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Jamaican Caving News

South Trelawny
March 2, 2004
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Home Away Cave and Pantrepant

(Mar 2/04)
Jco members, Ivor Conolley, Martel Taylor, and Mark Bellinger, were active in the Pantrepant district of Trelawny on Feb 21 and 22, 2004. Pantrepant Cave, and another shelter cave, were entered, as well as Home Away from Home Cave in the Cockpit Country south of Pantrepant. The petroglyphs located in Pantrepant Cave were successfully found and observations were made, but unfortunately the glyphs of Home Away were not. A repeat visit will be made in the future.

Mark's notes have been posted for Pantrepant Cave, and Home Away, and Ivor's will soon follow.

On the same topic of caving notes, Stefan's notes from the last expedition are now being posted. Roehampton School Cave, Comfort Hall Cave, Thatchfield Great Cave, and Whelton Cave are online; Micey Gully is next.

The Mar/Apr 2004 Expedition

The Last Resort - JCO Homebase(Mar 2/04)
The next full expedition of the Jamaican Caves Organization will take place from March 27 to April 8, 2004. Planning is currently underway.

Cavers Stewart, van Rentergem, Conolley, Taylor, and Bellinger, with the valuable assistance of others to be listed here soon, hope to accomplish a variety of tasks. Amongst these are: the continuation of the Green Grotto survey project begun by van Rentergem in 2001, the first exploration of Penitentiary Hole 2 in the Concord district, a return visit to Thatchfield Great Cave to try to find more cave, and further work on the St James assessment project. Once again, we would like to invite contributions of cave reports from Jamaican visitors to the website. In particular, we seek reports of caves and deep sinkholes in the parishes of St James, Trelawny, and St Ann.


JCO Caving This Weekend

Mark Bellinger at Thatchfield Great Cave(Feb 19/04)
Jco members, Ivor Conolley, Martel Taylor, and Mark Bellinger, will be making a visit to Home Away Cave this weekend to investigate suspected petroglyphs first observed in June, 2002, by R. S. Stewart.

This large chamber cave, explored for the first time, in 2001, by Stewart and Taylor, is in an area of the Cockpit Country that is difficult to reach due to its location high on the south side of the Escarpment, Pantrepant District, Trelawny. The last known visit to this cave was the June, 2002, TNC-JCO session, and a follow-up trip will finally be made to ascertain the archaeological potential of the incised carvings found on the north wall of Home Away from Home Cave.

Notes and Positions

Roehampton, St James(Feb 19/04)
Progress has been made in the posting of notes and positions from the last full session of the JCO, Jan and early Feb of 2004.

All of the georeferencing data for the work done in St James has been listed in the GPS Register, and positions for the caves and sinkholes visited in St Ann will soon follow.

The notes of Ivor Conolley and Mark Bellinger are now online and can be found via the Jan 2004 field notes page. Those of R. S. Stewart will begin to appear in the next few days.

A fuller account of our activities at Hutchinson's Hole has been made available on a separate page, Hutchinson's Hole, Feb, 2004.


January JCO Expedition Successfully Completed

Mark Bellinger, Sarah McCall, and Ivor Courtney Conolley (Feb 8/04)
Cavers Stewart, Conolley, McCall, Taylor, and Bellinger, have recently completed a two week long expedition. We are pleased to announce that the session has fully achieved the desired results; the St. James asessment project is underway, seven new caves have been discovered, and an assessment was conducted at Thatchfield Great Cave. In addition to this, surveys were extended for two of our past discoveries, and the Crew assisted the JCF in the grisly task of removing a body from Hutchinson's Hole in Bensonton, St Ann.

The activity described above was made possible with the assistance of many other individuals, some underground with us in Jamaica and others providing valuable information via the internet, and we would like to give great thanks for this important help. Our appreciation will be more fully expressed online in the near future.

Full details on our visits to all of the caves will begin to appear soon on the Field Notes Page. A Summary Report has been posted on the Current Projects page.

Because of the media coverage associated with our activities at Hutchinson's Hole, we have issued a press release giving a full account of our involvement in the affair. We would like to say that this was not a task that any of us would care to repeat. Nevertheless, we are glad that we were able to bring closure to a very unfortunate situation.


