Norbert Casteret was born in 1897 in Saint Martory, Haute Garonne, and died in 1987 in Toulouse. For half a century, from 1920 to 1970, he was probably the most important speleologist of France. He is sometimes called father of modern speleology, although this is already applied to E.A. Martel, who lived one generation earlier. Working primarily on caves in his homeland Pyrenees, he not only explored caves, but also wrote numerous autobiographic books about his explorations, which were very popular for decades. During the 1950s and 1960s they were translated into many other languages.
Casteret was a very good sportsman, and one of his most famous saying is "Speleology is sport in commission of science". He was physically fit all his life, playing soccer, diving, skiing, rowing, pole vault and others. Also he was rather small and slim, which made him a very successful discoverer.
He started with some pretty dangerous explorations, where he dived naked into a siphon, only with water tight packed candle and matches. Later he writes in several books about this, and warns not to copy this dangerous lapse. After his first adventures he learned the techniques of caving from E. A. Martel. Martel, the founder of speleology wrote the foreword to his first book.
Unlike Martel, he was not a speleologist by profession. He studied and worked as a notary public. But he also studied prehistory at the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse. This knowledge was very important for his later prehistoric discoveries.
At the Fontaine de Vaucluse, an important karst spring in the Provence, a museum named Le Monde Souterrain de Norbert Casteret exists. It shows cave exploration equipment and the mineral collection of Casteret.
|19-AUG-1897||born in Saint Martory, Haute Garonne.|
|1923||Caverne de Montespan, Haute-Garonne, discovery of prehistoric sculptures.|
|1926||various caves in the Cirque de Gavarnie discovered, especially the Grotte Glacée Casteret.|
|1927||Rivière souterraine d'Izaut.|
|1928||Human remains, probably from Roman times, discovered in the Grotte de Girosp.|
|1929||Casteret discovered engravings in the Grotte d'Alquerdi.|
|1930||Discovery of the Grotte de Labastide.|
|1932||first exploration of the Grotte Cigalère.|
|1933||La Grotte Dite de Peyort. Gouffre Martel, l'Ariège.|
|1934||cave explorations at Morocco.|
|1936||Grotte de Houaliech.|
|1937||Grotte de Labouiche, together with Joseph Delteil.|
|1938||Gouffre Grotte d'Esparros.|
|1941-1947||exploration of the Henne Morte.|
|1947||depth record -446m in the Henne Morte.|
|1950||Casteret and his daughters Maude and Gilberte discovered five ice caves in the Cirque de Gavarnie.|
|1952-1953||Pierre Saint Martin.|
|20-JUL-1987||died in Toulouse.|
Casteret wrote more than 43 books, which made him very popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Here are the probably most important ones. Many of this books were translated into other languages. Dix ans sous terre (Ten Years Under the Earth) is still available in English, see the Books section.