Josh Richards may not have decades of caving experience under his belt, however what he does have is a love for Wombats and the desire to act like one at times. Joking aside, Josh’s thirst for adventure started whilst diving as a kid with his father,
Joking aside, Josh’s thirst for adventure started whilst diving as a kid with his father, continuing into a military career as a soldier, becoming a multi-agency dive instructor via the navy and ultimately a Royal Marine. Beyond that, Josh is also a comedian, a science geek, and has even been a candidate with a one way ticket to inhabit Mars!
Josh joins me to talk about his journey through life and its various stages leading up to his discovery of The Engelbrechts east extension with his ‘dive wife’ Matt Aisbett.
Englebrechts cave history
1865 – Originally described in a publication by Julian Tenison-Woods, the cave system was referred to as Vansittarts cave.
1885 – Carl Engelbrecht’s purchase of a flour mill located nearby, which he converted into a whiskey distillery (good man!) used the cave as a dumping ground for his waste products. This led to the cave system being referred to as the Engelbrecht cave.
1929 – the land on which the cave is located was purchased by the then District Council and the cave was sealed off.
1969 – The council invites expressions of interest to open the cave for potential tourism. Reportedly, it was not suitable for tourist development and remained shut.
1979 – The Lions Club of Mount Gambier commenced a project to beautify the cave to the tune of $10,000
1995 – Engelbrecht Cave was added to the South Australian Heritage Register
2019 – Dive buddies Matthew Aisbett and Josh Richards mooch around the end of the east cave system and find access to an enormous previously undiscovered cave system running under the centre of town.
2022 – Josh joins me on the show to reflect on many of his life adventures and what is now known as the Engelbrechts east extension.
You can find an excellent video on Josh’s Youtube channel as he narrates his way through the extension.
Matt Waters, Josh Richards
Matt Waters 00:09
Hey, there dive buddies. And welcome to the penultimate show of season three. Today I’m talking to a man who doesn’t actually know how to say no in life. A diver, soldier, Royal Marine, comedian, author, ginger cave diving Wombat, and even a candidate for a one way trip to Mars. Josh Richards has hit the mainstream media recently with his findings of a cave extension in Mount Gambia, and Josh joins me today to talk through some of his life adventures. And of course, that fantastic find, and it’s exploration. Welcome to the show, buddy.
Josh Richards 00:41
Hey, think I’m good. Thanks for having me.
Matt Waters 00:44
Now, we’ve obviously brought you on the show to talk about caves and stuff like that. But let’s back it way back up and just find out a little bit more about you because I think this is the first time I’ve ever had well, not only a comedian, but a ginger and someone that could possibly have lived on Mars. Ticking a lot of boxes.
Josh Richards 01:07
I try. I definitely try it. Yeah, I’ve always called it career add. So let’s try and do things at once all at once and do them all relatively poorly. But just keep crashing out it as hard as I can.
Matt Waters 01:23
Well, how did you how did you get into the diving side of things to start with?
Josh Richards 01:27
I started diving very early, to be honest with your dad was a was a diver for the Army for a very long time. He started doing recreational civilian diving, sort of in the early 80s, I think, became a Scuba instructor. So I grew up with it right from before I was born. That was diving and teaching and all that sort of stuff. So by the time it finally rolled around to me sort of hitting 12 I was already well and truly ready to do sort of my junior open water. I think my oldest Patti certification is from when I’m nine I think it’s like a junior skin diver or something like that. And so like, very much a water baby started very, very early. There’s a great photo of me with my dad’s like his old aqualung regulator and one of these masks in the bathtub at age six. So yeah, it started very early. I kind of stepped in and out of it. It became very much a thing that I did with my dad, mom and dad was Dad had left the army a long time before. And sort of all through my teens, it was mainly sort of Cray fishing and I don’t I don’t like Cray fish. I don’t eat Cray fish. But it was a it was a thing to do. Obviously, also ginger, which meant going out on the boat got sunburned. I tend to get a little bit seasick. So it’s like it wasn’t a great combination of things. There’s still a little bit of like, teenage trauma of being sort of dragged out to go on these fishing trips with Dad go to place like gnarly fishing station and dive with Tiger sharks and hammerheads, and all that sort of stuff while trying to fish. And that was my teenage years. And I sort of went you know what this, this kind of sucks, stepped away from it, went to university, joined the army myself and started showing an interest in the diving side of things. From there, I kind of went down the pathway of becoming a open water instructor. I did all my technical diving, all my technical training now open circuit tech, probably early 20s. Same year that I became a PADI instructor. Same year I became an SSI instructor, again, multi add overload ad to do all the things at once. I kind of stepped back from all that I left the army and moved across to the Navy as a diver, which was fairly short lived. Lots of paperwork, lots of being stuffed around and sort of going through the whole defence circus was not great. So I kind of turned around to the Australian Defence Force and went you know, you can you can stick this and move to the UK and join the Royal Marine commandos. And the idea was Yeah, going through and becoming a combat swimmer for those guys. So why the
Matt Waters 04:10
hell? What? What sparked that one? I mean, I’m ex forces myself not not a boot neck like you guys, when you guys were digging trenches. I was booking into five star hotels.
Josh Richards 04:19
Nice. Yeah. My grandfather on my again, on my dad’s side, there’s quite a lot. There’s a long military history through my both sides of my family, particularly my dad’s side, I think. I don’t say this too often to folks from the UK, but the furthest we’ve traced the family name back to is is actually the the Oliver Cromwell’s right hand man that brought some of the engineering across from the Dutch to knock down castle walls. Wow. Yeah. So our army Army engineers, I was an Army engineer. dad was an engineer as well. They’re called sappers, and it comes from the Dutch term SAP where you would dig trenches towards a castle wall We’ll dig under the wall and then pack it full of hay and wood and set it on fire and it will drop the walls down. And that’s where the Army Engineers sort of get their name from. And yet turns out my great, great, great, great, great, great, whatever was the guy that brought that technology across from the Dutch to help Oliver Cromwell knocked down castle walls. So I don’t say I didn’t I never said that. When I was a botnet. I never told anyone that while I was in, but yeah, it’s long history on that side of things. So I kind of Yeah. After I got washed traitor with the ATF, I sort of went What do I do? And that sort of turnaround sent Well, there’s two options for it. You can either learn French and become join the Foreign Legion or you can use your your ancestry visa, use your your heritage, and go and join the Royal Marines. So I opted for number two.
Matt Waters 05:52
Okay. And dad, Dad’s originally British is he?
Josh Richards 05:57
Dad’s dad’s family’s British, so dad was born in Australia, but all the rest of the family is Welsh. So my 240s and let’s see, I know, I know, the white lines a lot. Well, ironically, that’s quite dark. Like it doesn’t. doesn’t explain Yeah, anyway.
Matt Waters 06:20
I was life in the in the Marines. I mean, I’ve got a lot of respect for the Marines.
