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Jamaican Caves Organisation Update

The JCO at JBC, Nov 8/14
(Dec 4/14)
A planned JCO outing (Stewart, Pauel, Conolley, Hyde, Kouwenberg, Malagon) last Saturday to St Clair was cancelled due to very heavy rains and the associated danger (getting swept away into the river on either the approach, or retreat). As it turned out, it was a wise decision - the Bog Walk Gorge flooded that afternoon, and even if we'd managed the cave, it would have been extremely difficult for the Kingston-based crew to reach home.

However, the next group outing will be in just a couple of weeks. This time, we'll be overnighting it in the Cockpit Country at the Last Resort from Friday to Sunday, and on Saturday, we'll make the first full traverse of Windsor Great Cave (Windsor to Bamboo Bottom) in several years. Should be epic. We'll have more light than ever before, and better video cameras than ever before. We'll be able to give everyone else an idea of what it's really like.

In support of it, Stewart was in the Cockpit Country at Windsor yesterday, December 3, sussing things. There was no flow from the resurgence entrance, and the upper Martha Brae springs were dry (indicating a lowered phreatic zone compared to a month ago, during the Knox College hike, when they were active). We anticipate total success on the mission. Either way, we'll try it come hell or high water.

(Nov 13/14)
The JCO was at Jackson Bay Great Cave last Saturday, November 8, in search of a putative blind cave fish. Vague stories have been handed down over the years of a cave-obligate fish collected there decades ago that was then eaten by a pet cat before identification. If true, it would be the only known record for a stygobitic fish in Jamaica.

We were successful in that we did capture and release two fish, both the same species, but neither had reduced eyes or lack of pigmentation. Identification is pending, however, we do not believe it to be cave-obligate.

A video of the outing has been posted on YouTube, and a higher-resolution version is on our server in mp4 (WARNING - very large file - 628 MB).

(Oct 28/14)
Our bat survey work at the Wigton Wind Farm is now part of the public record (via NEPA), so we feel it appropriate to post the report in its entirety on our server in pdf. We hope the data recorded may be of value to others.

(Aug 15/14)
We've posted a statement on our activities at Retirement Cave, St Elizabeth, July 24, 2014 (pdf)..

(Aug 1/14)
The bat survey reports for the proposed Malvern Wind Farm, Santa Cruz Mountains, are now part of the public record (via NEPA) so have accordingly been posted on our server: Malvern - Rainy Season (pdf); Malvern - Dry Season (doc).

(Jul 23/14)
Our apologies for the lack of updates lately - we've been busy with research fieldwork (wind farm bat surveys). There's much to share, which we'll attend to. For now, we unfortunately have to report that we're removing another body from a deep sinkhole tomorrow, this time in north St Elizabeth. We've been told that it's 175 feet deep (~55m), but we won't know for sure until we go down.

We're not looking forward to this, but the day will end with bat fieldwork at the Wigton wind farm expansion (body in the morning, bats at night), which will be much more enjoyable. We'll post reports on all of it early next week.

Ariteus flavescens in the Santa Cruz Mtns
(Dec 10/13)
The rainy season component of the Malvern wind farm bat EIA was finished last weekend. So far, we've collected data for bats at 18 sites. Next comes an interim report that puts the information into a useable form for NEPA, et al, which will be soon done. A few weeks after that, we return to look at all of the sites again in the dry season.

The photo to the right is of the smaller of the two fruit-eating bats found in Jamaica, Ariteus flavescens (aka the Jamaican fig-eating bat), taken last weekend (capture and release). The Ariteus is endemic to Ja (only lives here), and is also the only species in its genus. Quite a cool, little critter, and we're always glad to find them.

During the EIA hiatus over Christmas, we'll arrange a JCO group caving outing or two. We need to take a break from the ratbats, and get some of our bredren and sistren underground again. Sites that need work are Crofts River Two for mapping and exploration, St Clair Zambia Entrance to recover gear and finish exploration, and possibly a return to the Acheron at St Clair.

For long term projects, 2014 is a brand new year, and we intend to stay busy. The possible blind cave fish at Jackson's Bay is high priority, as is mapping and assessments of a number of sites on our to-do list, and research into the caves of the Goat Islands.

(Dec 5/13)
Stewart and Pauel will be back in St Elizabeth tomorrow working on the wind farm EIA. We would like to note that the company constructing the turbines is receptive to our suggestions with regard to minor changes in site location (micro-siting) based on our research so far. It could be key in preventing a negative impact on the bats living in the area, and we're glad to see their recognition of the importance of bats to Jamaica.

Artibeus jamaicensis in the Santa Cruz Mtns
(Nov 28/13)
Our apologies for the lack of News items recently, but we've been busy, and will make amends for it now.

First off, Stewart and Pauel have to date completed 13 nights of capture and release netting at the Santa Cruz Mountains as part of a wind farm environmental impact assessment, which leaves 7 more nights to go as part of the rainy season component. We'll be back at it this weekend. Along with netting at the turbine sites, we've determined that Blair's Cave is a duplicate of Campus Cave, and have good recon info for another, with a visit planned for this wekend. Our main priority is to locate the site listed as Palm Tree Cave, which we believe to be the best/only real bat cave in the area.

Also, Stewart has recently assisted several arachnologists studying cave spiders at Carambie Cave, and Hartie Caves 1 and 2, plus visited the Peterkin-Rota system in St James, St Clair Cave in St Catherine, and taken a large group of people from the NHT across the Troy-Windsor Trail.

With regard to the St Clair visit, which happened this morning, feces of what we believe to be a yellow boa, Epicrates subflavus, were found inside of the main, Polly Ground, entrance, and in the Junction area of the cave. We've seen it before at the Zambia entrance, but not there. It seems there's a viable population hanging on in the hills south of Ewarton.

(Oct 18/13)
Pauel and Stewart will begin fieldwork next week on the bat component of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a planned wind farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, St Elizabeth, being constructed by Blue Mountain Renewables. This component will be a first for Jamaica, so we intend to be very thorough, and try to establish a method that might serve as a model for future projects here, and in the wider Caribbean. The funding we receive as part of it will also enable us to carry out more of our pro bono work, for which we are very grateful. The data collected will initially be proprietal, but at some point it will become public, and we hope to receive permission to publish a paper based on it once it is.

Dr Conolley at Top Mountain Cave
(Oct 3/13)
The website admin was off-island for the last couple of weeks, with no internet access, but is back a yard and tings a gwaan. First up, some info on the cave in St Catherine visited by Pauel and Conolley on August 25. Locally, it is known as Archer Cave, but we believe it is the site listed as Top Mountain Cave in Jamaica Underground. The cave was found to contain a Taino petroglyph by the JCO crew, and is now listed in the JCO database with that information.

November is shaping up to be quite busy, with a couple of crossings of the Troy-Windsor Trail planned, a search for the giant swallowtail butterfly (Papilio homerus) in the Cockpit Country, and probable work on an EIA for a project in south St Elizabeth. We're hopeful that we'll be able to post more on that next week.

(Sept 10/13)
A group led by the JCO was at Swansea Cave in Lluidas Vale over the weekend. The visit went well and we'd like to thank everyone who was with us for coming along. We'll do something similar at a different cave in a month or so.

(Sept 2/13)
Please have a look at the following items regarding the threatened Portland Bight Protected Area: Press Release - Goat Islands and Jamaica Observer - Goat Islands.

(Aug 28/13)
The JCO is very concerned about GoJ plans to give the Goat Islands to the Chinese, which will have a severe impact on the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA). The PBPA is the most pristine area of dry coastal forest left in Jamaica, and harbours many rare species (e.g. the Ja iguana). There are also a number of important caves that have Taino artefacts, Neogene fossils, and large bat colonies. We will post a dedicated page soon that supplies more information.

Stefan at Swansea
(Aug 27/13)
The Jamaican Caves Organisation will carry out a fund-raising outing at Swansea Cave on either the weekend of Aug 31/Sept 1 or Sept 7-8, depending on interest.

Swansea Cave, in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine, was first recorded by De la Beche in 1827, and first mapped by the Geological Survey Dept of Jamaica in 1960. It is quite long (over 1km), and still not completely explored in its further stretches. Physically, it is beautiful, with many fine formations, and biologically, it is important, with a large bat-roost, and a variety of cave-adapted invertebrates that include the rare endemic Onychophoran, Speleoperipatus spelaeus, which is known from only two sites in Jamaica.

The hike to the entrance is easy, and takes only 10 minutes, and the drive to where we park is 1 1/2 hours from Kingston, mostly along the A1. On the way, near Worthy park, we will visit a location with several fine Taino petroglyphs, and then head to the cave itself where we will spend about two hours underground.

Videos of previous visits to the cave can be found on YouTube at: Swansea - January 2011, and Swansea - January 2013.

The cost of the outing is 2,000 J$ per person. We do not supply food, but we do supply helmets, headlamps, and expertise.

For more information, please contact Stefan at or 876 397 7488.

