From "World Of Stones", 1993, No 2, originally in 2 languages.

Sorry, but I was lazy to prepare my own translation, and this one is of terrible quality, full of mistakes, even not following usual terminology┘ But it was printed, so I provide it "as is".

Again sorry, but illustrations were scanned terribly, so here I don't provide them, but most of them, re-scanned from slides with much better quality, can be found on this site in "photo galleries".


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Vladimir A. Maltsev




The Cupp-Coutunn Karst Cave System, located on the western slope of the southern edge of the Kugitangtau Ridge, is the largest karst system in limestone on the territory of the former USSR. The system deserves its place among ten of the most interesting caves in the world, both for the variety and the uniqueness of its mineralogy, as well as in the aesthetic value of its formations. The geological formations of the Cup Coutunn System are included in the draft of the new publications of the UNESCO World Heritage List in the section of objects of nonclassified importance.

Today, the total extension of the cave system exceeds 80km, and the length of its largest cave ( the CuppCoutunn II cave) is 56km. The caves suffered a hard fate during the periods of industrial exploitation of marble onyx (striped flowstone) which was stopped by the public in 1981. In addition, the system has endured periods of invasion by collectors and "barbaric" tourists, as well as battles between powerful local authorities for control over the caves. Nevertheless, the speleologists conducting research on the cave system have managed to keep the most interesting areas safe and sound.

The mineralogy of karst caves is in principle a very interesting and specific field of knowledge. The characteristics of this field are determined by a few main factors, such as:

    1. the role of theoretical modelling. This role prevails over the role of analytics, in which the use of nondestructive methods of field diagnostics is a priority. It is quite natural that these atypically mineralized caves are a great rarity, and their complete destruction might take place literally after only a few savage visits;
    2. the absence of state support. The lack of struggle for state money and scientific degrees between researchers creates very specific, simple, and pleasant interrelations;
    3. joint activity concerning research on the caves among mineralogists and speleologists of various interests who are broadly educated people possessing a good dose of romanticism (otherwise they could not possibly have chosen such a hobby) and giving extremely interesting and sometimes fruitful ideas "on the side";
    4. the absence of hurry. The results of research are published only when the author really wants and in the way the author wants (sometimes even in the form of the naked ideas). The technique of writing the article is rather curious. The majority of researchers from various cities and countries meet each other only in the caves themselves, having brought all the necessary material with them. Hence, if the writing process of a particular article has matured and especially if the article has more than one author, then the train from Samarkand to Moscow is a standard place of the publication's realization. The record-breaking achievement is a 65-page survey written in English by C.Self and me during two and a half days for the Proceedings of the Bristol University Speleological Society.

Unfortunately, recently the above described idyll has been slightly disturbed by amateurs organizing "international scientific expeditions" to the Cupp-Coutunn Cave System on a commercial basis. The amateurs on these types of expeditions do not even have topographical materials, not to mention other necessary things. Naturally, there is no sense in such expeditions, but the fuss is so great, even if one put aside the direct damage to the caves. For example, it was recommended for fifty participants of the Russian-Kirghiz-English "expedition" in 1990 to use carbide lamps in the caves, which are particularly sensitive changes in the thermal regime and where no light ecxept electric light is acceptable to use. The amateur investigations had another interesting effect. In the time of stagnation in the USSR, it was so difficult to publish a large scientific paper which did not concern the official "thematics" of one's institute that people often were too lazy to become entangled with the process. As a consequence, only brief articles on the Cup Coutunn Cave System were published in Russian, and the main survey articles were printed abroad. As a result, this paper is the first large article about these caves to appear in a Russian publication. I have chosen this periodical in particular because of its character, which allows the promotion of a somewhat different balance between proved and working hypotheses (which are abundant due to the above described peculiarities of the field) than the balance presented in a purely scientific publication. Naturally, the contents of this paper are slightly subjective and in a few places even debatable. It is specially noted everywhere in the text where geological-mineralogical formations are discussed. I adhere to the conceptions of the scientists in my circle, from whom I have permission to publish ideas which were jointly formulated in the majority of cases. Such remarks are absent in those parts of the text where philosophical and political categories are discussed, though the debatable and even apocryphal conceptions are present. For example, usually in the speleological world, any discussions on the removal of samples from caves are taboo; therefore I present only my own point of view supported also by my closest colleagues.



The geology of the Kugitangtau Ridge is rather simple. The ridge is a single horst-meganticline, which is almost not complicated by overlying tectonics, being cut by a cuesta on the eastern slope. The western slope is a flat plateau with a height from 300 to 3000m. The plateau is armored by limestones of the Kugitangtau series (Upper Jurassic, Callovian - Oxfordian )up to 500m thick, in which the caves inquestion are situated . The remnants of gypsum-anhydrite deposits of the Kimmeridgean - Titonian Gaurduck series, in which the karst is developed, are found from place to place. But the caves are not interesting there. A thick flysch bed, which does not appear to be waterproof, underlies the limestones. Beneath the cuesta , the flysch is intruded by a granite batholith and a volcanic massif, which, to all appearances, intruded even into an eroded part of the limestone and left agate pebbles in the canyon valleys that cut through the modern ridge. The plateau is cut by some hundreds of canyons up to 300-400m deep and up to 30km in length. Some canyons reveal the upper floors of the caves, but in general the caves are situated completely below the canyon level and spread freely under it. The surface karst forms, such as sinks, sinkholes and so on, are totally absent. Limestones are quite interesting, being represented by very massive, slightly marbled and intensively silicified varieties. The normal karst process could not develop in them, which is the reason the caves can progress several meters under the canyon floors without being intercepted even by small sinkholes. There are interlayers with sideritic concretions, separate sulfur inclusions and numerous veins of low-temperature calcite and fluorite. There are also some Pb-Zn sulfide veins, which were partly exploited before. Single veins with celestite are also present.

The tectonics of the ridge is also simple. The substantial role belongs to a system of upthrusts, which are almost parallel to the ridge axis, forming horst blocks. Each upthrust with a 40 - 300m height is well traced in the relief features and obliquely transsects a plateau, dividing it into well defined upper and lower blocks. Other fractures have a height of no move than a few meters.



The deep karst of the Kugitangtau Ridge was formed in three stages. The first stage was developed on a plain during the Late Cretaceous. The formed cavities, to all appearances, represented a large labyrinth of phreatic joint between two rivers or from the river into the sea, similar to the labyrinth caves of Podolia (Ukraine). The cavities were completely and rather quickly colmatated by clay sediments that had remained in them after the uprising of the ridge in the Paleogene.

The activization of the second karst stage took place in the Middle Quaternary, when a rather humid climate existed. The hydrogeology of this was very interesting. In the lower zone of the ridge, rain water was collected in subsurface stream-beds and went away quickly, almost not having any time to filter deep down into the massif due to the weak karst potential of limestone. Thus, the canyons were formed. In the upper zone, which had a more humid climate and a snow cover for half the year, the filtration through joints was correspondingly more active, though the mighty karst process did not occur. Filtrated water, moving down the face of the slope, reached the closest upthrust and was moved along its surface, penetrating some depths to reach the ancient colmatated cavities, where the karst process might be actively developed in the sediments. In this way, conditions were created for the repeated reworking of ancient cavities by head waters near upthrusts in their lower wings. Each upthrust cocrrespondingly controls one system of modern caves, and the Cupp- Coutunn caves are one of these systems. At present, just five per cent of this system has been explored, and only small fragments of the remaining systems (about ten) have been poorly researhed. At this stage, characterized also by the activization of tectonic processes in the region, in some caves there were periods of thermal solution invasions, which left very interesting mineralogical traces. Waters from upthrusts not absorbed by the caves were discharged by the springss at the foot of the ridge, and absorbed waters were discharged in large phreatic collectors beneath the valley situated in the gypsum deposits of the Gaurduck series. This water moved through these collectors and filtered in the direction of the Amu Darya River, appearring as springs in ten kilometers from the foot of mountain.

The third stage of karst formation, which continues to the present day, copies the hydrogeology of the previous stage, but it differs by the far smaller amount of water, which is not enough for the normal karst process. The development of caves, including the formation of their new extent, is continued in dry upper levels, using elements of the inner circulation of water and of chemical, as well as biochemical, factors such as the bacterial cycle of sulfur, the secondary fluorine cycle supported by the former sulfur cycle and so on that will be discussed below.

