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TEE CAVES AT MOSQUITO PLAINS,
By THE BEV. JTOEAN E. WOODS.
(raoul THE S. A. HEOISTER,)!
Of all tho natural curiosities a country can possess, none tend so much to render it f.mous as the oxistence of large caves. There is such an air of mystery in the idea of long subterraneous passages, and gloomy passages Bhut out from light and life ; so little Is known of their origin, and they are generally accom- panied with such beautiful embellishments of nature, that one is never tired of Beeing them, or of hearing the description of those that cannot be visited. ThuB every one has heard of the Adelburg caves, with tho renowned pure white stalactite, which hanging from the roof Uko an immense snowy curtain, is so translucent as to show torches placed on the inner sido. Every one has heard of the caves in the Peak of Derbyshire, where visitors are carried in a boat by a subterraneous river, along a passage scarcely two feet high, before they can inBpeot the inner portion, 'Every one has also heard of the Guácharo caverns in; South America, tenanted by the thousands of owls, whose screeching makes the place like a den infernal. Fewer perhaps are aware oi the existence of the caves in New South Wales, so graphically described by Sir T. Mitchell, and fowor still know of those in Tasmania. But wherever such natural cari- osities are known they do not foil to give great importance to the place, making, it as noted as if it possessed a burning volcano or a geyser spring. I am not aware that any attempt has been made to describe tho caves we possess in South Australia. Some occa- sional tourist may have notified in a stray newspaper paragraph tho fact that suoh things existed ; but as far as giving an ac- count of thoir rich and varied beauties, as far OB relating the extraordinary natural curi- osities that are to be met with in them, no- thing at all has been done. And yet, in point of magnitude, in point of splendor, and in a scientific view, they do not yield in Impor- tance to any of the wonderful phenomena enumerated above. I propose to give an ac- count of them, which, to do them justice, must bo rather lengthy, and to bring the de- scription even within reasonable limits many things that aro of great scientific importance I roust omit. If after this my narration is long the presumed interest ot tho suhjeot must bo my apology.
About 25 miles north of Penola, on the sheep run of Jlr. Bobertson, in the midst of a swampy, sandy country, plentifully covered with stringy-bark, a series of caves are found whose internal beauty is at a strange variance with the wildness of the scenery around. There is nothing outwardly to show that any great subterraneous excavation might be ex- pected. The entrance to them is merely a round hole, situated on the top of a sandy hill, and were it not for the existence of cer- tain temporary huts and other unmiBtakeable signs of the former frequent visits of excur- sionists, one might be inolined to pass the place without noticing anything peouliar.
Un going to the edge of the hole a small slop- ing path is observed, which leads under a shelf of rock, and on descending this for »"depth of .about 25 feet, then it is you get the first
glimpse of the magnificence enshrined below. The observer finds himself at the entrance of a largo oblong square chamber, low, but per-
fectly lighted by an aperture at the opposite end, and all around, above and bolow, the oye 1B bewildered by a profusion of ornaments and decoration of Nature's own devising. It ÍB like an immense Gothic cathedral, and the numbers of half-finished stalagmites which rise from the ground like kneeling oi prostrate forms, seem worshippers in that eilent and solemn place. The walls aro pretty equal in outline, generally unbronen nearly to the floor, and then for the most part they shelve in as far as the eye can reach, leaving a wedge-shaped aperture nearly all round, This seems devised by Nature to add to the embellishment of the Îlace, for in the space thuB left droppings of
Imestone bave formed the most fanciful tracery, where pillars of every shapo wind into small groups like garlands of flowers, or stand out like the portioo of a Grecian temple, the supports becoming smaller'and smaller, till they join, like a mass.of carved marble. At the further end there is an immense stalactite, which appears like a support to the whole roof. This shuts from view the aper- ture in the roof behind it, so that the light steals in with a subdued radiance, which mellows and softens the aspect of the whole chamber. The pillar is about 10 feet' io diameter, and, being formed of the dripping of limestone from above in successive layers, seems as though it owed its elaborate appear- ance to the hand of art ; not the least beauti- ful part of it being that it is tinted by almo3l every variety of color, one side being a delicate azure, with passages of blue and green and pink Intermingled, and again 'it' id snowy white, finally merging into a golden yellow. It Blands upon a raised platform ol stalagmite, which extends some way ¡down the chamber, about three feet high,' at the end of which is the pillar. This platform hat been a mass of small