The Cave In – Te Ana-Au Landslide

“On a Mish” #299 The Cave In – Part One. Te Ana-au (Te Anau Glowworm Caves). Fiordland National Park. 13.9.2021. Never in all my years of working in tourism did I think we would ever struggle for work. For a long time now millions of people have traveled from all over the world to see our little native sanctuary in the South Pacific. After the Stock Market crash in 2008 I saw a large dip in tourist numbers, but within no time at all things came back to normal, and then got even busier than before. It seems as if a witch has cast a curse and the curse is still an ongoing disturbance to our (tourism workers) way of life…

After the second round of lockdowns and with Auckland still trapped in level 4 (full lockdown) I wondered how many and / or who we would have on the Te Ana-au Glowworm Tours. But fittingly on the 13th of September customer numbers were far from our main issue. A storm of extreme epic-ness had spent two days smashing the Lake Te Anau Basin and its mountainous surroundings with heavy rain and high winds. Flooding was a real problem and in just under a week we had only managed to show one small group the lower part of the cave. The 12th of September was a complete write-off, and I spent the day at home watching the storm, with lightning and thunder providing a very entertaining change from the norm. The rain accompanying the storm had added an extra 4.8 feet to Lake Te Anau in less than 48 hours, a real sign of the intensity of mother nature in full rage. Knowing the caves will be flooded, the morning trip on the 13th was cancelled, but with maintenance jobs to do, myself and the staff loaded into the boat and began the journey across the lake. With the sun beating down, the storm seemed like a distant memory and it was a great day to go for a cruise on one of New Zealand’s premier lakes. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until we arrived at the cave’s wharf and realised the ship’s lines were far too short due to how high the lake had risen. Not a big issue, so it was easily resolved.

Next we headed on up the walkway on our way to the cave and as we crossed over the Tunnel Burn (the river that runs through the caves) we could tell something wasn’t right. Immediately we could see that trees had been knocked over, but that wasn’t the worst of our issues. Along with a dam created by the falling forest, a monstrous rock the size of a large SUV (maybe even larger) had slumped down onto the entrance of the cave! The ‘Caves of Rushing Water’ (Te Ana-Au) were no longer rushing with water. Instead, the backflow from the tree dam had drowned the cave and we knew we had a major problem. The water was flowing over the walkway so there was no way we could get into the cave to assess the damage. It would seem the curse was still doing it’s thing, and now to top off the Covid issues we had had a major cave-in. So now the caves (currently my main source of income) were closed indefinitely. It seems that the cursed 13th month of 2020 is a long one and has struck again, and now we have a whole new catastrophic problem to deal with. To be continued in the future…

The Dam and Damage Caused by the Landslide

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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