Have you ever been into a large underground cave? This month Father Julian invites us to share his experience of exploring the caves of Mosquito Plains, near Naracoorte, South Australia in 1857.

Of all the natural curiosities a country can possess, none tend so much to render it famous as the existence of large caves. There is such an air of mystery in the idea of long subterraneous passages and gloomy passages shut out from light and life; so little is known of their origin, and they are generally accompanied with such beautiful embellishments of nature, that one is never tired of seeing them or of hearing the description of those that cannot be visited.Father Julian Tenison Woods

These are the opening words of an article written by Father Julian Tenison Woods and published in the South Australian Register in 1858. [i] Subsequently this article was published in full by the Perth Gazette [ii] and The Argus. [iii] Other newspapers published the first half of the article [iv] and omitted the description of the fossil bones that he found in these caves. This article then formed part of a chapter in his book Geological Observations in South Australia: Principally in the District South-East of Adelaide.[v]

Father Julian’s words came alive for me during a visit to the Blanche Cave at Naracoorte. Here I was able to give context to quotations often cited with reference to Father Julian’s awareness of God in the creation around him and which are contained in the final section of his article, for example:

…man, pausing in his vain endeavour to stretch his mind to the capacity of that which has no bounds, is obliged to rest himself from the thought of the infinite, and confess that whether he searches in earth, or sky, or sea, he is everywhere met by the vision of the Illimitable.Father Julian Tenison Woods

Today Father Julian’s words remain a reference for those who continue to uncover the secrets of the caves. [vi]

Carmel Jones rsj

This month we present The Caves at Mosquito Plains (from the South Australian Register):

View ‘The Caves at Mosquito Plains’ here (PDF)


[i] South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA:1839-1900), Monday 29 March 1858, page 3 obtained from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/49772876
[ii] https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/2930764
[iii] https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/7292336
[iv] E.g. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/199791593, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/136439096,
[v] Woods, J.E.T. Geological observations in South Australia: principally in the district south-east of Adelaide, London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts & Green, 1862
[vi]  Follow these links for some very interesting articles on the Naracoorte Caves: https://theconversation.com/naracoorte-where-half-a-million-years-of-biodiversity-and-climate-history-are-trapped-in-caves-78603 and https://www.naracoorteherald.com.au/story/5855045/who-was-the-mystery-photographer-of-the-naracoorte-caves/
Reed, Elizabeth & Bourne, Steven. (2013). ‘OLD’ CAVE, NEW STORIES: THE INTERPRETATIVE EVOLUTION of BLANCHE CAVE, NARACOORTE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA. Journal of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248395399