Gone Caving

Malibu (Jan 22/04)
The Jamaican Caves Organization is currently on expedition. Emails will not be answered until February 8.

During our online absence, please visit Guy van Rentergem's excellent website, "Caving in Jamaica", for Jamaican caving news and information.

We'd like to thank, in advance, Sarah McCall and Mark Bellinger of the American Peace Corps for their volunteer work this session. We'd also like to thank Libby Thompson for her valuable assistance on Hutchinson's Hole, David Broderick for his report of Bertie Sinkhole, and Joan Blake for her continuing contributions of new cave positions in St. James.

The News and Weather pages will be next updated on February 8. In the interim, if there is any major caving news, it will appear in The Gleaner. On the weather front, all should be good; during the next two weeks, just assume that conditions will be fine every day, and head for the hills....

We are hopeful that Jah will watch over us and protect us in our journeys once again. Bless.


The January Session

Barrow's Cave (Jan 14/04)
The next full expedition of the JCO will begin Jan 24, 2004. The goals are varied, but priority will be given to the intitiation of a project that will be carried out in the parish of St. James. The project title is, "GPS Referencing, Mapping and Monitoring of the Bat Caves of St. James, Jamaica".

St. Ann will be the other parish visited this session. We have a solid report of an unexplored, unlisted sinkhole, near Barbary Hill, sent to us by David Broderick. The local name for this sink is Bertie's Hole. It seems to offer great potential. We are very grateful for the information that David has supplied and very much regret that his schedule did not allow him to return to the island from Atlanta to join us for the first descent of this sinkhole. Respect, David.

We have also been asked to take on the grisly task of descending into the notorious, "Hutchinsons Hole", in Edinburgh Castle, St. Ann, in search of a possible suicide victim. Several weeks ago, a distraught man is suspected to have leapt into the 98 metre, (325 ft), shaft that is most famously known as the dumping ground for the infamous Lewis Hutchinson, a mass murderer active in the late 1700's. The sought after man was last seen running in the direction of the hole, singing a hymn, after having threatened to toss himself in. We're hopeful that the man actually ran straight past the hole, and off to Kingston, and that we will find nothing too disturbing when we finally reach the bottom of this very dread pit.

A visit will also be made to Thatchfield Great Cave, in St. Ann, for assessment purposes. Unfortunately, there is talk of using this cave as a tourist attraction and we would like to do a baseline assessment before the deluge begins.

The expedition will be rounded out by repeat visits to the two most notable discoveries of the August, 2003 expedition, Roehampton School Cave and Clear River Cave. These two recent additions to the Register, both hydrologically active, are not yet fully surveyed. This work will be completed this session.

Volunteers whom we have neglected to contact are asked to get in touch as soon as possible.


Jamaican Caving 2004

The Cockpit Country - Landsat 5(Jan 1/04)
We would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and good caving in 2004.

The Jamaican Caves Organization has hopes of accomplishing great things during the next twelve months. The year will begin with work on a project that will be conducted in the parish of St James. The research permit application may be viewed here. The project name is, "GPS Referencing, Mapping and Monitoring of the Bat Caves of St. James, Jamaica". We will conduct an assessment, in collaboration with the WRC, and other parties, of the known 101 caves and sinkholes in St James in an attempt to determine the present condition of all of the systems, and to supply baseline data for future research purposes. Approximately 35 systems have already been visited, but we intend to visit those again during 2004 to ensure that all the necessary data has been collected. Over the next 12 months, we intend to get into every cave and sinkhole in the parish, in addition to our other activities. The participating cavers will be the usual crew, (Stewart, Taylor, Conolley, Koenig,, along with several much appreciated volunteers.

Plans are again underway for the making of a video documentary on the caves of the island, in collaboration with the Authentic Jamaica group. It is hoped that this will take place during either the March or May/June expeditions.

Guy van Rentergem, a veteran caver in Jamaica, is stirring himself, once again, to return to the island this spring from Belgium to continue his valuable work. Our crew looks forward to linking with him to assist in his endeavours.

Several reported caves and sinkholes that are not in the Register, and seem to be currently unexplored, will be looked into with the help of some adventurous volunteers. More details will appear on this soon.