Unknown cave in Hellshire
(Aug 2/13)
Friends at UWI have forwarded some interesting aerial photos of a cave entrance in Hellshire, one of which is posted to the right. At this point, we don't know if it's listed, or unlisted and unexplored, but we intend to find out first chance. This depends on funding (more on that lower).

What we can deduce from the photos is that it seems to be rift-developed, and there appears to be some degree of continuation (it certainly isn't a shelter cave). If it's similar to caves in the sister karst of Portland Ridge, it could be extensive, and because of a relatively thin layer of surface material above, could have multiple collapse entrances. With regard to biota, notable likely residents are bats, and yellow boa (Jamaica's largest snake).

On funding, in a general sense - we're going to post something we usually don't - a proposal, with a budget (although we often write them). It has to do with a search for a possible blind cave fish that was reported at Jackson's Bay Great Cave (JBC) several decades ago. We have reason to think it still exists, and if it does, our research will be the only definite record of a cave-obligate fish so far in Jamaica. The odds are good that it will be a new species.

The JBC proposal posted here was written in response to a request from an environmental foundation in the Portland Bight area. However, to date, they don't have the funds to go ahead, and we don't have the funds to do it pro bono. We invite sponsors to help make it possible. More details are available upon request.

(Jul 22/13)
A few of the principal JCO members have been on hiatus this month for various reasons, but things will kick up come August. On the to-do list are Jackson's Bay Cave (in search of a blind fish), Thatchfield (in search of an undiscovered entrance), the rest of the sites we haven't assessed yet in St Elizabeth (mostly pro bono for NEPA), and possibly some bat monitoring near Smokey Hole (the only large bat-roost in south Manchester). We also hope to arrange a group outing or two - more to follow on that, here and on the Facebook page.

The JCO at Gourie Cave, Jun 29/13
(Jul 3/13)
Pauel and Stewart (JCO) were at Jamaica's longest cave, Gourie, last Saturday, June 29, 2013, to establish if the outer part of the cave between the three entrances can be visited safely by the general public during the rainy season. Our investigation indicated that this is so if certain precautions are taken. We've posted an interim report here, Gourie Cave - June 29, 2013, as well as a video that accompanies it, which is available in high resolution on our server, Gourie Cave Video - June 29, 2013 - High Resolution (826 MB MP4 - Very large file!), and in lower resolution on our YouTube channel, Gourie Cave - YouTube.

(Jun 24/13)
We've posted a video clip of Professor Silvia Kouwenberg on rope at Thatchfield Cave last Sunday (59 MB WMV).

Pauel and Stewart will be in the field this weekend at Gourie Cave, in Manchester.

(Jun 20/13)
Kouwenberg, Pauel, and Stewart were at Thatchfield Cave last Sunday, June 16, with two guests. An interesting observation was made - one of the frogs, Eleutherodactylus cundalli, was heard deep in the cave in the area of the avens. This frog is only found in caves near entrances. We have been sure for some time that another entrance exists somewhere within the "new" cave, as evidenced by a constant breeze flowing inward at the constriction that leads from the "old" cave. We've suspected that the unfound entrance might be in the area of the avens, and we now have another data point that reinforces the possibility.

In April, Van Rentergem and Stewart carried out an accurate line survey from the avens to the lighthole entrance, where a good GPS position has been recorded. The survey stations for the avens were then turned into GPS waypoints so that a surface search for the entrance could take place, similar to how we found the new, third entrance of St Clair Cave. However, the positions were found to be on the other side of a cow pasture (with resident cows), and as we had no pyro (tick spray) with us, and no desire to become infested with nasty, little ectoparasites, we declined to complete the search. A return, armed with pyro, is now very high on our to-do list.

Hiking in the Cockpit Country, May 4/13
(May 17/13)
Stewart will make a solo run across the Troy Trail this Sunday/Monday in support of future work. No one has been across in over a year, and considering that Hurricane Sandy came through last October 24, we expect the trail to be a bit of a mess. Recon is in order. The plan is to hike to the south end (Tyre, near Troy) on Sunday, overnight it, and then hike back to Windsor on Monday. If he goes missing in the course of it, he'll have at least disappeared in the part of the world that he loves the most.

The following weekend, Stewart, Hyde, and others will be in the field working on JCO projects. The tentative plan is a return to Swansea Cave to search for more Onychophora. This critter, Speleoperipatus spelaeus, also known as a velvet walking worm, is an incredibly rare cave invertebrate known from only 5 specimens, one of which the JCO found in the past at Swansea (the other 4 were found by Peck at Pedro Cave, not far away).

(May 14/13)
Another fund-raising hike will take place in the Cockpit Country on May 18. We'd like to thank Marguerite Phillips for helping to set it up. If possible, we'd like to do these outings every other weekend. More info can be found at a new page we've put online, Caving and Hiking for Jamaicans.

(May 5/13)
Stef and Carema were hiking in the Cockpit Country yesterday, Saturday, with some JCO supporters. It went well, and we all enjoyed it, We'd like to thank Nicole, Johan, Yanique, Nick, Marta, and Isabella for being with us.

Adam Hyde at Worthy Park Cave 2, Apr 28/13
(Apr 30/13)
Adam Hyde, Silvia Kouwenberg, and Stefan Stewart were at Worthy Park Cave 2 on Sunday, April 28. The team succeeded in reaching the known end, 750m into the cave, and searched out potential routes for continuation. On that, time ran short, but we found at least one possibility that we will return to when time permits.

A different species of roach than what we're familiar with in Ja caves (P. americana) was found in abundance at the only roosting area for bats, about 200m in. One specimen was collected, which has been stored in 70% ethyl until we can forward it to our friends at UWI for identification.

The morphology of the cave is very particular. Bedding is strong and distinct throughout. In parts, it's controlled by the strike (90 degrees to the dip/slope), although this is less apparent in other sections. At the very end of the passage is an obvious fault, perpendicular, which is very impressive. At this point the passage is mostly blocked by large breakdown slabs, but a way can be found through that leads to what might be a sumped continutation through a bedding plane. Although much of the passage is relatively low (1-5m), several large chambers open up en route where obvious joints intersect.

The entire cave is well-decorated, with very fine formations (stals, columns, flowstone, rimstone pools), and it is truly one of the more beautiful caves on the island. That said, periodic flooding has deposited very slippery silt/mud in parts, the rock is sharp (echinolith), there's a vertical pitch of 12m through rocks to even enter it, so it's not particularly easy to explore. Along with that, there's a flood-risk during heavy rains. We ask that any who read this post not get themselves into trouble just to have a look.

The Cockpit Country
(Apr 25/13)
JCO members Conolley, Hyde, and Stewart attended an interview at the Institute of Sustainable Development - University of the West Indies in Kingston yesterday regarding the Cockpit Country boundary. We'd like to thank Dr Webber and his associates for the opportunity to share our view of the boundary, and also supply reasons why we think it is so important to preserve the area within.

The JCO will be underground this weekend at Worthy Park Cave 2. None of us have been to the furthest part of what is one of Jamaica's more impressive river caves, and we're very much looking forward to it.

(Apr 22/13)
A meeting of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group took place last Friday, April 19, at the Jamaica Environmental Trust (JET) offices in Kingston regarding the recently released University of the West Indies (UWI) study (8 Mb pdf), commisioned by the government in 2007 to define the Cockpit Country boundary. RS Stewart attended for the Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO).

The JCO generally supports the UWI study. It is a close match to what we used as the boundary in 2005 for the Parks in Peril Project, funded by The Nature Conservancy, and agrees with what our group has always thought of as the Cockpit Country. We would like to commend the authors, Mitchell, Miller, Ganapathy, and Spence for producing what we believe is a fine piece of work.

We don't know where things will go from here - whether the GoJ will again consider mining in the Cockpit Country, for bauxite or limestone - but whatever happens, the members of the JCO commit themselves to helping to protect Jamaica's last wilderness area. It's the heart and soul of the island, and can't be lost.

Dr Lee's Memorial at the UWI Chapel, Apr 11/13
(Apr 18/13)
The JCO has been very active lately, despite the lack of News updates. We'll start posting reports, photos, and videos very soon on what we've been doing. For now, the first order of business is to address the passing of our dear friend and JCO member, Dr David Lee, on April 2, 2013.

Dr Lee's participation in Jamaican caving extended for decades. He was one of the first members of the University Caving Club, which went on to become the Jamaica Caving Club. Afterwards, he became part of the JCO, thereby being part of every organised caving group in existence in Jamaica from the very beginning until his recent passing. For us in the JCO, he was not only a fine man, and caver, to have with us, he was our continuity with the past, and a wonderful source of stories on how things were in the early days.

To give you an idea of how fine a man Dr Lee was, we'd like to relate a story that came into all of our minds when we heard of what had happened:

On May 18, 2005, a group from the JCO descended into a deep shaft called Minocal's Glory Hole located in the wilds of the southern Cockpit Country near a small village called Quick Step. With us were several people from an environmental group, and also two employees of the Jamaican Information Service, JIS. As usual, we needed someone we could trust to watch the rope at the the top, and take care of other important matters at the surface. This would be Dr Lee. With him were a couple of others who declined to descend into the depths.

