|Funding||The JCO Jamaican Caving News||JCO Main Page|
|Facebook & YouTube||Wednesday, February 10, 2016||Contact the JCO|
We'll be at Jackson Bay again this weekend attempting to find more of the sites. Next up is Somerville Cave and Goat Cave.
Here's a short video of deep, dusty sediment at Lloyds Cave - 17 MB on Jan 30. It gives a good idea of why the area has been so valuable for paleontological work in the past.
Jan and Stef were back at Jackson Bay last weekend continuing our location of the caves in the area. Most of it was bushwhacking, with not much time spent underground, but the mission was entirely successful. We located two more caves, Corner and Lloyds, and revisited Water Jar for the first time since 2010. We also met with some of the senior members of the Jackson Bay Gun Club, and received their blessing to concentrate more of our fieldwork in the area. They're cool guys, and love the place even more than us. It was great linking up with them.
Here's an area map from Jamaica Underground, 2nd edition, Alan G Fincham, that shows the GPS-referenced entrances (red dots) we have so far (click on it for high resolution). With every position we get, by georeferencing the map, it makes it easier to find the others. Much respect for those who came before us and did all of that. But it's been 20 years since the last major fieldwork in the area, it was pre-GPS, the positions and overall map plots are approximate, and the entrances are tricky to find these days. Our aim is to recover it all, and make it easier for other researchers in the future.
Silvia, Lupe, Jan, Stefan, and Bogdan were at Portland Ridge on Saturday, January 23, continuing our collection of baseline data for the caves in the area as prep work for projects later in the year (bats, invertebrates, snakes, earthquake data, and Taino). We returned to Drum Cave and GPS referenced the last of the four entrances, and came across another yellow boa (Epicrates subflavus) even larger than the last one (~ 2m), then found Skeleton Cave and Birthday Cave. Photos have been posted on the JCO Facebook Page, and there's a short video of the snake (30 MB MP4) on the server.
Stef and Carema were in the Cockpit Country at Windsor, Trelawny, on Sunday, January 24, recovering our circle route through Guthries with a couple of visitors. It went quite well, and was a very pleasant outing.
Stewart was with a team from the Water Resources Authority on January 13 carrying out dye tracing at Peterkin/Rota, St James. The dye used, fluorescein, is fairly benign stuff, and what you see in the photo is very concentrated, and injected many km's from the stream risings. By the time it emerges, it will be highly diluted and only detectable through lab analysis of charcoal receptors.
Stewart and Dr Ivor Conolley were at Coventry Cave, St Ann, on Saturday, January 9, with a group of high school students from the US. Conolley demonstrated how to trace Taino petroglyphs while Stewart descended into the cave to collect another stalactite for Simon Mitchell's earthquake project. Unfortunately, we forgot the camera in the truck, but here's a photo of the stal taken afterwards. It doesn't look like much, but when the tip is dated by the uranium/thorium decay process, it will give us an idea of when the breakdown boulder it was attached to came off the ceiling - possibly during a major quake. After we have enough data from enough sites, if we see chronological clustering of events, and spatial correlation with known fault lines, we may be able to extend the earthquake record in Jamaica back many thousands of years, and improve forecasting of future events.
Jan and Stefan were back at Portland Ridge yesterday searching for, and finding, Drum Cave. Three entrances were located and GPS referenced, and a speleothem sample was taken for Simon Mitchell's earthquake project. A bonus was an observation of a Yellow Boa (Epicrates subflavus) seen in this video (60 MB WMV). At one point, it strikes the camera, which is very impressive
Stewart will be at Tangle River, St James, the next couple of days to do prep work with the WRA on a future water tracing project. A map produced by Stewart that illustrates the current knowledge of connectivity can be found below. The background is a DEM with grey/white higher in elevation, and blue/green lower.
