Jamaican Caving News
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ARCHIVES - VOLUME 1
The Annual General Meeting of the Windsor Research Centre will be held in Windsor, Trelawny, on Aug 29. The WRC is devoted to the study and preservation of the Cockpit Country and is the main resource centre for research conducted in this biologically rich part of the island. Visitors to this site are advised to also take advantage of the extensive information made available online by the WRC.
Planning continues for this August's caving expedition. The JCO has a full schedule; the target areas are Maroon Town, Accompong, Quick Step - Dromilly, and Lluidas Vale. The Crew, (Stewart, Conolley, Taylor, Clive, Tumpa, et al), will soon be exploring the underground once again.
Efforts are being made to tie up loose ends prior to the next expedition by posting the last of the available May 2003 notes, (now completed). The conversion of the GPS database from WGS84 to Jamaican Metric Grid Coordinates is also nearing completion and will soon be available in a .dbf file. It will enable users of ArcView or other GIS programs, who have the digitized .tif topos and accompanying .tfw files, to put the cave positions on the map +/- 25 m, (note that on the 1:50K topos the roads are shown as 40 m wide). Three different sets of datum parameters have been acquired that describe a circle of about 3 m diameter. The dx, dy, and dz of the three available that most closely match existing GPS WAAS calibration points are being used, with Geotrans, for the datum transformation. Due to parameter inaccuracy this will introduce an error of about 5 metres on top of the more accurate WGS84 GPS positions, (the GPS positions are accurate to +/- 5 m in most cases). There are currently 40+ GPS cave entrance positions in the database and more will be added soon.
We have recently found that one cave in the Chatworth, Maroon Town district, "Grasslice Cave", which we believed to be unlisted, and thusly named, appears to match the description for Thompson's Cave, with the JU position out 540 metres. Ironically, of our various Chatworth discoveries it was both the only cave previously listed that we "re-discovered" and also the most insignificant; Barrow's, Belfield, Fitzie's Fissures, and Rocky Road had all been missed.
An intermittent problem encountered with the GPS external antenna last expedition has been tracked down; a BNC connector was identified as the culprit and repairs have been made. Users of the Garmin GA29 antenna who run into intermittent problems are advised to check the male BNC, on the antenna wire, to see if the centre lead has been cut too long and is shorting against the outer casing. If you don't know how to open the connector, feel free to contact us for instructions.
We'd like to thank Dr. Stewart Peck for the documents we've recently received that will assist in the identification of invertebrates we find during our explorations. Our biological observations remain underutilized; researchers in this field are invited to take greater advantage of our activities.
A project that was planned for this August, that will see the Crew cooperate in the filming of a visit to Marta Tick Cave, has been delayed until November. It's hoped that this project, a production of AuthenticJamaica.Com, will help to alleviate some of our ongoing funding problems.
On the same topic of funding, we'd like to thank Alex's Car Rentals of Montego Bay for helping out again with the ground transport. We invite those who are thinking of renting a car in MoBay to seriously consider Alex's; they're the best deal going, and they've been a real help to us. Others who might be of assistance to the JCO are encouraged to have the same spirit.
Adam Hyde, pictured to the left in a photo taken during his 1994 discovery of Taino pictographs at Potoo Hole, has recently completed another successful water-sampling session in aid of an ongoing freshwater ecology research project. Still Waters Cave, in St Elizabeth, a complex labyrinth system with a serious flood-risk, was visited at a particularly interesting time, the late vernal rainy season, and should supply important data to the efforts being made in this field.
A summary report of the JCO May caving expedition has been posted on the Current Projects page. It is now realized that 14 caves, rather than the previously reported 12 caves, were visited and GPS marked during the last session. We apologize for the delay in getting the rest of the full notes online; the notes for May 13, Wallingford River Cave, and May 14, Hessie's Sinkhole, have been recently posted; more of the notes will follow soon. Unfortunately we have not yet been able to get Martel Taylor's notes transferred from his book to the site but this will eventually happen.
Part I of a series of articles written by RS Stewart, of the Jamaican Caves Crew, that was originally published in the June edition of www.jamaicans.com, is now available on this site. We invite visitors to the site to read Part I, "Origins and History". Part II will be published in the August edition and has been temporarly posted on this website. During the month of August, it will appear only on www.jamaicans.com. Part III will be published in September or October, and will describe current caving activities in Jamaica, including the expeditions of Guy van Rentergem, Adam Hyde, and the JCO. For cavers, this will be the most interesting part of the series. We ask for your patience; Part III is still being written.
