Dietrich K Roggy

Jamaican Caves Organization

Trip Reports






Roehampton School Cave and Windsor Castle Cave


Jan 5, 2005


We went to Roehampton and met up with Vincent, guide and caretaker of the Roehampton School Cave (RSC).  This was the start of our video project.  Mike rolled camera while I did some chatting with Vincent about the cave, and we went in. 


Mike did a pretty good job of capturing the experience of moving through the fairly restrictive cave.  Mike positioned himself at junctions where space permitted and got video of us coming toward and past him.  The confines of the cave worked out well for the amount of light our 2 man video crew had to work with.   Mike and I both had bought relatively inexpensive (<50$US) Princeton tec 1 watt, 1 LED waterproof lamps for this and other video projects.   Those little head mounted spotlights worked like a charm, mounted on Mike’s head while videoing, and in my hand when and where necessary to provide side lighting.  Additional help from others who had incandescent lamps lended a good blend of color to the video.  I also took still shots occasionally with Mike’s digital camera (in a sturdy waterproof housing), and got some in situ shots of the crabs that Stef was hunting for the biological inventory project.


Maybe I was too preoccupied with trying to direct the videoing, and providing lighting, etc to be able to focus on navigation, but I started down a tunnel going the wrong way when we were on our way out.  The complexity of this cave, compared to the map on the website bears mentioning here.  There are lots of side passages and so on.  After traveling in one way, stuff looks different going back the opposite way, and I feel like we walked past junctions on the way in that I didn’t see until we were on our way out.  I don’t like the idea of being lost in a cave, and thus I go into caves with people like Stef and Ivor, who have a good amount of experience in them. 


After RSC we visited the mouth of Windsor Castle Cave, nearby.  We documented the garbage in the mouth of the cave (including a whole car and piles of disposable diapers).  We got video of Stef talking about the cave, the fact that it takes water, and that the water travels underground and eventually emerges in what Jamaicans refer to as “springs”.  We then drove a short distance away (maybe < mile as the crow flies?) and came across a stone structure, that started at grade and went down to an underground stream.  This is a place where people catch water for drinking purposes and have done so for some time.  According to a man who approached us, the structure had been constructed around 1920.  We captured video of the structure, and again Stef talking about the interconnectedness of the hydrology here in Jamaica, where so much of the island is limestone.  This video of Windsor Castle Cave and the structure where people catch groundwater is great for the water quality video that I’ve been planning and corresponding with Stef about since June or so of last year. 


A good part of the day was spent, and we got video for a start on a general JCO video, enough for a RSC video and enough for a water quality video.  Mike and I also got valuable experience running the video project in the field.  Several birds were knocked off with one stroke, and thus the day was a success.



Windsor Great Cave


Jan 6, 2005


Mike and I made our way with video equipment from Montego Bay up to Windsor.  We met up with Ivor and Mark B and headed up to Windsor Great Cave (WGC).  We got some nice video and stills of the cave entrance, set up the camera inside the cave, got video of JCO members entering and leaving the cave and then joined Stef and the scientific expedition team, already deeper within the cave. 


This cave was a difficult one to video.  The conditions had enough difficult walking, with mud and so forth that made for worries about a fall spoiling our video camera.  We got some decent video of the scientific team discussing bat guano, etc but other video was very difficult to shoot in the large chambers of WGC.  All light from our headlamps died out within 20 feet, as far as our video camera was concerned and thus it was hard to capture the spacious grandeur of the cave.  Still shots taken with flash were doubtless better, and shots taken by a member of the scientific expedition, with 2 slave flashes seemed to turn out very nice indeed.


Lesson learned:  Big caves require big light!



Spot Valley Cave 1


Jan 11, 2005


Escort to Spot Valley Cave 1 (SVC1) by the property owner’s employees took us up a hillside, over some little used trails amidst eroded limestone.  The cave mouth seemed to be roughly 5 ft wide by 2 ft high, and surrounded by a decent amount of vegetation.  It wouldn’t have been the easiest cave to find, if not for a local having found or lost a goat in it, whatever the story was.


