Maroon Town

Jamaican Caving Notes

South Trelawny
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Aug 19, 2003


North Ent: 18 19' 42.1" N, 77 49' 05.4" W
South Ent: 18 19' 39.0" N, 77 49' 04.8" W

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Taylor

The Cool Garden Caves 1, 2, 3, 4 were the targets for Aug 19. Cool Garden 2 was the last, and most interesting, of the three caves visited during the day.

By the time we'd left Cool Garden 4 in search of Cave 2, the most important target of the day, we'd lost most of the "escort" that we had acquired at Daniel's Shop. Daniel lead us on farm trails to the west and then over the hill upon which sits the large church easily found on the topo. Before the hill, we had passed a large pit that looked promising as an entrance to Cave 2, but we carried on to see what else Daniel knew of first.

We came to the river that is to the north of the church, passed a small waterfall, and then came to a resurgence that Daniel said was a cave. It has been dammed to serve as a source of water and so obviously offered no way in. It appears that during dry times a stream passage might be accessible. I turned us all about and we returned to the likely looking entrance to Cool Garden 2.

The entrance, north entrance as was subsequently determined, was about 6 x 10 m wide and very bushed up with bamboo, shrubs and trees. Quite a lot of deadfall lay across, and in, parts of the opening so we had to do a bit of "gardening" before we could set the line for the rap. This consisted mostly of shoving the dead trees and bamboo that hung down into the hole so that they would complete their journey to the bottom on our schedule rather than theirs.

While myself, Martel and Daniel were cleaning the pitch, Ivor rigged the two 30 m lines together and anchoured around a large tree that was about 25 m to the north of what seemed the best place to rap in, a section of fairly clean vertical wall on the north side of the opening. When this was all done, I rapped down a vertical of about 10 m and reached bottom to find a large passage that extended to the SW. I gave a shout up to the others to tell them that I was off-rope and that it looked good. I was very enthusiatic about this cave so decided to explore some distance ahead while waiting for Ivor come down.

About 15 m from the centre of the shaft that gives entrance to the cave, the passage proper continued SW but a medium sized breakdown chamber was situated up a dry slope to the NW. A quick foray into this showed that it offered no great potential for extensions so I returned to the obvious route, the large passage that lead to the SW.

The passage soon narrowed to about 3 m and some minor scrambling over breakdown rocks lead down about 3 m to where flowing water could be heard and this stream was soon reached. The nature of this passage is such that the actual active streamway runs through a narrow rift beneath boulders and under the part of the passage where one can walk. The cross-section is best described as a large "U" with a small "U" stuck on the bottom, the upper part several metres wide, the lower part about 1 m wide. After some 25 metres of this the upper passage widens to over 10 m but the stream continues its course in a rift at the bottom. The passage turns to the SSE in this area.

I carried on far enough to be certain that this was indeed Cool Garden 2, the description matching perfectly with JU, and then remembered that Ivor had not caught up. I gave a few shouts and whistles but heard no reply so I headed back to see where he was. I didn't find him until I was back in the twilight zone and realized he needed a fresh set of batteries that I had in my pack and was supposed to have given him. We took care of that quickly and then headed back down the passage.

Beyond where I had turned back at first, we reached a wider part of the passage, essentially a breakdown chamber about 15 m across. Here, the obvious river course continued to the right, a small breakdown chamber lay up a short dry slope to the left, and in between there was a hole about 80 cm wide. To the right, the river passage narrowed, and became lower, and the stream ran beneath a large pile of breakdown boulders blocking the upper part of the passage. At first glance it looked choked. The small chamber to the left was quickly determined to lead nowhere other than into an even smaller chamber that then dead-ended. We, of course, crawled through the small hole that lay in between the choked looking river passage and the dead-end chambers. Beyond the small hole, a narrow and spongey passage carried on that we then followed. As it turned out, this resulted in our best work in the exploration of Cool Garden 2.

The newly discovered passage, (and I have no doubt that it is new and that we were the first to see it), lead to the SSE, apx parallel with the mapped passage to the south entrance of Cool Garden 2, for apx 40 m. The passage has marvelous formations, including helictites, and although it is narrow and low, at its largest 2 x 1.5, it is the most beautiful part of Cool Garden 2. We slowly made our way along this beautiful passage, crawling, and duck-walking, and passing the pack through the small parts, in hopes of popping out aboveground somewhere. It gradually became ever smaller until it ended in a perfectly cylindrical sumped shaft, 1.5 m wide, that could only be seen by squeezing my head, helmet, and headlamp through one last rifted gap about 30 cm wide. This passage was missed by the Bristol University crew in 1967, no doubt because they were trying to accomplish intitial surveys for many caves in the district and were not overly concerned about every single passage in every single cave. Nevertheless, it was a fine discovery of ours and we'll return to do a proper survey.

