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June 11, 2004

ANANCY HOLE


Position: WGS84 - 18 17' 14.4" N, 77 38' 00.5" W

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, D. K. Roggy

Time in: 10:00 EST, Time out: 18:30 EST

THREAT VULNERABILITY: Low

On April 7, 2004, while crossing and georeferencing the Troy Trail, we had discovered a promising sinkhole near Booth. It had been stumbled upon while we were off-trail and GPS marked with the intention of exploring it when time would allow. This day, Friday, June 11, time allowed.

The Troy-Windsor Trail, Trelawny, Jamaica Our previous circuitous route, described in the notes for April 7, was also something that would be dealt with at the same time. With the help of a local man who was quite familiar with the Booth district, it was our intention to first GPS mark the section of the trail where we had gone astray last time, set some new flags, (enough for our own purposes), and then re-find our sinkhole.

By 10:00 AM, we had met Paul, our local contact, in Tyre, north of Troy, and parked in front of the second-last house before the start of the trail. This parking arrangement is necessary to avoid having the vehicle broken into, something that is inevitable, by all accounts, if one parks at the actual start of the trail. Indeed, Forestry even had their truck robbed several months ago.

By 13:00, we had the trail sorted out and began the search for the hole. This required back-tracking to where we had first lost the trail on April 7, where we now let Paul return to Tyre, and then re-finding our Apr 7 off-trail route. Surprisingly, this proved to be very easy. First we passed the cave found Apr 7, intending to do it if time allowed on the way out, and then we found the "trail" that would lead us to the vicinity of the hole. As it turns out, it is a side-trail marked with red and blue flagging by Forestry, exactly the same as Forestry's flags on the Troy Trail. We hadn't realized that the most prominent flags on the Troy Trail had been set by Forestry. On our return to the real trail, and then the car, we followed this side-trail to where it linked with the Troy Trail, and have it now figured out. The map has been re-done to reflect the changes and can be seen at the side of this page.

It was not until 15:30 that we had reached the hole, (marked "S" on the map), and begun to rig the drop. There was some concern amongst the crew that we would be caught out after dark, in the depths of the Cockpit Country, and so time was of the essence. As soon as the rope was set, I got on rappel and headed down. Subsequent measurement of the marked rope showed that I hit bottom at 26.5 m, (87 ft), no tremendous depth but enough to make it worth listing. The shaft, about 3 m at the top, had narrowed slightly on the way down and then opened slightly towards the bottom.

The Troy-Windsor Trail, Trelawny, Jamaica The descent had been uneventful, but the time factor applied and I realized that it would not be possible for everyone to rap in and ascend out. I decided to head back up, and if the others thought we had time, then they could go down next. While beginning to rig for ascent, on one knee, I looked around carefully to see if there was anything notable. As I scanned the surface of a large log that had fallen in, at some time in the past, my eyes froze upon the largest spider I have ever seen in my life. If there had been any real running room, I would have quickly backed off a good distance. This spider had a body about 6 cm long and a total leg-span of about 10 cm. Coincidentally, Byron had been asking me if I'd ever seen any tarantulas in caves just two days before at the WRC Annual General Meeting, there having been some bizarre report by a researcher of one having been seen in the twilight zone of a cave, and as I gazed upon this colossal arachnid, I tried to bring to mind what a tarantula would look like, having only seen pictures. I was fairly sure that they should be fat and hairy, but my friend in the hole wasn't terribly pudgy, and not at all furry. This was a good sign, but perhaps Jamaican tarantulas were different. I continued to rig as quietly and smoothly as possible.

I headed on up, trying not to swing into the giant spider on the first move, as the rope stretched slightly, and moved up quickly, looking intently at the wall of the shaft in case it turned out that this hole was swarming with the things. I saw no others and was on the surface about 5 min's later.

I told the others of what I'd seen, and suggested that there was time for another person to go down, and for us to still be at Tyre by nightfall, but neither Dietrich nor Martel seemed interested in going down the hole to visit a giant spider... this was unfortunate because I very much wanted an additional observation so that no one thought I was making up a story about this improbably large denizen of the depths. All I can do is swear to Jah that the thing was down there, (and probably still is if anyone wants to go have a look).

We hauled rope, refound our side-trail and successfully followed it to its eventual link with the Troy Trail. From the Troy Trail end, it is difficult to spot because it crosses an old bushed-up, ferned-up hill-side. I had GPS wpt's and the plot for the Troy Trail, so we were able to aim straight for the closest part while we crossed the bush and ferns.

About 30 min's before sunset, we were back at the car in Tyre, (which nicely enough hadn't been broken into), and beginning our return drive to Windsor.

We have named this previously un-listed sinkhole, "Anancy Hole", for obvious reasons.

A check of Susan's reference material at the WRC afterwards did not produce a decent match for the arachnid, although available sketches were not complete for Ja. At this point, the spider is unidentified. It is apparently not terribly common; I've only seen the one and descriptions given to Susan, Martel, Lilly etc elicited no familiarity. Unfortunately, I had no camera down the hole, but a description follows:
The cephalothorax was poorly seen, being on the part of the spider away from me, but is apx 2-3 cm long and 1 cm wide.
The abdomen was apx 4 cm long and 1.5 wide. It was very small at the waist and tail, with the widest part being about 2/3 of the way towards the tail.
The junction of the body parts was small, apx 3 mm wide.
The legs were apx 4 cm long and 4 mm wide.
The overall colour was dark grey.
There was no furriness.
It didn't seem terribly lively, but it did twitch enough occasionally to indicate that it was still with us, (it was also hanging upside-down from a dead log).

The flags that we have set on the Troy Trail are only sufficient for our own use. Others who read these notes are advised that the flags will probably not be close enough for you to follow them. Do not launch yourselves upon the trail expecting that it is clearly defined... it isn't.

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