A Cave, Not A Crown: A Visit To The Princess Margaret Rose Cave

By Karen Harris

Princess Margaret in the 1940s. (AFP via Getty Images)

British royal succession being what it is, the younger siblings always seem to get the short end of the jewel-encrusted stick. Such was the case of Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. On her father's coronation day, she reportedly said, "Now that Papa is king, I am nothing." The story of Margaret's consolation prize starts at approximately the same time, when Margaret was about six years old and a couple of men who were out rabbit hunting on the other side of the world made an unusual discovery.

The Hidden Cave

Keith McEachern and his buddy, local rabbit-trapping legend Jack "Bunny" Hutchesson, were scouting the property adjacent to McEachern's land, which was a state forest in the Lower Glenelg National Park, on September 7, 1936 when they decided to explore a mysterious opening. At the end of a 50-ft. shaft, McEachern found himself in a small limestone cave full of active stalagmites, stalactites, and helictites. There were so many, in fact, that the cave has been called the "most decorated cave per square meter" in all of Australia. Later studies of the cave concluded that it was likely more than 15 million years old.

Jack "Bunny" Hutchesson in the Princess Margaret Rose Caves in 1961. (State Library of South Australia/Wikimedia Commons)

The Princess Margaret Rose Cave

Shortly after they stumbled upon the cave, McEachern and Hutchesson applied for and received a license to harvest its bat guano, which was highly prized as a fertilizer. It provided them a tidy income for a time, but when the guano ran out a few years later, they opened the cave as a tourist attraction. They just needed a sellable name, so Hutchesson's daughter suggested naming it after Princess Margaret, whose middle name was Rose, because it reminded her of the rose-colored formations inside the cave. She even wrote to Buckingham Palace for permission to name the cave after the youngest princess, and to her delight, the palace granted it.

Inside the cave, 2019. (Dietmar Rabich/Wikimedia Commons/“Mumbannar (AU), Princess Margaret Rose Cave -- 2019 -- 0724”/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Cave Today

The Princess Margaret Rose Cave opened to the public in 1941. It was operated by the Hutchesson family, who brought visitors on regular tours of the cave, until the patriarch's retirement in 1970. Today, it boasts hiking trails, a campground, a visitor's center, a river cruise, a picnic area, and other amenities for its thousands of visitors every year.

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.