Maroon Town

Jamaican Caving News

South Trelawny
December 31, 2004
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The January Session

The Crew (Dec 31/04)
The JCO will soon be in the field again. The next main outing of our crew will take place from Jan 4 - 19. The schedule is now set, and everything looks good. A brief overview of the January session follows.

First, and foremost, is a three day visit to St Clair Cave, to search for the last of the Phyllonycteris aphylla. This highly threatened species of bat has possibly one final refuge, St Clair Cave.

The P. aphylla group will be made up of a mixed team of Jamaican and international researchers. The participating members will be: Andrea Donaldson - NEPA; Susan Koenig - WRC; Donald McFarlane - Keck Sci Ctr; Joyce Lundberg - Carleton U; and Keith Christenson. They will be assisted by the JCO crew, with Guy van Rentergem onboard, along with Stefan Stewart, Ivor Conolley, and Mark Bellinger.

In addition to our search for one of the world's rarest bats, we have several other goals:

A repeat visit to Volcano Hole will be made, to search for a way onwards, and to carry out a survey.

Me No Sen Cave, near Elderslie, will be located, and explored, for only the second time since the solo exploration by D. P. Drew, of the Bristol U team, in 1967. Dave Drew's sketch plan will be updated with a survey carried out by Guy, and the others of the JCO crew.

Minocal's Glory Hole, north of Quick Step, the deepest, not yet fully descended sinkhole on the island, will finally be descended. This has been on our to-do list for years, and this time we have a wicked crew assembled, and we're going to do it. We anticipate that this will be the most challenging endeavour of the entire session. All who read this item are invited to say a little, "Jah, protect them", on Saturday, January 15, 2005.

Drip Cave will be visited in search of the undescribed troglobitic species, Nelipophygus sp, in assistance to Dr George Beccaloni, of the NHM, UK.

A systematic collection of genetic material from the troglobitic and troglophilic Sesarma species of the Cockpit Country will begin in collaboration with Christoph Schubart. The aim is to map the hydrographic frontiers of the CC by use of crab DNA, (none of whom shall expire in the process).

We will assist Dr Allsworth-Jones, UWI, in an investigation of several Taino sites. The specific targets will remain reserved for the time-being.

A number of other caves will also be visited in aid of an assessment project being carried out by R.S. Stewart of the JCO, with the assistance of: Ivor Conolley, Mark Bellinger, Dietrich Roggy, Elizabeth Slack, and Melody Cefalo.

A crossing will be made of the Quick Step - Dromilly Trail, for georeferencing purposes, and as prep work for the Cockpit Country Transect.

The JCO crew will link with STEA to supply assistance in an upgrade of their tourist outings at Quashie's River Cave.

Work will begin on the karst educational video project being carried out by Dietrich Roggy. One of the first subjects will be Roehampton School Cave, St James, a hydrologically important stream cave found in St James. This cave is currently under the protection of Mr Vincent Cunningham, and we will cooperate with him on ways to preserve this system, while also using it as an educational tool to extend awareness of the hydrological importance of karst terrain in Jamaica.

The video documentation of our caving will extend beyond Roehampton School. During the course of the next session, it is intended that video records of visits to Windsor Cave, Me No Sen Cave, and Minocal's Glory Hole, will also be made. The results will serve as fund-raising products for the JCO. They will also serve to give the rest of you an idea of what we actually do when we descend into the depths.

The crew would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Jah guide. Bless.


JCO Update

JCO (Dec 9/04)
Ivor Conolley, Mark Bellinger, and Delroy Williams, of the JCO, were successful in recovering and bushing-out approximately 90% of the Troy Trail last weekend. This historic trail crosses the eastern section of the Cockpit Country and was in unknown condition, post-Hurricane Ivan, prior to this effort by the JCO team. New flags have been set from Windsor as far as the Ferns of Booth. A report forwarded by Mr Conolley can be found here. The final section, from Booth to Tyre, remains to be completed and it is intended that this work be carried out in mid-January, 2005.

The trek was made possible by a generous donation from Bill Palmer, of, and we'd like to thank him, once again, for helping our organisation with funding. Bless-up, Bill.

