Dianne Vavryn

Mella Grotto Cave

Mella Grotto Cave is situated on the southern end of Limestone Ridge on Mount Etna Caves National Park. The main section of the cave runs mostly from west to east. The entrance and first six metres of the shaft was discovered by Kerrod Hammilton on the twenty first of September 1985 while on an official CQSS club outing.

The main section of the cave was not fully entered until November 1985 after a small hole was enlarged below the first 6 metres of the entrance to accommodate cavers of a small stature.

A find of great significance, the cave has many features not observed in the other known caves in the district, i.e. a permanently running stream, large maroon coloured oolites in drip holes in the mud, jet black flowstone (it is unknown whether the colour of the flowstone is of mineral or organic origin), calcite cylinders lining drip holes in the mud 3-4cm in diameter, pillars of mud with cave coral growth on top, decorative mud and possibly aragonite crystals or at least pseudo-aragonite, a straw that was at least 4 metres in length. I have been told that on the last trip into the cave it was found that this straw had broken off and speared into the mud, reason unknown. There are still approximately 50 straws ranging in length from 1 metre to 2.5 metres in the cave.

After the cave was fully explored, surveyed and photographed it was gated and classified as a Reference cave on 28 February 1987. The management body, Department of Environment and Heritage, is allowing one trip per year, with a maximum of 5 persons per trip, to visit the cave. To some, this is a satisfactory arrangement, while others feel that five, or even ten years, between visits would be more appropriate, and then only by accredited scientific personnel, accompanied by cavers who know the cave.

The cavers on the first couple of visits did not notice any evidence of bat activity but in later visits a few droppings and a couple of Eastern Horseshoe Bats, Rhinolophus megaphylus, were observed. It appears to me that when a new cave is found and an artificial entrance is established this species of bat is the first to move in and occupy the new premises. They are found in all of our deep, humid and hard-to-get-into caves. Resurrection, Straw Palace, Valkyries, Elysium and Mella Grotto, to name just a few examples.

The surveyed depth of Mella Grotto is 76 metres, 67.8m being vertical SRT and has a total passage length of approximately 479 metres. Most of the horizontal passage follows the stream which disappears through a rubble choke at the end of the cave due to a collapse. A trip through Mella Grotto can take up to twelve hours.

Resurrection Cave

Resurrection Cave is situated on the eastern end of the limestone massive on Mount Etna, beneath the eastern quarry's number 1 and 2 benches. It has at least three artificial entrances, one covered and buried years ago and the other two recently covered by soil and rock. The covering of these cave entrances will help toward stopping the drying out process which the cave has suffered in recent times, but concern is felt that the covering material could wash into the cave and cause other damage.

Although extensive blast damage has occurred, the cave is still well endowed with speleothems, such as massive flowstone. The "Golden Wall", being 40ft high and about 100ft long, is found in the outer section of the cave with another of similar size in one of the inner caverns which is partly covered by a layer of mud about 2-3 inches thick. Helectites are in abundance, also rimpools, shawls and straws.

The short section of active stream way, fed by water from Winding Stairway during the wet season, recorded by Henry Shannon, dries out probably due to the increased air flow and drier seasons.

The cave was first entered by members of the University of Queensland Speleological Society (UQSS) and local cavers on Easter Sunday 1967, hence the name Resurrection. It is also known as Quarryman's Cave to the mining company.

It has been surveyed by both the mining company and UQSS. It has a total passage length of 426 metres. Resurrection Cave is on freehold land held by the Central Queensland Cement Company.

At present CQC is working on a re-vegetation and management plan to rehabilitate the mining benches. Some considerable concern is felt that soil could be placed on the benches and fig trees or similar deep rooted trees planted. I feel that if this were to happen it would cause further degradation to Resurrection Cave.

A trip into either Mella Grotto or Resurrection Cave is a most memorable and rewarding experience.