TRABUC caves have been known since the Earliest Antiquity; E. Dumas reported discovering bones and tools demonstrating that prehistoric men had lived in these caves until Roman times. These occupations can be explained.
The entrance is narrow. The presence of a vast chamber providing precious water allows both easy defence and opportunity for a hiding place which are favourable to habitat.
Later on, the caves were used as refuges and a gunpowder factory by the “Camisards” at the Reformation period. The king’s troops blocked the entrance off as they did for entrances to other caves in the surrounding area in order to eliminate these invulnerable hideouts.
A century later, it is thought that they were used as a refuge by “Trabucaires” or other drivers and highwaymen. The name of the cave is derived from the name “TRABUC” (blunderbuss) – a muzzle-loading firearm worn by bandits in that murky time. It was dangerous and efficient when loaded with powder and scrap iron.
In local dialect, those men wearing and using the “trabuc” were called “trabucaïres”. Then, serious explorers succeeded those sinister-looking explorers. Those ahead of their time potholers – as the name did not exist at that time – wanted to know all the secrets of the cave.
In 1823, Nicod and Gallière climbed deep into the caves and were justifiably the first pioneers of potholing. They became discoverers of underground camps in consequence of expeditions of three consecutive days spent underground.Gallière, who got lost one day or, we should say, one night, without any light, spend fifty-two hours and was found nibbling his laces and drinking his urine.
Nearly since that time, all of what we call the ‘ancient caves’ have been explored. Later on, in 1889, entomologists, V. Maget and G. Mignaud, discovered a kind of niphargus called Bathyscia Mialetensis in honour of Mialet caves.
1899: It was in that year that the TRABUC system was visited by the first potholers. Martel’s collaborator, Mazauric, described it in the Société Spéléologique de France bulletin. A plan of the galleries and chambers network was published in the journal “Spelunca” in 1920: it highlighted the importance of the cave which was already famous among potholers.
At that time, tourists visiting the deeper part of the caves entered by the natural entrance, and the lower passage of L’Estrangladou led to the Salle des Vasques where the guide, who was holding a torch or candle, lit Bengal lights he sold so that he could get a few coins. Even if the chamber was so vast, the smoke spread very rapidly and the troop of visitors and the guide groped their way out of the cave.
For the French national holiday (14 July), the visits to the cave were part of the festivities and, in the darkness ideal for bedlam, cheerful troops were going around.
In 1945, new discoveries started thanks to the perseverance of Mr Vaucher with the help of his sons, Marc and Olivier. As a result of these building works, the development of new galleries has been significant. More than 7km of large systems have been explored.
Still today, the exploration is not finished.
There are numerous systems to be explored. Search in the roofs, cave diggings, passing in the sumps of lower systems!
All TRABUC mysteries have not been solved yet. As it is the case in all great systems, surprises are awaiting tenacious explorers