Josh Richards 06:24
It was interesting. The reality for me was that I was very good at it. But I hated what it was turning me into. I felt myself falling into a role where I was pretty much an enforcer was a few years older than most of the guys that I was going through training with. I was one of the few that had previous experience. And I was scared of the things these guys were doing, that was going to wind up them dying. They were different. We had recruits die during training. There were things that happens where Yeah, and I, I stepped into quite a an aggressive, nasty role that I really didn’t like this angry little five foot six ginger kid from Australia, screaming at these six foot three county rugby players. Because they would, they were making mistakes and not realising how dangerous the mistakes they were making were. So I didn’t like what it turned me into. They were very much at the time, this is all 2010. So it was, we were all gearing up to here to head out and deploy on Herrick 1314. And so it was everyone’s going to Afghanistan, everyone’s heading out. Everyone was on a war footing. Everyone would be going out. If you weren’t doing training afterwards. To become a driver, or modern or whatever you were doing casualty replacement, like you were heading straight out. And quite a few of the guys that I trained with, went straight out as soon as they finished training. So it’s one of the unique things about the Royal Marines, they’re the only unit in the world where you’re your final sort of your final four months of training is preparation for war, you can deploy directly out of basic training, and are the only unit that does it. So it was pretty scary on that front. I got a real test for recognising I suppose that I didn’t want to be there. So
Matt Waters 08:22
So from you know, you’ve done the Marines bit and then decided it’s time to bang out was that the return to Australia then a
Josh Richards 08:30
little bit. I actually love living in the UK. And the reality with the with the Royal Marines was I got sick, we got bitten by a tick out on double. Didn’t sort of recognise it. I didn’t know it was gonna I’ve been bitten by hundreds of ticks with the Army here in Australia. But didn’t didn’t give it a second thought came back off this this midwinter exercise that we’ve done, pull the tick off my stomach and sort of went all right over whatever. And five weeks later couldn’t walk up a set of stairs that picked up Lyme disease, and it just annihilated me. So I ended up spending, I think it was about 1012 weeks in rehab, the hill and the stepping back from the high intensity and stepping back from the push, push push. I had an opportunity to actually think about what I was doing, had an opportunity to see the guys that I was training with, and some of the attitudes that they had around different things and kind of recognise that I it’s not somewhere I wanted to be. And the the biggest reality out of all of it was that I didn’t I didn’t really belong in the military. I was very good at it. It was one and this is a common theme for me being good at different things, but actually not belonging there or not wanting to be there. And seeing nasty elements in my personality sort of come out because of the jobs that I’m doing. So yeah, it was. In the end it was a fairly easy decision to make to leave. My dad regularly asks like do I miss it? And I know he misses it now I have never missed any part of folks talk about like missing their mates and boba and I do still have some really great mates. But not that many. And I certainly wish I could unlearn some of the things that I learned. So I, but I love the UK, and I loved being there. It was an interesting time to be there. And yeah, I ended up sticking around for a few years. And that’s essentially how I got into comedy. So I done a little bit of stand up in Australia before I left, and didn’t really know what to do with myself and kind of went well, I can do this comedy thing. While I try and find a job, it’ll give me something, something sort of a centerline that I can hang on to, while I reshape my entire life that has previously been based all around the military. And, yeah, it drew me into comedy. I ended up working for, for an artist, or we ended up working for Damien Hirst, out in Gloucestershire for a while, as his science advisor setting things on fire. And yeah, doing doing stand up. That’s essentially how I got into stand up. And it was actually the maths stuff that brought me back to Australia. I’d been doing it for a few years, I’ve been doing stand up for a few years, I’ve done a few tours, and was getting burnt out with it, decided write a comedy show about sending people one way to Mars is kind of a metaphor for me leaving comedy, and found this organisation that was planning to do it. So I signed up and I decided the UK media would not going to want to chat to some random Ozzie living in Brighton. So I came back to Australia and started speaking to the media and speaking to schools and folks like that here instead. So
Matt Waters 11:44
let’s see how
Josh Richards 11:45
that’s a bit of an adventure.
Matt Waters 11:48
Adventure. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so we’ve we’ve done the military book, we’ve done the UK, we’ve done comedy, we’ve come back, and we’re now talking about Mars. Now, let, let’s get into the weeds of this one. Because I kind of guarantee that I’m never gonna have a possible Martian on this. What’s the what’s the background, so it could be a bit more detail on, on what you found.
Josh Richards 12:13
So I going way back. I originally did a degree in Applied Physics and psychology. And as part of my physics degree, we were looking at all sorts of different things. And I ended up reading a paper by a fairly well known guy by the name of Professor Paul Davies, who was essentially arguing that the first people going to Mars would have to go one way based on the engineering based on the the changes to their body, you realistically should be planning to send people one way, the challenge is to bring them back orders of magnitude more than what it is to get them there and keep them alive. So why not send them and keep them there? And I remember reading it back in the early 2000s. And thinking, This is awesome. Like, why the hell would you want to come back what’s so great about Earth, like, get a chance to go and live on another planet? Sign me up. And that idea kind of circled back as I was looking at getting out of comedy. And I sort of went, you know, what I do really, this is, it’s a nice metaphor, it’s a chance to talk about science, a lot of the shows that I’ve done, had done, were based around science. The science and religion have doomsday and all sorts of weird and wonderful, different things I loved using comedy as a vehicle for science communication. So I went, you know what we can write this whole show about Mars. I know lots of stuff about Mars, let’s write a show about Mars. And we’ll talk about how we should have gone should go in there 2030 years ago. And again, bear in mind, this is 2010. So sort of arguing that we’ve probably probably should have gone in the 90s and had the technology to go in the 90s. Why didn’t we do it in the show was originally going to be quite better. I just finished it. Edinburgh Fringe for the third or fourth year, I think, and things have not gone well. And I was pretty dark. And I was done with comedy and wanted to write this quite bitter, angry show about how humanity sucked because we hadn’t gone past low Earth orbit since 1971. And yet, the whole thing spun around in a heartbeat. I again, was sitting in a little cafe in Brighton and started researching the show typed Mars One way to try and find the original article to start sort of basing the show around it. And Mars One had made their first sort of public announcement about two or three days before. And so my entire feed from Google was filled out with this announcement from this bizarre Dutch based organisation saying they were going to open applications up for astronauts and anyone from anywhere who was over the age of 18, fit and healthy and had the right sort of aptitude would be able to apply. And so the comedy show instantly changed. It went from being said quite dark, quite bitter and saying why didn’t we do this? Humans suck, too. I am signing up for this. They’re looking for a crew of four who are the other three going to be And I basically shaped the entire that particular comedy show around the structure of a band, you need four different kinds of personalities, and they kind of roughly meet up with the same stereotype. So you get a four piece band. So like, you know, a quirky, high maintenance lead singer that’s sort of leading and driving things forward. A bass player who kind of keeps them in check a little bit, a weirdo keyboard player who’s got specialist skills that no one really understands. And a drummer who just kind of keeps everything together. And as always happy, just consistent. And always looking for those, those three other band members, I suppose. And that was, which was
Matt Waters 15:40
Which one were you to start with,
Josh Richards 15:41
I was arguing that I was the lead singer. Because I was writing the comedy show, the reality is I’m not. The reality is I’m probably much more of a quirky weirdo keyboard player who does Nietzschean and get really involved in specialist skills. Yeah, but I often I need to be offset by other folks who I can take charge, I will live willingly take charge, but it’s not something I want to do. So I’m much more interested in Yeah, having a specialist set of skills that I can help out with rather than trying to run the whole thing. So I ended up writing another three shows around all of it, and turn two of them into books and all sorts of stuff. So it’s been, it’s been a big 10 years. And it’s realistically only in the last couple of years, I’ve stepped back from all of the Mars side of things, focused on cave diving, the programme itself shut down at the end of last year, they sort of went, they couldn’t get the funding, they’d run into a lot of roadblocks, and they sort of finally decided that it was going to be a little bit too much for that particular project. But I still speak about it a lot. I still visit schools, I still had I had a school contact me last week sort of booking me for National Science Week, in August, next year. There’s still a lot of interest, still a lot of people who want to talk about it. It’s just a shame that the specific programme that I was involved with has shut down. But
Matt Waters 17:05
well, it’s it’s it’s such a an amazing, you know, concept, you know, let’s let’s, let’s do this thing, what’s, you know, you sign up for it and say, Hey, you can apply? What’s that? What’s the procedure that you’re gonna have to go through though, because, I mean, you’ve only got a look at those two on the screen right now you’re five foot six. And twice your body weight, I’m gonna take up far too much.