The subplain collectors are particularly interesting. The formation of sulfur in gypsum takes place due to the activity of bacteria, and accordingly, water moving away from the point of supply is enriched by hydrogen sulfide. Some of these springs, for instance Kainar-Bobo, discharging from the Cupp- Coutunn System 9km from its outlet beneath the plain, are intensively enriched in hydrogen sulfide. A very interesting consequence results from this. The local custom to lodge carps in every source of drinking water might destroy all the troglobiotic aquafauna, but the collector was subdivided into sections by hydrogen sulfide barriers, which preserved its part. For example, I discovered there in 1981 the only blind fish in the fauna of the former USSR - the Kugitangtau blind loach.

Naturally, not all the details of the karst process are known. For example, the lower levels of the system, where all the active channels are located, are again almost completely colmatated by clay sediments, which may not be moved away because of the scarcity of water at the third stage. Only very poorly-based assumptions about the sizes and structure of these levels exist. There are other points of view on the karst of Kugitangtau.

The caves are similar to Lechuguilla Cave and Carlsbad Cavern, New Mexico, USA, in their unusual morphology, very intensive processes involving sulfur, and unique mineralogy. The participation of the neighboring gas-bearing basins that partially themselves discharged through the karst cavities has been proven to be a factor of the genesis of the New Mexico caves and partially determined the morphology and amount of sulfur. The geology of Kugitangtau is similar, revealing gas collectors, a part of which is empty now. It is possible that similar processes were active in these cases, but direct evidence is lacking.



The caves of the Cupp-Coutunn System are very paradoxical not only in their mineralogical aspect, but also in their structure. These factors led to significant troubles during their investigation, which was riddled with the regular appearance of paradoxical and sometimes humorous situations. For example, the cave system, which was completely unknown 25 years ago and became celebrated only during the last decade, was very well-known already two thousand years ago (see "Bibliotheka Historica"by Diodorus,Sicelus in which the author cited wittingly Khashm-Oyik - the largest part of the Cup Coutunn system, though he did not mention names of the caves of the Kugitangtau Ridge).

The modern history of the research of this caves began when Yalkapov, the geologist from Ashkhabad, had compiled the first plans of Khashm-Oyeek (3km) and Cupp-Coutunn II (5km) during the mid-1950s, also finding some new caves. Unfortunately, he published a paper which suggested the caves as a deposit of marble onyx. It was the beginning of unprecedented mining project resulting in the destruction of this unique natural monument. Apparently, Yalkapov understood this fact and he quikly dropped out of the history of caves. It is customary to think that he had bricked up the entrances ino the caves that he had not shown to the officials of the "Soyuzquartzsamotsvet" enterprise after the beginning of the mining project. I agree with this point of view, based on some finds. Until 1981, the caves of the system were hardly studied. For example, the speleologists from Samarkand have found some new caves and a continuation of Cupp- Coutunn II; a very large continuation was found during the mining works in the small Promeszutochnaya Cave as well. I first appeared in the region also during this period, taking the unseemly role of an employee of the "Soyuzquartzsamotsvet" enterprise. However, I hope that my further activity over many years on the protection of caves partly expiates my guilt.

In 1980, I began a campaign to end the exploitation of the cave system and promote its protection. This drive was supported by speleologists, scientific institutes, the mass media (including such newspapers as "Sovetskaya Kultura", "Izvestiya", "Komsomolskaya Pravda" and television) some academicians (Yanshin), local powers, a regional geological-prospecting expedition, and numerous other people and organizations. It is a wonder that in Brezhnev's USSR, all this was successful. The " protectionists" picketed the caves and even semimilitary actions with shooting took place when the watchman of the mining storage facility containing explosives was instructed to go out of the canyon onto the plateau, build a redoubt and, if any of the speleologists appeared in the vicinity, to fire rifle shots above his head.The whole campaign had occupied a little more than a year when the chief directorate finally decided that those annoying two thousand tonnes of onyx,(according to the calculated amount) cost substantially less than the financial supply for the numerous commissions, organized after publications in the mass media. Afterwards, some attempts of reexploitation took place, but it was easier to stop them: although in one case, Kutuzov, the local speleologist, and his friend were obliged to barricade themselves in the Geophyzicheskaya Cave and withstand a one and a half month siege. It was more difficult to wean Central Asian geologists of the notion of the caves in the Kugitangtau Ridge as a source of beautiful souvenirs, but this task was significantly easier than it was first estimated to be. Thus, now only rare recurrences take place. To the honor of the geologists, this process went without any administrative measures.

The normal study of the caves began when exploitation was stopped. During the last ten years, Cup Coutunn II was joined with the Promeszutochnaya Cave, reaching 56km in length. Some new caves were discovered, including the Geophyzicheskaya Cave, one of the most beautiful caves known also as Zimnyaya, Gyul-Shirin and by a few other names. I use the first officially declared name. Presently, this is the only cave where there are no destroyed areas, and it is not necessary to crawl many hours through the narrow passages to reach the most interesting places. This is a great credit to the speleologists and to the regional geological-prospecting expedition. As soon as the ideas of the preservation of the cave became popular, the joint suspiciousness of these two forces made a real miracle. The leading role in investigations belongs to the Moscow groups of speleologists and particularly to the group headed by myself, to Bartenev's group, to theschool club from Balashikha (Moscow region),and some others. The groups from Krasnoyarsk also made some significant finds.

The mineralogical research of the cave system was promoted by another scenario guided again by the principle that caves are too interesting in their mineralogy to be easily studied. Let me explain this. The secondary formations reveal two aspects of mineralogical interest. The first aspect is a variety and an uncommonness of minerals and mineral-forming processes. The second aspect is a variety and uncommonness of aggregates and aggregate-forming processes. Traditionally in Russian cave mineralogy, it has been considered that the existence of caves that are interesting in the first aspect is simply impossible. The priority of research was automatically reorientated toward the second aspect of interest.

The caves of the Cupp-Coutunn System are very interesting in both senses; moreover, in those places where the most unusual aggregates are found, there are almost no uncommon minerals and vice versa. Thus, the parts of the caves that are interesting in the first aspect were nearly unresearched before 1986, even when special investigations took place. For example, the leading Russian cave mineralogist Victor Stepanov twicely in Cup Coutunn twice, the second time was with me in 1981. The main attention of our activities was concentrated on the Promeszutochnaya Cave, where, as it later became known, the most interesting objects were located near the entrance. Beautifully prepared traces of thermal activity represented by fluorite, gigantic crystals of calcite, sulfides, etc. Remained unnoticed for a long time. They were trud upon speleologists (in their attempt) to reach the halls with beautiful gypsum and calcite aggregates as quickly as possible. To begin purposeful research of the traces of thermal activity, and then of the non-standard mineral- forming processes, a speleologist of a more sporting type, who was not interested in the charms of nature, was needed. Orevkov tooks on this role in 1985, becoming interested in why the gravel on the floor of one of the passages had a violet color. Further, a whole cascade of finds has been discovered, which have almost completely changed the preconceived notions on the mineralogy of Cup Coutunn.



Presently, the caves of the Cup Coutunn System are sufficiently well-known for being a subject of violent dispute between local organizations on the right of control, protection, and the organization of tourism. Periodically, the matter reaches the point of open resistance, and physical control over the caves changes hands two or three times a year. All of these organizations in their own time have put forth efforts to rescue the caves; and therefore, it is doubly regrettable that a number of top-priority problems are not resolved because of this opposition.

A main problem is the immediate restoration of the air circulation management in the system. Four artificial entrances into the system, pierced during the mining exploitation, changed and forced the air circulation to such a degree that the caves dry at a catastrophic rate, but the mounted trellis doors of reinforcing steel naturally do not save the caves from this. The zone of destruction, caused by the change in the micro- climate, considerably exceeds that caused by the mining exploitation. The damage zone spreads rapidly and may destroy up to 30 per cent of the system after five or ten years. All the proposals of the last eight years on the hermetic sealing of adits, which were made by the speleologists to all the parties, die away in spite of the fact that only a delivery of cement is required, and all work would be done on a voluntary basis.

