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ARCHIVES - VOLUME 6
The November 2007 Session
The Jamaican Caves Organisation has recently completed a brief, but productive expedition. From Nov 10 to 15, Haiduk, Hutchings, Kennedy, Pauel, Petrova, Stewart, and Zane assisted two international video crews ("Caribbean Dreams", at Mafoota River Cave, and "Anthony Boudain - No Reservations", at St Clair Cave), carried out a first exploration of Huntley Sinkhole in Manchester (apx 90m deep), revisited Logan Hole 2, and managed some good prep work for our future exploration of the Acheron River, at St Clair Cave (we refound the route to the Inferno Plus, flagged the hell out of it, returned to Riverhead Cave where we observed how quickly the bad air varies, learnt of another possible source for the Acheron, and figured out a way to explore it between Worthy Park dumps (which will require their assistance)).
The next set of notes posted online will be the Cave River system, as part of our interim report to NEPA on the St Ann project, 2007, expected to be done by mid-December. On the GIS side of things, Elizabeth Slack has been busy compiling all of the positional information posted on the website, as well as pursuing sites that have been noted by us, but not yet fully described. On the latter, much of this involves requests of information still on fieldsheets and in GIS files, which is forcing the principal investigator (Stewart) to buckle down and organise data that should have been tended to some time ago. As a result of her efforts, we expect to carry out a major update of the online JCO databases before the end of the year.
JCO Update(Nov 8/07)
The JCO will be in the field from Nov 9 to 16 (so hold off on the emails - we won't see them anyway). Amongst other things, we'll assist the crews of two different televison shows at two different caves. The first will be on Nov 10 with Caribbean Dreams, at either Belly-full Cave or Mafoota River Cave, both in St James, depending on the weather. The second will be with the crew of the Anthony Bourdain show (Travel Channel) on the 13th at either St Clair Cave or Worthy Park 3, near Ewarton, depending on the weather. We'd like to make it clear that our assistance is being supplied pro bono, with our main proviso on involvement being mentions of the need for cave preservation in Jamaica. We don't particularly care if any of us appear on camera or not - the priority is to get the message out. In addition to guiding the media people, we'll explore some recently reported, unlisted, deep shafts in Manchester, and knock off some more of the targets for the St Ann assessment project.
Two of the crew carried out recon recently at two widely separated sites. Brian Zane had a look at Sewell Cave in MoBay on Sat, Oct 27 (one we've wanted to locate since 2004, when we were doing the St James assessment project), and Paul Kennedy was in Huntley, Manchester, on the same day checking into a newly reported sinkhole, which is now on the to-do list for the next exped.
Brian Zane was underground last Sunday, Oct 21, taking photos of Quashies River Cave in aid of a future Natural History Museum (UK) publication. One of them will be seen above, in a low-res version (click on it for a higher res).
On Sunday, Sep 23, Jan Pauel and Andreas Haiduk were in St Ann exploring a deep sinkhole for the Highway 2000 crew (Bouygues). A report by Andreas on the visit can be found at Schwallenburgh Sinkhole, St Ann.
The Jamaica Observer had a very cool article on Elizabeth Slack (JCO) also on Sep 23, which has been reproduced here (it wasn't posted on the Observer website, so we've put it online ourselves).
Guy Van Rentergem has forwarded more notes for the Feb/07 session, which will go online soon.
Tthe JCO would like to congratulate the JLP on their recent electoral success. We hope that they remember the importance of the natural heritage of Jamaica, including caves, as they go forward in their mandate. We will certainly do our best to remind them of it.
On a subject more directly related to caving: We finally have an account of our Feb 16/07 visit to Gourie online at Gourie Cave. We'd like to thank Daphni Daniels for sending us an email asking why it wasn't there yet, which prompted the effort.
An account of our fifth attempt to enter Golding River Cave, last Oct 15, which included carrying a generator into a deep valley, and then through the bush, has been posted at Golding River Cave - Oct 15/06. In addition, the sixth attempt, carried out on Feb 19/07, when we finally had success, is now online in two accounts: Van Rentergem's, and Stewart's.