On other fronts, planning continues for the P. aphylla Project, taking place in early January, 2005, at St Clair Cave. Additional targets are being added to the schedule, and at present these include Me No Sen Cave, and Minocal's Glory Hole. We'll have more on this, closer to the launch date.

Ivor has forwarded his notes for Volcano Hole and we now have a set of three online. We encourage visitors to the site to have a look at these... having three different accounts on an endeavour such as our descent into this very deep cave results in a great overview of things. The individual accounts can be found here, Stewart, Conolley, Bellinger.

Zadie Neufville, the public education officer at the national Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), has asked that we pass along info on our current activities. We'll post news on whatever might result.

We once again ask those who email us at the contact address found above to include "Caves" in the subject line. Because of our presence in the ODP, and the email address posted on every page, we are prey for every spammer on the planet. If you want to contact us, make sure that the subject of the email jumps right out.

TNC-J and the JCO

Cockpit Country (Nov 13/04)
The JCO has been invited by The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica to submit a proposal to carry out a bioinventory of the caves of the Cockpit Country. A copy of the proposal, minus the appendices, and budget, can be found here.

The Cockpit Country Parks-in-Peril project began in 2000 with the objective of providing the framework for sustainable conservation of the Cockpit Country. It is being implemented by The Nature Conservancy in Jamaica (TNC-J) and various partners including principally the Forestry Department. The project will end in 2007, by which time it is expected that the framework for sustainable conservation of the biodiversity of Cockpit Country will have been established. Activities being undertaken as part of the project include management planning, institutional strengthening, baseline surveys and monitoring and development of strategies to abate threats. As part of TNCís Conservation Project Planning process in FY04-5, caves and their biota were identified as important and sensitive elements of the Cockpit Country biodiversity, likely to require special conservation measures. In order to assess the need for conservation of cave ecosystems, TNC intends to develop an inventory of caves for the Cockpit Country. This will support the development and implementation of a Cockpit Country Biodiversity Management Plan that will be integrated into the Forestry Departmentís Forest Management Plan.

The JCO is honoured to have been invited to participate in this historic speleological project. If the proposal successfully satisfies the required terms of reference, (and we hope it will), we will be visiting apx 70 caves this Feb and Mar, primarily within the Cockpit Country ring-road.

The TNC-J work is expected to also give us a great opportunity to make progress on our construction of a field-key to the endemic cave-adapted invertebrates of Jamaica. The first segment of this creation will consist of terrestrial, troglobitic inverts, and after the completion of this, stygobites will follow. The intention is to publish the finished product thereby assisting the general biospeleological community in future investigations.


Baby Boas in Runaway Bay

Yellow Boa (Nov 4/04)
News has reached us from Wendy Lee, at SOS-Wildlife Jamaica, that the island now has several new Yellow Boas.

To quote Ms Lee: "We are delighted to announce the birth of three (so far!) baby Jamaican boas on Saturday, October 30, 2004! The mother, Rusty, was brought to us on Motherís Day this year by Quincy Grant and his friend Winston Ellis, who provided transportation. Quincy had found the snake lying on the roadside, severely injured. It had been chopped in three places and badly beaten. We didnít think it would last the night.

Yellow Boas I cleaned the snake, treated its wounds with antibiotic spray and put it in with Blue, a beautiful, iridescent snake that I had rescued in the area the week before. Amazingly, the injured snake was still alive the next morning, and little by little, its wounds began to heal and it gained strength, eating dead mice and rats. We called the snake Rusty because of its brilliant reddish-brown colour, which really came out after a couple months when the snake shed its old skin. Rusty and Blue lived happily together for over six months. Very happily, as it turns out! On September 20 we discovered that Blue had forced his way out of the mesh-covered aquarium, but Rusty remained. We thought that Rustyís recent lack of appetite was due to an impending change of skin, but that was obviously not the reason: yesterday afternoon I discovered first two, then a third baby snake in the aquarium!

We plan to release two of the babies within a few days in our own woodland, and raise one for use in our educational demonstrations."

