offered us tea. At the beginning of the conversation, he asked why MTA wanted to learn about this cave. He questioned what we do, what we do for a living. He tried to understand why older people go in and out of the cave and how they haven’t made a fortune from this business all these years. At the end of the half-hour conversation, the old man was convinced that we were not treasure hunters. He said that we could enter the cave, but we would not take out anything, and if we did, he would “shoot the dom dom” (shoot with a rifle).

After overcoming the problem of getting inside, we started wearing our clothes. Although I had entered dozens of vertical caves before, there was something terrible in the “Black Hell” that I didn’t know what was attracting me. As four cavers we got ready immediately and came to the mouth of the cave. The cave begins with a vertical descent and its bottom was not visible. In other words, in a five-meter hole, pitch-black obscurity… At that moment, Emrullah, the team leader, came before me. Of course, we did not know what this giant man, who is fifty years old, 120 kilos and 1.90 meters tall, was doing because we couldn’t see anything. Since the technology was not so developed in those years, there were no short-range, powerful cave radios. Then, I put on my strut(?) and hung on the rope. After passing the cave mouth, I came across an incredible sight. So much so that the main hall of this cave in the west wing of the Obruk Plateau had a width and depth that could comfortably accommodate any stadium in our big cities. So I think the rock wall closest to you was 100 – 150 meters away during the first landing 80 meters (without contacting anywhere). Although I have entered the cave many times before, I have never seen such a large cave. Honestly I hadn’t even imagined it. When I was going into the caves, I used to say that I was not afraid at all. I was really not afraid at all. But Black Hell has untied my knees.

The first big descent took us to the top of a 70-80 meter hill. Everybody who saw the cave threw stones into the mouth of the cave, the thrown stones and rubble had accumulated for thousands of years, and a huge pointed hill that did not form naturally emerged in the middle. We started to descend from this hill consisting of large and small rock fragments. The four-person team moved in different directions, but did not change the overall line. There were an incredible number of bats in the cave. A person whose name I don’t remember but who went down to the cave with us, who wanted to be a faculty member in the Biology Department of Ankara University, said that there were 4 million bats in total. Even though no one believed it at first, we realized that this number was not exaggerated when we explained how he calculated it logically. Because the number of birds living in a cave that could fit into a stadium should have been really large.

Black Hell Cave is indeed an incredible natural structure the size of giant caves we see in documentaries on television or on the internet. In addition to revealing the extent of karstification in the Obruk Plateau, it hosts an amazing biodiversity. I mentioned only bats, but dozens of birds and many other small ground animals live in this giant cave.

Two surprises greeted us when we descended from the piled stone hill, where we made the first landing, to the real limestone floor of the cave. Since the first of these is bats as much as the biologist says, the animals have gone inside. The floor of the cave was covered with thick bat droppings[2]. We, unknowingly, had guano all over our neck. In other words, we were covered in shit. After advancing a little further, nature was showing us its real beauty here. Also, the negative mood created by the guano when he encountered the small stream that formed the cave was replaced by the rush of washing. Indeed, that tiny stream took away all the dirt on us.

Our depth in the cave reached -120 meters. This was a very important number. In other words, we also went under the plain part where we entered. So now we were really moving in the heart of the Obruk Plateau. These deep, dark and cold corridors, the bat droppings we were covered with, the cave air that became cooler as we progress… Then the real issue that disoriented people came to me there. It was continuing to move through a 1.5-meter elliptical tunnel that opened a small channel inside the cave. But at one convenient point I was faced with the horrible thing that gave me goosebumps. It was an entire human skeleton… A skeleton with hands in the fetal position with his hands between his legs, whose body was not fragmented, clearly female. Was I scared this time? No way. I just thought that this wretched woman crawled about 200 meters after she fell into the cave, and what great pain she suffered in the meantime. How did this female skeleton get into this place in the cave? Who was this unfortunate miserable? I remembered the information given by a villager while intelligence about the cave. He said “one hundred years ago a Turkmen kicked his wife and threw her into the cave”. Indeed, the human skeleton in fetal position that I encountered inside belonged to a woman. This corpse, short in height, with a small skull, must have belonged to a woman. After being thrown into the cave, she must have crawled about 200 meters without seeing anything. She had died groaning in terrible pain in this dark corridor. And while she was dying, she probably died screaming for someone to save her, saying the heaviest curses and curses to her husband, who threw her into the cave.

Cave maps are drawn after the end of the cave is found. After the skeleton, the cave continued along the stream for another 50-60 meters, from here it disappeared underground by sinking into a siphon.

We went back from here and started drawing the cave map. Since MTA MAG has been closed, I do not have a chance to reach the report. One of the founders of the team, the great name of Turkish caving, Dr. Lütfi Nazik left the MTA and is currently working in the geography department at Ahi Evran University. The depth of the Karacehennem Cave is -120 meters and its length is 260 meters. This cave, in which millions of bats live, has no economic value. The cave can be opened to tourism by using the tunnel created by the man who dug a tunnel of more than 60 meters to reach tons of gold that he claims to be in the cave. How valuable would that be? I do not know. Felengi Cave, which is one of the most important caves of our country, is located very close to the Black Hell. This cave, which is 1735 meters long, reaches an enormous depth under the Konya Plain with its -245 meters depth.

News on the “Black Hell Hoard” that appeared in the national media on different dates… If you examine the news, you will see that there are similar stories in the treasure news prepared with a ten-year difference. There were many more but I found a few examples sufficient.




[1] MTA Cave Research Unit was founded by Nuri GÜLDALI and was a research center that was disbanded a few years ago. This place was closed after the geomorphologists were eliminated from the state institutions.

[2] Bat excrement, scientifically known as “guano”, is a very valuable type of fertilizer. Although I have entered dozens of caves, I saw such thick guano cover here for the first time.

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