We'd like to thank Joan Blake for bringing yet another cave to our attention. The site is in MoBay and might be one of the three inside the city limits, listed in the Register, that we've yet to find.
The August 2007 Session(Aug 28/07)
The JCO has recently completed a very successful expedition. From Jul 28 to Aug 12, A Haiduk, D Harrisingh, B Hutchings, P Kennedy, J Pauel, EA Slack, A Snauffer, RS Stewart, H Wallis, and B Zane, explored and assessed a number of caves in St Ann, Manchester, and the Cockpit Country. Amongst the more notable of our visits were: a first descent of an unlisted 100-metre deep shaft near Bensonton; a first descent of an unlisted 65-metre hole in the same district; a first descent of the 60-metre deep Logan Hole 2, in May Day; and the completion of the Cave River System, done by finding and assessing Clapham Cave. Other sites visited were Coffee River Cave, where we travelled beyond the fourth rockfall, Quashies, where we made further progress on establishing an all-season route, Brambribo Cave in Douglas Castle, Ken Connell Cave in Bensonton, and several others that are part of our current St Ann NEPA permit project.
A number of CD-R's that contain photo and video files taken during the last expedition arrived on Aug 24, sent by Jan Pauel, and we intend to start getting them online this week. We'll post info here.
Unfortunately, our Aug 8 meeting with Alpart was postponed, this learnt the day before the meeting was to take place via a representative of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI). This was particularly unexpected, as we were not aware that the JBI intended to be present in the first place. From what we've been told, Alpart prefers to have the JBI involved, who in turn would like to have NEPA and the WRA involved. This is all fine with us, but we very much hope that the concerned parties can find time to meet with us during the next session of fieldwork, in October. During the interim, we will attempt to estabish a dialogue via email that will present our concerns and recommendations in greater detail. News on our progress will appear on this page, and be shared with the press, as it occurs.
The JCO had several new members onboard during the session (Harrisingh, Hutchings, Kennedy), all of whom were rock-solid; we hope to see them back with us again in October.
In addition to the new members, a Peace Corps trainee group (names to follow) was with us on Tue Aug 7, in Noisy Water Cave 1. The visit had two goals: to serve as an introduction to cave biology and hydrology, and to carry out some basic cave maintenance by doing a bit of a clean-up. We believe that at least some of our guests gained an insight into the workings of the Jamaican underground, and several large garbage bags worth of trash were removed in an attempt to maintain the drainage capacity of the Cave River System, so we deem the outing to have been a success. With any luck, we'll have a few them onboard for future expeditions.
Along with the new members of the crew, we had some of the old hands onboard. Andreas Haiduk, Brian Zane, Drew Snauffer, and Elizabeth Slack were their usual dependable selves and a great help. Andreas carried out a solo exploration of a deep shaft near Quashies, Brian and Andreas pushed Quashies itself, and Elizabeth was first on rope at Logan Hole 2.
A special mention must be made of Elizabeth Slack's presence for the fieldwork. Eliz has done much work with us in the past, but, unfortunately, is now living in Babylon. We're very grateful that she found two weeks in her busy schedule to fly back to Jamaica to join us, and we hope that it happens again on a regular basis.
Our intrepid photo/videographer, Jan Pauel, was very busy last session, and we have a great wealth of images and videos to pass along. Some of these will be large video files, with a higher resolution than we normally post. As usual, they will be in user-friendly formats that can be easily saved to hard-drives (i.e. not Flash, such as YouTube). Please check this page in the coming days - we will link to files day by day as we get them processed and moved to the server. Notes and accounts will appear on the website as soon as possible, with notification and links also posted here.
This is the main birthday week for the JCO crew: On Aug 26, Jan turned 40 (again); on Aug 28, Stefan (head madman of the JCO) hit 50 (again); and on Aug 30, Elizabeth will celebrate her 25th birthday (ahem). Congratulations to all of us for surviving another year.
