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Newspaper Clippings

 

 

Lithgow Mercury May 4th 1927

JENOLAN CAVES
ACCOMMODATION RESTRICTED
REMARKABLE STATEMENTS

John Granville Cocks, assistant director of the Government Tourist Bureau gave evidence yesterday before the commission inquiring into the letting of tenders by the bureau for transport to the Jenolan Caves.

Mr Cocks, in reply to Mr Stevens said that unless a person who went to the bureau for accommodation at the caves house disclosed his method of transport to the caves he would be refused accommodation. He admitted that accommodation at the caves house was not available to every member of the public.

Mr F O'Grady (representing the Mount Victoria Tourist Agency: Do you claim the right to be the only office which is able to display for business purposes photographs of Jenolan or Kosciusko? - Well, it would hardly be fair for example, to display such photographs, because it would be in direct competition with the bureau. The Jenolan caves house and the reserve are the property of the bureau and it is our duty to protect our interests.

The chairman : Where is that clearly laid down?

Mr Cocks replied that he did not know.

The chairman pointed out that Parliament and not the permanent head made the laws and Parliament had defined the duty of the bureau as the running of an accommodation house and the conduct of motor tours. He could find no head under which the bureau was permitted to trade in photographs. The Jenolan Caves area had been given by law to Mr Percy Hunter and other gentlemen - since when had it been transferred to the control of the bureau! He thought the officers would find themselves in trouble some day if they went round the city knocking at people's doors and telling them they should do this and not do that.

The inquiry was adjourned to this morning.

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WONDERS OF JENOLAN

THE SKELETON CAVE

H.E. Crabbe writes in the Australian Museum magazine:-

A glance at the eastern portion of New South Wales will reveal the fact that from north to south there is an abundance of limestone outcrops. In some parts the rock is remarkable for the beauty of its marbles, and in others such as Jenolan, Wombeyan and Yarrangobilly, for the wonder of the caves with which it is honeycombed. Those at Jenolan are probably the most famous. Discovered over seventy years ago, they were subsequently protected by the reservation of six square miles of country surrounding them.

The outstanding feature at Jenolan is the great mass of grey rock, about 450 feet thick and tilted at an angle of 60 degrees, which stands athwart the valley and seemingly bars the way. The road to the Caves House, however, goes through it by virtue of a great natural tunnel - the Grand Arch. This giant mass of rock cuts off the upper part of the Jenolan River valley from the lower part, the river passing through it by an underground channel.
This Herculean lump of limestone is the Mecca of every tourist, for within it are the twelve caves famed for their grandeur. They are found at various levels, from the top of the hill down to the present river level. Each cave-level marks the one-time passage of the river through the limestone. The caves have been formed by the water, impregnated with carbon dioxide, dissolving channels through the limestone and not by it merely cutting its way downwards through the rock by mechanical corrosion. The presence of coarse water worn pebbles in all the caves show that different cave levels were progressively formed. It follows from this that the highest caves are the oldest the lower ones being younger. As regards the stalactites and stalagmites they were formed later by dripping of rain-water through the rocks. The water evaporated and left a thin layer of limestone. Needless to say, it takes a very long time to get an appreciable amount by this method. The usual rate quoted is one inch per thousand years but this can make no pretence to accuracy, because there have been periodic variations in the water supply.

But what was the origin of the great mass of rock in which the caves occur? Whence did it come? To answer this we must turn to geology and in doing so we are reminded of Tennyson's lines:
"There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea"
For we know that during the Ordovician period this part of New South Wales was covered by a fairly deep sea, the surface water of which teemed with minute organisms called Radiolaria whose siliceous shells as the animals died, fell to the sea bottom and built up the thick deposits of black and grey radiolarian chert. Then later in the Silurian period, there existed a warm shallow sea into which enormous quantities of mud were emptied by rivers, and this subsequently hardened into shale. It seems that the supply of muddy sediment was then cut off, the waters became clear and were peopled by immense numbers of marine invertebrate animals which secreted carbonate of lime from the water and built up hard calcareous structures. Century followed century. The hard structures accumulated on the sea bottom until a deposit over 450 feet in thickness was formed, thus constituting the bed of limestone in which the caves occur. Then floods of muddy sediment again came sweeping down, killing the lime secreting organisms and so again beds of shale were laid down.

From time to time considerable numbers of bones of marsupial animals have been found in the earth which abounds in many places in the caves such as, for instance, those of Thylacinus, the Tasmanian Tiger, a carnivorous marsupial extinct on the mainland of Australia but still found in Tasmania. A discovery of considerable interest was that of an aboriginal skeleton in a cave in 1904 during exploitation by Messrs J.C. Wiburd and J.C. Edwards. The Skeleton Cave is a very lofty chamber immediately under the Cathedral Cave, 60 feet below the level of the Bone Cave and about 350 feet from the surface.

The remains are lying ventral surface downwards and are now cemented to the floor by a thin deposit of stalagmite. A calculation based on the length of the femora indicates that the unfortunate individual was about 5 feet 10 inches high, while the ossification of the epiphyses and the development of the teeth show that he was an adult in all probability a male, but we cannot be certain on this point because of the absence of pelvic details.

The discovery of this skeleton is one of the rare instances where traces of Australian aborigines have been found in caves. In Europe it is quite a common thing to find in caves relics of primitive man. Not so in Australia. But we must bear in mind that our aborigines never liked darkness, and again, the Pleistocene ice-age here was probably not so severe as in Europe and so they were not forced to take shelter.

What do we know about this unfortunate individual? The supposition is that he gained an entrance into the Cathedral Cave and that in the darkness he stumbled and fell into the Bone Chamber and finally into the Skeleton Cave where his body found a permanent resting place, his bones to be, in after years, a source of interest for countless thousands of people. Such is fame.

The question naturally arises how old they are. We do not know. Their age is one of conjecture, for there is an absence of am association with the remains of our extinct marsupial fauna. The cave earth and stalagmitic floors of Jenolan, unlike those at Wellington, contain the remains of extinct species only. And furthermore from an anatomical point of view there is nothing in these remains to justify us in postulating a great antiquity for aboriginal man in Australia. We must look elsewhere.

But notwithstanding this negative evidence the fact remains that the bones are old, very old if we take into consideration the human equation. We are led to this conclusion because the changes that we know have taken place since the introduction of the body into the cave, call for a long lapse of time.