Dave Brindle

While exploring the side pasages around the underground camp in 115, we discovered a number of dead bats. Although bats are known to live in other caves in Austria, such as the Mammuthohle in the Dachstein, these were the first ones we had seen in the Totes Gebirge. No live ones were seen, but we found a total of six dead ones, each lying on the floor in regions of large dry passage. They were all well preserved, owing to the cold dry atmosphere, and it is not known how long ago they died. We collected two and took them out, and our local contact, Dr. Gunther Graf, sent them to Vienna. They were identified as follows:-

  1. Myotis mystacinus
  2. Barbastella barbastellus
The first one is a small insect-eating bat (wingspan 225mm) common in most of Europe. It lives in trees and buildings during the summer, and hibernates in cellars and caves in the winter. The average life expectancy is less than five years. The second one is slightly larger (wingspan 260mm) but fairly rare, and little is known about its habits. Both are now in the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Initially we were surprised to find them so far underground. The camp was about 1500m from and 350m below the entrance to 115. We discussed this with a local caver, Karl Gaisberger, and he said it was quite normal to find bats so far underground. However, the sketch survey we were plotting during exploraion showed that the end of the Futility Series, which forms part of the phreatic passage at the level of the underground camp, was within 100m, horizontally, of the hillside below the entrance to 115. It seemed likely that the extensive horizontal development at this level had been intersected by the valley, to give another entrance which the bats had found. The Futility Series ends in a small draughting hole where the mud floor rises nearly to the roof, and at the time this was not pushed. A brief examination of the hillside below 115 found nothing, as the valley sides are very rugged - alternate cliffs and scree slopes. To find exactly where an entrance would emerge, we intend next year to do a surface survey down from the entrance of 115, plotting as we go, to find the place on the hillside nearest ot the known cave, which can then be searched more thoroughly. The entrances to 41 (at about 1600m) and 115 (at 1400m) are both old phreatic passages subsequently cut off by the valley, and it seems almost certain that there will be another entrance at about 1200m. At this altitude, there should be a substantial outward draught.