The next expedition begins in several weeks time. Those volunteers who may not have received emails yet, because of negligence on our part, are invited to contact us as soon as possible.

May Jah walk with all of you during this coming year. Guidance. Protection. Bless.

Register in WGS84 / JAD2001

(Dec 5/03)
The Jamaican Cave Register is now available on the site in two new positional formats: WGS84 datum lat/long and JAD2001 metric grid, both as .txt files for the time-being. They can also be accessed by way of the Jamaican Cave Register. The geographic translation for WGS84 has been done with Geotrans using the parameters of Newsome and Harvey as published by Mugnier.

It should be noted that although this translated list will allow the positions published in "Jamaica Underground", by A. G. Fincham, to be directly entered into a GPS receiver, the original positions have an error, in some cases, in excess of 500 metres. A more limited, but more accurate, positional list of caves and sinkholes can be found in the Jamaican GPS Cave Register.

Loose Ends

(Dec 2/03)
An effort is being made to get the rest of the notes that are currently in notebooks actually online. The last of the available notes for Nov 8 - 9 have been posted, and also a few more of those from August. Our intention is to have it all finished, and on the site, before the next full expedition begins in early January, 2004.

On the subject of the next expedition, we'd like to give a heads-up to volunteers, and other interested parties, that we will be in the field again soon. As soon as the schedule is set, we will forward the information.

Again on the subject of the next expedition... any adventurers who might be considering linking with us, and can help to fund this session, are invited to contact us.

JCO Caving - Nov 8 and 9

The Jamaican Caves Organization(Nov 21/03)
The first notes have begun to arrive for the outing of Nov 8 and 9. The session was led by Ivor Conolley of the Crew. His notes for Cool Garden 2 Cave, the first of the three caves visited, have been posted on the Aug - Nov page. More notes will soon follow.

We'd like to thank Sanjay Surana, a guest who was along for the outing, for the donation of caving gear to the JCO; we'll do our best to put it to good use.

On a side note, bios of the main members of the JCO have recently been posted via the, Jamaican Caves Crew, page.

1985 Discovery Reported

Alberta Speleological Society(Nov 21/03)
Ian McKenzie, of the Alberta Speleological Society, has recently contributed notes and a survey for a 1985 discovery of a cave near Borobridge, St Ann. This cave was unlisted in Jamaica Underground, and the JCO database; we're very glad to have received the report and we will soon add the cave to the Register as Mother Door Cave.

We'd like to take this opportunity to once again invite submissions of notes and data for Jamaican caves and sinkholes. These can be as simple as Trip Reports, or actual surveys such as the contribution cited above.

JCO Caving This Weekend

Martel Taylor and Ivor Conolley(Nov 8/03)
The crew will be in the field for several caves this weekend, Nov 8 - 9.

Caves in Deeside, Dromilly, Flamstead, and Windsor will be visited on an expedition led by I. C. Conolley of the Jamaican Caves Organization. Martel Taylor, and a visiting caver, Sanjay Surana, will be onboard, making for a solid crew of three.

We hope to have some good observations and data to report here in a couple of weeks time. In particular, temperature/airflow/hydrology observations will be made at Deeside, and the current hydrological conditions of Cool Garden 2 Cave, and the lower streamway at Windsor, will be determined. This will supply data for a time of year, the autumnal rainy season, that is in short supply.

We'd like to thank Sanjay for his donation of caving gear to the JCO; we'll do our best to put it to good use.

New Jamaican Datum - JAD2001

18 N, 77 W, in WGS84 and JAD69(Oct 31/03)
Jamaica has a new datum, JAD 2001.

The Forestry Dept has recently announced the establishment of a datum based on WGS84. This will come as a great relief to users of the Global Positioning System.

The new datum uses the WGS84 ellipsoid, an origin at 18 N, 77 W, a False Easting of 750000 metres and a False Northing of 650000 metres. Although the Conic Conformal projection used will introduce errors at the extreme limits of the new metric grid, presumably the Pedro Banks, the projection will continue to work well on the island itself.

A detailed report on how this new datum will affect positional data will be posted soon on the JAD69 page of this site, along with a walk-through in Geotrans of the new transform.

Researchers and/or cavers who obtain accurate positions as part of their projects are encouraged to consider the use of this new datum in the future.

