Jenolan Caves

“Superior to Anything Hitherto Found”

May 17, 2019

Wiburd and Edwards originally used a makeshift raft to cross the Pool of  Reflections in the River Cave.

The Commonwealth of Australia was barely 3 years old, when the winds of change blew through Jenolan Caves.  New men were in charge, and new treasures were unearthed, starting with the amazing discovery of the labyrinthine River Cave, now one of the most popular caves at Jenolan.

The Wilson Brothers, Jeremiah and Frederick, who had long dominated cave exploration, were gone, and James Corvosso Wiburd, a cave guide since the mid 1880's, was appointed caretaker or chief Guide. Voss, as he was popularly known, brought to the role a wealth of scientific knowledge, as well as a determination to continue exploring for new caves.

On the 11th of June 1903, The Bathurst Free press and Mining Journal reported that “...the new cave just discovered is a really wonderful affair”. 

So although few details were given, news must have spread about a major discovery.

By the 31st of July, the same paper printed a more comprehensive account.  The new cave, had been discovered by “guides Wiburd and Edwards” on June 6th, below the Lucas Cave. Oliver Trickett, “officer in charge of the caves”, stated that he had examined, surveyed and photographed it. The exact location was “55 feet to 75 feet under the Music Hall”, and “20 feet below and distant from the Exhibition Chamber”.

Wiburd and Edwards discovered the first part of the cave by descending a narrow cleft in the floor of the Exhibition Chamber of theLucas Cave. The paper reported that this was certainly never a tourist entry point, “but it is probable that an easier entrance will be found”. 

In the report, Trickett mentioned “two massive and superb stalagmites”. These were most likely the Grand Column and its companion seen today in the Olympia Cavern.

All these reports from 1903 show that Wiburd and Edwards had penetrated the lower sections of what today we call the River Cave, and had crossed the mysterious Pool of Reflections.

Today, visitors walk along the beautiful Pool of Reflections via a suspended pathway, built in 1923.  However, the initial crossing was done on a flimsy raft, made of timber and empty oil drums, which promptly capsized, causing Edwards to swim for his life in the “black icy water”.

Clutching a plank, he triedagain, this time reaching the far shore. The paper reported that, “It was only a swim of 50 yards, but under such circumstances it might well have tried the nerves of any man”.

By October 1903, more of the River Cave had been reported “the extraordinary number and variety of formations” found, including an incomparable flowstone formation, resembling a terraced waterfall, which descended to a depth of 1,011 feet. 

As Wiburd and Edwards penetrated further into the mountain, they realised that they had made a discovery to rival anything found by the Wilson brothers. The paper reported, “Finally along the whole half mile or so of this newly discovered passage, caverns innumerable open off it, all of which have yet to be explored, and which may confidently be reckoned on to enhance, to an extraordinary degree, the already worldwide reputation of the Jenolan Caves, for grandeur and fascinating beauty.” 

Today at Jenolan Caves, visitors can choose guided tours from an assortment of spectacular caves.  Guided tours of the astonishing River Cave run at 1:30 daily and also at 10 am on weekends, and can be booked online. This 2-hour tour (with 1,298 stair steps plus 2 steep steel ladders) rewards you with a great sense of achievement. After this fascinating tour, you can relax in Jenolan’s new Cave Café, on the ground floor of the Jenolan Caves House hotel.

 

 

 

 

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Jenolan Caves Apps
4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911
Sydney Bucket List2011 Winner - Australian Tourism Awards

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