Friday, February 1, 2013

The Black Mountain cave

Dave Wheeler, another Canberran interested in Canberra's history raised an interesting question. He contacted me asking if I had any knowledge of a cave on Black Mountain. It is not widely known but Canberra is built over a large formation of limestone caves some which affected the building of the National Library and early sewerage system. I have a post on Canberra's caves here.

The question of a, seemingly unknown cave on 'Black Hill' is raised by a man who at the turn of the 20th century was called 'The Father of Canberra' John Gale (1831-1929)(biowas the famous and well respected editor of the Queanbeyan age. In his book Canberra; Its history and its legends he writes a short passage describing a living room sized cave...

It is the respectability, incredible local knowledge and long life of Mr Gale that adds credence to this report.

Above is a picture of the eastern slope of Black Mountain today below the article and an eastern photo of Black Hill at the time of this Gale's book's publishing...

The research Dave has been doing has included recollections of his own Grandmother who remembered seeing John Gale when he was alive in the streets of Queanbeyan and a recollection from an old Canberra resident who claims the cave was deemed dangerous and sealed up in the early days of Canberra post 1913.

The description of having to enter on all fours indicates this cave entrance wasn't very big. Apart from the reported use of this cave as a hide out for escaped convicts, if it existed, I imagine it would have had a long aboriginal history worthy of an archaeological survey. There are many reports of Corroboree on the Black Mountain Penninsular. Who knows it maybe of the importance of Yankee Hat. I'm also wondering if in the bowels of government record vaults isn't reference of it closed for whatever reason and forgotten.

I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who may have information regarding this supposedly sealed cave on the Eastern slopes of Black Mountain. Who said there weren't any mysteries in Canberra worth exploring. As a closing thought I'll mention it to Tim the Yowie Man... He loves a good mystery.



  1. Your mention of caves under Canberra reminded me of a favourite story.

    When I was working at Parliament House (2009-ish) I heard tales of 'the cathedral'. The basement of Parliament House is, of course, under ground. In addition to the utility areas of the building there are quite a few office workers down there. Given the need to ensure emergency exit routes, coupled with a lack of windows, some of the rooms have an extra door which opens into exit routs with unfinished stone walls (these I have seen).

    The rumour is that when they need extra space, they excavate it. And in doing so, at some point excavation had broken through into a vast underground cave, so large it was nick named 'the cathedral'. I have spoken to a couple of people who claimed to have seen it personally, but by the time I was working in the building the story was that the space had been closed off given the danger, so the furtive tours of 'the cathedral' had come to an end.

    Don't know if this is true or just a bit of leg pulling - I want it to be because I like the idea, so I chose to believe. I did hear the story from number of seemingly unrelated sources, but given my office based work in Hansard, didn't have any contact with the sorts of practical people in the building who might know the truth or otherwise of this one. Wonder if anyone credible can confirm?

    1. Thanks for that. In another life I worked for Parliament too about 1982 (old) - 1990. I've seen underneath new Parliament House and seen the expansive vaults of the footings. So it wouldn't surprise me at all Rachel. Hopefully someone reading this can answer the question.

  • Mate, if I was living there I would have to go look for it. Absolutely. I live in the hope of finding one here.
    Regards, Keith.

    1. Its the ACT Keith. Information received indicate the entrance was filled in, possibly, in the 30s. Maybe ground radar would find a living room sized vacant area? I'm hoping someone with knowledge about it reads this and responds eh. Cheers mate.

  • G'day Dave, While trawling around seeing what I could find I came across this - the story of bush ranger "William Westwood" who lived in a cave on Black Mountain in 1840.

  • G'day Dave,

    While trawling around seeing what I could find I came across this - the story of bush ranger "William Westwood" who lived in a cave on Black Mountain in 1840.

    1. Excellent mate. Thank you.


History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...