Riots in Flankers, Montego Bay

(Oct 30/03)
Calm has returned to Flankers after the troubles earlier in the week. The JCF are making a serious effort to restore lines of communication with community leaders to prevent a reoccurence of the problems. Tourists and visiting cavers should encounter no obstacles to their plans in the coming days.

(Oct 28/03)
After a calm Sunday, violence flared up again in Flankers, Montego Bay, on Monday. Demonstrators once again attempted to close down the airport road but were met with volleys of teargas by the JCF. Opposition leader, Edward Seaga, is now getting into the act by tacitly encouraging more rioting by the young men of Flankers and Ironshore. Despite yesterday's troubles, access to Sangster airport was maintained and the tourist resorts were unaffected.

(Oct 27/03)
The National Association of Taxi Operators has called on its 13,000 members to strike today in protest of the killing, on Friday, of a driver in Montego Bay. This will be an inconvenience for some rural residents of the island, but will be a godsend for everyone else. With any luck, the illegal, non-licensed, taxi drivers of Jamaica will join the strike in sympathy and the island will be blessed with the total removal of tens of thousands of madmen from the roads, for at least one day.

Sources: Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica Observer.

(Oct 26/03)

Flankers topo

The recent troubles in the Canterbury district of Montego Bay now appear to have not been an isolated event. Continuing tension in the city has been stoked by the unfortunate police shooting, and killing, of two innocent people on Fri, Oct 24. Protests erupted yesterday that closed the main road to the airport from the east. The affected areas were Flankers and Ironshore.

Access to the airport was maintained via a detour through Ironshore and by opening the east gates of Sangster to enable tour buses to use a runway to reach the terminal building.

It must be stressed that tourists are not directly threatened by these outbreaks of civil unrest. The Jamaica Constabulary Force, and also those involved in the protests, will regard tourists as non-combattants and will prevent visitors from coming to harm.

It is expected that the problems will be temporary, but cavers visiting Jamaica are advised to monitor the situation so that they do not inadvertently stumble into the midst of a riot.

Canterbury Cave, Montego Bay

Montego Bay caves(Oct 19/03)
An interesting news item about the unfortunate problems in Canterbury, Montego Bay, showed up in the Gleaner on Fri, Oct 17:

"The police, during their stepped up search of the area yesterday, stumbled upon a cave which they believe was frequently used by unknown persons. There were signs of recent use as a quantity of refreshment was found stashed away in its interior." (Courtesy: Jamaica Gleaner).

This piece of information is very timely because we are in the process of applying to NEPA for a permit to conduct a rapid assessment of all of the caves and sinks of St James, and there are three caves listed in Montego Bay that, quite frankly, we considered un-findable. It is unknown if this cave is one of the three, or a new one, but we intend to find out.

We've contacted the Jamaica Constabulary Force in hopes of discussing this discovery with the constables involved. Although the situation in Canterbury is still rather dangerous, with any luck, by the time the permit is issued, things will be calm enough that we can do an assessment and survey without getting shot with an AK-47.

Biospeleologists Wanted

Deeside Roaring River Cave(Oct 16/03)
The JCO would like to suggest a specific project for an ambitious biospeleologist, who has the time and opportunity, that would be conducted at Deeside Roaring River Cave in Trelawny. A recent compiling of notes for the cave, including the most recent notes that are now posted on the site, seems to suggest a correlation between high water levels in the River Pit, airflow through the cave, and the internal temperature of the cave. Because of the restricted access to the interior chambers at all the points where connection with the outside world is made, the biota of this system is very isolated compared to many other Jamaican cave systems. Limited forest cover above the system, along with a highly variable seasonal airflow, results in a highly variable temperature. It is suspected that the species found in the cave might vary in numbers, and habits, dependant on the variable conditions. An interesting dynamic with phreatic/airflow/temperature/biology parameters might be defined through semi-regular visits. The time required would be on the order of two hours per month for a period extending up to two years.

Interested parties are invited to contact us for further details.

Salla - Rest in Peace

Salla on Mar 6 2003 at Miss Lilly's(Oct 4/03)
The Jamaican Caves Crew has received sad news from Windsor, Trelawny.