Jamaican Caves Organisation Update
The JCO will be in the field (under it much of the time, actually) until Aug 13. Our plans include a return to the Cave River System, descents of several new, deep caves in St Ann and Manchester, another attempt to reach the end of Quashies, meeting with Alpart regarding cave preservation on their lands, an interview with the Observer, and the consumption of an appropriate number of cold Red Stripes in the evenings. In the event of emergencies that require our expertise, we can be reached at 414 2489 or 990 7255.
Heads-up to our extended crew: The next main session of fieldwork will take place from Jul 28 to Aug 13. An email was sent out on Jul 19 that supplied details. In the event that we've forgotten to Cc someone, we ask those who've expressed interest in the past, or contacted us recently, to link via email if you haven't received it.
The JCO is in the press again, although this time we didn't expect it. Our recent visit to the new cave in Dairy (see Jun 23 item), and the interesting story that preceded it, are covered on page 2 in the Sat July 7 Gleaner.
At the request of our collaborators at NEPA, we've recently compiled an inventory of caves for Manchester, ranked according to conservation importance. It's fairly bare-bones, due to there being 189 sites to address (with much of it based on a search of the literature), but it does present a good overview of the speleological sites in the parish and we hope it is useful. The report itself can be found on the server in .doc here: Manchester Speleo Conservation Priorities. The database upon which it is based can be found in .xls here: Manchester Conservation Database.
Congratulations to Wendy Lee (NJCA), and the folks at JET, for their continuing success in keeping the Spanish hotel development invasion somewhat in check (there's only so much coast in Jamaica, and all too often, environmental issues and public access have taken second place to development concerns). On June 26, NEPA stated that it has rescinded permission for Phase 2 of Bahia Principe Jamaica, Pear Tree Bottom, Runaway Bay. The context will be best appreciated by reading the NJCA/JET Press Release on the matter (in pdf). Along with our congratulions to NJCA and JET, we'd like to thank NEPA for taking the high road, despite the pressure put on them by the special interests involved. Respect. More information on Bahia Principe Jamaica, including the review of the EIA, can be found here.
As a result of the recent press coverage on mining and cave preservation (more on that below), we've had some excellent emails coming in about unexplored caves on the island. The first of the reported sites, a cave near Runaway Bay discovered by a gentleman trying to dig a pool, was looked at by Jan Pauel and Andrea Richards on Sat, Jun 23. It was found to be a respectable void caused by subsurface flow, with the development primarily horizontal. The limestone strata in which it is formed is notable for an abundance of marine fossils. We'd like to thank the owner of the land, Raymond Kirlew, for bringing it to our attention, and wish him well on his plans for the site.
We were informed by Alpart on Jun 13 that they will meet with us on Aug 8 or 9 to discuss cave preservation in their mining lands (mentioned in the Jun 17 Observer). The discussion will also address our concerns regarding the deepest cave in Jamaica, Smokey Hole Cave, which is highly vulnerable to future mining operations. We regard this as an important first step, and we would like to thank Alpart for their expression of goodwill. The JCO will be represented by RS Stewart and J Pauel, with this agreed upon by the active membership. We have made no demands of Alpart (or its parent company UC Rusal) regarding who is across from us at the table, other than they be in a position to effectively communicate our concerns to those who make the decisions.
Heads-up that the next session starts on July 28. There's a good crew shaping up for it (including Elizabeth, back from Babylon), and we'll have much more soon.
On Sunday morning, Jun 17, Jan Pauel of the JCO will be inteviewed on the radio regarding JCO activities and cave preservation (we expect him to do a splendid job of it), and we've had a heads-up that an article will also appear in the Jamaica Observer on the same day regarding the issue. Many thanks to our bredren in the press.
On June 4, Alpart forwarded the information that the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) has been invited to join the discussion on mining and cave preservation. We have yet to hear from the JBI, but their involvement is certainly welcome (after we have met with Alpart).
On the May 2007 Expedition front, the first notes, photos, and videos for the session are now going online via the main May 2007 page, including Quashies, with this video from the First Waterfall (15MB .AVI), and a video of Jan Pauel checking the depth at Noisy Water 2 (8MB .AVI). More news on the session will be found under the May 23/07 item, lower on this page.
