The image above is a beautiful, seemingly painted image showing the iconic Carlotta Arch at Jenolan Caves. The image comes from a postcard, and shows one of the earlier features of the cave system to be ‘discovered’ by Europeans.
The first European, according to local legends, to see the caves was James McKeown, who was an ex-convict and outlaw who used the caves as a hideout. The first offical sightings though came in 1838 when a local pastoralist, James Whalan, discovered the caves. Over the following years Whalan and his brother Charles discovered and explored many cave openings, with the first ‘dark cave’ to explored being the Elder Cave in 1848. This cave is not far from Carlotta Arch.
The largest of the show caves currently open to the public is the Lucas Cave, which was explored in 1860 by Nicholas Irwin and George Whiting. Just six years later, in 1866, the caves were brought under government control, and in 1867 a caretaker was appointed, Jeremiah Wilson. In these early years, many visitors came to the caves and explored, but there was little protection for the caves themselves. Visitors broke formations to take souvenirs from the caves with them, a practice not made illegal until 1872. You can still see some of the damage in the Lucas and Elder Caves, and in fact the Lucas Cave is named after John Lucas, a local member of parliament who was largely responsible for making such damage to the caves illegal.