Jamaican Caving Notes
March 31, 2005
Light Cave Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 23.7" N, 77 33' 46.8" W, +/- 10m
Dark Cave Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 22.8" N, 77 33' 46.3" W, +/- 10m
Back Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 24.6" N, 77 33' 51.0" W, +/- 10m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack
Time in: 10:00 EST, Time out: 12:00 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: High
Carambie Cave is in the Rock Spring district of south Trelawny, and was visited by the JCO as a part of the Parks in Peril Project, under contract to The Nature Conservancy. It is one of the few caves in the district that is not a river cave, and is instead high and relatively dry. The cave is easily found, with two entrances on a hillside that faces the Spring Garden to Burnt Hill road.
This morning, we started the day with the full team of four assembled, and drove in Ivor's car from Miss Buckle's, where we were renting rooms, to the general area where the cave was indicated to be in Jamaica Underground. Because the cave is locally well-known, it was soon found, visible from the road, and we were parked and ready to go. Although the most obvious entrance is only about 30m from the roadside, it is also about 20m above the road, and the hill that one must ascend to reach it is rather difficult, because there is nothing to grab onto other than a barbed-wire fence. The slope is of dirt, bare of vegetation, on the straight track that leads up, and a slip would result in a rapid slide down that would deposit one back on the road after a final drop of about 2m, (to then possibly be crushed by a passing car). Needless to say, we were all careful on this dodgy little approach.
There are three entrances to the cave; two facing the road, and one around back on the far side of the hill. The most obvious roadside entrance, to the north, is about 5m high and 3m wide, facing east, and leads into a large chamber known as the "Light Cave", that is entirely in the twilight zone. At the back of this is a small opening into a larger chamber, this opening situated about 6m above the floor of the second chamber. Although it could be climbed down if one were desperate to do so, vertical gear is advisable. About 50m south of the first entrance, a second entrance is found, smaller than the first, and this leads into the so-called "Dark Cave". Access from this entrance to the rest of the cave is possible without the use of vertical gear, although a bit of a scramble is necessary to reach the chamber that is seen from the back of the "Light Cave".
We had taken a quick look in the first part of the cave, inside the first entrance, before finding the second entrance and going in by this route. I soon found the scramble into the rest of the cave, then went around to the far side of the large chamber seen from the opening to the Light Cave, and located the back entrance. This third entrance faces 265 deg, and requires a bit of a scramble, found not far into the cave. A GPS position was taken, and then I rejoined the others. Ivor deemed the site to have been attractive to Taino in past ages, and so while he and the others looked for any evidence of this, I looked for critters.
Much of this cave, estimated at 50%, is twilight zone. In the central chamber a small batroost is found, with numbers estimated at under 500, and the main species being fruit-bats. There are no substantial guano deposits, but some extraction has taken place by local people anyway. The material extracted appears to have been old, compact deposits, and the underlying mud. Used bottle torches are present, and fertilizer bags. Surprisingly, I didn't see any Periplaneta americana, (roaches). Observed macroinvertebrates were one species of spider, and Neoditomyia farri, (predaceous fly larvae). The N. farri indicate that there are also other Diptera, (flies/gnats), living in the cave, although these were not trapped/collected by me. I would assume that some of them are fungal gnats. Generally, invert activity is low, probably in association with the low nutrient input to the cave. The batroost has seen enough disturbance that only a fraction of the roosting space is being used, although because it would be preferred by fruit-bats, seasonal variations in occupation would be expected. The spider that was collected should prove to be the most interesting critter observed, and identification is underway.
The cave is formed in white limestone, unlike those close to the Mouth River that occur in the plane between the yellow and white limestone. Stals, flowstone, and small helictites are found, with the latter located in small nooks at the sides of the chambers where humidity seems to be higher. It should be noted that although much of the cave is dry, there is a section that was quite damp, especially for the dry-season that we were in, with most of the water entering through percolation from above.
No evidence of Taino usage was seen, and having done what we needed to do, we left the cave, made our way carefully down the hill to the car, and moved on to our next target.
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