The first of a series of articles on Jamaican caves, written by the administrator of this site, can be found in the June edition of www.jamaicans.com. It discusses the origins and history of the caves found in Jamaica. Caribbean geologists who might come across the article, and adhere to the "fixist" view of the island, are forewarned that the article is fixedly "mobilist", and presents this as fact. Unfortunately, the article was written with Wordpad, in html, without a spellcheck being used and several typos, mis-spellings, and incorrect usages of commas have been subsequently discovered. The articles will eventually appear on this site and it is promised that they will be cleaned up before being posted.
An excerpt from Guidance - Part 3, a page that appears on this site, has been recently added to the travel section of IriePeople.Com.
We would like to remind everyone that this organization receives minimal funding. We kindly request that when GPS data collected by us is used in published papers, as for example in a recent paper that includes, Geneva Mtn Cave, a large bat cave first explored by Koenig, Stewart and Taylor, that we receive due credit.
The first of the notes from May have begun to appear by way of the Main Field Notes Page. The page has been reworked to allow room for future additions and to make it more user-friendly. Positions for the new caves are being posted in the GPS Cave Register although the process is not yet complete.
Adam Hyde's trip to Guts River Rising on the weekend of May 3-4 was a success. In all, eight people were along, and some spectacular terrain was seen on a trek up the dry seasonal riverbed, rising 200 m in less than a km, as they searched for caves. Several new shelter caves were found and three other caves visited. A return visit is planned for some time in the future. Last weekend, Adam was in Rock Spring and we hope for news on that soon.
The Jamaican Caves Crew, (R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, I. C. Conolley, I. Blake, A. McFarlane, Clive), is pleased to announce the addition of 5 new caves to the Jamaican Cave Register. In all, 12 caves were visited during the week of May 8 - 15. Bone breccia was found, underground rivers were swum through, deep holes were descended and there were no casualties or lost cavers. We had two new members of the crew with us this time, Ian Blake of Wales Pond along for Mocho Cave, and Andrew McFarlane of Balaclava joining us for the Wallingford Caves. We'd like to thank the McFarlane family, Maxine, Michael, and Andrew, for the hospitality shown us on the trip to Wallingford, and also thank the Blake family for the valuable assistance given during the visit to Mocho Cave in the Anchovy, St. James area. Field notes for all of the visited caves continue to be added to the May 2003 Field Notes Page, with the latest additions being I. C. Conolley's notes for Barrow's Cave and Fitzie 1, 2, 3 on May 10, as well as R. S. Stewart's notes for Rota Cave on May 9. A summary of the JamaicanCaves.Org expedition has been forwarded to NEPA.
We've received news, from Adam Hyde, of a caving trip to the Guts River area of Manchester this weekend by Adam, and four others, to look for new caves. We hope to be able to post news on this in the near future. Best of luck, Adam.
The next outing of the Crew will soon be underway. There are three target areas this time: Wales Pond, Maroon Town, and Worthy Park. The three different areas present us with different opportunites to add to the knowledge of the caves of Jamaica. It is hoped that we will be successful in our efforts. Upon completion of the expedition, notes will be posted by all of the participating cavers. Martel Taylor's notes from March will at last also appear.
We'd like to thank Professor Donald A. McFarlane of the W. M. Keck Science Center for giving us the chance to be responsible for the recovery of Slue's Cave near Worthy Park. This is a paleontologically valuable cave, the position of which is currently in doubt. It is one of the few sites where fossils of the extinct rodent, Clidomys, have been found. It is believed that we have enough info to re-locate the cave and GPS mark the position as an aid to future research. A survey of extant bone breccia will also be done. If we find the cave, full notes will be posted on the site, as well as photos, but the GPS position will not.
We'd also like to thank Joan Blake for the report on Mocho Cave in St James. A large bat colony was observed by the GSD in 1951 and it sounds as though it remains fairly undisturbed. A reconnaissance will be done to determine the health of the colony and value for further research by others.
New pages have recently been added to the site and changes have been made to others. Please have a look at our Guidance pages, and also our first Supporters' pages, Miss Lilly's Bar & Shop and Franklyn Taylor, Cave Guide.
We would not turn down a donation of a pair of Jumar ascenders, new or used, if anyone were kind enough to make the offer. We're currently short one set of ascenders and have to pass gear up and down pitches every time we deal with a vertical. Our aim is true and the Jumars would be put to good use.
