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Caving at Portland

by Barry Schafer, DVL Frankston

Published in South Metro Mag, Issue 147, September 2008, pages 1-2

On the long weekend in June, Venturers from Narringulling and Red Hill tried caving with the Branch Caving Team. Having left the Mornington Peninsula early on Friday evening the first arrived at Portland just after midnight with the last getting there about 1:15am. It well may have been much later had the fog been more extensive instead of being only about 15km. It was very welcoming to arrive at the Scout hall to find a fire provided by the caving team.

Lights eventually were off a little after 2. Even with getting to bed late we still managed to get away just after 9 on the Saturday. For most of the Venturers this was their first time caving and for all of us except the caving team it was the first time at the Portland caves. Saturday morning was an introduction to caves with the two groups exploring two different caves with a change over half way thorough the morning. After lunch it was off to different caves with a few tight squeeze passages for the Venturers to try. A typical example is shown in Photograph 1.

Photograph 1

Two of the Venturers learnt the hard way it is not a good idea to hide in cave from the others, finding themselves left behind. The routine counting of heads revealed that this team was two short and the two were very relieved to be found after thinking they were lost. They won't try hiding again and it was a good lesson for all to learn.

On Saturday night there were movies of extreme caving shown by the caving team, including some of pot holing. Squeezing through similar tight spaces to what we experienced only under water seemed too tricky for even the most adventurous of those present to even contemplate trying. Also following behind your air tank seemed just too risky, then what happens if the string line breaks, how do you find your way back?

Investitures were arranged for first thing on Sunday morning in the caves. Some of the caving team left earlier to place lots of candles within a chamber. Five Venturers were invested, three from Red Hill and two from Narringulling. Photograph 2 was taken during one of the investitures.

Photograph 2

After this it was back into serious caving gear with some of the more adventurous going off for a half day tight squeeze experience with the rest being happy to look around a more open cave. After lunch we spent some time finding the last cave for the weekend. Once found this ramping cave had plenty of formations in a variety of chambers with a typical example shown in Photograph 3, with the head of a Venturer visible through a window opening into the chamber.

Photograph 3

Sunday night was taken up with games being played by both Venturers and leaders while sitting around the fire. We were all thankful to 1st Portland Scouts for the use of their hall for the weekend. Having the hall allowed the whole group to sit around each night and talk about the experiences of the weekend and other activities that had been undertaken while in Scouting.

On Monday it was a short trip to Cape Bridgewater to look at an old costal cave now some kilometres from the shore line and the solution tubes on top of the coastal cliffs. These tubes had been incorrectly named as a petrified forest until recently. It would have been a very strange forest with only a tube width between each trunk. It was a great weekend and enjoyed by all who took part and are very lucky to have such a dedicated caving team that give up their weekends so Scouts can enjoy a caving experience.

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