About the cave
DD4 is a streamway cave in western Victoria, close to the South Australian border. Unlike the crystal clear sinkholes of Mt Gambier DD4 is a small stream winding its way through limestone…and lots and lots of mud. There is a lot of walking passage through the cave, as well as a lot of areas where rockfall leaves you climbing over or under. And then there’s the mud. Lots of it.
About the trip
We visited DD4 for a reason – to follow up on sump exploration there from several years ago. Agnes Milowka put nearly 70m of line into the terminal sump of the cave and reported that it continued. It seemed about time to see how far it continued and if perhaps it felt like coming up into dry passage on the other side. On arrival I was surprised by the amount of water flowing through the cave. Unlike Elk River however, we were heading upstream and as we passed minor inlets along the way the water carried by the main stream decreased.
At the end we inserted Harry into the remaining water to go and see what there was to be seen. The results can be heard on the video. I’d say seen on the video, but the big lump of mud on the lens of the GoPro put an end to that. It was a great trip and the mud was certainly easier on the caving packs than the equivalent length trip into Elk River.
About the video
Following some feedback from my caving friends about my housed dSLR camera (“oh my god, please leave it at home”, “seriously, do we really, really have to take photos this trip?”, etc, etc) I decided enough was enough. To be honest, dragging 12+kgs of housing & strobes and $10k worth of photo gear through extensive cave systems wasn’t doing all that much for my health and sanity either. So this trip was the inaugural testing of my new Panasonic Lumix.
The Lumix is rated as being waterproof to 13m and drop proof from 2m. It’s also crush resistant and weighs less than 200 grams. All of this seemed hopeful in the caving context. It has the best manual settings of the “tough” compacts – as well as two different f-stops, it allows a wide range of shutter speeds to be set manually. My intention is to sync it with my existing strobes for better lighting but despite a promising start it didn’t work consistently for this trip. More research is required to get that working.
What did work well was the video. Unlike the housed GoPros, the Lumix was able to record sound clearly. The mud in the microphone doesn’t seem to bother it and the lens was relatively easy to clean between takes. Certainly the small size made a big difference in my ability to take images, and I doubt I would have survived the trip with the large housing intact. So all in all it was a promising start for a smaller camera. I look forward to having it on every trip, and saving the 5DII for the serious artistic efforts.