Maroon Town

Jamaican Caving News

South Trelawny
December 8, 2006
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The October 2006 Expedition, Updates, and Crew Changes

The crew after Golding River Cave - Oct 15/06 - Photo by Donny Comer (Dec 8/06)
News on the recently completed three-week session of field work will be found below, but first a couple of other items.

The next main outing of the JCO is scheduled for mid-January, 2007. More on this soon

We've recently completed a new version of the Cockpit Country map (very spiffy), in aid of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group campaign to prevent bauxite mining in this unique part of Jamaica. We'll put a low resolution copy on the website in the next day or two (been saying that for days, but honestly, soon come ;-)

We've put another two videos online. The first is from our work at Golding River Cave on Oct 15. There was some concern expressed by others prior to the the visit (found lower in the News), so we'd like to show exactly what it was like when we finally managed to clear the worst of the boulders at the top of the pitch. As will be seen, we weren't blowing things to smithereens, just trying to worm our way through a tight little vertical, with yet again no success. Please excuse the language - that's what it's like when cavers are in the field. It's on the server in two formats, a 30 MB AVI, and a 15 MB WMV. (The author of this item, Stefan, would like to apologize for once again being the person on camera, but that's the way it worked out - wha' fi do.) The second video is from the approach to the Quick Step Trail, along the Martha Brae River between Windsor and Pantrepant. The water level was up at the time, but not yet in full flood (probably is right now, after all the recent rain). Like the other, it's in two versions, a 17 MB AVI, and a 8 MB WMV.

Guy Van Rentergem has recently produced four more maps for sites visited in 2006. The first, for St Clair Cave, presents the cave from the Inferno to the Acheron, based on data from March 21, 2006. The second is of Vaughansfield Cave in St James, where we carried out the first complete exploration of the site on March 24. The third is of Smokey Hole Cave, where we established a new depth record for Jamaican caves on Mar 26. The fourth is McCoy Cave, a small, but interesting site in St Ann visited on Mar 23. More info can be found in notes online for St Clair, and Smokey Hole.

(Nov 15/06)
CD-R's arrived from Jan Pauel on Nov 8 that include a lot of photos and video footage taken during the last session. We'll put this online as time permits, and will start with a video from Quashies River Cave at Freemans Hall, Trelawny. This is one of the main sources for Dornock Rising, the headwaters of the Rio Bueno. Rains had been frequent in the days before, and the flow into the system was heavy. Please note the muddiness of the water (topsoil on the move). We have it on the website in two formats: WMV (5 MB), and AVI (15 MB). Right click and save, or launch them with your browser - whatever works. Much more will follow (we're uploading them to the server on a dial-up connection and it takes a while).

We've also added a photo of Anna Sullivan at Wales Cave 2 in Oct/06 to the News. Anna is one of three new Peace Corps Volunteers we had with us in October, along with Donny Comer, and Drew Snauffer. All three seem to have the right stuff for the JCO (tough, but easy-going, and curious by nature), and they were all a tremendous help during the session (Donny took much of the load bringing the generator up from Golding River, Drew did some serious machete work getting through Macca on the hike to Quashies, and Anna was a big part of the fieldwork at Newport). We hope to see a lot more of them in the future, and to have them carry on the JCO-Peace Corps association that has been so helpful to us in the past (taking the torch from Mark, Sarah, Dietrich, Elizabeth, and Mike).

In other news, the JCO is now part of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG). This is an umbrella organisation that has been put together to educate policy makers and business interests in the need to keep bauxite mining out of the Cockpit Country. Further information on bauxite mining and the CC will be found on the JCO page Cockpit Country Bauxite Mining.

On the Quick Step Trail - Oct/06 (Nov 5/06)
The JCO was on expedition from Oct 7 to 29. Most of the objectives were met, including speleo assessments in the Kellits district, a return to Harties Cave 2 in Rock Spring, a rainy-season journey through the Peterkin/Rota System, GPS referencing of approximately 70% of the Quick Step Trail, an inventory and assessment of the speleo sites in the Newport district of Manchester, and the carrying out of a three-day workshop in Accompong. Several new caves were discovered in the course of the session, including sites in Douglas Castle and Auchtembeddie.

One of the team, Drew Snauffer, has put a number of expedition photos online here. Also, there were many photos and videos taken by Jan Pauel, which will soon be en route to us on CD-R - once they've arrived, we'll start posting the best of them (there's GB's of pics and footage).

Anna Sullivan at Wales Cave 2 - Oct/06 - Photo: Jan Pauel The participating cavers in October included Stefan Stewart, Elizabeth Slack, Ivor Conolley, Jan Pauel, Dr David Lee, Andrea Richards, Wendy Lee, Ezekiel Russel, Marcus Russel, Anna Sullivan, Drew Snauffer, Donny Comer, and Andrea Donaldson.

