The first mob-expedition to the Colong Caves
was made in 1934, when our party of twenty-one, led by Tom Williams,
did the trip. Previous to this, the Caves had only been visited by a
The expedition left Sydney on the Thursday
night before Easter. Tom had arranged that we should do the
eighty-odd mile trip from Camden to Yerranderie and back in a lorry
for the very reasonable sum of 107- per head. But the jamming of
twenty-five people, plus a similar number of hefty rucksacks
into that lorry, caused us to resemble the proverbial sardines. I
was so wedged that I could neither completely sit nor completely
stand, and spent the night uncomfortably vacillating between the
two. However, rolling through that magnificent valley in the frosty
Easter moonlight was an experience not soon to be forgotten. Arrived
at our destination at 3.30 a.m., we literally threw ourselves down
on the grass. No one so much as thought of pitching a tent.
Fortunately the rain-god decided to overlook such defiance of his
At 7 a.m. the dead almost
simultaneously came to life. After much washing and breakfasting, we
tramped the remaining mile into Yerranderie amidst a fine drizzle.
Yerranderie is a very old settlement. The
first exploration of the country was made by Lieutenant Barrallier
in 1802. He managed to reach a sj>ot south of Mt. Colong, now known
as Barrallier's Pass, but did not succeed in his objective of
crossing the mountains. Settlement gradually took place during the
next fifty years, but it was not until 1871 that the first discovery
of silver-lead ore was made. Since then the district has chiefly
been noted for its silver mines.
After pausing in front of Mr. Golding's store
sufficiently long to give the natives time to admire us, the
expedition set off on the seven miles' trek to the Caves. Our route
was via a bridle track, which passes through the Colong Swamp and
skirts round to the north of Mt. Colong. We reached the limestone
bluffs at Cave's Creek at about 4.30 p.m., and camped just above the
entrances to the Caves. Our trip had been waterless, and we had not
had a proper meal en route, so that our tempers, which were already
pretty bad, were not improved by having to belt down the nettles in
all directions before we could so much as lay a ground sheet.
However, a good dinner set us all to rights, and some even felt
sufficiently energetic to follow the indefatigable Ninian Melville
when he afterwards proposed to take a party into the Cave. One
rather "stout cove" found the squeezeholes and abysses so terrifying
that he fell out of the Cave into a clump of nettles from sheer
exhaustion. On reaching camp again he fainted, and there were loud
cries for brandy, which I duly proffered. Ninian considered himself
also so exhausted (!) that he swigged a good half before offering
the remainder to the patient.
The first survey of the Caves was made by O.
Trickett in 1899. They were already known to some local residents as
Cavesó"Bindook" being the native word for a made waterhole. Trickett
requested that they be called the Colong Caves after Mt. Colong, the
most prominent landmark in the vicinity. Colong is derived from the
native word "Colung," signifying the home of the Bandicoot.
The Caves are situated in a belt of limestone
about five miles long and a quarter to a half-mile wide, running
between Lannigan's Creek and Church Creek. The Caves are the Colong
or Key Cave, the Onslow Cave and Lannigan's Cave. Their general
direction is S.S.W.
The Key Cave has two entrances. The southern
one lies about sixty feet, and the northern one about one hundred
feet above the creek. It is sixty to eighty feet wide, and about two
hundred feet long. It reaches a height of perhaps seventy feet.
Stalactites hang from the arched roof, and near the s.outhern
entrance there are four large pillars which have sunk with the
floor, thus becoming separated from the roof.
Twenty to thirty feet below the Key Cave is
the opening to the Onslow Cave, which is a series of narrow
passages. On the wall in one passage there are numerous shawls
which, though earthy and opaque, are not wanting in beauty. Ninian
Melville found a second entrance to this cave, a little to the south
of the original one.
About thirty feet above the level of the
southern entrance to the Key Cave is Lannigan's Cave. It is probably
seven hundred feet long, and contains many branch passages. From the
entrance the cave slopes steadily downwards until a spiral turn with
a hole to the right is reached. Having negotiated the spiral by
means of a rope attached to the wall, one continues in a general
south-southwesterly direction. After one has successfully wriggled
through the first real squeeze-hole and slithered down a sharp
slope, one finds oneself in King Solomon's Temple. This is perhaps
the most imposing chamber in the caves. At the entrance stands a
squat stalagmite, while a single'column and two magnificent twin
columns stand guard at the end of the cavern. They are about forty
feet high and delicately fluted. One of them shows the fan-tracery
effects reminiscent of a Gothic cathedral. (See illustration, page
A little further down the passage and just
before the entrance to the King's Cross cavern stands another single
pillar. King's Cross was very aptly named by Oliver Glanfield, who
has already made a survey of a very large part of the Caves. It
seems to be the centre of the known part of the Caves, and numerous
passages leading into the Onslow Cave, the Maze, Penelope's Bower,
and The Terraces, open into it on all sides. These last are one of
the finest sights of the Caves. They occur on a sloping floor which
they cover for a distance of perhaps eighty feet. They form a series
of crystalline basins enclosed within frilled and delicate rims,
once of marble whiteness, but now muddied by visitors.