The Austrians Alexander von Mörk (1887-1914) and Poldi Fuhrich (1898-1926) became two of the leading cave explorers in the early twentieth century. After qualifying as an academic painter, Alexander von Mörk fell as an officer in World War I. Poldi Fuhrich, who worked as a teacher, received international recognition during her lifetime as one of the very few female cave explorers. She died in a cave accident in Styria, Austria. Mörk and Fuhrich achieved iconic status as martyrs of cave science and became role models for speleologists. My research examines the parallels in the conception of these heroic figures and the ‘parameters’ of their memorial. How and to what end was their memory perpetuated and exploited by the following generation of explorers? Expedition diaries, protocols of caving clubs, and obituaries in newspapers are used as sources for analyses. The results show a strong correlation between the commemoration of the fallen soldiers of World War I and the conception of heroic figures in speleology. While the personality cult of Fuhrich declined in the mid-thirties due to the social exclusion of women from the scientific study of caves, Mörk was increasingly celebrated as a mythical and self-sacrificing founder and enthusiastic German nationalist. The commemoration of the deceased in cave science was related to the militarisation of club life during the twenties. This is reflected in the radicalisation of language, the usage of military equipment in cave exploration, and the nomination of military officers as club officials.

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