One of the most important of the research visits, an inventory of the existing caves of Newport, Manchester will be addressed in greater detail as soon as possible on this website, and in a report to NEPA, but for now we will note that few of the listed caves have survived Alpart's mining of bauxite in the district. It has become apparent to us that there has been an intentional filling-in of many of the caves and sinkholes of the area, with this occuring during land "reclamation" work. Much of this has taken place within the last twelve months, and is now irreversible. The effects on the drainage of the district are entirely predictable, and we anticipate flooding in the coming years as the main result of this. We intend to present our findings as an example of what will occur in the Cockpit Country if the unholy alliance of political and business interests who intend to to strip mine the last remaining wilderness area of Jamaica have their way. On this, there will be much more in the coming weeks, on a new page recently put online, Cockpit Country Bauxite Mining.

On a lighter note, one of the more interesting cave visits in October was to Tooth Cave, a shelter cave located about 25m up a cliff near Aboukir. The dark 1.5 metre entrance has been a source of mystery for some time to many people, including Wendy Lee of NJCA who brought it to our attention and joined us for the outing with her son, Simon. The site is now known to be a shelter about 1.5m high, 2m wide, and 3m deep, with resident owls and owlets. This was determined by way of Stefan and Jan chopping their way to the top of the cliff, hanging a rope, and then having Stefan rappel down to it to have a look. The cave itself was not entered, just observed, due to a perhaps unreasonable fear that the adult owls would return and tear out the eyes of the caver on-rope.

Elizabeth and Drew in the rain on the approach to Quashies River Cave - Oct/06 Golding River Cave was visited, and the upper boulders blocking the entrance were split and removed. However, it was found that there were several smaller boulders blocking the shaft further down, so yet one more visit will be necessary (the sixth).

Quashies River Cave was visited, although high waters prevented us from accessing anything other than the upper dry levels. To get to this section, we had to cross a very active flow of water blasting through boulders into the deeper parts of the system, with this being terrifically impressive and somewhat nerve-wracking (one slip, and it's onward at high speed into the depths).

Five of the JCO crew assisted Andrea Donaldson, NEPA, at Canoe Valley, in search of extant bat-roosts. We were fairly successful, although by the end of the day we had found more grasslice than bats in this very dry, scrubby, goat-infested district.

We'll post much more info on all of our work in the coming weeks, with the top priority being the caves of Newport. Included amongst the various other reports will be a detailed account of how a Newport junior JCF member attempted to shake us down for a bribe in the main square on Sunday, Oct 22. We regard it as a dreadful example of how a small number of police officers in Jamaica are bringing the entire department into disrepute, and we intend to eventually nail him to the wall (although stocks in the main square might be better).

Elizabeth Slack at Rudist Rock Cave (Nov 2/06)
We would like to note a great change in the personnel of the Jamaican-based JCO crew. Today, November 2, Elizabeth Slack is leaving Jamaica after spending three years on the island with the Peace Corps, and over two years with the JCO. It is difficult for us to thank her as much as she deserves, but we'll try anyway.

Since Elizabeth first joined us on June 14, 2004, she has participated in visits to roughly 100 caves and sinkholes. From early on, she became one of the main-stays of the JCO, and someone we could always count on. Her participation in the caves component of the Parks in Peril Project, in 2005, was instrumental in completing what was a very intense period of fieldwork. Her participation in the St James Project, carried out in in 2004-2005, was equally valuable. Apart from these major projects, she assisted us and our collaborators in visits to many other caves scattered around the island. These included Roaring River Cave in Westmoreland, which was assessed for TPDco, water-quality sampling done in the Cockpit Country in assistance to The Nature Conservancy (with her acting as a guide), and assistance to researchers from the National Planning and Environment Agency of Jamaica in inventories of bat-roosts.

Elizabeth's input was not restricted to speleo work. Her deep understanding of Jamaican culture, and her excellent grasp of Patois, were of great help to the non-Jamaican crew (especially to the Chair of this motely outfit), and her wonderful sense of humour was greatly appreciated by the entire group, most importantly when stretches of very long days began to wear us down. Even when things were going well, having her pretty, smiling face across the table in the mornings was always a help for the more-weathered of the crew, as they recovered from the day before with cups of very strong coffee.

Elizabeth has assured us that she will be back whenever her studies in America allow, and we very much intend to actively encourage this. Her importance to the JCO is such that if she delays too long in her return, we will send out a posse to forcibly bring her back.

Many thanks, Miss Elizabeth. You'll be missed.


