Summer 2016

In case you’re wondering…

….I tend lately to publish current news and images using the Facebook page. It’s been handy to post news, events and links to other stuff to do (especially NW Tasmania). https://www.facebook.com/trogtasmania

Complementary media has been particularly useful in this year of bushfires and trying to help people on holiday with limited connectivity to find out if they had to change travel plans.

We are all looking forward to the rains when they come. We are all thanking the dedicated fire fighters working around the state who are establishing and hold the containment lines until the rains do come.

Please visit out region, almost everywhere and everything is open.

Spring 2013

The world turns once more and spring has sprung! Beautiful in the north of Tasmania, with green grass, calves and lambs, rainbows and flowers of garden and bush.

The caves are vibrant with the rush of water, reflections in pools and dripping stalactites. The dust of previous dry seasons has completely washed away.

Spring conditions may restrict our exploration in water passages, but the photography and the feeling of being there is very different to summer and autumn when it it usually much drier. The particularly wet winter and spring this year means that caves in the coming summer season will be more active with cave fauna going about their business. The whole countryside is more lush than previous years.

A personal update: I have completed my PhD thesis and am very much looking forward to the season’s challenges in caving both professionally and recreationally, since much has been put off until “after PhD.” Thanks to everyone’s best wishes. I await the examination progress now.

 

 

Winter 2012

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.

Winter 2008

Sampling water

Sampling water

Thanks to those cave tourists who have alerted me to just how long it’s been since the last newsletter! But I’ve been pretty busy. While maintaining the business, I have been back in education full time, starting a new degree in 2005, the Bachelor of Environmental Science. I am now in the second half of my honours year, studying the contribution of soil water storage to the Lobster Rivulet of the Mole Creek Karst system.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOURISM

There has always been a strong science component to the Tours, whether joining me for a half day trip as 2 or 3 people or as part of a group experience, tailored to suit. In fact, it’s your encouragement as visitors which has helped push the ongoing development of incorporating science into the tour experience.
When delivered in a way that is more than just “infotainment”; in a way that treats the visitor as an intelligent, thinking person, science enables us to understand our place in the scheme of things, as a part of the ecology of the planet. Not as apart from it. So, by actually understanding the natural features we see on a Wild Cave Tour, we not only enjoy the experience more fully, but the insight also helps us to see how humanity may move forward into a new era of environmentalism together.
It is not a realisation that some ecosystem somewhere deserves protection, so much as realising the necessity of protecting OUR ecosystem, Planet Earth, to ensure our own survival. It’s that simple.

In the laboratory

In the laboratory

In the caves of Mole Creek, we can see in miniature an example of the interdependence of life systems and species, and how the abiotic world (water, fire, climate…) interacts with these systems. It is an encapsulated view of the Earth. Bite size is another way of looking at it.

Mind you, the size of the Tasmanian cave spider (as seen in our tour caves) demands respect for the size of THEIR bite! And yes, your intrepid guide has survived to document the effects. Not that YOU are likely to experience such a dubious honour. These are normally inoffensive creatures. It’s just that one day I was operating the lock of a cave gate. The padlock is enclosed in a cubic steel box, open only at the bottom to prevent bolt-cutters being used to gain illegal entry to the cave. The poor spider who happened to be trying to make its home in this cosy little box was almost squashed by my fumbling hand and of course you know what happened. Although the bite was painful, I realised by the next day there would be no lasting effect. But I can still see the fang marks! Impressive tale to tell!

CAVE CREATURES AND PHOTOGRAPHY

The most fascinating aquatic creatures we see are the glow-worms and the cave shrimps. Thanks to modern digital technology, more people are now able to successfully capture quality images to remember these delights. Digital cameras also make action shots of caving a lot easier, since many affordable point-and-shoot cameras now take better pictures in low light conditions (their small inbuilt camera flashes are quite sufficient). So you can print off the best to show friends and family and to keep the memories fresh.