We've been busy at Jackson Bay lately. Last Saturday, Dec 5, Ives, Jan and Stef established an overland route from Ent 2 to Ent 9 to facilitate further fieldwork at that end (details to follow), and on Wednesday, Dec 9, Jan and Stef assisted a Travel Channel crew at Goat Island and Jackson Bay Great Cave. Stef's Land Rover Discovery, Sweets, was featured in a number of shots and will soon be an international TV star. As its reward, it will get an oil change and a good wash. Some photos from the day can be found on the JCO Facebook Page.
Here's a great video of our outing at Jackson Bay Great Cave on Nov 28/15 - 920 MB MP4. If anyone happens to know the species name of the spider seen at 4:10, we'd love to hear from them.
Jan and Stefan were at Jackson Bay Great Cave yesterday. Two entrances at the eastern end were found from the inside via the crawl. One is Entrance 7 (of the nine entrances already known), and the other seems to have had no previous identication. We're therefore calling it Entrance 10.
Jan and Stefan were at Jackson Bay, Portland Ridge, last weekend with Byron Wilson and two visiting herpetologists, Scott and Tim. The JCO mission was to explore the far eastern end of the cave, plus search for blind cave fish, and the herpers were there to photograph frogs, snakes and lizards. Once again, we didn't find any blind fish, just ones with eyes, but we did increase our knowledge of the cave. The herpers had better luck - amongst other critters, they found the very rare frog E. cavernicola. More photos from the outing have been posted on the JCO Facebook Page
Jan, Silvia, and Stef were at St Clair Cave last Saturday, Nov 7, 2015, attempting to push the Acheron, beyond the Inferno. Our hope was that the recent rains might have flushed the system, giving us a chance of good air. Instead, we encountered some of the nastiest conditions yet because of low water (the drought continues underground), so had to pull the plug early. The high definition video linked here, Stewart, Pauel, and Kouwenberg at St Clair Cave - 1.2 GB MP4 gives a good idea of what it was like, and includes some incredible footage of bats in flight - but you'd have to be there with us to believe what we were trying to breath. For more information on the Acheron, please refer to St Clair Cave.
We've posted a video of Stewart and Hyde at Thatchfield Great Cave, St Ann, Jamaica - 100 MB WMV, last Sunday investigating a report from the JCF of a murder victim dumped in the lighthole entrance, and doing some science at the same time - Simon Mitchell's earthquake project. There was no body, but we got three perfect speleothem samples, all of which may have come down from the roof during an unrecorded, pre-colonial earthquake. We won't know until Simon has dated them via uranium-thorium isotope decay and we look for correlation with samples from other sites. If we see widespread chronological and spatial clusters of events, we'll know we're onto something.
We've put a copy of the CVM coverage of our visit to Retirement Cave last Sunday, Oct 4, 2015 on the server. It's a bit short - we had a hard time getting it. The CVM original is at JCO on CVM starting at 18:50.
For the record, the deceased gentleman's name was Ashton Thompson. The JCO team was Adam Hyde, Ronald Stefan Stewart, Christina Rose, and Winston Hamilton.
The JCO were back at Retirement Cave, northern St Elizabeth, last Sunday to again attempt to remove a body. The first try, in July 2014, it was too bloated. This time, there was nothing left but bones and we were successful. Some of you who live in Jamaica might have seen it on the news yesterday. Here's video of our own that shows the "inside" story, Retirement Cave Body Recovery.
We've posted a video of the JCO at Dunns Hole last June on Youtube at Dunns Hole - YouTube. The highest resolution version available there seems to be 720px, but we've also put the 920 MB, 1080px version on our server at Dunns Hole - High Resolution.
Members of the Ewarton branch of the JCO (Stefan Stewart, Mensilita Lewis, Winston Hamilton, Courtney Hamilton, Danyelle Hamilton, and Taj Harrison) were underground yesterday at Worthy Park Cave-2 for some SRT training (going down/up ropes), and also checking into conditions at one of the more interesting caves in Lluidas Vale. We went in at 2 PM and came out at 8 PM. A cool, little video clip has been posted on our Youtube channel here.
