In 1834 The Royal Geological Society invited Dr James Apjohn, Professor of Geology at Trinity College, Dublin and engineer Thomas Kearney to carry out the first survey of the Mitchelstown Cave. Even with basic equipment, the map they produced proved to be very accurate and has since formed the basis of all future surveys.
The cave has subsequently attracted a large number of eminent explorers and scientists including Alexander Henry Haliday the Irish botanist who explored the cave in 1857. Haliday gained fame in 1837 when he received insects collected by Charles Darwin on HMS Beagle which explored the coasts of South America. The Darwin Insects are now in The National Museum of Ireland.
It wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that exploration of caves became a distinct area of study. This is largely due to the underground exploits of the Frenchman A.E Martel. Martel was the most famous cave explorer of his day and is still regarded by many as the ‘father of Speleology’ (study of caves). In 1895 he founded the Society of Speleology the first organisation in the world devoted to the scientific study of caves. It was in 1895 that Martel explored Mitchelstown Cave.
In 1908 members of the Yorkshire Ramblers Caving Club accompanied by Ireland’s most famous naturalist’s and first president of the Irish Mountaineering Club Robert Llyod Praeger carried out the first complete survey of Mitchelstown Cave.
In the early 1930’s Mitchelstown Cave was visited by one of Ireland’s leading cave explorers the Cork man J.C Coleman. Over a period of three decades he studied and explored Mitchelstown Cave. After his death a cavern in the cave was named ‘Coleman’s Gallery in his honour. Coleman began cave exploring in 1933 initially exploring caves within cycling distance from his home. In 1964 he founded the Speleological Society of Ireland. He published his work widely and contributed to many scientific journals. His book “Caves of Ireland” was the first publication to describe cave sites throughout Ireland.