The cave consisted of one large chamber, with a couple little alcoves.  We’d come somewhat prepared to shed some light on the situation.  We’d managed to get use of a NiteRider HID (High Intensity Discharge) video light, meant for underwater video work.  Described by the mfr as a videographers dream come true, the light is 10w and balanced for 6000K (daylight is 5600-6000K).  The light worked like a dream, lighting up which ever side of the room the bulb was pointed at.  Hopefully the light helped the combined team of JCO and Dr. Allsworth-Jones locate the many petroglyphs on the cave wall opposite the entrance.  The dream didn’t last long, unfortunately.  The battery was not well charged, since it only lasted 20-30 minutes, rather than the 4 hours or so that it should last on a full charge.  Once the petroglyphs were located, most of the examination was done within a small enough area that headlamps were sufficient, but not ideal.



Spot Valley Cave 2


Jan 11, 2005


Escort to Spot Valley Cave 2 (SVC2) by the property owner and his employees took us not much more than 100m from where our vehicles were parked.  One opening probably 12 ft wide by 2 ft high was divided into two by a large tree that was growing on top of the opening and through it.  This tree likely contributed to the number of loose rocks and boulders in the opening.


I went into the space on the right, which opened up into a fair sized chamber.  At the end opposite the entrance was an entryway into another chamber that was dominated by a light hole some 20 feet above.  At the end of that chamber was what appeared to be a small keyhole type space between flow stone columns, through which daylight was visible.  Upon closer inspection, there is a curtain of flowstone columns that zig-zags into another chamber dominated by a large light hole.  I could have crawled through the zid-zag, it wouldn’t have been difficult, but for whatever reason I turned around and went back by the entrance to investigate that area more thoroughly. 


I sat on a boulder and looked under a shelf-like protuberance close to the level of the floor.  I saw what looked like a piece of dry coconut?  No, upon picking up the object it was obviously a piece of pottery.  I left the piece where it was, until Mike could make it down to me, and with Ivor present we captured the discovery of these sizeable pieces of a pot on video. 


After this, I went into the opening on the left, and further down, through a squeeze and into a low, wide chamber.  Small pottery shards were scattered alongside the many rocks present.  I was careful about every foot and hand placement, for fear of breaking some hidden item.  Elizabeth and Mike joined me in this small space.  The squeeze and size of the chamber made the still camera a better choice to bring in.


In addition to the many crude pottery shards scattered throughout the room, Mike found a clay pipe and glazed piece of porcelain.  The porcelain was the bottom of a bowl, which  unfortunately had no markings on the bottom.  The clay pipe was definitely not Taino, and although I’m a bit of a collector of pipes, I wouldn’t know which century this one hails from.  It was of the same style as pipes I’d seen in a book, recovered at Port Royal.  We brought out the pipe and left the pieces of the bowl in plain site, to mark where they were found, for the benefit of any future archaeological expeditions.


I assisted Guy in doing a relatively quick survey of the cave, from this low, rock-strewn chamber and into the next.



Kempshot Cave


Jan 12, 2005


We accompanied Dr. Jones to Kempshot, where we met a person whose residence is very close to the cave.  This person had us escorted to the cave by her laborers.  As we started following them along a path down a hill I realized that they were leading us to Cundallii cave, definitely the wrong cave.  Dr. Jones himself had been in the cave some time ago and found nothing.  Having a clear recollection of the location of the cave from the June 2004 expedition, I lead us back to the road and through an adjoining field that allowed more easy access to the Kempshot cave. 


Mike followed behind me with the video camera running, as I led the way to the cave.  We got inside and pointed out the petroglyphs while Mike captured them on video.  We saw a petroglyph that we’d not noticed during the June 2004 expedition.  It was covered with ivy root type vegetation and Mike captured the unveiling of the petroglyph on video. 


Mike and I got video of the lower chamber, which turned out splendidly, thanks to the 10W HID lamp that we’d brought.  Ivor joined us in the lower chamber and proclaimed it to have been picked clean, as far as artifacts go.  We went back up to the front of the cave and engaged in more documentation of petroglyphs.