Because there were so many of us, it took a very long time to get everyone down, and back up the shaft. In fact, the last of us weren't up until 10 PM. Rain had begun to fall steadily in the afternoon, and continued until we were finally done. In that non-stop drenching downpour, Dr Lee remained at his station, hour after hour, with no shelter whatsoever. The others who had stayed above retreated to their dry cars, parked on the road nearby, well before dark, and as the people from the enviro group and JIS reached the top, they also retreated. But not Dr Lee. He stayed there at the top of that pit, soaking wet, until the last of us were up, this happening as people much younger than him fled to get warm and dry. The JCO members who came up last never forgot that day. He stayed in place until he knew we were all safe, on the surface. We cannot tell you how much we respected and loved him for that.

For us, Dr Lee will never be gone. He will always be in our hearts and minds, and he will always be part of the JCO.

Jan Pauel at UTech, Feb 28/13
(Apr 10/13)
We received sad news earlier in the week - Dr David Lee, one of Jamaica's most stalwart cavers for decades, has passed away. There will be a memorial tomorrow, April 11, at the UWI chapel in Kingston, which will be attended by several JCO members. We'll post information here soon on Dr Lee's great contributions to speleo research on the island.

The JCO has been in the field for the last ten days. Amongst other things, we've descended Dunns Hole Cave, determined that Entrance 2 at Thatchfield Great Cave does not connect to the rest of the cave for anything larger than a cat, and found that the sump from Peterkin Cave to Rota Cave could be dived (the passage is wide enough to have allowed a very large log to pass through). More on all of this soon.

(Feb 26/13)
Jan Pauel will deliver a presentation at UTech this Thursday, February 28. The flyer advertising the event can be seen to the right.

(Feb 19/13)
A report on the caves of Portland Bight has been sent to the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) at their request. It has also been posted on the website in pdf via the link above.

(Feb 11/13)
The JCO met with a consultant (pro bono) from UTech yesterday, Sunday, regarding Forestry Dept plans for recreational activity at the Gourie lands, which includes the longest cave in Jamaica. Generally, we have no objections. If it's done properly, it will conform to the JCO cave protection guidelines.We appreciate being kept in the loop, and will be glad to be of further assistance as things proceed.

(Feb 10/13)
Stewart was at St Clair Cave yesterday, February 9, with Michelle and Andy Svoboda, and their two children, Andrew and Curtis. During the course of it, he made a quick foray into the Inferno passage to check conditions. The water is still fairly clear, without too much bat guano accumulated yet since last autumn's flushing, and the biological oxygen demand (BOD) seems to be low. We can surmise that there's still access to the Inferno+, but the air quality at the Acheron is probably very poor because of WP input as indicated by last weekend's visit to Riverhead Cave. This matches the conditions during the Acheron discovery visit by Stewart and Van Rentergem in March, 2006.

Also, the first definite plans for the April expedition with Guy Van Rentergem are in place. On Mar 31 - April 1, we'll be on the Quick Step - Windsor Trail in the western Cockpit Country. As far as we know, no one has crossed it in well over a year. We'll start from Windsor in the north, overnight it near the south end (still in the depths of the bush, and the middle of the Cockpit Country is magical at night), and then hike back to Windsor the next day. Any others who would like to join us for our little adventure are welcome to do so as long as they're prepared to rough it, be brave (no whining allowed, and we really mean that), be good on their feet, and kick in 2,000 J$ each toward JCO funding.

(Feb 6/13)
Stewart, of the JCO, was contacted yesterday via email and phone by Alison Gillespie, a reporter for the magazine, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, regarding proposed international guidelines on bat guano mining. The JCO policy is that there is no such thing as sustainable guano mining, at least in a Jamaican context, and he did his best to share arguments in support of that position.

Pauel, of the JCO, forwarded a photo yesterday (pro bono, and by request) of a Taino petroglyph taken at Lluidas Vale on January 26 to an author, Fred Kennedy, who has a second book coming out this year from Ian Randle Publishers, which deals with the life of a Taíno cacique in Jamaica at the time of the arrival of Columbus.

Stewart will be in Lluidas Vale this weekend continuing the search for incredibly small snails (2mm), Carychium sp., in assistance to Adrienne Jochum, a European researcher.

(Feb 4/13)
Hyde and Stewart pushed past the first sump of Riverhead Cave yesterday, but terrible air made any further exploration impossible. By comparison of physical symptoms to previous cave visits when an O2 metre was available, we estimate the oxygen to have been under 14%. The return swim through the sump was one of the more frightening things that the writer of this, Stewart, has done so far in a Jamaican cave - he felt suffocatingly close to blacking out. We'll have some photos and a bit of video to post in a day or two.

JCO and friends in Lluidas Vale - Jan 26/13
(Jan 31/13)
We've posted the video for the recent Swansea visit on January 26/13 (210 MB MP4). You can right-click the link and save it from our server, and you can also stream it from the JCO YouTube channel.

Please note how strongly-bedded the cave is, as shown by the flat roof, and distinct strata on the walls. This may be part of the reason why the cave is collapsed in three places - the lateral development is very much horizontal, and the resultant cross-section isn't as structurally stable as if it were circular. The initial development does appear to have been phreatic (totally submerged) as evidenced by scalloping on the roof, which in poorly-bedded limestone would have created a cylindrical passage - here, most of the mechanical erosion was sideways.

. (Jan 29/13)
The Lluidas Vale outing on Saturday, January 26, went well. Everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves, plus we documented some very well-preserved petroglyphs. The group consisted of Michelle Braham, Tom Casali, Dr Ivor Conolley, Gigi Forbes, Professor Silvia Kouwenberg, Jan Pauel, Stefan Stewart, Claire Turner, Roger Turner, Andrew Wildish, Tanya Clarke Wildish, and William Wildish. Two sites were visited - the Taino petroglyph location, and Swansea Cave. The photo seen above was taken after Swansea - as you can see, there's a bit of crawling through mud involved in spots. More details will follow, and we'll post a video here, and on the JCO YouTube channel, in the next couple of days. Two other photos, of the glyphs, can be found on the JCO Facebook page. - no need to sign in if you don't have a Facebook account - it's available for everyone, just like our website.

(Jan 24/13)
The group visiting Swansea this Saturday will include, along with the Potoo Hole crew, a few friends from Worthy Park in Lluidas Vale. We would like to remind everyone that the official rum of the JCO is Rum Bar, from Worthy Park Estate. It tastes the best, it's the strongest, and reasonably priced.

As mentioned in the last item, Guy Van Rentergem will be back with us in April. The videos from our first major expedition with Guy, in 2006, have finally been posted, something we should have done years ago. One, the website admin's favourite from the exped, can be clicked on to the right to stream a YouTube version (Rudist Rock Cave, with the most impressive fossils to be found on the island). We're all a little older now, but also wiser, and better cavers. We expect to have some truly spectacular video (two-camera, high definition shoots) available online later in the year. For now, please enjoy these: St Clair, Discovery of the Acheron (77 MB MP4), Vaughansfield Cave (40 MB MP4), Rudist Rock Cave, St James (50 MB MP4), Smokey Hole - The first descent of the deepest cave in Jamaica (75 MB MP4), The second known exploration of Dunns Hole Cave, the largest chamber in Jamaica (70 MB MP4)

(Jan 23/13)
Stef was at Lluidas Vale yesterday with Gordon Clarke of Worthy Park learning the location of Taino petroglyphs found on the walls of a rock shelter fairly close to the village itself. A visit with many of the same team who were at Potoo Hole on January 12 will take place this Saturday, followed by a visit to Swansea Cave. We'll have some good photos and video to post next week.

The JCO is pleased to announce that one of our most important members, Guy Van Rentergem, will be on-island for a two-week expedition during the first half of April. We're starting a to-do list that will include some of the most challenging work we've intended to do for some time. More to follow as plans progress.

Hiking to Potoo Hole - Jan 13/13
(Jan 16/13)
We've posted the video for Potoo Hole (200 MB MP4), taken during our visit on Saturday, January 12, 2013.

(Jan 15/13)
Several members of the JCO were at Potoo Hole, Portland Ridge, Clarendon, on Saturday with a group of archaeologists and adventurers from the University of the West Indies, in Kingston. The full team consisted of Diana Pena Bastalla, Michelle Braham, Norris Campbell, Dr Ivor Conolley, Trécharspoetica Dacres, Adam Hyde, Professor Silvia Kouwenberg, Jan Pauel, Heidi Savery, Stefan Stewart, and David Twyman. We'll post a video later this week.

(Jan 10/13)
Conolley, Hyde, and Pauel will be at Portland Ridge, south Clarendon, this weekend investigating Amerindian pictograms and petroglyphs with several guests.

