From my desk on a fine winter morning I admire through my window the special clear sunlight of Tasmania that has attracted so many artists and photographers to live here under the Great Western Tiers. As seen on Mole Creek Caving Club trips over the last few weeks, the winter has also rendered the beauty of the caves anew, with new washes of calcite over the speleothems, in white, cream, gold and russet colours. In the twilight zone of the large entrances, just before we emerge from the underground world into the forest, stalactites and flowstones are vibrant with emerald to aqua greens of the living mosses on the calcite substrates. These biogenic speleothems of minerals and moss growing together are one aspect of the close interaction of the world of caves with the surface world. Less obvious to our eyes are the hidden processes; the way the forest over a cave not only provides tree roots to stabilise the soil, but also provides the conditions that sustain the growth of cave decorations. Join a caving club, or learn more on a Wild Cave Tour.
Wild Cave Tours runs trips for holiday-makers, other trips tailored for groups and special youth educational and adventure trips. Since 2008, I’ve continued at University in environmental chemistry research while providing opportunities for people like you to enjoy the exploration of Mole Creek’s wild (undeveloped) caves. It’s a twist of irony that caving leadership requires specialised experience and knowledge, but a caving specialist in an off-the-beaten-track place like Tasmania must also have a day job.
I’m reminded this morning of how one’s caving leadership experience comes into play every single time a trip gets ready to go underground. We are always prepared to change plans as appropriate, according to the people with us, the conditions on the day and detailed local knowledge. This morning the media ran a news story about a group’s lucky escape from a Tasmanian cave due to high winter water levels they encountered, when choosing another cave or rescheduling the trip may have been best. Such sobering events serve to reinforce my commitment to Wild Cave Tours, and to upholding the highest in responsible caving leadership. To me, winter water conditions in the caves offer opportunities that differ from those in summer- to view exciting waterfalls, and offer explanation of the origin and destination of the underground streams, then detour from the river passages to admire and photograph drippy shawls and overflowing calcite pools, according to my local knowledge. The extensive caves at Mole Creek do have something different to offer in each season; I find the contrast delightful, and offer it for your enjoyment!
While leading clients into caves most visitors don’t see, I have learned how to explain concepts of ecology and geomorphology in ways that make sense and so enrich peoples’ experience, but I can’t explain everything. I am grateful to the people who ask me questions I can’t answer while we explore the underground. They remind me how mysterious caves still are; that we do not know everything there is to know yet, and perhaps we never will.
In closing, may there always be wild places that are so different from our usual human habitat, that we may only explore them by virtue of our preparedness and technology. May we always emerge personally renewed, awed and inspired to look after these places.