Josh Richards 17:25
So I’m out, I fit a little bit better. It’s, it’s an interesting one. There’s a lot of a lot of preconceptions around what people expect an astronaut to be. And the reality is what we actually want for people going to Mars is radically different from the right stuff. It’s been a running joke for all of us that the right stuff is the wrong stuff for Mars. Those a type personalities very driven, very competitive, you know, fittest I can run further, I can do more push ups, all that sort of nonsense. It’s the exact opposite of what we actually want. I’ve joked quite regularly about us really wanting to send for Homer Simpsons, to Mars. Homer Simpson is blended with like MacGyver. Richard Dean Anderson, not the new MacGyver, but like Richard Dean Anderson with a mullet, MacGyver. As a skill set, you really want folks who can fix lots of problems, they can improvise, they can, you know, they’re generalists. They’re not the top of any particular game, they are very, very broad in their knowledge, they can always get specialist information and backup and support from people back on Earth. But because of the time delay between the two planets, it takes anywhere between three and 45 minutes to send communications backwards and forwards between Earth and Mars, you can get that information. But if something’s gone horribly wrong, you need folks who can act quickly in an emergency to stabilise the situation, and then get guidance and advice back from Earth. So you kind of want couch potatoes, who sit around not do a whole lot, watch a whole lot of Netflix, keep an eye on the plants keep things running, especially for the first two years. And then later on, you might have the more adventurous types who will start going outside the habitat going and exploring different areas going and venturing out. But we’re, we’re actually there’s a lot more parallels between folks going to Mars and folks that we send down to Antarctica, or we see on nuclear submarines or long range Arctic patrols. There’s a lot of parallels with those kinds of personalities. And I don’t know if you’ve ever dealt with submarines, but they are weird. And that’s the kind of personnel that’s, that’s actually the kind of people we want to send rather than these high performance fighter pilot types. We want we kind of want to send folks who create their own culture. They know what they need to know really well, but they’re also very general and they’re happy to learn and happy to laugh and they might appear weird from the outside, but inside their particular group, they’ve got a very strong culture that supports each other
Matt Waters 19:59
I think one of the main things there is you’re going to have to have four people that are gonna get on for a long period of time in a very small space.
Josh Richards 20:07
And the other interesting one, this is probably one that the military doesn’t deal with as much is it’s also a mixed gender crew. So it’s two men or two women. So there’s all those other dynamics that come in, when you you have a mixed gender crew, we need that, basically, for stability. Because you put four guys together, they’re going to kill each other within a few months. For women together, they’re probably going to kill each other within a few months. But there’s all these complex dynamics that need to be navigated through all of that as well. So the big thing that Mars One was going to do, they were screening us out. So they were I shouldn’t even screeners that we were screening ourselves out, they were asking us really hard questions, getting us to do these applications to fill out videos, and getting us to think about what we were doing. And most folks actually dropped out themselves. They weren’t kicked out by miles one or excluded or anything like that. They decided, Oh, actually, no, now that I’ve thought about this, this is not for me. And they pulled themselves out of the programme. We went from 202,586, initially, down to the last 100 candidates. And realistically, it was the cut from it was the psych interview that we did, that reduced the group from about 660 down to that final 100. That was the first time Mars One actually were excluding people, they had good candidates, good people in that list. But they decided not to go with them because they weren’t as good as someone else was. So it was a really interesting process to go through the actual selection process all up, started in 2013, from memory applications closed in August of 2013. And actually announced that 100 In February of 2015. So realistically, the five, six years after that, that we’ve been sort of, it’s just been waiting. And it’s been a whole lot of waiting for the next phase, where they’d start putting us together, put us into stressful situations, see how we work together and teams problem solve, all those sort of things that never eventuated? Unfortunately,
Matt Waters 22:09
yeah, yeah, I can imagine that the last thing that we’re looking for is alpha males that are just going to upset the applecart
Josh Richards 22:14
we, I’ll say it now that the programme shut down, we had a, we had a few. And we, we also had a little secret Facebook group, a secret Facebook group, where all of us could get in there and chat amongst ourselves. And I don’t think I would be alone in saying that. There were a lot of us out of that 100, that were very concerned about a couple of specific individuals turning up, not yet no point delving into into it too deeply. But those sorts of folks, they showed their colours very early on. We all tried to give everyone as much as best a chance as possible. And I had a couple of interesting situations where I had potentially a really great impression of someone that I’d seen do interviews, I’d emailed them, I’d done all sorts of different things. And then I met them in person and went, Oh, God, no, no, no, there is no way we’re going to Mars together. And likewise, folks who I absolutely wrote off folks who I sort of thought no, like they’re an idiot, based on their interviews based on all sorts of different interactions, I would then meet them and sort of go or not 100% Sure. And then step back from the situation and go, Oh, wait, no, no, he’s, he’s 22. Like, he’s still figuring himself out. Or he, you know, she was in an incredibly stressful situation at that particular time. And so yeah, it’s been interesting, interacting with all of these different candidates and getting an impression of who they are as people. And actually seeing them over 10 years or five, six years that we’ve all been shortlisted, seeing them actually develop as people as well. It’s been really interesting. I’ve made some really fantastic friends out of it. But yeah, there were definitely a few folks that we were we’re hoping wouldn’t be further shortlisted later on, because they would not be the great would not be the kind of people you’d want to go camping with.
Matt Waters 24:14
Yeah. Oh, well, it would, you know, from the guys that are running the show, it would make sense to leave people like that and just to see how you react
Josh Richards 24:23
to it, then they discuss that as well. There’s definitely testing that would go on, and there are definitely elements, they were deliberately they weren’t being very upfront about deliberately creating stressful environments for us. There was going to be five or six days of essentially corporate team building, but with all the controls taken off it so the kind of, you know, you go and do a corporate team building weekend and you kind of built do challenges and build things together. Now make those same things competitive. Now make everyone it completely and utterly exhausted with sleep deprivation and Make it an environment where you know, you’re pushing to be part of a select group of 12 to 24 people that would start the training, it probably would have gotten quite ugly quite quickly. And so those more hostile personalities, hopefully would have been filtered out in the first couple of days. But I know that they would have left some people in because some folks, it’s, it’s that whole thing of some folks push limits, and other folks pull back. And you don’t want a completely conservative group. And you don’t want to complete the progressive group, you want that internal tension. But it’s about that group finding a balance with that tension, so that, you know, so and so pisses me off, but they come up with fantastic ideas, and so and sofas has me off, because they are always holding things back. But sometimes I need to be held back, so I don’t go and do stupid things. So it’s about finding that crew dynamic that works for everyone.
Matt Waters 25:56
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Now, how confident are you that you got down to the whittling stick?
