He Comes from a Land Down Under
By Justin Norrie
Originially published August 28, 2004
in the Fairfax Digital www.smh.com.au
Republished on Caves.com with permission
On the other side of the globe, nearly two kilometres beneath the earth, in a cold, gloomy chasm, you can find a small slice of Australia.
The sheer plunge near the bottom of the world's deepest cave, in a remote part of Georgia, doesn't automatically instantly inspire comparisons with Alan Warild's home country. It's bitterly cold, forever dark and usually damp. But since the veteran caver climbed to its dank depths last month it has incongruously borne Australia's name.
The 49-year-old from Newtown was invited to lead a 25-strong team of cavers from Russia and Ukraine on a world-record 1830-metre descent into the Krubera-Voronia cave in Abkhazia, Georgia.
At the end of the nine-day journey down the corkscrew-shaped hole, the triumphant team told Mr Warild it would name the final drop "Viva Australia" in his honour.
"One of the Russians had the idea to name it in my honour since I was the first to go down – I suppose I was pretty chuffed," the self-effacing caver said.
"It's not my favourite cave, because it's about 3 degrees at the bottom and it's muddy and you have to dive in one part. But it's a great challenge and a bit of a thrill to stand somewhere where no human being has ever stood before."
The previous world record for the deepest caving expedition, -1710 metres, was set in the same cave in 2001. But Mr Warild and his fellow travellers took a different route, passing through a sump filled with icy water to descend 120 metres further. "We went as far as we could, we hit a pit full of water and decided to leave it for another trip."
The Australian Speleological Federation said it had received an unconfirmed report that a team of Ukrainians was currently attempting to better Mr Warild's record. But the name for the drop would remain, it said.
"People like Alan are the modern-day equivalent of the explorers in the 19th century, others like me follow in their footsteps later," said federation president, John Dunkley.
"That name will stay and be put on maps of the cave in future. It's a significant achievement and shows the respect Alan has overseas. He's a well-known name and one of the top three in the world when it comes to deep and difficult caves."
Mr Warild discovered his unusual hobby when he was 13, on a school excursion to the Wee Jasper caves near Yass. Since then he has explored deep caves around the world.
"Australia doesn't really have any deep ones," he said. "The deepest is in Tasmania, almost 400 metres. The best, in my opinion, is Muruk, in New Guinea. It's about 1250 metres.
"I grew up in the Sutherland Shire and I always loved the outdoors. I think that's the only way I can explain it."
Read the official expedition press release CLICK HERE