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June 6, 2004

BELLE AIR CAVE


Position: Reserved due to archaeological resources

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Bellinger, D. K. Roggy, R. Stirling

Time in: 12:00 EST, Time out: 14:30 EST

THREAT VULNERABILITY: High

Bellair Cave is a small chamber cave located near the coast in St Ann that has in the past yielded Taino artifacts, in particular, a pot, (this is all I know of, but there has likely been other recovered material). By way of one of the crew, Ivor Conolley, we were asked to produce a map for Dr Allsworth-Jones at UWI. This first day of the June expedition was set aside to tackle the task.

After our arrival at some sort of institution near Runaway Bay, (old-folks, orphanage, whatever), we parked in a gated yard, and a hike of less than five minutes brought us to the cave entrance. While the others began a general recon, I remained outside and booted-up the GPS to get an accurate starting point for the survey. This was soon done and the mapping began.

The first leg of the survey was into what I believed to be merely an entrance chamber, having not entered the cave yet myself. I was surprised to learn minutes afterwards, while writing down the details for the first leg, that this in fact was almost the entire cave. Dietrich Roggy had found a squeeze over rocks into a side passage that looped back to light near the entrance, (the connection was not completed), but the cave that we would map turned out to be only about 9 m in length. Re-thinking things, I realized that we would have to make our survey legs very short in order to accurately map such a tiny cave. The decided upon procedure was to take one slope from the back wall to the entrance, then work our way back getting LRUD at 1 m intervals. The up and down were done in the following fashion: we took total height at the 1 m intervals, then went through once again measuring the down from the beam of the laser clinometer, (shone upon a white background), with it aimed at our rear-wall point. By subtracting the down from the total height, we derived the up. I have subsequently extended the station lengths by 15% to accommodate the 29 deg slope. It seems a round-about way to do things, but it avoided setting stations above the floor of the cave at our 1 m points.

I must confess, after our training with Guy van Rentergem last expedition, I was eager to take on something quite substantial and instead was faced with something that more resembled an irregularly-shaped large room. We tried to do it justice, but to accurately describe this tiny cave would require station lengths of 20-30 cm. Nevertheless, we've mapped it to a degree that should allow the map-placement of dig/sifting areas to an acceptable planning degree. The more appropriate approach, during archaeological work, would be to find a central reference station and refer everything to that with bearing, slope and distance.

During his time through the squeeze, Dietrich found a small postsherd, identified as Taino by Ivor, and he also described and sketched the passage. Both Ivor and I attempted to get into it ourselves, but I couldn't get my rib-cage through and Ives didn't have any more luck. It was perhaps better that we only had one person in this section and avoided inadvertant damage to unobserved artifacts. The map of the cave past the squeeze is based on Dietrich's sketch, and our external observations. On the map we have marked as a lighthole a spot that he reached near/under the entrance pit, where he turned back because it was too small. It was likely just gaps/voids through break-down boulders near the entrance and not a real extension.

The entrance to this cave is a horizontal opening of 1.8 x 2.5 m. A shaft of 1.5 m gives access to a low opening on the NW side that drops into the main part of the cave.

A section of what appeared to be a skull, of unknown type, that appeared too recent to be Taino, (merely a guess on my part), was found in the main chamber and removed under Ivor's care.

It should be noted that this cave is not covered under my NEPA permit, and was done by request for Dr Allsworth-Jones with Ivor supervising. I removed nothing myself, except for survey data.

Biologically, the entire cave is in the twilight zone, has no troglo species, and normally we would not consider it to be, or list it as, a cave. The fact that the Taino considered it as such suggests that we make it a new additon to the Jamaican Cave Register, although with an unlisted position.

The initial map will be found below, but I am reserving the GPS position to prevent "collectors" from visiting the cave. The WGS84 position, 3D Diff WAAS, at better than +/- 5 m, will be forwarded to UWI and also retained by the JCO.

Bellair Cave Map Bellair Cave Map
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