My name is Tom Aberdeen, and this is my website. The project began in mid-August 2012 and went live in September 2012. The website began to be overhauled in late July 2019, in an effort to get rid of all the typos and bad grammar. All of the images have been sourced from people I know or photos I have taken.
The site was originally viewed by Parks Victoria, VSA, VLCT, CDAA, and the ASF and all of these organisations are happy with its content as of the original time of writing. The sponsors of this site (The Wilderness Shop and Bogong Equipment) are contributing towards the running costs and I am making no profit whatsoever, and I cannot recommend them highly enough either – be sure to mention this site if you purchase any gear from them.
This site does not make any money. It is an effort to share knowledge about caving, and in particular caving in Victoria which is often missed amongst the other more well known caving areas and states.
My caving history
A bit of a quick biography: My first caving trip was to a granite boulder cave near Pakenham (Melbourne’s outer south-east) called Labertouche (see the section on granite caves for detail), with a commercial provider, in 2000. The trip was using hand-held dolphin torches, helmets with no chin straps, no belay on the entrance ladder, and a trip leader that got us lost for 30 cold minutes while he tried to find the way on. It was a disaster. Half the participants were in tears, and the leader was genuinely shocked when afterwards I enthusiastically asked him, “that was incredible! how do I do more???”.
Despite such a terrible first trip I still knew I’d found my passion and shortly after that I joined the RMIT Outdoors Club and did my first trip to Buchan. On that trip, in the farthest reaches of Wilson’s Cave, I knew this was for me.
We then went into Rift Cave which involved a very exposed chimney climb which scared the hell out of me, but the last cave we did was Honeycomb which is one of the best open access caves in the Buchan region, and that cemented an excellent introduction to proper caving. I didn’t cave much with RMIT but I did do more trips in those early times, including another trip to Labertouche.
At the end of 2003 I finished with RMIT and joined the Caving Club of Victoria (CCV). Within a few months I ended up on the committee as treasurer due to dwindling member base. The other two active cavers needed another caving partner, so I was taken under the wing of Amy Ware and Doug Henry who both taught me everything there was to know about horizontal caving, and 2004 was chock full of caving, seeing me in Buchan every few weeks soaking in caving and all of its basic lessons. I really owe Amy and Doug a debt of gratitude as they taught me so much and were so welcoming! It was a fun time.
Unfortunately, CCV only lasted a year, with all of its once active members either getting too physically knackered or finding different hobbies. The final committee of Amy and Doug and myself, and the remaining CCV members who had all given up caving decided to put the club into hibernation. It was at this point that Doug and Amy and myself joined the Victorian Speleological Association (VSA) through lack of any other choice.
The first time I met anyone from VSA was just before CCV folded. I had organised a weekend of caving with Amy, and I got to Homeleigh a bit earlier, to walk into the dining room and found a dozen individuals sitting round the table looking at laptops. “Bloody hell – who are these old farts” was my thought, just after which they explained that VSA were having an old timers’ weekend.
I caved heavily – sometimes for several weekends in a row – for the next year with a new (or should I say previously retired but back again caver named Peter Freeman). One night after a general meeting I asked Peter if he had been to Britannia Creek caves yet. He said no, so that weekend we went! And started a caving partnership that would last years – as I said, that year with Peter was probably my most prolific caving period.
It was at this time I also started to learn SRT and vertical caving, being taught by ex CCV caver Neil Brenton, who had a bolt in the roof of his lounge room, and would sit watching TV while keeping half an eye on me coaching me on technical SRT manoeuvres.
Caving in the United Kingdom
After a year of intense caving I made the bold move to go and live in London for 2 years. My partner was not a caver, but I knew that the UK is the capital of caving for English-speaking people, and I went on my first trip after only being in the country for two weeks. That trip was into Gaping Gill which is the largest cavern in the UK and funnily enough was the top cave on my list of caves I wanted to see.
During that time I was a member of WSG (Westminster Speleo Group) and SWCC (South Wales Caving Club). I did such famous caves as Ease Gill, Gaping Gill, Ogof Fynnonn Ddu, Dan-Yr-Ogof, Swildon’s, GB, Peak Cavern, and many many others. I was amazed when i first walked into the locker room at the SWCC Cottage (which is actually a whole street) to find a VSA Sticker on one of the lockers. To this day I never worked out who put it there. Also, believe it or not, Ogof Fynnonn Ddu runs directly below the cottage and on the right trips the leader can tell you that you are beneath it. It is a long system of some 50kms and 300m depth, and I did at least six trips into it.
While there I was formally trained in SRT by perhaps the most well-known caver in England, Andy Sparrow, in the Mendips. The Mendips caving area is only an hour and a half from London, and whilst not deep or long, a good area.
England has a formalised standards system for caving for all civilians, which I think should be introduced here. Presently the only qualifications for caving in Australia are within the defence forces, or the scouts. Normal everyday people in Australia are instructed by their chosen caving club. Some have formal training nights or weekends, whereas the smaller groups just pass down knowledge as they go on trips. Its a bit like being a Jedi – generally you have a master and an apprentice. Generally the university clubs have more official training.
Back to Australia
I returned from UK in 2007 and caved very frequently until 2009 when i moved to Canberra for work commitments. Although Canberra is surrounded by caves, and there are several local caving clubs, most of my caving remained in Buchan – a long 6 hour drive from Canberra which i did regularly. Buchan was always my patch and further to that I would rather cave with close friends than clubs I didn’t know. In mid-2010 I moved back to Melbourne and have been here since.
My caving slowed down from about 2012 until 2017 whilst doing more diving and other things. I have now returned in 2018 and am leading trips again, and if you are reading this, have re-launched this website.
The highlights of my caving career
The highlight I suppose of this time was the several times I was in trips where we found virgin cave. To be in a place no human has ever visited or seen before is a very special feeling. Having articles published in Australia’s most popular outdoor magazine – Wild Magazine – was also a special feeling. Also – my 2 years in UK was great, getting a chance to do some of the most well-known caves in the English-speaking world and being trained by one of the world’s most well-known cavers.
My hope for this website is that it 1) Educates the public who know little about caving and 2) Attracts experienced cavers who don’t have access to any information on the various areas in Victoria, and that they can actually use the site to plan an interstate expedition. If this is the case, feel free to email me and I will assist in any way I can. Normally the VSA are happy to help out interstate cavers.
Given that there is no official publication or web site on caving in Victoria, I thought I would put everything I have learnt down on paper and make this site. I hope you find it interesting and entertaining, and even to perhaps see you underground at some point. Any feedback you have is welcome, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries / suggestions / corrections etc.