stalagmites, but are now joined together by successive droppings which have covered them over in a mannet not unlike the spreading of a llnon' cloth At the south end (the entrance) the' cav¿ looks as if prolonged behind each sido of th: narrow opening. But this is not tho caso There is merely the same continuance ol columns like those found all round,1 some what larger indeed, and joined together se closely as to make the spaces look like ttu pointed archeB of a medioeval crypt. The whole length of the cavern, as noirly as 1 could ascertain, is about 100 feet, the width about 45 feet, and the height 16 feet. The flooi is deeper towards the middle. Bo.that thelattei ueiiEuremont varies. Its length would be mucl. greater, and it would run into the next cave, bul ibat it is blocked up by the large stalaotito 1
have described, above. "On going.round this, and observing still on every side the stalaotltio pillars, the opening which lets in the light, to the north is seen.- There was evidently no aperture here formerly, as a pile of broken limestone shows the roof to have, fallen In ; and, by the manner in which the moss has rounded the sharp fragmentary outlines, by the way the heap'is covered by creeping plants, it declare? itself to have happened a long time since. This in-let is larger than the one at tho entrance. ,
The second cave that now meets the view is different in many particulars from the for- mer. It ia smaller, and BO thickly studded with stalactites as to render a clear glance through it impossible.
These are not like those of the former cavern, differing, inasmuch as they are all very white, and mostly broader at the top than at the base, giving thom the appearance of groined arches. Some are thin, and look, from tho manner the limestone has been de- posited, as if they were gracefully festooned in honor of some festival ; some ore mere deli- cate shafts, and every now and then some large unfinished stalagmite appears, in the form of a veiled statue, mysteriously enshrouded in heavy white drapery. When this ohamber bas beca nearly traversed, on looking back, it la tui prising vrhat a different aspect it bears. One would think a dense avenue of statuary before eomo palace had been pasBod,-so solemn, so quiet, and yot so life-like, are the curious wreathed and twisted columns, with their numerous groupings and 'strange varieties of form. At tho end of this cave (it is not half the1 length of the first) there* is another aperture o¡ en to the light, caused also by the falling ia of the rock which once arohed it over. It la a large circular hole, whose sides are precipitous, with a smaller pile of brokon stone ia the middle, as in the one last mentioned. I It was heie that, many years ago, some natives de stioyed SOO sheep by throwing them from abovo on the hard rock below. This was about the time they were committing many outrages, including the murder of Mr, ¡Brown. How tho settlers revenged themselves Is shown bj^omething further in the cave, which will be^otlced just now. This opening is the laat through which light gains admission to the vaults, and the entrance to the last cave is on one Bide in a line with that just quitted.
This one is so thickly studded with stalao tites, and these sometimes so very wide at the base, that from the outside it seems like a carefully-arranged scone, which the intermina- ble variety of form or magic effect of light and shade, might easily be thought intended to îcpreBent a fairy palace. On proceeding a little way the ground becomes painfully uu even. You have to climb over boulders, whose summits almost reach the roof, or you have to descend into what might almost be called pits, the more rough and uneven be- cause of their natural ornaments. Very soon the cavern becomes as dark as night, so that no further exploration can bo made without candles, and even with theso the utmost oau tion is neceSBary, OB thore are pits, caverna, and holes' in all directions, some of them lead- ing to other small subterranean passages. The re is one in particular which is a great fissure, extending nearly from side to Bide. It is
verj deep. The sides are smooth and slippery, and as light is thrown into its gloomy depths the sides are seen to be divided in some places into columns and pillars, making oven that dark place elaborate with natural archi- tecture. Further into the cave the roof be conies lower and lower, still surmounted with the ghostly white stalactites, and at last tho passago onward is so small that one must stocp very low in order to proceed. It is not without a shudder that one goes through this passage. Far away from the light of day, this groping along a small vault makes one dread to be bent down between stone walls, unable to stand straight or breathe freely. The pas sligo widens, however, when the last chamber is reached. There are few stalactites here, but the number of boulders increases, so that to exploro the place ia to climb and Boramble from rock to rock- At the upper end there is an immense mass of stone, by soaling which the cave is saen to go no further. A painful stillness reigns in this cavern, which
