Kungur Ice Cave is one of the biggest gypsum caves in Russia. This outstanding karst object takes the fifth place in the world on extent (among the gypsum caves). The cave is situated in the north-eastern part of the town Kungur, on the right bank of the river Sylva, in the depth of the Ice hill. The Ice hill covers nearly ten square kilometers. In its structure the cave is as like as a fairytale labyrinth. Nowadays the length of known routs is nearly 5700 meters.
The symphony of ice and stone reconstructs 48 grottos of different size. Every grotto in the cave has its own name. The biggest grotto is Geographs. The Giant grotto is the biggest grotto on the tourists route. There are 146 “organ pipes”. It is a vertical canals, filled with sand and clay. Lakes are the most beautiful places in the cave. In the ice kingdom there are more than 70 lakes. The biggest lake on the tourists way is a big underground lake (1460 square metes). Mirror-like surface of the lake is very clear. It paints different reflections of fantastic landscapes. Scientists think that the cave appeared on the place of the Perm Sea in connection with a raising of the Ural ridge approximately 10-12 thousand years ago. Anhydrites, gypsum, limestone and dolomites of Kungur period of Perm geological system has appeared 260 millions years ago in the Perm period of the Earth history. The sea which during those far times settled down here lasted on the western slope of the Ural ridge to borders of Caspian Sea. Limestone blocks are steps of life of milliards of sea microorganisms. Under the influence of the warm climate, water condensated very fast, thanks to it the high level of concentration of salts in gulfs promoted loss of a gypsum deposit which has turned subsequently to the stone. Millions years passed. In the end the sea has shoaled and has leaved the borders of present Perm Kray. During some hundreds of thousands years in the depth of the Ice mountain during high waters of the river Sylva and also rain waters dissolved gypsum and created endless cavities and galleries. The process of dissolution of stones is called karst. The arches of the grottoes got their form thanks to the collapses. There are a lot of legends about the cave. According to one of them Yermak was the pioneer of the ice kingdom. In 1578-79 his band spends winter in the Ice cave.
Many legends tell of how that underground maze at various times served as a refuge for conservatives fleeing the persecution of people supporting the new faith. According to one legend, the cave is shelter and the first residents of Kungur, who thus hid from the raids of the Tatar and Bashkir tribes. Officially Science Ice Cave has been known since 1703.
It is the time of its first plan was drawn up by an outstanding scholar, historian and cartographer of Siberia – Semen Remezov. The Plan was subsequently lost. As a unique cultural monument of architecture the cave attracted the attention of many scientists. Tatishchev revised the plan and made changes to it. He visited the cave many times. For the first time Tatishchev not only made notes on the cave, but also gave a scientific explanation of karst processes and the origin of the cave. Under the impression from the Ural legend of the cave beast, its fundamental work V.N. Tatishchev called «Legend about the mammoth beast.» According to the legend: «There lives underground monster mammoth, he is mountainous, black and evil, he has two horns and he can move them every side he wants. The food of the mammoth is a ground, and when he walks underground the Earth shakes, behind him there are big ditches and forest crumble down. And there is no salvation for anyone when the animal is under the ground, just go out into the clearing and lay face to the ground and wait until the land subsides.”