(Jan 7/13)
We were at Jackson's Bay Great Cave on Saturday, January 5, and managed to find two more of the entrances from the inside, the Hendricks Holes. Today, we'll be at the Peterkin-Rota system in St James for monitoring. On Tuesday, we'll be in Windsor, Trelawny, trying to find very small snails (<2mm), called Carychium, in assistance to a European researcher. Later in the week, we'll probably be with the Water Resources Authority at Riverhead cave, near Ewarton, in St Catherine.

L-R:  Johann Adamson, Nashera James, Patricia Thompson, Nicole Thompson - Jackson's Bay - Jan 5/13
(Jan 1/13)
The JCO would like to wish everyone a very happy New Year - we hope it turns out to be exactly how you'd like it. For our part, we intend to stay very busy in 2013, and be as productive as possible. There are a number of projects we'll be working on, including hydrological tracing with the WRA and IAEA, sampling with Queens University and the Polish national museum as follow up on the guano work last year, and our own in-house research.

We ended 2012 with an exploration trip from the Lemon Ridge entrance to Polly Ground at St Clair Cave on December 31 to suss potential for other entrances. Nothing new was found, but we thoroughly investigated all possibilities from Lemon Ridge to the Zambia entrance, and have only one more spot to check, which is about 1 km in from the Polly Ground side. Of course, the Acheron river is still a mystery, and we'll get back to that in the next few weeks.

We'll be at Jackson's Bay Great Cave this Saturday guiding a small group of guests from Kingston for funding purposes. On that, we'd like to remind everyone that the only way we can do our pro bono work is with outings such as the one coming up. At the moment, the Landrover Discovery needs a new battery, another instalment of insurance has to be paid, and various repairs are reaching the critical stage. The JCO is entirely committed to our mission, which is to study and protect the caves of the island, but we truly need a little help to do it.

(Dec 30/12)
Our videographer, Jan, has posted the latest video for St Clair Cave (225 MB MP4). Amongst other things, it shows the route down through the Zambia entrance.

(Dec 27/12)
We'll be back at St Clair Cave on Dec 31 for a journey from the Lemon Ridge entrance to the Polly Ground entrance. The mission is to check every little opening along the main passage from LR to Zambia for signs of another connection to the surface. The team will be Stefan, and two Canadians from Quebec. We expect it to be a great trip.

On New Year's Day, we'll be caving in Trelawny, and later in the week, we'll be at the Peterkin-Rota system in St James.

L-R: Stefan, Jackie, Dane, Jan - St Clair Cave - Dec 23/12
(Dec 24/12)
Pauel and Stewart were at St Clair Cave yesterday with two visitors to the island, Jackie and Dane. We have some great video of the route down through the third (Zambia) entrance that will be posted later in the week. This was the first time anyone has actually travelled through the cave after entering that entrance - the previous visits only served to establish the route. Several efforts were from the inside, and during the last, successful attempt on June 9, 2012, Hyde and Stewart just confirmed it, set a rope in place, and then returned overland to Polly Ground.

We'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. May you have a wonderful time with good friends, significant others, and family, eat a lot, and generally enjoy yourselves.

(Dec 20/12)
The WRA sampling at Riverhead Cave has been rescheduled to the second week of January, but Stefan and Jan will be at St Clair this weekend, with two guests, doing the complete run from the Lemon Ridge entrance to the Polly Ground entrance - 2.2km underground. We intend to record high definition video of the entire trip during the course of it, which will be a first.

On another subject - the JCO is pleased to announce that the world will not end tomorrow, December 21, 2012, due to intervention on our part. The various elemental spirits (duppies) who were involved in the potential destruction of planet Earth have been mollified by suitable donations of white rum and fowl blood, and have decided to call the whole thing off. No need to thank us - we consider it part of our mission to protect and preserve the caves, sinkholes, and underground rivers of Jamaica.

(Dec 19/12)
We started a Jamaican Caves Organisation Facebook page about a month ago, although we haven't done much with it yet. But in the future, we'll probably use it to repost some of the items and photos used on the News. That said, it's a business/organisation page, rather than a personal page (there's a difference, apparently), and we already have a very good website, so it's not like we need the thing - but it seems one has little choice these days. Perhaps a few of our visitors could give us some "likes" to at least make it worth our while.

(Dec 17/12)
Stewart was with the Water Resources Authority last Wednesday, December 12, sampling in Lluidas Vale. He's slated to take them into Riverhead Cave sometime this week to sample at the north trending sink, a few hundred metres into the cave.

We've created a Jamaican Caves Organisation YouTube channel where we're posting videos from the website. All of our videos will continue to be carried on our own server - YouTube is the secondary source.

L-R: Stewart, Kenny, Whyte, Pauel - Nov 26/12
(Dec 7/12)
A video of our recent visit to Riverhead Cave (287 MB MP4) has been put on the server. A report will soon follow.

(Dec 1/12)
A report for our visit to the Acheron, St Clair Cave on November 3 has been posted. It includes a brief history of our explorations beyond the Inferno, and a GIS overview map of the hydrological considerations.

We've also put a video of Potoo Hole (147 MB WMV), on the server from July 1, 2011. The site, which is in the Jackson's Bay, Clarendon, area, contains one of the best instances of Taino pictograms in Jamaica.

(Nov 26/12)
Kenny, Pauel, Stewart, and Whyte were at Riverhead Cave, St Catherine, yesterday. High water prevented us from going any further than the first sump, but the visit was rewarding nonetheless.

Riverhead is notable for having a system of dams and sluices in the cave that were part of a mill constructed in the 18th century. At the entrance, which issues water only during flood periods, there is a first dam. Several hundred metres into the cave, there is the remains of a control gate that was used to block drainage at the "First Sink", which is the normal weather exit for the river flow. During our visit, there was a strong current into this subterranean passage. About 25 metres further in, just before the first sump, are the remains of a second dam, the purpose of which is still a mystery to us.

We believe that the flow in Riverhead may be associated with the flow in the Acheron River passage at St Clair Cave, although the First Sink exits the main passage to the north, which makes the route to St Clair Cave difficult to understand. Tracing will be of help in determining if there is an actual connection, and we hope to carry out a project with the Water Resources Authority that will include this as one of the targets

Air quality in the cave was somewhat poor, with what seemed to be fairly high levels of CO2 (we had mild headaches in the further reaches). O2 wasn't too reduced - lighters still burned well. But we still need appropriate sensors to determine actual levels, and if any wealthy patrons of speleo research happen to read this, we would be pleased to receive donations of such.

Hyde and Stewart in the Inferno+ - Photo: Pauel - Nov 3/12
(Nov 15/12)
A good quality (283 MB mp4) video of our recent visit to St Clair Cave and the Acheron now on the server. This is the first footage taken of the river since its discovery by the JCO in 2006. A field report will soon follow. Also, the Water Resources Authority (WRA) has expressed interest in tracing the flow in the Acheron - we'll post more on this if/as it goes ahead - and Hyde, Pauel, and Stewart intend to return in a couple of weeks, when we expect the water to be lower, to pursue the exploration.

(Nov 5/12)
Hyde, Pauel, and Stewart managed to reach the Acheron River in St Clair Cave on Saturday despite somewhat poor air in the further parts of the Inferno and Inferno+ (~14% O2). However, the river was in full flood, which prevented extensive exploration of the passage - but we did push it somewhat, and at least know that there is some degree of continuation in both the upstream and downstream directions. In the course of it, we recorded excellent hi-res video that will be posted this week, along with a brief report. A return in December is being considered when the air should still be breathable, and the water level lower.

(Nov 2/12)
Halloween gave us a trick, rather than a treat, with the power disappearing for a couple of more days in Ewarton. But give thanks and praise, there's electricity tonight, and even better, water in the pipes. Of course, there's no telling how long it will last, thanks to the general slackness of JPS and NWC. Wha' fi do, other than fill every bucket and jug, and attend to the internet while you have the chance.

Adam, Jan, and Stef are still on for St Clair Cave, and the Acheron (unexplored underground river), this Saturday. We're all very pumped-up to do it, and really looking forward to the challenge. This particular little outing will be amongst the most serious things the JCO has ever done.

(Oct 29/12)
The website admin finally has the current back again after several days of post-Sandy damage to the infrastructure, although still no water in the pipe (and he's currently cooking dinner, and having a rum, with the very last of what he had stored). Here, in Ewarton, St Catherine, it wasn't too devastating - in the last hours before it reached land, it shifted to the east and hammered St Thomas and Portland instead. We wish all our bredren and sistren that side the best of luck in getting their lives back to normal as soon as possible, if possible.

However, the JCO intends to find the silver lining in the dark clouds by pushing the unexplored section of St Clair Cave, the Inferno+ and Acheron, this weekend, which should have been well-flushed by all the rain last Wednesday. That, in combination with Worthy Park not processing sugar cane this time of year, might allow us to reach areas of the cave that normally have highly-poisonous air (low oxygen, much carbon dioxide, methane, and various other nasty gasses). The team will be Adam Hyde, Jan Pauel, and Stefan Stewart, which, unless we had Guy Van Rentergem with us, is the most experienced, capable, and possibly foolhardy group that can attempt it. Jan, our videographer, will record the visit in high-definition, which will be posted soon after, assuming we survive.

