18 March

Journal, March 18.

As it was necessary to grind some wheat with hand-mills to make up our
supply of flour, I was obliged to remain a day at Buree; and I therefore
determined on a visit to the limestone caves, by no means the least
remarkable feature in that country. The whole district consists of trap
and limestone, the former appearing in ridges, which belong to the lofty
mass of Canobolas. The limestone occurs chiefly in the sides of valleys
in different places, and contains probably many unexplored caves. The
orifices are small fissures in the rock, and they have escaped the
attention of the white people who have hitherto wandered there. I had
long been anxious to extend my researches for fossil bones among these
caves, having discovered during a cursory visit to them some years before
that many interesting remains of the early races of animals in Australia
were to be found in the deep crevices and caverns of the limestone rock.
How they got there was a question which had often puzzled me; but having
at length arrived at some conclusions on the subject, I was now desirous
to ascertain, by a more extensive examination of the limestone country,
whether the caves containing the osseous breccia presented here similar
characteristics to those I had observed in Wellington Valley.

OSSEOUS BRECCIA.

The first limestone we examined had no crevices sufficiently large to

admit our bodies; but on riding five miles southward to Oakey creek we

found a low ridge extending some miles on its left bank which promised

many openings. We soon found one which I considered to be of the right

sort, namely a perpendicular crevice with red tuff about the sides. Being

provided with candles and ropes we descended perpendicularly first, about

six fathoms to one stage, then obliquely, about half as far to a sort of

floor of red earth; Mr. Rankin, although a large man, always leading the

way into the smallest openings. By these means and by crawling through

narrow crevices we penetrated to several recesses, until Mr. Rankin found

some masses of osseous breccia beneath the limestone rock but so wedged

in that they could be extracted only by digging. Unlike the same red

substance at Wellington Valley where it was nearly as hard as the

limestone, the red calcareous tuff found here was so loose that the mass

of bones was easily detached from it; but none of them were perfect,

except one or two vertebrae of a very large species of kangaroo. Pursuing

this lode of osseous earth we traced it to several other recesses and in

the lower side of an indurated mass (the upper part having been the floor

of our first landing place) we found two imperfect skulls of Dasyuri, the

teeth being however very well preserved. This was, doubtless, an

unvisited cave; for the natives have an instinctive or superstitious

dread of all such places, and it is not therefore probable that man had

ever before visited that cavern. With all our ropes it cost some of us

trouble to get out of it, after passing two hours in candle-light. It may

thus be imagined what a vast field for such interesting researches

remains still unexplored in that district where limestone occurs in such

abundance.

The objects of my journey did not admit of further indulgence in the

pursuit at that time; and I was content with drawing the attention of one

of the party, a young gentleman residing in the neighbourhood, to it, in

hopes he might discover some bones of importance.*

(*Footnote. See a further account of these caves and some others in

Chapter 3.15 below.)