Actually, I was only kidding about Lucifer's little finger. This particular cave formation looks like a completely different part of his anatomy and it's not little at all. It's the bulbous column on the left hand side of the suspended table…but welcome to Lake Cave, one of the first caves in the south-west of Western Australia that I remember visiting as a child. Of course, the water levels have dropped a fair bit since then – the suspended table used to sit on the surface of the water, but now it's more than half a metre above it.
How Do Caves Form?
Actually, I answered that one last week – but if you really want to know, you can check out my post HERE. It explains what the various cave formations are, too, and how they were formed in the first place.
Okay, so now you know why you should see Lake Cave…getting there's half the fun.
You arrive at the car park, where there's a modern building with CAVEWORKS emblazoned on it…and another building beside it, a café which does magnificent milkshakes. Yes, I'm thorough with my research.
Inside the Caveworks building, there's a ticket office, gift shop and a little museum with a replica of Lake Cave inside, as well as a skeleton of something called a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which was found in Mammoth Cave.
Once you've bought your tickets, a cheerful staff member says you can join your tour on the terrace outside the cave entrance…and to make your own way down there. DOWN being the key word in that sentence, I found, as the glass museum door slammed behind me and I looked over the boardwalk railing.
I reasoned that all good caves are underground and Lake Cave is one of the deepest caves in the south-west of Western Australia at 62 m down, so a descent would definitely be necessary.
The water level isn't the only thing that's changed in the century the cave has been open to the public – the descent is somewhat easier than it used to be.
Now there's stairs. And plenty of them.
That's okay – once you reach the terrace, there are some nice benches underneath the oxidised limestone. Oh, and those white patches on the rock above your head?
And on that note, she had another surprise in store – you guessed it, more stairs!
Under a rocky overhang, almost bent double and into the dark we went.
When I was a kid, this was the point where I'd squeeze a parent's hand and hope there weren't any monsters.
Now, I didn't fear monsters in this cave, but I was researching my Hell series…and Lake Cave was my inspiration for Hell's bathroom.
So it's probably no surprise that I viewed the dimly-lit boardwalk as a suitable path into the Pit.
I not only expected to find Lucifer in Lake Cave…I intended to send him there.
Don't get me wrong – Lake Cave is one of the most beautiful caves I've ever seen. Between all the formations and their eerie reflections in the still lake water below, Hell's bathroom…sorry, Lake Cave…is nothing short of spectacular. Hell, it was a tourist attraction with electric lighting as far back as 1928.
The most striking feature of this cave isn't the mirror lake at all, but the flowstone table suspended between two columns, floating in space above the surface of the water. The reflections only make it seem more miraculous. The tour guide insisted it was the largest such formation in the world, and at over 5 tonnes, it certainly could be.
Another striking formation in Lake Cave is the Wishing Well – a rimstone dam surrounded by flowstone, stalagmites and cave coral.
After the Wishing Well, the catwalk continues deeper into the small cave, which is only 82m long. From a bench seat on a sloping stone beach made of flowstone, you can see almost the entire length of the cave.
In my visits as a child, we were allowed to crouch down by the edge of the lake and taste the water – something I only ever did once. Partially because I wasn't too fond of the chalky taste of water that takes ten months to filter through soil and rock to drip into the cave, and also because it was only after tasting the water that we were told about the stygofauna and freshwater crayfish that lived in the lake.
Now, visitors are kept carefully away from the edge, lest they pollute its purity. And fair enough, too. With decreasing rainfall in the region, water levels in the cave have dropped considerably. If every visitor took a drink, too…the cave would be dry in no time.
After a brief rest on the bench, while the guide spotlights formations that look like various animals…including a stone dragon…it's time to go, walking along that narrow catwalk beside the lake for a few more photos before venturing up those stairs again. Somehow, leaving the cave, it doesn't appear so dark any more.
Oh, and you remember all those stairs I climbed down to reach the cave entrance? Well, once you leave Lake Cave, you get the delightful experience of climbing right back up them again, to the top of the collapsed doline. It's a damn good thing the café at the top serves good milkshakes, because you'll need a drink when you reach the top.
And why would anyone willingly want to go to Hell? Ah, well Mel had her reasons…in the Mel Goes to Hell series.