Francesco Sauro

2014 Young Laureate, Exploration
Italy, Born 1984

Project Goal

Explore ancient quartzite caves in the table-top mountains of South America

Location: Brazil and Venezuela

Francesco Sauro grew up listening to stories of his father’s and uncle’s caving adventures, and began caving around his home in northern Italy at the age
of 13.

When he was 19 years old, he was invited by Antonio de Vivo – a 1993 Rolex Award Laureate and one of the founders of La Venta – to join a caving and canyoning expedition in the Mexican state of Durango. Since then, he has taken part in 23 expeditions in Asia and Latin America, leading 12 of them in Mexico and Venezuela. He has surveyed over 50 kilometres of previously unmapped cave systems, and reached a depth of over 1,000 metres in the Alps.

A geologist by training, with a BSc and MSc in Geology from the University of Padua (2007/2010), and a Ph.D in Geology from the University of Bologna (2014), Sauro combines a commitment to serious research with a passionate desire to communicate.

In 2004, aged 20, he wrote the script for a documentary, L’Abisso (The Abyss), about the exploration of a famous cave in northern Italy. L’Abisso won 11 awards at festivals in Europe and the United States. In 2007, he turned the script into a 264-page book, for which he won a mention in Italy’s 2008 ITAS prize for mountain literature. In 2012, an episode of the documentary series The Dark, produced by the BBC, was dedicated to his discoveries in Venezuelan tepuis. His upcoming expeditions will be the subject of two documentaries.

Because of his extensive experience as an expedition leader, in 2012 and 2013, Sauro was asked to act as scientific consultant and instructor for the European Space Agency’s training programme, CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills), which prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work together by exploring caves, an extreme environment that is in many ways analogous to space.

Other 2014 Young Laureates