The second problem concerns the "unintentionally savage" tourism that capitalizes off the popularity of the caves. This kind of tourism has been rampant recently due to a large degree to the above-mentioned confrontation surrounding the caves. Every party of the conflict needs publicity and moral support. That is why if somebody appears who is willing an "international expedition" to organize on a commercial basis, any party to which he applies immediately lends all possible support even without attempts to clear up the real situation. It is not important whether a party openly profits from such events or helps without compensation, pretending that it believes in the announced purposes, or even is inadvertently led astray on that account. This does not change anything. We do not know of a case when these large-scale expeditions brought anything besides harm for the caves and money to the organizer. It is especially deplorable when famous speleologists are dragged into such arrangements and, intentionally or not, take part in them. These criticism do not refer to the widespread participation of the world's speleologists in normal research expeditions that do not have any commercial basis. The situation is paradox in that the idea of the organization of a commercial tourist complex does not cause objections among those advocating the protection of the caves, although in the whole world, the speleologists resist actively against similar projects in really unique caves. In reality, with the legislation, mass psychology and the economy of the region we have, the establishment of a tourist complex is the only way to preserve the caves. Excursions may be organized in the nearest and not particularly vulnerable regions without damage to caves. At the same time, this arrangement shuts down the possibility of uncontrollable attendance to deep regions.

Moreover, organization of such routes is the only way to attract enough capital for if only a partial reconstruction of the damaged part of the caves. Such a restoration project would consist of the clearing up of the most evident traces of the mining exploitation, cleaning of graffiti from speleothems and the like.

The appearance of a tourist complex has another important aspect. The project of a geologically oriented tourist complex (caves are only a part of the project) is not only commercial, but serves the purpose of keeping the intelligentsia in the region. The work of many scientists is connected with geological and mineralogical enterprises, and these specialists are rapidly losing jobs today. If this project does not work, the threat of an alternative scheme to renew mining exploitation of onyx and cave souvenirs may materialize. Therefore, it is very important to achieve in a point of no return in the realization of the tourist project.



At the present moment, the Cupp- Coutunn System yields only to the Tuya Muyun Cave (Uzbekistan) and SCS (Bulgaria) in the variety of known minerals. The list that is cited here includes three types of minerals: minerals which have been proven, minerals known from single reports (noted by a question mark), and non-determined minerals (noted by numerated asterisks). We would like to apologize for the term "residual clays", which we use here to denote the bright-colored fluffy covers on the walls and ceilings in the zones of intensive corrosion before we discovered that they were not just relic products of corrosion of limestone, but a quite complexly organized and very active mineral-bacterium substance. So, we are unable to offer brief and capacious enoughy term for it.

Native elements. Only sulfur in the form of rock fragments of thin powder was found. The source is unknown. Biogenic genesis is supposed, though the sulfur bacteria were not discovered in the bacteriologic samples.

Sulfates. Gypsum is distributed widely enough in modern speleothems. It has two origins. The first is the entry of rain water from residual rocks of the Gaurduck beds (the largest, but local massifs); The second origin is the biogenic sulfur cycle, which will be considered below. Recently it was discovered that in many cases (in dry areas) the formations (especially flowers) which were thought to be gypsum actually are composed of epsomite in aggregates typical for gypsum. It is interesting that the presence of epsomite was presupposed on the basis of the chemical composition of the water and searched for sighty during two years, but it was discovered in quite another place. Celestite occurs in many generations most often together with gypsum, and forms very specific isolated rosettes of crystals up to 2cm. There are some reports of the occurrence of single crystals of barite (?), but the results of analysis are absent. Possibly *1, found during the first passing on a calcite floor in a narrowness near the Vodopadnyi Hall in the form of bright green 2mm spherulites, is connected to sulfates. In Moscow the sample of *1 dissolved completely during an attempt to wash it. It was not possible to repeat sampling because the floor in this narrowness was filled up with clay just after the first expedition. The composition of water in the nearest pools indicated it to be most probably nickel sulfate.

Carbonates. Calcite is widely distributed both in modern speleothems and in relics of hydrothermal deposits ( where the temperature is up to 150 and 200 degrees centigrade according to single reports). In speleothem formations, calcite occurs together with ferrocalcite, manganocalcite, dolomite and high-magnesium calcite, from which it can not be visually distinguished. Calcite can be recognized by staining methods. Only the high-magnesium calcite has some specific aggregates, and dolomite occurs also in the form of a thin powder in altered residual clays. Aragonite is a main speleothem mineral in some parts of the caves. Sometimes its growth instead of calcite is controlled by magnesium , in other cases by lead. The latter causes the presence of cerussite inclusions in aragonite aggregates. The absolute absence of celestite, evenly distributed throughout the system, in areas with a developed aragonite mineralization and the almost total absence of strontium in aragonite itself allows one to suppose the occurrence of strontianite, visually similar to aragonite. Siderite occurs in the form of thin modern incrustations on the ancient crystals of hydrothermal calcite in poorly corroded areas of the cave. There are two minerals, which have not been diagnosed and supposedly also belonging to carbonates. Single crystals of *2 occur on calcite helectites. The form of the crystal conforms to aragonite, but the much more intensive luster and the tints after a coloring test correspond to dolomite. A specimen was not taken, because of the special beauty and special protection management of the areas where this mineral occurs, and during the clearing of the tracks (the only way to take a sample in such regions), it was not discovered. *3 also conforms to aragonite in its crystalline form, but it was not studied as a sample for the same reasons. It forms very specific aggregates which are not known for aragonite (coral-shaped dendrites having a honeycomb texture inherited from the second, now dissolved, mineral of parallel growth); it always has a bright yellow color and is confined to areas of nickelous sauconite distribution.

Hydromagnesite. In all the cases, hydromagnesite blooms on the ends of aragonite crystals and helictites.

Oxides and hydroxides. A detailed study was not carried out. The iron oxides and hydroxides are often found in residual clays on walls and ceilings in intensely corroded zones. Manganese oxides in some places cover calcite and gypsum speleothems and crystals and also form dendrites inside of calcite speleothems. Quartz occurs in residual clays in zones of corrosion of hydrotermally altered limestone (crystals up to 0.2mm) and also together with fluorite of the thermal phase (crystals up to 2mm).

Sulfides. Halena occurs in the form of fine (up to 0.05mm) inclusions in hydrothermal calcite. In the same places metacinnabar is found together with hydrothermal fluorite (crystals up to 1mm) and also as a powder on aragonite bushes together with manganese oxides . There are some reports about pyrite (?) occurrences in the form of powders on gypsum crystals, which are not confirmed by analysis. Sphalerite is not present, though zinc is widely distributed in some places of the cave.

Nitrates. Saltpeter blooms are known in areas near the entrance of the cave, but they were almost not specially researched. Mixtures of other readily soluble minerals occur in effloresiences together with the saltpeter, though their sources are different. Saltpeter is formed from guano, but the preconditions for the deposition of soluble salts transported from salt-bearing gypsum relics takes place in the same area. In one case we observed epsomite, in another, halite. Halides. Fluorite is distributed as large quantities of veined mineral rock debris and as poorly colored crystals (up to 5cm) of the thermal phase (80-100 degrees centigrade of formation temperature) on the walls and also as modern dark violet crystals (up to 1mm) on calcite and gypsum speleothems.

Silicates. Montmorillonite is found not only in conjunction with other clay minerals, but also as monomineral aggregates in the form of amorphous separate globules up to 1cm in diameter situated along the fissures on calcite crusts and filling out cavities of dissolution from the inside of gypsum clowds. Sauconite and fraipontite are as a rule, colored green by nickel and occur in the same form in the western part of the Promeszutochnaya Cave. Some data on the presence of other zinc-bearing alumosilicates in this region is available. The nickel minerals providing the green coloring have not been studied yet, and the causes of their attraction to zinc-bearing alumosilicates are quite obscure. Substance *4, having a composition close to silicates and absolutely paradoxical features was found in the Vodopadnyi Hall. The substance fills coarse gypsum clowds dissolved from the inside and has a felted texture which is highly porous. It was discovered only because its fragments had poured off and fallen into a pool during our passing and were still floating there after a week. We had no time to finish our study, but the primary data showed it to be a mixture of two minerals - silicates of iron and magnesium. However, the range of temperature possible in the caves contradict to the presence of the latter. Perhaps the substance is a product of the sulfuric acid treatment of montmorillonite, which often occurs under gypsum clowds with the presence of iron and magnesium ions in solution.

