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Aug 23, 2003

MINOCAL'S GLORY HOLE


Position: 18 16' 26.7" N, 77 42' 46.8" W

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, W. Stephenson

We arrived in Quick Step, aka Quickstep, on the evening of Aug 22 and the usual arrangements were soon made for our accommodation at Joanne's. Having accomplished this, several hours were passed up the road, in Quick Step proper, at the usual bar/shop, during which an opportunity was taken to once again discuss with Minocal Stephenson his recollections of the expeditions carried out by the National Speleological Society, of the U.S, in 1985. Minocal and his son, Walton, who was in Quick Step at the moment and at the bar with us, had assisted the expedition and had done some caving in the process.

After we had all had several beverages, and talk turned to the future, I described our plans for the JCO and made it clear that Walton would be a welcome addition to the crew, something he seemed to be asking for, but there was no funding; if he wished to link with us there would be no money involved during our own expeditions. Perhaps if foreign cavers needed his guidance, then we could recommend him and he would be paid, but if he wished to tag along with us, there was no cash to be had. Quite frankly, we had no need of him for the next day's caving, but since it can be valuable having dependable crew in districts that we visit, I was willing to let him come along. He expressed his understanding of this situation and also his desire to link with us nonetheless. This seemed good to me.

The morning of Aug 23, we were awake at dawn and ready to head north into the Cockpit Country by 8:00 AM. The crew consisted of Martel, Tumpa, Walton and myself. With the four of us in the rented Corolla, it was slowing going on the very rough road that winds for 5 kilometres north into the bush. A series of deep sinkholes can be found relatively close to the road, as one heads north, and it was our intention to find and GPS mark several of these en route to our final destination, Stephenson's Cave. It takes upwards of an hour to drive the 5 km's to where the hike to Stephenson's begins, and requires all but the driver to get out and walk in certain stretches so that there is enough clearance for the car. The drive was at least done more succesfully than during our last visit, meaning that the muffler stayed in place, and by 9:30 we were about 3 km in and parking at a wide spot in the road to begin the hike down into the cockpit where our first target, Minocal's Glory Hole, was located. Belmore Castle 2 is located in the same cockpit, but I decided to just get Minocal's to save time. Knowing exactly which cockpit Minocal's was in would allow me to easily find Belmore 2 another time.

Tumpa and Martel stayed with the car, and Walton and I headed down through the bush. There was no trail, and it required some machete work to move through, giving the impression that no one had been down into this cockpit in some time. Walton steered us towards the northern end of the lowest part and after some 15 minutes we were at the bottom and Walton was peering through the bush to the north, looking for signs of the hole. We made our way, via machete, to the north, and uphill, until close up against a cliff that sits on the northern edge of the cockpit, we scrambled up a last 5-10 metres and reached a very wide opening surrounded by large boulders. This was Minocal's Glory Hole, one of the deeper sinkholes on the island and also one that has not yet been fully descended.

The listed depth of this sinkhole is 83 metres, from a survey done by the NSS in 1985, but the last 15 metres of this was determined by lowering a tape, the team having run out of ropes and cable ladders. It is unknown as to whether the tape did actually reach the bottom or perhaps only another shelf lower down. It's our intention to find out in the future, but since the point of this day was to locate and reference as many pits and caves as possible, there was no time to spend the 4 - 8 hours that this would require.

I had a good look to figure out rigging for the drop in the future, then started running the GPS 10 m to the south of the hole. It was difficult to get a good satellite spread due to the cliff to the north and the canopy overhead, and over a space of about 15 minutes managed at best 5 satellites with a 2D differential position. Nevertheless, the position stayed very stable and during the 15 min's strayed very little. An averaged position was determined and although I am assigning an accuracy of +/- 20 metres, the position is probably better than +/- 10 m. I must note that the mosquitoes were absolutely fierce and while standing there, and holding the antenna aloft, I probably fed several thousand of them...

The position when plotted on the topos after the session showed the plot to be exactly where the topography indicated that it should be located. I left an orange flag at the roadside where we had descended into the cockpit.

Continue to Road-Side Pit.

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