We'd like to clear up a misunderstanding in Sunday's Jamaica Observer article on Smokey Hole. We're very disappointed in Alpart's lack of cooperation so far, but we have no disagreement with NEPA. We are thankful for the research permits they issue us, and we hope to formulate an island-wide policy on cave preservation in cooperation with them. Our apologies if we did not make this sufficiently clear. We'd like to thank Mr Walker for his interest in the issue and we hope it continues.
The May 2007 Expedition(May 23/07)
The JCO has recently completed a session of very productive fieldwork (May 2 to 18). The participating cavers were McCarville, Pauel, Snauffer, Stewart, and Zane. Valuable assistance was supplied by many others, to whom we are greatly indebted. Chief amongst these are Tyrone (Auchtembeddie), Lisa (Aenon Town), Marcia (Cross Keys), Joan and Arthur (Quick Step), Paul Bailey (Troy), and Miss Lilly (Coxheath). Many thanks to Karyl, in south Manchester, who found us Logan Hole 2, a deep, unexplored cave that we have great hopes for in Aug 2007.
Activity during the last expedition fell into several categories: the start of the St Ann assessment project; monitoring of a subset of caves in the Cockpit Country; preservation of the caves of south Manchester; and a couple of caves we did just for the fun of it.
No progress has been made on Smokey Hole Cave and bauxite mining. At this time, the deepest cave in Jamaica continues to be under serious threat of destruction. Alpart has refused to meet with us until after they have met with the regulatory agencies. As there are no regulations in place for the protection of Jamaican caves, we can see where this is leading. We remain hopeful that Alpart will see the wisdom in protecting this important part of Jamaica's natural heritage, as there is little financial loss involved, but if they do not, we will not give up. Community members and the press will be kept apprised of the threat, and we will push it on the internet to the utmost degree. We ask that websites with RSS feeds include the JCO News, as linked above, which we will use for sharing up to date info. We will soon post a new page that addresses the situation and will then ask for links to it from all interested parties.
On the St Ann front, the Cave River System, north of Aenon Town, was covered in depth (and length). All except Clapham cave, the smallest of the system, were visited, and all of the sections outside of the flood-risk zone were investigated (it's the rainy season, and not the best time to being doing this). The remaining sections, upstream of Noisy Waters 1 - Holdit Hole Entrance, and Noisy Waters 2 beyond apx 200m downstream, will be done next session, in August 2007. An interim report will be submitted to NEPA by June 15 that supplies data, images, and video that document degradation factors contributing to flooding in the Cave Valley district.
Three caves were visited in the Cockpit Country: Penthouse Cave, Welsch Ratbat Cave, and Marta Tick Cave. Welsch Ratbat continues to have no recovery from the loss of the batroost noted in the past. Penthouse Cave appears to have had no recent guano mining activity of any real scale, and the trog invert inventory continues to be as great as can be expected when the invasive American Roach is present. However, no discernible increase in the bat numbers/species make-up was apparent. As in 2005, the available roosting space is underutilized, with about 20% of the bell-holes occupied. Marta Tick Cave continues to be relatively pristine, but this may change in the near future. Plans are afoot to turn it into a show-cave, which will result in drastic changes. It is our hope that by working with the Forestry Dept, and presenting alternatives, we might prevent this.
Two other notable caves were visited during the session. At long last, Golding River Cave has been assessed as part of the Parks in Peril Project, which we first attempted to carry out in 2005. Our efforts and travails will be fully addressed as soon as possible, but for now we can say it's a beautiful cave, of great interest in a hydrological and biological way, and we're glad it's done. An appendix to the PiP Report will be forwarded to The Nature Conservancy - Jamaica, as soon as possible. The second notable cave was Quashies, which we entered under rainy-season conditions. Our separate accounts will be soon posted on the website (Jan and Brian, take note), all of which will no doubt describe what it's like to ascend through a waterfall, in a cave, while you hope your headlamp doesn't get ripped off your head. We may, or may not, describe our encounter with Osley Chambers - it depends on how charitable we're feeling.
