When I was 5 years old, I entered to the cave for the first time, with my father and mother behind. Later the same year I started to read and write and I finished reading my first book. It was a science fiction and of course it was a Russian book (this was in 1960s and everything was about and made by USSR, nothing about West). After I read several more books about si-fi I knew I wanted to be an explorer of deep space. I wanted to become a “cosmonaut” …well, actually, at that time I called it a “rachetar” (in English sort of “rocket-er”, not astronaut because there was no “astronaut” in East). At 12 I read several times a 500 page book about how to become a pilot of an airplane! After all, in order to become a cosmonaut, you had to first become a good pilot. Also, I read for the first time a book call “Nebuloase din Andromeda” (“Andromeda Nebula”) by I. Yefremov (1960) and just to see the stars in the cosmos, beyond over planets. The book was so vivid that it was hurting! Unfortunately, at the same age I realized my right eye was not good (astigmatism) so I had to forget flying as a pilot. I still remember well the night (it was April or May) as I looked at the stars and realized I will never go there in the deep universe. It was very, very painful for me. Several days later, I suddenly remembered that I did not follow up on cave visits after the first time when I was 5 year old. So I thought why don’t I go and see some more caves. Our small town of Aiud, in Transylvania, was only about 14 km away from many caves and some time in July (in 1966), I decided to (use my bicycle) go to the caves. It was easy to find them and in several weeks I was hooked for good and even thought that inside the cave there were no stars!
In about one year I was by myself and I’ve done at least 20 caves. In 1968 some friends said they wanted to see some caves and pondered if this is cool on not. Well, after some visits they liked it a lot and 6 months later we started the first club in the town and very fewer older club in Romania at that time. In Romania, the first caving associations started in 1972. From 1968 until 1973 when I was admitted to the university, caving was like second-nature to me and several months a year we were there, in caves. Some time I had the opportunity to find a new cave, a so-call “virgin” or “untouched” cave and that is very special. Yet, like the “terra incognito” becoming know and leads to being “spoiled”… There is no way to keep the cave perfectly clean after we go there for the first time. In 1971 I discovered such a cave with fossils of a cave bear (a skull and some bones) and I was sure that I was the very first to go there after the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) died. As we came back from that cave I new I wanted to become a geologist. I was admitted by exam, as at the time in the communist government, only the best were admitted, in 1973, right after the lyceum in Romania, (in the West it is the high-school, so for me from 1969 until 1973). In the five years of university, I did not spend my time in the Cluj-Napoca on weekends for more than maybe 10 times, being, of course, most of the time in a cave somewhere…
I was time-consuming just to arrive close to the cave. Why? Well, at that time, most of people in Romania did no have a car, so we have to go by train and sometime by buses. For example, for 2 years we’ve been several times in 3 cave which eventually become one system (14 km long). We began at 3 p.m. (on Friday) by going from Cluj-Napoca to Oradea by train only 150 km was more than 5 hours! At two a.m. next morning we would change train again and arrive at 6 a.m. in Sudrigiu. From there we would go by car or truck for 10 more km. The rest – 24 km – we had to go on foot and the last 5 km there was almost 1000 meters difference of elevation. Some time in the afternoon we arrived at the cave, being inside for 10 – 14 hours, exploring, surveying, research and sometime we took even photos. Next day, on around midday (Sunday) we would go back the same way and at 1 a.m. we would catch the train back from Oradea to Cluj-Napoca, there being the first time in 3 days and nights that we would sleep about 4 hours! On Monday at 6:30 I was in Cluj-Napoca by 7:30 I had to be to the university as it was require for the course and for an hour until I had a strong coffee. I had to have my eyelids open with toothpicks! It was fun for sure!
I never thought to count every cave I explored (like I “trophy”) but now, as I am still exploring the caves, I wish I did… I’m certain that I’ve explored many hundred if not one thousand cave in total. In Romania I’ve been to the longest cave (Peștera Vântului -still the longest), the deepest cave (Izvorul Tăușoarelor – not the deepest now). I’ve been in Europe in many caves: Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Belgium, England, France, Greece, Moldova. I’ve also been caving in South Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A. and Canada.
