The History of Youth Cave Romania
The origins of Y.C.R. began in Wilsons Hospital School (Co.Westmeath) back in 1993, and grew from a number of school exchange trips made to a school and orphanage in Romania. These were co-coordinated by one of the teachers, Mr. Ernest Lawrence, as part of The President's Award. During the course of these trips Ernest became aware of the many caves to be found in Romania. As caving was an interest of his and an activity in the school he decided to investigate further. In 1996 Ernest and Colin Bunce- a qualified Cave Leader and Outdoor Pursuits Instructor made a preliminary caving expedition to Romania and also made contact with the Romanian Institute of Speleology (a government funded research organization studying all the scientific aspects of caving). The Institute has a field base in South-west Romania close to a number of spectacular caves that are being intensively studied. We realized this would be an ideal base for a youth expedition.
Through the winter 1996/97 a team of 16 young people was selected and trained, and a successful expedition was held during July of 1997. During 1998 and 1999 a second team were selected and trained and another successful expedition was run in June of 1999. On both expeditions the young Irish cavers mixed with the Romanian cavers exploring and scientifically examining the caves in the surrounding areas.
Following these two successful expeditions it was felt that we should return the great hospitality that had been shown to us in Romania by inviting some of our Romanian caving friends to Ireland. Unfortunately this was not possible due to the difficulty in obtaining visas and for several years we were left in an embarrassing situation. Also in 2000 Ernest Lawrence retired from his school and Colin Bunce assumed the role of team leader.
In 2002 Colin and John Sweeney made a visit to Romania to attend the 18th Theoretical and Applied Karst symposium, which was also attended by some of our Romanian caving friends. Again we invited them to visit Ireland as we now felt the visa situation should have been resolved. This was indeed true and visas were granted. Funds were collected to cover all the costs of the visit and in July of 2003 two Romanian speleologists had a two-week tour of Ireland and visited many of Irish caves.
In preparation for another youth trip it was decided to run an expedition for leaders and potential new leaders, and also to examine the caves in a different region.