October 2006 Expedition

Ivor Conolley in the bush near Coxheath, July 23, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel (Oct 6/06)
The JCO will be in the field from Oct 7 to 29. Many of the usual suspects will be onboard for this (Stewart, Conolley, Slack, Dr Lee, Taylor, Pauel, et al), and we have hopes of accomplishing good things in the course of the session. Chief amongst these are several longstanding items on the to-do list, such as getting into Golding River Cave (see item below), following up on Dave Drew's 1967 exploration of Me No Sen Cave, and finding/georeferencing the Heading - Pantrepant Trail (at least in its southern section). Along with those objectives, we'll be conducting a workshop in safe caving techniques and speleology in Accompong, continuing our investigations into the Newport, Manchester sites, and exploring several caves near Kellits. We'll also be carrying out a workshop in rock-climbing in Coxheath on Sat, Oct 28.

With any luck, we will be reporting here several weeks from now on what has been a very good session of fieldwork. Until then, Jah guide and protect, and if you need to contact us, use the phone numbers at the top of this page.


Golding River Cave

Guy van Rentergem at Golding Second Entrance - March/06 (Sep 29/06)
There seems to be some confusion regarding our upcoming activities at Golding River Cave. We'd like to make things clearer for those who have not taken the time to research the material available on this website that addresses it (most of which can be easily found using Google).

The First Entrance to the cave cannot currently be located - those who knew where it was left the island many years ago. We've spent hours looking, with no luck yet (it was described as difficult to find, and this is truly the case) This entrance was originally found decades ago by way of the Second Entrance (that is, finding the First Entrance from the inside of the cave - although they called the second entrance they found the First, because once you know where it is, it's the easiest to hike to).

Stewart, Hyde and Gottgens were able to locate the Second Entrance in Oct of 2005, but found it blocked with several 60-90 cm rocks that had fallen from a steep hillside metres away. We knew that it was indeed the entrance, because it was exactly where the JU area map put it, we could hear the water flowing in the passage below, and could see down into the shaft through gaps in the rocks. We worked long and hard trying to move these rocks by hand, but only shifted a few (they're sitting in a slightly funnel-shaped opening at the top of the 3 foot wide shaft). Another visit in March of 2006, by Stewart, Van Rentergem and De Splenter was more productive, and we essentially cleared the pitch enough to squeeze through, but declined to enter it because of questionable stability of the remaining rocks (the photo with this item is of Guy on top of the choke). It was then suggested to us by a collaborator that we try splitting the remaining rocks next visit, to get them into more manageable sizes. This would be done by drilling narrow holes and sliding in Hilti powerloads, which would then be set off with a steel rod and a hammer. A return in June, 2006, by Stewart, Slack, Taylor, Pauel and Yovandich found that the entrance had been freshly choked by more rocks from the hillside above, but we made an attempt using the powerload technique to get through this. Ultimately, we failed, due to not having a hammer-drill (we couldn't get the holes deep enough).

This Oct 15, we intend to return with a more powerful drill and a generator to run it (and we could use some help carrying it, if anyone wants to volunteer). With any luck, we will finally manage to reestablish a known entrance to what was once regarded as one of Jamaica's most beautiful caves. We do not expect great numbers of people to suddenly enter the cave afterwards, because it is made up of half-flooded stream passages, very narrow in spots, and it is thoroughly uninviting unless you're a caver. Also, you need a rope to get down the shaft in the first place, and the shaft is only a few feet wide. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the Earth's population would never consider doing such a thing - just madmen like us, and researchers.

Most importantly, it must be understood that we will not be altering the morphology of the cave in any way. The rocks that will be moved are not part of the cave - they are, or at least were, part of the hillside above. It must also be realized that this was one of the sites we tried to cover under contract to The Nature Conservancy in 2005 as part of the Parks in Peril Project. We have not even been able to get into the cave yet, let alone carry out a rapid assessment, and our report for the PiP Project on the caves of the Cockpit Country is not truly complete until it's been done.


JCO Update

Elizabeth Slack on rope at Deeside Cave - Sept 23/06 (Sep 28/06)
Several of the JCO crew were in the field last weekend (Conolley, Slack and Pauel) visiting Deeside Cave. A descent into the River Pit was done, just upstream of where this underground river from Maroon Town finally rises at the head of the Roaring River. A short video clip of Elizabeth tossing in a rock to time the depth, before Ivor went down into it on rope, can be found here in WMV. It's also been posted on the video and photo page in a larger .avi format (that page has had some work done on it recently - check the clip for Kate as well).

Plans are now solid for the next expedition, Oct 8-28. We'll post news on this next week. Once again, if we've neglected to contact any interested parties, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.

(Sep 20/06)
Elizabeth Slack will soon regain her freedom, after three years spent with the Peace Corps, and will be relocating from Castleton, St Mary, to Windsor, Trelawny, for a final month before she returns to Babylon. One of the main reasons for her doing this is so that she can be with us for the October expedition. We can't thank her enough for this (although we'll try), but as the rest of the JCO crew is of the opinion that she'll be back with us after she completes her graduate work in the USA, her absence is expected to be temporary anyway (the JCO is like the Mafia - you can get in, but you can't get out). That said, we'll have a bashment in her honour, just in case.

