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ARCHIVES - VOLUME 7
The Jamaican Caves Organisation crew would like to wish all of our bredren and sistren a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. Guidance, and protection. May the worrisome global conditions in the sunset of 2008 give way to a fresh, clear dawn in 2009.
This will be the last News update until New Years. JCO email contact will also be intermittent until then, but all of them will be read and answered eventually.
A JCO group (Martel Taylor, Ivor Conolley, Jan Pauel, Andreas Haiduk, and Adam Hyde) crossed the Troy Trail on Saturday to carry out some minor maintenance (re-flagging), and obtain a better GPS track. They were joined by several guests, including Kimberley John of TNC-Jamaica. The weather cooperated, and all went well.
. (Dec 17/08)
Jan Pauel will be in the field today, at Thatchfield Cave, monitoring bats with Andrea Donaldson and the NEPA crew. Thatchfield is one of the most important bat roosts in Jamaica, and high priority for protection.
We've posted a video taken during the Lemon Ridge recon on Nov 22, as a 20.3 MB wmv. The videographer is Jan Pauel and the other team member is Ivor Conolley.
Jan Pauel and the team from NEPA had a successful outing at Peyton's Cove Cave on Wednesday.
Thanks to Wendy Lee for bringing it to our attention that RJR has helped itself to one of our photos, used in two of its items, here, and here, apparently found through a Google image search of "bauxite mining". We've put a copyright notice on the online image so that in the future people know the source.
Jan Pauel will be at Peyton's Cove Cave in St Mary today assisting NEPA in a bat monitoring project. We hope to post a report on the outing later this week.
Conolley, Haiduk, and Pauel will be back at Lemon Ridge this weekend refining the initial route found last Saturday. The 1:12500 topo section that covers the area has been accurately georeferenced, which should help with things.
Conolley and Pauel were in the field over the weekend at St Clair Cave. The Lemon Ridge entrance was reached from the south, which avoided a crossing of the river. The new route still requires a little fine-tuning, but once this is done, we will have established an all-season track to this important site.
Tomorrow's visit to St Clair Cave with NEPA is still uncertain because of the weather. The problem is that the known access routes to both entrances cross the upstream section of the Rio Cobre, called the Black River in that part, which has been in flood on and off for the last couple of months. There are no bridges, other than a large fallen log we used until Gustav washed it away, and when the river is up, it's impossible to swim or wade across - the current is too strong. We've considered stringing a cable over the river to rig a Tyrolean traverse, and still might do that for the western end of the cave, but there may be an easier solution for the eastern end - determining a new route to Lemon Ridge from the south, which doesn't cross the river. Accordingly, several of the JCO crew intend to carry out recon this weekend to look into things. They may get lucky and find an existing track, or they may spend several hours swinging machetes through the bush, aiming for the Lemon Ridge GPS position obtained last June. Either way, they should get there, and it will give us an all-season route that will enable regular monitoring of the biology and hydrology of this very important cave.
A visit to St Clair Cave planned for Nov 12 with a group from NEPA has been delayed because of the recent rainy weather (there's a river to cross en route to both entrances), and is now scheduled for Nov 19.
The St Clair notes linked to above should now, in theory, be fluid to 1024px wide. If it looks wonky, please let us know.
Mike Rohr's account of our interesting day at Morgans Pond Hole last July 25 is now on the server.
A visit to St Clair Cave with a team from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) scheduled for today has been postponed until Nov 12.
An account of our "adventure" at Morgans Pond Hole on July 25 has been posted on the server. Regular visitors might notice that the page is fluid (it stretches) from 760 to 1024 pixels. In the past, all of our pages have been fixed at a width of 760px. The webmaster for the JCO, unfortunately, has a monitor with a horizontal resolution of only 800px, so is relying on others to confirm that all works as it should. If anything looks unusually wonky, please contact us and we'll try to fix it. Once we know it's ok, it will become the new template for fieldnotes.
John Maxwell had an interesting column in yesterday's Observer that mentions the threats to Smokey Hole Cave (Jamaica's deepest), and Dunns Hole Cave near Stewart Town. He includes a quote from a JCO account of the descent of Dunns (only the second visit known) that describes a large, beautiful stalagmite. The full version can be found at Dunns Hole, Mar 31/06.
We've just done some maintenance on the JCO News. A large chunk of what used to appear on this page, from Dec 12/06 to July 29/07, has been shunted to the newly created News Archives Vol. 6. It will allow the main News page to load faster for those on dial-up (was up to about ten minutes).
We've also tweaked the index.htm (should be fluid up to 1024 in all browsers, we hope) and added an "Easter egg" to one of the pages (clue on the index).