Hyde, Stewart, Godiva Golding, Joshua Polachek, Simon Mitchell, and Julian Williams were at Belmont/Drip Cave, near Stewart Town, on Saturday July 18. We'd hoped to have a Noranda rep attend so that we could encourage them to help preserve the site if mining goes ahead in the area, but it didn't happen. However, we did some good work on Simon's project to determine pre-colonial occurrences of earthquakes. This was the first fieldtrip for the project, and several appropriate speleothem samples were collected (with virtually no impact on the cave). Photos from the outing have been posted on the JCO Facebook Page.
Stewart, Mensilita Lewis, Winston Hamilton, Courtney Hamilton, Danyelle Hamilton, and Taj Harrison, were at St Clair Cave today. The main mission, Stewart's, was to suss possibilities for Simon Mitchell's earthquake project. He also took advantage of it to get some of our local Ewarton crew more involved with the JCO. They were great, and we had a very cool time.
Compared with the May 22 visit, there were fewer bats in the Lemon Ridge passage, external to the Inferno passage, which is the main roost, This may be because Worthy Park has stopped pressing cane and conditions in the Inferno (less BOD, more O2) are allowing more of the Inferno roost to be useable. What we mostly saw in the Lemon Ridge passage were M. blainvillii, which are the most adventurous Jamaican cave bats (small, fast, absolutely the best flyers), and often seen in the further reaches of any bat-cave here.
Jan Pauel was on the radio yesterday (he's our media guy) discussing impacts on the caves of Jamaica, as well as an upcoming project with UWI that will look into the pre-colonial history of earthquakes on the island using speleothems for dating. It's a bit complicated, but essentially involves the age of stalagmites growing on breakdown boulders - should be great stuff.
As usual, he did a great job. We've posted a copy on the JCO server, Jamaica caves radio interview on 105.5, June 23, 2015 - 51 MB wav.
Conolley, Hyde, Pauel, and Stewart were at Dunn's Hole, south of Stewart Town, on Saturday, June 20. Dunn's (see Guy's page - Dunn's, 2007), is one of the most spectacular caves in Jamaica but poorly known because of the difficulty in accessing it - 700 feet down, and 700 feet back up. Our mission was video documentation in aid of it's preservation (it's in the corner of the Cockpit Country where bauxite mining might soon go ahead).
Jan is working on the footage (recorded with two high-def cameras - Jan with one, Stef with the other), and we'll have a great video to post later in the week. For now, some photos have been posted on the JCO Facebook Page.
Stefan Stewart, Mencie Lewis, and Winston Hamilton were at Swansea Cave today, in Lluidas Vale. The mission was two-fold: Stewart wanted to have another look for the Onychophoran, Speleoperipatus speleus (refer to Swansea Cave - 2010), and Lewis and Hamilton wanted to join him to learn more about the caves of St Catherine. Stewart had no luck (quite a rare critter, few have ever been found), but the rest of the crew loved it nonetheless and we had a great time.
Stewart and Rose were in the Cockpit Country with some cool visitors Wednesday, May 27 (Jen, Carl, Andrea, Blake). Our most notable observation was a very active spring in the northern section of Guthries ( a serious resurgence from parts unknown), which we've seen before during rainy times, and recorded the position of. This goes on the to-do list for collaboration with the WRA.
As usual, a number of very large spiders, Nephila clavipes, were encountered en route and carefully shifted to the side of the track (they leave us alone, we leave them alone), one of which is pictured here.
Stewart and Rose were at St Clair Friday, May 22, with a couple of intrepid visitors to the island, Elena and Dustin. We went as far as the Zambia entrance, then returned to the Polly Ground entrance. Crayfish were again seen in one of the pools en route in the main Lemon Ridge passage, first observed last year, apparently introduced from Lluidas Vale by way of the Acheron during a higher than normal input of water.
The main batroost, The Inferno, wasn't entered, but there were a surprising number of bats in the Lemon Ridge passage - usually there are none. We suspect that it's associated with the Worthy Park sugar estate. Our understanding is that this time of year, they wash the cane before pressing, dump the water down the "Factory Sink", which enters the Acheron somehow, and creates a high biological oxygen demand in the further reaches of The Inferno. The air becomes so poor that bats are forced out into areas they wouldn't normally roost in. JCO field reports found at, St Clair Cave, include more information.