We've had some good luck recently in getting much needed info for the Newport caves (a very helpful email that arrived out of the blue from Leigh Anne Geiter). A return to the district was already planned for the next expedition (Oct 7-29) to continue our assessment of the disturbance being caused by Alpart (bauxite mining) to the many speleo sites that once existed in the area, so this is very timely and much appreciated.

The importance of preserving the speleo sites that remain in the Newport district cannot be overstated - a new depth record for Jamaican caves (195m) was set by the JCO in March of 2006 at Smokey Hole Cave, not far to the south. Similar sites were reported by the GSD in the early 1960's in the Wales and Blenheim districts (Newport), also incompletely explored at the time due to the deep verticals encountered. There is a very real chance that an even deeper speleo site than Smokey (there are several promising possibilities) may be filled in during the next several years as part of Alpart's activity. If at all possible, we would like to prevent this. The loss of these sites will not only eliminate beautiful caves, it will lessen the biodiversity in Jamaica, and the filling-in will block natural drains during rainy times resulting in seasonal ponds where they never existed before.

Jan Pauel followed up on these new leads from Leigh on Sunday, Sept 17, with very good results. With any luck, during the third week of October, we will make real progress on completing an inventory of the Newport sites, as they exist in 2006. Then, we will try to do something about the problem.

(Sep 16/06)
A report on the caves of Duanvale prepared for the Duanvale Community Tourism Association, based on work done last June, has been posted on the website here.

We would like to note that the JCO website has just passed its fourth anniversary. On Sept 6, 2002, started out with one poorly-done page (/index.htm, which still needs work). Since then, the site has grown to over 450 pages, which collectively draw in a surprising amount of traffic (over 500 unique, non-bot visitors on a normal day - sometimes much more), many emails, and many great tips on speleo sites we should have a look at. We'd like to thank all of the crew who have contributed to this endeavour over the years, and more importantly, all of our visitors, especially those who regularly drop by via bookmarks to keep track of our adventures. We hope that we can continue to supply information on the karst and caves of Jamaica for many years to come.

(Sep 13/06)
Plans are firming up for the next extended period of JCO fieldwork, which will take place from Oct 7 to 29. Amongst other things, we will be participating in an ecotourism workshop in Accompong (an independent Maroon nation in the southwestern Cockpit Country), with our input being the training of cave guides; there will be a return to the Newport district, in Manchester, to monitor the interaction between karstic sites and the bauxite industry; we will make yet another visit to Golding River Cave to finally struggle our way through the second entrance (we're bringing serious tools this time, including a generator to power the hammer drill for the hilti charges); and we will continue our systematic assessment of the caves of St Ann. Along with the speleo work, we'll spend some time georeferencing and flagging trails in the Cockpit Country, and we'll conduct a workshop in Coxheath on rock-climbing techniques, this done in aid of community tourism. More news on all of this will be posted as we approach Oct 7, but for now we would like to pass this along as a heads-up to interested parties, and ask that they touch bases with us.

Click for the full resolution photo of the JCO crew on Aug 19, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel (Aug 31/06)
Ivor Conolley, Elizabeth Slack, and Jan Pauel, of the JCO, were in the field from Aug 28 to 30 assisting Kimberly John, and Minke Newman, of The Nature Conservancy, in an ongoing water quality project being carried out in the Cockpit Country. Early reports indicate that all has gone well.

We'd like to note that three of the JCO crew have celebrated birthdays over the last week. First was Jan, on August 26, then Stefan on the 28th, and then Elizabeth on the 30th. Collectively, the age is around 120, but the older of the crew would rather not get into specifics (this is the advantage of having youth on board - they average things down).

Members of the JCO were also busy the weekend of Aug 19-20, attending to two important tasks: First, on Saturday, Ivor Conolley, Martel Taylor, Elizabeth Slack, Jan Pauel, Rona Sterling, Pem-Pem, Cetu, the Silvera family, and Marcella Phillips, fully established and flagged a new hiking trail in the Cockpit Country, out of Windsor, this in aid of our fund-raising efforts. A report on the outing, by Jan Pauel, can be found here. A full resolution version of the group photo, seen above, can be found here (5.5 MB). On Sunday, a visit to Mountain River Cave, in St Catherine, took place, also for funding purposes. Ivor, Jan, Eliz, et al, assisted Janet and Steve Andrews in a visit to this important archaeological site. We'd like to thank Janet for having helped with JCO funding, and we're glad things went well.

We've recently added a new page to the site, JCO Publications, with two items available at present: the DVD of the March 2006 Expedition, and a 287 page work, "The Caves of the Cockpit Country", based on a JCO project done under contract to The Nature Conservancy in 2005. Along with this, we have finally figured out how to use our Paypal account, and can now accept payments by credit card.