In 1770 a scientist I.I.Lepechin visited the cave. Considered in detail to the borders of the Great Lake, in his «Day notes», he described the Brilliant, Polar and other grottoes, the direction of strokes, particularly pointed to the presence of ice formations, talus, organ pipes and lakes. According to his observations the glaciers in the cave in 1770 was greater than now. In the beginning of the 19th century the professor of the Kazan University – Kittara removed underground grottoes and gave a detailed description of each grotto. He was greatly impressed by the cave. In the end of the 19th century the anthropologist Polyakov visited the cave. He made excavations and proved that the cave was a sanctuary of ancient people. In the Cross grotto, there were no bones of animals. In 1947 the professor of the Perm University, Maksimovich made a “Short instruction of studying the cave ice and caves”, in which ices have been studied and described in detail. In 1948 the centre of studying the cave was built. In this centre worked the most famous scientists: Lukin, Dorofeev and many others. Nowadays young scientists work in this center, they study the cave’s condition. Kungur Ice Cave is a pioneer in history of the cave tourism in Russia. In the middle of the 19th century farmers of the Bannoye (Phillippovka) organized the first tour of the cave. Alexander Khlebnikov professionally began studying sightseeing activities of Kungur Ice cave. In 1914 he rented the cave and begun to show it to visitors. In 1914 German princess Victoria fon Battenberg and her daughter Louise visited the cave. Thanks to Khlebnikov the cave become famous all over the world. He was the first Keeper of the cave. Since 1914 to 1951 he was a guide in the cave, he constantly studied the cave, and participated in work on its improvement. After Khlebnikov the staff of the Urals filial of the Russian academy of science performed excursions. But in 1969 the office of travelling and excursions was opened. In winter we can see the clouds of steam above the cave. The flows of steam penetrate the cave through cracks. In ancient times people believed that it is a breath of the mammoth, which lives underground. But really it is wet and warm air. Wet pair immediately cooled and converted into microcrystalline ice crystals. At the foot of the Ice Mountain is particularly strongly felt as a cave draws icy air to itself. Speed and direction of air flow in the eternal realm of ice depend on the ratio of the density of air underground and above ground. The temperature in every grotto is different. The temperature drops due to air circulation in the grottoes. The coldest grottoes of the cave are situated near the entrance and output. But in the centre of the cave the temperature is constant.
The temperature can reach zero. Spring is the most “warm” season for visiting the cave. But even in summer, cave ices are not melting. It is zero temperature too. Negative anomaly – the so-called temperature control of the entrance of the cave, where even in the hottest summer the temperature is kept low in relation to the temperatures of the central part of the cave. This is explained by the fact that throughout the winter, the nearest parts of the dungeon accumulate cold. Change of ventilation in summer period significantly affects the safety of low temperatures in the first grottoes. Cold air is directed to enter of the cave and creates an insurmountable barrier. Thus, in the rocks that frame the entrance of the cave stable zone of permafrost was formed. Summer heat does not penetrate into the cave and does not break kingdom of ice. Seasonal ices melting due to the penetration of heat from the depths of the cave. In the 18 century were the most significant glaciations of the cave. According to the description of contemporary multi-year ice decorated with fairy grottoes at a distance of 440 meters from the entrance to the cave. Now the boundary of snow and ice are only 270 meters. Today the average annual temperature is 5 degrees target. Relative humidity is 100 percent. Summer through cracks and organ pipes toward cold waters from the surface of the mountain comes the warm air that gradually warms the rocks of the upper part. So formed, a positive anomaly. During this period and begins to emerge a real miracle. Air circulation in the cave brings in different directions heat and moisture. At the intersection of air flow at different temperatures is strong, moisture on walls and vaults of the cave.
Excess of condensation form various types of extruded ice. At the same time in the zone of negative temperatures can observe the phenomenon of sublimation. Warm air moisture settles on the arches in the form of crystals. Ice crystals create a fabulous decoration of the cave. Depending on the ambient temperature boundary between the zone of evaporation and sublimation fluctuates constantly. In thaw it falls in the cold, it rises to the top of the vaults. The wall of the Ice Cave performs function of natural thermostat, which has large heat capacity. The process of evaporation of ice and water are inextricably linked with the absorption of huge amounts of heat that leads to rapid cooling of the caves in winter and heat in summer. At the same time, the phenomenon of condensation and freezing of ice is accompanied by heat. Ice Cave is a true miracle of Russia. The greatest story of an ancient karst object, indescribable beauty of underground caves make visiting the caves into a fascinating and exciting journey into the fascinating underground world. The most beautiful grottoes are the Brilliant grotto and the Polar grotto. There are very beautiful crystals in these grottoes. Among the visitors to the caves were well-known warlords Blucher and Zhukov, academics – geologists Fedorov and Fersman, heroic pilots Chkalov and Gromov, and many others. In 1937 the cave was visited members of the Seventeenth International Geological Congress. The maximum number of tourists visiting the cave was in 1980 – 202,481 visitors.