A visit to St Clair with NEPA scheduled for today has been postponed due to high water in the upper Rio Cobre. Wha' fi do.
The assessment report for Charles Town Cave, Maroon territory in Portland, visited on July 18/08, is now on the server. It includes a plan and profile map based on an associated survey by the visiting team (Conolley, Pauel, and Stewart).
Conolley, Haiduk, and Pauel were in Pollyground on Sunday attempting to visit St Clair Cave. Unfortunately, the Black River was in flood (upper Rio Cobre, not the one in St Elizabeth), and the log we've used to cross it during such times (as seen in the Bourdain video) appears to have washed away in Gustav. The team made a valiant effort to fight their way directly through the river, but it proved to be impossible (strong flow, deep water, hidden dead-fall, and large, sharp rocks). An outing with NEPA to the site is planned for Oct 1 - we hope the rains ease off before then.
Several of the on-island crew will carry out a monitoring visit to St Clair Cave this Sunday, Sep 21, to record post-Gustav data on suspected flushing events associated with variable air quality in the Inferno. The team will include Conolley, Haiduk, Pauel, and possibly Hyde.
More notes and video for the July expedition will be posted later this week. Charles Town Cave, and the map that resulted, will be next.
We'll also sort out the recent News items (getting a little long), and probably shunt some of the stuff at the bottom of this page into the archives.
A cave preservation video recorded at Marta Tick on July 23/08 has been moved to the server (15 MB wmv). The report that accompanies it will soon follow. Marta Tick is the most important cave in the Cockpit Country, and high on the list of sites in need of protection.
Gustav has dumped much rain on the island, but at least one district, Cross Keys, Manchester, benefited by having a very deep cave nearby, as reported in today's Observer. Smokey Hole is Jamaica's deepest cave, and takes much water in severe weather. According to local residents, it did so once again during Gustav, thereby preventing local flooding. Unfortunately, ALPART continues to mine their way toward the hole, and we still have no solid promise that they will stay back at least 250 metres, as requested by the JCO in 2007.
This is the main birthday week for the JCO crew: On Aug 26, Jan turns 40 again; on Aug 28, Stefan (head madman of the JCO) hits 50 again; and on Aug 30, Elizabeth will celebrate her 24th birthday (slightly younger than 2007). Congratulations to all of us for surviving another year, despite close calls at times.
Miss Lilly, the Secretary of the JCO, and the Auntie of Usain Bolt, is in the news again today in the Jamaica Gleaner.
A big-up to Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man. You ran like the wind, bredren. Also, a big-up to his parents, and his auntie, Miss Lilly, and everyone else in Coxheath and Sherwood Content who helped to make him what he is.
The report for the monitoring visit to Dromilly on July 19 has been posted in html at Dromilly Cave. Please note that we have asked NEPA to establish an EIA process with regard to tourism at Jamaican caves. In conjunction with the request, the JCO has suspended all caving activities that are not directly related to research. We ask that other environmental organisations do the same.
Andreas Haiduk has forwarded his trip report for the July session, now turned into html and posted here.
Also, please note the photo of the amblypygid lower in this section. If you click on it, you will get a full resolution version (5.5 MB jpg). We believe the genus is Phrynus, but could use some expert help in adding the species name.
Four videos, by Jan Pauel, of Stefan and Andreas at Noisy Water 2 on July 27, 2008, are now on the server in wmv at NW2-A (8.6 MB), NW2-B (11.3 MB), NW2-C (3.3 MB), and NW2-D (4.5 MB).
The July 2008 Expedition
The JCO field crew has survived another session of fieldwork, although at times it was much dicier than we prefer.
The most harrowing situation arose at Morgans Pond Hole, Manchester, through no fault of our own. The incident was not reflective of the local community, with whom we have generally had excellent relations, so we have decided to not post details on the website other than this mention as to why we were only there for one day, rather than the planned two. Next session, we will be back in force with the prep work already done, and enough crew to keep everyone safe from external dangers.
There was also an interesting hour at the Lemon Ridge Entrance of St Clair Cave, while trying to get out, which involved two scary slides down a mud-slope, but we managed well enough and did what we set out to do.
