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Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy Holidays, Safe Home!

This week the topic photograph is of an old vehicle, possibly known as a charabanc, which looks to be awaiting its passengers, who have alighted to visit the Cordeaux Dam, south of Sydney in New South Wales, the structure which can be seen in the background. This dam was completed in 1926, and more information about it can be found here.  What is intriguing is that the Cordeaux Dam is hardly in the same direction from Sydney as the Jenolan Caves,which is the destination of the bus according to its sign, but perhaps the passengers were being taken on a roundabout tour of the wider Sydney region. There's a similar vehicle in a photograph on the web site of the Library of New South Wales, the caption for which is "Visitors walking from charabanc to the entrance of Jenolan Caves for the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the discoveries of various caves, 23 February 1929". Click here to see it. 

Parts of the Jenolan Caves were initially discovered in the early 1840s by members of the Whalan family, and form part of the Blue Mountains, an elevated and very scenic rock formation to the west of Sydney. A very informative site about their history and attractions is located here. There are lots of articles in Trove about the Caves and various events that have occurred there over the years. For example, additional spectacular caves in an extensive underground network of caves were discovered in the 1890s by the Caves keeper Mr Jeremiah Wilson:

Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 23 February 1893,  from the Trove web site

The Caves became a popular tourist attraction for Sydney visitors, and many overseas dignitaries have been taken there on official visits. Of course it was some years before the Caves were able to be illuminated sufficiently so that their beauty could be safely appreciated, and the accommodation provided in the nearby Caves House was originally very basic, as this correspondent who called herself Mother Hubbard complained in a letter she penned to a major Sydney newspaper in June 1886:

Letter to Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1886, per Trove web site

The present day grand hotel, Caves House, isnow  on the State Heritage Register.It  was constructed in 1896, and was designed in the Federation Arts and Crafts Style as a retreat for the wealthy, and became a popular destination for honeymooning couples and other sightseeing tourists. Here's a lovely detailed report of the wedding of one such couple in 1904:

Catholic Press, 28 April 1904, from Trove web site
 Here's another report, this one of a wedding that took place in Sydney precisely 101 years ago, on 4 January 1913:

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 1913, per Trove web site

The road up the Blue Mountains and over to the Caves was winding and treacherous and visitors travelling there for fun, adventure and relaxation did not always arrive or return home safely.  There have been a number of serious accidents over the years, for example this one which occurred at Lawson in 1929:
Toll of the Motor, Braidwood Review and District Advocate, 8 January 1929, from Trove web site

Here are a couple of dramatic reports of accidents, in which amazingly no one was killed:
Northern Star Lismore, 5 August 1927, from Trove web site
Illawarra Daily Mercury, 20 April 1954, from Trove web site

An accident with a more serious outcome occurred on 5 January 1962:
Canberra Times, 6 January 1962, from Trove web site. One of the injured passengers subsequently died, bringing the death toll to four.
        There have also been unfortunate fatalities within the Caves themselves, for example this one in 1937: 
Canberra Times 8 February 1937, per Trove web site
A fatality also resulted when another woman fell from the same location in 1940.

Several of the above reports relate to events that took place on or about this coming weekend, on or about 5 January. Actually it's a personally significant date, as Sunday 5 January 2014 will be our 40th wedding anniversary. We went to New Zealand, not the Jenolan Caves, for our honeymoon, but here's a photo of my grandfather Oliver Cruickshank and his second wife Maisie, who came over from NZ for our wedding and afterwards visited the Blue Mountains. The photo is taken at Echo Point, overlooking the Three Sisters. It's likely that my parents also took them on to visit the Caves.

Granddad and Maisie at Echo Point, January 1974

 We went to Jenolan the following year in 1975, and here are a couple of photos from that trip.
At the entrance to the Caves
View of Caves House, from Carlotta's Arch

So that's my brief history and reminiscence about the Jenolan Caves, sparked by the bus destination in the photo prompt. Happy New Year to everyone, happy holidays and most importantly, stay safe travelling  home!
Now I'm off to Hobart, Tasmania for a few days, where we'll celebrate by having dinner with one of my bridesmaids and her husband, who got married a month after we did, and have lived down there for most of the ensuing 40 years. My other bridesmaid was my sister, who is now a jeweller and she has made me a ruby ring to mark the occasion.

In the grounds of St Ninian's, Lyneham A.C.T., 5 January 1974.


 Link to the prompt photo? Well I am wearing white, like the waiting attendants in white coats :-) That old oak tree beside us is no longer standing, but thankfully we still are! For more takes on this week's theme, just drive on over to Sepia Saturday 209

ps.Hope you enjoy this traditional rendition of Auld Lang Syne, as sung by the lovely Scottish singer Dougie McLean, whom we coincidentally saw in concert at the Clarendon Hotel, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains a couple of years ago.