Josh Richards 26:04
I, I don’t know. I am still not entirely convinced that I have got the right personality type for and since the programme shut down, and I’ve started getting involved in other things, I’ve become even less certain about that. At the time I was quite I was like, you know, I’m, I’m not certain, but I’m going to do everything I can to make this a reality. I’ve shaped my entire life around this, I’ve become an ambassador for I’ve cut off relationships, I’ve done all sorts of different things to make Mars my life. And then as we all started to sort of lose a bit of faith in it. And then eventually the project shut down. I started questioning a lot more of that, and started to sort of recognise that, hey, I do have a lot more to offer here on Earth, I’ve got a lot of things that I could be doing. And maybe, you know, completely and utterly obsessing on this one thing, which To its credit, kept me focused for 10 years, which nothing else has ever done for keeping me on the track for that. Maybe there’s other things I could do. So I’m still uncertain. I’m glad that I got as far as I did. I feel like I would have been in for a decent chance to get through the next cut into this into the group of the 12 to 24 people that would actually start 10 years of training. Whether or not I would have been on that first crew, I I’ve always said I don’t care. And I that’s one thing I’m very, very certain about. I’ve never actually cared about any of it, whether I was specifically part of it, the important thing for me was that someone was doing it. It was always about someone getting involved. And the best way for me to advocate for people going and living on other planets was to put my hand up and sign to be there to be one of the folks who go yes, I would have 100% do this, and advocate for that. So whether or not I personally was the right person for it. I don’t know. I may never know. But I knew the best way to support the ideas to support what I wanted to see happen was to put my hand up for
Matt Waters 28:12
effort at first. And what a hell of an experience
Josh Richards 28:16
it was there. It was an adventure. I think we we figured it out that I spoke to something like 130,000 kids over the space of seven or eight years like it was Yeah. And to me, that’s the biggest thing that was the far more important thing out of it. If, if an astronaut had come and visited my school, when I was in year seven, when I was 12, or something like that, it would have changed my whole life, I almost certainly wouldn’t have gone into the military, I probably would have gone down a far more focused pathway with science engineering, even more than what I did. I’m glad for the experience that I had, I’m glad that I went off and did all the different things that I did, because it did make me a good candidate for what they were looking for. But if someone had come along and visited my my school when I was in primary school and talked about how when I grew up, I’d have the opportunity to you know, potentially live on another planet, it would have made a huge impact for me. So that was the much bigger thing that was far more important for me than whether or not the project ever succeeded. It was being able to basically go and speak to year six and sevens in particular, and sort of say hey, science is pretty awesome don’t lose interest in it get involved. And there’s really cool things that you can do if you if you pursue this so yeah, I’m happy about that right.
Matt Waters 29:36
It’s a great age to get them as well because perfect I even going on nearly 50 years old I still remember being a kid and wishing that I was going to be an astronaut one day and fly through fly to the moon. You know what to have a dude rock up and say, you know, this is what we’re gonna do. It’s it’s like wow,
Josh Richards 29:54
yeah. And even if my biggest hope with all of it was not that I would Don’t necessarily walk on Mars, it would be that potentially one of the 130, something 1000 kids that I spoke to, they would do it, it’s far more important for me that that idea is supported. And of those kids, you know, maybe one or two would have the opportunity to go and walk on another planet. But 10s of 1000s of the others would be involved in industries that would be supporting that would be making life better on earth, all these different elements. So it’s a bit like, you know, a kid wanting to be a fighter pilot, when, when I was in my early teens, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, I want to fly FA teens. And learning more about that later on. It’s like, you’ve got one fighter pilot, but you’ve got a crew of, you know, 100 plus people who refuel it, do maintenance on it. Like, directed after a flight. So you know, there’s hundreds of, of people hours that go into a single flight hour for an F 18. Same as you know, driving f ones, you’ve got this enormous crew of people that support one driver, the drivers just at the pointy ends, and we all sort of go, Oh, that’s amazing. But there’s a massive crew of people that are there to support it. So I suppose I wanted to inspire kids by talking about walking on another planet, but also encourage the ones who wouldn’t necessarily do that themselves, but then might go and build rovers that support the people on Mars, and all those different things. So that was far more important for me than actually succeeding. Ever was
Matt Waters 31:40
good on you, mate. And, obviously, you’re still very active, we’re doing the public speaking for the kids is that going to just continue as long as you can,
Josh Richards 31:47
I’d like to, I don’t actively pursue it anymore. It is a little bit complicated for me, because I have to add that sort of that little asterix on the end of it turn around and saying, I’m not going anymore. If someone offered me an opportunity, I’d sign up again, in a heartbeat. But the project that I was involved in has shut down. And that kind of, especially when it comes to the corporate speaking side of things, corporate want to talk to someone who’s who’s who’s doing going places, schools are much more flexible. They’re sort of go oh, you know, we’d like you to come and talk about Mars, you’re a math specialist. But the corporate speaking, the keynote side of things is definitely dialled down quite a bit. And COVID knocked a huge hole in it as well, that basically put a stop to pretty much everything for a while there. And, but you know, different things. One of the cool things about the cave diving side of stuff was shifting out of as Mars One was kind of winding down. I found an interest in the love for cave diving. And so I’m in the process at the moment of sort of going well, if I’m not talking, if we’re not doing corporate keynotes about Mars anymore. Maybe I can start doing corporate keynotes about cave exploration. So it’s, yeah, I’m, I’m writing that transition phase. At the moment, I think the next few months will decide whether or not I want to pursue that if I actually want to talk to people anymore. Or, or, if I yeah, I focus on on book writing, which is one of the other things that I’ve absolutely loved for the last 10 years or so.
Matt Waters 33:23
Well, it’s, I think it’s a nice transition that you know, the concept of living on another planet. And then I explained to people, you know, people ask why I go dive and it’s actually visiting another world without leaving this planet. And you know, what you do and what many other awesome dudes and dudettes do is cave dive in, which is taking that to the extreme even more. I hats off to you. Yeah, crazy.
Josh Richards 33:54
So Kate diving is an interesting one. For me. I again, I’ve been diving most of my life, but it’s mostly felt like work. So you know, diving with dad getting crayfish, you know, animals that I don’t eat. And it’s that always kind of felt a bit like work but you know, you’re doing it with that. It’s kind of an you know, that’s a fun experience. And then doing with the Navy, obviously was actual work. If I’d gone on to do it with the Royal Marines, it would have been more work. Teaching Scuba always felt like work to me always felt like I was pushing people through a course. So we’d be able to go and do cool stuff afterwards. It was never about them learning or I’m not a I’m not a teacher like that. I’m not the kind of person who goes are you know, I see the joy in someone’s eyes when they finally understand. I’m like, good you finally learnt this crap. Let’s move on and go and do something cool. And I’ve I suppose in the last 12 months or so I’ve kind of stepped into a bit more of a especially amongst cave divers a bit more of a mentoring role where I’m not Teaching people anything, but I’m helping them get through their, their their dives, if they need to log a certain number of dives in a certain number of sites, I will go and do that with them. And I won’t say that’s felt like work. But it’s been more of a case of I’m helping them. I’m helping facilitate them move forward. But yeah, definitely, I suppose I’ve had numerous people through the years tell me Oh, you’d be an amazing teacher. I’m like, I’d be a terrible teacher. Like I, all I do is I push people through to try and get them to a certification so that when we’re allowed to go and do something much cooler, like can you hurry up and get through this? So we can go and do that over there? So the cave diving is very different from me. There’s no sun. There’s no Wrigley’s to grab you. There’s no, it’s literally you put your gear on. You get in the water. And it does. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, it doesn’t matter. Like you’ve always got lights on. So I’ve gone in and done dives come out. And it’s, you know, the sun is set afterwards. And you’re like, holy crap, like where did that go? Or surfacing especially in somewhere like Mount Gambier, it’s raining as you’re gearing up, you’ll get into the water and you’ll come out and then you’ll get a sunburn as you’re getting out of the water, because the weather is cleared. So it definitely feels like a disconnect, you completely disconnect from the rest of reality. While you’re on the dive. You’re focused on the dive, you might occasionally have stray thoughts about other things, but generally, you’re focused on how deep are my how far into the cave? Am I? Where are we going next? Where do I leave my stage? Cylinder? You’re, there’s a whole raft of different things all happening at once. Why are we doing this? Where are we We’re trying to get to all those. And I love that. diving in the ocean. Like the running joke with my partner is that why would I dive in the ocean whales shit in the ocean? Like it’s not it’s not for caves. Caves seem to be my thing. I would cave dive every day, if I could. Whereas I never felt that level of passion for diving in the ocean or teaching people or anything else. I found my niche, I suppose.
Matt Waters 37:16
Yeah. Well, so let’s just wind it back a little bit. How did we go from from Mars? And then back into dive in? Did you have that that dry spell where you just literally walked away from Scuba dive and then came back to it?