On the positive side of things, we were successful in most of our endeavours, and have recorded valuable observations and data. Amongst the accomplishments were:
Mapping of an unlisted bat cave near Charles Town, Portland (Conolley, Pauel, Stewart) on Jul 18;
Monitoring of Dromilly Cave (Conolley, Pauel, Stewart) on Jul 19;
Exploration of three unlisted deep sinkholes near Huntley, Manchester (Hutchings, Kennedy, Pauel, Stewart) on Jul 21-23;
Monitoring of Marta Tick Cave (Kennedy, Pauel, Rohr, Stewart) on Jul 24;
Prep work and survey at Morgans Pond Hole (Kennedy, Pauel, Rohr, Stewart) on Jul 25;
Monitoring of the Cave River system (Haiduk, Pauel, Stewart) on Jul 27-28;
Assessment and GIS referencing of the Worth Park/Riverhead/St Clair system (Haiduk, Pauel, Stewart) on Jul 29-31, in assistance to NEPA.
The expedition was capped off with a fine dinner at Jan Pauel's on the evening of Jul 31. Amongst the attendees were Dr David Lee, Andreas Haiduk and family, Ivor Conolley, Stefan Stewart, Andrea Richards, and, of course, Jan Pauel and his parents, Mr and Mrs Pauel. Logistics were handled by the ever-dependable Barbara and Barbara.
The first report from the expedition has been forwarded to NEPA, and posted online in an html version at: St Clair Cave. The exact coordinates have been removed from the public document because of the importance of the site. Please excuse the poor rendering and code-bloat; it was generated with MSWord from the original .doc to save time.
This will be the last update until Aug 2.
The next extended period of JCO fieldwork will take place from July 18 to 31. Amongst the items on the agenda are: a recon of Long Mountain; a return visit to St Clair Cave to assist NEPA in the search for the possibly extinct bat P. aphylla; a visit to a possible Taino site in Portland; a resurvey of Morgans Pond Hole to ascertain whether Smokey Hole is truly the deepest cave in Jamaica; descents, with mapping surveys, of the best of Paul Kennedy's Huntley sites; and an exploration of a sinkhole in Manchester done in assistance to JFLAG (there may be someone down there).
The crew will include J Pauel, P Kennedy, A Haiduk, IC Conolley, A Richards, A Oberli, RS Stewart, and several representatives from NEPA.
JCO email will not be checked during the expedition, so don't expect any replies until after August 2. If it's an emergency situation (rescue), you will find phone numbers on the /contact.htm page.
Jan Pauel and Paul Kennedy were in the Cockpit Country last weekend acting as guides for Derek Burnett, a writer for Discovery Channel Magazine. Our assistance was supplied pro bono to forward the message of how important the Cockpit Country is, and why it should be preserved. Things went well, and on the JCO side of it, we gathered some important, new information.
The Quick Step community association appears to not be carrying out tours to Marta Tick Cave at present (the trail is bushed up again), which is good news. But, guano extraction has resumed at Windsor Cave (which we intend to do something about), and Oxford Cave has seen no recovery of the bat-roost, which has been severely degraded by excessive visitation.
Dr. Donald McFarlane has forwarded a scanned copy of the original survey sheets for Still Waters Cave, recently found while tidying up. The Still Waters mapping survey, carried out by the Liverpool University group in 1977, is one of the finest efforts that has taken place underground in Jamaica to date (it's a very complex cave, and not easy). With his permission, we've posted it on the server to ensure that it will never be lost. We invite interested parties to download the pdf file and save it to disc.
Also, an extended period of fieldwork will begin in mid-July. More on that soon.
The Jamaican Caves Organisation would like to thank Dr. Philip Allsworth-Jones for having recently made two of our crew, Stewart and Van Rentergem, lead authors on a paper presented to IACA regarding Taino sites in Spot Valley, St James.
We would also like to pass along the news that Dr Allsworth-Jones' excellent book, Pre-Columbian Jamaica, is now in publication, available from the University of Alabama Press.
The all-consuming monster of the internet, Google, has recently added Jamaica Underground to its Books search, so it's a good time to remind everyone of this incredible work by Dr. Alan G. Fincham. It continues to be the most comprehensive overview of caves in Jamaica, and is truly the "bible" of the JCO.
Jamaica Underground is available from UWI Press. However, we recommend that you buy it directly from our esteemed friend, Alan, who can be contacted at EDITagfincham@googlemail.com (remove the EDIT - it's there to foil the spambots). If you have any serious interest in the caves of Jamaica, this is the book for you.
Several of the crew were in the field over the weekend, knocking off some very good work in Manchester. Huntley Hole 5 was fully descended for the first time, by Pauel, Haiduk, and Kennedy, furthering the recent efforts of Zane and Kennedy. Surface assistance was supplied by Denton Tyndale, Louise Henriques, and Miss Adiline. The total depth was found to be 102 metres. Paul Kennedy has supplied the first account of the outing, at Huntley Hole 5. Jan's account will be next. Two videos have been posted, a 29MB mpg from Paul, Huntley Hole 5 - Helmetcam - Jun 8/08, and a 5MB wmv from Jan of Andreas on descent.
