The island of Mljet, famous for its mild climate and natural beauties, is a popular tourist destination. The variety of flora and fauna has attracted and still attracts numerous biologists and cave researchers. The first explorations of Mljet underworld had been initiated by unexplainable subterranean detonations which started in the year 1822 and suddenly ended several years later. In the year 1824, a group of scientists from Vienna arrived at Mljet with the intention to explain those phenomena. The first written information about the underground of Mljet derives from that time. At the turn of the 20th century, the first biospeleologists came to the island. Searching for interesting and unexplored cave fauna they have visited about ten of the most famous caves and pits. However, sustained speleological and biospeleological explorations started only fifteen years ago, through a cooperation of the members of the Croatian Biospeleological Society and Public Institution National Park Mljet. In the mid-nineties, Branko Jalžić had visited several caves and collected underground fauna. Several members of the CBSS participated in the summer camp on the island organized by Biology students association – BIUS in 2001. In the following years Branko Jalžić organized several more visits to the island and in 2007 a project for the speleological and biospeleological research financed by the Public Institution National Park Mljet begun.
Due to the understanding of the National Park management, explorations have been done outside of the park boundaries as well. Therefore, the speleological map of the whole island is considerably completed. During the explorations in the year 2007 and 2008, a total of 28 caves and pits have been explored. Research was done mostly on land with few of the most famous sea-sunken caves included. Caves were typographically mapped and geologically, paleontologically and biospeleologically surveyed. Our explorations resulted in a revelation of the deepest pit on the island, Jama Međugrađen, above Babino Polje, 102 m deep. Currently, the longest cave on the island is Galičnjak near Okuklje, 130 m long.
Interesting archaeological remains, mostly from the Bronze Age have been found in several caves. In the Galičnjak cave barely known travertine stalactites have been found for the first time in Croatia. Explorations of fauna gave very interesting results. Several animal species that were unknown to the fauna of Croatia were discovered. However, the most important findings were the discoverys of new species of subterranean beetles from the families Staphylinidae and Scydmaenidae. Based on the collected material, three new species have been already described, Bryaxis krilei, Euconnus longipedes and Scydmoraphes speluncarius.
Unfortunately, after all explorations, some caves known from the literature could not be found. Bushy vegetation on Mljet still hides their entrances. Results of the research will be presented in the booklet “Guide-book through the Mljet underworld” which is at the moment in preparation.
Helena Bilandžija – firstname.lastname@example.org (leader)
Branko Jalžić (co-leader)
Martina Pavlek and
The following persons have participated in field explorations:
Petra Kovač Konrad and
In laboratory work:
Fanica Kljaković Gašpić
Vesna Štamol and
We are very thankful to the Public Institution National Park Mljet, especially to Osvin Pečar, Jakov Nodilo and Damjan Aljinović for rendered assistance and successful cooperation, and Vicko Maranović who guided us to caves and pits on the island.