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We had one of our more unusual Jamaican Caves Organisation days last Saturday, November 19. Hyde and Stewart were asked to rig two people so they'd hang in mid-air, in front of a green screen, as part of a commercial video.
It went well, even though we had to get inventive and establish a way to suspend someone in a climbing harness clipped in at their upper back in a vertical position. And, of course, we now have about 15 metres of 9mm static rope painted green - but it's latex, and we think it will wash off with a bit of effort
The production crew, and "Talent", were very cool, and it was fun to work with them.
We managed to record a little of our own video in the course of it, posted on YouTube at: Video Shoot - Sterling Sound Stage - Nov 19/16.
We'll be back to the real mission, speleology, next weekend.
We'll resume fieldwork at Jackson Bay in the next week or two, so more cool videos and notes to post soon. There's also more dye-tracing with the WRA coming up.
Plus, Stewart has finally taken the plunge and put Linux on his fieldwork laptop as a dual boot to use instead of the annoying, dysfunctional Windows 8 that came with it (the desktop is still running XP, which is great). So far, it's very cool, and if we have any programs in the future, like bat recorder software, that won't use Linux, he can fall back to Bill Gate's latest pitiful excuse for an operating system (although at least it's not Windows 10 spyware, so it could be worse).
Stewart and Kouwenberg were at the western end of Jackson Bay Cave, Entrance 9, on Sunday, Oct 30. A video of the outing can be streamed at Jackson Bay Great Cave - The Queens Series - YouTube or downloaded from our server at Jackson Bay Great Cave - The Queens Series - Download (404 MB MP4). A photograph can be seen above.
Stewart presented a one hour talk on caves and the JCO at the Water Resources Authority in Kingston on Monday, October 24. A pdf of the visuals for the presentation can be found at JCO at the WRA (124 MB PDF). It includes some hydrological maps that might be of interest.
The JCO would like to big-up Andrew Holness for making the right decision, and abandoning plans to use the Goat Islands as a base for a trans-shipment hub.
A pertinent report, that we forwarded to C-CAM in 2013, can be found at The Caves of the Portland Bight Protected Area. We'll produce an updated version soon that includes new data for the Jackson Bay Caves recorded by the JCO in 2014-2015.
The report for Dromilly Cave, July 16, 2016, was forwarded to NEPA this morning. We've also posted it on the server, Dromilly Cave Site Assessment - July 16, 2016 (pdf).
A photograph of an Amerindian petroglyph found the same day at the nearby McKenzie Shelter Cave (a new listing) can be seen to the left.
Stewart and Pauel were at St Clair Cave last Thursday, Aug 18, with a television crew from Canada. A behind the scenes video.of the outing.can be streamed on YouTube, JCO & The Worldwide Vet.
The JCO will be at Dromilly Cave in Trelawny this Saturday, July 16, to record biological data and assess current conditions. On Sunday, we'll be at Hollymount, Mount Diablo, for recon of unlisted sinkholes we've recently received information about.
Stefan and Bogdan were at Portland Ridge today locating and georeferencing what might be Entrance 9 of Jackson Bay Great Cave, and Entrance 3 of Potoo Hole. We're fairly sure we had Potoo 3, but JBGC 9 is uncertain. After consulting with Alan Fincham, we think there's a chance we might have found yet another entrance to the cave. A return visit is high on the to-do list to sort things out. A video of the outing can be streamed on our Youtube channel at Potoo and Jackson Bay Great Cave - June 19/16 or downloaded from our server at Potoo and Jackson Bay Great Cave - June 19/16.
A local group at Bunkers Hill, Trelawny, hope to soon launch a community tourism endeavor called Cultural Xperience & River Tour. Their plans include using Dromilly Cave. NEPA recently carried out a site visit as part of the application process, and then referred them to the JCO for permission.
Dromilly is an important site biologically. However, the great majority of the cave-dependent biota is in the eastern of the two main branches. The western branch is fauna poor, but is physically attractive. Purists would argue that the entire cave should be kept off limits for tourism, but the rural members of our society need income just as much as the owners of the large resorts and it is our belief that responsible tourism in the western branch of the cave will have minimal impact on the biota, and also allow a few dollars to flow into the community. Accordingly, we have informed Bunkers Hill and NEPA that we have no objections if the following conditions are met:
"A sign will be placed at the start of the right (eastern) branch that states the area beyond is a biological preserve and out of bounds, and the guides will enforce the rule and obey it themselves. This includes not entering the area to extract bat guano (ratbat dung).
Handheld lights or headlamps will be used, not bamboo torches or bottle torches.
Visitors will not touch or in any way cause damage to the formations (stalactites, stalagmites, etc). This includes not removing formations that have previously broken and are laying on the floor.
Good vegetative cover (plants, shrubs, trees) external to the cave will be maintained, especially around the entrance. Removal of it will reduce foraging opportunities for trogloxene biota, such as Eleutherodactylus cundalli (frogs), Uvaroviella cavicola (cave crickets), and change the cave ventilation.
The site must remain free of trash."