We've recently added a domain to the JCO website account in aid of Accompong Town, www.accompong.info. We ask any Maroons with regular internet access to please contact us.
Elizabeth Slack is currently on the road in California as part of her studies (park management). We hope to drag her back to the island after all of that's done, and have her put in charge of a national park, or something else commensurate with her skills.
Brian Zane was back at Quashies River Cave last week. We'll post a report describing conditions as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Golding stated last week that he will force RIU in Montego Bay to demolish the fourth floor of the hotel, built in contravention of the approved plan. This is encouraging and may indicate that Jamaica is finally getting serious about enforcement of breaches to environmental rules and regulations.
The JCO crew would like to wish our intrepid compatriot, Paul Kennedy, a very happy 22nd birthday. Bless up, respect, and keep on finding those deep caves in Manchester.
Elizabeth Slack, of the JCO, has forwarded a cave preservation video produced recently as part of her studies in "foreign". We've posted it on the server in two versions: medium resolution (60MB wmv), and low resolution (30MB wmv). The running time is 4:07 minutes.
A Press Release was issued yesterday by the Cockpit Country Stakeholders Group (CCSG) and the Jamaica Environmental Advocacy Network (JEAN) that urges the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) to finally announce the Cockpit Country boundary decision. Both groups, CCSG and JEAN, include members of the Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO).
We ask that the current governing party in Jamaica, the JLP, release the report of the boundary committee (a creation of the previous regime, the PNP) as soon as possible. If the JLP does not support the output of the committee, it should say so. If it does, it should let the rest of us know what has been decided. We see no need for all the secrecy.
Pauel and Kennedy were in Huntley, Manchester, on Mar 15, tackling Hole #5, assisted by a very solid surface crew (Miss Adiline, Emery, Clive, Walder, Shane, Lovette, Robinson, Desmond, Juney, and Deverley).
Hole #5 was pushed deeper than the last visit, but remains, tantalizingly, incompletely unexplored. At a depth of 100m, on a small ledge, Jan and Paul ran out of rope, with at least 12 metres more shaft visible below, dropping to another horizontal surface. As the shaft above that point has already shifted slightly to the side several times, there is a chance that it does so yet again. Best of all, Hole #5 is just one of several very deep undescended holes in the district, and as Manchester is the parish with the deepest pits on the island (Smokey and Morgans Pond), we see great potential in the Huntley district. It's very high, with a great depth of white limestone beneath it. During the next main session of fieldwork, we'll return in force, with very long ropes, and attempt to survey the deepest holes right to the bottom.
We've recently moved more videos to the server, and updated the photo/video page. Amongst them is the Bourdain segment. The others, ours, can also be found here: Noisy Water 1, Aug 1/07 (4.7MB wmv), Swimming at Clapham Cave, Aug 1/07 (4.1MB wmv), The Crew at Douglas Castle, Aug 2/07 (10.5MB wmv), The Crew at Coffee River Cave, Aug 6/07 (8.9MB wmv), Elizabeth on ascent at Logans Hole 2, Aug 9/07 (9.7MB wmv), Andreas at Schwallenburg, Sept 23/07 - First Descent (6.8MB wmv), Andreas at Schwallenburg, Sept 23/07 - Second Descent (4.5MB wmv), Andreas at Schwallenburg, Sept 23/07 - Ascent (7MB wmv), Coffee River Cave Crab, Aug/07 (6.9MB wmv), Elizabeth at Quashies, Aug/07 (13.4MB .wmv), Elizabeth at Bird Hole, Aug/07 (8.6MB .wmv), "Uncle" at Bennet Cave, Aug/07 (9MB .wmv).
A new section has been added to the website, Equipment Reviews. Paul Kennedy came up with the idea and the start of the html code a couple of months ago, and we've finally made progress putting it online. There are only two reviews so far, but we intend to add to it as time goes by. We've also edited the main page to make room for the extra link, and replaced the jpg image that's been there since Sept/02 (a major change).
Brian Zane and Paul Kennedy were in the field Tue, Feb 26/08, at Mafoota River Cave, in St James, to experiment with new gear. A visit to Wales Pond is next on the to-do list for the MoBay crew, in aid of Joan Blake's project to recover a blocked sinkhole.
Our account of the Clarendon mine survey, carried out in January, now has several videos to go with it - the ladder in the shaft (14.4 MB wmv), the Second Adit (19.9MB wmv), and sampling jarosite (13.8MB wmv). Even though the project wasn't actual caving, only cavers could have done it. Please be advised that the mineral that looks like gold is jarosite (hydrous sulfate of potassium and iron). Don't waste your time scouring the hills ;-)
Expect a lot of new videos in the coming weeks - Jan, the videographer, has recently made great progress on the editing, file-conversion, and ftp upload front.