It should be noted that the Yellow Boa population is greatly threatened and that this is wonderful news. We'd like to congratulate Wendy on this fine accomplishment.

SOS-Wildife can be contacted at:
Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife
PO Box 212, Runaway Bay
St. Ann, Jamaica, West Indies


JCO Update

Ivor Conolley - Volcano Hole (Nov 1/04)
The JCO will soon be resuming activity after a period of unavoidable absence by several of its members. Ivor Conolley is in the process of wrapping up his work assisting in an archaeological dig at Sevilla la Nueva, Stefan Stewart will be returning to the island to resume work on his cave assessment and monitoring project, and January will see Guy van Rentergem returning to assist in the P. aphylla project, along with Stewart, Conolley, McFarlane, Christenson, Koenig, and Lundberg.

The JCO has had to temporarily suspend its fund-raising activities, guiding visitors across the Troy-Windsor Trail, due to post-hurricane unknowns in the central Cockpit Country. An expedition will soon be launched to re-establish flags and find routes around deadfall.

Beginning in 2005, we will attempt to find and collect two species of endemic, cave-adapted roachs in assistance to Dr George Beccaloni at the Natural History Museum in London. Nelipophygus sp., discovered by Dr Stewart Peck some years ago, remains undescribed and unnamed. This is a situation we will help to rectify in the coming months.

It is intended that we get our notes up to date prior to the next expedition and a real push will be made on this soon.

Karst Educational Video Project

D.K.Roggy (Nov 1/04)
Dietrich Roggy, of the JCO, is currently collaborating with members of the Montego Bay Marine Park on the creation of a video that will serve to educate the general public on the value of the karst and caves of Jamaica. One of the more important of the caves to be included in this project is Roehampton School Cave, first mapped and explored by Stewart, Taylor, and Ranger, of the JCO, in August of 2003.

The intention is to deliver a strong message that respect for underground rivers, and their upstream catchments, is critical to maintaining the quality of domestic water resources, and supplying a healthy habitat for the terrestrial and aquatic animals that are dependent on these underground systems for their survival.

The project is expected to be ongoing, as opportunities arise to document caves, sinkholes and underground rivers that have significant geological, hydrological, and biological aspects.

Although the project will be carried out under the auspices of the JCO, this video work will primarily be Dietrich's creation, and we expect it to be a great contribution to cave preservation in Jamaica. We wish him well on it and look forward to seeing the results. Further news will be posted here as the project progresses.


Hurricane Ivan

Hurricane Ivan (Sep 17/04)
Hurricane Ivan swept by the island Saturday, Sep 11, in a repeat performance, albeit more vicious, of Hurricane Charley on Aug 11, 2004, (see below). The centre of the system skirted the south coast of Jamaica, but it did so at near Category Five levels. To summarize the effect that Hurricane Ivan had on the island: things are a mess, but it could be worse.

This news item will examine the speleological implications of the hurricane; those who are in search of damage reports, etc, should consult the Jamaica Gleaner, and other Jamaican news sources.

First, we will look at the negative effects on the caves of the island, and also resultant future difficulties for cavers:

In the harder hit parishes, stream-passage caves that take surface water will have had debris, and silt, wash into them. The debris will include trees, bamboo, and much garbage. The plastic-garbage, tires, buckets, you-name-it, will further the clogging up of things up in some systems. Over the last decade, non-biodegradable trash has become much more widespread, and a great amount of the trash upstream of hydrologically active caves continues to be moved underground. This is an ongoing problem for the Jamaican water supply that isn't helped by Ivan.

In certain districts, flooded pit-latrines will have fed a lot of very nasty organic waste into the karst of the island in southern parishes, including river-caves. There is currently a health risk associated with swimming in certain caves, (necessary in many systems), that will persist for several weeks.

The habitat outside of the caves, in hard-hit districts, that the main carriers of nutrients into non-hydrologically active caves rely on, (i.e. bats), will be temporarily in rough shape, but should recover quickly.