Josh Richards 37:30
Yeah. So I didn’t dive for about seven or eight years all up. And even after I left the military, I sort of I looked at maybe teaching again and sort of went, I really know not for me. Weirdly enough, it was I ended up doing three comedy shows about Mars. And the last show that I did was called Cosmic nomad. And I, the entire focus around that book and show the focus of the show at the time it was originally a show was looking at the things that you would do before you left Earth. So you know, you’ve got 10 years left on Earth, what do you do with your time, and I’ve had a book 101 things to do for you die that was given to me by a friend from high school. I’ve had that for years, and I’ve worked through it and ticked a lot of different things off, but it started to reach a point where it felt like a box ticking exercise. Yeah, I started as part of this show. And then I did it even more. So when I turned it into a book, I really started to ask myself, what are the things I would want to do before I left Earth. And then one thing that came through crystal clear through all of it was cave diving. I’d never learned to cave dive, I’d read about Dave shore, the Australian pilot for Cathay Pacific, who died in Bushmans hole in 2005. At 286 metres or whatever it was trying to recover. Dion dries body. And I that that book was supposed to terrify people, like when I read raising the dead it was supposed to be this is terrifying. This is so complex, but I read it and went, Oh my God, I want to learn to dive on a rebreather and I want to dive in cave. So that was my instant reaction to reading raising the dead and it took a lot longer. It took a very long time before I actually circled back around to that and went this is the one thing if I if I move to Mars and had to live on a cold, dead, dusty planet, like an underground Martian vampire for the rest of my life. What’s the one thing I would miss? And it was I said Scuba diving, and then I started thinking about it more. I was like, it’s not the Scuba diving. We’d be a little bit weightless. It’s only 1/3 of Earth’s gravity on Mars. We’d have all that weightlessness getting there. It’s not the Scuba diving. It’s actually learned cave dive. It’s discovering more and where does this go and does this connect to this and all those sorts of things. So And it was, yeah, it was a fairly big realisation for me that I really wanted to learn to cave dive and I actually stopped writing the book. I turned, I was turning the show into a book. And I actually paused right in the book for about four or five months to go and learn to cave dive. So the book is still written as if I hadn’t learned to cave dive, I kind of had to put myself back into a mindset of I haven’t done this yet. But it made a huge difference. And it held up the finishing of the book by quite a bit. Because I had found something that I’d always wanted to do my entire life and I was finally doing it.
Matt Waters 40:39
Yeah. And by this time, were you in Mount Gambia,
Josh Richards 40:43
I ended up moving to mount Gambia for it. So I went to Mount Gambier March 2019. For my we call basic cave entry level cave diving cause through the CDA, it was a week long. I had already organised a house set afterwards to work on the book immediately afterwards. And so I kind of I wanted to stay I really wanted to stick around. I had a series of house sets after that, and I didn’t manage to get back to my Gambia until the August, at which point I did the level to the cave rated course. And during that course, got offered a job at the dive shop that was in Mount Gambier there for a while and had another house set to go and work on the book again, and then came back in the October of that year, and started working there and started living in Mount Gambier, essentially. So, I was only there for about four months without delving into it too deeply. That dive shop was pretty, pretty hostile, a very hostile working environment. And I do not miss it. made some good friends out of it. But yeah, the management was pretty subpar. And I escaped in about February, and at the time, my, like, my partner at the time, ended up nearly dying in a car crash right before COVID started. So yeah, 2020 was pretty intense. We I wound up we, yeah, we were broken up but I wound up being who live in carer for 10 months to sort of help rehabilitate her through COVID in Melbourne. And then yeah, it wasn’t until the end of 2020 that I moved back out to Mount Gambier properly and took over the habitat the accommodation for cave divers out there, which I’ve now just sold as well. Always like a hermit crab.
Matt Waters 42:40
And let’s just bear in mind that we’re we’ve got a fair few listeners that know nothing about Australia and Mount Gambier. Can you paint a picture of kind of see and what it’s like down there,
Josh Richards 42:49
short version, Mount Gambia probably looks and feels a lot like the West Country of the UK. So it’s actually not doesn’t feel dissimilar from where I was with the Royal Marines around lympstone and Exeter and places like that, rolling countryside, lots of pine forest. And all that pine forest is there because it’s an enormous limestone cast. So the whole region, it’s, it’s all limestone. It’s all very soft. The entire area has also been lifted by volcanic activity. So the most recent sort of volcanic activity we’ve had in Australia has lifted that whole region up. And so we are essentially cave diving through old coral reefs old sort of compacted what used to be the ocean floor has now been lifted up by this volcanic activity, the water running through it has created these caves. And so the whole areas very lush, very green, gets lots of rain, and has holes open up in the middle of paddocks all the time or in the middle of town that then sort of create these opportunities for us to go diving freshwater cave diving throughout the whole region. So it’s Australia’s most extensive freshwater cast system. And it’s probably the highest proportion of little holes, little areas. It’s it’s a strange, it’s realistically it’s Australia’s cave diving sort of hub. It’s the capital for cave diving in the whole region.
Matt Waters 44:21
Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely definitely. And let’s start let’s have a little look at a little look. Let’s have a good look at this this dive that has led to you you know, find him find him okay. Yeah, well, effectively. It’s a it’s a is it a completely new covert? It’s just a it’s an extension.
Josh Richards 44:46
Yeah, so the the short version is angle breaks cave is right in the centre of Mount Gambier. Literally Jubilee Highway, which runs through the middle of town is right next to it. There’s a little cafe that sits on the top of this cave opening. And for divers, we talk about angle bricks east and angle bricks West. It’s a central Boleyn. And like I said, the cafe sits on the top of the doline. And people go down and they go for a little bit of a drive tour and see all sorts of different weird and wonderful things. The divers carry their gear gear down to the water, and you can either go east or west, people who’ve been diving both sides for the last probably 3040 years, the western side has always been more extensive. So it’s a bit more complicated. It’s a it’s a level three, it’s advanced cave. And you’ve got to squeeze through this little hole at the start, swim for 7080 metres that pops up into an air chamber and you can get out climb over the air chamber and there’s a series of tunnels that run off from that as well. If people make the effort to go and dive at angle bricks, they generally advanced cave divers and they generally go into West because it’s much more extensive. East has always been considered a bit of a puddle. So you crawl you walk down this area, get to the water, climb into the water, there’s maybe 30 metres of passage at the most. We’ve We’ve joked about it quite a bit recently that people could pretty much free diver if they wanted to, they could free dive through. There’s another air chamber on the other side with quite a large rock pile. There’s a bit of a side passage or what round one little area but realistically, there’s maybe 40 metres of passage in engelberg seats. It has been a place where a lot of Level Two cave divers have gone because there’s only rated for cave, or it was only rated for cave levels. So quite a few cave divers would go to the effort of carrying all their gear down there, go and do this 30 metre swim, muck around for a little bit and then come back and log one of the 25 divers that they need to log as K rated divers before they can move up to advanced. But generally, it’s a one dive and done. Yeah, I did my level two course in August 2019. And before we went down to angle Brexit just before we went and jumped in there mate of mine and I, we both recently certified, chatted to a another diver who sort of mentioned that there was a bit of a puddle at one end. So once you pop up into the surface, this is huge rock pile. But if you go and scramble over the whole rock pile, climb up a series of rocks and climb down into a hole, you’ll find that there’s a bit of a pullback there. So we’re like, let’s go and check it out. Technically, we probably weren’t qualified like we will get technically we’re entering a second sub, we might have been breaking a few rules here and there. But it didn’t feel seem like much of a big problem. And I know the rules have changed since then. So it wasn’t it’s not a problem now, but at the time, we were sort of like, Oh, we’re not sure if we’re doing the right thing here. We climbed over all these rocks carrying cylinders. It’s like this is deeply unpleasant, climbed down into this hole, I’ve got into a war and realistically the puddle that we got into would probably be about the size of my office here. So maybe, I don’t know, maybe five or six metres wide and maybe sort of eight, nine metres long. And probably only two or three metres deep. We jumped in there went Yep, this is a bit of an adventure swam around. And as we’re swimming around, I I’d read a little bit about how some of the caves on the Nullarbor had been sort of extensions had been found by people looking at holes in the roof. So rather than looking down for leads and looking