A hunting dog has survived a 35m fall down a vertical tomo or sinkhole near the Fox River with barely a scratch.
Kelpie cross Fern disappeared down the hole on Monday last week and was rescued last Thursday by a volunteer, having spent two nights in the dark.
Her ascent was delayed as rescuers ran out of rope because the hole was so deep.
Fern had been helping the Department of Conservation with pest control in the back-blocks behind the river, when she disappeared.
Luckily, she was wearing a tracking collar.
Coast Cave and Vertical Rescue volunteer Karen Grant said rescuers tracked the dog to a hole which was a 90-minute walk from the helicopter landing site.
When they got there she lowered herself down the tomo.
She said she was unsure if the dog had been injured, which could make her aggressive, and had been prepared to lower the owner down with a muzzle.
Fern had stopped barking due to exhaustion and when Grant got to the bottom she found the dog "beautiful" and calm.
She took down a special dog harness that the cave rescue group had made because it rescued so many dogs. However, the rope was too short.
"I rigged my rope for an exploratory look and descended down about 27m, where I found Fern hanging on to the slippery limestone ... below me.
"I managed to reach down enough to secure her collar to my harness with one of my safety lines, then hoisted her up on to my lap and used my gear to ascend with her till I reached the dog rescue harness a little higher above me on a separate rope line; then secured Fern into it.
"She was lovely, really co-operative. Back on terra firma, the very happy pooch was reunited with a very happy owner.
"It was fantastic, she was so relieved," Grant said.
Fern seemed to have only a hurt back leg and a scratch near her eye from the fall — "amazing considering how far she had fallen and the outcrops that she must have hit going down".
Fern was treated to a backpack ride back to camp, followed by a visit to the vet.