Blanche Cave

Big Cave - Mosquito Plains Cave


Useful Information

photography
Naracoorte Caves, South Australia, Australia. Public Domain.
Location: 12 km south-east of Naracoorte.
(-37.034260, 140.796580)
Open: Visitor Center: All year daily 9-17.
Bat Centre and Blanche Cave: All year daily 11:30, 15:30.
[2022]
Fee: Bat Centre and Blanche Cave: Adults AUD 28, Children (6-16) AUD 16.50, Children (0-5) free, Family (2+2) AUD 74.50.
Groups (10+): Adults AUD 27.50, Children (6-16) AUD 14.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:  
Guided tours: D=1 h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Elizabeth H Reed, Steven Bourne (2013):
‘Old’ Cave, New Stories: The Interpretative Evolution of Blanche Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia.
Journal of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association, January 2013, Naracoorte Caves history and heritage. researchgate.net
Elizabeth H Reed, Steven Bourne (2018):
New evidence confirms Thomas Hannay as the first photographer of Naracoorte Caves and emphasises the importance of historical writing in caves.,
December 2018, Helictite 44:45-58, Project: Naracoorte Caves history and heritage. researchgate.net
Reverend Julian Tenison-Woods (1862):
Geological observations in South Australia
Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1862, 404 pages.
Address: Naracoorte Caves National Park, P.O.Box 134, 89 Wonambi Road, Naracoorte SA 5271, Tel: +61-8760-1210. E-mail:
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

1845 first cave in the area which was discovered, named Big Cave.
1858 Julian Tenison-Woods published the findings of significant fossil discoveries in Blanche Cave.
1860 Thomas Hannay takes the first photographs commissioned by Julian Tenison-Woods.
1868 journalist and politician Ebenezer Ward reports litter of all kinds and people who took home cave souvenirs.
1886-1919 the cave guide and caretaker William Reddan put into place new principles around visitation and management.
1924 dance-floor and a ping-pong tournament.
1946 closed to the public.
1949 Adelaide Symphony Orchestra performs in Blanche Cave.
1986 reopened as a show cave.
1995 bat viewing facility installed with five infra-red cameras in the Bat Cave.
2000 Olympic Torch relay.
2007 cameras upgraded to high definition cameras.

Description

Blanche Cave is the first cave which was discovered at Naracoorte in 1845. Two farmers, trying to find stolen sheep, stumbled upon the spectacular entrance and entrance chamber. The called the cave Big Cave. Blanche Cave is close to the surface and there are many karst windows letting in light. The cave has long been used for social gatherings, like weddings, picnics, parties, and to simply escape the summer heat. From this time a large podium for addressing an audience still exists in the cave.

It was also used for cave tours, but both the events and the tours with open fire light sources caused damages and disturbed the bats. Journalist and politician Ebenezer Ward reported litter of all kinds and people who took home cave souvenirs. He was probably the first when he did so in 1868, and he mentioned "choicest stalactites chipped to virtual destruction". But he also said "But there was no malice in people's actions. It was time when nature was a curiosity and something to be experienced. They would have been horrified if they knew about how long they take to grow."

A strange story from the early days is the mummified remains of an indigenous man who sat in the cave for 17 years. It was believed he died after a violent altercation with European settlers. Deadly wounded he went into the cave and died in a sitting position. People traveled to the cave for a thrill, the 19th century version of a horror movie. The body was stolen, twice, by visiting showman Thomas Craig. After the first time, he was ordered by the Supreme Court to return the remains. He then broke in, stole it again, and was witnessed walking along the road with the remains in his arms by a policeman. Why the policeman did not arrest a guy walking around with a dead body is unclear. He took it back to London to shock onlookers as part of his so-called Exhibition of Natural History. In 1866 the body was sold at an auction house and until now it was impossible to find it again.

At the end of the 19th century, public concerns began to grow, concerning the preservation of the caves. William Reddan and Reverend Julian Tenison-Woods were working on a new way to treat the caves. Julian Tenison-Woods published the findings of significant fossil discoveries in Blanche Cave. He discovered the remains of small mammals such as rodents and carnivorous marsupials in the sediments on which the people danced and made weedings. Two years later in 1860, he commissioned a series of photographs of Blanche Cave for use by the engraver Alexander Burkitt in illustrating his 1862 book Geological observations in South Australia. He commissioned the photographer Thomas Hannay, who took the first photographs of Naracoorte and left an inscription on the cave walls. The cave guide and caretaker William Reddan put into place new principles around visitation and management. He installed pathways, handrails and stairs for easy visitor access, which also protected the cave floor. And he was also famous for his lively and entertaining tours.

Another strange story happened in the 1950s or 1960s. A group of people carried a small car down the steps into the cave, which was quite a feat, and drove it around the cave. Today, such behaviour would probably result in criminal proceedings. At the time, it was filed away as a silly-boy prank.

Today the cave is protected by sufficient trails and since around 2000 it is again used for events of all manner. Shakespeare plays, the Australasian Bat Society conference, a Fringe festival performance, and the first ever underground meeting of a Victorian Freemasons group took place since then. But also there were some accidents like possums eating the flower decorations at weddings. During a Carols by Cavelight event the visitors were quite amused by a scampering possum which dislodged a tealight candle onto the head of the mayor. While there are definitely more stringent rules in place than 150 years ago, on the New Year's Eve parties the cave is again softly illuminated by hundreds of tealight candles.

Some sources call this cave Bat Cave, but that's not correct, the Bat Cave is located 200 m to the east. Bat Cave is one of only two known breeding places of the Southern Bent-wing bats (Miniopterous schreibersii bassanii). This cave is not open to the public, but there is the Bat Observation Centre which is a museum about the bats and has a live video feed from the maternity chamber in Bat Cave via infrared camera. Hence, it is also called Bat Cave Teleview Centre. The unique bat viewing facility was installed in 1995 which allowed to see the bats via five infra-red cameras. In 2007 the cameras were upgraded to high definition cameras, similar to those used by David Attenborough in his Life on Earth TV series. They allow capturing single feet or facial features from 10 m away with absolute clarity. The tour is called Bat Tour, and a visit includes the Bat Observation Centre and Blanche Cave.

However, the number of bats you will see depends on the time of year and the time of day. During winter huge numbers of hibernating bats can be seen in a huddle on the Blanche Cave ceiling. During summer at dusk, you can see the spectacular flight out of the cave, as they head out for hunting insects. At dawn, you can see them return into the cave. This is outside the open hours, but while the caves are cosed and gated, it is possible walk to the fence and see the flight from outside. There are no restrictions, and it is free, there is even a small observation platform close to the cave entrance.