Ground-travel in the more remote, rural districts of the island will be problematic, at best, for at least the short term. The JCO has been able to rely on regular two-wheel drive cars, in general, on even the roughest roads. This might not be possible for several months. The more remote secondary roads will be the last to be repaired, and in some cases, they may never be repaired... the Jamaican budget is very tight, and this hurricane won't help. This means that four-wheel drive vehicles, with a winch on the front, and a chainsaw in the back, could be necessary to ensure successful access to certain caves in the short term, (unless we choose to walk kilometres with many kilos of ropes and gear, which is possible, if that's the only choice).

Many of the local trails that lead to the caves will be rough, because of downed trees. Those caves that have no trails leading to them will be even more difficult to get to. The Troy Trail will be interesting in places.

Now, the positive effects, such as they are:

Passages in some Jamaican caves come and go over the decades, as they become filled with silt, or have the silt washed-out. It is likely that we will see both effects post-Ivan. Rota Sink is one that comes to mind, that might now be pushed further, but there will be many others. The underground terrain will have just undergone a strong pulse event, perhaps enabling new discoveries.

The JCO will attempt, over the next several months, to quantify changes caused by Ivan, to caves that we know well, and will eventually make follow-up information available.


The Phyllonycteris aphylla Project

Stefan (Aug 30/04)
Members of the JCO have been asked to participate in a search for what is possibly the world's rarest bat, Phyllonycteris aphylla. Plans are underway and a definite schedule has been set, for early January, 2005.

A multi-discipline crew is being assembled by the project leader, Dr Donald A McFarlane, Professor of Biology at the Keck Sci Ctr, to not only search for this bat species in its last known roost, but to also carry out an accurate physical survey, conduct a complete troglobytic invert bioinventory, and study the geomorphology of the main target cave.

The team will consist of: Dr Donald McFarlane - Keck; Dr Susan Koenig - Windsor Research Centre; Dr Joyce Lundberg - Carleton U; Andrea Donaldson - NEPA; Keith Christenson - TropicalBats; Ivor Conolley - JCO; Stefan Stewart - JCO.

Historically, there were five known cave-roosts for the P. aphylla; our priority will be the one that offers the best chance for success, (for the time-being this cave will remain unnamed), but our activites will extend beyond the main target to include a number of other caves during the 10-day expedition.

A dedicated page will be put online, as we draw closer to the start of this important project, that will supply more information.

We would like to thank the National Speleological Society, of the United States, for the grant to the JCO that has helped to make our involvement in this project possible. Bless-up and respect.

Possible New Taino Cave

Ivor Conolley - Comfort Hall Cave - Jan 24/04 (Aug 24/04)
Ivor Conolley, of the JCO, has recently found that shell specimens collected from a cave visited Jan 24, 2004, by the JCO, are suggestive of a past Taino presence.

To quote Mr Conolley:

"Today, I handed over artefacts I collected during work for my research paper. Quite coincidentally, there were other specimens I had collected from elsewhere, including the Comfort Hall Cave pieces. As I was showing them off, I noticed that one of the shells ... they all had mud on them at the time of collection and I had not washed them ... seemed different now. As it turned out, it was not a pleurodont, which is a terrestrial gastropod, but a West Indian Top Shell, which is marine. This is strong evidence of Taino presence."

The cave, newly listed by us at the time, is locally referred to as Comfort Hall Cave, but we have been in somewhat of a quandry as to what to call it, there being a previously listed cave already bearing this same name. We will be consulting with people of the district on a possible new designation, in order to avoid confusion, and will post further news on this as soon as a resolution is found.

A repeat visit will soon be made to this cave by the JCO, in cooperation with Dr Allsworth-Jones, at UWI, to search for further evidence of Taino usage.


Hurricane Charley

Click here for a larger version of this photo of Hurricane Charley (Aug 12/04)
Hurricane Charley swept by the island yesterday, Aug 11. The centre of the system skirted the south coast of Jamaica, and it had just barely attained hurricane levels, but rains were heavy nonetheless and it has pumped a lot of water into the karst of Jamaica. It should be noted that we are still early in the Ja hurricane season, (with the worst storms usually occuring in late Sept - early Oct), and that tropical wave formation in the eastern Atlantic has been vigorous for the last month. A repeat perfomance of what the island has just come through is entirely possible in the coming weeks. We might be looking at a replay of 2002 when Isodore and Lilli raised the phreatic zone to high levels that then persisted for months afterwards.

