Apr 162012

Chris in Unnamed Cave

About the site

Unnamed Cave lies under the Roe Plain in the West Australian desert. Unlike the caves on the Nullarbor Plain above the escarpment in the same area, the Roe Plains caves have the distinct characteristics you can see in the photo above – tinted green water, long shallow tunnels with tempting leads off each side and extreme scalloping of the limestone walls.

Unnamed Cave was discovered last October by Paul Hosie of CEGWA, and the initial few days of exploration were carried out by Brian Kakuk, Ken Smith, Richard Harris and Grant Pearce. Paul did the first push through a particularly nasty restriction and after 90m or so, the cave opens up to the very large passage you can see above.

Since the discovery, the divers involved have made short trips out to the cave to push and explore the area. For this longer expedition over Easter, we were hoping to dive all the large, available tunnels and complete the obvious exploration. As I mentioned 3 weeks ago I was lucky enough to join the group, and while I was hoping to put some line in, my main objective was to capture both photos and videos of the new cave.

Roots in Unnamed CaveAbout the dive

Given the nature of the entrance  restriction, the first dive of the trip was a familiarisation dive to check out the cave. Out of the group, Chris Edwards and I hadn’t dived here before. We were sent in first to get a look at the entrance while the water was still clear, joined by Al Polini filming on a Contour camera. After our dive the entrance restriction turned to zero vis to the point where the light from your primary torch isn’t visible as you feel your way along the line. Before the trip I had some concerns about my ability to get the camera safely through the rocky maze. A slow and steady pace along the thick rope now laid through the squeezy stuff saw me out the other side without too much difficulty.

The main objective for this dive was to travel through the restriction and out again, in preparation for exploration dives the following day. I was keen to see how the camera would go, and reacquaint myself with taking photos in the Roe Plains halocline. Once through into the main passage we swam about 300m down the line to a small air pocket. This small area was fringed by hanging roots from the desert trees above, and a good destination for photography.

About the shot

The photo above was taken as we swam home. It’s relatively close to the entrance where the tunnel is taller than it is wide, and the walls are spectacular. For photography, my thoughts at this point were mostly around how large the cave is. The tannin in the water that provides the greenish tint also sucks light in, and throwing strobe lighting from one wall to the other to reveal the whole tunnel was causing me difficulties. Unlike the smaller passages in the other Roe Plains caves, the large spaces here really require multiple models with multiple strobes.

The second shot is the roots that were the destination for this dive. Much finer and more spiderwebby than those I’d previously seen in Olwolgin Cave, I took this shot by floating on the surface of the air pocket. With one hand on the roof above I was able to control my movement and protect these delicate formations, with Chris holding a strobe below to provide scale and context.

Given the difficulties of the area, I was pretty happy with the shots from this dive. You can check out a selection of my other shots now up in the gallery here. Next up was the real challenge, exploration photography. Stay tuned!

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