Other minerals. There are some reports on finds of tuyamunite (?) in the Geophyzicheskaya Cave, which are probably true, because anomalies up to 300 microrentgen per hour are known for this cave. It is unlikely that the tuyamunite is of cave origin, being rather rock fragments from veins.

Discovered, but absolutely unstudied minerals. Although this is one of the most interesting divisions, the available information is so ambiguous that there is nothing to describe in most cases. I will adduce two inquisitive examples of absolutely new minerals for Cupp-Coutunn. Mineral *5, found as a single rosette of crystals (the largest is about 3cm length) in the OSKHI Gallery, is fully impenetrable for sampling without destroying the vast helictite bush. The crystals display a very intense luster, are well-edged and absolutely atypical for the caves, which attracts great interest. According to the latest reports by Korshunov, single inclusions of *6 as bright green transparent crystals (about 0.1mm in size) were found in the gypsum fragments of an ancient chandelier from the basement of the Baobab Hall.

Products of technogenic mineral formation. I discovered two years ago that in some areas of the cave metal objects (ladders, topographical bench-mark laths and others) left there before had undergone a very interesting influence from the atmosphere. Almost all the aluminum in the bench-mark laths had disappeared and clusters of glassy spherulites, solid in one cases and a semiliquid gel in another, hung in its place. Recently Korshunov's expedition (including students from Moscow State University) brought samples and is intensively researching them.



For the description of mineral aggregates, I use partially published Stepanov's classification, modified by our team. The generally accepted international classification completely adduced in C.Hill's and P.Forti's classical work, "Cave Minerals of the World", just like Maksimovich's popular classification with its several variants, have a number of serious errors with relation to the systematism of their construction, and therefore, they can not be successfully applied to Cupp-Coutunn.

Maksimovich's classification is "too speleological". It outlines a group of stalactite classes that are almost similar in all aspects besides shape, which is influenced only by the rate of water inflow. At the same time, it denotes one group of "eccentrics", including all helictites, corallites, crystallictites and many other types of aggregates, each one includes more forms than the group stalactites does alone. Such a classification adequately defines the standard types of caves (Crimea, the Urals, Caucasus) but is absolutely unsuitable for the description of caves where the main way of solution supply differs from free current, and where calcite is not the only mineral. International classification, on the contrary, is "excessively mineralogical", with chemism as its main principle. Aggregates, differing from gravitational crusts, are too closely attached to minerals, which is not true in general cases. Thus, the antholites (Maleev's term) are directly associated with gypsum on the level of terminology (hence, "gypsum flower"), but at the same time there exist epsomite or ice antholites, which are visually indistinguishable from gypsum ones. This classification satisfactorily describes standard caves and also the "ore karst" caves, but it is not universal enough to apply to the Cupp- Coutunn System. Stepanov's classification principally differs from the two mentioned.

First, it is based on the way of supply of active solution and the combination of acting physical and chemical forces. Second, it works only with group notions (crusts, ensembles) almost never going down to the level of concrete aggregates. This permits the usage of this classification for the description of upper levels of organization, reserving the terminology already set for the lower levels, and even regional and local structures (ensembles) may be defined, which is rare opportunity in mineralogy. Third, it is compact. This classification is cited below almost entirely, convincing one of its universality.

Terms of specific aggregates are not standardized in Stepanov's classification. The terms of this level, used below, were selected in descending order of their priority: - terms applied in publications by Stepanov and his followers. The terms define mostly aggregates of corallite and antholite crusts; - terms first used in Russia articles that were devoted to the genesis of a reported aggregate; - Maksimovich's classification terms (gravitational crust aggregates ); - terms from Hill and Forti's classification; - terms applied in foreign articles devoted to genesis of a reported aggregate; - terms applied in articles devoted to the morphology of a reported aggregate.

Stalactites, stalagmites, draperies and the most typical speleothems in caves, which are guided by water circulations in thick films and drops under gravitation, belong to one class of gravitational crusts. They are all also similar in structure, representing spherulitic crusts of inconstant thickness, displaying in some cases the edging of protruding crystals. There is some difference in the morphology of carbonate and noncarbonate crusts, because carbonates have a bicarbonate form in solution and crystallize when the solution looses carbon dioxide, but, for example, sulfates crystallize during the process of evaporation.

Common subaqueous crusts are also formed in water and differ in their morphology from the above mentioned crusts by virtue of having a constant thickness due to an absence of fluctuations in the supply of solution. Edged crystal heads are found more often and sometimes turn into druses and even dendrites with crystallographically valid branching. In particular the subaqueous crusts include all aggregates of hydrothermal genesis, which simply cannot be different by definition of the hydrothermal process. It was this thesis, which was central to Stepanov's creation of his classification, which helped to at last systemate the quite chaotic publications on the Khaidarkan Caves (Kirghizstan, the Alai Ridge), which are known to have a mixture of thermal and cold speleothems. A trivial but brilliant idea - that crusts of altering thickness can not be thermal simply because in the Earth's bowels, except fumarole channels, gravitationally flowing water may not be thermal - is an uncommon example of faultless logic in geology.

A number of transitional forms exist between these two classes, such as gours (the travertine dams along streams), that are originally formed due to the intensification of degasation on chutes and growing then from one side as subaqueous crust and from the other as gravitational crusts.

Several aggregates besides crusts are influenced by specific physical conditions and are formed in a subaqueous situation. Surface films (floating calcite, for example) stay on the water surface due to the surface tension and submerge when a mass of crystals per square unit and the remoteness from shore exceed their critical values for the given composition of water. Dripping from the ceiling of the cave make films submerge in certain points, forming "cones" on the bottom, which are widely known in the US caves as well as in Cupp-Coutunn. Cave pearls or pisolites are the secondary product of the shock effect of the drops. Earlier it was assumed that water in a flowing stream rolls grainsof sand, which become covered with calcite, without adhering to the bottom. In fact, this is not quite the case. Only travertine, but not crystalline calcite is formed in the stream, whose turbulence does not allow pisolite as large as one centimeter to be fixed. In addition, reports from publications testify to the occurrence of pisolites only in shallow lakes with water dripping into them but not in streams. If one considers the effect of a drop on the volume of water in a lake, it becomes obvious (though it is difficult to prove rigidly) that only the acoustic wave possesses the necessary qualities for the transporting of kinetic energy to pisolite.

Corallite crusts. Aggregates of this class fundamentally differ from the above described formations and appear when the motion of thin films in the supplying solution is influenced more by capillary forces than by gravitational forces. These are dendrites, which consist of crystals (crystallictites) or of spherulites (corallites) and have a morphology acutely distinct from that of subaqueous dendrites. The first difference is that branches never intergrow, forming exactly multilevel bushes; secondly, there is an absence of crystallographic regularity in the branching of crystallictites. The fact of the controlling of the corallite and crystallictite growth exclusively by the physics of evaporation, which is always more active on surfaces with a small radius of curve (on ends, edges, and faces), is the reason for these differences. The difference in conditions of the formation of corallites proper and crystallictites is simply the rate of their growth. When the rate is low, crystallictites grow. When the rate is high, crystals start splitting and corallites form. Various intermediate forms also occur, such as dendrites consisting of curviedged crystals. Various transitional forms from gravitational crusts to corallites are often found, such as stalagmite-shaped bushes, that do not obtain enough solution from dripping water to allow the growth of normal stalagmites, but enough for the formation of a thin film spot, which provides local growth of corallites just under this point of dripping.

There is a group of important particular cases for corallite crusts. Absolutely different types of aggregates appear if more than one mineral is formed in a crust. Thus, by an exactly fixed proportion of magnesium in solution and enough intensive process of evaporation, the simultaneous growth of calcite and aragonite takes place. In accordance with the above reported model, aragonite growth occurs on the very edges as thin acicular crystals. In a small distance from the edge there is an inadequate amount of magnesium and the growth of the surrounding calcite crust proceeds.This crust, because of the speed of the extending of the film along the crystal has the morphology of a gravitational crust and prevents branching. This results in the formation of pseudohelictites, which have little similarity to dendrites, and have the appearances of occasionally branching and differently orientated "pencils" with thin aragonite crystal in the center.

