Ernst Holland


Somebody though that a thousand years ago to make a great tourist cave you had to develop it, the historical context. Why do we develop it? Speleos have been going through that cave for a hundred years, management decides we've got to save the cave from them, therefore we'll make a tourist cave out of it. Create all the development and impact in one big go and then hold it together.

The economy of the region has just totally fallen to pieces, the cigarette factory has gone broke, 10,000 people are put out of work, there's no employment, there's a cave up the hill, aaahhh! That's how we will get employment - we'll actually develop it as a tourist cave, put everybody back to work and bring the economy back up to scratch.


Goes into the side of the hill, we know that it's so long, somebody a long time ago made a map on the back of a cigarette box and there was the cave, we are going to develop it! We can't quite get to the entrance of the cave because there's a huge mound of sediment, so we'll just cut a channel through it. Halfway through the channel this beautiful white thing starts to appear. What is this? Somebody says "aaahhh I've seen a picture of that - it's the top of the Tahj Mahal, what will we do?" The answers include "kick it off, put a cement path over it, nobody will ever know"; "look at the Burra Charter, I had a half hour lesson on that, I can interpret that real great"; "No! employ a consultant, that's what we'll do"; "We've got a budget for $100,000 to develop this cave, they charge $200,000 your budget's gone straight away". To solve the problem, we dug a big tunnel in from the top and didn't have to pay anything.

We go on further, the next thing is to plan a pathway though the caves. How did all the Speleos go through the caves? That's the way they went, they took that nice easy path, we'll just follow in their footsteps. It's nice and easy, it won't cost too much and there won't be too many steps through it, that's the way we'll plan a path.

In some cave work I was just recently involved in, I think the best way to plan a path through a cave is shoot a few of your political opponents, make them hide in a cave and then go back 12 months after they have been hiding in that cave. The path that they have evolved through the cave is the best because they didn't want people to know that they were there, they never did any damage to the cave because the damage would lead to them, they put a path in a position where no one could see it, because that would also lead to them and they had it in a position where they could see the whole cave so they could shoot their mates as they came in. That is the best way to plan a path to an actual cave and I can tell you that from experience.

What sort of path will we put through it? Well I've been to an ACKMA conference everybody says you should put a suspended path through a cave, so that's what I'll do, I'll put a suspended pathway through the cave. So in we go, we start putting the suspended pathway through the cave and we come to a section half a metre high, this is easily solved, we'll dig out the roof then our suspended pathway can fit through.

Then we have to decide what is the best material to use in that pathway and the construction of it. We don't want it to rot, we know timber rots, so we will put a galvanised pathway through this particular cave. So off we go, we dig out this cavity putting the pathway through and its full of troglodytic spiders! What do we do now, people say they are important, there are only three of them "crunch, crunch, crunch" that solved that problem. Stefan Eberhard is cheaper than air, I mean, we get him in, we solved the problem, away we go, we start the development again. Stefan gave us the answers to that problem, those invisible spiders are safe, so on we go.

What do we come across next, everything is going well and we go around the corner, what is this "squash, squash, squash"? I knew we shouldn't have put that bloody toilet up there for the visitors that come here. How do we solve the problem of sewerage and everything else?

We've got that problem solved, we keep going further into the cave and we come across a bone deposit, again what do we do about the bone deposit? I won't tell you about what I've seen done to a lot of bone deposits over the years but the modern thing is you spend $10,000, you dig them all out carefully, you put them inside a glass case. You have run out of money for that, so you write out a sign on a bit of paper "bones of an animal" - you've covered the interpretation of the cave and that particular aspect as you go through. We've got that problem solved there.

We go further in, we've been running electric lights in behind us - we've done something wrong ... it's failed. "You got a cigarette lighter Joe? I just want to be able to find out what's happened to the light" Boooommmmbbbbb !!!! Hair and eyebrows disappear. Something has gone wrong, maybe we shouldn't have put the fuel storage up on the hill above us. Maybe there was a problem in doing that. So we haven't connected it through to the surface.

We can go on with lots and lots of things. Andy this morning in his talk covered all the things that a resource or cave manager should know and I'd like to take a couple of years to talk about a few of those sorts of things, because that's what it is. You never know what you may run across as there are a tremendous amount of issues in caves .

