KANGAROO ISLAND – PART 1 – 15-18 October, 2022
When Clare B told me about the project to survey 100+ new caves found on Kangaroo Island (in South Australia), she was very clear, she had no idea what we’d find – there was the possibility they’d all be squeezy dusty little holes.
I had visions of holes in flat rocky terrain with low growing heath. I was keen to be involved, so I practiced my SRT skills in the weeks before the trip as I thought most of the caves would be vertical. The reality was that we were pushing our way through thick scrub and almost all the caves were horizontal!
So, a bit of background on what we were doing and why we were there. Back in the summer of 2019-20, lightning strikes ignited bushfires on Kangaroo Island. The fires were the largest in the island’s recorded history and burnt more vegetation than any fire on the island. In the aftermath, with the thick vegetation in the Kelly Hill area now gone, Lidar imagery that was now available showed the possibility of a lot of “holes in the ground”. In the following two years, South Australian cavers scoured the area locating over 100 potential new caves. To explore and survey these caves would be a mammoth task. So, they launched a project and eventually put the word out to cave surveyors around Australia to see if anyone was interested in “helping out”. Sounded like a great opportunity to see an area that I hadn’t been to before.
Another member of MSS, Jim C, offered to drive over with me and we found another NSW caver, Kevin M, who also needed a ride, so the three of us set off (the story of our road trip to and from the Island is the subject of another post).
We arrived on the Island on Saturday the 15th and met up with the rest of the group (another 14 surveyors), which was affectionately christened by Jim as The Kelly Hill Gang.
By the following Saturday, the group had mapped 54 caves, completed 52 fauna surveys (documenting the animals that we found in the caves), had done a total of 600 hours surveying and 70 hours of data entry (putting the survey data into the appropriate program which would assist with digitising the maps). A mammoth effort, and according to Clare (the co-ordinator), this represented 2 – 3 years of work, if the South Australian cavers had to go over to the Island on weekend trips.
On Saturday afternoon after a short briefing and setting up the day’s “teams”, Pam (aka Patricia, Pricilla and Pauline), Mr K and I (aka Melissa, Meridith and Melinda) set off to our first K36. Mr K (who I’d travelled to KI with) is a top gun surveyor and Pam (one of the SA cavers) is, like me, a novice. The aim of the week was for all of us who were novice surveyor, to be brought “up to speed” in surveying.
We’d been told the scrub would be horrific. But seeing I could actually see Pam in the regrowth, seemed just fine to me!
Pam led us unerringly to K36, our first cave! At each cave we had to hold up the whiteboard with the # of the cave and pointing to the tag.
Pam getting ready for the first map she’d draw – “what scale would we use 1:100 or 1:200”? and then Kevin said, use the map on the protractor. “Nah, I’m really attached to the ruler!” By the end of three days, she was firmly committed to the protractor.
The hole we’d be going down. Small, tight, hardly anything to it! As I said, a very inauspicious start! There was a bit of a drop off, so I rigged my tape so we’d have something to hang onto to get down over the lip. We dropped down and started but would have to come back the next day to finish it off.
On Sunday we had a new addition to our team, Neville (another SA caver). We’d been given 1 square kilometre (one of 15sq kilometres), in the A1 area.
A paddock next to the bunkhouse we were staying in, first thing in the morning – stunning weather!
On the drive out, we noticed that there was a koala and a joey in a tree next to the laundry, had to stop and take photos!
Back down into yesterday’s cave K36, to finish it off, Pam back on “book” drawing the cave based on the dimensions that we would give her from DistoX (laser) readings.
Again, we used my tape to get in and out – Kevin getting out, there was a small step up and the tape helped me. It was not a very big cave so we were finished by lunchtime.
Off to the next grid reference now, through the regrowth.
Again, Pam led us unerringly to our next cave, K158 – Neville pointing to the tag (small metal token with the cave number engraved in it), and a white board with the cave number for photographing and being able to recognize which cave we were at.
Neville’s turn to be on “Book” with this new cave, didn’t look like much (Neville is standing down in the hole).
Pam and (part of) Kevin setting at the entrance to the cave. Neville by this time is down a small hole that I’d gone down and figured there wasn’t room enough for three of us!
Pam down near the hole, she went down with Neville to work the Disto.
Neville was nearly finished by 4pm when Pam came out of the hole (he had a small area to go, and Pam wasn’t needed).
Then she and I looked under a ledge, and behold – this looked like a pretty well decorated additional chamber, I thought it looked 10m deep, with maybe a hole right at the far edge. Pam took one for the team and crawled in – I was a bit over crawling by this time, but I did encourage her to check it out.
“It goes” says Pam,. We convinced Kevin that we should come back the next day and do this section of the cave. Seemed like a good idea at the time! So, we packed up and headed back to the Bunkhouse, certain that we’d get to the other side and find a big hole that we could get down and there’d be a massive chamber down below.
We got back to the Bunkhouse and were greeted by people who’d been down some nice big holes with excellent decoration. Needless to say we were a bit jealous, however, we’d come to realise that many of the tags had been placed on “karst features” not actual caves. Part of the week’s goal was to sort out which were “features” and which were “tags”.