The Donations and Funding page has recently undergone a major change, including having the title altered to "JCO Funding and Tours". We would like to assure everyone that our aim continues to be true, and the focus of the JCO has not shifted from assessment and research - we're just in need of financial assistance.

Ivor Conolley in the bush near Coxheath, July 23, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel (Jul 26/06)
Ivor Conolley and Jan Pauel were in the field this past weekend, near Coxheath, Trelawny, checking into an interesting feature found via satellite photos. It seems to be a very old collapse, probably of a chamber cave (this remains undetermined).

We've been informed recently via email that we can expect to hear from a National Geographic Traveler fact-checker soon, so it seems as though things are moving along on that front (this is an article being written by Bob Morris, NGT, based on our visit to Deeside Cave last May 30). Indications are at this time that it will appear in the Oct issue.

The DVD of the March 2006 session, produced by Guy Van Rentergem, is now finished and ready for prime-time. As soon as we have shipping logistics worked out, we'll make it available via the new "Publications" page (just about ready to go online). The video will also be shopped around to Ja TV as soon as the first copies make it through the mail from Belgium to Jamaica (on their way now). Adam Hyde is going to pitch in on this, as he's not only a wicked caver, but one of the stars of Royal Palm Estate (Richard Blackburn). We'll post info on broadcast times when we have it.

Major changes to the Donations and Funding page are in the works. In order to keep the JCO alive, and keep some of the crew in Ja, we're breaking down and offering official "tours". These are intended to be small-scale, up-market, and geared to people who have a great need for adventure in their lives. None of the outings will be particularly easy, but they will be memorable. We'll have more on this later in the week.

Deeside Cave, July 16, 2006 - Ivor and Katherine - Photo by Jan Pauel (July 20/06)
An outing to several sites in Trelawny took place last weekend. These included Deeside Cave, Benta Well, and the Baptist Holes in Sherwood Content (unfortunately now determined to be highly degraded due to in-filling and garbage). The participating cavers were Ivor Conolley, Jan Pauel, Katherine Faulhaber, and Rim. A full acount of the session will soon be posted via the appropriate fieldnotes page (probably June 2006, which will become Jun/Jul 2006, this saving us the time having to do extra html).

A return visit to Coxheath, to pursue the exploration of the mysterious collapse pit in the hills to the east, is in the works, with this probably happening in the next few weeks. During this session, there will also be a return to Deeside. We intend to drag Elizabeth away from her summer camp duties for this. The plan is that she leads the visit to Deeside, thereby demonstrating her skills as a JCO guide. Upon her successful completion of this, we'll give her a new ID badge, and maybe a T-shirt, and trust her to guide novice cavers into sites that she has experience with.

(July 13/06)
A visit will be made to Sherwood Content, Trelawny, this weekend (July 15/16) to have a look at an interesting feature recently found by Guy Van Rentergem during a perusal of satellite photos. We have tentatively dubbed it "Mystery Hole", as we really have no idea what is there, other than the deep, well-defined, oval, partially-forested, depression seen on the sat photos. There is a possibility that it is merely an old collapsed chamber cave, with no extensions, but there is also the chance that it contains a deep sinkhole in the bottom, or a scramble into an ancient, fossil stream passage. As there is nothing more enticing for a caver than a mystery, JCO members Conolley and Pauel have organised a visit to look into things. Others of the crew will be along, but the complete personnel is not definite at this time.

An outing to Barbecue Bottom took place Friday, June 23, in assistance to Andrea Donaldson (NEPA). Elizabeth Slack was the JCO member on the scene, and although the intended target, Barbecue Bottom Hole-2, was not reached, observations were made at a nearby site that indicate an extant, interesting batroost.

(July 8/06)
A Bio was put online today for one of our newer members, Jan Pauel. Jan was a tremendous help on the last expedition, and continues to be actively involved (specifically, on an outing to Trelawny very soon, to check out an interesting site near Coxheath).

Notes for the last session (see the Jun 28 item) continue to be posted on the main page for the June 2006 Expedition. At present, online reports for the sites visited during the last expedition cover One Day Cave, Deeside Cave, Booth Camp Spring, Coffee River Cave, Black River Blue Hole, Nanny Cave, Belmont and Drip Cave, St Clair Cave, Riverhead Cave, and Worthy Park Cave-1 (plus we did some proofreading of the earlier notes and ran them through a spell-checker, which took care of two "successfulls" and one "preferrably"). Five video clips from the session, in .wmv, .mov, and .avi are also posted on the main June 2006 page (linked from the top, right-click and save-as).