Stewart was at Riverhead Cave, St Catherine, (upstream of St Clair, downstream from Lluidas Vale), on May 17 to observe a large group of people from Polly Ground who had decided they would destroy the dam at the entrance (part of an indigo mill that existed a couple of hundred years ago) in order to increase the flow from the cave. As expected, they declined to attempt it once they saw how solid it is (would take a couple of sticks of dynamite). But he took the opportunity to explain how it wouldn't make any difference anyway. The flow is what it is. Most of the year, there's none. During the height of the rainy season, there is. Mashing up the dam won't change it.
Adam Hyde and Stewart were at St Clair Cave today. Adam was instrumental in establishing the route through the third entrance, Zambia, that Stewart discovered a few years ago (took us another couple of years to complete it because of a 15m vertical pitch found from the inside - long story - check the JCO website). But he hadn't had the chance to push through the entire route from Zambia to Pollyground until today. It was a great outing and a really cool day spent underground.
Conolley and Stewart were at Guinea Corn Cave near Priory, St Ann, yesterday searching for Taino artefacts as part of an archaeological project taking place at Seville.
Pauel and Stewart carried out capture and release of bats, and ultrasonic acoustic recording, at a cave in Portland on April 25.
Conolley, Simandan, and Stewart visited Quaws Pond in the Cockpit Country (CC) on Saturday as part of the pond sampling component of the Home Away Cave project. This was our first time there, although it's been on the to-do list for some time. At the moment, it's dry (just damp mud and grass), so it's obviously ephemeral.
Stewart, Simandan, and McClean visited Riverhead Cave today near Ewarton, St Catherine The air was particularly poor - low water, no recent flushing, and the smell of sugar in the air from WP. All of which added up to high biological oxygen demand from nasty little microbes. The first sump was probably open, which Stewart and Hyde got through before during wetter times, maybe even the second, but there wasn't enough O2 to make it possible.
Much of the batroost was A. jamaicensis (large fruitbat) - we don't know what else yet - evidenced by a lot of rose apple and fig fruit on the floor most of the way in. We estimated >10,000 bats total. The ultrasonic recorder was left at a good spot about 15m inside the entrance, on a high rock. Stewart will retrieve it on Wednesday.
The trail exploration in the Cockpit Country last week was productive. Stewart made a solo run in and out (poor timing had none of our local Windsor crew available), and is fairly certain that the continuation must be through a wide, shallow cockpit somewhat beyond our previous farpoint. It's also quite certain that we can't bring in supplies with a donkey unless we drop it, and them, from a helicopter. There are more large trees down across the trail, more sections fallen away, and it's bushed up as hell. Was pretty tough just for a human. Nevertheless, we haven't given up, and will figure something out.
Stefan, along with a couple of our local Windsor crew, will resume work on one of our long outstanding projects this week - pushing the middle trail in the Cockpit Country in aid of the future transect. The map posted here shows the possible route in black as determined with the 6m DEM, and can be clicked on for higher reslution.
We hope to spend several nights in the depths of the bush in the course of it. The water is the main concern. The plan is to ferry supplies partway to our previous farpoint with a hired donkey for one day, but beyond that, it's up to us and our own backs (plus a GPS, compass, good maps, and sharp machetes).
We've posted an interim report on the Bat survey at Home Away Cave, Cockpit Country, Feb 25/15. A final report will follow upon analysis of the ultrasonic recordings.
Chris Grooms (Queens University), and Ronald Stefan Stewart (Jamaican Caves Organisation) completed a week of fieldwork yesterday. Seven pond sediment cores, and about a dozen water samples, were collected from various sites around the island, and a night was spent at Home Away Cave for capture/release and ultrasonic recording of bats. We'll post details and photos in the next few days.
