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Mar 02, 2003


Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Taylor

After having left Young Gully Cave, we climbed back into the Lada and headed for the nearby district of Maldon to find Roach Cave - Cup and Saucer Cave. This system suffers from an overabundance of names, having a different one for each of the two entrances. The latter of the two, Cup and Saucer, is a much better designation for this marvelous cave system.

The Roach Cave entrance, that gives access to the upstream part of this river cave, was quickly and easily found. After getting a good GPS position, recorded as wpt's 62 and 63, we stowed things in the dry bag and headed in. The opening is large but leads to a passage that is very tight in places. Close in, we did unfortunatetly spot American Roaches, but the numbers weren't too enormous. An Eleutherodactylus cundalli was heard a short distance into the passage.

Very fine formations are seen as one crawls towards the main streamway, and in places it was necessary to pass gear and ropes from one person to the next as we squeezed through the stals. About 40 metres of this brought us to a 2 metre descent into the main stream passage.

The river flowed slowly, about 40 - 80 cm deep, through a narrow passage, some 1.5 m wide and 2 high, heading NE towards the Cup and Saucer resurgence. Very delicate soda straw stalactites crowded the top of the passage and great care had to be taken to not remove them with our helmets as we went forward. Stalagmites stood on little shelves that lined the streamway and the wall of the passage held formations of the coral-looking type that we'd been admiring the day before in the lower streamway of Windsor Great Cave. This is a very beautiful cave.

I was out front, and looked carefully in the clear water, quickly finding many crabs, Sesarma Verleyi apparently though most much smaller than what I'm used to. Within 20 metres I had the great pleasure of seeing my first cave fish. They were 2 cm long, translucent, with several dark spots on the top of the head. They are very possibly getting washed in by the seasonal flow from outside, but an identification of the species at some time in the future might be a good idea. We did not remove any samples ourselves.

About 50 metres along the streamway, a passage not shown in JU heads to the SE, or right. A crawl up this showed it to end in a tight mud choke after about 10 m. I returned to the junction, where Ivor and Malibu were searching out the way ahead. Within 10 metres, the passage roof lowered towards the water. In JU this is shown as becoming a crawl at this point. Ahead of us we saw the distance between roof and water to be about 30 cm and the others seemed hesitant about continuing on. I was tempted to continue but allowed myself to be persuaded by the better judgement of my two partners. A good last look showed the air space to be greater further ahead, but the danger factor seemed a little too high for comfort. We turned around and began the trek back to the entrance crawl.

The trek out was uneventful and a quick tour up past Maldon Church to spot the approach for the other entrance resulted in us meeting a good future contact, Winston Thompson, an older gentleman who lives two houses away from the church.

This cave system is very valuable. It should have a proper bioinventory done and should never be considered for tourist purposes. Both biologically and physically, great damage would be done by excessive traffic.
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