THE TYPICAL WILD CAVE TOUR VISITOR

There is no such creature! It could be you. You could be a honeymoon couple, someone enjoying an active retirement going around Australia, a member of a corporate group enjoying company rewards for your hard work or a young person on the school trip of your life, sampling the wilderness of Tasmania. You could be an adventure nut, looking for that next thrill. Because each trip is different according to the interests of who comes, and at last you have found a green island at the end of Australia where people still treat YOU as a VIP, it will be a trip you will never forget. And because people like you keep coming, I keep doing it! Each trip is new for me, too.

SEE YOU UNDERGROUND

If you have not yet experienced a Wild Cave Tour, I look forward to showing you the underground wilderness of one of the favourite caving destinations in Australia. My assistant, Paul, is also an experienced Mole Creek caver. Our collective experience exceeds 40 years.
If you have children too young yet to bring wild caving (under 14 years) then may I recommend the wonders of Marakoopa and King Solomon’s show caves at Mole Creek. They are some of the most beautiful and tastefully presented in the country.

Spring 2004

Hello out there! I’ve just crawled out of a hole to write to you. Since
the primary focus of introductory tours changed to an extensive use of
Honeycomb Cave, many visitors have been enjoying opportunities for full-on adventure (yet for others it’s the many easy options). Because of the intense physical adventure, some cavers have said pretty funny things in the Visitors Book:

“It’s fully sick mate! I had heaps of fun, I only got stuck a few times. Worth every cent. (Thanks, Zoe)”

“It was really cool and I did the Top Squeeze- it was a lot of fun and the food afterwards was delicious! (Cheers Debbie)”
“…..and after all the build up to the Waterfall Circuit from an old hand (Kelly)”

“Gerard said Was THAT it? so we both laughed at him and went on to have more fun….. (See you again, Gerard)”

Honeycomb, with its easy drive-up-to access, awesome views and large upper level chambers with daylight holes, is also an excellent venue for introducing the more timid to wild caves. Read this… the oldest visitor
has been 73 years old. And earlier this year I had the privilege of
conducting a blind person through the cave on his own special trip. This
enlarged my own horizons and helped to further develop my environmental
interpretation, as he was able to absorb the geohydrological information by
feeling the rocks.

Due to recent formal additions to the reserve system at Mole Creek, Wild Cave Tours has had access restored to Westmorland Cave, a beautiful cave that gives you a real sense of wilderness (whatever that is). It’s a short rainforest walk to get there, and a fun scramble through a boulder strewn water passage to a large chamber with a daylight hole far above, glow-worms and an optional trip from there to the sump (crawling and so forth). Sometimes we have morning tea under the daylight hole.
We still have Baldocks and Cyclops Caves and then there’s My Cave for
experienced people. My Cave is a serious cave trip, requiring previous
training in climbing techniques and ethical conduct. Then you can enjoy some of the finest underground scenery of all. My Cave? Read Don’s comments:

“We went through MY cave today and it was wet to walk through and a fantastic adventure- WACKO! P.S. I also allowed Deb and David to come with me.”

I have spent a year at Mountainside, an accommodation nature retreat
on Quamby Bluff near Deloraine (see previous newsletter) and established new clientele, a new cabin and infrastructure upgrades and enjoyed being on a spiritual place of ancient significance. I also set in train the process to establish a conservation covenant to protect its high conservation value forest forever and its native animal habitat. I retain the hyperlink to
Mountainside from this site. Mary is now there to welcome you.
Me? I am now entering university to study Environmental Science. In my life I have long worked for the protection of caves and the forests of their catchments, and will enjoy being able to continue, but with the right
qualifications to suit this new political era.
Meanwhile, the tours are so important to me and they will of course be
still running. However, from 8th February 2005, tours will be available
mostly only on weekends, public holidays and during the summer holidays. I advise to check with me for possible availability on other days. While full
day tours are again being offered since I left Mountainside, they will be of
limited availability depending on my current workload at Uni.

So, for now, that’s all until I SEE YOU UNDERGROUND!