Sandy - Oct 24/12
(Oct 24/12)
At 8 AM, Sandy is still off-shore to the south, winds are moderate, there is light rain, and the barometer is at 99.9. Conditions will steadily worsen through the day. Assuming the electricity stays, we'll update conditions every couple of hours.

(Oct 23/12)
Tropical Depression 18 has become Tropical Storm Sandy and is predicted to reach hurricane status shortly before it passes directly over the island on Wednesday (in fact, the centre will pass almost directly over the website administrator's yard in Ewarton, St Catherine).If the power holds up, we'll post regular updates as it goes over.

(Oct 18/12)
A routine monitoring visit took place at St Clair Cave on Tuesday, Oct 16, by Stewart, Gomez, and Russell. The feral cats that inhabit the outer section of the cave continue to be a concern. They are obviously still breeding, as evidenced by the discovery of a young one, a couple of months old, about 200 metres in from the Polly Ground entrance, well into the dark zone. The JCO still has it on the to-do list to eradicate the entire population at some point. The cats not only prey on the bats that live in the system, they carry a nematode parasite of the hookworm family, Cutaneous larva migrans.

(Oct 4/12)
Last weekend, during a return visit to Schwallenburgh Cave, Stefan discovered Jan's lost Pantin, which had been missing since the spring of 2011 (see item for Apr 28/11, lower on this page). It was found partway down the rock/dirt slope that leads to the 50m pitch, and was almost entirely buried, with only a bit of the buckle visible. This is good news, because they're quite expensive and we could never afford to buy any extras for use by guests or research associates. Because Jan had replaced the lost unit some time ago, we now have one spare. For those who don't know what a Pantin is - it's an ascender that straps to your right foot, which pulls down on the rope when one moves up to assist the chest ascender in sliding upwards. It makes an ascent much easier, and is a very useful piece of gear.

Home Away Cave - Sept 9/12
(Sep 14/12)
On September 9th and 10th, Stewart and Grooms completed the sampling at Home Away Cave, in Trelawny, with the help of George Lyttle, Terry Lewin, and Tallman Hoskins. The core was extended to the bottom of the deposit at -176cm, with 103 additional samples obtained, for a total of 128 including those taken last March. The author of this item, Stewart, must note that it was the hardest two days of fieldwork he has ever been involved with, this due to the difficult approach route (up very steep, rocky hills, through pure bush), and the great amount of weight that we had to transport to/from the cave. But we were successful, and his legs are now feeling normal again, so it was a small price to pay for what we accomplished - the collection of material that will supply data on Jamaica's natural history that reaches back over 8,000 years.

In addition to the sampling, Stewart is now certain that the suspected Taino petroglyphs seen previously in the entrance area are indeed glyphs, not natural. This is quite remarkable considering the relative inaccessability of the site.

Grooms, who was the one with the camera, just returned to Canada yesterday, and will forward photos/videos as soon as possible that will be posted on the website.

(Sep 5/12)
Stewart will lead a small team (Conolley, Grooms, and two porters) back to Home Away From Home Cave this Saturday for a couple of days of follow-up work on last March's guano sampling project. There will be no email access from Sep 7 to 13. If anyone needs to contact us during the period, please call 876 397 7488.

The 10th anniversary of the JCO website is this Friday - the very first page, index.htm, went up on September 7, 2002.

The Home Away sampling team, after the fieldwork - Sept 10/12
(Sep 3/12)
We've posted the NEPA report for the guano sampling project carried out last March. The positions have been restricted due to the sensitive nature of the two sites involved.

The Hanover visit has been set back until Sept 14.

(Aug 30/12)
Stewart will be in Hanover this weekend as part of a Nature Conservancy bioblitz on the Tryall lands. His part will be caves, of course.

We'd like to express our great appreciation to UWI Press for relinquishing the rights to Jamaica Underground. This clears the way for the JCO third edition, which will be published by Pear Tree Press. Work continues apace, although it will still be some weeks until we have all the data, notes, maps, etc ready to go.

(Aug 27/12)
We've posted the new online version of the Register, which is restricted to positions. It is a subset of a much larger database that will be the core of Jamaica Underground, Third Edition. Please be aware that the positional database alone represents thousands of hours invested in exploration and research, by many people, over the last century. We ask that it be used wisely, and only to preserve the caves of the island, not to exploit them.

On the weather front - Isaac gave us a good soaking, but didn't mash anything up. The website administrator's garden appreciated it very much.

(Aug 25/12)
The new, definitive version of the Jamaica Cave Register will go online by Sunday, assuming Isaac doesn't take out the power in Ewarton (where the website administrator lives). Once up, we'll add the link to Wikipedia, send out a Press Release, and generally make everyone aware of it. This, of course, will just be the prelude to the third edition of Jamaica Underground, which will follow by a couple of months

With regard to Isaac - so far, it looks like we'll get some good rain out of it, but it won't mash up the island. However, it's just starting to move in as this is typed (23:00, Aug 24), so hard to say. If it gets interesting, and the power holds up, we'll post frequent updates here in the JCO News over the weekend.

(Aug 18/12)
Work continues on the new edition of Jamaica Underground, with the positional segment almost complete. As a result of our efforts, we expect to be able to post a new version of the Cave Register online within a week, with over 1200 sites listed. Interestingly for the head of the JCO, Stewart, who is compiling the database, he now knows that he has visited at least 265 caves in Jamaica (a whole heap of holes).

The guano sampling project will resume in September, with a return to Home Away Cave. Radiocarbon dating showed that we reached 3,500 years before present, down less than 50% of the way, last March.

(Aug 3/12)
Tropical Depression 5 has become Tropical Storm Ernesto, now predicted to pass just south of the island on Monday, Independence Day.

(Aug 1/12)
Emancipation Day was a little wet due to a tropical wave passing over the island, but we needed the rain. However, the next tropical wave coming in from the east has turned into Tropical Depression 5, which is tracking straight for Jamaica. Arrival is due on Monday afternoon, August 6, which is Independence Day. Let's hope it steers north of the island by then.

Work continues on the new edition of Jamaica Underground. Stewart is toiling away on the completion of the master database, and Van Rentergem is figuring out how we'll digitally turn it into a book. As part of this effort, we expect to be able to post a new positional database for the Jamaica Cave Register sometime next week - assuming a hurricane doesn't interfere.

(Jul 27/12)
Plans are underway again to publish a third edition of Jamaican Underground, with printing/publishing by Pear Tree Press, and new content by the JCO. We'll post more on this once real progress has been made.

(Jul 23/12)
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), is preparing to take enforcement action against bauxite mining company Windalco following the release of 62,500 gallons (250,000 litres) of trade effluent into the Pleasant Farm Gully on July 15. The release of untreated effluent resulted in the pollution of the Rio Cobre River and an accompanying fish kill. We've posted the press release in .doc here.

The JCO documented a previous event at the same location on January 15, 2011, in assistance to the Water Resources Authority: Video of Windalco (USRusal) discharging caustic soda effluent into the upper Rio Cobre, Jan 15/12 (23 MB WMV).

(Jul 16/12)
Stewart will be at the Peterkin/Rota system in St James tomorrow for routine monitoring.

(Jun 14/12)
Pauel and Stewart will be in Hanover tomorrow to assess a cave, by request. We know nothing about it at present.

The third entrance of St Clair has been plotted on the DEM, and posted here.

Stewart about to descend the third entrance pit of St Clair Cave, Jun 9/12 - Photo: A Hyde
(Jun 11/12)
Hyde and Stewart finally completed the route for the third entrance of St Clair Cave on Saturday, June 9, after a second, successful, surface search in the Zambia district of Polly Ground. The entrance is a collapse on the east side of a bushed-up gully in bottom-land below Agony Farm. A scramble of about 10m leads to a vertical pitch of about 12m, with this descended by Stewart to positively identify the entrance as the one we sought. Several carabiners left in place during the bolting visits were retrieved, and the rope below was extended to the top of the pitch to allow egress from inside. A final visit will take place in several weeks time to retrieve the bolt hangars, and the last of the 'biners.

We'd like thank everyone who was part of the effort, which involved about five visits in total. A full report on our activities will be posted soon.

Stewart was at Thatchfield Cave on June 6 with a student from Malaysia. As usual, the airflow was inward from the "old cave" to the "new cave".

(May 30/12)
Stewart was in the field yesterday at two Taino caves, Clapham and Coventry, with a visiting researcher. A report will soon follow.

(May 28/12)
Hyde and Stewart were in the field yesterday, May 27, trying an overland, external search for the third entrance of St Clair Cave, just in case we'd find something obvious that would save us having to drill in more bolts from the inside. We didn't have any luck, despite a good search of the most likely prospects, but had a nice day anyway. The weather was great, the machetes were sharp, and we saw some good bush.