During my years of “univ” I had research several different topic and I had my first publication in 1979, of course about a cave in Romania. In total I had 28 secular research publications in many country, 25 creation research publications, 5 books (one secular, 4 on creation – 4 as co-authors). Most of them were about caves and karst. In 2009 the docudrama “Darwin – The Voyage That Shook The World” (DVD and Blu-ray) was made (CMI), based on an original concept of mine and I was also one of the scientific team in the film. (http://creation.com/emil-silvestru)
Back in June 1979, after I finished my study, I stared to work in September as a geologist in the Rondei Mountain, exploring (both the mines and outside) to find metal like gold and silver. Just one month late I met a women named Flory Iusan who change everything… Within a year we got married and we settled in Sângoerz-Băi, a small town in the same area of the mountain. By the 1986, when we moved to the city of Cluj-Napoca, we have two beautiful girls – Alexandra (1981) and Cora (1986). Flory was a Christian for a long time but I was not though if I knew for long time that there is some sort of supreme being. I do not know why Flory believed that I will understand in a few years about Jesus! She was right, of course and I was baptized in 1994.
Alexandra and Cora were older-enough to go on the mountain and cave (1990) we’ve been all — at least in the summer — many, many time in the summers and often with 2 tents (one for Flory and me and one for Alexandra and Cora and even some friends of them).
I stated working at the Institute of Speleology “Emil Racoviță” in 1986, as a scientist and 8 to 9 months every year I was in some cave researching, mostly in the West Carpathian (or Apuseni Mountain). After the communist was gone in 1990, I became the director at Institute of Speleology “Emil Racoviță” (I.S.”E.R.”) in Cluj-Napoca until 1998. It is worth mentioning that Emil Racoviță (the founder of the institute) was first director of research in France, at Banyul-sue-Mer before moving to Cluj in 1919 where he became the head of biology department of Upper Dacia University (now Babeș-Bolyai University, after the Transylvania re-united with Romania at the end of the First World War). By the decree of the King Ferdinand I (of Romania), in 26 April 1920, the first Speleology Institute in the world was born, with Emil Racoviță as director. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Racovi%C8%9B%C4%83) One of the grandson, Gheorghe Racoviță (a biologist) was also director until 1990.
Since I was born until 1990 I was under the communist regime but I’ve been in caves many, many times. When the democracy started in 1990, I thought going to the cave as a professional would be easier yet, but my salary was only $30 per month and we had 2 young daughters! For 8 years I tried to survive but eventually we decided it was too much and in Romania because be at least one generation to change for the good. So we immigrated to Canada, so that our two daughters would have a better chance. I knew that it means no more caving, at least no as a professional, since there is no institute of speleology in Canada. But I knew that the Creation Ministry International (at that time was Answers In Genesis) wanted to hire me as a speaker and in a months I was already speaking for them. Evenly 9 months of each year I was in Canada, USA, Australia, speaking about creation versus macroevolution; the caving was maybe several hours each year… Nevertheless, I have my full gear and hoped that I’ll have more time somehow.
I believed eventually God had pity on me and found a man whose been caving a long time: Bill West-Sells. He is based in Vancouver Island, where there is the highest density of caves anywhere in Canada, and we’ve been friends for 14 years now. Just before I had my stroke, we wanted to have a caving creation camp every year (in Vancouver Island a.k.a. V.I.) where the people learn about the cave, the geology, the ecology, photographing , etc. But in early April 2013 I had a severe brain stroke and everything changed ever since. It was also the first time since 1966 to not go in any cave. A year later, in 2014 in the summer, we decided to go caving again in V.I. and see if inside the narrow cave I developed claustrophobia. I did not. So, every year Flory and me and some times my daughters and their husbands, explored with Bill some caves and I pray that I will continue to explore the dark wonder with no stars except my lamp…