We'll visit the site for monitoring again before tourism starts, and periodically afterwards.
Jan Pauel, Stefan Stewart, and Byron Wilson were at Drum Cave on Tuesday, June 7, with three visiting herpetologists. Unfortunately, this time we didn't find a yellow boa. We suspect that it might be a seasonal thing. Rain has been frequent there lately, it's mating season for the birds, and the snakes might be spending more time in the bush for foraging rather than hunting for bats in the cave. It's pure speculation at this point, but we'll have a better idea after a couple of more years of monitoring.
Anyway, it was a good outing, and a photo of the group taken at Marlene's afterwards can be seen to the left. Please note that all the Red Stripe bottles have the labels facing the camera. Sponsorship is welcome, and we'd be happy to get it in free beer (every bit of support helps, and we do like the beer).
The JCO was contacted a few days ago by Nikeba Luton at the Trelawny Parish Council requesting information on the caves of the parish. Stewart filtered the Jamaica Cave Register database today and sent off the subset. It includes much more information than just positions, but in case it's of interest, here's a map that shows where things are. We've been thinking for a while of posting an all-island version, and will try to attend to that when time permits.
Stef, Jan, Silvia, Bogdan, and Lupe were at the east end of Jackson Bay Great Cave yestereday locating Ent 8. The mission was successful. We'll have more to report soon.
Pauel and Stewart returned to Potoo Hole last Friday and successfully found and GPS referenced Entrance 2 from the inside via Entance 1. A video of the outing can be streamed here, Potoo, May 20/16 on Youtube or downloaded here (better quality), Potoo, May 20/16 on the JCO server.
The air was much poorer than the last visit, April 16, causing some concern in sections (previous reports of poor air at Potoo can be found on Guy's page, Guy Van Rentergem - The Jamaica Expeditions), which has prompted us to ask for aid in addressing similar situations in the future.
We need to be able to measure O2 and CO2 levels in some caves, such as Potoo, St Clair, Riverhead, and ones we don't know about yet, for safety reasons. Every time we encounter poor air conditions, we're not fully aware of how bad it is until we're a long way from fresh air, at which point it gets scary (seriously). If we can check levels en route, we can stop earlier, and also record valuable data in the process. Unfortunately, there's only so much money we can pull out of our own pockets for the JCO, and we really can't afford it at the moment. So, we're researching appropriate instruments, and once we've found what we need, we'd like to solicit (beg for) a number of small donations (5-10 US$ each) to our Paypal account to cover the costs as a cloud-funding thing. We'll post more on this once we've sorted things out, and we hope some of you can help.
Stewart assisted the St Elizabeth Parish Council on April 27 at Duanwarie Cave 1 (aka Ipswich Cave), in northwestern St Elizabeth, who hope to help the local community, Breadnut Walk, to reestablish the site as a show cave as it once was during the days when the Jamaican Railway still ran from MoBay to Maggotty. We've posted the report, Duanwarie 1 & 2, and Wonder Hole, April 27. 2016, and the two appendices JCO Cave Use Guidelines 2010, and Bat Conservation International 2009. Agency Guide to Cave and Mine Gates. A video of the visit can be streamed at Duanwarie/Ipswich - Youtube or downloaded from our server at Duanwarie/Ipswich (1280x720px, 643 MB, mp4).
The JCO was with Televison Jamaica (TVJ) Extreme Sports at Jackson Bay Great Cave last Saturday, April 23. It went well, and the TVJ crew were champions. We covered the entire route from Ent 2 to Ent 7 spending 4 hours underground. A photo of Denise Walters, somewhere near Shamrock Passage, can be seen above. They recorded great footage, and we recorded great behind the scenes stuff of our own that we've posted on the server at TVJ and the JCO at Jackson Bay. Be aware that it's a very large file: 33 minutes, 1280x720 px, 1.6 GB. We'll keep it off Youtube until their version airs.
The JCO was at Potoo Hole, Jackson Bay, last Saturday, April 16. A photo of the pictograms near Entrance 1 can be seen to the right (click for higher-res). It looks somewhat like people dancing under a tree, but we have no idea if that's what it actually represents.
A video of the outing, which includes more pictograms, can be streamed at Potoo Hole - Youtube or downloaded from our server at Potoo Hole (720px, 834 MB mp4).
We've also posted another Jackson Bay video, from Jan 23, 2016, that can be streamed at Drum and Birthday Caves - Youtube, or downloaded from our server at Drum and Birthday Caves (720px, 568 MB mp4).
W've posted a short video of us at Jackson Bay locating Crab And Arrow Caves, Mar 12/16 (5 min, 263 MB mp4, 1280x720), and also put it on YouTube - Crab and Arrow Caves. The downloadable website version (first link) is best. YouTube versions of our videos, even at identical resolutions, are always less sharp because of the processing that allows streaming at multiple resolutions.
We'll be back at Jackson Bay this weekend, with a full team, assessing and georeferencing Potoo Cave.