The second particular case appears when the crust consists of a noncarbonate mineral. In the carbonate case evaporation proper proceeds in fact only on the edge, and gradual degasation occurs along the entire surface. This confines the number of branching points and forces surface growth. In the noncarbonate case, only the evaporation process works, and the number of branching points is not limited, which specifies a hierarchical dendrite microstructure of aggregate that visually is composed of large, but loose buds. The same condition also allows for a more speedy growth. Thus, in the carbonate case the definite growth process needs full evaporation after degasation, whereas, in gypsum, for example, it does not. Therefore, at lower humidity, much more speedy currents are permissible even with element of gravitational control. In this way, the well-known gypsum chandeliers appear, which mark the beginning of the publicity of the Cupp-Coutunn Cave System. It is a curious fact that nobody hears about them abroad, in spite of the numerous publications, and the finds made five years ago of the same chandeliers in the Lechuguilla Cave caused universal furor with their declaration as a unique phenomena. Later this blunder took place at the International Speleological Congress in Budapest in 1989, where for the first time the Soviet delegation was really representative.

It becomes more interesting if one considers the corallite crust of not just the noncarbonate minerals, but in addition, the highly soluble minerals (gypsum and particularly epsomite). The high solubility does not guarantee a stability and the microclimate system in the cave slowly changes. Naturally, the corallite crust becomes predominant for such minerals, but it is not enough. The lengthy existence of aggregates, and correspondingly, their large size, in any case seem to be less conditioned, but nevertheless, they exist. The trick consists of the prolonging of the aggregate's existence due to the brevity of the life of individuals. Large gypsum and all epsomite formations grow only in places with the intensive drawing of air. It is known that the so called "winter wind," from lower entrances to upper ones, and the "summer wind," from upper entrances to lower ones, exist in caves. Therefore, the seasonal fluctuations of wind cause the fluctuations of humidity near the entrances of the caves. The inward wind causes active evaporation to take place; the outward wind, allows condensation to proceed. According to the physics of evaporation and condensation, the former process is more active on the edges of the cave, and the latter prevails in the cavities. Thus, the crusts of soluble minerals undergo permanent recrystallization, corroding on one side and growing on the other. The crusts are separated from a substrate on the walls and the ceilings, being held on its roughnesses and sometimes falling down with the formation of "banks" up to a meter in size. Stalagmites rapidly turn into corallite crust formations which are hollow inside. Thus, the well-known 10m stalagmites of Khashm-Oyeek are up to 3m wide, and their walls are about 2 - 5cm thick. In particular cases, the process is so intensive that the crust that grows up during the dry period fall off in humid the period. Turchinov and I first described such "ephemerae" in the caves of Podoliya, and only after this, were they discovered in Cupp-Coutunn. It is notable that such aggregates before our publication were considered to form from the gas phase and it was even "proved" by the fact that in the Dzhurinskaya Cave on the barrer wall opposite to the dug out passage, gypsum bushes grew in a period of six months. Actually, this does not prove the transportation of gypsum by air, but attests instead to the role of wind and humidity in crystallization processes. To the point that the above mentioned gypsum chandeliers in Lechuguilla are also located where the lower humid levels of the system approach the canyon floor. It is interesting that as soon as the concept of permanent recrystallization was advanced, the gypsum massifs in the Cupp-Coutunn System immediately and with good results became considered as one of the most important exploration tools for substantial continuations of the cave system. During the mining exploitation, the caves were opened by several adits, which entirely reorganized the air circulation system. The gypsum massifs allow the reconstruction of old air flows, especially in places of their concentration ("necks" between slightly connected parts).

The antholite crusts are typical for noncarbonate highly soluble minerals and are formed at such degrees of drying, when the surface inflow of water is terminated entirely, yielding to the additional feeding exclusively through the pores from within the substrate. In the case of dense substrates with small pores, the filamentary crystals and their clusters are formed ("wool", "beards", flowers); in the case of clayey substrates with micropores, but with open joints of drying and with the inability to resist to crystalline pressure, needles and selenite interbeds appear. The distinct feature of growth of all such types of aggregates, entirely controlling their structure and morphology, is that they grow not on the free ends of crystals, but at the points of attachment, i.e., only the ends of the crystals that are located on the pores. Thus, the term "gypsum flower" is determined by the mechanism of splitting and twisting during the irregularity of the growth of the base.

The antholite crusts, as well as the noncarbonate corallites, are controlled by the seasonal cycle of humidity, but they may be controlled also by the cycles of humidity caused by floodings, which are sometimes irregular. The point is that the constant inflow through substrate pores is an absurdity, and in every case we come across the processes of the drying up of the periodically moistened substrate containing the required mineral. The moistening may occur very rarely. For example, I connect one-meter-needles of gypsum on clay massifs of the lower levels of the Cupp- Coutunn System with catastrophic floodings, appearing one or two times a century.

The mixing of corallite and antholite crusts is a usual phenomena for noncarbonate minerals. At a marked seasonal cycle, the fine-crystalline corallite crust occurs as a result, and it is sufficiently porous to serve as a buffer substrate for the growth of antholites during the peak of dryness every year. This is how the somewhat paradoxical crusts, separated from the wall, with flowers growing through are formed. Earlier, they were interpreted quite logically and intrinsically as three-generation forms, beginning from flowers through the crust to dissolution of crust with its removal from the wall. Nevertheless, all three generations proceed simultaneously, though in different phases during the cycle of the year.

The helictites (also called eccentric stalactites) are perhaps, the most enigmatic and unclassifiable aggregates, which represent occasionally branching calcitic or aragonitic "worms", uncontrolled by any evident processes. They are rare for typical caves, and therefore, since the first days of speleology as a science, the disputes about their morphology and genesis were very popular. Some scientists observed definite features, others, did not. Dozens of models, such as the models of the capillary channel, of the mutual crystalline pressure of three specially orientated individuals, of the growth from special film at particular chemism, and many others were advanced. The humorous fact is that everybody or almost everybody was right. In this case, we deal with a mineralogical analog of the convergency theory, i.e., with the effect of the essential external similarity of aggregates that possess different morphology and genesis. The capillary channel helictites are found often enough though the physical model of their genesis is not convincing. Nevertheless, the fact of solution inflow by the capillary channel is doubtless. The helictites of this type are most often found together with soda-straw. The soda-straw stalactite is a transition from gravitational to capillary form and represents unedged tubular monocrystals occurring more seldomly as twins, whose growth is conditioned by a very slow solution inflow and proceeds only along the perimeter of a hanging water drop. There are cases of such stalactite,in which capillary helictite grows, converting sometimes back into a soda-straw stalactites. The diameter of such secondary stalactites always differs from the original because of the changing of surface tension in proportion to crystallization. The capillary helictites do not transform back into stalactites in the areas of seasonal fluctuations of the humidity and stretch out toward dry wind. In this case, they are called anemolites.

The "spar" are also connected with soda-straw stalactites and represent short edged and twisted (sometimes into an ideal spiral -helicoid, which gave the designation to helictites) intergrowths of three crystals, whose mutual crystalline pressure caused this twisting. They also have a channel, but the linear cracks between individuals produce a part of solution onto the surface that provides an external edging. The pseudohelictites are a type of helictites, which actually are two-mineral corallites, as it was discussed above. The other helictite types of the Cupp-Coutunn Caves are not studied in detail, though it is definitely known that a dozen types could be picked out among them with principally different genesis. For example, the helictites with a morphology extremely similar to channel forms are quite paradoxical, but growing only on the flowstone floor and amounting up to a meter high. The gravitationally orientated helictite bushes "flower beds," where every helictite is a stretched out, channelless spherulite cleaving along conchoidality and under every "flower bed" normal stalagmite grows, occurred in the presently destroyed Velikolepiye Hall of the Promeszutochnaya Cave, are obscured. Until present, no reasonable model has been proposed for straight aragonite helictites ("straw") which have a completely dissolved central channel, and the undissolved part of the crust is composed by crystals, forming a wooly surface and being identically directed relative to the axis. Some calcite helictites from the Glinyanaya Rechka section in the Promeszutochnaya Cave have an orientated overgrowing of gypsum that is, generally, a double absurdity, because the gypsum epitaxy over calcite is unknown, and the epitaxy of monocrystals on polycrystalline aggregates is impossible.

