Jamaican Caving Notes
Coffee River Cave
May 12, 2005
Team: Stewart, Conolley, Slack
Notes: RS Stewart
Coffee River Cave is a large system entered by a small entrance found just within the Cockpit Country Ring-road. The bulk of the cave is outside of the official confines of the Cockpit Country, extending northeast, further into Manchester.
The KHE determined in 1965 that the source for the water that appears in the cave is from Hector's River Sink-1. The resurgence itself is below the entrance, close to the river, with the internal flow coming through the cave and disappearing into boulders not far from the small opening that leads out to the hill above.
The passages are bouldered in many places, with the river running through/under these. Sand is common, and silt is not. The Hector's River originates at the non-calcareous inlier to the east-northeast, but it's a surprisingly long way for the sand to make its way - one must wonder if the cave also takes water from sources that fall in a more direct line to the inlier, as well as from Sink-1. This was suggested by the KHE, as follows, "The hydrology of this area is complex since in addition to the main proved sink to rising flow, there are four other sinks, Coco River, Breeze Hole River, Marley River and Bluefields River, and one other rising (Golding River, tributary of Coffee River)…. It is probable that Coco River and Breeze Hole River join the main flow from Hectors upstream of the top sumps in Coffee River Cave, that Marley River resurges into Coffee River a short distance downstream of Coffee River Cave and that Bluefields rises as the head of the Golding River". (The position given in JU for Marley Cave is in great disagreement (1.5km), with the Area Plan found on page 128 - the cave needs a visit by someone with a GPS.)
Bats are roosting in several of the outer chambers at Coffee River Cave, including the area past Rockfall #1. These roosts are all in the dark-zone, and house mixed species, including Artibeus. Because of the river flowing on the floor in much of the roosts, and the areas that are bouldered and above this being quite wet from percolation water, the guano deposits are washed away in much of the passages, and wet/compact when they are present, on boulders. There are no fluffy deposits. Fungal growth seems to be inhibited by the constant washing /wetting of the guano, and there is a correspondingly low number of fungal gnats. Invertebrate predators are few/absent (in fact we saw none of the usual Nesticidae spiders, etc). Invasive roaches, P. americana, are present, although not in vast numbers.
Sesarma verleyi were only seen in the outer part of the cave, where some detritus is washing in during rainy-season from the hill that rises above the entrance. Further into the cave, upstream, there is no organic debris (leaves, bamboo, etc), and the water is very clear.
People of the district are occasionally entering the outer part of the cave to scrape wet guano off boulders to use on their farms. Old bottle torches and fertilizer bags are present. This activity does not extend beyond Rockfall #1, leaving the roost on the other side of this undisturbed.
During our visit, we journeyed only as far as the deep water reached in the low section between Rockfall #1 and #2,. There, we hit a current coming towards us that made it difficult to progress further, and indicated a real flood-risk. It was mid-May and there had been frequent rain for several weeks. There is a track that leads directly to the entrance, which branches off another track that starts near the school in Auchtembeddie. The position found above will enable you to find the right turn for the sidetrack.
Flood-risk is a factor in the exploration of this cave beyond Rockfall #1, and it is advisable to not go too far past this point when rains are frequent and heavy.
We are listing this cave with a high vulnerability due to the presence of the bat-roosts, and the occasional guano extraction.
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