Guy's video documentary of the March 2006 expedition is nearing completion (looking very kriss in the latest version), and we intend to start shopping it around to Jamaican television stations within the next month or two. We will also be making DVD's of it available through the site, with payment method still to be worked out (maybe Paypal). The price will be probably be 20 Euros plus shipping. An excerpt from an early version, of Smokey Hole Cave, compressed for the internet, can be found here (48 MB file - right-click and save-as) . We will also be making our full report on the caves of the Cockpit Country available in a print version soon. This is based on our Parks in Peril Project work for TNC, which was 286 pages in the original TNC version, and with recent explorations is now up to 300. It is comprehensive; it gives solid GPS coordinates for over 80 speleo sites, and gives access advice and info for 50 more; and it took much effort to create. More info on these two items, and others in the works, will soon appear on a new page on the site (probably "JCO Publications", or similar).

June 2006 Expedition

Drip Cave, June 2, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel (Jun 28/06)
The JCO recently finished a two week expedition (May 30 to June 11) that fulfilled most of the planned objectives and made good progress on the others. The visited sites included Deeside River Cave, Printed Circuit Cave, Booth Spring, Coffee River Cave, Nanny Cave, One Day Cave, Drip/Belmont Cave, St Clair Cave, Riverhead Cave, Worthy Park Cave-1, Windsor Cave, Tyre Stream Cave, Golding River Cave, Oxford Cave, Cross Keys High School Cave, Image Cave, Blenheim Triangle Cave-2, Wales Cave, Shorty's Cave, and Miller Cave.

The participating cavers included Ivor Conolley (JCO), Dr. Gina Green, Andreas Haiduk (Water Resources Authority), Kimberly John (The Nature Conservancy), Dr. David Lee (JCO), Bob Morris (National Geographic Traveller), Minke Newman (TNC), Jan Pauel (JCO), Andrea Richards (Archaeological Society of Jamaica), Elizabeth Slack (Peace Corps / JCO), Stefan Stewart (JCO), Martel Taylor (JCO), and Anthony Yovandich (JCO).

Andrea Richards at Drip/Belmont Cave, June 2, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel Reconnaissance was done widely across the Newport district, the location of the Blenheim caves, and it was determined that at least several of the sites listed in the Register no longer exist due to bauxite mining by Alpart. These lost caves include Blenheim Cave-1, Blenheim Cave-2, and Blenheim Cave-3. The extant sites in this district are either currently being damaged, such as at Wales Cave, or in imminent threat of having this happen. In hopes that we might prevent more of the Blenheim caves becoming filled in during "reclamation" activities, the JCO is now on a mission and intends to do something about it. We will begin the process by simply noting it, but more efforts will follow.

Sucking air in the Inferno, June 3, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel St Clair Cave was visited for gas sampling, but an elevated water-table, due to heavy rains, prevented entry into the Inferno Plus and made things dicey at the scramble through the boulders that leads to it. Low oxygen and high carbon dioxide made it impossible to continue further even if the scramble had been possible. Gas sampling was done at this point, and then after taking advantage of the very sweet air in the tank that had been hauled in by Andreas and Jan, we wisely chose to retreat.

Elizabeth at Cross Keys High School Cave, June 8, 2006 - Photo by Jan Pauel Progress of sorts was made at the second entrance to Golding River Cave. This has been defying us for some time, and continues to put up a solid fight. Since the last visit, in March, when Guy, Hilde, and Stefan moved several large rocks and basically cleared the route, a large tree, complete with large rocks attached to the roots, has managed to come from the hill above to clog things up again. However, we were able to clear out debris, split a few rocks, and thoroughly establish the technique that will allow us to eventually recover it. The problem with this entrance, as we now see after several visits, is that it is a short, vertical shaft into a streamway that lies in a narrow gorge between two forested, rocky hills. When large storms or hurricanes roll through, rocks get torn off the hillside above to choke it up (at first we suspected that the rocks were coming from the higher end of the gorge, washed along on a minor slope in rains).

Jan Pauel Tyre Stream Cave was found to follow a sloping bedding plane through yellow limestone to go underwater, probably year-round. The outlet for this cave, and the sink/rising for Booth Spring, which is located in the same district, continue to be an unknown and are in need of study.

More info will soon appear on all of the visited sites. We'll start posting reports from participants, and apprise everyone of the incredibly cool stuff we're doing. On that note, the head madman of this motely crew would like to again thank everyone who was part of the team during the session. None of this would be possible without the efforts of everyone involved. We're a solid bunch and collectively accomplish great things. You should all be very proud of yourselves. And please leave an opening in your schedules for late August - early September.

Apart from expedition news, we'd like to thank Guy Van Rentergem for maintaining the Weather page while the regular forecaster was away. Also, there's a great bunch of photos from the March expedition posted on his website, found here. Guy's work on the video continues and we hope to be shopping it around to Jamaican TV stations in the next month or so. The preview version certainly garnered high praise when we showed it on the laptops last session.


