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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Go underground at Gunns Plains Caves in Tasmania, Australia

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Standing on solid ground gazing out at the vista of the Gunns Plains farmlands, it is difficult to imagine the beautiful cave system below your feet.

Tours operate six times a day. Our group was led by Geoff Deer who started working here fifteen years ago. Geoff has an excellent sense of humour and engaged all members of the tour, from a young preschooler to the older members.

We descended down a steep flight of fifty four concrete steps then the path leveled out. Due to the stairs and ladders that need to be navigated, this cave is not suitable to be explored by people with mobility issues.

The caves were formed by an underground river that still meanders through the cave and is home to freshwater crayfish, fish, eels and platypus.

Glow worms also live in the cave. At one stage of our tour, Geoff turned the lights out. The cave was pitch black and I couldn’t see a thing until I looked upwards. The worms twinkled, like stars, on the dark cave roof. Shining a light to them, we could see the long silk webs (called ‘snares’) that hang down up to 40cms. These ‘fishing lines’ trap insects that are attracted to the worm’s light. It then reels in its catch to consume. Called glow worms but they are actually the larvae of a beetle with luminescent organs in the abdomen. It doesn’t sound as attractive when you say that though.

There are various formations to be in awe of here. There are the cave bacons. Looking like crisp slices of bacon these flowstones hang from the roof and form when water runs down and the mineral builds up to produce these long thin sheets. They are solid yet translucent when a torch light is shone through them.

Stalactites of all different shapes and sizes hang from the roof of the cave, formed by the dripping of mineral rich water over thousands of years. Stalagmites are the upward growing mounds of mineral deposits that are form when water drips onto the floor of the cave. When the two meet it is called a column.

One of the structures here is called the wedding cake. With multiple layers, the lower tiers form organ pipes and the upper layer looks like icing, created by calcite crystals. It does indeed look like a wedding cake.

The cave was first explored in 1906. Bill Woodhouse was out hunting possums with his dogs, when they went into a hole. He followed and found the cave network. It is in the Gunns Plains Cave State Reserve. Tours of the caves have been operating since 1909. It is a great opportunity to visit one of the three caving systems open to the public in Tasmania, Australia.

Happy Travels!

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