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"Knee-deep or waist deep in water, that's the caving experience in the 19th century.""You had to have a sense of adventure, but the magnificence of the stalactites, the features, the ornamentation of the cave always fascinates, there's also this romance attached with going underground."The Victorian era was dominated by the "aesthetics of the sublime" and the thrill of danger, Dr Haygarth said, but there was also an attraction to fantasy worlds, which some pioneers tapped into.

They were also fond of entertaining the cave visitor, inviting them to scrawl signatures on walls and to play stalactites like a xylophone.

Scotts Cave, run by the Scott family at Mole Creeks tapped into the underground fantasy idea.

When the cave opened in 1907 it was the first of its kind - a private cave tourism venture."They put in acetylene lighting system, they applied fantastical names to cave features they made it family friendly and child friendly." When electric lighting came in, features were lit suggesting to the visitor what they were looking at - Disney themes and Manhattan skylines.

Tasmanian caves have unearthed globally significant archaeological finds and helped shape the conservation movement.

There have been many clashes along the way between those seeking to protect caves and karst from degradation and destruction by industries such as mining, hydro development and forestry.

Tasmania's wild caves are the deepest in the country.

They attract cavers and photographers from across the globe.

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The rest are interesting, exciting and challenging but not what you'd call scenic."There are very few places now on this planet that you can actually explore, that you can be first; even if you are not the first, you can be one of half a dozen people who have been there."Some of these places are just amazingly beautiful or powerful and impressive.

It was "rediscovered" in 1977 on the river by then geomorphology student Kevin Keirnan who went on to become the founding director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society.

It was originally dubbed Fraser Cave, after then-prime minister Malcolm Fraser, in a tactic to draw attention to the area.

Mr Kiernan returned in 1981 as the campaign against the dam was building.

He and colleagues unearthed evidence of Aboriginal existence dating back to the last ice age; it was evidence of the world's most southerly human occupation. Previously it had been thought the Indigenous population had been coastal but a rich archaeological deposit of animal bone fragments and tools, indicated it had been used as a shelter."This completely rewrote the known Indigenous history of the south west because up until that point there had been no evidence that Aborigines had occupied the south west and here he was standing on countless thousands and thousands of tools," Dr Haygarth said."This was at time when Kevin Kiernan and others were mounting expeditions in the Gordon-Franklin area looking for caves just to show that this was going to be a disaster to flood this area that this was an extraordinary cave system."It was a turning point in the campaign to save the river.

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