Jan has posted a great video of our visit to Noisy Water Cave on February 14. Be advised that it's very large (1.2 GB MP4), so don't attempt to download it if you have slow-speed, and/or a low bandwidth cap. JCO at Noisy Water Cave, Valentines Day, 2015.
Stef and Chris have been very busy coring pond sediments. As of this morning, we'll have no internet access until Friday.
Dr John Smol's lecture at UWI on Thursday was excellent (apologies, but we couldn't record it). He's the same as Dr Brock Fenton, who initiated the guano sampling project along with the JCO - a total expert in his field who loves to share his knowledge in a way that everyone can understand. Much respect.
Chris and Stef will spend Friday taking core samples at ponds in Worthy Park to tie in with the Home Away samples collected previously in the project. On Saturday, we'll move on to the Moneague lakes, and Crystal Lake at Discovery Bay (near Green Grotto).
Jan was on the radio Tuesday morning, Love 101 FM, talking about the importance of bats in Jamaica. We've posted a copy on our server, Bats in Jamaica - Feb 17/15 (29 MB MP3).
Stefan was at St Clair yesterday with some folks from Kingston. We only went as far as the Junction - was a cool little trip, and it helped to keep him in shape.
John Smol, one of the principal academics in the Home Away guano sampling project, will present a lecture at UWI tomorrow afternoon. Stefan and Jan will be there - we'll try to record it. The next day, Stefan and Chris Grooms will launch themselves into a week of serious field research - sediment coring/sampling in various spots around the island - capture and release, and ultrasonic recording of bats at Home Away - as part of the same, continuing project. We won't have internet access for most of it, so there will be no updates until we're done, and no email contact.
We were contacted yesterday by Richard Swindells, who was with the Jamaican Caving Club in the past, with some very cool information on the "putative" blind cave fish at Jackson Bay Great Cave that we searched for last Nov 8. It isn't putative, and it really did get eaten by a cat before identification.
Richard, Mike Ashcroft, et al, were true pioneers, they did incredible work, and the JCO wouldn't be able to do much of what we do without them. Receiving that email was a wonderful thing We quote excerpts from it lower. Scans of a paper on the work, published in the Bulletin of the Scientific Research Council Vol 6 No 1 pp 13-19, forwarded by Richard, can be found in pdf in the following four files, JBC, 1965, 1, JBC, 1965, 2, JBC, 1965, 3, JBC, 1965, 4. A photo from the outing posted here can be clicked on for full size.
"I, along with others discovered parts of the cave system which was mapped with the resources we had at that time and the results were published in the Bulletin of the Scientific Research Council Vol 6 No 1 pp 13-19. Jackson's Bay Great Cave JCC. I can confirm that yes indeed we did find a "blind fish" which I clearly remember had what appeared to be scales over it's eyes. It was placed in a fish tank at the home of Dr Mike Ashcroft and I was told by Mike that his cat had caught and eaten it before any examination had been made. Mike (Medicine} and I (Chemistry) were at UWI Mona at the time. We made several visits to the cave late 64, early 65 and I have many photographs both colour and B&W. Hope this adds to the history of the cave. I now reside in Canada and have fond memories of my time in Jamaica especially on days like today when the wind chill makes it seem -37 C!!" [Email from Richard Swindell to the JCO, Feb 15, 2015].
Truly excellent stuff, and we're honoured that he contacted us.
Adam Hyde, loyal and longstanding JCO member, has plans afoot to launch a much needed magazine, Caribbean Geographic, later this year. Stefan (JCO webmaster) will take care of the website side of things. We posted a place-holder page today. There's no content yet, just a cool photo of Jan's Defender at Noisy Water on Saturday, but we're linking to it now to give the search engines a heads-up for when it becomes what it shall be. Caribbean Geographic.
Stefan was rock-climbing at Lluidas Vale, St Catherine, with four visitors to the island on Monday. This weekend, a large group of folks from Kingston will hike the circle route out of Windsor in the Cockpit Country with the JCO. We appreciate the funding - it helps with the pro bono side - maintains the Land Rovers, website, gear replacement, etc, which is what makes it all possible.