sideways for leads looking up, and so I sort of shine my light up and it bounced off a reflection, suddenly saw this mirror, bounce off the roof. I’m like what the hell is that swam over to her, and it was a surface. So we popped up, put her head through and shone a light and climbed up onto this sort of this beachy type area and shone a light through could see beyond that there was a muddy room and there was a bit more water in one corner and a few other things. It was a nasty, dry squeeze, like it was ugly to go through there. So we sort of had a look. We’re in dry suits and went, you know what, this is enough adventure for today. Let’s go. But I got a bee in my bonnet about it. I sort of went now there’s something else back there. And Maddie and I sort of went back a few days later we took wetsuits, we went back to the same place squeezed through, got into this muddy room at the back. There was quite a large puddle in one corner. And I sort of looked at it and went I’m gonna go through that, put the gear back on, wriggled through this ugly, ugly hole and popped up and found essentially a series of sumps on the other side and went holy crap. This is amazing. Like we’ve definitely found something bizarre back here like I don’t know, this is not on the maps. This is very new. We don’t know what this is very, very cool. It was what December 2019. Matt ended up getting a job with the Antarctic Division so He’s actually down in Antarctica has been down in Antarctica for the last 15 months. I’ve kept going with the diving but obviously COVID has happened a bunch of different things happen. So it wasn’t realistically until maybe, or mid 2020 that I actually got back in there to have a second look and have a look at it properly. I’d gone through a pool. So once we’ve gone through that ugly little hole, there was a pool on the other side. And I sort of went, Oh, this is pretty cool. There’s another pool back here. Didn’t give it a whole lot of thought because I thought I know there’s a series of sumps let’s keep following the sumps. And when I got back in May 2020, I kind of dislodged a bit of silt, I dragged my fin through a dislodged a bit of silt, and I just laid on the surface of this lake and watch the silt roll down and went, Oh, that’s really pretty. And as I’m watching the silt rolling down this hill, suddenly it whips away to the right hand side and completely the wrong direction. And I’ll go Ward is that and I’ve swum down and essentially found the start of what we now know is the angle breaks extension. So it was the start of Yeah, so far, we’ve laid a bit over 400 metres of line in the new tunnel, and it just keeps going. Like it just keeps extending in all different directions. The cave is completely hooked back around on itself. We talked about Engel bricks East so it’s heading you know, on a South East line, but this thing is actually hooked all the way back to go west again. There’s a branch that then heads almost directly south like and it breaks off in two different directions. Like there’s Yeah, it’s a spider web. We always knew there was a spiderweb network of caves under Mount Gambier. We just weren’t expecting it to be at the back of this crappy little puddle that people have been ignoring for last 40 years. So it’s, it’s pretty exciting to be involved in this definitely more to be discovered. The logistics of getting there as the challenge for a lot of people carrying gear over rock piles dragging things in. It feels like more of a Nullarbor dive than it does a normal Mac Gambia dive normally Mount Gambier, you pull up somewhere, put your gear on, get in the water, go for a dive. This is put your gear on, drag it down seven flights of stairs, go through some water, drag it over a 70 metre rock pile, get into some more water, drag it through more dry cave, drag it through a god awful hole that I’ve had a friend nearly drown in to then then start the dive. So the logistics of getting in there as is hard and quite dangerous at times have been quite dangerous at times. But we’ve it’s certainly a lot safer than it used to be. Just from traffic, people actually going in and out of there. It’s sort of smoothed off some of those really jagged rocks, and it’s made it a lot safer. But it’s still very difficult to get in there. It’s not a cave, that’s gonna get a lot of traffic, but it’s probably the most exciting area of development that we’ve got in Mac Gambia and have had for a long time.
Matt Waters 52:55
And you say it’s, you know, it’s quite restrictive. I’m assuming that someone my size, it would probably be a no no.
Josh Richards 53:02
It depends so it’s interesting. We we’ve had a few different folks at different sizes go through okay, I’ve got a mate who is recently become advanced cave. So they’ve they’ve changed the rating for the cave, the the entrance part, the part that everyone has known about for years and years remains level two remains cave rated, but the extension has been made level three. And it’s going to be interesting. We’ve got a mate coming back hopefully soon. He’s just done his level three courses advanced cave course. And he’s huge like Dave’s Dave’s a big boys six foot two. He’s not he’s not heavy. He’s not fat. Let’s say that. He is He works out like he’s a big lad. I will be very interested to see how Dave goes getting through that hole. The biggest thing that we’ve noticed with it, it’s it’s been made more difficult going in and out of there by carrying cylinders. Me being a little gremlin the way that I am. I’ve just been going straight through so I’ve kept my rig on I’ve kept my cylinders on and I’ve like hassled through I’ve had a mate who’s a bit tall and he still is very lean. He’s tried to squeeze through with these cylinders on feet first and he’s the one that we ended up holding his head out of the water there’s a puddle of water that he nearly got himself stuck in. So taking cylinders off makes that whole process a lot easier and safer. And that’s the big thing that we’re encouraging people to do now anytime they go and do it don’t do what I do on the videos take the cylinders off wriggle through and then as a team pass the cylinders through it’s just I know that particular restriction well enough and I’m small enough that I can just rego through with the cylinder still on but pretty much every one that goes through now we get them to take them off.
Matt Waters 54:53
Yeah, and this whole process you know when once you found it did you apart from the obvious LH And that would be going on? Did you decide to keep it a bit of a secret? Or were you kind of jump out the hole? Again? I guess? Well, we’ve
Josh Richards 55:06
got, we had to be careful. I’m a very open, open kind of person, like I want to, when I find anything I want to share anything I’m excited about, I desperately want to share it. We had to be really careful, primarily because the site was cave rated. But the part that we’d found that it was level two rated, the section that we’d found was advanced sidemount like it was, there were areas in there that were incredibly tight. For much further into the cave, there’s a there’s a restriction that we call the dormouse. And there’s literally two of us that have ever been through it. And it’s me and Ryan cash kowski and Ryan’s like world renowned cave Explorer, and Ryan has turned around me and gone make that thing’s a bit tight. Like, yeah, it’s a pretty, it is a very ugly restriction. And there’s others through the whole area that yeah, they they feel unstable, or they feel very complex, there’s some there’s some really nasty restrictions through it. So what we’ve discovered, definitely an advanced cave, also complicated by the sort of the cave diving politics in the this is in the middle of town, it’s not just some hole out in the Nullarbor somewhere that, you know, folks from different places can get approval to it’s literally under the streets of Mount Gambia. So it was quite a complex kind of political situation for the cave divers Association, in particular, of how do we navigate this? How do we negotiate with Matt, Gambia City Council? How do we navigate with the cafe owner? How do we navigate with all these different parties, because we’ve made this major discovery in a cave that folks had been sort of realistically ignoring for last 40 years. So I didn’t want to keep it secret. I also had to make sure that I didn’t sort of, in the process upset the wrong people. I’m, I’m a newbie, I’m a new guy like, and to have a new guy come in and suddenly find this big new cave was definitely going to upset a few folks. So I had to tread really carefully there for quite a long time. So even though we made these sort of major discoveries back, sort of, you know, early 2021, mid 2021. It’s only just recently it was only at the cave divers Association AGM November 5, that we actually went public with it. i For folks who came along to Oz Tech, I gave him a teaser of it, I gave him quite a substantial teaser, and any cave diver that has dived angle breaks, I knew exactly where we were. But I didn’t name it. Because I’d sort of I’d made a promise that we would keep it under wraps so that we could control the information and the CDA could put in control measures to make sure that inexperienced divers didn’t go and try and attempt this thing. There were a couple of folks we were particularly concerned about who very, very talented, dry cavers, very talented and very experienced in a lot different areas, but not necessarily experienced cave divers. And there was a real concern that some of those folks would have one look at the dry cave section and go, that’s easy, we will knock that out and then get themselves in some really dangerous trouble later on underwater. And yet, the information hadn’t been shared effectively. Rescue plans haven’t been put in place. There’s all these different things that we needed to put in place to try and protect people. So yeah, I had to stay cagey about it for quite a long time, which I hated. But it’s lovely. It’s wonderful to now be able to share it with people and encourage people to go there folks who are qualified to do it, go there and find more stuff because there’s more cave to be found. It’s not my cave at all. It’s super exciting that other folks are going in there and looking themselves.
