Jamaican Caving Notes
March 30, 2005
Main Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 14.7" N, 77 34' 21.8" W, +/- 10m
NW Entrance: WGS84 - 18 18' 16.0" N, 77 34' 24.6" W, +/- 15m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack
Time in: 12:30 EST, Time out: 14:00 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: High
The two Harties caves are in the Rock Spring district, in hills on the west side of the Mouth River. In the distant past, they were part of the active river itself, but this has now moved lower and to the east. Our visit to these caves was made as part of the Parks in Peril Project, under contract to The Nature Conservancy.
In the morning of this day, our team of four had separated into two groups and carried out further exploration of Printed Circuit Cave, with much success. In the early afternoon, we had reassembled in preparation for the Harties caves, and then Mouth Maze, at the end of the Mouth River. We were fortunate in having a relative of Miss Buckle, the lady from whom we were renting rooms, assist us in locating the entrances to the Harties caves. Although they were at no great distance from Printed Cicuit, finding them ourselves would have consumed time that was better spent inside, rather than outside, the caves.
The main entrances to both caves can be reached either by a track to the north, or through farmland to the south. This first visit was done from the north, by taking the sidetrail that branches off from the main Mouth River trail, and ascends the hill to the west before curving back to the south. In a collapse-feature, now forming a saddle in the hill, entrances to both caves can be found, with Harties 1 to the SW, and Harties 2 on the NE. We began the visit by entering Cave-1.
There are two branches to Cave-1, one of which, the northern, leads to another entrance at the NW end. The main entrance, at the collapse, is medium sized, some 5m high and 4 wide, and it is only about 10m to where the two sections of the cave diverge. Once in, Dietrich and I took the northern route, and Ivor and Elizabeth the southern. We passed through fairly quickly to find the far entrance, (larger than the main entrance, facing west on the side of a hill), and then after getting a GPS position, (with some difficulty due to the entrance topology), we worked our way more slowly back the way we had come to search for inverts. Several Sesarma spp. were observed, (crabs), and a leg was collected from one for genetic analysis in a small pool near the far entrance. Several pools were located in this northern section of the cave, with the collection pool being one of the smaller and thereby offering easier temporary capture of a crab. As with most of the other caves we observed in the district, Periplaneta americana were present, although not in great numbers. This was possibly associated with the relatively small batroost that was in the cave, and a correspondingly low quantity of the guano which these roaches seem to enjoy as one of their main food sources. The roost itself was estimated to have numbers under 500, and to be largely made up of fruit-bats. About 75% of this cave is twilight zone, and it has been visited often through the years because of the ease of access. Guano mining has occured periodically, although the deposits are quite small at the current time and it would be suspected that it would primarily be mud with some fertilizer leached into it that has been collected. It is difficult to know whether this roost was larger in the past, and has been lessened by human visitation, but during the time of our observation it was of no great extent and available roosting space was not being fully used. Trog inverts that might have been expected were not seen, (cave crickets, spiders, amblypigids), and this could perhaps be due to limited food resources and the presence of P. americana taking advantage of what there is.
D and I returned to the collapse-feature at the main entrance, where I obtained a GPS position, and then we waited for Ivor and Elizabeth to join us. After a while, they emerged from their branch of the cave and reported having found a small, but long passage that they had followed for a great distance without reaching the end, that did not seem to be indicated on the KHE map from 1965. This discovery warrants a return visit at a future date.
We now entered Cave-2, and journeyed in for about 30m until a deep gully was reached that required vertical gear to descend. The gully seemed to show that formation of the cave had taken place in two separate stages, with the larger higher chambers being first, and then an active stream cutting a gully through the floor of this at a later point. The process does not seem to have been steady, but instead puncuated, there being no gradual transformation from the older, higher chamber, to the gully which was carved into the floor. It appears that many thousands of years separated these two stages of development, with an extended dry period in between, (this perhaps occuring during the last glacial age).
Because we did not have vertical gear with us this day, we decided to make a return visit later in the week to Cave-2 and move on to Mouth Maze cave today.
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