Caving in Tasmania – Getting our feet wet

SASSAFRAS & MY CAVE – 14 – 15 April 2018
I have wanted to do some caves in Tasmania for quite a while now – after all, they are reputed to be the Best Caves in Australia!  So, when Newcastle/Hunter Valley Speleo club put on a trip, led by Garry S. I figured it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  What I didn’t know was that it would be a photography expedition – a whole new experience for me (with my teeny-tiny Olympus Tough point-and-shoot camera!).

On the trip were Melissa H, Cathi H-H, Murray D and Andrew B (and of course Garry who co-ordinated and planned the whole trip.  

I was going to do just one blog post for the whole 10 days, but far too many photos were taken, and with 8 caves over the 10 days, it would have been really confusing and the full story wouldn’t be told.  So, I decided to split the trip up – here’s what happened on our first two days …

Getting there – 14 April

Andrew travelled down to Tassie with his wife Tess and met up with us on the next day.  The rest of us met up on the train down to Sydney airport and flew down to Launceston (approx. 2 hours).

We each had two pieces of luggage – wetsuits, caving gear, abseil gear, gumboots and warm clothes.  I actually only had 1.5 bags, so I was a little concerned that I’d missed packing something.  When we arrived, it was bitterly cold – I should have packed more cold weather clothes – like jumpers and jackets!  We picked up a hire car and stopped off at Deloraine for groceries and then arrived at Mole Creek Caravan Park by about 5pm.  We dropped all our gear and then headed over to Mole Creek Pub to meet up with David W-C and Janice M.

David W-C is the head of the Karst Care Management team that looks after the restricted caves of Mole Creek in conjunction with Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife.  He is a wealth of knowledge and knows the caves (and the area) like the back of his hand and will be the one who will take us through the restricted caves.  Janice is a member of the Northern Caverneers Club (cavers in Northern Tasmania) and she would be leading us through four unrestricted caves during the week.

We woke up on Sunday morning to see the snow on the Western Tiers from our cabin as we headed out to meet Janice to go and do Sassafras and My Caves. These two caves would be our introduction to caving in Tasmania – sort of like dipping your toes into the water to see what it was like.

Sassafras Cave – 15 April

We arrived at the car parking spot and set out at 10.20am.  It was very windy and there was the occasional rain shower as we followed a creek to Sassafras Cave.  We walked along the creek with the National Park on one side and farmland on the other.

The entrance to Sassafras Cave.

We walked along a streambed for most of the way, here is Janice checking out some cave spiders.

A close up of the cave spider, they are quite big this one would be the size of a small child’s hand (leg to leg).

This was our first photo shoot, the ledges were suspended above the stream bed.  When all the flashes were set up, Garry co-ordinated it so that I was able to take the shot at the same time that he and Andrew did, I had the camera set so that the exposure was longer than a normal shot (the “fireworks” setting).  Pretty good for a point and shoot camera!

Our second photo shoot – with Janice as our model.  The aim of this photo was the reflections in the water plus the formation of course.

Our third photo-shoot – each set up took 20 – 30 minutes by the time the flashes were positioned around the feature and the model, then numerous shots were taken, then flashes re-positioned and test shots taken again.  Andrew and Garry’s photographs were much better than mine, but I still thought mine were good.

By this time Janice is wondering what the hell she’d gotten into, our trip into the cave lasted just over 2 hours because of all the photography.  Normally this is a cave that she’d take people into and it would be a 1 hour trip at the most!  We exited the cave and had lunch in the sun and then retraced our steps back to the cars.

Along the way we checked out the spot where the stream through the cave exits into the main creek.  You can go through from the entry to exit in one trip but it was so cold, none of us wanted to get that wet.

Garry crossing the creek – they’d had quite a bit of rain over the past few days, so the creek was flowing pretty quickly and the rocks were slippery.  Because it was so cold and windy, none of us wanted to even get our feet wet.

Heading up the valley to My Cave through a lovely ferny section.

My Cave – 15 April 

Melissa and Karen (a member of Northern Caverneers) going down the entry to My Cave, Janice had set up a handline as the way down was slippery and almost vertical.  We entered the cave at 1.50pm.

My Cave is another “stream-way” and this was an interesting section where you had to walk at a 45 degree angle.

Continuing up the stream-way.

A small climb up and then we walked along about 20m, came to a big pool that we didn’t want to drop down to and then started to retrace our steps.

Here Garry and Andrew set up another photo-shoot, this time with four people in a line walking down the stream-way with everyone holding a flash, for some reason it didn’t work out though.  After standing in the water for 15 minutes and the shots not working, he collected up the flashes and we headed out.

On the way out, we stopped for another photo shoot, this one of some nice white stals (Murray was the model for this photo).

Karen, Murray and I then decided that we’d head out ahead of the rest of the group.

On the way out I slipped on a rock and bruised my ankle and pretty much got soaked all the way through.  I was keen now to get out of the cave and get into dry clothes.

We reached the climb up (with the rope) and then ran into a bit of trouble.  Well, not trouble as such, but the climb up at the start was very muddy, then there was a 2m part with no foot or hand holds.  Karen, as  new caver hadn’t come to something like this before, so Murray and I tried to help her out, with Murray going first and then me second, showing her how to get up.  I have to say it wasn’t a graceful climb that I did, but she got the idea eventually and the three of us made it out.

Karen on the climb out – I think she had visions of being stuck in the cave with that climb.

When we got back to the cars (and changed into dry clothes) at 4.30pm, Janice cooked up hot chocolate and brought out muffins – we don’t get spoiled like that here on the mainland.  Again, this was a much longer trip than Janice was used to!

The wind was blowing a gale and we were all really, really cold.  We got back to the cabin by early evening and had to clean up all our gear (very wet and muddy) and get ready for Monday’s trip … Kubla Khan.

Kubla would be a BIG day.  David stopped by the cabin to explain what we had ahead of us and explained that we’d be underground for 10 hours – but it would be the highlight of the trip, and the hardest day for most of us.   At this stage I’m starting to question the wisdom of me doing such a big day – ah well, too late now!

 

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6 Responses to Caving in Tasmania – Getting our feet wet

  1. David says:

    Nice shots…waiting for part two

    • marilyn says:

      Thanks David, high praise coming from you. Sadly I was too focussed on survival for Kubla, but the shots from Croesus and Linds are much better!

  2. Kathy Leslie says:

    You are amazing!!! Thanks for sharing your adventure!
    I look forward to reading more!!!

  3. Jeff says:

    I think you should get some of those red and blue overalls Janice was wearing!

    • marilyn says:

      Yes, the pair you gave me are worn out, the new pair that I got for the trip have a bloody great hole in the butt, and none of my overalls are comfortable, a red and blue pair might be just the thing to lift my game!

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