Salla, a dear friend, and one of the crew, has passed away. The funeral will be held on Sunday, Oct 5, in Sherwood Content. This evening, Saturday, a memorial and singing will take place at Miss Lilly's in Coxheath.

A proper account of the life of this respected man will follow soon, but it must be said now that Jamaica has suffered a great loss. He had memories and knowledge of the eastern Cockpit Country possessed by no others, and he was one of the most decent, honest, hard-working men that the island has ever seen.

Rest in peace, Salla. You were loved by everyone who knew you. We'll miss your knowledge, your wisdom, and your company. Jah guide and protect.

Adam Hyde at Jackson's Bay Caves

FEALC (Oct 11/03)
Adam Hyde is leading an expedition this weekend to Jackson's Bay Caves and Potoo Hole. The priority of the outing will be an attempt to get three archaeologists into, and back out of, Potoo Hole to study the Amerindian pictographs located here. These drawings were discovered by Adam in 1994.

In all, 15 people will be along for the trip, including members of The Archaeology Society of Jamaica, and the St. Ann Environment Protection Association.

We're hoping to get a first-hand account of the trip afterwards from Adam, and will post it here as soon as it's received.

The Caving News, One Year Old

The Jamaican Caving News(Sep 30/03)
The Jamaican Caving News has reached its first anniversary, (Sept 30, 2002 to Sept 30, 2003), and is currently getting a likkle fresh. The older news has been shunted into archives linked to from this page, all in one html file at the moment although this could change. We're trying to make the Caving News look more criss but what this page really needs is more Jamaican Caving News. Unfortunately, other than us, Adam Hyde, and Guy van Rentergem occasionally, there are few people currently exploring the caves of Jamaica. Although none of us want the caves to be over-run by hordes of tourists, or researchers for that matter, it wouldn't hurt to have a little more activity, especially by those concerned about the preservation of the caves of the island.

The JCO links with FEALC

FEALC (Oct 1/03)
The Jamaican Caves Organization has been invited to join the Federación Espeleológica de América Latina y el Caribe. This important umbrella group of caving organizations from the Caribbean and Latin America is playing a valuable role in the preservation of the underground systems of the New World as well as serving as a conduit for information on new discoveries of a geological, geomorphological, and biological nature. Although the Spanish skills of the members of our crew leave much to be desired, we'll try to contribute as much as we can to FEALC in the coming years.

Please visit their website for more information on the federation.

Jamaican Datum Update

JAD69 and the GPS (Sep 21/03)
An update has been done to the Jamaica Datum page, JAD69, that should be of assistance to GPS users who are trying to plot WGS84 positions onto the 1:50,000 Jamaican topo maps. Three sets of datum parameters have been posted along with a walk-through of how to enter them into Geotrans. None of the datum transformations are terribly accurate, (+/- 10 m at best), but they're as good as what you'll get by using ESRI and they're free... this means a saving of thousands of dollars compared to using the products of ESRI, the Bill Gates of the GIS world.

In the past, Survey had the parameters jealously guarded, and we were hesitant about posting those that we possessed, but thanks to Cliff Mugnier, and the newly published set determined by Newsome and Harvey, the cat is out of the bag and we feel at liberty to make the parameters available on this website. We hope that they are of use to others and that no one official becomes annoyed by us doing this.

New Funding for the WRC

The Cockpit Country (Sep 25/03)
Word has reached us from the Windsor Research Centre, in Trelawny, Jamaica, that a proposal for bird-monitoring has been accepted by the EFJ, and that further funding has become available to carry on the valuable work being done in this field at the WRC. This Cockpit Country research station has been collaborating with international partners to establish baseline data for migratory and resident birds. It is ideally suited for such activity. The major funding that has been received from the EFJ will ensure that these activities, and others, will be continued for at least another two years. It is expected that the project will produce data that will interest researchers and conservationists for years to come.

The Jamaican caves crew would like to offer our congratulations to the Windsor Research Centre for their recent bird-monitoring funding, but we...

(continued below)

August 2003 JCO Caving Session Successfully Completed

Martel Taylor taking notes (Sep 5/03)
The JCO has recently completed another caving session, (Aug 19 - Aug 31). The participating cavers were Stewart, Taylor, Conolley, Koenig, Sterling, Ranger and W.Stephenson. In addition to visiting previously surveyed caves in the Dromilly, Flamstead, Accompong, and Quick Step districts, we have added four new caves and sinkholes to the Jamaican Cave Register. The most notable are two active stream caves, one in Anchovy and one in Dromilly.