The JCO has recently been in contact with a conservation group that would like an inventory done of the caves of the Cockpit Country this autumn, so the pumping-up of the water table is of some concern to us. There are no finalized plans as of yet, and we would of course be carrying out a major expedition anyway, but having a set list of targets, (that includes river-caves), that must be done within a definite time-frame makes flood-risk a greater factor than usual. If the proposed inventory project goes ahead, we could be in for some interesting times this October.


Notes and Positions

Ivor on descent(Jul 24/04)
Notes continue to be posted for the most recent JCO session, Jun 6 - 18, 2004, on the June 2004 field notes page. Stewart's, Roggy's, and Bellinger's notes are now complete up to Volcano Hole, Jun 13. A summary report of the session will be found on the Current Projects page.

Mark Bellinger has recently forwarded his notes for the last two expeditions and they have been added to his collected notes page. They've also been posted as individual reports, for April so far, with June to soon follow, via the Mar-Apr 2004 field notes page. Dietrich Roggy has sent in his notes for June and they have been put on a new page, collected notes for D K Roggy, as well as being posted on the main page for the June session.

The GPS Register has been updated with the most recent georeferencing data, but the positions for several vulnerable caves have been reserved. The reasons for this follow:

The JCO has been established to share knowledge of the caves of Jamaica, but we remain aware of the need to safe-guard those places that are most sensitive to human disturbance. Accordingly, we are becoming more circumspect about the information that we make available online. Positions for all of the caves continue to be recorded during our visits, but those that we consider to be most at risk will now be shared only after we have received a project proposal outlining the intended objectives of the visit. Further information on the submission of proposals will soon be posted on the website.

The JCO Advisory Committee

Bonnet Bush Cave(Jul 10/04)
The Jamaican Caves Organization, in an effort to ensure that our actions and projects are beneficial to the preservation of the caves of Jamaica, has recently asked that our colleagues in the science and environmental communities become involved on a more formal basis. To this end, an advisory group is being established that will advise us in all future projects.

Concurrent with the setting up of the advisory group will be the establishment of guidelines and policy that will help speleologists and cavers in Jamaica, including ourselves, to cause no harm to that which we all love.

We are hopeful that the guidelines that are established will extend beyond our own group.

Interested parties, whom we have neglected to consult, are invited to contact us at with ideas and suggestions for the guidelines that we intend to define in the very near future.

In association with the establishment of an Advisory Committee, we are also creating a Memorandum of Association for the JCO. Interested parties are invited to review the proposed document and offer suggestions by contacting


The June 2004 Expedition

From left to right: Martel Taylor, Rona Stirling, Ivor Conolley, Dietrich Roggy, Mark Bellinger (Jun 21/04)
Cavers Stewart, Conolley, Bellinger, Roggy, Taylor, Slack, Hyde, Stirling, Peterson, and Timmons, have recently completed a two-week expedition engaged in the exploration, assessment, mapping, and georeferencing of over twenty-five caves and sinkholes in the parishes of St James and St Ann, Jamaica.

The most notable accomplishments were the successful descent of the 160 metre deep Volcano Hole; the georeferencing and documenting of Taino petroglyphs at a cave in St James; the mapping of a Taino site near Runaway Bay for Dr. Allsworth-Jones, of UWI; the discovery and first exploration of a stream-passage cave, in the same district as Rudist Rock Cave, that contains many large, fine examples of these extinct, large, reef-building bivalves; the first descent of a sinkhole, found last expedition, that was done while georeferencing the south end of the Troy Trail; rainy-season observations, exploration and georeferencing of the upstream Niagara River Cave system; the determination of the hydrology of the Cool Garden Caves; and further work on the St James project.

Taino petroglyphs at Kempshot Cave Of the thirteen days spent caving, nine were devoted to the St James project. It was during this work that ten of our twelve new additions to the Jamaican Cave Register were found. This was also when the petroglyphs and the new rudist cave were documented. Great progress has been made and an interim report will be forwarded to the collaborating parties in several weeks time.

