Cosquer Méditerranée opens dark ride based on prehistoric cave

Cosquer Mediterranee
Outside of the Cosquer Méditerranée museum (© Cosquer Méditerranée)

Over the past 2 and a half years, a massive project has been in the works to preserve a cave filled with prehistoric rock art paintings and engravings. Grotte Cosquer (the Cosquer Cave) is located near the city of Marseille, France, and is difficult to reach due to its entrance being located underwater. The global rise of the sea level has caused a flooding in the cave which threatens to fade the historic engravings out of existence. A plan was made to reconstruct the cave elsewhere and display it to the public. The result is Cosquer Méditerranée, a new museum fully dedicated to Grotte Cosquer which opened yesterday. Its main attraction is the 35 minute experience featuring a dark ride through a reconstruction of the cave.

Archaeological studies have shown that the 500 artworks date from 27,000 BP to 19,000 BP. Over the last couple of thousand years, the entrance to the cave became flooded, 37 metres under the Mediterranean sea level. The entrance was rediscovered in 1989 by professional diver Henri Cosquer, who the cave was named after. About 80% of the cave was found to be submerged, and due to global warming, the rest is bound to suffer the same fate. In 1992, Grotte Cosquer was given the status of historical monument which kick started 30 years of studies.

Work on project Cosquer Méditerranée began in September 2020. Since, the original cave with a surface of about 2500 m² was carefully digitally reconstructed as a 3D map with the help of modern equipment. Then it was rebuilt on a slightly smaller scale, with a surface of 1750 m2, inside the cellar of the old Villa Méditerranée museum which closed in 2018. Cosquer Méditerranée claims the copy is completely realistic copy, with accurate remakes of the artworks and rocks.

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Map of the dark ride (© Cosquer Méditerranée)

Guests take a seat in one of the trackless vehicles called Exploration Modules, which follow a 220 metres long path through the cave, suspended just above the water level. The tour lasts approximately 35 minutes and is accompanied by an automated audio commentary which promises to reveal all the nooks and crannies. The 44 six passenger vehicles were supplied by the Dutch ETF Ride Systems, who already told us a little about this project on the IAAPA Euro Expo 2021. The rockwork on the other hand was constructed by the French Atelier Artistique du Béton (AAB) and SG Atelier. The museum has gone above and beyond with presenting an immersive experience, as even the trip down to the cellar is themed, with the elevator simulating a diving chamber. Other highlights in the museum include an exhibition on underwater diving and a film about the cave’s discovery.