History of the Cave

1947 – The first men to enter the cave threw thick ropes, and boldly descended to the small gallery below without equipment. Advancing a couple dozen meters they found themselves on a window open over a void. What laid ahead, the dim gas lantern couldn’t properly show them. Something like a big room covered in pitch blackness echoed their voices and the sound of rocks that they threw inside.

Some days later they returned with more ropes and descended to the first room where its magnitude barely showed them the walls and stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

News of this discovery that was unparalleled to any other in the region came to Lisbon and from there came the first speleologists that were preparing to create a Scientific Society for the study of caves. Mira de Aire received these speleologists and with them became familiar. Many were able to visit the new cave and the photography’s from the expeditions spread throughout the world.

By exploring the back of the room and some corners of the walls, the secret for the rest of the cave was found, a small opening in a side accessible by a narrow and slippery slope along the way, baptized as the “pulpit”.

Beyond lays a very steep slope which leads to a pit with 20 meters depth, the second pit.

1949 – The construction of a wooden winch which unravels a sisal rope with 30 meters long allowing the speleologists to descend the pit being the following explorations done with rope ladders, first with steel cables and wooden steps and afterwards with brass steps.

At the bottom of the pit a gallery with more the 500 meters unraveled, known as the “Great Gallery” had a varied topography and landscape. In this gallery one can watch the “Fountain of Pearls”, the “Octopus Gallery”, the “Organ” and the “Black River” which lead to the “Beach” at the end of the Great Gallery.

50’s and 60’s – Prolonged campaigns demanded the creation of camp sites inside the cave. From these it was possible to reach the “Sand Siphon”, “Shell” and “Labyrinth” until the “Final Pit” was discovered following the first real topography of the cave.

The desire the show this marvel of nature to the public began to grow and so that all could appreciate it hundreds of meters of wooden pathways and stairs were designed and built, from the entrance to the Sand Siphon.

70’s – In order to provide better conditions for the comfort and safety of the visitors, the Society that operates the cave is born preparing the cave as a show cave from the Main Room to the main areas of the Great Gallery. The opening to the public occurs on 11th August 1974.

2017 – An expedition led by the Portuguese Speleological Society enters the Black Rivers Gallery, taking advantage of the waters low level and manages to add over 1 kms of new galleries that head beneath the S. Mamede plateau.

This cave (Moinhos Velhos) along with the Caves of Pena and Contenda are part of a great system of galleries with over 11 kms long. During rainy winters the waters of this system join the waters of the Olho de Mira and Regatinho springs flooding the great closed depression (Polje Mira-Minde) existing between the villages of Mira de Aire and Minde.