As part of National Science Week the Victorian Speleological Association (VSA) organised an event where noted international speleological researcher and avid cave explorer Hazel Barton visited the Mt Widderin lava cave accompanied by members of the Association.

The Western district of Victoria is internationally known for the number and wide range of lava caves found there. In the week prior to our event the International Union of Speleology had held a field trip for their four yearly vulcanospeleology symposium. Mt Widderin is one of the best known scientifically, as well as being within reasonable day trip range of Melbourne.

The cave is entered from a collapsed doline via a low, sloping, slippery tube. From there the cave is about 150m long and is mainly two large chambers of up to 10m high. Normally the cave is dry but recent rainfall meant much dripping from the roof and many fresh pools of water. To the delight of all of us, especially Hazel, the moisture seemed to have activated a lot of bacterial growth on the ceiling and walls. Hazel pointed out two different types of bacteria, the white Actinobacteria and the yellow Streptomyces. Known to us previously just as “Moonmilk”, Hazel’s explanations added a new dimension of understanding to our previous knowledge.

We all had a most enjoyable time exploring the smaller passages off the main chambers and sliding down some of the muddy slopes. After about two hours we left the comparative warmth of the cave and trudged back to the cars in light rain and cold winds. After changing we drove to Skipton to support the local economy (buy lunch etc) and then home to Melbourne.

Invite a Scientist to Dinner
After returning to Melbourne most of us gathered again for our Invite a Scientist to Dinner event.

With collective speleological experience across most continents many stories were traded. Invitations were extended to Hazel to return to Australia for more speleology which were reciprocated. The evening concluded with fine chocolate for dessert.

We would like to thank the organisers of National Science Week for bringing Hazel to Australia and then allowing us to host her for the day. Special thanks to Carly for her assistance & patience.

Lloyd Mill
President, Victorian Speleological Association

Participants: Hazel Barton (NSS), Lloyd Mill, Elery Hamilton-Smith, Gerhard Noss, Mara Silins, Peter Freeman, Lynne Amore 7 Nigel Cooke (All members of the Victorian Speleological association)