April 1, 2005
Position: WGS84 - 18 18' 28.1" N, 77 33' 50.8" W, +/- 15m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, D. K. Roggy
Time in: 10:00 EST, Time out: 11:00 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: High
We started out the day by splitting the team into two groups, with the plan being that we would again join forces at noon and move on to the Good Hope Glade caves. The morning would be spent in this way: Dietrich and I would resume our search for Farmyard Cave; Ivor, Elizabeth, and Minke Newman would tackle Harties Cave-2. Minke, an intern with The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica, had joined us first thing in the morning, and would be with us for only one day. As things would have it, her time with us would be spent in a couple of the more challenging caves that we were to visit in Rock Spring.
For D and I, much of the morning would be spent above-ground, searching for Farmyard Cave which should be found somewhere not far to the south of one of the entrances to Printed Circuit. We had looked for it already, on Mar 30, when hunting down entrances to Printed Circuit, but had had no luck. Now, we were armed with more knowledge, having accumulated enough GPS positions for enough entrances to allow us to sort things out, and be relatively sure of which entrance to Printed Circuit that Farmyard Cave would be found near. This would be wpt 183.
Not long past 9:00 AM, we were at entrance 183, and then began a thorough hunt for our target. We spread out, and began to look carefully at every single possibility, these being hollows, and the upstream ends of seasonal streambeds. Working our way back and forth in the area, an hour passed with no success. It was mystifying; we knew that somewhere within a circle of 150m south of wpt 183, we should find several small entrances facing east that led into a stream-passage, but there was nothing to be found. Finally, when we were fairly close together, in desperation I decided to look in a very small depression that lay right under the track that we'd been using to access entrance 183. The track ran through farmland, well-cultivated, and one would think that any entrances would be glaringly obvious. After moving down into the 1.5m deep hollow that lay at one point beside the track, and hacking at the weeds with a machete, things suddenly came clear. Before me in the weeds was a very small opening about 75cm high, rising from the dirt. Calling out to Dietrich that I might have it, I took off my pack, turned on my headlamp, and squeezed my head and shoulders in.
To the left, a low passage ended in mud about 5m away. To the right, the passage carried on past the entrance, also low and muddy, but continuing if one were to slither on one's belly. D had now caught up, so I slithered in to see what could be found. After about 20m, I saw signs of another small mud-choked entrance, and realizing that things were beginning to match the KHE map, (although with one great difference), I worked my way back to where I'd come in, searching for what should be a continuing passage leading upstream, that is to the left of the entrance that I'd come in by. It had looked mud-choked, but it needed a closer examination. I spent 5 minutes looking for any chance of getting past the choke, and found nothing. I crawled back out of the "cave" to have a closer look at the printed scan of the cave map.
The map, seen to the left, shows the passage that leads upstream, or at least once did, because it does no longer. It also shows three entrances, of which only two remain. Lest any who read these notes suspect that I had found the wrong cave, note that the two entrances that we found match the map perfectly in location and aspect. It is immediately upstream of Thicket Entrance, Printed Circuit Cave. There was nothing else in the vicinity that could be found. We had the right cave, but unfortunately it is now so full of mud and silt that it is essentially filled-in. I am unsure which of the three entrances I entered by, but suspect it is what remains of the "Main Entrance", (wpt 199). At any rate, we could only find two entrances, so the third apparently is filled-in.
I will quote the KHE notes from Jamaica Underground:
"The southern continuation of Printed Circuit Cave where flux passage reaches the surface at Thicket Entrance, (wpt 183). A meandering passage continues to the Main Entrance beyound which are two ducks over rimstone pools and a crawl to a sump. Right leads to a sump. Left, a low wet passage for 25m to a T'junction, choked on the left and sumped on the right."
As can be seen, this passage was never terribly high to begin with, and because of the heavy cultivation of the land upstream, (the sumps noted by the KHE were merely low parts of the passage, and are being fed by upstream sinks with locations undetermined), and at the entrances, (which take water seasonally), it is now basically gone. We noted several other cave entrances during our days in Rock Spring, most notably Good Hope Two Cave - Sink, that suffered from the same problem, no doubt exacerbated by Hurricane Ivan, but Farmyard Cave was the most extreme example. The district is heavily farmed, especially in the south catchment area, by very hard-working farmers who constantly keep the land tilled with no vegetative cover other than their coffee plants and yams, that is, with roughly 95% of the dirt loose and easily washed away in heavy rains. In fact, a farmer who was of much help earlier in the week showed us a sink that was currently blocked, (barely seen, but he knew where it was from when it had been open), that he noted needed to be cleared to allow water to drain from his field. What is one to do? The farmers are hard-working, and doing the best they can to maximize what profit is available, but in the course of this industrious cultivation they are doing great damage to the river-caves that are found here. These river-caves are the ultimate source for the rising of the Martha Brae River at Windsor, Trelawny. I will merely describe the situation for now, but in the notes for Pool Cave, which was quite silt-free thanks to an acre or two of bush cover at the sink entrance that was holding silt, I will make what recommendations I can.
One can speculate that if vegetative cover were to return to the catchment area, eventually the mud in the cave might be washed out and the cave would return, but realistically this has a low probability of happening at any time in the foreseeable future. For now, there are no biological observations for us to note, because there was virtually no cave for us to access. Perhaps upstream, something remains, but it is not possible to get to it without many weeks with a shovel, tunneling up the passage.
After getting a GPS position, we headed to Miss Buckle's to link with the rest of the crew.