As is often the case with caves in any area, there is some differing of opinion when it comes to the claims to be the deepest and longest caves in Victoria.
The DEEPEST – Down, Down, Down, get out those ropes
Up until a few years ago the deepest cave in Victoria was considered to be NG-1 (New Guinea Ridge Cave) which is (funnily enough) located at New Guinea Ridge, not far from Buchan. The 1985 Karst Index lists it as being 120 metres deep. However the popular view is that this is exaggerated and the real depth is less than 100m – more likely to be about 90m. Rudi Frank surveyed the depth as 78m. Also interestingly, NG-1 is a horizontal cave with no gear needed, but due to its length of 700 metres it clocks up a fair but of gentle vertical development.
Or it might be….
In March 2006, the ‘Potholes Master Cave’ otherwise known as Elk River Cave was found by the Victorian Limestone Caving Team. This cave is the main drain for all of the caves on the Potholes Reserve and had been sought for decades. Sump divers including the late Agnes Milowka have mapped and surveyed the cave to 105 metres deep, and 1400 metres of stream passage. The original Elk River entrance was only 58 metres down to the stream passage, however it has been followed on the surface and in theory is well over 120 metres in depth. This puts it as one of the deepest caves on the mainland. There are two entrances to Elk River (See cave descriptions) and as I write these words there are cavers busily digging in spots aligned with the Elk River survey to try and find the elusive third entrance, which would finally allow non-divers to see that part of the cave and beyond. Exploration is ongoing by the VSA but at the moment only cave divers have access to the whole system. A third entrance will be the most significant find since the cave was first found several years ago.
So the deepest cave is a little bit disputed. I suppose you could say in theory Elk River is the deepest but the deepest found and REPORTED is NG-1.
Longest. For those who enjoy navigation.
The longest status has also changed recently and is the source of much debate and disagreement. The Buchan Show Caves system has been considered the longest system in Victoria – incorporating Fairy Cave, Royal Cave, Federal Cave and Dukes Cave. The exact length of the showcave system is around 3kms, but there is no exact figure I have been able to find. This has been the case for many many years – Fairy Cave was discovered in 1907.
The title for longest cave has also been claimed to belong to Shades of Death cave, in Murrindal near Buchan. However this has not been substantiated by an accurate survey, but the cavers who have made the claim are experts and reliable, so there could easily be truth to that story.
This was unchallenged until cavers from the Victorian Speleological Association under the leadership of Peter Freeman linked a large number of small caves on private property in Bats Ridge, near Portland in Western Victoria together to create a a VERY large system. As of the writing of this site in September 2012, Davies Cave is 3511 metres long. The survey is accurate and the project has been running for several years so there can be no doubt that Davies Cave is the longest in Victoria. However its worth noting that it is long because it is a maze of small passages – in area or in a linear sense it is not long at all.
As I am writing this on my laptop I was interrupted by a call from a VSA member who informed me that the longest cave is about to become the Drik Drik system (DD4 and DD31). This is technically two caves, in that there is a section of rockfall 20m long that cannot be passed, but the entrances to each of the two sections are side by side, and if you do count it as one cave (and really it is) it will easily be over 4kms. But the fact that there are two sections to it may rule it out as a technicality. Interestingly the DD31 entrance had been overlooked for years until recent heavy rain opened it up on its own – after COUNTLESS attempts to get through the rockfall, nature went and did it for us. The Drik Drik cave (also known as Jones Ridge Cave) is a long stream cave with good decoration, large passage (no stoop) and MUD! Although care is needed as it is in the soft Western limestone which is treacherous when climbing.
Deepest and Longest in the WORLD
For interest sake, the deepest cave in the world is The Krubera Cave (or the Voronya Cave, sometimes spelled the Voronja Cave). It is located in Georgia (Between Russia and Turkey if you didn’t know that) Its deepest explored point is 2,191 ± 20 metres. Well known NSW caver Al Warild has been to the bottom of this cave. Al Warild is Australia’s cave mercenary and author of the book ‘Vertical’ which is EASILY the best instruction manual on SRT and vertical caving.
And also for interest sake, the longest cave in the world is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, USA (trust the Americans to have the longest friggin cave) and it is 643.7 km long and crosses several states. It is still going and if linked to another long cave nearby it will increase its length even further. Makes our longest at 3.5kms seem a little insignificant.
Nothing in Victoria is deep or long on a global scale, but having visited caves all over the world, and spent 2 years caving in the United Kingdom, I can truthfully say that Victoria DOES have world-class decoration in some of our caves. Nothing I ever saw in the UK was as beautiful as the decoration in Exponential Pot in Buchan, or many other caves.