The Bourdain show that aired last week has brought in some interesting traffic. Surprisingly, much of it's arriving on search engine variations of "Jamaica cave cats" (we didn't realize the things would be so popular). A fuller description of the cave Tony visited (and the cats), can be found at St Clair Cave, Mar 21/06 and St Clair Cave, Jun 3/06. We're tempted to post the inside scoop on the Bourdain shoot, complete with photos/videos, to explain how we ended up in St Clair Cave with an American televison crew, but our better judgement might prevail.
An episode of the Anthony Bourdain show (Travel Channel) that we were involved with last November airs on Feb 18. The blogs of Anthony Bourdain and the producer, Diane Schutz, make for an interesting read. Apparently, there are at least occasional reservations. In the star's defense, it should be noted that he actually handled thngs much better than how he presents it (which, according to the TV Guide interview, was one of the scariest things he's ever done). It's show-biz - wha' fi do. On our end, we'd like to state that the Bourdain crew were solid, impressive, and a cool bunch of characters. Much respect to Zach and Todd, the videographers, and Paul Cabana and Diane Schutz who kept the production side of it together.
The next main session of fieldwork will begin soon after March 26, 2008. On the agenda is the continuation of the St Ann inventory, several days exploring the best of Paul's Huntley sites, and a descent of Morgans Pond Hole. Morgans Pond was the deepest known cave in Jamaica (184m) until our exploration of Smokey Hole Cave (194m). It has only been descended and surveyed once, by the JCC in 1975. Although we trust the accuracy of their survey, we would like to revisit the site to assess it and check the depth. It will also be a good inagauration of our newest rope, an 11mm PMI Pit Rope, 216m long (710 ft). On that, we'd like to thank the people who donate money when possible. Please be assured that it all goes into gear, such as our new monster rope. The Red Stripe comes out of our own pockets.
An account of the abandoned mine survey is almost done and will be posted in the next couple of days. We used new gear, and new techniques, and would like to share the details.
Two separate JCO outings took place over the weekend: In Huntley (Manchester), Paul Kennedy and Brian Zane carried out reconnaissance at Huntley Hole 5, one of Paul's recent discoveries, and in Runaway Bay (St Ann), Jan Pauel, Louise Henriques, Wendy Lee, and Simon Lee conducted an assessment of a cave recently reported by parties at Braco.
Brian reports from Huntley that they reached minus 44 metres, descending down a series of steps in a fairly narrow shaft (2 to 3.5m). A sketch map by Paul can be found here. Exploration remains incomplete, but the outing has confirmed that there is much potential in the district that calls for much more work.
At Runaway Bay, the team investigated a medium-sized chamber cave, about 25-30m across, with a small entrance, that is in relatively good health. A batroost with numbers in the hundreds was observed, as well as associated invertebrates (cave crickets, amblypygids, spiders). A yellow boa is reported to have taken up occasional residence in the cave, no doubt to consume rats that are using it opportunistically (eating fruit dropped by bats, as well as edible inverts). We're hopeful that Braco in their wisdom will see fit to protect the site as an important component of the local biota.
From Jan 8 to 13, Pauel and Stewart were engaged in a rather unusual assignment - the exploration and mapping of a mine abandoned in 1863, done to alleviate our chronically poor funding situation. Flooding prevented penetration below the 57m level, but a heroic effort was made to survey the accessible sections. This included the use of a 24 ft ladder that was extended across a shaft partway down to reach an otherwise unreachable passage (a first for the JCO, and a real learning experience, to say the least).
As part of our recompense, the JCO received digital survey equipment. The equipment was put to good use during the assignment, and we expect it to be of great help during future cave research. (JBI has not seen the last of us - we'll get back to them soon)
JCO Update(Jan 6/08)
Paul Kennedy was back in the Huntley district of Manchester recently, and located a number of new, unexplored sinkholes that are now on the to-do list.
Elizabeth Slack will represent the JCO at a conference in Chicago this February. She will promote JCO rapid assessment and inventory techniques as a valuable tool for the documentation of speleo sites in Illinois.
Jan Pauel and Stefan Stewart will be in the field, in Clarendon, from January 7 to 14. Emails will not be answered during the period, so don't bother sending any.
The Jamaica Environmental Advocacy Network (JEAN), of which the JCO is part, will meet with the Prime Minister on January 11. Wendy Lee of NJCA will act as our proxy, as we won't have time ourselves.