Jamaican Caving Notes
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March 31, 2005
GOOD HOPE CAVE
Position: WGS84 - 18 18' 28.1" N, 77 33' 50.8" W, +/- 15m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack
Time in: 14:30 EST, Time out: 16:30 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: Low
Good Hope Cave was our third cave of the day, (not counting a large unlisted shelter cave found in the morning), after Carambie, and Swanga. It was shown to us by Gary, a friendly man who lived close-by, and at the time we did not realize that it was one of our targets. In the Rock Spring district, there are two other caves named Good Hope, those being Good Hope One Cave, and Good Hope Two Cave. When compiling information prior to the expedition, I had neglected to add this one to the list, it becoming lost in the confusion of names. I should note that earlier in the expedition, near Maroon Town, we had investigated a cave called Hope River Glade, and I hope to not have to visit another cave with the word "Hope" in the name for at least several months - it's becoming rather difficult for me to keep them all straight.
Good Hope Cave is found not far from Carambie, and is at a similar elevation, and also morphologically similar. Like Carambie, it appears to be formed in white limestone, at no great height above the yellow-white limestone transition. It is primarily composed of one large breakdown chamber that has been divided into two sections by a remarkable wall of formations, (described in more detail below). It has one known entrance, large, found high on the side of a hill, that faces west. Gary was familiar with the cave, and told us that in the past he had found another chamber, (other than what is obvious when making a cursory exploration), that had beautiful formations, and that he had only been into this once. The reason, it transpired, that he was being so helpful today, (assisting us in finding Big Swanga, and Swanga Banga), was that he wanted us to assist him in refinding this new, beautiful chamber, since during his only other visit he had had nothing but a bottle torch for light, and could not spend us much time in it as he would have liked. We, of course, were happy to do this, and upon making the short hike up the hill from the Good Hope Glade road, to reach the entrance, under the impression that we were visiting an unlisted, new cave, we were glad we had done so. We were obviously at something that had some potential, and was of some interest.
The cave is entered by passing through gaps on either side of an enormous boulder that sits just inside of the entrance. This giant chunk of rock is very impressive. It has broken off of the ceiling, to sit on the floor below, and in this sense is nothing out of the ordinary - but it is massive. Although not measured, it is over 15m across, and 12m high. On the top, it generally matches the shape of the ceiling from which it fell, with a space of about 2m left above, but on all sides, including the top, it is smooth, and rounded, as though it has been eroded by water over a long period. The cave is currently high and dry, so this seems to indicate that the giant boulder has been sitting in place for many thousands of years, since a time when the surrounding land was higher and there was indeed a flow through the cave that at least occasionally rose to the roof. Although it might seem odd that I was so fascinated by this giant rock, it should be understood that when one looked at it, one was very aware of the vast amount of time that nature had invested in this cave, and also the great changes that had happened to the exterior landform in the passage of those many millennia.
Interior of the great rock, a chamber about 25m wide, and 15 high, extends into the hill. Towards the back, about 60m inwards, there is a pile of breakdown boulders that extends from floor to roof, and wall to wall. Through this, gaps give access to further parts of the chamber, until at no great distance the end is found. Near the back of the main chamber, outside of the boulders on the south side, there is a lighthole. On the south side of the main chamber, several openings lead into what at first appears to be a second chamber, that runs beside the first one. Inside this next chamber, the formations are marvellous. Flowstone, and fluted columns, make up most of the walls, and there is little left of the native rock to be seen. Elizabeth in particular found this very beautiful, this being the most well-decorated cave she had seen to date. The two of us had gone into this section first, while the others searched for Gary's lost chamber, (which was to remain lost, because we never did find it), and we carefully scouted around to see if there were any other continuations to be found. Nothing was seen, other than gaps down into voids under the boulders, and after about 20 minutes of this we returned to join the others.
Once back in the main chamber, and looking around, I now realized that the whole cave was in fact one very wide room, with the dividing wall being composed of nothing but formations, floor to ceiling, essentially a long series of pillars, grown together, with just a few gaps left in it. Again, the morphology of this cave is fascinating. The width of the cave is much more than what you would usually find, because the horizontal extent is such that it should have collapsed by now. Apparently, the crack that extends above the formation-wall, that allowed the speleothems to form, created a load-bearing wall that has enabled the cave to survive all these years. This beautiful underground realm is much more than a simple hole in the ground - it's like a living creature, structurally improving itself as the years have gone by.
Biologically, the cave serves as an occasional roost for fruit-bats, (much of the main chamber being twilight zone), and there are no substantial guano deposits. Trog inverts weren't seen, (although we might have missed seeing some that were indeed present), just terrestrial opportunistic critters. There are no stygobites, because there is no water to speak of, other than what drips through cracks in the ceiling. In short, the value of this cave is in its physical structure and beauty, rather than what lives in it.
We devoted another 30 minutes to searching for Gary's lost chamber, with no success, as he grew increasingly frustrated. He has a recollection of having found a squeeze down through rocks to find a particularly well-decorated room, but despite our looking through every little gap that we could, we did not find what he sought. Perhaps it is truly there, and we just didn't get lucky. Perhaps he was in the chamber that Elizabeth and I had explored, and had managed to find a different way in, under rocks from the main chamber, and thought he was somewhere else. We will leave this mystery to others to solve.
A GPS position was obtained, (wpt 197), with some difficulty, due to the cliff in which the entrance is found; I am listing the position with reduced accuracy to reflect this. The coordinates given will certainly allow the cave to be found, but they could be much improved.
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