We'd once again like to invite submissions of notes and GPS cave positions from any cavers that are active on the island. There are very few of us so every report is valuable.
It is recommended that all of those who arrive at this site via a search of, "Jamaican and/or Bat Guano", please take time to read through the Cave Preservation Page. If this is done, it will be soon realized that we are not interested in buying 1000 tons of Turkish Bat Guano, (a solicitation this site has just received), any amount of South African Guano or any Guano at all. Please do not mine Bat Guano.
The Jamaican Caves Crew has recently completed a reconnaissance of eleven caves, most of them located in the Maroon Town district. Six of the eleven are new to the Jamaican Cave Register. Notes for Windsor Cave, Young Gully Cave, Roach/Cup and Saucer Cave, Schaw Castle Cave, Belfield Cave, Grasslice Cave, Likkle Cave, Rotten Goat Crawl, MacBeans Shelter Cave, Rota Cave, and Rota Sink have been posted by participating cavers, Stewart, and Conolley, on the March, 2003, Field Notes Page. Martel Taylor's notes will soon follow. GPS positions, in WGS84 latitude and longitude, for all of the systems, can be found in the GPS Cave Register. Once again, we would like to remind everyone that the positions have not been posted to assist in the exploitation of the caves, and that cave preservation must be the priority when any interference with these systems is contemplated.
The most notable discoveries, during this most recent session, include the observation of fish in the Roach Cave/Cup and Saucer System, the identification of substantial Sesarma Verleyi, (cave crab), colonies in several hydrologically active systems, and a first exploration of Belfield Cave, a multi-pitch cave with remarkably beautiful calcite formations.
Conditions are currently ideal for cave exploration; water levels are low, as is the flood risk in hydrologically active systems. Unfortunately, with the dry season comes the ticks, and we bear the evidence of their current profusion on inadequately sprayed parts of our bodies.
An effort was made to take more photographs this time, despite the usual camera-destroying conditions encountered underground, and jpg's are starting to show up on the main Jamaican Cave Photos page. A large version of the photo found above can be seen here.
JamaicanCaves.Org would like to thank Mike Schwartz, and Dr. Susan Koenig, for the link from The Parks in Peril Cave Page of the Windsor Research Centre's website.
A report on the Orienteering Workshop held at the WRC, the last week of November, 2002, will be posted on the November, 2002, Field Notes Page soon.
It has finally been realized that the name of the Rock Eleuth Cave Frog, Eleutherodactylus cundalli, has been consistently misspelled on this site and edits have been done to correct this.
Associates of ours claim to have recently seen strange characters, wearing turbans, living in several caves near the Rock Spring district. They have been heard to regularly utter unknown words that sound something like, "allah akbar". It has also been noted that they have a curious aversion to Red Stripe beer. Rumours that these people might be Taleban or Al Quaeda operatives should be considered with today's date firmly in mind.
The next outing of the JamaicanCaves.Org crew has been delayed until Feb 28, due to scheduling problems, but this delay will ensure that we have everyone on board. The focus for the upcoming expedition is twofold. We will continue our investigations into commercial bat guano mining and the impact upon the source caves. We will also continue to pursue, and explore, new caves in the Maroon Town district, and also conduct surveys of previously explored caves in the same area to determine the current conditons, both physical and biological. Notes will be posted upon the completion of the expedition by all of the cavers involved.
***Heavy rains have lashed the north coast of the island recently. Parts of Falmouth, including Cornwall St, Trelwany St, and Market St, were underwater. Falmouth is partly below sea level during high tide, and at the best of times is not much more than a slight rising in the surrounding mangrove swamp.
The rains have again created hazardous conditions for caving in hydrologically active cave systems, a situtation that has persisted, with minor interruptions, since late last April. It is hoped that things will soon improve.
***A new page has been started, Jamaican Caving Photos, linked from the main page. There are only nine linked thumbnails at the moment but this will increase as time goes by. Other photos have been linked to from pertinent cave notes and will appear via the main photo page eventually.
***Further progress has been made in determining the current state of Jamaican Bat Guano export operations. The biological status of the source caves remains unknown, but prudence suggests a careful survey to ensure that the cave systems remain healthy.
We'd like to thank, "Worm's Way", the Bloomington Wholesale Garden Supply, for their commitment to sustainable, organic gardening.
