UIS grades - update

Philipp Haeuselmann praezis@geo.unibe.ch
Tue, 12 Mar 2002 20:05:07 +0100

Hello all!

Since the list seems to be dormant or dead, I'll try to reactivate the
traffic a little bit...
The following is a repost (by permission!) and sort of 
a conclusion I got from Erik Agrell, who is investigating the "UIS grades". 
The main reason why I post his message is that there are some things I don't 
know the answer.

Is someone of you able to answer Erik's questions 2,3, and 4?

Thank you in advance, many greetings


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>From agrell@s2.chalmers.se Wed Feb 27 08:54 MET 2002
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 08:54:04 +0100 (MET)
From: Erik Agrell <agrell@s2.chalmers.se>
Subject: UIS grades - update
To: Philipp Haeuselmann <praezis@geo.unibe.ch>
MIME-version: 1.0
Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT

Dear Praezis,

Even though the process goes quite slowly, I have made considerable
progress in the search for the origin of the elusive so-called "UIS
grades" since we discussed them last year. The mystery is far from
solved, but I have some news that might be of interest to you.

To recapitulate, the so-called "UIS grades" is the official grading
system of cave maps in Sweden but nowhere else. You helped me identify
that the UIS grades are in fact equal to the BCRA grades.

Digging further into the archive, I found (with excellent help from
the librarian of the Swedish Speleological Society) that the CRG/BCRA
grades were used in Sweden until about 1980. Then, without any
published explanation, the UIS grades suddenly appeared. The first
identified occurrence is in the last issue in 1980 of the Society's
journal "Grottan".

What happened in or before 1980 to trigger this development? A search
in the contemporary international caving literature revealed an
interesting publication:

  "Signes Speleologiques Conventionnels",
  G. Fabre and M. Audetat, Eds.,
  C.E.R.G.H. Memoire no 14, 1978.

The top of the cover reads "Union Internationale de Speleologie:
Sous-Commission de Signes Conventionnels", giving the impression that
this is an official UIS publication. It is a 44-page booklet, written
jointly in French, English, and German. The interesting thing in this
context is Table 1 on page 21, "System for grading surveys of cave
plans", which defines a scale in seven steps for the accuracy of cave
maps. This table reminds very much of what we in Sweden today call
"UIS grades". The rest of the booklet defines cave map symbols.

The hypothesis so far is thus that some leading Swedish caver at the
time read this publication. Supposedly he adopted the grades in Table
1 for his maps and influenced other Swedes to do the same. No name is
given for the grades in the booklet, but as this appears to be an
official UIS recommendation, it seems like a natural choice to call
them "UIS grades".

Just as a satisfactory answer appeared to have been found to the main
question, new mysteries arose. As you probably know better than I,
there have been several generations of the CRG/BCRA grades. I know of

  1969: CRG grades, ranging from 1 to 7.
  1973: Revised CRG grades, ranging from 1 to 6, plus X corresponding to
        the old grade 7. Some details differ from the 1969 version, such as
        grades 2 and 4 being "not recommended".
  1975: BCRA grades. Like CRG73 with the extension of suffix letters A-D.

(The years given are when the grades were presented in the press known
to me, but they may well have been defined earlier.)

Comparing these grades with those given in the 1978 UIS booklet, it
turns out that the latter are identical to CRG69, not CRG73 or BCRA. I
cannot see any plausible explanation for this. It seems unlikely that
the group of experts responsible for the grades in the booklet (seven
names are listed) would have been unaware of the recent CRG/BCRA
revisions. Furthermore, the "UIS grades" used in Sweden today resemble
CRG73 most closely.

I am beginning to realize that the information I am gathering might be
interesting to more people than you and me (and Peter M), at least in
Sweden. Perhaps I will write an article or something when all leads
are pushed. The following questions are some that I am presently

1. Why did noone outside Sweden adopt the grades recommended in the
1978 UIS publication, when the cave symbols have received close to
global acceptance?

2. Why did UIS in their 1978 publication recommend CRG69, not CRG73 or

3. When were the "Swedish" UIS grades upgraded to their current form,
which more resemble CRG73?

4. One of the names given with the 1978 table is E. B. Ellis. The 1973
and 1975 revisions were disseminated in the British press by B. M.
Ellis. Are these persons the same, and who of them is Bryan Ellis, the
author of the well-known book "Cave Surveying"? Is he still around to

Any comments are welcome, of course!

Best regards,


P.S. What happened to the new UIS standard for speleometry and
speleography that you mentioned was being discussed?

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