We would like to thank all of the volunteers who were with us this session for their valuable assistance. We must also thank NEPA for allowing us to conduct our current project in St James; we hope that it might contribute to the knowledge and preservation of the caves and karst of Jamaica. Most importantly, the JCO would like to thank the people of Roehampton, Tangle River, Vaughansfield, Flamstead, Niagara, and Linton Park for their great help and good company; bless-up.

A full account of our activities will soon begin to appear elsewhere on the website, after we have all finished licking our wounds and catching up on non-caving business.


The June Expedition

Mark Bellinger at Thatchfield Cave (Jun 4/04)
The next session of the JCO will take place from June 6 to Jun 18, inclusive. The participating cavers will be: Stefan Stewart, Ivor Conolley, Martel Taylor, Mark Bellinger, Adam Hyde, Delroy Williams, Dietrich Roggy, Bryan Murray, Dana Roeber, Elaine Barton, Shanyn Behn, Cory Timmons and Matt Heddin.

During this period we will be away from the internet. Emails will not be answered until Jun 20. In the event of emergency situations that require our assistance, (i.e. cave rescue and/or body recovery), messages can be left with Miss Lilly at 876-788-1022.

The main focus will be the St James Cave Assessment project, but we also have three other priority activities planned: prep work on the CC Transect expedition, the filming of a video documentary on caving in Jamaica, and a survey of an archaeological site for Dr. Philip Allsworth-Jones at UWI.

The video work is being done by Adam Abraham, of Authentic Jamaica, and will document a visit to Marta Tick Cave, north of Quick Step, Trelawny. This project, if it actually takes place, will create the first high-quality video record of caving activity in a challenging Jamaican cave. It will later be available in a DVD form, and we hope that this might help to supply some much needed funding. At the time of this news update, it once again seems doubtful that it will go ahead on schedule.

This visit to Quick Step gives us the opportunity to get into Minocal's Glory Hole, something we've wanted to do for years. The NSS, during the only descent in 1985, estimated the depth at 83 metres, but were unable to reach the bottom. Although the vertical, as reported, is not as great as Hutchinson's Hole, (a deep pit we recently descended), it is somewhat more challenging due to several diversions on the way down. It is our intention to get the bottom, and accordingly, we will bring 210 metres of rope to ensure a successful outcome.

Volcano Hole, the deepest cave in Jamaica not yet thoroughly explored, has been added to the schedule. This visit should take place on Monday, June 7.

We would like to thank Bill Palmer for his recent donation to the JCO. It is a great help and very much appreciated. A proper thank-you will be posted on the funding page as soon as possible, (we're bogged down in expedition arrangements at the moment and don't have much time for the website).

We must also thank Joan Blake for her recent contribution of info that might enable us to finally find the mysterious Lawson Bottom Cave.

We are hopeful that Jah will again guide and protect us in our journeys. Bless.


The Cockpit Country Transect

(May 12/04)
Planning is underway for a JCO led expedition that will attempt to make a crossing of the Cockpit Country the long way, from southeast to northwest. It is expected that the journey will take six or seven days from the start point on the Troy Trail to our arrival at the Quickstep Trail. The time-frame is undetermined and is dependent on funding, but because of the nature of this endeavour, and the many arrangements that must be made, we are getting the ball rolling now.

We are issuing a general invitation to interested researchers to join us for this unique crossing of the Cockpit Country. We do not intend to do this repeatedly, so we would like to do it right the first time, with an appropriate crew who will appreciate what they find. Those who can't tolerate scratches, bruises, mosquito bites, and exhaustion, need not apply.

Further information and details can be found on the Cockpit Country Transect page.


Expedition Notes and Data

(Apr 28/04)
Notes are now being posted for the last JCO expedition that took place from Mar 27 - Apr 8, 2004. They can be found on the Mar-Apr 2004 Field Notes page. An update of the Projects page has been done that provides a summary of our recent accomplishments. GPS data is next on the list, and should soon start to appear in the GPS Register.

