Jewel Cave

Augusta Jewel Cave - Jewel Cave Augusta


Useful Information

Location: Jewel Caves Rd, Deepdene WA 6290.
8 km north of Augusta on Caves Road. AU13.
(-34.273960, 115.097771)
Open: All year daily 9-17.
Tours every hour on the half hour, additional tours during school holidays.
Closed 25-DEC.
[2022]
Fee: Adults AUD 22.50, Children (4-16) AUD 11.50, Seniors AUD 20.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: L=1,900 m, VR=42 m, T=20 °C, MinAge=4, Min=2.
Guided tours: L=800 m, D=55 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Kent Henderson, Stefan Eberhard (2002):
Newly Completed Study on the Jewel Cave System – Western Australia
ACKMA Journal 49 December 2002 pdf
Stefan Eberhard (2004):
Ecology and Hydrology of a Threatened Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystem: The Jewel Cave Karst System in Western Australia,
PhD thesis, Murdoch University, Western Australia. pdf
Lloyd N. Robinson (2015):
The discovery and development of the Augusta Jewel Cave: Including the Discovery of Easter Cave and Deeondeeup,
Dorothy Robinson, paperback, B5 landscape format with colour and Black and white photographs, 40 pp. AUD 20.50. ISBN: 0646945246, 9780646945248. shop
History of the cave and the development for tourism in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, by a founding member of Wollongong Speleological Society in 1955 and President of the Australian Speleological Federation from 1986 until 1993.
Address: Your Margaret River Region, 100 Bussell Highway, Margaret River WA 6285, Tel: +61-8-9757-7411. E-mail:
Augusta Jewel Cave, Jewel Caves Road, Deepdene WA 6290.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

JAN-1957 discovered by Cliff Spackman.
FEB-1958 explored by Cliff Spackman, Lex Bastian and Lloyd Robinson.
26-DEC-1959 opened to the public.
1960 bones of a Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) discovered.
AUG-2010 cave closed temporarily for renovation.
FEB-2011 cave reopened after renovation.

Description

Jewel Cave is famous for its variety of cave decorations. The cave has a Speleothemsoda straw with the length of 5.40 m, the longest straw to be found in any tourist cave in Australia. Actually it would by quite hard to find one of this length in any show cave of the world, but nobody ever made a ranking for this. And even more impressive are the fine, hollow soda straws with massive growth of calcite crystals at the lower end. Straws are hollow and tubular, their diameter varies with the diameter of a water droplet between 2 mm and 9 mm. And they consist of calcite crystals and are quite brittle. It is really exceptional that the straws are not destroyed by their own weight. Other spectacular speleothems are Speleothemhelictites. There are also cave corals, pendulites, and other strange forms of calcite minerals. And there is a very large stalagmite called The Karri Forest.

The various forms of crystals were the reason why a small chamber in the lower sections of the cave was named Jewel Casket. And after it the cave was named Jewel Cave. Originally it was known as Wind Hole and it was first mentioned in the early 20th century. In January 1957 Cliff Spackman and other found a small hole in the ground which had a strong draft of air blasting out of it. He was lowered into the cave down a 12 m shaft into a large chamber. One year later, in Februar 1958, it was explored by Cliff Spackman, Lex Bastian and Lloyd Robinson. They discovered 2 km of cave passage and the lowest point of the cave, 42 m below the entrance and only 24 m asl. Their report was so extraordinary, the cave was immediately developed as a show cave which was opened less than two years later.

The discovery of fossils, Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) dated at 25,000 BP, make Jewel Cave an important site for research. The tasmanian tiger is extinct today, the youngest bones discovered so far are from the Murra-El-Elevyn Cave on the Nullarbor plain. It is dated at around 3,200 – 3,400 years old, so the animal went extinct about at that time.

The lowest level of the cave sediment, a marine sediment was dated to an age of 780,000 BP. At this time the cave was flooded by a raised sea level. This means that the cave is older, it was already there, when this happened. And this means the limestone is even older. As a result the limestone is estimated be older than approximately 1 million years ago. In geology, it is often not possible to date something directly, so events which happened before or afterwards are dated to narrow it down.

The cave has recently undergone an intensive cleaning and restoration program. It cost AUD 3.1 million and included the renovation of the 50-year-old surface buildings, a new cave entrance, a tunnel into the cave, and a new visitor centre with museum, shop and café. A new environment friendly light system (LED) has also been installed. The planning and the renovation work took eight years, the cave was closed for six months and reopened in February 2011.

Today the cave is entered through the new artificial entrance tunnel and a huge chamber is reached. It is still rather close to the surface and the trees above (karri and marri) are sending their tap roots down into the chamber looking for moisture. You can see the roots at the ceiling. The trees which succeed in reaching the cave have a stable source of moisture and survive draughts, while the others don't. The trail in the cave was built as an elevated trail over considerable distances, as a footbridge that stands on stilts. This disturbs the actual cave floor as little as possible, and dripstones are neither prevented from growing nor destroyed. Theoretically, such a footbridge could be dismantled in a few weeks and the cave would be almost as it was before. And also the cave fauna can easily pass under the footbridge where a concrete path might stop them. The trail is also very safe for visitors as it has small LED lamps illuminating the trail independently of the cave light. And the floor of the bridge is a special carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer grating, dripping water flows through and so it never gets slippery. Numerous such concepts for cave protection have been developed in Australia over the last 30 years.

When Jewel Cave was developed for tourism in 1959 it contained a spectacular lake which became a major attraction on the cave tour. By 1988 the groundwater table had dropped by more than one metre, the lake and its famous reflections were gone. The water table has continued to decline and there is no chance to see the lake in the near future. Quite astonishing is the fact that neither human consumption of groundwater nor low rainfall were responsible. Actually the reduction of bushfires is the reason, because a dense growth of understorey vegetation and accumulation of ground litter consumes the water before it reaches the water table.