Videos and more info will appear on the website in the following days linked from the News page and the soon to be created May 2007 main notes page. Please check back periodically.
The JCO will be in the field from May 2 to 18. There are three priorities: starting the official St Ann inventory (NEPA permit); monitoring several of our target caves in the Cockpit Country (NEPA permit), and trying to save Smokey Hole Cave (an article on this appeared in the Jamaica Observer on Sunday, April 22).
We expect to have a good crew for most of the session, but we're in particular need of volunteers from Tue, May 8, to Thu, May 10, at Cave Valley, for the Cave River System. This work will be the official start of the St Ann inventory (although we've already covered a number of sites in the parish), and JCO tradition is that we begin with the most challenging part of the project - which is most certainly Cave River. At the moment, we could use one or two more people. Interested parties who are fairly tough (and low-maintenance) are invited to contact us at email@example.com.
A report on bauxite mining and the caves and sinkholes of the Newport and Old England districts of southern Manchester, based on fieldwork carried out in June and October of 2006, was forwarded to Alpart, NEPA, and the WRA on April 5. We hope it is read. (.doc version here)
It has recently come to our attention that Smokey Hole Cave, the deepest known cave on the island, is either on, or very close to, lands that are slated to be mined for bauxite in the near future (the resolution of the concession maps is poor enough that we can't tell if it's just inside, or just outside, but it's close enough to severely degrade the cave either way). It is our intention to prevent Smokey Hole from being lost. It is a vital part of Jamaica's natural heritage, and if we don't save it, no one will. In hopes of accomplishing something to that end, on April 5, 2007, we asked Alpart to place an immediate moratorium on all mining activities within a 250m radius of the entrance to Smokey Hole Cave. Further information on this can be found as Appendix 1 of the Newport Speleo Report.
We'd like to thank the National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica (NEPA) for again issuing us a Wildlife Research Permit (effective from Mar 1/07 to Mar 1/08). We'll do our best on both of the main projects planned: the completion of an inventory and assessment of the caves of St Ann; and monitoring of vulnerable caves in the Cockpit Country (as identified during the Parks in Peril Project). A copy of the application proposal can be found here.
The February 2007 Session
The JCO has recently completed a very challenging session of fieldwork. From Feb 7 to 21, a team consisting of Andreas Haiduk, David Lee, Rob McCarthy, Jan Pauel, Greg Shiffer, Drew Snauffer, Stefan Stewart, Guy Van Rentergem, and Brian Zane, combined in various combinations to visit a total of eight caves, with the majority of them being the sort of thing that would make most people's hair stand on end.
Four videos have been posted, and the first notes are online via the main page for the Feb/07 Expedition, with more to soon follow now that the Newport report is done.
Chief amongst our accomplishments is the recovery of Golding River Cave. This site was visited often by the Jamaican Caving Club (JCC) in the 1970's, but was left unvisited for several decades to eventually become inaccessible due to rockfall and unknown positions. On Monday, February 19, during our sixth attempt to enter the cave, Guy Van Rentergem made the final push through the bouldered "Second Entrance", to descend into the passage below. This fine bit of caving, made possible by the efforts of many others during four of the previous visits (Comer, Hyde, Pauel, Slack, Stewart, et al), was then followed by a solo exploration through the cave to find the "First Entrance", from the inside. Guy's account of this remarkable journey will appear on the website in the near future, describing the long swim he made through deep water, with less than 30cm's of airspace above, and the tracing of the final route that led him once more to the light of day. To ensure that the "First Entrance" will never be lost again, we have flagged the hell out if it, including the track to it, the crawl through the rocks, and the first 30m of passage. In addition, both Stewart and Van Rentergem have the landscape clues memorized well and could at this point find the thing in the dark using a cigarette lighter.