becomes positively unbearable after remain- ing a little time. Humboldt, in his account of the caves of Guácharo, complains that the noise of tho birds dwelling there gives an awful addition to the horror of those; under- ground vaults, but any noise would be less di ear y than the dead silence which relgas here. IVhethor it is that the air is hot and close, or whether the depth compresses the atmosphère beyond its usual density, I can- not say, but certiinly the quiet presses pain- fully upon the sense of hearing, and the cloeoness gives a feeling of smothering whioh ¡add to the horror of a place deep in the earth nnd far from the light of heaven. "
At tho Bide of one of the boulders (on the right-hand side in entering), in a crevice between it and the wall, where Natnre seems to have made a natural couch, there lies the natural ouriosity whioh I have alldded to just now. Thoro, in the position of one asleep, with the head resting on the hand, and the other limbs reclining, is the dried and shrivelled corpse of a native, but Bhghtly de- cayed, and almost petrified by the droppings
of the limestone. It has been known to be
there for many years without decomposition, I though the fingers and feet become oaoh year more encrusted with stalactite. The history of his coming there is a sad one. The blaoks, in addition to the destruction of thq sheop spoken of above, committed murder and so : many acts of violence that the settlers re
solved to be avenged. They assembled and Bet out with the Mgnifioant motto, "Let not your right hbnd knowj what your left hand doeth." The natives re- sisted desperately. Some were shot in every part of tho country. One wandering near these caves was seen and brought to the gtound by a rifle-ball. Badly wounded, he managed to orawl away unobserved; and thinking that he would be sought for as long as life waa in him, crept down into the lowest and darkest recess of the cavern, where ho rightly judged few would venture to follow. There ho lay down and died. Time went on. Not a tear was shed over him as he lay there nncoffincd, but drops of water fell upon him from tho rock above; and when, a longtime after, his remains were discovered, the lime- stone had incased him in a stony shroud, which to this day preserves his remains from decay. The limestone alone will not, how- ever, explain the absence of eremacausis : the peculiarity of the atmosphere has some- thing to do with it. I noticed near the en- trance of the last cavity the body of a sheep, which had evidently fallen from above while the animal was too inoautiousiy browsing on the tempting overhanging foliage. It bad been there some time, yet the flesh seemed as if but lately killed, The chemical property of the air does not materially differ from that above, and no satisfactory reason appears why the ohemical constituents should not, once the vital stimulus has ceased, react opon themselves in this case as in every other. The same thing, however, is observed inmany vaults, and probably the uniformity of tem- perature bears a part in the phenomenon of which the renowned Kings of Cologne and the mummies of the Italian cemeteries are instances. i '
On leaving this last and lonely chamber to return to the light, a narrow opening, richly wreathed with limestone, is observable on the right hand going out. Proceeding a little way down, a large vaulted chamber ÍB reached, so perfectly dark and obscure that .even torches can do but faint justice to its beauty. Here, above all other portions of the cayes» bas Nature been prodigal of the fantastic ornament with which the whole place abounds. There are pillars so finely formed and covered with such delicate trellis-work ; there are droppings of lime making suoh scroll-work that the eye is bewildered with tho extent and variety of the adornment, j It is like a palace of ice, with frozen cascades, and fountains all around. At one side there la a stolaotito like a huge candle that has guttered down at the side; at another there lis a group of pillars, which was originally like a series of hour-glasses, Bet one upon another from the roof to the ground, and the parts bulging out are connected by droppings Uko icicles, making them appear most elaborately carved. In addition to this there is, above and below-so that the roof glistens and the ground crackles as you walk-a multitude of small stalaotites, which cover the whole scone with frostings, that sparkle like gems in the torchlight. This is the last of subterranean beauties ; and on emerging towards the open- ing the fresh air and moro luminous aspect como gratefully upon the senses. Amazed > and stupified as yon may be with the beauties
left behind, one feels/as the eyes become daz eled by the approaching light, that the greatest beauties of the earth lose half their charms when shut out from the heavenly radiance of the sky. _^_______ '
A human skeleton has been fonnd buried in a field at Middleton, In Norfolk, nndor oir cumBtances that lead to a suspicion of mur- der. The body seems to have been thrust into a hole too short for it ; the skull' had been fractured; a razor-blade was lying on the 'chest. A gentleman named Bell (had been missed eight yean ago; the skeleton is sur mi Bed to be his. An investigation is ¡pro- ceeding, "m
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