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Jamaican Caves Organisation Update

(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.



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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