There are several classes of aggregates characteristic of the Cupp-Coutunn Cave System. Their genesis is controlled by so many distinct chemical features which are hardly expected in any other cave. The first class contains crystallictite crusts of fluorite originating in a very uncommon way connected with the double process in thin water films, through which hydrofluoric acid, if it is present in the air, reacts with calcite or gypsum. Thus, such crusts are not classified by solution inflow, because the solution is formed "in situ;" but as the dynamics of its circulation in proportion to the crystallization is controlled by capillary forces, the corallites and the crystallictites of common morphology grow. Corallites of other minerals exist which also grow from solution formed on the spot. In some cases it is simply the gypsum crust, that grows in places where sulfuric acid meets limestone. A detailed description of this mechanism will be given below.

In the second class are sulfide mirrors. The gigantic crystals of calcite (up to 2m) with inclusions of oxides and sulfides were left on the walls of the caves after the hydrothermal stage. These crystals underwent corrosion produced by the participation of hydrogen sulfide and sulfuric acid and with the removal of only soluble products by thin water films, during which the crystals were abraded up to the thickness of a few centimeters. The inclusions that existed in calcite emerged and underwent essential treatment by acids that resulted in the formations of metallic-lustrous "mirrors" on the dissolved surfaces.

The third class concerns almost all the aggregates of silicate minerals, the solutions for which were prepared "in situ", and the rate of crystallization from the prepared solution was so high (that is natural at almost neutral solubility) that it did not permit the gravitational or capillary forces of aggregates to develop, but only crystalline forces and also the components of the solution determined by the dynamics of the mixing process. In the already mentioned substance *4, whose dynamics of growth is highly reminiscent of a school experiment involving crystals of soluble salts in a silicate glue, we also considered the growth process in silica gel produced as the result of the treatment of montmorillonite from crystals of ferruginous and magnesial minerals by sulfuric acid.

Naturally, not all that merits attention is covered in such a brief review, but one can probably receive some general impressions.



One can describe the mineralogy of a cave in terms of minerals and aggregates only in general features. For the finishing touches, we use Stepanov's not widely understood term "ensemble" as significantly more embracing than "assemblage", because many ensembles consist of the same minerals, but they are very different in aggregates. At the same time, the ensemble determines mineral-forming processes, microclimate and other important parameters. Naturally, the term "ensemble" is not uniform in general cases, and each type of ensemble is described only in application to a particular cave system or karst region. According to Stepanov, the ensemble is a result of one cycle of crystallization, when the subaquatic crusts are first overgrown by gravitational crusts, and corallite crusts, then by antholite crusts (for noncarbonate crusts) insuccessive phases before the final phase of downfall and dissolution takes place. As a rule, every cave has more than one cycle of crystallization. Together with Bartenev, I proposed a conception of speleogenesis cyclicity, dividing every cycle into three stages designated as initial, forming and modelling. This conception permits the explanation of the periodicity of crystallization/dissolution processes. According to Stepanov, the ensembles differ from one another only in the degree of development of one or another type of crust. We have now expanded the understanding of this term to include a few broader ideas, making it difficult to explain the term briefly. Hence, I well begin with a description of the main types of ensembles, and the sense of the term will become clear below.

Above I have already described a standard calcite ensemble. It is usually found beneath the floors of the canyons in the zones of intensive suction holes of water. It has variations without any kind of crust (for example without corallite crust), as well as variants with different types of helictites. The particular case is a wind ensemble with anemolites. Such an ensemble is seldom found in the pure state. Manganese oxides are usually found as secondary minerals.

Calcite-aragonite-magnesial ensemble. In this ensemble, the corallite crusts of calcite are followed by corallite crusts often initiated by magnesium. The hydromagnesite corralites are characteristic at the edges of the arogonite dendrites. This ensemble is found rather rarely, being one of a few which make a tremendous aesthetic impression. The calcite of this ensemble is represented by very specific forms of helictites. The calcite-aragonite pseudohelictites are very strongly developed, though they are not specific for this ensemble. Manganese oxides are disseminated.

Calcite-aragonite-lead ensemble. This ensemble, appearing in the places of distribution sulfide veins , was discovered only in two small areas of the system, and the formation of aragonite was initiated by lead. The aragonite, in this case, plays its part in the phase of the development of gravitational crusts, forming tremendous segregations of various helictites ("straw" and "iron flowers") and stalactite- and stalagmite-like aggregates of unique morphology without any analogues in the caves of the world. The accumulations of thin grains of sulfides, cerussite, silicates and a small quantity of gypsum are characteristic of the ensemble.

Calcite-gypsum ensemble of the OSKhI type. Large gravitationally orientated segregations specific for ensembles of helictites, which are usually covered by celestite rosettes, are developed in the gravitational crusts of calcite. Large macelike stalagmites, which are rare in other ensembles, are found below segregations. Gypsum occurs together with calcite in corallite crusts. The gypsum chandeliers without gypsum stalagmites and antholite crusts are typical.

Calcite-gypsum ensemble of the Dikobraziy Hall type. Pseudohelictites prevail sharply among helictite forms. The celestite forms inclusions in gypsum. Calcite stalagmites are absent, but small gypsum stalagmites are present. The antholite crusts on gypsum are poorly developed. The monocrystalline gypsum stalagmites up to 30cm in height are a unique and specific type of aggregate, and their nature is not completely clear. The orientated overgrowth of gypsum monocrystals on calcite helictites is of the second unique type noted above.

Gypsum chandelier-stalagmite ensemble. The ensemble is found near the cave entrances beneath the remnants of gypsum of the Gaurduck beds. This ensemble is characterized by enormous hollow gypsum stalagmites and columns as well as by gigantic gypsum chandeliers. Gypsum aggregates of all types of crusts are developed. Celestite is found on limestones and on gypsum crystals. The deposits of this ensemble usually mask all previous deposits. This ensemble,that has been destroyed everywhere except in the Geophyzicheskaya Cave, can be said to "decorate" the most tremendous of the large halls of the system.

The thermal ensemble results from the hydrothermal stage and further reworking of its deposits. The alterations of limestones up to a 0.5m depth with the supply of ore minerals and silicates had occurred in the first stage (temperature was not measured); the gigantic crystalline calcite, encrusting the walls with inclusions of sulfides and oxides, was formed in the second stage with a temperature up to 180 degrees centigrade; the separate fluorite rosettes were originated during the third stage with a temperature up to 100 degree centigrade. The following processes of dissolution and reworking occurred with formation of sulfide mirrors.

Biogenic ensemble, overlaying on the previous forms. The hydrothermal processes determined conditions, such as the presence of sulfides, iron, and manganese, to start the biogenic sulfur cycle described first by P.Forti in 1990 for the caves of Italy. Unfortunately, we did not devote our attention to these processes, though the degree of their occurrence in Cupp-Coutunn is far greater than anywhere else. At this moment, not all the information is analyzed. Korshunov's expedition this year collected data; the bacterial crops had came up, but their definition needs much time. The essence is in the simultaneous activity of sulfate-reducing and sulfate-oxidizing bacteria in the zones of air stagnation. The primary amount of sulfur is found in sulfides and is supported further by bituminous inclusions, extracted during the corrosion of limestone. The sulfur follows a cycle beginning from hydrogen sulfide (the product of the life activity of sulfate-reducing bacteria) through sulfuric acid (sulfate-oxidizing bacteria) and gypsum, which from as a result of the chemical reaction between limestone and water, and the process finishes with the development of new hydrogen sulfide. The iron and the manganese are important for the life activity of the sulfate-reducing bacteria; the weak air circulation is important to retain the sulfur in the area of the process activity (naturally , the hydrogen sulfide is volatile). The entire process takes place in a unit of very interesting matter traditionally known as residual clay. This is a very fluffy silicate-iron-magnesian clay with gypsum inclusions. The clay covers the walls and ceilings in a layer up to 0.5-40mm thick, falling sometimes on the floor and accumulating in large massifs. In fact, it is actually a mixture of the residual material produced by the corrosion of limestone, of the bacterial colonies and of the products of their life activity. This substance intensively smells of hydrogen sulfide when it is mechanically damaged. It is interesting that all this is balanced on a large amount of factors and ideally should exist in a very unstable equilibration. For example, the sulfate-reducing bacteria are anaerobic; their life activity in an unflooded cave is possible only because the clay resists for a ventilation, and the sulfate-oxidizing bacteria absorbs the remaining oxygen. Nevertheless, the stability is very high.

