Step back in time at the Naracoorte Caves in South Australia

Step into the Wonambi Fossil Centre at the Naracoorte Caves and you step back in time to the days when strange creatures inhabited a very different Australia.

Back then, creatures that looked a little like the Australian fauna we know today – only much larger – roamed a much wetter continent. Some were frightening like Thylacoleo carnifex, the largest marsupial carnivore. It probably pounced on its prey from trees, using hands to grab hold and powerful teeth to slice and dice through flesh. A real charmer, but nowhere near as imposing as the Diprotodon.

Diprotodon was a wombat-like creature the size of a truck. Yes, the era of the mega fauna had it all. And we know so much about these creatures thanks to a major discovery made fifty years ago by a couple of South Australians — Rod Wells and Grant Gartrell.

We joined scientists Rod and Grant for a special trip back in time as they retraced their fateful steps into Victoria Cave at the now World Heritage Listed Naracoorte Caves. Back in 1969, they were leaders of a cave exploration team — two blokes with a passion for the unknown.

The ramifications of the bones and fossils they found are still being felt today, with the commencement of a project to digitally scan all of the Naracoorte Caves. This device sends out millions of laser beams, which bounce back with the exact dimensions of this underground labyrinth.

Laser beams and computers, brought in to resolve questions first raised by two blokes who stumbled across a truly remarkable find half a century ago.

The World Heritage Listed Naracoorte Caves are located on the southern outskirts of Naracoorte, about three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Adelaide. They’re open daily from nine until five and are well worth exploring.