Even with the light conditions as good as they are at the front of this fairly well lit shelter cave, it was hard for Mike to put the camera precisely on the spot that the petroglyphs were.  This made the final product of the video less than perfect.  There are several reasons for such difficulties on the part of a Videographer.  Quite often headlamps aren’t pointed precisely enough for someone looking through the lens of a camera with one eye to figure out exactly what is of interest.  Things can also be confusing because there are often several people talking and pointing at different things around the caves at the same time.  By nature, a lot of this rock art is pretty abstract, and a bit tricky to pick out.


Lesson learned:

A plan for future video projects at caves of archaeological significance is to bring a laser pointer, in order to clearly outline points of interest.  Such a tool would also allow an expert like Dr. Jones to explain what he sees within a piece of rock art, things such as enclosing lines within circles, etc.






JUNE 2004


Fontabelle 2 Cave, Trelawny


June 7, 2004


A breakdown chamber cave in a saddle of the top of a hill covered in sharp, eroded limestone.  The entrance was at least 5 meters wide and 2 meters high. in front of the entrance was a steep slope of about 30 to 40 degrees, covered with loose soil, rocks and leaves.  Stef took a tumble straight down it for about 5 meters before we really entered the part of this cave that we were interested in.  A pit off to the right went down some where around 15 meters.  Stefan led the way, feeling and of course being more safe on rope than standing on the slippery entrance.  Stefan entered the pit through a key hole type opening to the right of the slippery entrance, accessible from level ground outside. 


When all of us were down in the cave we started exploring.  We were in one large chambers that led to a second that had a lot of guano.  We found air flow in the restricted passageway between the two chambers, but couldn't seem to find any light holes or further extensions.   The remains of what seemed to be a goat were found in the second room.  Ivor went on rope to explore a pit, with a smooth, mildly angled entrance that went around a corner.  While standing at the top amongst loose material a large rock about a foot in diameter shifted and went down toward him as we all yelled "rock!"  Ivor was already around the corner and the rock seemed to just curve around the corner on the outside of the turn and continued.  When Stef prepared to ascend a small loose rock came down and hit him on the hand.  It had been shifted from above by someone standing near the entrance.  Everyone was then told to stand back.  When I ascended I knocked a small loose rock down from the entrance to the pit.  Mark was below but well out of the way.  A dangerous cave as far as loose rock is concerned. 


Belly Full Cave, St. James


June 8, 2004


A stream cave in a depression along the road.  We went in and found a passage that was pretty straightforward.  In a couple of places the passage could be followed either on one side or another of large boulder type structures, but it was definately not as complex as Roehampton School cave.  It wasn't as restricted either, which I was grateful for.  The passage was on average 2m tall, and 1 to 3 m wide.  We had gone no more than 50 m when we came to a pool of water, perhaps a sump or a duck.  The passage went around a corner and it seemed that the ceiling started getting low and it was not a good time of year to explore further, it being the rainy season.  We were making our way back out, taking time to look for invertebrates when we heard the low rumble of thunder outside.  Stefan said "We gotta move!" and we got out in about 1.5 minutes.  We came out into dark skies and rain.  When we'd entered the sky was mostly clear.


Bonnet Bush Cave, St. James


June 9, 2004


A shelter cave along a path, well known by locals.  A scramble 3m down into a sunken area reveals the opening, partially covered with vegetation.  The entrance is perhaps 3m tall and 3m wide, with broad fluted flowstone columns on either side.  One descends down, curves left and finds oneself in a chamber with fairly attractive flowstone walls.  The chamber was 10m long by 4m wide by 4m tall.  The local youths spoke of wanting to have concerts or shows in the chamber.


Miss Henney Cave, St. James


9 June, 2004


Our guide, Steve Druie took us onto some land owned by a Miss Henney.  The cave had a large opening, probably 3m high and 3m wide.  The entrance went down at an angle of perhaps 20 degrees and then the chamber, about 4m high and 3-4m wide curved back to the left.  The chamber was perhaps 30m lhong.  There was evidence of fruit bats.


Cundalli Cave, St. James


June 10, 2004


A shelter cave in a fairly dense woods.  Our local guides had no name for the cave, so Stefan called it cundalii after the species name of a cave frog that was very prevalent.


