The Lava Tubes of Undara Volcanic National Park

May 22, 2017 0 comments

In the vast savannah of Australia’s North Queensland, 300 km southwest from the city of Cairns, lies the Undara Volcanic National Park where you will find some of the largest and longest lava tubes on the planet.

The Undara lava tubes were formed in a massive eruption that occurred about 190,000 years ago causing lava to flow more than 90 km to the north and over 160 km to the north-west. During this fiery episode, 23 billion cubic liters of lava was estimated to have spewed forth from the Undara Volcano onto the surrounding Atherton Tableland. As the lava flowed, the outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes. The roofs of some of the tubes have collapsed, allowing vegetation to flourish in the damp interiors and shelter wildlife.


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Many of these lava tubes have high levels of carbon dioxide—up to six per cent or 200 times greater than normal levels. This has created a habitat where only specially adapted animals can survive. The Bayliss Cave contains at least 52 resident species of animals, including the most diverse assemblages of arthropods recorded in any cave in North Queensland.

The area where Undara Volcanic National Park is located was traditionally land of the Ewamian Aboriginal people, who lived and hunted in this area before the arrival of Europeans. Stone artefacts and scarred trees associated with caves, vine-thickets and springs still provide evidence of their occupation.


Photo credit: Jane Farquhar/Wikimedia


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