Jamaican Caving Notes
|November 19, 2002|
|ROCKY ROAD CAVE, SPRINGVALE, JAMAICA|
|Field Notes: R. S. STEWART|
|Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, I. C. Conolley|
Malibu had been told, when we'd stopped in Maroon Town the day before, (Nov 18), of a cave entrance somewhere along the road down to Deeside.
He'd kept watch for it that day on the way back to Coxheath but hadn't had any luck; the drive had been done in early evening.
On the return trip to Maroon Town, on Nov 19, he'd spotted it and given a shout.|
The entrance is on the hillward side of a steep slope, with the road having been constructed over the outer part of the system. It appears at first glance to be merely an opening to a culvert, the opening being small and set behind a low wall. The intrepid Malibu had spied it as we bounced up the road from Springvale to Chatsworth, myself concentrating on not tearing off the muffler on the rocks, or mashing up a tire, or driving into the precipice to the left. It's a very rough stretch of road.
There is no place, other than the road itself, to park, but this doesn't present a problem; I've yet to see any other traffic in all the drives I've made back and forth on it.
A look down into the opening showed a vertical drop of about 6 metres. The only decent anchor was a large tree across the road. We tied the rope to that, tossed it in the hole, and then I let Malibu have the honour of going down first; he had been the one to find it.
Once Mallie was down, he shouted up that it kept going, and I rapped in to join him. The cave extends into the hill as a series of medium sized breakdown chambers, roughly 10 m across and 5 - 10 high. The outermost one, where we stood, was all twilight zone but supported a colony of fruit bats. On the side facing outward there is a small window looking out over the valley below. To the right, as one faces in to the cave, a climb over boulders leads to the next chamber, and then one can continue in this fashion for 40 metres or so until a steep, guano covered, descent is encountered. At this point we turned around with the intention of getting back to the system with a second line as soon as possible to survey the rest. I suspect by the nature of the cave that it won't extend any great distance further but one never knows.
When we got back to the bottom of the rope, Malibu checked the little window that looks out over the valley, decided to squeeze through, and then managed to climb on to a tree that was handy and hauled himself back up to the road. I jumared up the rope.
Despite this cave being small in comparison to a Bristol or Windsor, it is biologically valuable. Signs of occasional ratbat dung extraction were visible in the outermost chamber, but this has not penetrated to the further reaches where the bulk of the bat population is. Guano deposits are supporting a nice collection of inverts in these areas. The extraction has been limited to the part of the cave where the fruitbats roost, and it might be suspected that other species are colonizing the deeper sections.
It is to be hoped that a proper biological survey of this cave might take place in the near future. The cave will be monitored for signs of increased guano extraction by jamaicancaves.org
The cave has been looked for in JU, and the existing database, with no results. Martel Taylor has suggested the name Rocky Road Cave in consideration of its proximity to a very rocky road. The position was obtained with a DGPS WAAS fix soon after we exited the cave and has been entered in the GPS database under this name.
A friendship was made with a man named Tony who lives closer to Maroon Town. It is expected that this will be fruitful in the future.
|PETERKIN CAVE E. ENTRANCE, MAROON TOWN, JAMAICA|
|Field Notes: R. S. STEWART, Nov 19, 2002|
|Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, I. C. Conolley|
|After we had moved on from Rocky Road Cave, we returned to our usual parking place in Maldon, close to Peterkin Cave. An attempt to find Liebert failed, so we headed off towards the bottom land that lies to the east in hopes of searching out the East entrance to Peterkin ourselves. Liebert didn't know any particular cave by name but knew where many entrances were located. We had a good idea of the location of the east end of Peterkin, but this of course guarantees nothing when searching for caves in Jamaica.
We once again followed the trail that goes past Liebert's Great Hole until we could cut off on a side trail down into the Bottom Ground Valley. While rambling around Bottom Ground in search of prospects, and shouting out the occasional, "oy!", we spotted a gentleman coming from the east side. A few questions revealed him to be Liebert's brother. We never managed to find out his first name. Both he and Liebert are in their late 50's or 60's, and very helpful. We asked if he knew of a cave entrance nearby, and within 5 minutes he had us where we wanted to go. We had hiked past the entrance, it not more than 20 metres from the trail, but it had been hidden in the bush. I offered him 200 J$ in return for his assistance. He accepted this but made it clear that nothing was required. He's a very cool guy. As we headed in, he headed off to get back to work on the farm.
The East entrance of Peterkin Cave is large and complex. The route that took us in starts in a chamber, see photo, that we entered from the east, open at both ends, that leads one to the large Great Entrance. This Great Entance is an enormous half-dome, open to the north, that is over 50 metres across. At the western side, the side leading into the hill, a smaller opening leads into a wide passage trending SW. After some 100 m a low section to the left, south, leads into an area with particularly fine formations. It's surprising, but "soda straws", and most remarkably, helictites, are present despite a regular, seasonal, flow of water through this system. The reason, I suspect, is due to a constriction of the streamway that happens close on the upstream side. It appears that the flow is reduced in the downstream area to such an extent that it doesn't destroy the deposits that happen during the dry season from percolation and condensation. The total flooding of the system does not appear to be a regular event and might be limited to times of exceptional rain, (such as 2002). The constriction mentioned consists of a very old breakdown area that has been partially filled by subsequently formed stall barriers. The cross-section at this point is no more than 5% of the downstream area. The route in is a crawl of less than 60 x 90 cm, that went through a small pool and was not particularly inviting. The memory of June, combined with Lily and Isidore in October, made it seem unwise to continue past this point. So far this year, I have faced high water levels in every hydrologically active cave that we've visited. The only concern that I have while caving is the thought of drowning in a flood-pulse. In June we had seen the West entrance of Peterkin go underwater in less than 2 hours. Perhaps by Feb, 2003, the water table will start getting back to normal in the Cockpit.
On the way in, and again on the way out, we surveyed for inverts with few results. The east end of the system can support a migrant bat population, (probably fruit bats), but the washing away of the guano deposits on the floor by the seasonal river seems to remove the nutrient base for the invertebrates.
Our hike back out involved several minutes of minor confusion as we navigated the labyrinth of little trails that surrounds the area. A compass bearing got us going in the right direction and we were soon back to the Lada.
N.B. to self: On the drive from Maroon Town to Springvale we kept our eyes open for more entrances. A short distance from Rocky Road Cave, we spotted a little hole in the wall to the hillward side of the road. I headed in expecting to find a little shelter pocket but was surprised to find a narrow passage leading into the hill. The time of day was well past sunset and we had an hours drive on bad roads ahead of us so I crawled back out. The position was not GPS marked but it can be, (will be), easily found again.
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