With the assistance, once again, of the Blake family of Wales Pond, a system that consists of a network of stream passages was located near Roehampton, St James. An entrance of about 3 metres, (detailed notes to follow soon), takes a stream from bottom land near Roehampton School. This cave has not been confused with the near-by Lawson Bottom Cave, (it is at a distance of 450 metres and in no way matches the physical description of Lawson Bottom), and was unsurveyed prior to our visit. The main channel, which was active at the time of our visit, was surveyed for a distance of about 85 metres downstream and side passages were indicated. The main stream passage was not followed until its end, and much work remains to be done, but an initial survey has been accomplished and an accurate GPS position has been recorded. The proposed name is Roehampton School Cave.

Clear River Cave in Dromilly DistrictThe other river cave is located to the south of Bunkers Hill, Dromilly district, and is a resurgence into what is locally called the Clear River. The proposed name is Clear River Cave. The cave was unlisted and unsurveyed but was suspected to exist by a close examination of the topo maps of the district. Surprisingly, this important resurgence cave seems to have been missed by the GSD surveys of the past. About 35 metres of very active stream passage was surveyed until an upstream sumped rising prevented further progress. It is believed that the recent heavy rainfall in Jamaica had water levels much higher than what would be encountered during the dry season, and that the passage will be able to be pushed further upstream next Feb - Mar. The strength of flow suggests that the waters are not coming through a choke, but instead, a seasonally sumped part of a continuing passage. It will be seen by the position of the cave on the topo to the right that the resurgence does not coincide with the riverhead; that piece of information used up a day in the realization and it was only on our second search that the cave was found. The exploration of the riverhead, on the first attempt, was not wasted and notes will be posted accordingly.

Amongst others, Still Waters, Minocal's Glory Hole, Cool Gardens 2, Bonafide and Stephenson's Caves were newly GPS referenced.

Detailed notes and positions are being posted on the Aug 2003 Field Notes page, (at present there is Cool Garden Caves 1, 2, 4, and Valley Pit). Updates of the Current Projects page are underway.

On a side note, the admin of this site, R. S. Stewart, became one of the 5 Directors of the Windsor Research Centre during the recent Annual General Meeting.

A common conservation assessment database is currently being established for the caves of the island. It will be contributed to by collaborating partners including the JCO. An online version, in dbf, that summarizes all the data found on this site, in the common format, will soon appear via the database page.

An application for a research permit to conduct a project in St James will soon be submitted to NEPA. The project name is, "Geo-referencing, Mapping, and Biological Assessment of the Bat Caves of St. James".

Support Jamaican Caving

We once again invite any contributions or funding that would assist us in our activities. A detailed list of needed gear, (to replace ropes that steadily wear out, ascenders/descenders that are gradually eroded by cave mud, and items such as our digital camera that was stolen in Maroon Town recently), and transportation requirements has been posted on a new page, Donations and Funding. Volunteer cavers are of course always welcome, especially if they supply their own gear.

We'd like to thank Cosma, in Windsor, for the four very delicious pak choy he recently donated. Cosma E. Earle is producing the best vegetables to be had in Jamaica and we're very glad to be eating some of them.

New Funding for the WRC (Continued)

The Jamaican caves crew would like to offer our congratulations to the Windsor Research Centre for their recent bird-monitoring funding, but we do hope that Dr. Susan Koenig, of the WRC, doesn't become so busy that she can't continue to join us for caving in the future. If necessary, the crew will carry birds into the caves and then insist that she study them. We are confident that serendipitous discoveries of a speleological nature will occur by doing this. The JCO will ensure that the assisting parties, (i.e. scientist, birds), are rewarded with cold Red Stripe at the end of every day of caving in recognition, and appreciation, of their efforts.

Corvus Jamaicensis and Raphus Cucullatus having a pint at Miss Lilly's Bar

Raphus Cucullatus and Corvus Jamaicensis having a pint
at Miss Lilly's Bar after a hard day of caving


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