Jenolan Caves

Jenolan - Exploring Strange New Worlds

September 20, 2021

USS Jenolan crashed on a Dyson Sphere in 2294.

On September 8, 1966, Star Trek debuted on American TV.  Since then, Star Trek has been a cult phenomenon – 55 years – one of America’s longest TV/movie cults. Aussie Star Trek fans are called "Trekkies".

Star Trek Next Generation

"The Original Series" of Star Trek aired for three seasons. It followed the voyages of the starship USS Enterprise, a space exploration vessel built by the United Federation of Planets in the 23rd century, on a mission "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before".

It was followed by nine spin-off TV series, and a film franchise, plus novels, comics and computer games. After the Original Series, the same characters continued in the 22-episode Star Trek: The Animated Series and six feature films.

The 1980s saw three sequel series and a prequel: Star Trek: The Next Generation, following the crew of a new starship Enterprise a century after the original series; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, set in the same era as the Next Generation; and Enterprise, set before the original series in the early days of human interstellar travel. The adventures of the Next Generation crew continued in four additional feature films.

In 2009, the film franchise underwent a reboot, creating an alternate continuity known as the Kelvin timeline with 3 films.

The newest Star Trek television revival, beginning in 2017, includes the series Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, Short Treks, and Lower Decks, streaming exclusively on digital platforms. At least two additional television series are in development: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Prodigy.[i]

Star Trek Writers Visited Jenolan in 1992

Naren ShankarRonald Dowl MooreWhat has Star Trek got to do with Jenolan Caves?  Well, in May 1992, two of the Star Trek The Next Generation script writers, and , were in Sydney for a Star Trek Convention.  (Moore wrote for Star Trek Next Generation, and then for Battlestar Galactica, Outlander and many more [ii], while Shankar was the science consultant [iii], who later worked on many American shows such as CSI, Almost Human and The Expanse.) 

From Sydney, Moore and Shankar visited Jenolan Caves, which impressed them greatly. On returning to the US, Moore wrote the episode "Relics", which introduced the ‘USS Jenolan’, a ‘Sydney-class’ transport starship. Sydney-class transports were used by Starfleet as executive shuttles for VIP transportation. [iv]

The Plot

The USS Jenolan, was thought to have been destroyed when she vanished in the year 2294 on the way to the Norpin V retirement colony.

In 2369 she was discovered crash-landed on a Dyson sphere by the Enterprise-D. Two of the personnel on board had survived the crash and placed themselves in transporter suspension to await rescue. Unfortunately only one, Captain Scott, survived this unorthodox use of the transporter to be rescued by the Enterprise.

bridge of the USS Jenolan - artwork by bobeye2

the USS Jenolan specificationsAlthough the Jenolan was badly damaged, when the Starship Enterprise-D became trapped within the sphere, Captain Scott and Lieutenant Commander La Forge got the Jenolan serviceable again, and the Jenolan was instrumental in rescuing the Galaxy class starship.

This episode aired in October 1992, was novelised and was ranked the 5th favourite episode in the series.  [v].  

If you would like to watch this episode, look for Star Trek Next Generation, Season 6, Episode 4.  Currently, it is showing on Amazon Prime and Netflix. Also, you can watch a YouTube video called ‘The History of the USS Jenolan S3-E15

model of USS JenolanThe actual model of the USS Jenolan, used to create the episode, was small, only 6½“ x 11” x 4”, and was sold at auction in 2006 for US$22,400.

Fact Vs Fiction

Can we draw any parallels between the very real Jenolan Caves and the fictional USS Jenolan? 

Just like an ocean liner, a starship, even a small one like the USS Jenolan, is a self-sufficient environment – its own little world. So is the real Jenolan, with a range of accommodation, restaurant, café, bar and activities. Years ago, isolated Jenolan also had a police station, post office, farm and school – definitely a world apart.

The USS Jenolan carried VIPs, and of course Jenolan Caves has welcomed countless VIPs over the years, even royalty in 1927.  Before that, our hotel, Jenolan Caves House, was designed to have the greatest appeal to honeymooners and the well-to-do of Sydney.

In the imaginary world of Star Trek, brave men and women "explore strange new worlds" and “go where no man has gone before”. In the real and dangerous world of cave exploration, that is exactly what cavers and scientists do. 

The USS Jenolan crashed and was lost. Starfleet thought she was finished. But then she was resurrected, to save the day.  Jenolan Caves has recently endured bushfire, 2 massive floods and a pandemic.  But considerable work has gone into getting our wonderful caves, hotel, restaurant and cafe shipshape again, to reopen soon.

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