Guy van Rentergem is beginning to forward mapping data from several surveys conducted during the last session. A version of the Roehampton School Cave map, data by Rentergem, plotted by Stewart using "Compass", can be found in the notes for Roehampton School Cave, for April 3. Also, have a look at Guy's, Red Stripe Test, a low-tech solution to mineral identification while in the field.

On a different topic, the recent migration of the website to a new hosting company has gone well. We hope for better server stability, and email reliability, in the future. We now also have much greater bandwidth, so visitors to the site are invited to click on through to their heart's content.

SOS-Wildlife, Now Online

(Apr 21/04)
The Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife, a non-profit, volunteer-operated wildlife rescue centre located in Runaway Bay, St. Ann, now has an online presence. This new website can be found at SOS-Wildlife.

Since 1990, the sanctuary has been receiving and caring for various species of Jamaican wild animals, mostly birds, that have been rescued or confiscated by Honourary Game Wardens. In collaboration with the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association, (formerly the St. Ann Environmental Protection Association), SOS-Wildlife is providing valuable assistance to the efforts being made to preserve the fauna of Jamaica.

We'd like to congratulate Wendy Lee, of SOS-Wildlife, for her fine work done in getting the website online. We look forward to watching it grow.

Please have a look at the site, become familiar with the work that they do, and ask others to do the same.


The March-April 2004 Expedition

The Jamaican Caves Crew (Apr 12/04)
The Jamaican Caves Organization has recently completed another expedition.

Under the leadership of Guy van Rentergem, four days were spent mapping the Green Grotto - Runaway Bay Cave system in assistance of the Urban Development Corporation of Jamaica. The existing survey of the tourist area of the caves, done by Guy in 2001, was extended to include the upper level of the "Wild Caves". This task was achieved with the help of Adam Hyde, Stefan Stewart, Dietrich Roggy, Andrew Engels, and Delroy Williams. Adam, Guy, and Dietrich also explored what appear to be associated new caves in the area.

Further work was accomplished on the St James Cave Assessment project by Stefan Stewart, with the help of Guy van Rentergem, Ivor Conolley, Mark Bellinger, Martel Taylor, Dietrich Roggy, Brian Murray and Dana Roeber. In particular, all seven entrances of the four Cool Garden caves, in Flamstead, were fully referenced, and valuable biological and hydrological observations were made in Cool Garden One, Three and Four. In addition, Rudist Rock Cave, Peterkin Cave, Rota Cave and Rota Sink were visited as part of the ongoing project.

The mapping and exploration of Roehampton School Cave, in St James, was pushed into new ground, revealing even greater complexity than first suspected during the August 25, 2003, discovery visit. More work remains to be done in this fine stream-passage system.

Andrea Donaldson of NEPA, and Wendy Lee of NJCA, joined several members of the JCO in a visit to Thatchfield Great Cave in St Ann. This cave, although not suited to tourism due to muddy conditions, is valuable nonetheless. It is biologically rich and relatively undisturbed; we are hopeful that this state will persist.

The Lower Streamway of Windsor Great Cave was mapped, and exploration found a narrow, on-going passage above the northern terminal sump that might result in future discoveries.

On the penultimate day of the two week expedition, Guy van Rentergem, Stefan Stewart, and Martel Taylor made a crossing of the Troy-Windsor Trail in support of a georeferencing project being conducted by Stewart. The trail is currently very bushed-up, poorly marked, and difficult to follow. The objective is to create an accurate GPS track/shape file that will assist researchers, and visitors, in avoiding the dangerous prospect of getting lost in the depths of the Cockpit Country through which this trail travels. During the course of this journey, three new caves and sinkholes were discovered, two of them off-trail in nearby cockpits, but they remain unexplored due to time constraints. Accurate GPS WGS84 positions were obtained and repeat visits will be made.

Detailed notes, maps, and data will soon begin to appear on the site, once all of us have licked our wounds, and caught up with non-expedition business.

The next full expedition will begin in mid-June. The St James project will continue, logistical work will be done for a future East-West Cockpit Country Transect Expedition, and we will participate in a video documentary on the caves of Jamaica. During the interim, JCO members will continue to monitor and explore the caves of Jamaica, although on a more infrequent basis.


