Sunbeam Cavern Cave
Peter Swart 10 May 1994
In November 1933, John Meyer discovered a cave near the southern end of the Amphitheatre. As was his wont, he painted a white patch in the cave, ready for a name on which he not yet decided. While painting this name patch, a sunbeam entered through a hole in the roof, and the cave had a name. In true Meyer fashion, he included the following details on the name patch:
Sunbeam Cavern Sunbeam starts about 11.30 Burn paper for Smoke.
As he had to use a rope ladder to gain entrance to the cave, he must have used one entrances in the roof.
In January of 1935, Meyer and Johnny Irving visited Sunbeam Cavern, and Johnny found another exit to the cave. Almost 3 years later, in November 1937, Meyer and a Mr Hurlingh once again explored the cavern. By using a rope to remove some boulders, they managed to open another entrance to the cave through the boulder choke. This new entrance could be used without a ladder.
The cave consists of a vertical, water worn crack running below the level of the Amphitheatre, down towards the top of Echo Valley. The crack is about 15m deep, and 40m long, and varies from about 2,5m at its widest to about 10cm at the narrowest. For most of its length, the roof of the cave consists of collapsed boulders. The gaps between these boulders form a number of entrances through the roof.
The cavern has three distinct sections, the northern up-stream section, the main chamber, and the southern shaft series.
The northern end of the crack is almost completely filled with boulders. One can get about 1,5m below the surface, and can see down another 1m into the boulder choke. Rocks which were dropped down holes seem to indicate some of the holes are at least 2m deep. The most popular route to the main chamber is through the boulder choke, although there is a rather steep route though one of the holes in the top of the chamber. The floor of the chamber consists of fallen boulders and is covered with debris from the surface. This is where a number of exoskeleton fragments of Colophon beetles were found amongst the debris.
The floor slopes down to the south, and the chamber gets narrower. The main chamber of the cave is not completely dark, hence the name Sunbeam Cavern. The walls of the crack are water washed for most of their length.
The south section is really an extension of the main chamber. The two are divided by a narrowing of the main chamber walls, and a boulder choke. Although this part of the cave can be accessed from the main chamber, entering from the separate southern entrance is much easier. The bottom of this section is 18m lower than the entrance. For the lower 10m, the passage narrows to less than 10cm in places, and heads in a southerly direction.
The up stream, northern end of the cave does not hold much promise for an extension to the cave, but if a way could be found into the narrow southern crack, the cave could well lead into a system at the top of Echo Valley.
The bottom of the southern section is at the same level as the current (1 November 1994) bottom of the very active collapse, 25m further down the slope.