Second in importance of the caves visited was Volcano Hole, near Cave Valley in St Ann. Three days were spent at the site: During the first two, on Feb 9-10, we were essentially driven out of the cave by problems encountered during the initial descent. However, before we retreated, we discovered a suspected new route to the river, this done by the indefatigable Guy. On Feb 13, determined to not be intimidated by the previous encounter, we returned to push it. Over the course of one moderately long day, Pauel, Stewart, and Van Rentergem descended close to 200m, to eventually squeeze through sharp boulders into a downstream section of this last accessible underground point of the Cave River. Outbound, the new section of the cave was mapped and tied into the existing survey, and with a little effort, it can be refound by anyone who takes the time to consult the survey data (soon come). The ascent afterwards was done in fine form, and by using the new approach hike via Norwood figured out on Feb 9, we were back at the SUV and visiting a great local pub by mid-evening.
Gourie Cave was another of our better days last session. We successfully entered Gourie II via the small, mostly-flooded connection point to Cave I, and explored as far as the "Wallows". Time constraints prevent us from visiting the final section (we had to figure out rigging and scrambles on a series of short verticals on the way in), but now that we know the route and conditions, a return visit will be much more productive.
Other sites visited were Dunns Hole (for photographic purposes, and the output should be very kriss), Barracks Cave 2 (a JCO discovery in 2005 that had not yet been fully explored - now done and mapped), Wales Cave 2 (JCO discovery in 2006, now mapped), Morgans Pond Hole (determined to be the right site, and recon done on rigging, but not descended), Smokey Hole (determined to be the deepest cave in Jamaica by the JCO in 2006 - this visit found us a new pit), and Quashies River Cave.
Of the above group, Quashies turned out to be an adventure. It came the day after Gourie, where we had spent six hours in the water, and we really weren't recovered enough yet to spend many more hours soaked to the skin (donations of Neoprene suits would be appreciated). Nevertheless, two of the party, Stewart and Zane, made it to the top of the "Big Ape" pitch, this done after a long swim through a deep flooded passage, entered by rope at the bottom of a long drop. Incredibly, although we had life jackets for most of the crew with us in Jan's truck, none of us had brought them to the cave (caused either by exhaustion or sheer incompetence). The author of this item, Stewart, almost went under as a result, this caused by much vertical gear hanging from a harness, and not enough body fat to supply much flotation. Despite the near-drowning, we now have a very good handle on conditions in the deeper sections of the cave and hope to return in better form next session, in late April. We might have the waterfalls underway at that time, but we can get around them. And we'll be damned sure to not have anyone sink.
A non-caving JCO outing was held in addition to the work described above, this being the leading of about 70 members of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group on a circle through the bush out of Windsor on Feb 11. We had originally envisioned having 20-25 guests with us and must confess to being somewhat overwhelmed by the turn out, and correspondingly not as in control of the situation as we would have liked (our efforts to stop the group a couple of times to discuss what we were seeing met with only partial success, and as a result some of our guests were miffed that we just trekked on through). Next time we do this, probably in late April, out of Rock Spring or Flagstaff, we're going to set a limit on the numbers beforehand.
At present, we're still licking our wounds and catching up with email, but we'll get detailed accounts and the new maps online as soon as possible. We'll also get more photos up, and some videos. Please check the JCO News every few days to get further information on that - we'll keep it updated.
The February 2007 Session
The next major session of JCO fieldwork will take place from February 7 to 21, 2007. We're feeling particularly ambitious this time, and we expect to accomplish great things.
The core team of the next expedition will be Pauel, Stewart, and Van Rentergem. In addition, we will have Drew Snauffer (Peace Corps) with us for most of it, Andreas Haiduk for four days (including the best of the river caves we'll be visiting), and Brian Zane and Rob McCarthy at Quashies. A few of the other usual suspects will also be onboard, and we'll post specifics on that after Feb 21. As for the crew who will be off-island for the session, Elizabeth Slack, currently marooned in Babylon (Illinois, to be exact), will contribute her very kriss cell-phone (which continues to reside in Jamaica), and Dr Don McFarlane has let us know that he will be with us in spirit.
