Jamaican Caving Notes
|MAY 12, 2003|
DEAD BABY SINKHOLE
Position: WGS84 - 18 21' 18.3" N, 77 46' 50.6" W, Alt 465 m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, Clive
Mon, May 12, we returned to the Chatworth/Maroon Town district to look for new caves and to try to find Vaughansfield Cave.
A quick look for Victor and company in Chatworth gave no results, it being close to afternoon and everyone out in the fields, but after a few minutes of driving further toward Maroon Town, we came across Clive, of Belfield Cave, walking up the road and invited him aboard. It took only a few minutes to learn from Clive that he had another prospect for us. The visit to Belfield had convinced him of our abilities and he had in mind a deep sinkhole that had only been descended once before. Some years in the past, a fireman had been lowered by winch a great distance into this hole to retrieve the body of a baby that had been thrown in by its mother. Other than that, no one had been into it. The described location didn't match any listed cave; it all sounded quite good.
The sinkhole is located close to the Maroon Town square, a short distance from a small secondary road. It is in the middle of farmland and has no large trees close-by. To rig the drop, I had to put the rope around the base of 4 or 5 shrubs, of a width of only 5 or 6 cm. They were some type of tropical fruit-wood, and careful testing indicated that they would do, but it wasn't the type of bomb-proof anchor I prefer.
We had accumulated a small audience as I rigged the drop, and as I got in the harness, and clipped in, a few others came to watch. None of them had ever hung out over the edge on a rope to look for the bottom, so they envisioned it as being very dread.
Once on rappel, and in position so that I could look down into the hole, I could see that it was of no tremendous depth, and that the 30 m rope was plenty long, so I headed on down, the audience now quiet but attentive.
I moved carefully on the rap, keeping in mind the shrubs that held me, and descended a straight, simple shaft of about 3 m width. At the bottom, as with many other sinkholes near dwellings, there was a collection of trash on the floor in the center of the shaft. To the SE there was a short horizontal extension of no more than 3 m. I tied a knot exactly at floor level, or rather what is now the floor level, in order to measure the depth of the hole, then clipped in the jumars and headed back up. The ascent went fine and I had soon returned to a curious crowd wondering what I'd found and how deep it was. As I answered questions, we hauled the rope up, after marking where it had crossed the lip of the vertical drop, and then took it out to the road to be measured. The vertical was measured with the 30 m tape as being 19.5 m, or 64 ft.
A very good GPS position was taken, with good satellite acquisition and WAAS, that should be +/- 5 m or better.
This sinkhole at present has no name, is unlisted, but is well known by the people of the district for the tale of the baby and its unfortunate demise. It seems as though the fireman had a much larger audience than I when he made the only other descent. Asking about the name of the baby seemed to give "Wongbingi" but this sounds unlikely. I wondered if they were saying "Nyabinghi" but when I asked if this were the name, they laughed. Thusly, until we determine the true name of the lost child, we will call it Dead Baby Sinkhole. If one wishes to find this sinkhole, this is how it should be described when asking the local people of it.
We loaded up the car, and chatted briefly with the people who had watched, and then with them giving us best wishes and telling us to came back again some time, we headed on for Vaughansfield.
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