Jamaican Caving Notes
March 27, 2005
Cave 1: 18 19' 47.0" N, 77 47' 02.8" W, +/- 10m
Cave 2: 18 19' 55.9" N, 77 47' 03.0" W, +/- 10m
Cave 3: 18 19' 57.3" N, 77 47' 03.0" W, +/- 10m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Bellinger
Time in: 13:00 EST, Time out: 18:30 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: Medium
This was the first day of the TNC-J Parks in Peril Project, and we had assigned it to one of the closer of the districts, (relative to Windsor), that we would be visiting: Maroon Town.
Leroy Grey, of the Maroon Town Community Association, had offered to assist us in linking with people of the district who might be able to steer us in the right direction for several of our targets. These were Barracks Cave, and the Hope River Glade Caves. We contacted him via phone in the morning, and made arrangements that resulted us meeting with Mr Grey, and several others who would be of help, in Chatsworth in the early afternoon. The rest of the day was spent visiting an unlisted site that contained a silted-up sink, and then three caves in the Barracks district. Mr Grey assisted us for several hours, until he had to leave to attend a meeting, and then left us in the capable hands of Barringon Hill, who was to prove to be of great help both this day and the next.
The first of the caves that we visited was a small stream-rising that was accessible only under the large boulders that sat over the exit. This seasonal stream, and associated sources, flows a short distance then disappears into a sink that is remembered as having been an enterable stream passage until cultivation in the immediate upstream area resulted in it being entirely filled with silt. Because it was not one of our listed targets, and there was no real cave on either end of the surface stream to enter, it was merely noted. It would have been instructive to have had a past visit recorded, prior to the cultivation taking place that so degraded the system, so that a comparison could be made and this then used as an example of severe siltation, but as noted, this pair of caves was previously unvisited.
Next came our listed target, Barracks Cave. The JU position places it in bottom-land below the historical grounds that held the old British barracks, after which the caves are named. This remarkable patch, several acres in extent, is perfectly flat, thanks to the work of many soldiers, (and perhaps slaves as well), who leveled part of a hill, thereby creating a parade ground in which to march around in wool uniforms under a hot Jamaican sun. It also appears to have offered a relatively defendable position for the troops stationed there. Although I didn't notice any historical structures still in existence, the unusual appearance of the flattened hilltop stands out as soon as one sees it, and would attract attention even if one knew nothing of its history. If monies were ever to become available, this would be a good place for an historical plaque.
With Barrington, we descended into the bottom-land in the direction of the JU position. It should be noted that there is another cave near Barracks, unvisited by us this day, that is known by the local people as "Barracks Cave", but which is a fair distance, (700-1000m), from the JU position, and in the wrong bottom-land. We chose to ignore this one and concentrate our efforts where the right one would be expected to be found. In the course of things, we found three caves in the general vicinity of the JU position, one of which is a decent fit for the listed cave.
I am assigning the designations Barracks 1, 2, and 3, to the found caves, with Barracks 1 being the cave apparently described in JU. I will describe them in the order of our finding them.
The cave closest to the JU position, Cave 3, located 115m to the south of the listed coords, is a seasonal stream-sink that is boulder choked and impenetrable beyond 5m. It does not match the JU description, "A muddy passage, 1-3m high takes a seasonal stream. Notes for the first 30m found in McGrath's field book." This is the first possibility found when one hikes down from the Barracks, and the first we came across of the three.
The second cave that Barrington showed us, Cave 1, seemed more promising, but is located 400m south of the JU listed position. A short scramble down gives access to a passage that seasonally takes water, and extends for apx 30m, although we surveyed only the first 20m declining to finish the last part, very low and obviously becoming impenetrable further on. Several invert species were noted, including a Sesarma spp, N. farri, Veliidae fam, and an undetermined species of small larvae, probably Diptera. The Neoditomyia farri are a bit of a puzzle, since going by Barrington's accounts, the entrance to this cave at times is under a metre of water pooled in the bottom-land. I'm uncertain as to whether they survive the seasonal flooding somehow, or re-colonize after these events.
The third cave, Cave 2, in no way resembles the JU description but seems to be the most interesting. It is not taking stream waters and this may be why it was not listed by McGrath. An entrance pit some 10m across, and 8m deep, overhanging all around, leads to we know not what, having run out of time to descend into a cave that is not one of our primary targets, (those listed previously), but close examination from the top suggested the possibility of passages. A return visit must be made to this cave.
The designations 1, 2, and 3 were assigned with this rational: Cave 1 is the best fit for the listed cave, Cave 2 appears to offer potential, Cave 3 is not penetrable to any great extent, and does not match the JU description, despite it being the closest to the listed position of the two caves that do. Curiously, all three caves are in a line almost exactly due north-south.
After hiking back up from the bottom-land to where we had parked, we called it a day, dropped Barrington off at his yard, and then returned to Windsor via Springvale.
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