Anancy Hole, SE cockpit country, near Troy


June 11, 2004


A sinkhole in the cockpit country.  The hole was near a clearing and had barbed wire around it, evidently it was once near active agriculture.  It took a couple of hours for us to reach this place from the entrance to the Troy-Windsor trail due to confusion over losing the trail.  The trail is easy to follow in the woods, but when you hit a clearing you might find a wall of fern in your way, leaving no evidence of a trail.  Although the trail had been bush whacked some 2-3 months ago the ferns showed no sign of a trail.  We spent some time off trail, trying to use GPS to find another cave that had been located during the March session.  Off the trail we found more evidence of humanity; a large steel can, perhaps used to hold fuel and the stump of a large tree, cut down probably decades ago.  The stump was about 2m across.


Stefan went down into the sinkhole while Delroy burned smudge fires to keep the mosquitos at bay and I took pics of Stefan descending into and ascending out of the pit. 


Pumphouse Cave, St. James


June 14, 2004


A stream cave, fairly narrow.  Height 2m, width varying, but around 1m.  We followed the cave for some 15-20 minutes before it ended in a sump.  There was one branch off of the tunnel that simply joined back after a few meters.  Chert seemed to be present.  Water was present in pools of the floor of the cave, along with sand.  We took a few samples of the mineral that were lying loose in the sand on the floor of the cave.  Some of them were oddly shaped, almost like vertebrae, so one or two of them were taken in case they turned out to be something.


Flamstead Cave, St. James


June 14, 2004


A stream cave, next to a NWC pumphouse.  The entrance was approx. 1.5m tall and 3m wide.  Just within the entrance a stream runs through, from left to right.  To the right the cave continues for 15m or so before spilling out by the pumphouse.  To the left the cave continues for about 10m, ending in a sump.  The NWC employee who maintains the pumphouse said that some Germans went into the sump perhaps 3 years ago and supposedly came out some mile or two away.  A variation on a common theme surrounding caves, however the maintenance man, Eccleston Waites seemed to be a reliable fellow, and because of his work at the pumphouse would have been in good position to have acquired this information firsthand.


Nodewood 2 (and 1?), St. James


June 15, 2004


A large grotto like cave with several entrances, so much so that most of the cave is in twilight.  A gardening center walled off the main entrance and put a locked gate in it about 15 years ago.  They store flower cuttings in it.  Stefan noted some rudist fossils in the soft limestone that was caked onto the hard limestone of the walls.  Fruit bats were present.  To the right of the main, gated entrance was a low tunnel, about 1m high by 2m wide.  I went in to investigate, crawling through clay rich reddish brown mud for a few meters, over a ramp of stone and ending in a choke.  I wondered whether this was supposed to be the other nodewood cave noted by McGrath (and not found by a 1970 JCC expedition), or whether one of the many entrances of the larger cave were mistaken for a different cave.  The garden center staff knew of no other cave.


Niagara River Cave, St. James


June 15, 2004


A large river cave.  The approx. 2m high by 3m wide south entrance puts you straight into the flow of the niagara river, flowing to your right.  The river was chest deep in places as we followed it upstream.  The river was actively flowing and we noted the "water rat passage" coming in from the right.  Water was flowing out of it, but in contrast to the observations in Jamaica Underground, it was not responsible for the majority of the volumetric flow of water in the cave.  We continued left of the water rat passage into an area where stalactites came down into the water like teeth.  The headspace started looking restricted, so we turned back.  We noted the presence of many crabs and N. farri on the ceiling.  Some amount of twigs and leaves were present, but no garbage.


The following day we entered the north entrance, which the locals thought to be a different cave.  The north entrance was a straight tunnel approx. 2m high by 1m wide, one third submerged and extending back approx. 30-40m.  The water in the entrance tunnel was not noticeably flowing.  The tunnel jogged right and into the main cave at a dam of flotsam including sticks and a long PVC pipe.  We continued basically straight along the trajectory of the entrance tunnel.  We saw a low headspace area to our right that may have been where we'd turned back before, or close to it.  Somewhere ahead of us we saw water flowing to our left, then right, then under an very low rock with almost no headspace.  These notes are written more than a month ex post facto and details of what we encountered are fuzzy.  It was not a good time of year to do any extensive exploration anyway.


