Grotta del Cane


Useful Information

Location: Via Raffaele Ruggiero, Agnano, Campi Flegrei, Pozzuoli, Napoli
Open: closed.
[2011]
Fee: closed.
[2011]
Classification:  Karst Cave.  Dog's Cave.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=9m. H=2m, W=1.1m
Guided tours: self guided
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Ester Majo (1927): I fenomeni vulcanici della grotta del Cane (Campi Flegrei) in rapporto alle variazioni atmosferiche. In: Bulletin Volcanologique. 1927, 4, 1, S. 84-92, doi:10.1007/BF02719519
W.R. Halliday, A.A. Cigna (2006). The Grotta Del Cane (Dog Cave), Naples, Italy Cave and Karst Science, 2006, VOL 33; NUMB 3, pages 131-136.
Address: Tel: +39-0
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Last update:$Date: 2015/08/30 21:56:06 $

History

 
2001debris and bushes cleaned.

Description

The Grotta del Cane (Dogs Cave) is not really a cave, its a volcanic feature called mofetta or fumarole, a volcanic discharge of carbon dioxide. This source of carbon dioxide is located inside a small hollow, a tiny cave which is only 9m long. The important fact is: the floor is going down to the inside. So a shallow lake of about 30cm of almost pure carbon dioxide, which is heavier than normal air, forms inside the cave. People entering the cave accompanied by a dog do not feel any difference, because their head is above the carbon dioxide lake, but the dog suffocates due to the lack of oxygen. The dog collapses and if not removed from the grotto will soon die of asphyxiation. Carbon dioxid is actually not poisonous, it is just the lack of oxygen.

Such a strange place was mentioned as early as the Roman times, it was described by Pliny the Elder (lib. 2, c. 90). It became very popular with the first flood of Italy-tourism during the 19th century. At this time the experiment was actually made with a dog, which was frequently rescued before it died. It seems the animal became used to being suffocated. The other version of the story, after which the dog was sent in to die, is a little cynically and we dont think it was very practical to kill the dog with every demonstration. Probably the visitors were just overwhelmed and did not notice the dog was just senseless. Probably the guides exaggerated the dangers of the cave.

Grotta del Cane (Dog Cave) (Naples). The Dog's Cave, so called from the practice of sending dogs into it to show visitors how the carbonic acid gas near the floor of the cave kills them.


Text by E. Cobham Brewer (1894): Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Nero's Baths, the ruins of Baiae, the Temple of Serapis; Cumae, where the Cumaen Sybil interpreted the oracles, the Lake Agnano, with its ancient submerged city still visible far down in its depths-these and a hundred other points of interest we examined with critical imbecility, but the Grotto of the Dog claimed our chief attention, because we had heard and read so much about it. Every body has written about the Grotto del Cane and its poisonous vapors, from Pliny down to Smith, and every tourist has held a dog over its floor by the legs to test the capabilities of the place. The dog dies in a minute and a half-a chicken instantly. As a general thing, strangers who crawl in there to sleep do not get up until they are called. And then they don't either. The stranger that ventures to sleep there takes a permanent contract. I longed to see this grotto. I resolved to take a dog and hold him myself; suffocate him a little, and time him; suffocate him some more and then finish him. We reached the grotto at about three in the afternoon, and proceeded at once to make the experiments. But now, an important difficulty presented itself. We had no dog.


Text by Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad: Chapter XXX..

Today the Solfatara at Pozzuoli is the most popular tourist site of the the Campi Flegrei, showing numerous volcanic features. It is actually the only part of the volcanism which is open to the public. The Grotta del Cane is located only a kilometer away. According to old engravings, it is located at the southern shore of Lake Agnano. However, this lake has vanished since the 19th century engravings were made. Today it is a plain called Agnano Basin, or Agnano Crater. The cave is located at the southeastern rim.

The cave was abandoned many years ago and the surrounding ground fell in disrepair. Local citizens removed the growing bushes and the rubbish, but still the cave has not officially been reopened. The dipartimento delle Scienze della Terra (Department of Earth Sciences) of the facoltà degli studi di Napoli Federico II (University of Naples Federico II) plans to create a Parco Geologico (geologic park), which would include the dog cave, but so far the communal politicians were not willing to support such a project. Professor Vincenzo Morra, the former director of the Ordine dei geologi della Campania (Order of the Geologists of Campania) suggests an Parco Museo Ipogeo (underground museum park) in this area, because there are numerous interesting underground sites which allow a view into the local geology. Nevertheless, this cave is of great historical and cultural importance and deserves to be listed anyway.


See also


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