It's quite interesting. You are designing a pathway through a cave and you have it all worked out that it will be at this level where they can look down, there's a river down there going along nicely and you've got it all planned. You are halfway through construction and finely you have run the electric lights through. Big lights, you shine it up to the roof, flood debris all up in the roof, except for the white post in it with the little red reflection light, oh, now what do we do, safety involved? There are so many issues in cave development.

Anyway we have developed the cave it's all well and truly developed everything is right now not a problem, we've actually developed a cave. The guide is wondering through "Up here, ladies and gentlemen we have the smallest pink shawl in the whole world". The guide sees a problem but doesn't say anything just goes back to the caves manager. "Those little brown stains on the pink shawl - must be a problem, we have to find out what it is". Lots of investigation. Now we know what happens to all the mud we are clearing off the road. Now we know where its going, the mud's coming through onto the little pink shawl. Ah ha, Ron Newbold developed a way to wash that, so every month we will go in and wash that off with high pressure water. Andy Spate has done some work in here, the scientist has been involved. He says if you wash that shawl every month, in two months it is gone. From then on the guide walks through "Up there on the right hand side we have the smallest chocolate shawl in Australia," He had solved the problem.

We put half a million dollars into developing this cave, we want a return. We are getting two visitors a week, we are going to go broke. How do we solve this? We change our marketing strategy - that's how we solve it. In all of the advertising brochures and pamphlets we will change the name of the cave from "May Fall Down Cave" to "Pretty River Cave". Two hundred thousand visitors a week, they all come, but we have a problem, it's going to ruin the cave and we'll all go broke. The issues that we have to look at go far beyond just the cave development and should be looked at right at the beginning of the cave development.

Guides, something everyone tends to take for granted is there is a guide there. You have people say "you have a glamorous job don't you" and then you have other people say " gee you must have a boring job" or "wow your imagination must be terrific to see all those things". But one day in this developed cave that had all these sediments out the front of it, the guide goes through and he switches all the lights off to show darkness but there is no darkness. They look around the guide is glowing. Hell!! Call Ruth!! from New Zealand, we're in trouble, we've got radon, the guide is radioactive. So even beyond there you have health and safety problems that are all part of the actual cave development.

Andy said "do you want some slides, I've got some of your slides of ...." It's the only cave system I have been able to walk through where they say - stalactites, shawl, trees, ferns, stalagmites, shawl - lampenflora. There are all these factors. We go up a hundred flights of steps. Everybody's breathing real good. We go around the corner - heavy breathing. Neville Michie we need you, we've got CO2 . We have another problem. It wasn't there when we first looked at this cave, but what have we done up on the surface, so that all the dead sheep and cattle and everything fall down this particular hole. Another actual consideration. In fact every paper that has been presented up to this point raises between 1, 2 or 300 particular issues that has to be related to when you are developing a cave, and the surface of that area, for actual tourism.

There is another side to this though, there is a beneficial side. We didn't know that Australia had a Tahj Mahal that was 10,000 years older than the one in India. Great benefit, now we get our 200,000 visitors. They don't look at the cave, but they come and look around. Is that bad? Why do we always develop the caves and never look at what surrounds the cave in our showing and interpretation of the cave? The way we present it should be broadened, changed and rethought, the way we like it. We often talk about the way we look at it - traditionally. Every cave system in the world has track lighting so every cave we develop from now on should have track lighting. No!!

I go to bed one night, halfway through the night there's a tap on the door and there stands a ten year old child. I ask what can I do to help her. She says "I was in a cave inspection with a guide today and something has just happened in our back paddock. I saw this gentleman dropping all these dead sheep down a hole and we though we had better tell you". How did she know that that may have been a problem? She went through a tourist cave, she heard the guide talking about management problems and she started to understand, in a small way, the processes. So, how do we educate mass people? In tourist caves. We don't always grasp this opportunity, but it should be grasped. It does not necessarily need to be the fact that the rock is 412,000,000 years old and is made of this, that and the other. Just generalise, caves are formed by making short cuts through hills so the little girl would understand that if you drop something on that side of the hill and there's a flood it would get washed out the other side. That is the message that we should impart. That is part of the tourist cave development. You select a cave that you can best explain and visually show these sorts of things. And they were right about the economy, it does improve, I've seen it work the opposite, but the economy of a region can improve.

The point I am trying to make is that the selection, the planning, the end results or the issues that may arise from the development of the cave are not always considered in the initial thought.