AG-sponsored explorers break record for Australia’s deepest cave

By Holly Cormack 27 May 2019
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“One of Australia’s most perplexing underground puzzles has been solved.”

A TEAM OF Australian Geographic sponsored explorers set a new record for Australia’s deepest cave, taking the underground passage to a depth of 395m.

Cavers from the Hobart-based club Southern Tasmanian Caverneers (STC) spent four days camping underground in Mount Field National Park, in an effort to connect the Niggly Cave and Growling Swallet cave systems – Australia’s deepest and fourth-deepest caves.

Expedition organiser and cave diver, Stephen Fordyce, was nominated to dive through more than 200 metres of unmapped, flooded cave passages to break the record.

“Caves are unpredictable, underground obstacle courses – you have little idea what’s coming next and you need to have the skills to handle whatever they throw at you,” says, Mr Fordyce.

The caves are part of the Junee-Florentine system, which is home to a labyrinth of more than 600 caves and more than 50 kilometres of explored underground passages to date. Explorers have spent decades searching for the ‘master cave’ – a link between the two cave systems.

“Exploration of these caves is far from complete and much more of this complex and extraordinary puzzle remains to be discovered and mapped by speleologists and cave divers for years to come,” says Mr Fordyce.

Dr Stefan Eberhard, STC Vice President and cave scientist, said that besides the pursuit of scientific knowledge, the ongoing exploration aimed to secure better environmental protection in the region.

“The Junee-Florentine caves contain features of great cultural, scientific and conservation value, including archaeological heritage sites, unique species of cave-adapted fauna, bones of extinct megafauna and ancient sediments deposited during glacial periods.”

The years-long cave connection project has been the subject of a documentary, Tartarus: The Search for the Junee Master Cave, which is yet to be released.