Caves, as well as being beautiful, are wonderful biological islands capable of creating their own endemic species. Much of the biodiversity of the caves is dependent on guano as the food resource. The wholesale removal of the guano results in the removal of not only the bats that made it, but of almost every species that lived on it. The cave is effectively sterilized and although the bats will return eventually, the invertebrates that were lost are gone forever...
We would like to welcome Cosmo to Windsor and wish him all the best in his farming endeavours on his recently purchased land down by the Martha Brae River. Walk good, Cosmo, and keep your head above water.
Weather conditions have recently been ideal for caving. Jamaica is in the glorious post-mosquitoe, pre-tick season. Relative humidity has been in the neighbourhood of 45%; it doesn't get any better than this. Cavers are advised to drop whatever else they were doing, grab their gear, and head for the hills.
***Notes received recently from Ivor Conolley, of outings on June 20 in Maroon Town, and Aug 30 in Windsor, have been posted via this page. A separate listing of collected notes grouped by Caver, (other than myself, RSS), has been begun on the Main Field notes page. We invite cavers active in Jamaica to contribute Field notes, Expedition notes, or anecdotal accounts of their adventures, to JamaicanCaves.Org at the contact address found above.
We'd like to thank Guy Van Rentergem for the great link he's given Jamaican Caves and Sinkholes from his site, Caving In Jamaica. Anyone interested in Jamaica and its caves should have a long look at this wonderful site. The Jamaican Cave Register Database can be accessed in an interactive format, Expedition notes for some serious physical cave surveys can be found, and a wealth of other pertinent information is available. Please have a look and bookmark it for future reference.
***If anyone on the island has a spare steering box for a Lada station wagon, we'd very much appreciate a donation. Also, two doors for the right hand side would help us to recover from our unfortunate accident on the way to Quick Step last Nov.
Here are some 80K pictures, from the morning of Nov 22, 2002, of Quick Step Valley, and of Joanne's kitchen. The valley jpg is also available as a 1280x960, 224K jpg here It shows Quick Step on a beautiful morning as seen from the porch at Joanne's.
I finally noticed that the news page had recycled 2002 and have changed it to bring us into the new year.
More notes from Quick Step have been put up on the Nov
caving page. It's hoped that another visit will be made to the same area in
An account of the orienteering workshop taught at the WRC the last week of Nov will soon follow.
Notes and positions have been posted recently for caves that are vulnerable to damage by commercial exploitation. The intention of this site is to serve as common resource for those who love, and value, the Karst, Caves, and Sinkholes of Jamaica. It is realized that this presents a danger to the systems for which notes and positions are given. The associated responsibility is not being ignored. Monitoring, and sharing of data with NEPA, will be ongoing.
Anyone who reads of the transportation problems on the way to Quick Step will appreciate the need for a better vehicle. The Lada has served us well but is close to the end of its days. Incredibly rich people who are fascinated by the caves of Jamaica, and would like to contribute to their preservation, are invited to assist us in the acquisition of better transport. What we need is a truck, of any age, with good suspension and adequate clearance. The vehicle would be used exclusively for cave monitoring. We can't guarantee that it would be tax detuctable.
The site has been getting reconstructed lately as I learn more about html. If any pages look odd, please try back in a day or two and it will probably be sorted out. It's hoped that some of the pages will be loading faster.
The Jamaican Cave Register main page has been reworked to allow smaller downloads of portions of the Register, in html, given in an alphabetical format. A link is still available for the entire 431k file.
The first notes from the November outing have
been posted, by Ivor Conolley, giving a humorous and accurate account of the
travails experienced while we battled our way along the Cockpit perimeter
roads en route to Upper Trelawny and the Quickstep area. The article is
entitled, "A Journey of Love", reflecting the fact that one must truly love
caving to be able to maintain one's sanity while dealing with the inevitable
problems encountered in getting to many of the caves of Jamaica. The notes
can be found here
positions and descriptions for caves recently visited in Quickstep and
Maroon Town will follow soon
The jamaicancaves.org crew has recently
completed a reconnaissance of several caves and sinks. Detailed notes will
follow soon, but we can announce at this time two new additions to the
Jamaican Cave Register. The biologically more interesting of the two is
located near the Deeside to Maroon Town road and consists of a series of
medium sized breakdown chambers extending at least 75 m in a westerly, then
southerly, direction. The apx height of the chambers varies from 5-10 m.
