Jamaican Caving Notes
May 31, 2006
Team: RS Stewart, E Slack, K John, M Newman
Notes: RS Stewart
[Parks in Peril notes for Nanny Cave - May 17, 2005.]
This was the last cave that we would visit for the day, and as with the others, it was done as part of a water quality project being carried out by Kimberly John of The Nature Conservancy (along with her loyal assistant, Minke Newman). Our place in this was serving as the guides (Elizabeth and I).
Nanny Cave is a site listed in Jamaica Underground that we found and assessed in May, 2005, as part of the caves component of the Parks in Peril Project. We had suggested that this site be added to Kimberly's target list, after she had asked us about suitable sites in the district (southwest Cockpit Country). There are two reasons why we considered it to be a good target: it is quick to access, and it is a year-round rising.
The source of the water that flows from this cave is undetermined, but analysis done as part of this visit might supply hints. Specifically, Kimberly is testing for nitrates, phosphates, and the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD). If the results show low very levels of nitrates and phosphates, we can assume that the source is not in agricultural land. If those indicators are high, then the sink for this rising can be narrowed down to areas within, or downstream of, land currently being farmed. Combining this information with a close examination of the topography to the north could suggest places to look.
We had arrived at the area of the cave at about 3:00 PM, after visiting Black River Head (Black River Blue Hole). I had stopped briefly to check with a person who lives on the main to be sure that I had the right turn (this being faster than firing up the GPS), as it had been a year since my previous visit, and after finding out that, yes, it was, we drove down the minor road that leads to the start of the short hike to the entrance. While we did this, heavy showers fell upon us, and when we got to the start of the hike, we decided to wait it out a bit. After about 20 minutes, it let up slightly, and we took advantage of this to head down the track. Elizabeth remained in the car, there being no real need for her to come along, and by doing so she was able to loan me her umbrella. I have had vague thoughts over the years of getting some heavy-duty gortex umbrellas made up for us, if we ever have the money, but this, of course, has never happened, and today would be the first time I would actually hike to a cave holding a brolly over my head. It was a rather beaten-up, townie version, and came back in even worse shape than it started in, but it has again put it in my mind to construct a bush-proof umbrella. It should be strong enough that when folded up, it can be used to club ferns and shrubbery out of the way. At any rate, Elizabeth's worked well enough to keep my helmet and shoulders dry, and we were soon at the entrance to the cave (some of the TNC crew had rain-gear, quite sensibly, but I always find it's like being in a hot, humid plastic bag, so I'm not keen on that and usually just get wet instead).
We first entered the easternmost entrance of the three, which leads into an entrance chamber about 10m wide and high. Here, to the west, the stream passage that leads into the hillside is met. It flows out at the middle entrance (low and not inviting), which is where Kimberly would get her water samples, external to the cave, after we'd poked around in the east entrance chamber for a few minutes.
Water levels seemed comparable to what we had seen on May 17, 2005 (perhaps slightly higher). Rains had been heavier in May of 2005 than in 2006, and the system seemed to be in a similar state. During the previous visit, I had pushed upstream, into the cave, for some tens of metres, but had hit a section where there was only about 60cm of airspace, which I chose not to go through (rainy-season, and very dicey). Again, today, I had no interest in pursuing it, not wishing to drown (we have seen caves that are risings come up very fast, one of which almost trapped Clive Donaldson and I, Summerhill Cave-1, Oct 4/05). It must be noted that exploration of this cave is incomplete, and a visit during dry times (March) is on the JCO to-do list.
We had one more location to hit today, Y.S Falls, and so we did not spend much time at Nanny Cave. As soon as the water samples were done, and Kimberly had scooped around in the rising with a net to see what might be found, we headed back to the vehicles. A final thing that should be noted is that the last part of the lane that leads toward the entrance was in much better shape than it was in 2005. It appears that marl has been dumped on it to get trucks to a cane field that is south of the entrance. Using a vehicle with good clearance, on May 31, 2006, it was possible to drive to within 100 metres of the entrance.
Our visit to Y.S. Falls was brief. All that needed to be done was to get some water samples. After meeting with the owner of the property, we drove most of the way to the base of the falls (more accurately described as rapids down a series of steps), and in a nicely-gardened area, a path led to the edge of the water where there was a low, railed platform at a good viewing point. Kimberly took her samples, we chatted with the owner for a few minutes, and then we were on our way.
The evening that followed was very nice; I'd heard of the guesthouse, "Apple something or other", several times in the past, and this was where Kimberly had arranged to put us up for the night. By the sounds of it, it would be a big improvement on the concrete floors I usually sleep upon when on expedition (other than Windsor), and I was very much looking forward to it. Even better, the bill was covered by TNC. Thinking in terms of future JCO visits, I asked Elizabeth to check into the rates. We believe they were charging 1000 J$/person/night, this based on Elizabeth and I sharing a room (with two, well-separated beds), which is reasonable. As we sometimes crowd six of us into one room, this was fine. Even nicer was that there was a beautiful French girl, Ann-Marie, also staying there. We'd passed her earlier on May 31 when we'd been on our way to Y.S., with us in an SUV and her walking down the road, and when we again passed her as we made our way back to Maggotty from Y.S., with her now walking back east toward town, it seemed only polite to see if she wanted a ride. Elizabeth, loyal member of the crew that she is, took charge of this as I pulled over and stopped, and asked her in a perfect way. But the young lady, obviously prefering to be entirely independent, politely and pleasantly declined our offer (also, she was just about in town and didn't have far to go). As we rolled on our way and continued our drive to Maggotty, I idly speculated on whether she might be staying at the Apple place. When we arrived at the guesthouse, after a stop in town for chicken and rice, we found that indeed she was. Now, I didn't expect for a minute that I would somehow have a sudden romance with this attractive young woman during our brief overnight stay, but as I have always had a thing about redheads, and I very much like the sound of English when spoken with a French accent, it was very nice to just have her there to look at, and listen to, over breakfast on the porch the next morning. Also, she had a great little plug-in heating coil for cups of water, which allowed me to make coffee (I had my filter and grounds with me). All in all, it was a nice little break from the expedition, and Anne-Marie, if you ever stumble across this account (I'm spelling your name the two most likely ways), I'd like you to know you're one of the most graceful, lovely women I've met while roaming around the hills of Jamaica.
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