Matt Waters 59:05
Well, it’s not your code, but I think it’s quite safe to say that your name stamped.
Josh Richards 59:10
Yeah, I think there’s going to be some sort of association and the but again, a bit like the mouse stuff. That’s not my thing. I don’t care about my name going down in in history books or anything like that. I care about us discovering more cool stuff. So I’m much more excited about the discoveries that have come that will come from the angle Brexit extension when other people go in there and find more stuff. I still really strongly believe that there’s more tunnels to be found and that tunnel will potentially connect up to a cave that’s right in the centre of town like right next to the library, the cave Gardens, which is about a kilometre away from Engel bricks on a South East Line. I still strongly suspect that those two caves are connected. So I would love for someone to come along and prove that right to go and find the connection between the two
Matt Waters 1:00:00
Well, I think Stephen Fordyce might listen. If he’s not been there already.
Josh Richards 1:00:07
He tends to go a lot colder. Wow. I shouldn’t say a lot colder. Fordyce was here not that long ago actually we had a good chat about survey and all those sort of things. And he has definitely got his work cut out for him in Tasmania. He’s got so much work down there that he needs to do. So I’m sure he’d love to go and check out the the extension. But I know he’s Yeah, I know. He’s pretty focused down in Tassie.
Matt Waters 1:00:33
Yeah, yeah. Hey, how we mentioned previous when we were talking about the scientific aspects of this find what’s what’s, what’s the, what’s going to come out of that.
Josh Richards 1:00:45
So the big thing, I suppose that came out of all of this, the initial discovery, talking about me and Maddie Haysbert going and finding this puddle, blah, blah. That was one thing, what was really interesting to come out of all of it was the survey. So I had a bit of time during COVID, to during 2020 do a bit of research, I couldn’t dive these places. But I could look up as much information as possible, I ended up getting myself a survey tool, one of them and emos that allowed me to start surveying some of this stuff. So as soon as I got back to my Gambia, that became the survey project. So I started trying to do as much survey as possible. And looking at angle brex. East was particularly interesting, because I knew about this series of sumps, I knew that we’d found at the end of 2019. And looking at it, and using the survey data, it became really clear that what we’d actually found was a fissure line. So it was split, because the whole area has been lifted by volcanic action. There’s all this fissure lines that run across it. And in that particular part of of the region, all the fissure lines run sort of SES, they run on about 140 degrees. So we’d looked into it. And this angle bricks, fissure that we’d found was running once again at 140 degrees. So we were thinking, Okay, we need to push that line we need to keep following along there. And that’s why when I sort of I went back in initially, I was following the sumps and kept trying to pursue this 140 degree line. What I hadn’t realised and it took a bit more research and conversations with people like Ian Lewis. We call him cave, Santis. He’s a cave diving geologist. And he’s, yeah, Ian’s incredible, like Louie has been doing stuff for so long. And understands the shapes of the cave, so chatting to him. chatting to him was really interesting to sort of discover, you’ve got all these lines, but you’ve also got cross fractures that connect them. And if you go and look at something like tank cave, which is what everyone comes to now Gambia to dive, you know, more than eight kilometres of passage, it’s got all these visual lines that you dive along, but there’s also cross fractures that connect that those tunnels together. And what I actually found in Ingo bricks, we found the the initial fissure line, but when I said the Silk Road the wrong way, it went off to the right hand side, what we’d actually found was across fracture, and the rooms that we found from there are still on that 140 degrees, but they’re running parallel to the initial fracture line that we’re on. So for me, I suppose out of all of this, it’s come back to the science backgrounds come back to my physics degree, looking at all this stuff and going, Okay, what is the cave actually doing? Don’t get too bogged down in the geology, look at the fracture lines, look at the over overreaching patterns, where should we be checking? And I suppose trying to apply a bit of a science to cave exploration rather than, rather than just sort of going at it willy nilly. I reckon I’ve got a feeling that there’s something that there’s a lot of that that happens amongst the folks who do cave exploration. And more often than not, they’re not wrong. But it feels a bit woolly. To me, it feels like a black art of being like, oh, you know, someone’s who can sniff out a cave, right? Or it’s like, I worked in, I worked in the mining industry as a blaster for a while. And there was a lot of that as well. It’s like, oh, you know, it’s blastings a black art. I was like, it’s not it’s literally physics like we can, we can physics this out. And I’ve kind of come at cave diving in much the same way. It’s like, yes, the cave does unusual, unexpected things. But there are overreaching patterns here that we can look for. And if we collect data, if we create survey maps, if we look at overlays, we do all those sort of things, we can see those overlaying things. My big thing is about trying to connect caves, you know, this one is close to this one. And we know that this one goes roughly this way. So where’s the connection? And where should we be looking for a connection between the two and originally my interest in survey came from trying to connect pines cave to stinging nettle there. We know that they’re very close to where they are very, very close to each other. We know that pines cave gets within about six He metres of the stinging nettle darling. So I was trying to find a way to connect the two, by surveying them and finding out which lead we should pursue and all those sorts of things, we still haven’t found the connection between the two. But that’s where the interest started from, and applying that sort of scientific approach to it, look at the data, and then be able to figure things out, we’ve made discoveries in pines cave, not the ones that we wanted. But we’ve made other discoveries in pines cave that people have been sort of hypothesising, about for 2030 years, our we’ve managed to prove it in a dive, we sort of went, Oh, you know, we think the White Room is connected to the wedge room, let’s go and find out, we survey it. And sure enough, the dots are within half a metre of each other. So you go down there, find a hole between the two, and you pass a GoPro through it, and you prove the connection between the two. So it’s about I suppose, collecting data, analysing that data, making theories out of it. And then testing those theories, which is at its heart, it’s that science at its core.
Matt Waters 1:06:03
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, it helps having this this kind of, I would assume a new set of eyes looking at it, you know, it’s,
Josh Richards 1:06:11
it’s a really big challenge. Yeah. It’s one of the things that I’ve chatted to Ryan cash kowski, about quite a bit. He’s sort of said, it’s nice. Because I am relatively new. I’ve only been out this comparatively to other folks. I’ve only been at this for three years or so. Having fresh eyes fresh perspective makes a big difference. And it’s been wonderful diving with someone like Ryan, who I suppose he looks at things a particular way. And he, he does things quite intuitively. And I sort of go, Oh, why do you do that? And he goes, Well, that’s, that’s just what you do. And I sort of go, Oh, that’s not what I do. And we don’t compete with each other. We run sort of parallel, and I see things that he doesn’t, and he sees things that I don’t. And that’s been wonderful having that sort of that dual view of certain places. Again, Ryan’s one of the Ryan Ryan is the only other person that has been to the far reaches of the Engel brex extension so far. And he’s seen things. And he’s seen leads that I completely missed. And I’ve seen other I’ve followed and laid line in different areas that he didn’t even notice was there. So if you’ve got that perspective, and again, more eyes on it, that’s why I’m really excited about other people diving this cave, because it will mean more eyes, more perspectives, and more opportunities for people to discover more so.