One thing I clearly remember is Stefan telling the locals that if we find treasure that we'd share it with them.  I pulled the 12 foot piece of PVC pipe out of the dammed up area of the tunnel before proceeding back out the North entrance.  Several of the locals were looking in when I called to them and said we'd found some treasure.  As I neared, dragging the long pipe behind me in the water I told them they could have what we'd found.  I pulled the pipe to me and lifted it up a bit to thrust it forward toward them.  They all scrambled away from the opening as if I were some mad man like Steve Irwin, coming out with a croc I'd captured and hog-tied with my bare hands.


Blue Hole Glade caves


June 16, 2004


>From near the NE entrance to Niagara River cave we headed up a hill passed through a shoulder and down into the blue hole glade.  We came down the other side of the hill, went around a bit and eventually found some caves on the opposite side of the very hill we came down.  We found one stream passage, approx. 2m high by 1m wide, extending straight back, with a slight jog to the right.  It sort of matches the description in Jamaica underground of "A series of sinks includes two short loop caves...(each up to 80m long).  It went perhaps 80m and ended in a sump.  Water was flowing into it from the tunnel we came down and the water in the sump was slowly turning, indicating that there may be significant flow downward and/or from other inlets driving the surface water in a circular pattern.  Flotsam including small twigs accumulated in one part of the chamber where the surface flow stagnated.  To the right of this tunnel, along the hill was a small loop cave, not as much as 80m long that came out in a depression 10-20 meters further to the right.  After sitting out a rain event of perhaps an hour in a shelter cave nearby we encountered an active resurgence several meters further along base of the hill.  Stefan described it as going on and definately worth checking out... but not this time.


Shell Chamber Cave?, St. James


17 June, 2004


In point we looked and asked for a cave, described by the 1972 JCC expedition as a "shaft leads to a cave... with a sinkhole about 20m from the entrance was not explored."  Some locals agreed to help us find the cave, knowing only of a sink hole or shaft.  The hole was a mere 3 minute walk from the road.  We descended about 20 feet to garbage-covered bottom.  It seemed to perhaps have lead somewhere previously, but was choked up with silt, possibly exacerbated by plastic-rich garbage being thrown in. 

We found no other sinkhole, and the locals knew of no other.  Our guide said the hole we explored used to have water in it.  He remembers throwing rocks in as a child and hearing water splash.


Bottom Pasture Cave, St. James


17 June, 2004


The entrance of this stream passage cave is at a hillside "at the head of the Dundee or Post river", as described in Jamaica Underground.  Outside the entrance a continuous stream of water pours out onto a piece of galvanized gutter, emerging straight from the hillside. 

We entered the approximately 2m tall opening and found a low passage under what seemed to be a collection of large boulders, leading into a large, water filled chamber.  Up above the large boulders was a space that I personally explored, while Stefan busied himself with the main chamber below.  The space above was perhaps a meter high, and strewn with small pebbles.  Off to the left was a small passage with a foot or so of water in it.  It seemed still.  I observed several small shrimps with bright gold eyes in the water. 


Bottom Pasture Cave 2, St. James


17 June, 2004


This stream cave is further off the main road from Bottom Pasture Cave, in a wooded area.  In front of the entrance is a meandering creekbed, which was dry at the time.  The creekbed seemed to be about a foot or two below grade, and it appeared that water overflows it's banks from time to time.  The entrance was a tall triangle of about 3m height and 2m wide.  It went straight in about 15m and then abruptly changed to a broad chamber less than a meter high.  Stefan and Martel went in and explored.  Stefan found a fossil that he described as being from the cretaceous age.  It appeared to be a piece of a plant stem or perhaps a marine tube-sponge.

In the woods behind the cave we found what appeared to be a small shaft, which seemed to lie about where the low chamber was and may well lead into the chamber of the cave.


Sand Bottom Cave, St. James


18 June, 2004


A shelter cave described in Jamaica Underground as having an entrance over 30m high, about 45m above the glade floor.  That seems about right.  The bottom, true to the name had sand on it.  Another large shelter cave was just to the right of it, from the perspective of one standing in the glade down below.  A lot of swallows roost in the roof of the cave and were flying around constantly.  Elizabeth found a small skull, to my mind a mongoose, and some small jaw bones with sharp teeth that reminded me of rabbit's jaws.



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