Pauel and Stewart were at Lloyds Cave, Jackson Bay, Portland Ridge on April 2 recording positions for the last four of the six known entrances: Ent 2, Ent 4, Drum Ent, and Mantrap Pit. Entrances 1 & 3 were found on Jan 30, 2016. A short video of the visit is on the server at Lloyds Cave - Apr 2, 2016 (188 MB MP4). A photo of palaeo gear left in place at the end of the 1996 CMAM dig, which included the discovery of a maxilla of the extinct Jamaican monkey, Xeonothrix mcgregori, can be seen to the left.
Three other videos from our Jackson Bay work have been posted on the server, as well as on the JCO Youtube channel.. Download the JCO versions if you have the speed and bandwidth. They're better.
Drum Cave, Dec 20, 2015: Download at Drum Cave - JCO (650 MB), or stream at Drum Cave - Youtube.
Somerville Cave, Feb 13, 2016: Download at Somerville Cave - JCO (344 MB)., or stream at Somerville Cave - Youtube
Arrow Pit, Two Tier, Creeper, Somerville Ent 2, Feb 20, 2016: Download at Jackson Bay - JCO (351 MB)., or stream at Jackson Bay - Youtube
Stewart was at Thatchfield Great Cave today with two volunteers. Unfortunately, he didn't get many decent photos, but we posted the best on Facebook of Stefanie Sanchez Maither. Observations included fewer fungus gnats than usual, presumably because of the dry season, and once again an inward air flow from the "old cave" to the "new cave". We're convinced there's an undiscovered entrance, probably high in the aven area to the right of the t-junction, that we may be able to find by way of a surface search. It's on the to-do list.
Stewart was with a cool group of Jamaicans led by Tanya and Andrew Wildish at Swansea Cave, Worthy Park, on Saturday, March 19 (click on the photo for full resolution). We went as far as the third collapse, which is 1 km as the John Crow flies from the main entrance, and then retraced out route back out. All 20 of us did splendidly, and it was a great outing (especially the lunch at the estate afterwards).
In the course of things, Stewart got another speleothem sample for Simon Mitchell's prehistoric earthquake project (trying to determine when they happened, and where, by using uranium-thorium dating). This one wasn't on the underside of a breakdown boulder as most of the others have been, but was in a field of similar detached stals that appeared to have come down at the same time.
Ivor (Dr Conolley) and Stefan (RS Stewart) were at the Archaeological Society of Jamaica symposium at UWI today to present an update on our Taino work (Ivor's, actually - he's the expert - the rest of us are the foot-soldiers ;-).
We didn't take any photos/video, but a pdf of the slides can be found here: JCO - ASJ - 2016.
Apologies for infrequent updates lately, but we've been a bit busy. On the weekend of March 5-6, Pauel, Stewart, Hyde, and Simandan were at Jackson Bay continuing recon. Two Tier Cave, Arrow pit, and Somerville Entrance 2 were confirmed.
On Wednesday, March 9, Conolley, Pauel and Stewart visited Coventry Cave, Clapham Cave, and Mosely Hall Cave as prep work for a Taino presentation at UWI this Thursday, March 17. Clapham had never been surveyed, so we knocked that off in the course of things. Here's the resultant map, done as quickly as possible, but accurate. Survey gear was a Disto laser range-finder for station distances, including up/down/left/right (we had good shots of the ceiling the whole way), a digital level for inclination, and a Suumo compass.
Last weekend, March 12-13, Pauel and Stewart were at Jackson Bay doing what is close to the last recon. There are a couple of more minor caves to confirm with what we've found, but most future visits will be dedicated to finishing exploration of the larger sites (Lloyds, Drum, JBC, Potoo), and then starting our bat inventory. We hope this will also be in conjunction with early steps to reintroduce the Jamaican Iguana, Cyclura collei, in collaboration with the Jackson Bay Gun Club, Jamaican institutions and government agencies, and foreign partners.
We have a lot of great photos, videos, and reports to post on the above as soon as we have a chance.
Stewart and Pauel were tackling the bush again at Jackson Bay last weekend (pure macca, and everthing jook you) doing recon for future research. We found four more entrances. Details will follow, but the video posted here (58 MB) sums it up fairly well. A lower resolution version (14 MB) can be found on our YouTube channel at JBC - Feb 20/16.
Stewart was at the Peterkin/Rota system, in St James, last Friday and managed to get another speleothem sample for Simon Mitchell's eaarthquake project. This is the first sample from that end of the island.
Stewart and Pauel were at Jackson Bay again last weekend. The main mission was to find Somerville Cave, an important paleo site in the 90's. The pit entrance (10 metre drop) was located, a photo of which can be see to the left. The other two entrances will follow this weekend when we return with vertigear to find them from the inside. We also found a couple of other minor sites, with identification uncertain at this point.
Stewart will be at Peterkin/Rota this Friday with a couple of visitors who are contributing some much-needed funding, for which we are very grateful. In the course of it, we'll try to get another speleothem sample for Simon Mitchell's prehistoric earthquake project. We found a good candidate during the WRA dye-tracing work, but couldn't manage to detach it from the breakdown boulder it's attached to. This time, we'll bring a hammer.
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.