The March-April 2004 Expedition

Schaw Castle Cave (Mar 25/04)
The JCO is currently on expedition. The participating cavers, Stewart, van Rentergem, Hyde, Conolley, Taylor, Bellinger, and Williams will be in the field from Mar 26 to Apr 9. Emails to the JCO will not be answered until Apr 10. In the event of emergencies that require our assistance, (i.e. cave rescue and/or body recovery), we may be contacted via Miss Lilly, at 876-788-1022.

The goals for this session are both varied and ambitious.

Guy van Rentergem will lead the team in a return to Green Grotto Cave to continue the survey begun in 2001. The four day visit, sanctioned by the Urban Development Corporation, will aid greatly in the preservation of this valuable underground system.

At the Penitentiary Holes, near Bensonton, St Ann, the crew will assist Adam Hyde and Guy in an attempt to finally conquer these very deep, mysterious shafts. This will be the first return of the JCO to the district since the work at Hutchinson's and it is hoped that the contacts made at that time will result in the discovery of new, unlisted, deep sinkholes in the area.

The St James assessment project will be continued, (NEPA Ref. Nos. 18/27 & 18/47). This work, being conducted by R. S. Stewart of the JCO, in collaboration with the Windsor Research Centre, is attempting to establish baseline data for all of the caves in the parish.

Thatchfield Great Cave will be visited again, with Wendy Lee of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Authority, and Andrea Donaldson of the National Environmental Agency of Jamaica, joining us this time. Rota Sink, in St James, will be pushed as far as we can push it. The lower streamway at Windsor Great Cave will be explored and mapped in its entirety.

We are hopeful that Jah will again guide and protect us in our underground journeys. Bless.


JAD2001 - A Walk-through

(Mar 9/04)
A walk-through of the new Jamaican datum, JAD2001, is now available on the site. This new, GPS-friendly, coordinate system was established in the autumn of 2003, primarily through the efforts of the Jamaica Forestry Dept.

Because the new datum uses the WGS84 ellipsoid, the conversions from UTM, or WGS84 L/L, to JAD2001 Metre Grid, and visa versa, are easier than ever. GPS users will especially appreciate the use of the WGS84 ellipsoid as there is now no datum transformation necessary, merely a simple conversion of grid coordinates.

We have described the step-by-step process for accomplishing the conversion using Geotrans, but in the event of anyone having difficulty with the walk-through, further help can be obtained via the contact info found at the top of this page.

This seemed an opportune time to also improve the access to the GIS resources on the site, and to that end, a new page has been posted, Mapping and GIS. This is where other georeferencing and mapping information will be added in the future.

Reports on orienteering in the Cockpit Country, and the workshops held at the Windsor Research Centre, (beginning next on Mar 29, 2004), can also be found via this new page, and we intend to add to this as time goes by.


Hutchinson's Hole - Click for Full Size(Mar 9/04)
The explorations and discoveries that the JCO are able to achieve are only accomplished with the help of many others. We would like to acknowledge this assistance and give particular thanks to the following:

Joan Blake, David Broderick, and Libby Thompson have been instrumental in our being able to find and list a number of previously unexplored caves and sinkholes over the course of the last year.

The Windsor Research Centre has been of great assistance in keeping us up to date with developments in the science end of things and also supplying the admin of the JCO with much appreciated funding.

Lilly Bolt, of Coxheath, Trelawny, has been critically important in maintaining the organisation by keeping us well supplied with cold Red Stripe and running the "office".

We of course must thank the many volunteers, including those from the American Peace Corps, who help out during the expeditions and in this regard the people of Roehampton, St James, and Bensonton, St Ann, deserve a special mention. Bless.

The next expedition begins in two weeks and we will once again be enabled in our pursuits by the above and, of course, many others, who although not yet listed here are important to us nonetheless.


(Jan 1, 2015 to Nov 22, 2016)

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

Editor: RS Stewart.

Jamaica Road Map

Introduction to Jamaican Caves and Sinkholes