The main targets will be described lower in this item, but first we'll address a recent addition to the list: Quashies River Cave. Quashies is one of the more spectacular caves on the island, and it's also an important component of the Cockpit Country hydrology. The river that flows into the cave eventually resurfaces at Dornoch Head, the headwaters of the Rio Bueno. Our plan is to reach the seldom visited farpoint, the downstream terminal sump, and investigate the degree of siltation at this last point above the next part of the system, Bristol Cave. This will give us baseline data for conditions prior to bauxite mining that may occur upstream, outside of Quashies, in the future.
There is one other JCO outing planned for the next session that should be mentioned before we move on to the main targets. Members of the JCO will lead interested guests on a bit of a trek through the Cockpit Country, near Windsor, on Sunday, February 11, as part of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group campaign to prevent bauxite mining in the CC. The route will be through Guthries, Bamboo Bottom, and along part of the Troy-Windsor Trail. What we mostly intend to accomplish in the course of this is to simply allow those who love the Cockpit Country to get out in it for a few hours, and have a nice time. However, we hope to also share information on the hydrology, and biology, of the Cockpit Country, and thereby leave our fellow members of the CCSG with a few more reasons to continue the effort.
For the sake of the mental well-being of the crew, we've decided to make things a little more fun this time. The last two sessions have been spent documenting vanished caves in south Manchester (disappeared thanks to bauxite mining), and this is getting rather depressing. Accordingly, the sites that we plan to visit during the February expedition include several very deep caves, which will serve to bring us back to even, in a caving sense. These are Dunns Hole, Volcano Hole, Smokey Hole, Morgans Pond Hole, and Wales Cave 2. In total, the vertical distance that we will cover on rope while exploring and mapping these sites will be roughly 870 metres each way (the down part is the easiest). Dunns will have very kriss photos taken of the incredibly large chamber found at the bottom (largest in Jamaica, and only visited once since 1958, by the JCO in 2006); Volcano Hole will have the map survey finished (the third vist by the JCO, and the fourth since the first KHE visit in 1965); Smokey Hole will have the suspected parallel shaft investigated (established as the deepest cave in Jamaica by the JCO in March 2006); and Morgans Pond Hole, the previous known deepest cave in Jamaica until 2006, will be descended for the first time since the initial deep exploration in 1975 by Waltham and Smart of the JCC, to check into things and carry out a new survey. Two other sites will be visited that are previous discoveries of ours and require more exploration, Barracks 2, and Bottom Pasture 2, near Maroon Town. Lastly (and we hope it isn't literally), we have Gourie on the list. This is the longest surveyed cave on the island, and one that we don't yet know (a very long river cave with a serious flood risk in sections, and we'll approach this one with a great amount of caution - we'd like to push it right to the end, if possible).
We have to report on a remarkable piece of work carried out recently by Jan Pauel, of the JCO.
Yesterday morning (Jan 25/07), Mr Pauel was at his workplace in Kingston, when a passerby reported that the building next door had smoke issuing from it. The Fire Dept was duly called, but upon their arrival found the building locked. The owner was then called, a key obtained, and the building was entered. Mr Pauel describes the structure, a warehouse, as large enough to "literally park a blimp inside". It was also quite dark, and the one flashlight the firemen had was very low on power. Mr Pauel, as a caver, was of course immediately able to help with this. In his own words, "I told them to follow me, and with my 'always in my pocket' surefire flashlight we did a detailed check of every chamber on all floors in the building. We could see and smell the smoke, but couldn't find the source. Finally, we came to a small back room that had a pile of paper stored in it, where a crackhead had lit a fire, then tried to put it out, but it continued to smolder and smoke heavy. The walls were still very hot. I had to lend them a 5 gallon bucket, and they threw 10 gallons on it. When they left, they were very thankful that we found it, because the building was a cooling store, so the entire walls/ceilings are covered in many inches of insulation foam - all the firemen said if that building went up, none of them would even want to think of trying to get near it to fight it."
Mr Pauel, in association with the family business, intends to donate an adequate supply of LED headlamps to the Trench Town Fire Station as soon as possible, so that their crew, whom he describes as "a good bunch of guys", will have the gear they deserve.