We're on a mission with this, so will resume bolting from the inside two weeks from now.

Stewart was in the Cockpit Country on Saturday, May 26, doing some clean-up of the Troy Trail - Guthries hiking route out of Windsor, along with a couple of volunteers. It had been close to two months since the last run, and things were very bushed-up. It's a bit better now.

Stewart in Zambia district searching for the 3rd ent of St Clair Cave, May 27/12 - Photo: A Hyde
(May 25/12)
We were back at St Clair on Wednesday, May 24 (Labour Day), with some new Jamaican cavers who wanted to see what all this caving stuff is about. The day went well, and although we didn't make any progress on the third entrance, we did observe that there were many bats in the Lemon Ridge passage, which is uncommon - they're usually restricted to the Inferno passage. We suspect that particularly bad air in the Inferno was encouraging them to find other roosting space with something more breathable, with this change happening since the last visit on May 12. More information on the process can be found by reading the various reports for St Clair Cave.

(May 16/12)
A Hyde, RS Stewart, C Stewart, S Barker, and F Harrison were at St Clair last Saturday. Three more bolts were set in our pursuit of the third entrance, and we are now about two-thirds of the way up.

(May 11/12)
We will resume our efforts to finish the route to the third entrance at St Clair Cave this Saturday. Fortunately, we'll have a few more crew onboard this time, in addition to Hyde and Stewart (five or six in all), to help share the load. We hope to have final success, but will not be surprised if it takes one more trip.

(May 9/12)
Stewart, of the JCO, will be taking Lucas Doca, a Brazilian sports reporter, down Hutchinson's Hole today. Unfortunately, we don't have a rope-watcher for the top, but we hope to find someone who lives near the hole to take care of it.

(Apr 30/12)
Hyde and Stewart were at St Clair on Saturday, and made good progress on reaching the third entrance. One more visit should get us to the top, to reach the surface somewhere roughly halfway between the Polly Ground and Lemon Ridge entrances..We expect the surface collapse above to be somewhat complex, judging by the detritus distribution we're finding in the upper approach series.

Again, we found substantial, fresh deposits of what we suspect to be yellow boa faecies in the upper section of the route. This coincides with recent reports by the locals of a large snake in the "Zambia" district, which is where the entrance must be. Unfortunately, the locals also believe the snake to be deadly, so are planning to kill it first chance. We will attempt to dissuade them from doing so. The yellow boa is no threat to anyone, other than a few bats, rats, and mongoose.

(Apr 25/12)
Adam Hyde and Stefan Stewart will be at St Clair Cave this weekend to resume bolting upward to the third entrance, which Stewart discovered last year. We can't say for sure if we'll reach the top this time, but we'll do our best.

(Apr 18/12)
Jan Pauel, of the JCO, was on Hot 102 yesterday morning talking about the caves of the island. He did a great job of communicating some of the main concerns with regard to cave preservation in Jamaica. We've posted it in mp3 here: Hot 102 and the JCO

. (Apr 16/12)
The first radiocarbon dates are in for the guano samples. Deposits at the primary site, Schwallenburgh, extend back for only 120 years. At the secondary site, Home Away, the age at the minus 25cm level is 1,500 years. Down 1m, the age is 3,400 years. The deposit is over 2m deep, but sampling problems restricted us to the upper part. If we extrapolate, and allow for compaction, the age at the bottom of the deposit is well over 7,000 years. We hope to return to finish the sampling using techniques refined by our experience during the first visit.

The first DNA data from the samples is expected in about a week.

Guano sampling at Schwallenburgh Cave
(Apr 11/12)
Our apologies for the lack of updates recently, but we intend to remedy that, starting now.

The guano sampling project went well, with the first data (radiocarbon) due soon. The primary site, Schwallenburgh, was sampled at ~1 cm intervals for over a metre, with good stratigraphy all the way down (see the photo to the left). Home Away Cave had deposits of over two metres, although sampling problems restricted us to much less than that. A return visit using refined techniques is on the to-do list. Field reports by two of the parties will be posted later this week.

Adam Hyde and Stefan Stewart were at Jacksons Bay Great Cave last Sunday with several new cavers (names to be posted as soon as the site admin has them straight). The visit went very well, and the new people were solid. The route was entry at Entrance 1, then to the crawl passage to the "new cave" as far as the Colliseum, and then back to exit at Entrance 3 (the Water Entrance).

Several of us made the complete journey from the main entrance to Bamboo Bottom at Windsor Cave last Wednesday. This, as far as we know, was the first time since the JCO last did it about eight years ago.

There have been several visits to Thatchfield Great Cave over the last six weeks. We are now certain that the airflow from the "Old Cave" to the "New Cave" is consistently inwards, which indicates that there is an undiscovered entrance somewhere within. The flow is not because of the cave "breathing", i.e. adjusting to the external barometric pressure. On similar discoveries....

We will soon resume the bolting at St Clair to finally reach the surface at what we know to be a third entrance. Plans are in the works.

We also fixed the bad code lower in the News that was making the rest of the page a link to the permit pdf.

More to follow....

Megan Ursic and Kingman at St Clair Cave
(Feb 14/12)
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has issued a research permit for the guano sampling project, which begins March 4. To give everyone a better idea of what we're doing, we've posted the application, the letter of support from Dr Brock Fenton, and the permit, all in pdf.

Stefan's monitor problems are being dealt with - Jan had a spare external monitor that he's supplied.

(Feb 10/12)
The website admin, Stefan, has been having major problems with his laptop recently, specifically, the monitor not working most of the time. At the moment, it's functional, thus this update. If anyone has a spare laptop laying around, we would be grateful if you could pass it along.

An assessment of Johnson's Pen Cave, near Duncans, Trelawny, was carried out last week. We'll post an version of the report in the next few days (assuming the laptop is working).

(Jan 18/12)
We're making progress on the government paperwork for the guano sampling project, which will begin March 4. The JCO would like to thank Mr. Peter Knight, CEO of NEPA, for getting things underway.

There will be a field visit to the Cockpit Country later in the week. There is also a tentative plan to visit Schwallenburgh Cave on the weekend, which is one of the guano sampling sites.

(Jan 1/12)
The JCO ended off the year with a visit to St Clair Cave on December 31 to continue work on completing the route out the third entrance, which was discovered by Stewart earlier in 2011. More bolts still need to be placed, but we're slowly getting there.

(Dec 25/11)
Merry Christmas to everyone from the Jamaican Caves Organisation. Bless up, and Jah guide. (And for those familiar with Jamaican politrix, the temporary green bar in the header is for Christmas - it matches the red links well.)

(Dec 23/11)
The election in Jamaica is now less than a week away. We hope that whatever party wins, the Comrades or the Labourites, they will remember the importance of Jamaica's environment, and its peoples place in it.

There is more to this country than opportunities to scoop dollars in backroom deals with Trafigura, the Chinese, and UCRusal, while maintaining bases in foreign. There is more to be done than tossing around dollars at election time that will be mostly spent on Cashpot and set-ups. If the current politicians have no real loyalty to our future, they should pass the torch to those who do.

(Dec 17/11)
We've chopped out last year's section of the News into Archives - Volume 9, linked at the bottom of this page, to speed up the load time.

BBQ Bottom road near Burnt Hill
(Dec 12/11)
Please be advised that the Barbecue Bottom road, in the eastern Cockpit Country, is currently blocked by very large fallen rocks toward the Burnt Hill end, a situation that will probably persist for some time to come.

(Dec 7/11)
Yesterdays' visit to Thatchfield went well, and traffic at the site appears to continue to be low. A nice photo of formations in the cave has been posted on the website in high resolution (click on the photo beside this item).

(Dec 5/11)
We'll be making a brief visit to Thatchfield Cave tomorrow for monitoring.

(Nov 27/11)
The first week back in the field has been spent setting things up, and taking care of paperwork. Later this week, we'll be underground again at Schwallenburgh Cave, which is one of the three sites where we'll be sampling guano for palaeo records in February 2012. The team will probably consist of Stefan, Jan, and Damion. Soon after, we'll have a more social outing at an easier site where we can include some of the people who have recently expressed interest in joining the group.

(Nov 19/11)
Fieldwork resumes tomorrow.

(Nov 7/11)
The News page has been tweaked, again, to a permanent 1024px width, rather than being fluid from 750 to 1024 as it was before (most of you won't notice the change). That gets rid of the javascript for IE, which we were never happy with. We've also changed the main page, the photo/video page, the funding page and a couple of others to 1024.

Also, we've never mentioned it (been there for years) - there's at least one "easter egg" on the website. Search around on this page a little and you might find something interesting.

(Nov 5/11)
The next session of fieldwork will begin November 20, 2011, run until Christmas, and then resume indefinitely on January 2, 2012. The priority list includes the third entrance of St Clair Cave, Worthy Park Cave-3, New Green Cave, New Hall Cave, Morgans Pond Hole (for water sampling), diving at Moneague Blue Hole with our Belgian bredren (in February), guano coring at Schwallenburgh Cave with Dr Fenton, and the completion of the georeferencing of the many caves at Jackson's Bay.