JCO Update

Dunn's Hole Cave, van Rentergem, Stewart, Conolley, Slack, Mar 31/06

(May 28/06)
This will be the last update of the site until after the end of the next expedition, on Jun 13 (assuming we live through it). The target-list is now set, and is only slightly altered from what is described lower on the page. A couple of sites have been added, including several recently reported, unlisted, caves near Bethel Town, Westmoreland, to be done the same day as Me No Sen.

We'll leave you with an excerpt from Guy Van Rentergem's video of the last expedition, in an early form, and highly compressed for the website, of our descent into Smokey Hole Cave, now established as the deepest known cave on the island as a result of this exploration. The full-length final version of the expedition, including St Clair, Dunn's, and Rudist Rock, is well underway and might be ready to go in late June or July. If you're on dial-up, be prepared for the file to take four hours to download - it's a 46.5 MB mpg. To view this excerpt, right-click and save-as to your desktop/wherever, then open it with your regular mpg program (Windows Media Player, etc).

Video Excerpt of Smokey Hole Cave

We ask that any of you who can spare the time on June 3, when we will be in St Clair Cave, sampling noxious gas at the Acheron, to please say a little "Jah guide and protect" for us. This cave tried to kill us last time, and we need to know exactly how it was trying to do it, at least for future reference at other sites. Accordingly, we're going prepared (SCBA), and intend to figure it out (sampling for gas chromatography).

(May 24/06)
The next JCO expedition will take place from May 30 to Jun 11. Arrangements are coming along well: we'll have the available JCO crew onboard, and some much-appreciated new volunteers, we have good targets on the agenda, and we expect to have notable accomplishments to announce when it's all done.

We'd like to thank Andrea Richards, of the ASJ, for her rounding-up of new recruits for the next session. We'd also like to thank Anthony Yovandich, who'll be flying in from the US to join us, for his contributions toward the rental car, this allowing us to again have an SUV for the expedition (makes all the difference). We have a very good team shaping up for St Clair on Jun 3-4, with Jan Pauel and Andreas Haiduk now definite. Ivor Conolley will manage to fit in a couple of days with us, despite his work that needs to be done at UWI. Elizabeth Slack will be with us for much of the session, and for this we are very grateful. Alfred Maragh will be with us for a day, and is checking into gear we need for splitting rocks at Golding River Cave. Unfortunately, we won't have Guy, Adam, Barb, or Knut with us, because they will all be off-island, but we'll try to get some good recon work done on future targets where their presence will be absolutely necessary (e.g. Acheron River). Adam Hyde and Barbara Gottgens have a particularly good reason for not caving with us this session, that being that they're getting married. The JCO expects future additions to the next generation of Ja cavers from this very cool union, so we'll do our best to get by without them this time and not complain :-)

Our plans for the next session include a return visit to St Clair Cave, a return to Drip/Belmont in search of the undescribed critter Nelipophygus sp, visits to Deeside Cave, Printed Circuit Cave, Booth Spring, Coffee River Cave, and Still Waters Cave in assistance to Kimberly John and her freshwater-quality investigations, Tyre Stream Cave to finish the exploration and carry out a mapping survey, Me No Sen Cave, to follow up on Dave Drew's solo exploration in 1967, and most importantly, several days spent exploring caves with deep unexplored shafts located in south Manchester. This last bunch, Wales Cave, and the Blenheim caves, are our most promising sites for the next session. They're at no great distance from Smokey Hole, where we established a new depth record for Jamaica last March, and the geology is similar. Like Smokey, they are Geological Survey Dept listings, via Alan Fincham (author of Jamaica Underground), based on visits in the early 1960's led by Mr Baron RG McGrath. The GSD team were not cave explorers, as such, they were looking for guano, so generally they didn't tackle anything with a serious vertical (they had neither the gear nor the inclination). What they did do was record fairly good locations for many sites that remain to be explored. For a caver, this data is a treasure-chest. Courtesy of the GSD and their fieldwork, and Alan Fincham and his compilation of the data, we can continue the explorations four decades later. Accordingly, we're going to do exactly that, and see what can be found.

We ask that interested parties whom we've neglected to contact regarding the next session to please send us an email as soon as possible. We're in particular need of people mid-week, especially for the Manchester caves (Jun 6-10). If necessary, we can manage with the team we know to be definite, but there will be much ropes/gear for these sites and a couple of extra pairs of hands would be nice. A bonus of being along in this period is that it's when we might set the next new depth record for Ja.

The main page for the March 2006 Expedition is now online. Eventually, all of the notes will be added, but at present there are just the big three - St Clair, Smokey Hole, and Dunn's.

Notes for Jackson Young's Cave, visited Sept 27/05, went online May 16.

We've recently updated the "Who we are" page.