Limited Guano extraction has been carried out by people from the district,
but the further reaches of the system remain undisturbed. These areas house a
good population of bats, along with their accompanying collection of inverts
that use the Guano as a food resource. Enquiries found no name for this cave
amongst the few who knew of it, so Martel Taylor has suggested the name,
"Rocky Road Cave".
The second new addition is a large sink of respectable depth and width that can be found in the Peterkin-Rota area in Maroon Town. An opening of apx 10 m width extends cylindrically downward for 10 m then opens into a large dome-shaped breakdown chamber apx 40 wide. The vertical drop was determined to be 27 m by comparison with the 30 m static rope used on the descent and ascent. The tentative name for this sinkhole is, "Liebert's Great Hole", Liebert Maggy being the man who farms the adjacent land. The spelling is uncertain but it is pronounced as, "Leebert".
Detailed notes for these caves, and several others, will be posted as soon as possible.
The schedule for
the November caving session can be found here.
The Map Reading and Orienteering course to be taught at the Windsor Research Centre in late November seems to be on track. An excerpt from the course can be found here.
Preparations are well
underway for the November caving session. We've recently acquired a 103 m
12.5mm static line that will help greatly at Minocal's.
It seems, at this point, that a course in map reading and orienteering will be held at the WRC in the last week of Nov. for attendees from Forestry. More news posted soon on this.
Caving conditions are becoming manageable and the new season is underway. We'll try to keep you updated on our progress later this month, whenever possible. Internet access will be sporadic once we're back out in the field.
received yet more rain from Tropical Depression Marco. Caving conditions in
river caves will continue to be dicey. Enter at your own risk.
Reports from Windsor, Trelawny, have the Martha Brae River at near maximum and the Flood Entrance stream blasting out of the mountain with a greater flow than during June.
The November Jamaican Caves outings are expected to take place between Nov 9 and 23. With any luck the phreatic zone will be somewhat lower by then.
Susan Koenig, of the
WRC, will be arriving back on the island this Sunday. Amongst the treasures
she'll be returning with is a new Garmin GPS receiver.
Caving Forecastnbsp; The rains have being easing off and caving conditions should soon be manageable. The beginning of the autumn caving season will roughly coincide with the end of the election. By this time most roads will be driveable, and chances of PNP/JLP crossfire will be negligible.
continues in parts of the island.
A report from the Water Resources Authority informs us that the flow in the YS River in St. Elizabeth is the highest ever recorded and that the river has overflowed its banks for the first time submerging sections of Middle Quarters in St. Elisabeth. A release from the Authority stated that aquifers, (layers of soil able to hold or transmit water), had reached their limit with water level increases in excess of 200 feet! Isidore hit the island between September 17 and 21 followed by Lili between September 27 and 30.
Ivor Connelly, of
Windsor's "Last Resort", has sent word that he's in for the November caving
session, (see Future Projects). The crew at this point consists of Ivor, R.S.Stewart,
and Malibu Taylor. The main challenge will be the exploration of an
un-surveyed, very deep sink near Dolphin Head. Maroon Town and Quickstep are
also on the agenda.
Lili has moved
onto the US, after reaching hurricane strength, but along with Isodore has
cost three lives, and also left about 1,500 persons in shelters in the worst
hit parishes. These include St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Westmoreland (with 912
people in shelters), St. Elizabeth, Clarendon and St. Thomas, (with 330
people in shelters).
It is reported that flood rains affected 147 roads with about 100 still blocked or cut off. The NWA said it was working to restore these roads, but don't hold your breath waiting for it to be finished.
Caving will be difficult, at best, in the short term; flooding of active systems will continue to be a source of probable death for anyone crazy enough to go in.
depressions, Isodore and Lili, have passed over the island in quick succession
during the last fortnight, resulting in heavy rainfall to most parts of the
island. Water levels, i.e. the phreatic zone, prior to this latest session,
continued to be high as a result of the unusually heavy June rains, and will
now be once again at maximum levels.
Lili hit the Troy area in S. Trelawny particularly hard, with some flooding reported. The western end of the island received more of a mashing up by the passage of Isodore. The Corporate Area has been hit by both tropical depressions, perhaps a result of the ongoing election. Roads in rural parts of the island will be an adventure until the storm debris has been cleared away.
Cavers are advised that all hydrologically active systems will be currently flooded, or liable to be with little warning, until the recent load of water has had some time to run off. Extreme caution is advised for such caves until the heavy rains have come to an end.