Caves of Drac in Porto Cristo, Mallorca
Image it is 1339 and on the order of the Governor of Mallorca, and you are sent down into the blackness of the Caves of Drac “The Dragon Caves” in Porto Cristo on the island of Mallorca. On the way down, the walls glow eerily in the light of the torches you have taken with you. On the way down, you make sketches of your route and the shape of the cave because your secret mission is to look for the treasure of the Knights Templar which was presumed to have been concealed in the cave.
Unfortunately it has never been recorded in the document of 1339 which recorded your expedition, whether you found anything while on your mission and this document is now in the archives of Mallorca.
The people of Mallorca have known about the caves, located about half a mile from Porto Cristo, for around 3000 years. Pre-historic finds in the immediate vicinity revealed not only half the equipment of a Talayor settlement, but also the entrance to the cave. Even the name bears witness to the story that pirates and Templars entrusted their treasures to the guardianship of a dragon.
However, neither the original inhabitants of Mallorca, nor the pirates ventured further in than about 200 yards – just as long as the exit remained in sight. The Dragon Caves hit the headlines in 1878 when a group of Catalans disappeared inside for 3 days and were given up for lost. The explorers re-emerged still alive, to tell wonderous tales of the interior, though without being able to determine how far they had gone.
In 1880, a German cave explorer went in, drawing a map [though once again on the front parts]. Even that was considered a daring act because nobody knew how far the needle of a compass deflected from north when underground.
It was in 1896 that the Frenchman, Edouard-Alfred Martel, first studied and mapped the whole 1,420 yard [1300 metre] cave system thoroughly with the financial assistance from Archdule Salvator. Martel found a huge, crystal-clear lake deep in the interior of the cave at a constant temperature of 68 degrees farenheit [20 degrees centigrade]. No hi ha esperanca, there is no hope any more, wrote the lost Catalans at this place on the cave wall in 1878. Named Llac Martel after its cartographer, the lake is 177 m long, 40m wide and 9m deep. Overhanging it is a natural dome 17m high hollowed out by nature over millions of years as rain and oxygen removed the limestone. The whole cave is full of dripstones in the most bizarre shapes. These formations arise from the opposite process to hollowing out a cave, as the chalk removed by the water re-solidifies.
In the case of the Caves of Drac, a Mallorcan – Joan Servera – realised soon after Martel’s investigations that something could be done with the caves. In 1922, he paid a lot of money for the relatively unattractive site near Porto Cristo that included the natural entrance. According to the law of the time, as the co-founder of the tourist office well knew, the cave belonged to the person on whose land the entrance lay, however far it went underground.
Servera installed paths, stairs and seats and opened a new entrance in the Cala Murta. After a few private shows involving music and ballet in the caves, in 1935 he had the caves illuminated in colour as it is were a fairy world. Lit-up orchestral boats have floated over the lake since 1931, followed by 2 boatloads of visitors. Little has changed in the form of the presentation since then. Light effects and soft music turn the subterranean cathedral into a tourist spectacle. Its natural silence only returns at night.