The Caving Environment The caves of South Australia (SA) are generally warm with temperatures around 18°C, the humidity is around 80 to 95% and potable water is rare. Apart from having to carry significant quantities of water, caving in SA presents few problems to the experienced caver. The biggest obstacle to caving in SA is the travel time that is required to get to the different regions. The majority of caves are of the walk-in type, but there are significant exceptions where SRT (single rope technique) or ladders are needed. The caves are generally delicate and great care needs to be employed when traversing them. Some caves, especially those in the limestones of the Nullarbor, Naracoorte and Kangaroo Island have exquisite speleolothems and consequently access may sometimes be restricted.
The Caves The following descriptions of the caving regions of SA are extracted from Lewis, I.D., (1976) "South Australian Cave Reference Book" CEGSA Occasional Paper Number 5, and have been brought up to date in June 2006.
Adelaide Hills - All caves are associated with the Mount Lofty Ranges complex, although most occur separately in isolated pockets of dense Cambrian Limestone. This area constitutes some 26 cave features which include several sea caves and some larger caves in the Sellicks Hill area.
Eyre Peninsula - Most of the 76 known cave features are found in aeolian calcarenite deposits along the west coast of the Peninsula. About 20% of them occur in the vicinity of Lake Hamilton on the seaward side. Several large dry sinkholes occur a short distance inland of Talia, further up the coast. Other features occur in Cape Wiles NP near Port Lincon and some sea caves exist in limestone at Elliston and on Wedge Island in Spencers Gulf.
Flinders Ranges - The caves of this large region mainly occur in isolated pockets of old crystalline limestones and dolomites outcropping throughout the Range Complex. Cave development tends to be more horizontal than vertical although there are some potholes and shaft entrances. Several caves feature rather extensive horizontal joint controlled mazes. The water table is exposed in a few caves. There are 220 recorded cave features in the Flinders Ranges. There are also a large number of mines in the region that intersect natural cave development.
Kangaroo Island - Caves occur in aeolian calcarenite of Pleistocene age along the south and west coasts. In most caves, the limestone is similar to, but much more loosely consolidated than the older Tertiary limestones of, for example, the Upper and Lower South East region. There are numerous caves along the coastline, some eroded by wave action, others are landlocked systems exposed by cliff collapse e.g. Hanson Bay Cave. Caves also occur at Mt Taylor and Mt Stockdale in isolated hills in the same calcarenite. There is a large concentration of caves near the tourist cave at Kelly Hill Conservation Park. There are 105 recorded features on Kangaroo Island.
Lower South East - There are three main types of caves in this region. There are many cenotes (water-filled sinkholes) and dry sinkholes, ranging from sheer-sided to gently sloping depressions. Ramps are often cut down to the waters edge for stock use. Long water-filled joint plane caves with small roofhole entrances are common. Other caves consist of extensive rock collapse chambers, occasionally linked by a series of flatteners with mud, calcite or flowstone floors. There are tourist caves at Tantanoola and in and around Mount Gambier. There are now 501 recorded cave features in this region.
Murray Plains - Several caves are associated with the River Murray and occur in the river banks at Swan Reach, Bow Hill and Murray Bridge. Some of these are subject to inundation, and all exhibit joint control. The longest of these caves is Punyelroo Cave which measures approximately 3 km. The remaining caves are low-roofed shallow collapse chambers in crumbly fossil rich limestones and are horizontally developed. 49 features are listed in this region.
Nullarbor Plains - The region embraces the geological reaches of the Eucla Basin rather than the more confined geographical flat treeless section. Thus it covers the lightly timbered coastal areas, including the Hampton Ranges and the Roe Plain in Western Australia. There are now 3500 features recorded on the Plain and many are added to the records at every visit. By far the longest cave is Old Homestead Cave which measures over 30km, and there are many more spectacular but shorter caves.
Torrens - This is a new caving area designated in 1999 to the Andamooka Limestone. It covers the area north of Andamooka from just east of Lake Torrens across the top of the lake, including some 'islands' and across to west of Roxby Downs. The recording of karst features has just started in this area with 5 listed.
Upper South East - The main caving group lies in the Naracoorte East Range in Oligocene Gambier Limestone. At James Quarry, this limestone is overlain with 8m of Naracoorte Limestone and 1m of aeolianite. All the caves in the main group lie along the Kanawinka Fault zone which extends 8km North and 30km South of Naracoorte. There are isolated caves and groups of caves in the Pleistocene dune ranges parallel to the modern coastline. There are also several caves in the Bordertown area. Several tourist caves are located in the World Heritage Listed Naracoorte Caves National Park and include the fossil-rich Victoria Fossil Cave. 231 cave features are recorded in the Upper South East.
Yorke Peninsula - Several cave features occur in the Curramulka Lower and Middle Cambrian limestone and comprise joint controlled caves at the bottom of solution entrance shafts. The deepest of these shafts (40m) is is found in Town Well Cave in the centre of Curramulka with the last 5m in water. Corra-Lynn is the longest cave (14km) in this region. Other caves also occur in the younger Tertiary limestone to the south and isolated marine caves occur on islands to the west. There are 14 recorded features in this area.