More to follow.

(Nov 3/11)
We might have managed to move the medium resolution copy of our segment of "Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Jamaica" to the server, although we're not sure. It took 12 hours on dial-up, and stopped/resumed a number of times. The file may be corrupted. If you've got high-speed (it's a 100 MB MPG), have a look (right-click and save), see if it works, and if not, let us know at

(Nov 2/11)
Representatives of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group, which includes the JCO, met recently with Minister Chang regarding the Cockpit Country boundary, and plans to mine what is the last wilderness area in Jamaica for bauxite (aluminum ore). We've updated the Cockpit Country mining page with a bit of information on what transpired.

We also tweaked the format of the News page a little - the header was tiling, and should now render at 1024 px without doing so.

(Oct 27/11)
Our attempts to move the Bourdain file to the server have been fruitless. It looks like it will have to wait a few weeks until Stef has his 4G back. Wha' fi do.

We do have something positive to report, though - Dr Brock Fenton has informed us that the funding has come through for the guano coring project. The data derived should supply information on palaeoecological conditions, including changes in the chiropteran (bat) species make-up in the studied caves, and insect fauna in the foraging areas (we hypothesise a marked change in the early colonization period). We'll post more on this as things go ahead.

(Oct 25/11)
The site admin, Stefan, has stumbled across the long-lost original DVD of the Bourdain show (with the JCO segment at St Clair Cave), received from the production company in 2008. The only copy currently on the website is a low-res version on the photo-video page. We're attempting to get a med-res version sent up, but Stef is back on dial-up for a few weeks, and it's proving to be a challenge (110 MB file for our segment, and the upload keeps timing out). He'll try again tonight. Once back to high-speed mid-November, he'll put the entire thing online - there's an interesting last segment that didn't air, called insert/snap-in (whatever that means).

(Oct 20/11)
As mentioned earlier in the News, the publishers of an upcoming Jamaican textbook asked if they could use one of our photos, the picture of Mark Bellinger descending into the lighthole entrance of Thatchfield Cave, January, 2004, which is on the main page of our website in a low resolution version. We told them not a problem, of course, and forwarded the full resolution version. We used the same photo at full resolution some years ago in a poster that we printed up and dropped off at places like Miss Lilly's in Coxheath, but we've never posted it on the website. We're doing so now. Anyone who would like to copy and print it, or publish it themselves, is welcome to. We ask only that you keep it intact, and don't alter it any way.

We're taking a brief hiatus from fieldwork for the next few weeks, but expect to be back at things mid-November. In the interim, we'll try to catch up on website work (reports, more maps, post videos, chop out part of the News to another archive page, update the cave database, etc), and we'll attend to email more regularly. As always, we welcome reports of unexplored caves, invitations to assist in speleo research, requests for advice on caving in Jamaica, and questions on anything you think might be in our field of expertise.


Nina (left) and Yvonne (right) in the field at Pollyground, Aug 21/11
(Oct 17/11)
We've posted a report for the work done with Nina Veselka at St Clair Cave, and environs, during the last week of August, as well as a video (36MB WMV). While we were at it, we've cross-linked nine of the ten reports for the cave that have gone online since 2006. The last will be taken care of in the next few days.

We've also posted the report for Black Hill Cave-2 (coordinates removed) done on September 25, pro bono, for TPDCO.

(Sep 30/11)
The interview with TVJ went fairly well on Wednesday. A copy can be found on their website.

(Sep 26/11)
Jan and Stefan of the JCO will be on TVJ's program, Smile Jamaica, this Wednesday morning. It's live TV, so we'll be on our best behaviour.

We were in the field with TPDCO on Saturday assessing a site in Portland, Black Hill Cave-2. A report was sent to them yesterday that might appear on the website in an edited form soon.

We'd like to thank the Gleaner for a mention in an article recently, and extend an invitation to the reporter concerned to join us in a visit to a cave when schedules permit.

We recently noticed that our Press Release for Hutchinsons Hole, February 2004, is doing very well in Google for search suggestions of "jamaican". Why, we do not know, but after reading it ourselves again for the first time in years, we thought we should bring it to the attention of our visitors in case they might like to read it themselves.

(Sep 1/11)
Our apologies for the lack of News updates lately, but the site admin has been rather busy. Fieldwork has been going on, though, most recently with two bat researchers at St Clair Cave for a number of days last week. A report will be posted very soon. Also, we've supplied information and photos to the Observer for an upcoming article, been listed as the referral agency for caves by the Jamaican Natural Heritage Trust, and agreed to supply photos for a Jamaican school textbook.

Elizabeth Slack at St Clair Cave
(Jul 24/11)
A video for the Tydixon Ratbat Cave visit (60 MB WMV) done by Jan is on the server, plus a report for Sand Hole Gully Cave that also has some video (20 MB WMV) done by Stef (lower-res camera).

The web admin, RS Stewart, has fixed the Tydixon report - the template that was used, Grierfield, still had Grierfield Cave as the site name.

(Jul 18/11)
A brief report for the June 25 visit to Tydixon Ratbat Cave has been put online. Also, Jan has put up two more videos, Thatchfield Great Cave - Part 1 - June 30, 2011 (72 MB WMV), Thatchfield Great Cave - Part 2 - June 30, 2011 (58 MB WMV).

A return to St Clair Cave to finish the third entrance is on the agenda for later this week.

(Jul 4/11)
Elizabeth Slack was with us for the last week, and good work was done. A brief synopsis follows:

We are now certain that there is a third entrance to St Cair Cave. The final chamber was bolted part way up before we ran out of time, and in the course of it, we saw the sun shining into an opening above. A return to set the final bolts that will allow us to reach it is high priority - this will take place in the immediate future. A video of the outing (59 MB WMV) has been put on the server.

Two more caves in Worthy Park were located: Gullyhead Cave, and Sand Hole Gully Cave. Both are resurgences on the west side of Lluidas Vale.

Potoo Hole, Jackson's Bay, was visited for monitoring and photography of the Taino pictograms at the bottom of the entrance shaft.

Thatchfield Great Cave was visited for monitoring and video documentation.

On Saturday, June 25, Tydixon Ratbat Cave was visited with Gordon Clarke, Gregory Worton, and Peter Worton. The local mosquitoes were present in full force on the hike in, and were only left behind once we were about 30 meters into the cave. At that point, fungus gnats took over, and it was only by the use of masks that we were able to continue. Tydixon may be a very important site biologically, but it certainly isn't easy to enter and travel through.

Iris Holmes at Belle Aire Cave 4
(Jun 22/11)
The next of the Worthy Park caves, Tydixon Ratbat Cave, will be done this Saturday with Gordon et al. We'll post a report soon after.

(Jun 17/11)
Three more videos have been posted by Jan, Jackson's Bay Cave - Part 1 (79 MB WMV), Jackson's Bay Cave - Part 2 (69 MB WMV), and Iris Holmes processing frogs at Jackson's Bay Cave (40 MB WMV).

Elizabeth Slack will be with us for a week of intensive fieldwork starting on June 27. Targets include New Green Cave for mapping, Portland Ridge for site-finding and assessment, and the Mulgrave Sinkholes for assessment.

(May 30/11)
Two caves were visited over the last few days in assistance to Iris Holmes and her studies of frog pathogens, which might help to solve the riddle of the decline in frog populations around the world. On Friday, Jackson's Bay Cave gave us two specimens of the very rare cave species, Eleutherodactylus cavernicola, which were released, alive and healthy, at the collection locations soon after they were processed. On Sunday, four specimens of the other Jamaican cave frog, Eleutherodactylus cundalli, were taken at Belle Aire Cave 4, and processed in the same way. The procedure is to swab them to collect fungal spores, and to take a toe-clipping for DNA analysis. In effect, they receive a massage, a pedicure, and an interesting break to their usual routine - rather like a day at the spa.

(May 23/11)
The JCO will be back at Portland Ridge this Friday, at Jackson's Bay Great Cave, in assistance to Iris Holmes and her research into frogs and their fungal pathogens. If possible, we'll also try to georeference more of the many other sites in the area.

(May 18/11)
Jan has moved the videos for St Clair to the server in two parts, St Clair Cave May 8, 2011 - Part 1 (108 MB WMV) and St Clair Cave, May 8, 2011 - Part 2 (79 MB WMV).

L-R: Damion, Iris, Tanika, Sloane, Simone, after St Clair
(May 16/11)
A report for the May 8 visit to St Clair Cave has been posted on the server. A video will soon follow.

(May 10/11)
The visit to St Clair on May 8 was not entirely successful. The pole we constructed from two sections of bamboo, which was intended to get us above an unclimbable pitch, would not fit through the final passages in its disassembled form (too long). However, we did find a larger, higher chamber in the same series, with good airflow and openings in the top, that seems to be even closer to the surface (much washed-in detritus). This is where we eventually used the pole, and where it is still sitting, as, unfortunately, it was about one meter too short. A return with another section of bamboo is on the to-do list for the near future.