Matt Waters 1:07:35
And have you kind of slowed up going in there yet? Are you still just hanging back in there as often as
Josh Richards 1:07:41
I have slowed right back. It was pretty intense and selling selling the accommodation was a really big one for me. So living in that Gambia was a bit much. I had people staying with me all the time, wanting me to dive with them. And I kind of fell into that mentoring role that I talked about where I would go and dive with people to develop their skills, and not necessarily be doing the diets that I wanted to be doing. Now that I’ve moved up to Adelaide, I’m getting into different work, I’ve gone back to study, I’m doing a few different things. And it means those times that I do go down to mount Gambia, they are much more intense. It’s not a we’re going to sort of, you know, do you want to go for a dive on and really feel like it. I’m going to watch such and such it’s like, no, no, we’re here for a week. And this is the hit list. This is where we’re going to go I want to go and check out this lead. I want to go and do this. I want to do that. Not everyone is up for the challenge of Engel bricks extension. But for the folks that I trust that I do want to do that with, we organise time. So I’m actually heading back down in about three well, it over two weeks to meet up with Martin Slater who months, one of the key drivers for mapping and exploring the extension. Martin and I are going to meet up, we’re mainly focused on some other stuff that we want to check out in tank cave. But we will also go back to the extension and see if there’s see if there’s some things that we’ve missed. Now that it’s surveyed, and it’s been sort of mapped out, I suppose. We’re a little bit hesitant to go back in, but with a bit of time away from it. It’ll be interesting to sort of go you know what I do really want to go and check out that little thing that was over on that side. I only looked at it once. I reckon there might be something there. And even if we waste an entire dive following a lead that goes nowhere, at least we can cross that lead off off the list. So yeah, it’s made it’s much more robust. Yeah, yeah.
Matt Waters 1:09:42
Okay, and what’s the what’s the move up to Adelaide lead into what’s what’s going on at there?
Josh Richards 1:09:47
Ah, well, well, my my partners up here. So Chloe Reed, who was again key to discovering angle bricks. Extension. It’s her it’s her face that’s on the on the ABC Have a photo
Matt Waters 1:10:02
wasn’t I might be wrong, but isn’t there a video or YouTube or Facebook or whatever it was, but there’s a you like laughing your tips off at her trying to come through?
Josh Richards 1:10:11
Oh, yes, yeah. Yeah, yeah. So that’s I was describing that area before I sort of said that we, Matt and I came off a bit of a beach, squeeze through some dry cave into a muddy room. So that’s footage of Simon Backman. And I being in that muddy room. And Chloe squeezing through that area into the mud room. And just off to the left hand side of the screen is the rabbit hole is that nasty little hole that we talked about? Yeah, so we shared a bit of footage. It was a bit of a that was a bit of a taste tester. We folks knew we were up to something they didn’t know where we’re up to it. But they knew we were up to something and showing dry cave people in dry suits. But dry cave in Mount Gambier. That’s very uncommon. So that video was interesting a for a laugh to sort of take the piss out of Chloe, which we all love. But also an opportunity to share an area that people didn’t recognise people didn’t know. And see if folks picked up on the fact that we are in, we’re in dry suits in a dry cave somewhere that they didn’t recognise so but no, Chloe’s Chloe is an ICU nurse up here in Adelaide. And we’ve been doing long distance for far, far, far, far too long. And with the sale of the habitat, it was like not, this is the easy thing to do. I have got a lot of things, I’ve got books I want to work on. I’m studying cybersecurity at the moment, I’m doing a whole raft different things. And Mac Gambia is not the right place for that. And we’re also five hours closer to the Nullarbor. So I’m not planning a trip for another four or five months, we’ll probably look at going out March, April. But it does cut down the time considerably. And when I’ve done Nullarbor trips in the past, rather than leaving from out Gambia, I leave from Mount mount Lee from the mount, come up to the Adelaide up here, stay with Chloe for the night, and would then go on now, I’m already, like I said, five hours closer. So instead of it being a 24 hour trip, it’s now an 18 hour trip. So it will make your exploration on Nullabor. A lot easier.
Matt Waters 1:12:25
For one for one. And did you say that you’re writing books again?
Josh Richards 1:12:29
I’m trying to Yeah, so I’ve got there’s probably half a dozen different ideas brewing in the background. But there’s two or three key ones. I’ve always wanted to write a book about at about why people think they’ve been abducted, why we have like, programmes searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, the Navy, the US Navy videos that they put out with like these things buzzing around all that sort of stuff. Aliens fascinate people. And I suppose I’m a bit of a scientific storyteller. That’s always been the way that I present myself. And so being able to talk about the science and the but not be a jerk about it. It’s kind of I don’t I don’t want to be one of those, those sceptics who are like, Oh, that’s nonsense, and blow everything out of the water. But I still want to be able to talk about the realities of like, Hey, this is a little too far out there. This thing’s not realistic because of such and such. But what about this other crazy stuff over here? Hey, isn’t this an amazingly cool thing over here instead, so I don’t want to shut down folks stories about being abducted by aliens. But there’s Yeah. And without delving into it too deeply. There’s an interesting parallel, Carl Sagan wrote about this quite a bit in one of his last books, demon haunted world talking about how the number of demonic possessions that were reported dropped at the same rate that alien abductions came up. And it actually comes back to a far more interesting thing talking about sleep paralysis and night terrors. And people experiencing things like that. And it feeling like an out of body experience. So being able to write a book about that would be really, really interesting. I’ve had that on the cards for quite a few years. And I’d love to delve into something that’s sort of parallel, I suppose, talking about our relationship with reality, our relationship with death, all those sorts of things as well. So yeah, I love talking about philosophy. And I love trying to make it as funny as possible, while also getting as many sort of facts in there as possible.
Matt Waters 1:14:42
Yeah, yeah. It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Josh Richards 1:14:46
Oh, yeah. That’s a long work list.
Matt Waters 1:14:51
Yeah, that’s it. I’m just thinking there’s a there’s a lady coming on the show in in the new year. Karen Hoffman and she She effectively take scientific research papers and make sense of them so that Domestos like myself can understand that awesome. Yeah, maybe I would go with that as well, while you’re doing the other 6 million.
Josh Richards 1:15:12
Yeah, what realistically, that’s, that’s what I was always trying to do with comedy. That was the goal was to try and take a hard science and things academic papers that were weren’t accessible to people and put them in terms that folks would relate to and and understand one of my favourite ones, I talked about the Drake equation, which is an equation that’s used for calculating the probability that there’s other intelligent civilizations that we can communicate with in the Milky Way. And I basically sort of spilled the whole thing out and everyone obviously in the audience has gotten the what is that? I went, it’s fine, guys. This is just like Tinder, and broke it down into like, here’s your search radius, these are the things these are the attributes that you’re looking for. This is the age range. And realistically, the Drake equation works the same way that Tinder does. And people could relate to that. So that’s always been the challenge for me is to try and make science I suppose relatable, these things are really interesting and call. But people sort of get overwhelmed by the academic language and the the elitism that we see. I could never be an academic. I couldn’t fit into a university environment like that, for those same reasons, but the stuff that they’re researching and doing is really, really cool. So why not try and make it more accessible for people?
Matt Waters 1:16:34
Yeah, good call. I wish you well with that. Thank you, Josh. It’s been absolutely fantastic talking to you, buddy. And learning about your crazy life so far. And I look forward to so much more out of your no pressure, but you know, you’ve got
Josh Richards 1:16:52
I’ve set the bar high so far. So thank you so much for having me on. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk.
Matt Waters 1:17:00
Awesomesauce mate, and, hey, let’s speak soon and have a good Christmas. It’s a little bit early, but you know, it’s just a random, I’ve ordered that. So yeah. Thank you. Good on you mate. And everyone who’s listening, we can throw in Josh’s links in the show notes. So if you want to find out more, and just head on over there and hit him up. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.