The residual clay creates significant limitations on speleological equipment. The clay is a fantastic heat-isolator due to its porosity, and the blind upper niches and galleries become wonderful catchers of the heat. For example, if a candle or a carbide lamp burns for ten minutes in a zone where the residual clay is present and the air is stagnant, the temperature will rise to 50 degrees centigrade or more in some niches of the ceiling and will completely destroy the gypsum speleothems. In one case, an inexpertly located underground camp thoroughally heated a chain of tremendous halls up to 38 degrees centigrade. Therefore, the strictest self-restraint, which speleologists are obliged to accept in the Cupp-Coutunn caves, relate to the use of open fire (these limitations can be lifted only for photography lasting a few minutes) and the location of underground camps (only in wind galleries with a "kitchen" using only dry fuel).

In the upper floors of caves, where the limestones are bituminous, process develops that has a tendency to release excess sulfur in some types of gypsum producing large masses of gypsum sand, which apparently are a source of gypsum in main parts of the cave system. If the microclimate in the place of the accumulation of gypsum sand permits, an essentially gypsum ensemble is formed, seeming misplaced in the zones of intensive corrosion, but existing nevertheless. This ensemble consists predominantly of antholite crusts, though the corallite crusts also develop. The antholite crusts (represented by needles and selenite layers) which develop in and on the clay are an important feature of this ensemble, because gypsum-bearing clays and sands are not formed in any other way. The inclusions of residual matter of altered limestones are often present in the gypsum of this ensemble.

In dry places, part of the gypsum may be replaced by epsomite. The particular case of this ensemble is a gypsum-bearded ensemble, characterized by the complete absence of the corallite crust and the prevalence of unknitted filamentary crystals represented by gypsum hairs and rare thin needles. In two places out of three where this ensemble was found, it was destroyed during a single year by tourists. The filamentary gypsum is so delicate that even with an electric light, one needs to be extremely percise, because air waves from quick movements even one meter from the formations can destroy them. The fluorine-silicate ensemble occurs as a consequence of the biogenic ensemble. The conditions for the ensemble's appearance are provided by the presence of detritus of vein fluorite or fluorite clusters of the thermal stage. Sulfuric acid, involved in the biogenic cycle of sulfur, reacts with fluorite, expelling hydrofluoric acid into the air. Some crystals are dissolved along fractures up to 3 - 5cm in depth. The hydrofluoric acid the reacts with the calcite or gypsum of speleothems, forming new fluorite. The majority of zinc-aluminosilicates occurs in this ensemble. Here it is necessary to withdraw into the sphere of hypotheses, because the investigations are not yet finished. It has been suggested that the hydrofluoric acid reacts with silicates of the residual clay, producing quadrifluoric silica gas, which in turn reacts with the sulfide veins in limestone and its detritus. My colleagues and I are not able to suggest another model, but also we are not able to verify this one. Unfortunately, in all places where the extractions of sauconite are found, clearly tracing fractures in limestone, there is a layer of such beautiful speleothems between the sauconite excretions and the wall that it is a sin to disfigure them to verify the presence of a sulfide vein. At the moment, it is possible that the elements of this ensemble, which are useful for research by direct methods, are already found. Very interesting excretions on metallic objects (such as survey stations ladders installed into pits) mentioned already in the section "Minerals" can be found in some places of the cave where the well developed, essentially gypsum ensemble and the elements of the fluorine-silicate ensemble should not be noticeable.



As it was mentioned in the introduction and explained briefly in the mineralogical section, there are strict limitations on the tactics of realization of expeditions and methods of mineralogical research. These limitations are not at all fixed legislatively, and the only hope of the preservation of interesting caves lies in the conscience and self-discipline of investigators. Taking into account the great interest in the caves among speleological and geological circles, we would like to use this opportunity to present once more a list of rules for visitors of caves, especially geologists. Breaking with tradition, we cite only those rules which relate to the safety of the cave but not to the safety of visitors.

    1. There is nothing wrong with accepting the following motto of the American speleologists "Don't take anything away from the cave except photos, and don't leave anything behind except your own traces," although even traces are not so good. In any case, the removal of trash is necessary with one exception. Some caves (including ones in the far regions of Cupp-Coutunn) are inaccessible for study without an underground camp, which creates the problem of toilets. The Americans have unsuccessfully tried all methods to organize facilities in their unique Lechuguilla Cave. All attempts to take away buckets or to dry them first in place and then take them away had turned into a complete fiasco. Our practice indicates that after a two-week camp for five persons, the toilet buried in a large clay massif containing organic matter is completely decomposed after 5 to 7 years. In this case, it is possible to plan the admissible sizes, duration, and periodically of the organization of underground camp.
    2. About traces. Dirty traces on the clear speleothems in beautiful parts of caves are absolutely inadmissible, not to mention crashing and trampling down any interesting forms. Clearly visible paths should be organized directly during the earliest visits to vulnerable places, and it is not recommended to stray from these paths. If there is an interesting mineralogical object in a path, it should be collected and stored near the path. Naturally, not only the floor should be cleared. If one must crawl and this passage is to be used further as the lane,in some cases it is necessary to remove from the ceiling those speleothems which will be anyway broken by heads. Of course, this does not excuse vandalism, and the laying of the lane as of "trace of minimal damage" is possible only with the understanding of its necessity.
    3. About light and heat. The above mentioned observations and recommendations about the using of light and kitchen are of course related namely to Cupp-Coutunn. Nevertheless, in any case it is desirable to carry out observations and work out a "heat politics". If there are groups, which research a cave seriously, they may have already prepared calculations and quotes on the feasibility of camps.
    4. About reservoirs. The cave reservoirs are extremely vulnerable in three positions at the same time. If it is a small lake in dry place, it is usually beautiful , and any dirt (dust from hands, soap) will never be removed from the lake. If it is a large lake, unique fauna may live there, and this fauna may be poisoned by just one spoon of detergent. For these reasons, the reservoirs command the same respect as the most delicate of crystals.
    5. About excavations. If a pass is to be excavated into a new part of the cave or into a new cave, it must be considered that such a process may sharply change the system of air circulation and, consequently, the microclimate of the cave. It is imperative to estimate the possibility of the draining of beautiful halls, and if such a possibility is real, it is necessary to take all measures on the hermetization of excavations. Sometimes it is enough to put up a simple fabric screen, held in place by a few stones.
    6. About mineral and rock samples. The discussion of this question has no precedent in speleological literature. It is considered that the speleologists do not have to take away any samples at all, and special expeditions should be organized for mineralogical investigations, where skilled specialists determine where and how to remove samples,and to which the speleologists may not have the slightest relation. In my opinion , this ostrich politics is incorrect in principle, yielding to nothing except additional damage to caves. Integral and open politics is more than necessary here. I believe three conditions concerning the removal of samples simultaneously implemented. First, the sample may represent a pure analytical material, being collected from the freely lying detritus, or it may be an element collected during the excavation of the pass or during the clearing of the path. Second, the fate of the sample should be determined. If it is an analytical sample, it is necessary to know in advance what must be proven or disproven with the help of this sample, i.e., it is best to collect only a particular sample for a particular idea. If it is a unique aggregate collected from the path or something of this kind, it is possible to take it away only for a specially prepared place in a large collection. There are two ideas here. The removal may be excused only if enough free access to the sample for its study will be provided, as well as a guarantee that it will keep out of the slops pit or destruction. Both of these conditions may be fulfilled only in large special collections, moreover, in their general expositions and not in store-rooms. Finally, the sample may be taken away only if there is a complete guarantee of its transportation to its place locality. This usually means a carefully thought-out scheme of transportation to the exit in the unpackaged form and a no less carefully planned packaging for further transportation. In a broader context, the question about the removal of samples is the particular case question of the diagnostics of cave minerals which is worth special regard. The methods of diagnostics of minerals and admixtures used in the mineralogy of caves are divided into three categories. The field luminiscent methods are the most interesting, safe for caves and unlimited in application. Unfortunately, these methods are nearly unused in our country because of the absence of equipment. They have become leading methods in international practice, and the International Speleological Union provides a large program on perfecting of equipment and compilation of the atlases of determinations. Shopov, the leader of the program, proposed even an extremely curious method of fixation of luminiscent peculiarities with the help of obvious photographic equipment, but the deciphering of results is possible now only in his laboratory in Sofia.