We have to thank Damion Whyte and Sloane Jackson for doing the bulk of the work carrying the bamboo into the cave. It was fresh, green, and not exactly light.

A lot of good video was recorded, which Jan is currently working on. We'll post it later in the week. Also, Stefan is working on the report, which will supply details on where we were in the cave, and what we found.

Brock Fenton's team at Windsor
(May 6/11)
A video of the bat Macrotus waterhousii at Windsor Cave, taken recently by Jan during fieldwork with Dr Brock Fenton, is online.

The JCO will be at St Clair Cave this Sunday to push the possible third entrance. We hope for success, and to post news of such here soon after.

(May 4/11)
A video of the project at Belle Aire has been posted in two parts, Belle Aire 1 (113 MB WMV), and Belle Aire 2 (114 MB WMV). Both are large files, but the quality is good, and the content will be of interest to most of our visitors.

(Apr 28/11)
Fieldwork will resume on May 5, and continue indefinitely. First on the agenda will be to take care of unfinished business, including getting some of our new members into more caves, getting the Worthy Park crew into the rest of their caves, and finding Jan's lost Pantin, which may be at Schwallenburgh Cave.

Next will be a number of sites on the to-do list, including New Hall, New Green, Mulgrave, Huntley, and Morgans Pond (assuming we can convince the landowner that there's no treasure to be found). After that, sytematic assessments, by parish, will continue with Clarendon first, and then Portland..

Other interested parties, whose plans might coincide with ours, are invited to contact us at their earliest convenience.

Belle Air Cave 3 - PLAN
(Apr 6/11)
The Belle Air fieldwork for the Urban Development Company (UDC) was completed last week, and the report will be submitted tomorrow. Three caves were assessed and mapped, two of which were found to be archaeological sites, specifically, Taino.

Peterkin Cave, Rota Cave, and Deeside Roaring River cave were visited for monitoring last weekend. The furthest part of Deesde, which was known to be close to the surface, was looked at closely, and we now have a better idea of where the frogs, E. cundalli, are reaching the surface for foraging.

St Clair Cave was visited for monitoring yesterday. It appears that tropical storm Nicole, late last year, has flushed out the water in the Inferno, and air quality is much improved. Also, a strong flow of air up into a narrow, complex passage was found about two-thirds of the way from the Lemon Ridge entrance to the Pollyground entrance. Washed-in sticks and snail shells were present, so there is no doubt that it reaches the surface. Even more interesting, large faeces that appear to be from a yellow boa were found, so a snake of substantial proportions seems to be coming in to feed on bats. A return visit to push further toward the surface is on the to-do list for the very near future.

(Mar 22/11)
The founder and head of the Jamaican Caves Organisation, Ronald Stefan Stewart, would like to announce his marriage to Christina Rose-Stewart on March 21, 2011, in Spanish Town, Jamaica. For those who don't know her yet, Christina is bright, brave, and beautiful. Stefan is very proud, and amazed, that she is now his wife.

(Mar 19/11)
A report for Stony Hill Cave, January 17, 2011 is online. The site was visited in assistance to NEPA, and is the only known roost for the bat Phyllonycteris aphylla. Positions have been removed from the online report and are by request only.

We've posted two more videos, Taino pottery at Belle Aire, March 16, 2011 (9 MB WMV), and Worthy Park Cave 2, March 6, 2011 (76 MB WMV).

L-R: Toby McConnell, Christina Rose, Christopher Clarke, Gordon Clarke at Worthy Park Cave 2
(Mar 17/11)
Wallingford River Cave and Oxford Cave were visited for monitoring on March 15. The team consisted of RS Stewart, C Rose, Ross Little and Andrew Little. The batroost at Oxford is somewhat larger than noted during the last visit, two years ago, and now extends back into the main passage from the side-chamber to which it was restricted for some time in the past. Wallingford continues to have natural protection because of the river that flows through it - most people decline the wading and swimming necessary to travel any distance into it.

Recon at four caves on the Belle Aire property, next to Green Grotto, was done on March 16 in assistance to UDC. One was found to be a Taino site, evidenced by potsherds. The others also have archaeo potential, and a return is slated for the near future to carry out a thorough investigation.

(Mar 13/11)
Fieldwork has been temporarily suspended due to the Principal Investigator, Stewart, detaching his right collar bone while playing football. Activity should resume on Tuesday, March 15, when the pain is expected to have dropped to an acceptable level.

Worthy Park Cave 2 was visited on Sunday, March 6. The team consisted of Stewart, Pauel, Rose, McConnell, G Clarke, and C Clarke. This was the first time on-rope for the latter three, and all managed it well. The next sites on the Lluidas Vale agenda are WP-1, and WP-3.

A good quality video has been posted of the visit to Swansea Cave, January 30, 2011 (86 MB WMV). The videographer was Jan Pauel.

(Feb 26/11)
The JCO is currently in the field with Burton Lim and Alina Arcila from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Videos for the first two days are now online: St Clair Cave - Pollyground Entrance - February 21, 2011, Low Resolution (14 MB WMV), Medium Resolution (75 MB WMV), and St Clair Cave - Lemon Ridge Entrance - February 22, 2011, Low Resolution (18 MB WMV), Medium Resolution (90 MB WMV).

Chris Clarke, Gordon Clarke, Fraser McConnell, Peter McConnell, Toby McConnell, Gregory Worton, and Peter Worton at Swansea Cave
(Feb 3/11)
Stewart visited Tydixon Ratbat Cave, Lluidas Vale, on January 29 for monitoring. Unfortunately, he forgot to bring the camera, so no photos/videos were taken. A return is scheduled some time in the next few weeks, so he'll do it then.

Haiduk, Pauel, and Stewart, from the JCO, were joined by Chris Clarke, Gordon Clarke, Fraser McConnell, Peter McConnell, Toby McConnell, Gregory Worton, and Peter Worton for a visit to Swansea Cave on January 30. The group included three of the directors of Worthy Park Estate, all of whom very much understand the value of the caves on their land, and care for their future.This makes Swansea one of the best protected caves on the island.

Stewart, Ekparian, and Stern visited Thatchfield Great Cave on Feb 2. A video can be found here (59 MB WMV).

(Jan 28/11)
T he roost where NEPA recently found Phyllonycteris aphylla was visited on January 17, at their request. A video has been posted, Stony Hill Cave (86 MB WMV).

We've also posted a video, St Clair Surface Traverse (50 MB WMV) that shows the extent of deforestation in the area of St Clair Cave.

(Jan 16/11)
A video of the visit to Marta Tick Cave has been posted (130 MB WMV).

We've also posted a video of Rio Tinto discharging caustic soda effluent into the upper Rio Cobre (13 MB WMV) from the Ewarton works yesterday, Jan 15/11.

Stewart and Haiduk visited Schwallenburgh Cave again yesterday to carry out a mapping survey. We have photos and videos that will be posted along with the map in the next few days.

What may have been the final Ministry of Tourism meeting regarding the cave use guidelines took place last Thursday. We are pleased that the JCO guidelines have been used as the core of the document, and would like to thank everyone concerned for their hard work and dedication.

Christina and Donovan at Avisfield Cave - Photo: RS Stewart
(Jan 10/11)
Fieldwork has begun for the session after ten days of settling in and getting things set up. The current base is Pollyground, near Ewarton.

Stewart has picked up a 4G USB modem, working with the Digicel network, so email is now being checked most days, and updates to the website are possible when in the field.With regard to the Digicel service, we cannot recommend it to others at the moment, because, incredibly, they do not have on outgoing server for email, and they're blocking port 2525, which we use to connect to the JCO server. This means that Thunderbird, Outlook, etc, cannot be used. We're getting around it by using our website email interface, which is a bit of a pain.

Avisfield Cave, in northern St Ann, was visited and assessed on January 7 by RS Stewart, Christina Rose, and Donovan Selvyn. The site has been degraded by a heavy input of silt, and is now only about 30cm high in places. Biota is limited to the endemic cave crab, S. veleryi.

Stewart, Pauel, Rose, and Selvyn assisted Iris Holmes in her studies of frog fungal pathogens at Marta Tick Cave on January 9 and 10. Traffic to the cave appears to have been limited since our last visit, in 2009, which is good to see - the site is the most important in the Cockpit Country.



(Jan 2, 2010 to Dec 21, 2010)

(Jan 8, 2009 to Dec 21, 2009)

(Jan 6, 2008 to Dec 23, 2008)

(Dec 12, 2006 to Dec 3, 2007)

(Apr 24, 2006 to Dec 8, 2006)

(Jan 22, 2005 to Mar 19, 2006)

(Mar 9, 2004 to Dec 31, 2004)

(Aug 15, 2003 to Mar 2, 2004)

(Sept 30, 2002 to Aug 15, 2003)

The Jamaican Caving News © is a publication of the Jamaican Caves Organization.

Editor: RS Stewart.

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Introduction to Jamaican Caves and Sinkholes