  1. Very interesting post! Happy Anniversary on January 5th, may you have many more years together and have a Happy New Year!!!

  2. Those mountains really are blue, aren't they! What causes them to be so?I assume the current road to Jenolan Caves is safer now. What awful accidents. I've driven mountain roads for years & even widened & paved, people still do the stupidest things while driving them. Mostly we call those people "flatlanders" because truly, they don't know how to drive mountain roads safely. One can't stop the tourists from coming, however, so one learns to drive defensively! Congrats on your 40th anniversary!

    1. I haven't been there to the caves for a few years, but I think the road is still pretty steep and has lots of twists and turns, so accidents can happen. The blue colour comes from the eucalypt trees that grown there, which give off oil droplets that scatter in the atmosphere and scatter short wave length rays of light that are predominantly blue in colour, according to this web site about them,

    2. Thanks for the website address re: the Blue Mountains. Now I know why the Oakland Hills look so blue - or at least used to. Although I like the smell & look of Eucalyptus trees because I grew up in an area where I was around them often in parks & other nicely remembered places, they can be dangerous under certain conditions. The big fire in the Oakland hills in '91 took out many of the Eucalyptus trees as well as 25 lives & almost 4000 homes & businesses one horrible night in Oct. of that year. The Eucalyptus trees were a major reason why the fire spread so far & so fast. Because they contain so much oil, when burning they would explode & spray flaming oil far & wide, starting new fires. People living in the Oakland hills are now forbidden to plant Eucalyptus trees. Of course the narrow steep streets & homes so close together didn't help, either, nor the lack of communication ability between different cities' fire departments who were trying to help.

    3. Yes, fires destroyed 200 homes in the Blue Mountains just a couple of months ago. Thankfully no lives were lost. Eucalypts are native trees here, and the fire threat comes every summer. The bush is beautiful to visit, but I wouldn't like to be living in a house surrounded by it, for that reason!

    4. Here's a site that discusses many possible causes for bushfires and the reasons why they spread. It's since been decided that the recent fires were in fact started as a result of a carelessly managed defence exercise in the area, which should not have been carried out in the extreme weather conditions.

  3. amazing how that photo prompt brought back all those memories and research on the famous caves. Happy anniversary.

  4. How wonderful to have all those stories behind the caves. That poor lady writer - all she wanted was to gather info for her new novel!

    Happy Ruby Anniversary - ours is next year! Enjoy your trip.

    1. Yes, what happened sounds like it could be the start of a plot for a murder mystery, but apparently it waa just a dreadful accident.

  5. I knew I was right not to attempt to write about the Jenolan Caves. Thanks for giving us so much detail - much more than I could find. I was sure that one of you from Australia would cover them so well and would have visited them too.

  6. Happy anniversary to you! Interesting articles about the caves.


  7. I learned about an area I've never heard about, and it's very interesting, especially with the personal touch. Happy Anniversary. Loved the song also! happy 2014 too

  8. Happy and sad events surrounding the caves. Very interesting to dig back into the past.Enjoyed reading about the weddings; My best wishes on your anniversary and many many more.

  9. Fantastic blog post Jo. I have never been but it's high on my bucket list :)
    Happy anniversary.

  10. What an interesting source of information in your post, and you closed with a favorite song of mine.

  11. I have never visitied any caves. The Jenolan Caves sound spectacular. Happy Anniversary.

  12. A terrific history on a place most of us might overlook from a cursory glance at the theme photo. Even slowly, riding in charabanc must have been an exciting way to see the sights. I once rode a bus on the mountain roads of Italy and noticed that the driver put his crucifix necklace into his mouth when negotiating the twisty bits.

    A great rendition of the classic new year's tune. Congratulations on reaching your milestone too.

  13. I felt a bit creepy at times, reading all those accidents. I can really imagine the caves being used as the setting for a mystical-mystery novel. It's amazing what we don't know about our own country. Thanks.

  14. I was hoping that one of our Australian Sepians would give us some background to the picture and the location, thanks Jo, that is fabulous. And a very happy new year to you. Alan

  15. Absolutely fascinating to this Yank. I may never have the opportunity to visit the Jenolan Caves, but as usual my Sepian friends provide me with vicarious experiences galore.

  16. What a cool photo for the cave entrance!

  17. Amazing! Sometimes, I want to experience living in 50's to 70's. If time machine is possible, maybe I could go back in time.

  18. There are some amazing sights underground. In Virginia, we have several popular caverns, but the best ones are the Luray Caverns. It's famous for the "stalacpipe organ" -- yes, you can hear some beautiful organ music there.

  19. Mother Hubbard really told them what was what, didn't she? After reading about all the disasters, I'm glad you all made it out in one piece!