(May 12/06)
Arrangements were made today to have Bob Morris, of National Geographic Traveler, join us for a day next session. An article in the magazine will probably result from this, unless we get him killed in the process (which we'll try to not do ;-). We'll pass along the details when it appears in print.

As of May 9, we have started a second RSS feed, with the new one devoted exclusively to caving news. It can be accessed via the link found above on this page. Please note that it will not render properly in web browsers - it is supplied only for the use of RSS readers. If you don't have one, or want one, you can get the feed via SpeleoInfo in html.

At long last, the notes for the Sep-Oct 2005 expedition are going online. The first, Shorty's Cave, a new Taino site we explored on Sept 30, 2005, can be found via the Sep-Oct, 2005 main page. We intend to get them all done by the time the next session starts (and I know this is the kind of thing we always say, and never do, but this time we're serious ;-)

We'd like to thank Alex Car Rental for giving us a very good rate on a vehicle for the next session. Apparently, we've been sending them some business - many thanks to everyone who has contacted them (and Alex's really is the best deal in MoBay, so we're not steering you wrong).

The JCO forecaster has finally resumed updating the Weather page (May 5), and will try to do so daily until the start of the next expedition.

(April 24/06)
The JCO has recently completed a very successful expedition (Mar 20 to Apr 3). The participating cavers were Guy Van Rentergem, Hilde De Splenter, Stefan Stewart, Elizabeth Slack, Ivor Conolley, Adam Hyde, Dr. David Lee, Barbara Gottgen, Wayne Francis, Roger Hendricks, Knut Borstad, Andrew Ross, Vincent Cunningham, and Kristen Masel.

The most notable of our accomplishments are described, briefly, below:

Smokey Hole Cave was descended, explored, and as of Apr 13/06, compilation of the survey data has determined the cave to be 194 metres (650 ft) deep (replacing our intitial field-estimate of 157 metres). This establishes Smokey Hole Cave as the deepest currently known cave on the island, followed by Morgans Pond Hole at 186m, and Thatchfield Great Cave at 177m. The first 57 metres, vertical, of this is through a large descending passage, floored by massive breakdown boulders, that extends for over 100 metres until the pit is reached. The pit is 134 metres (450 ft) to the bottom of the main shaft, but at least one intersecting parallel shaft was seen and not explored. Large colonies of mixed species of bats are associated with the pit, but during the ascent (after sunset) the emergence was observed to be concentrated in an area believed to connect to one of the suspected parallel shafts (apx 50m below the anchor point of the pit), suggesting appreciable development and possible extension to below our current farpoint (this might be wishful thinking).

Adam Hyde, Barb Gottgen, Hilde van Rentergem, Guy van Rentergem, Stefan Stewart, Knut Borstad, and Ivor Conolley at Smokey Hole Cave on Mar 25/06 A deep, active river passage was discovered at St Clair Cave, beyond Inferno Plus, named by us (van Rentergem and Stewart) as the Acheron River. Dr Alan Fincham has suggested that it is a downstream section of the Worthy Park/Riverhead system. We intend to pursue this next expedition. (Notes and photos for the Mar 21-22 visit are now online via the above link.) The passage that carries the new river was found to have high levels of hydrogen sulfide, and low levels of oxygen, rendering further exploration impossible until suitable breathing equipment is obtained. We advise any who read this to stay out of the new passage, for it will very possibly kill you if you enter it unprepared.

A descent into Dunn's Hole, once regarded as the deepest cave on the island (although in our opinion this is not the case, as made clear in the notes) was accomplished in fine style on Mar 31 by G Van Rentergem, H De Splenter, RS Stewart, IC Conolley, and E Slack. As far as we know, this was only the second or third visit, the previous ones having been done 48-49 years ago. An accurate survey was done, exploration was thorough, and a full account is now online via the link earlier in this paragraph.

Smokey Hole, Mar 26, 2006 - Photo by Knut Borstad - Elizabeth Slack and Guy van Rentergem, after the ascent The Second Entrance of Golding River Cave has been recovered, by way of much work done moving large rocks that had been plugging it (courtesy of hurricanes, we presume).

Vaughansfield Cave has been explored and mapped as far as the upstream boulder-choke with flowing water heard beyond.

The exploration and mapping of Roehampton School Cave has been completed, and we have determined that the stories of a second entrance are once again just that (as we have also encountered at many other caves).

Much of the expedition was recorded on good-quality video, which we intend to sell on DVD at a cheap price for funding purposes.

We'd like to thank the new members who were onboard for this session, in particular, Wayne Francis, Roger Hendricks, Kristen Masel, and Andrew Ross. We'd also like to thank Alex's Car Rentals for the SUV and encourage all who check the site to rent from them when you need a car (that way, the JCO will get our own transport for less, which is critically important).


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

Editor: RS Stewart.

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