We worked our way back to the main passage, exiting out the little hole that had lead us into this new part of the underground, and although I had not photographically implanted the JU map in my mind, I knew there was a way through the cave to another entrance and the choked looking stream passage had to be it. To be honest, we would have tried it anyway after the new passage, but the information given in JU from Bristol made it very obvious. While Ivor adjusted gear back at the main, I scrambled down into the stream passage that lead under the boulders and found that it carried on in an easily travelled passage under the large rocks overhead.

The stream passage, after the route under the boulders, was down to about 1 m wide at the bottom, where water flowed about 30 cm deep, and 2 m wide higher up, and it was about 7 m high. After about 25 m of wading through the stream I saw light ahead and knew that we had reached the south entrance of the cave. The final distance was covered and I found myself at the bottom of a pit about 10 m wide and 8 high that had an easy scramble up and out. I hauled myself out, and while I awaited Ivor, I got a good GPS position to go along with the one I had gotten at the north entrance.

Biologically, the cave was not observed to be housing any bats although it would be suspected that Artibeus should be using the area not far into the north entrance on at least a seasonal basis. No American cockroaches were observed, but no amblypygi either. I wouldn't be surprised if there were Sesarma down in the stream but we didn't see any. Crickets and spiders were present.

Martel had stayed up top at the north entrance to keep an eye on things, wisely as it turned out, because he didn't trust the escorts who had tagged along, and after getting the GPS position, and realizing that he was no great distance away, I gave some whistles and shouts to let him know we were out the other end. I heard no response, but by the time Ivor was out I had a bearing and distance, via the GPS, to the north entrance and we headed in the right direction. This required us to go upslope to contour around and I immediately found myself in the back of someone's yard, next to the road, who had apparently heard my shouts and whistles. As I hiked up the hill, he was standing in his yard yelling to me, "Man, what you looking for!?". He apparently was mystified as to why a white man with a red helmet and lamp on his head was suddenly appearing in his backyard. Keeping cultural considerations in mind, and adhering to a strict policy of maintaining a sense of humour at all times, I shouted back, "I'm looking for a woman!", this said with the appropriate patois pronunciation "hooman". He shouted back, "You won't find one down there!". I shouted, "Well, mon, me try everywhere else, this is all that's left!". When I got up the hill to his yard he had a big smile on his face so apparently my attempt at wit worked.

We quickly found a track in the direction of the north entrance, hiked along it a bit, then Malibu heard my, "Oy!". I asked him to haul rope and come and this was soon done. At this point we returned to the car at Daniel's Shop. This is when "cultural factors" came into play once again. It is ironic that things are always under control in the caves but up-top, it's a whole different ball-game.

When we returned to Daniel's Shop, the riff-raff that we'd shaken after Cool Garden 4 were all reassembled with a few reinforcements. Being the nice guy, (i.e. idiot), that I am, I bought a round of drinks for the 3 young men that I could remember having been along for the first 2 caves, to try to establish a rapport with the local people, (totally pointless in this context and I still blame the lack of sleep and the fact that it was my first day in the field this session). A couple of particularly sleezy characters, that I hadn't seen yet, made a point of showing off their knives and tried to rush me for $$. I offered them jobs, which didn't seem to interest them, so I basically told them to get stuffed. Ivor and Martel both made it obvious that they were paying attention to what was going on but the whole atmosphere suggested that we think about heading out...

The upshot of it all is that when we did head out, I soon realized that someone had gotten into the car while we were caving, had stolen the camera etc, and that it was probably one of the coke-head parasites who had been rushing me for money on our return to Daniel's Shop. It was a good day of caving but unfortunately typical of the crap you have to put up with to do it in some districts of the island. I'm staying the course and taking it as a valuable lesson, it being the first time in 16 years that I've been seriously robbed, so we'll continue caving in the district with that event kept well in mind to prevent such incidents reoccuring in the future.

This is not the first time we've had problems around Maroon Town, (theft out of the Lada, harassment for $$, a guy in the main square actually grabbing me and demanding money until Malibu and Clive closed in on him making it obvious that they had knives), but it will be the last. In the future, we'll keep an extra person, or two, on watch while we're caving. I feel sorry for the decent folks in the area who have to live with it 24/7.

Because of the absence of law and order in the Maroon Town area, I am posting some advice on this district for those with less experience than myself who are even more likely to have these troubles.

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