So, we set out on Monday fully expecting that we’d find a nice big chamber in yesterday’s cave, K36!
Neville and Pam went under the ledge straight away. Kevin, who hadn’t had a good look at it yet, moved a bit of dirt and poked half his body in – the rest of him wasn’t going to make it.
“Well, that’s not going to work, not getting any further in than that”. Over to you guys.
I went in as far in as I could go, Pam and Neville went further. I laid around for an hour or two with nothing to do while Pam pointed the disto and Neville drew. As it turned out the cave didn’t go any further than we could see from the entrance, and none of us were going to get anywhere near the “hole”. So, once the last bit was finished with we headed off to find the next cave.
First cave of the day, K206, I’ve gotta get some better looking overalls if I’m going to have myself photographed!
Another squeezy little hole with not much else, Neville goes down to investigate.
I think this was one where a ladder would have been nice, so we sketched the opening, and that was the end of that.
This is the entrance for K202, and not much else there except the entrance.
Pam checking out the GPS to see where else we were supposed to go.
Off into the scrub.
We came to a bit of a swampy pool and found the tag for K203, maybe once it was a bit of a hole, but now it’s filled with mud, sticks and God knows what else. We won’t be checking it out!
In this photo you can see the swamp! I think Kevin did a sketch of the opening, maybe one day when everything is dried out, someone might investigate.
We’ve had enough now, it’s back to the cars through the scrub.
Tuesday morning, and we’re back on the track, this time we’ve been allocated a different section so we’re hopeful that the caves will be bigger!
Our first cave K184.
Neville looking down the hole.
My turn to drawer, the cave wasn’t too bad, slightly bigger than we were used to (lol).
Pam doing disto for me, there was really only room inside for the two of us.
Out of the cave and off to the next one.
We’re getting more efficient, by 11.30am we’re at K185.
This didn’t look too bad, I think there were bones in the chamber that Pam’s looking into, we had to photograph any bones and animals we saw in the caves.
Kevin doing some adjustments to a map at the entrance to one of the caves, at least you could sit up in this one.
Two hours later we’re at K183.
K183, none of us were going down into the rift which was about 10 – 15m long, about 5 – 7m deep and only 20- 30cm wide, not wide enough for any of us to go down, although I did give it a go, I had plans to edge down sideways – but couldn’t get my chest down.
K182, another karst “feature” not a cave.
On to K181, our final cave for the day! Apart from new overalls, gotta lose some weight! this shot makes me look really fat!
Kevin sketched the openings because there wasn’t much more of it there.
And that was the end of the first 3 1/2 days surveying, really only one cave to write home about. You certainly dodged a bullet here Marcia, lots of sitting and crawling around, definitely not your cup of tea.
We headed back to our accommodation for dinner and a debrief. Some rearranging of the itinerary was made, and it was decided we were off the next day for some sight-seeing, and then we’d take up the surveying on Thursday! Yep, not much in caves, a lot of “features” but 3 1/2 days out bushwalking, NO snakes, not too much exertion and NO rain!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Kangaroo Island surveying trip!
Flora (wildflowers etc) – here’s a few photos of some of the wildflowers we saw …
Technically not wildflowers (theyre a weed), but the field where we were staying was covered in these, and they looked very pretty!
Acacia paradoxa the bain of our existance – whilst it has a lovely wattle flower, the bush is covered with the sharpest thorns you can imagine, and we regularly had to walk through this stuff. It took off after the fires, knee high in the first year, and this year, it was head hight, bloody awful stuff. (Its common names include kangaroo acacia, kangaroo thorn, prickly wattle, hedge wattle)
Pink Fingers (Caladenia carnea) – a terrestrial orchid – we found quite a few of them, scattered all over the place, the flower is about the size of your thumbnail.
Fan flower – absolutely stunning, a ground cover that in places was spread out over metres of ground.
A better shot of the sun orchid, this time a grouping of three.
Lemon Scented Sun Orchid (Thelymitra Antennifera)
This is what the field looked like when we got out of the car, a gazillion of these terrestrial orchids, the NP ranger that we had with us said that he hadn’t seen such a profusion of these orchids before.
Native Sarsaparilla or Purple coral pea (Hardenbergia violacea) – it’s pretty common across the coastal areas of the eastern states, but this looked particularly pretty on the island.
Golden Sunburst (Hibbertia sp) – really pretty, flowers about 2 – 3cm across.
Don’t know what this was, maybe even a weed but very pretty.
A grevillia type flower, also pretty.
Can’t find what this is, anywhere on-line, but it was unusual.
There’s nothing glamorous about bushwalking, caving or canyoning, but it sure is fun! If you’re an armchair bushwalker, someone looking for new adventures, or one of my friends who just wants to see what I’ve been up to, this site is for you, sign up to get email alerts now!
certainly different to your usual subterranean activities. Perhaps you need to spend more time there?
The next post is more like it (lol), probably published at end of the week!
haha, obviously you felt about the same way as I did re the caves, an hour lying flat on my stomach wasn’t even type 1 fun!