Where in Hell is…Hell? I mean, it’d have to be the most godforsaken, remote, rocky spot in a desert with huge caves beneath the surface. From Dante’s descriptions of Hell in his The Divine Comedy: Inferno, the images in my mind are of red desert and stone over karst with underground rivers and lakes. In my research, I came across an interesting book that set Hell in the Australian outback, as it definitely has the red dust and rock. I agree – so the Hell in my Mel Goes to Hell series is in the caves beneath the Nullarbor Plain, a treeless expanse of desert that stretches along the Great Australian Bight from Western Australia to South Australia. The world’s largest karst limestone landscape, the Nullarbor is 270,000 km2 and 2000 km from Norseman in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. Maps, pictures…here we go, some satellite imagery of the Nullarbor Plain, courtesy of NASA: Usually, I fly across it, but I’ve travelled it by train once on the Indian Pacific and that was one long train journey. Especially as you have two whole days and nights looking at this view.
There are some really beautiful caves under the Nullarbor Plain – but in order to see most of them, you need to be a highly experienced SCUBA diver and certified by the Cave Divers Association of Australia, because a number of people have died while diving the Nullarbor caves. In 1988, a freak storm collapsed the main entrance of Pannikin Plains Cave while an expedition team were finishing their exploration of the cave – and fifteen people were trapped inside. Fortunately, after two days, all of them made it out safely, including Australian filmmaker Andrew Wright. His near-death experience was the inspiration behind the film Sanctum, which he produced with James Cameron in 2011. For a beautiful gallery of underwater photos of the Nullarbor caves, click HERE, as I can’t reproduce them here for copyright reasons. Some of the known caves under the Nullarbor include:
- Abrakurrie Cave
- Balladonia Cave
- Cocklebiddy Cave
- Horseshoe Cave
- Kellys Cave
- Old Homestead Cave
- Pannakin Plain Cave
- Stegamite Cave
- Thampanna Cave
- Weebubbie Cave
There’s even a cave in Western Australia called Devil’s Lair – but that’s in the south west and closer to my home. I’ll leave the south west caves for another day.
From the pictures, any or all of them could qualify as settings for Hell – including Abrakurrie Cave, pictured below.
I must admit that the lake in Weebubbie Cave, along with the pit-like entrance, also make it an ideal candidate for Hell.
I’ll have some more background details over the next few weeks, in the lead-up to the release of Mel Goes to Hell, the book that follows See You in Hell in the series of the same name, as all the locations in the books were inspired by real places.