Congratulations to Jan on this fine bit of "urban caving", done under truly unusual conditions (we usually worry more about drowning than burning to death).
We'd like to congratulate Accompong Town on their very successful Jan 6 festival, and thank the Council of Overseas Maroons for the certificate of appreciation given to us for our efforts in trying to prevent bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country. Respect.
The Cockpit Country of Jamaica and Bauxite Mining
A meeting was held yesterday between representatives of the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) and the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) regarding the granting of prospecting licenses and mining leases in the Cockpit Country of Jamaica. The current GoJ position, as presented in the meeting, is:
(1) There will be no prospecting allowed in CC or environs until the boundary is settled. Consideration will then be given to the area within the boundary being "protected."
(2) The Min of Ag & Lands will seek other inputs on the boundaries, especially scientific ones.
(3) A review of the regulatory framework governing mining generally and bauxite specifically is underway.
(4) Donovan Stanberry has directed the Commissioner of Mines to be forthcoming with information, especially all info covered by the Access to Information Act. He said the provisions of the ATI Act are to be met in every case.
A meeting will take place today at 10:00 AM at the Ministry of Agriculture between the CCSG and the GoJ regarding bauxite prospecting and mining in the Cockpit Country. The CCSG will be represented by Diana McCaulay (JET), Hugh Dixon (STEA), and Michael Schwartz (WRC). We'll post news on the outcome tomorrow.
The Jamaican government has suspended the Cockpit Country prospecting licence as of Dec 15, and has agreed to a meeting with representatives of the CCSG, with this planned to take place very soon. We hope that they approach it with sincerity, not with the intention of claiming they cooperated, while in reality trying to marginalize us until the next election is over.
The Jamaican ruling government, the PNP, revealed yesterday that agreements have already been signed to give Alcoa exploration rights over a large part of the eastern and northern Cockpit Country. Up until now, both the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the PNP have refused to supply any details of their plans, other than presenting a bounday for the licence area 535. Apart from the announcement that it's going ahead, the plans remain obscure.
It is a sad day for Jamaica when backroom bargaining replaces public discourse in determining the future of Jamaica's natural heritage, as seems to be the case now. Indeed, one must wonder if Trafigura has been the only group secretly contributing to the PNP electoral coffers over the last months.
The JCO would like to note that the JLP has already come out against all mining in the Cockpit Country, and the buffers that surround it. As the PNP now regards mining in the Cockpit Country as a fait accompli, we can only hope that the next election comes as soon as possible.
The Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG), which the JCO is part of, has begun a petition to save the Cockpit Country. We invite visitors to download a copy and use it to gather signatures. The signed forms can be faxed back to CCSG at 876-926-0212, or just emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org as the .doc with the names and contact info filled in.
The JCO would like to issue a brief response to statements made by Mr Parris Lyew-Ayee, executive director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), in a Nov 27 Press Release. This was reported on the JIS website on Dec 7, and mentioned in an Editorial on Dec 9 in the Gleaner:
JBI continues to be vague about exactly where it intends to explore for bauxite. Efforts by the CCSG and JEAN to get real information on current plans, rather than the historical account of past agreements and cursory overview of the Cockpit Country offered in the Press Release, have so far met with little success. JBI assures us that it will not mine "the heart of the Cockpit Country", but does not say where this area is. If it means the lands serving as Forest Reserve, then this leaves a large part of the Cockpit Country within the Prospecting Licence #SEPL 535 area at risk. Unfortunately, Forestry lands are not as encompassing as they might be. However, JBI may be referring to something else - we don't know, because they won't tell us. This lack of openness is not reassuring for those concerned about the bauxite industry's intentions. Lastly, in the Press Release, Mr Lyew-Ayee refers to the CCSG campaign as "almost hysterical". The JCO would like to inform Mr Lyew-Ayee that our members never get hysterical, as it is not a good trait in a caver who hopes to survive for any length of time. In fact, we invite Mr Lyew-Ayee to join us for a visit to Smokey Hole Cave, and its 450-foot sheer vertical drop, and we'll see who becomes hysterical first.