A method moderate in the degree of destruction is a remarkably widespread express-analysis with staining methods. In the majority of cases, it is enough to treat a small part of the surface with further removal of traces. In general, the method should not be used immediately, because the entire express-laboratory is heavy, and the full diagnostic cycle is long and complex; moreover, a large amount of samples is needed. At the same time, if one knows a cave's general features, one can propose possible models and plan a minimum program which can be realized during the following visit. Frequently, the stone material is not needed for thinking, and it is enough to carry out one or two determinations of ions in water drops from speleothems. It should also be carried out on location, because the solutions are often absolutely unstable, and they may be strongly changed during one week or some minutes. Staining methods reveal one problem. The light sources used in the caves are of various nonstandard spectral composition. Hence, "seeing is not believing", and for comparison, it is necessary to use the colored control tables specially adopted for own lantern.

Destructive diagnostics, carried out with the removal of the sample, has to be applied in extreme cases if results are not obtained by the above described methods. Such a necessity has took place only in some dozens of cases in our practice.

On the whole, one can describe the recommended approach to diagnostics as the principle of the prediction of the result, using indirect data and theoretical modelling with verification by a minimum amount of samples at the place.

(7) About secrecy. Speleologists all over the world are obliged to struggle actively for the protection of interesting caves, though the direct aims of military actions may vary. First, these actions are directed against an obvious vandalism that is a major problem; second, they are directed against mining projects, as in the case of Cupp-Coutunn; third, against ill conceived commercial projects in caves (mainly in the USA) fourth, against cattle-breeders, who regard caves as natural traps for rams (in England). Strange as it may seem, the most widespread and universal weapon is a primitive secrecy. Under our conditions, when there is no legislation on the protection of caves, depredation prospers, though recently its center has changed from open vandalism to unadvertent savage tourism. In this case, the protection of caves may be only in the conservation of the most interesting parts until better times. In some caves and particularly, in the Cupp-Coutunn System, these times have already appeared on the horizon, but not yet in other caves. Nevertheless, even in the Cupp-Coutunn System, the most interesting places have to be kept in a strong management of conservation. The passes in the caves are not marked on maps, and in some cases the survey of the pass is not carried out. The passes are closed by artificial blockages opened only during visits by an expedition. Naturally, all these measures will not be necessary after the appearance of serious guarantees of protection; until those times, the preservation of caves is upon the consciences of investigators, and secrecy is the best way.

This category should also include a summary of ideas about the limits of permissible collaboration with local powers and local speleologists. Those and others, as a rule, are very interested to obtain information about new caves and their parts, and they have a right to do so. At the same time,unfortunately, there is no guarantee that none of these groups has questionable intentions. My colleagues and I support open politics but only partly opened information, and we have never regretted it. We always inform about all our finds, we submit maps where all our finds are marked, though we do not indicate the passes. Further information temporarily remains with us if there are no guarantees of preservation legally supported and in material forms. In many cases, our position meets with understanding. It is only true under the condition that we can prove that we are not going to organize ourselves any commercial projects in the caves. It means that it has to be in full mutual understanding and in good relationships with local powers. It was mentioned above that the mutual suspiciousity of local powers and of local and visiting speleologists had saved the Geophyzicheskaya Cave. When the cave was saved, the relationships between different sides of the conflict were normalized. This has happened in many cases. Finally, action taken out of a sense of conscience, considering our own measure of responsibility for the fate of caves, it will be always compensated. Good or bad relationships are temporary, but natural phenomena are not repairable.

Remarking once more upon the parallel with the Lechuguilla Cave, we notice that its investigators had the same problem, which gave birth to some conflicts between the speleologists and the administration of the national park, where the cave is located, The administration desired to organize an excursion complex. Only when the federal law concerning the special status of the "Virgin Cave" for Lechuguilla with the direct interdiction of any technical operation in the cave has been forced through the US Congress, common language was immediately found, and nobody protested against the strict regulation by the park administration of all investigations and visits to the cave, as well as against granting full information to the scientific center of the park.



In my lectures, I often receive questions about the technology and possibility of underground photography. Hence, this article presents an opportunity to regard this problem here. The mirror camera exclusively should be used. The possibilities of the camera do not necessary have to be great. The exposure with constantly open shutter is predominantly used. I use Zenit-19, a camera with wonderful durability - a virtue that is important, considering that the camera is dragged during many hours through the narrow passages. Even after my camera fell in 1989 into a 50m pit, it was repaired during one hour with the help of a screwdriver and pliers. The camera gets out of order, however, after 3-5 two-week expeditions because of the high corrosional activity of atmosphere.

In contrast, the best lenses should be used. Multi-coated lens is necessary, because in all cases, dust and moisture remarkably decrease microcontrast, and all methods of its preserving are needed. A change of lens should be made as rarely as possible because of dust. I use Flectogon Auto MC 35/2.8, which has many qualities. The 35mm focus distance makes it possible to take both long-range and close-up shots without significant distortion. The minimal distance of definition is 21cm, which allows one to photograph detailes without the use of lengthened rings in the majority of cases.

Flashes. All power necessary will not be enough in the majority of cases, and one must photograph only with numerous flashes and open shutter. The time of charging determines the degree of application of the flash. During my last three expeditions I used very powerless flashes (24 joule) with batteries composed of 37 9v elements. With such a technique it is possible to do up to 100-150 impulses per minute. The number of flashes is determined by the number of assistants, but there should be no less than two, though the number of points of light source for the shot should always be no less than four. It is useful to have one flash with a small square reflector for the photographing of small objects. The light-synchronization is very useful in some cases.

The tripod and the photo-rope are necessary, though the stability of the tripod is not a definable factor. The flame of a candle is practically not blurred if one uses a 35mm lens; one can initiate flashes with some delay. The main role for every photograph, even in the case of macrophotographing, belongs to the staging of the shot. First, all possible points of light sources are simulated by a lantern; the reflexes on drops, crystals, and camera optics are studied. Then the route of the assistants' movements through the points of light is analyzed and the number of flashes from each point is counted. Only then the photographing is carried out; moreover, as a rule, there are 2-3 variants of light decision.

For the enlivening of the photographs or for the arrangement of still life shots and also of scale, one can use various subjects. The most effective variety such as candle or girl-model called "Gypsum Crystal" in Cupp-Coutunn jargon tend to be overused and lose their attraction. The paradoxical scale samples with living flowers are yet curious.

The care set for the camera is important. Except for brush, bulb, and repair set, the dryer, i.e., the burlap bag, is necessary. The tripod may be covered by the burlap bag, enclosing inside this little tent a burning candle and camera for drying. This is the only way to prevent perspiration between the lenses. It is necessary to have some photo-ropes as well as impulse lamps for flashes Because of the moisture, they easily get out of order. It is important when using a widescreen camera that the film should be placed in a package of silica gel not later than three hours after its removal from the hermetic cover, otherwise, the paper trailer film will fall apart from moisture and will stick in antitwisting layer of the film that will destroy it. The most important role belongs to the carrying case, which has to simultaneously provide a defence from blows during crawling and a defense from omnipresent dust and should be quickly opened. The small duralumin boxes with foam plastic enclosing and rubber thickening of the cover, having some handles and loops on various sides, are optimum.

I would like to remark in conclusion that the presence of excellent assistants is vitally important; without them photography would be impossible. In addition, everybody from speleological circle assists in a good photograph with pleasure, hoping to duplicate a small collection of slides.



I would like to greatly thank D.Belakovsky, A.Markov, O.Bartenev, V.Detinich, D.Malishevsky, A.Golovanov, M.Pereladov, E.Voidakov, V.Korshunov, C.Self, M.Tranteev and many my colleagues for the research they carried out on the Cupp-Coutunn Cave. Their unselfish activity provided the present-day level of knowledge of the system. I would also like to thank my colleague-mineralogists who disinterestedly helped speleologists in analytical research and modelling. Especially, I thank N.Skorobogatova, the director of the Mineralogical Museum of the All-Russian Institute of Mineral Resources. Finally, I am grateful to all speleologists, including N.Veselova, L.Minkevich, G.Kulanina, G.Pryakhin and the above-mentioned O.Bartenev, V.Detinich, D.Malishevsky and others for assistance in the photography. Regretably, it is impossible to list all those who deserve credit.