The next JCO group outing will be at Noisy Water, Cave River System, on Feb 14 ('cause we love caves). Should be very cool. More to follow.
Lavinia, who was with us recently, has posted some cool stuff with great photos on her blog about the visit, here and here.
Stefan and Cliff were at Swansea Cave beyond the third collapse on Tue, Jan 27. We've posted a few short video clips on the JCO Facebook page.
Bogdan Simandan has forwarded a great report on a recent visit to Boss Hill Cave in St Andrew. Good stuff.
Stefan and Cliff visited Worthy Park Cave 2 today, reached the end at the fault, explored every possibility for continuation (we were in there for about 5 hours), and are fairly certain that it closes down too tight for humans to pass through. At the furthest accessible point, after a low pool, there is a bedding plain at the roof, flowstone on the floor, and a vertical height of about 20cm in between. Water, crabs, crayfish, etc, can continue, but not us.
Tomorrow, we'll push Swansea beyond the third collapse entrance to see if it continues past the mapped section (which we strongly suspect it does). It will involve a lot of crawling, and our knees will be beat up as hell by the end of it, but we're up for it. This is another main item on the to-do list.
Cliff is taking photos and video non-stop in the course of things, so we should have some interesting stuff to post in the next few days.
Stefan and a visiting caver (Cliff) will be at Worthy Park Cave 2 tomorrow. It's our first visit to the site in about a year. The mission is to check the low, wet part at the end where it hits the transverse fault-line to see if there might be serious continuation. We certainly know that water gets through there somewhere heading to Riverhead Cave, or at least has in the past before the active flow moved lower to Worthy Park Cave 3 - it's just a question of if it's large enough for humans to access.
Stefan has spent the last five days either hiking in the Cockpit Country (Windsor) or caving. Much of it has been with a caver volunteer from Romania via the USA, Lavinia, who if she were to move here would definitely be a core part of the JCO. Solid, fun to be with, and never complains. Unfortunately, she'll be gone on Saturday.
The next few days after that will be spent with more hiking in the CC, including a crossing of the Troy Trail, and two days of caving (Thatchfield and St Clair).
The guano sampling project will resume in February with Chris Grooms (Queens Univeristy). This time, we'll collect pond core sediments to tie in some external data, and record time-expansion echolocation calls at Home Away to determine the species make-up. Should be cool.
Jan has recently assisted UWI herp researchers (led by our bredren, Dr Byron Wilson) in the Cockpit Country at Quick Step. We should have news to post on how it went soon.
Worthy Park started pressing cane today. The Acheron at St Clair Cave is now off-limits for the next six months.
However, we have much else to do in the interim that doesn't involve poisonous air. High on the to-do list are New Green Cave to complete exploration and mapping, Morgans Pond Hole (second deepest cave in Jamaica) for water sampling, the Cave River System for monitoring and capture of the invasive Australian Red Claw (which tastes great with garlic and butter), and Coffee River Cave to video document the entire extent. We'll also strive to update the website more often to share our discoveries.
Stefan was at St Clair Cave yesterday with two Canadian visitors (Vincent and Rebecca, who were very solid and cool, as most Canadians are). All went well despite spending more time finding the Zambia entrance than we'd planned - between deforestation that altered the look of everything since the last visit a year ago to that entrance, and changes in the older tracks that got us there in the past, it came down to a GPS point and vague memories of the topography.
Before exiting the Polly Ground entrance, we went a little way into the Inferno passage (largest bat-roost in Jamaica). There had obviously been a flushing event during the rains of Nov-Dec - the water was fairly clear. Worthy Park will probably start pressing cane in a few weeks, and the waste water input to the Acheron will again create the high BOD that makes the air poisionous (O2 down to 7.5%). So, any further exploration in the Acheron has to be done as soon as possible. This is the last part of the window of opportunity for this year.
The JCO would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. For us, 2014 was a wonderful year, and we expect 2015 to be just as good, or better. There are many caves for us to still explore, and depths of the Cockpit Country still to reach. Our best days are in the future, as are all of yours.