The first time I met Hubert Trimmel was in 1958 in Lecce (Italy) during the 2nd International Congress of Speleology. At that time, Hubert was already a well known speleologist and it was one of my great will to have the opportunity to discuss with such an expert about many topics. With my great dismay, at that time unfortunately he spoke only German and my English was rather poor.
Just a few years later he learned French, and during the event of institution of the Union Internationale de Spéléologie in Postojna, our communication greatly improved. Whilst the worldwide caver community is grateful to Bernard Gèze, President-Founder of UIS, Hubert Trimmel represented not only a leading figure but, I dare say, the soul of UIS. As a matter of fact, in 1969 during the second UIS Bureau, Hubert was elected as General Secretary. He kept this role until 1986, when he was elected President of UIS. We all very well know that, although a formal change of his role within the organisation, his commitment to UIS never changed. At the same time, he could manage so many European languages that, to his widespread knowledge and competence in so many fields of speleology, there were no more linguistic barriers. Hubert Trimmel covered the position of General Secretary and President of the International Union of Speleology for nearly 30 years.
When referring to his contribution to UIS, it is absolutely necessary to point out that it could range from high level contacts with cavers, scientists and organisations from all over the World to the routine management of the Union. In particular, he gathered the information, prepared the text and printed the UIS Bulletin from 1970 to 1993, as well as the Internationale Bibliographie für Speläologie, a kind of “bibliographical abstracts” ante litteram from 1950 to 1960. This incredible effort, carried out by a single person, was basically possible because Hubert was in touch with so many speleologists from any part of the world and received most of the speleological literature production.
I had the chance to be very close to him during my two terms as president of UIS, and his support as General Secretary has been instrumental. Last July in Brno, we recalled the visit paid in Czechoslovakia after our election as UIS Bureau members in 1973, when we have managed to survive to a "political meeting" answering with neutral speeches (as loyal representatives of UIS) probably also thanks to the generous amount of the Armenian cognac, Ararat, for so many toasts.
Already in 1949, just few years after the end of the 2nd World War, he was a co-founder of the Austrian Speleological Association and editor of the “Die Höhle” Journal for 50 years. In addition, Hubert Trimmel got involved with the nature conservation in Austria, especially the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA) and the Umweltdachverbands UWD (Austrian Environmental Association). In 1989 he participated to the meetings leading to the foundation of the International Show Caves Association.
Hubert Trimmel inherent capability as a leader in his Country was further overwhelming worldwide. Being in touch with every speleological association in the World, I dare say, and with an incredibly large number of cavers, he had the capacity to be a kind of glue to improve cooperation and solve controversies. With the exception of the 15th ICS organised in Kerrville, Texas, he attended to all International Speleological Congresses, starting from the first one in 1953 in Paris, France.
Given his unmistakable scientific qualities, Hubert personal characteristics ought to be emphasised. He was a true caver, with plenty of humour. In 1979, our Austrian colleagues organised a congress in Vienna concerning the speleological researches in Austria: “Höhlenforschung in Österreich”. One night a number of illustrious persons, i.e. some speleologists with great experience had a meeting in a park after a dinner with excellent food and wine. Starting from middle of the XIX Century in Europe there was a large empire, which included a rather large number of different territories. It was a kind of European Union before its time. It was the so called Austro-Hungarian Empire. Therefore they decided to found a Society gathering important speleologists belonging to the historical territories of the Empire. The name of the Society is “Habsburg Royal and Imperial Speleological Society” and is ruled by a Kaiser. The first one was France Habe, who died in 1999. During the 13th ICS in Brasilia, Trimmel was elected as the new Kaiser and crowned with the name of Hubert the 1st.
Few years later, in 2004, the 9th International Symposium on Vulcanospeleology was organised in Pico Island, Azores. During an excursion, Hubert, Erika and some other cavers were simply forgotten in a lava cave. They were obliged to a long walk in the lava fields in the night. It was only nearby a village they could be recovered by a farmer with his three-wheeler car: both Hubert and Erika felt absolutely comfortable.
For any of us, so many friends, colleagues and students, no longer benefitting of the presence, competence and capacity of Hubert Trimmel it is a great loss. He will never be forgotten.
Our heartfelt sympathy to Erika and his children and grandchildren.
Arrigo A. Cigna