Jamaican Caving Notes
November 18, 2002
PETERKIN CAVE, W. ENTRANCE, MAROON TOWN, JAMAICA
Field Notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: I. C. Conolley, R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor
We drove the Deeside to Maroon Town Road in the Lada. The road was a little rougher than in June and it took us 1 hour 45 minutes from Windsor, via Fontabelle. We arrived in Maroon Town at about 11:00 and stopped at Mr. MacBean's establishment at the crossroads. Reacquaintances were made and then we carried on to park at the same spot as in June, on the road above the pasture land that lays to the south-west of the West Entrance of Peterkin Cave.
The West entrance of Peterkin Cave is set back behind a series of fissures and small entrances that form a small labyrinth under rocky ground to the south of the entrance proper. It was at these small openings that we'd decided to move on to the the Eastern Entrance on June 20, 2002. This time, a little more searching around, without a raging thunderstorm as accompaniment, led us to quickly discover the large entrance that combines with the previously mentioned openings to take the seasonal stream known as the Tangle river.
The cave enters the hillside some 30 m under a road above that crosses directly over the system. A large passage leads to the East, with breakdown boulders on the floor, until it descends into a southerly tending section that was flooded well before the deep pool recorded by the GSD. It should be noted that an unusually rainy summer had been followed by two tropical depressions, Isodore and Lily, some 6 weeks earlier. To the immediate southeast of this area, a strong flow of water was entering the passage from fissures in the wall although no surface flow had been seen on the outside.
The river that was flowing past us, receding into the cave, prevented any chance of carrying on; we had seen the entrances behind us submersed on the afternoon of June 20 in the space of 2 hours.
A careful search for inverts was made on the way back out with negative results. The seasonal scouring of this end of the system doesn't allow more than a temporary occupation by fruit bats, (rose apple sprouting etc.), and several eleuthera dactyla, (frogs), in the twilight zone.
A 3D DGPS WAAS position was obtained at the entrance and recorded at 12:30 as Wpt's 046 and 047, (position listed in GPS database).
November 18, 2002
LIEBERT'S GREAT HOLE, MAROON TOWN, JAMAICA
Field Notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Taylor (at entrance)
On June 20, 2002, while on the hike to the East Entrance of Rota Cave, we had passed a large sinkhole of about 10 m diameter. We'd been pressed for time and had noted it, taken a GPS position, and carried on. Our quick look at the hole had left us with the impression that it was about 10 metres deep. It had been searched for in JU in the interim with no listing having been found.
Upon reaching the hole, I tied a 30 m rope to a large tree and tossed down the rope. There weren't any sharp rock edges to be seen that might cut the rope so I got on rappel, and went down the 20 deg slope closer to the start of the vertical to see if the rope was down. I could see that it was caught up on debris about 6 m below so I hauled the rope up and tossed it again. It fell freely down. Going further to the start of the vertical, I still couldn't see the bottom due to a rocky outcropping. I asked Malibu to go to the other side of the hole and check to see that the rope was on the floor. He went round, looked, and reported that the rope was short several feet of the bottom of the pit. I was amazed; we'd guessed the pit to be about 10 m deep...
I hauled myself back up, tied the rope with a shorter loop round the tree to gain some length, then tossed the rope in again. Malibu reported that the rope was touching bottom. There was close to 90 feet, straight drop, using the rope as a comparison. Now assured that I wouldn't run out of line on the way down , I went ahead and rapelled on in.
For about 10 m, I had my feet on the rocky wall of the shaft, then the wall pulled away and I descended into the center of a large dome-shaped break-down chamber, the floor 50 feet below me, the walls receding as I carried on down. It was a wonderful ride, there being a sense of great spaciousness as I slowly slid towards the bottom.
Once I was off rope, I called up to Ivor to come ahead, and went off to the west to have a look at an opening in the wall about 3 m above the floor. Ivor came down the rope carefully, being sure to not pick up too much speed on the rappell, then joined me at the western side of the chamber.
While waiting for Ivor, I had tested the rock on the wall below the opening to see if a scramble up were possible, but had found the material to be very crumbly and unuseable. Almost directly below the opening, what I had first taken to be sand turned out to be more of a sandstone, with ripples frozen in place. The colour of the chamber floor around this section, in fact much of the floor of the entire chamber, is a remarkable silvery grey with no trace of the usual lignite staining seen in so many caves. The appearance is very fine. The finding of a small rock that could be turned over, showed on the underside the usual yellowy limestone colour, demonstrating that the silvery-grey hue of the surface of the cave is a patina deposited from above.
The opening on the west wall was dangerous to scramble up to, there being a good chance of a tumble onto rocks below, and as we had only the one rope with us, we couldn't take advantage of a likely looking boulder several feet inside the opening that could be slung with rope or webbing with the use of a bamboo pole. Next time.
We had a good look for inverts, finding nothing, and observed no evidence of bats although one would suspect this chamber to be used at least occasionally by the light-tolerant fruit bats. The lack of inverts is probably due to the lack of guano.
We made ready to ascend the static line. Where the rope had touched bottom, it was only several metres from a large break-down boulder. I hauled the rope over and started off from the top of the boulder so that I could save myself several metres of prusiking. I clipped in the Jumars, pushed off, and pendulumed back and forth as I worked my way up the first 10 metres. It was a lot of fun. The ascent was very easy with the rope hanging free and clear, and a smooth transition onto the rock wall for the last 10 metres.
Ivor followed once I was up and off-rope. This was the most difficult ascent that he'd attempted thus far, so I went around to the far side of the pit to coach if necessary. It was good to see him take his time rigging his gear, making sure all was set before he headed up. He'd wisely started from the floor, rather than the boulder, so that he could adjust things before being totally comitted. Once set, he moved steadily upwards, slowing only for the transition to the wall for the last section. He was soon up, and as Malibu hauled rope, I took another GPS reading.
While we had first been setting the rope, before we went down, Liebert Maggy had trundled along the trail, spotted us and stopped to say hello. We tried to get any information that we could on the hole that we were about to descend into, and didn't find out much. He said that he'd been into it on a ladder, but I find this doubtful considering the depth. I wouldn't be surprised if the GSD has been into it when they were in the area decades ago, but Liebert doesn't know of a name, and it's not in the JU Register. I'm going to suggest the name, "Liebert's Great Hole", in consideration of Liebert Maggy being the closest farmer, and it being quite a fine sinkhole.
This sink/cave is best thought of as a large breakdown chamber that has formed under a relatively level area, and then worked its way up into the rock above until the centre of the roof has fallen in. The opening, where it reaches the surface, is about 10 metres wide, cylindricaly extending down the same distance at which point it intercepts a breakdown chamber roughly 20 m high and 40 m wide. The total vertical distance covered if the descent is made from the south side, trail side, of the entrance, is about 27 m.
The opening found on the western side of the chamber didn't look terribly promising but this cave is very close to the Peterkin/Rota system.
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