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ARCHIVES - VOLUME 8

(The current edition of the JCO News)


JCO Update
Fieldwork, Bats, Invertebrates, Maps, Taino, and Christmas


Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice from the JCO - Click for full size
Merry Christmas, and Happy Solstice from the JCO (card by Don McFarlane).
(Dec 21/09)
This will be the last update before Christmas, and we would like to take the opportunity to extend our best wishes for the season to all of our friends and associates.

Elizabeth Slack has an article in the current National Speleological Society (NSS) newsletter on the August 2009 session. We'll post it on the JCO server in January.

Guy Van Rentergem and Kurt Garrez had a very successful showing of the March 2009 video last weekend in Belgium. Over 140 people attended, and the apres-film socializing carried on until 2:00 AM. Reports received from Guy and Kurt indicate that a good time was had by all, and an appropriate number of Red Stripes were consumed.

David Eastwood has forwarded more photos from the JCC outings several decades ago, for which we are very grateful. Much of what we accomplish is because of their work. We will post them on the server very soon, separate from the ftp folder where they now reside, so that everyone can share in this.

Alan Fincham - Christmas, 2009
Alan Fincham - Christmas, 2009
The DR dive crew will be back in January to carry on with offshore cave exploration. We'll get their report from the last session online before too long, as soon as we've removed details that might result in damage to vulnerable sites (amongst other things, they found freshwater passages occupied by thousands of very happy crustaceans).

An extended session of fieldwork will also begin in mid-January, and run for ten weeks. Amongst the objectives is the completion of the Cockpit Country Transect, which has been in the works for several years. We will also attempt once again to meet with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) to discuss methods to preserve important speleo sites on bauxite lands. Assessment work will be carried out primarily in St Ann and Manchester. We will post the exact schedule in early January, and, as always, invite interested volunteers to pitch in.



*


(Nov 20/09)
The cave diving session that ended yesterday has produced some very interesting results, including the discovery of a submerged passage that extends south from a position off-shore of the north coast. More to follow in the next few days.

Jamaican Caves Organisation Expedition 2009 - Click for full resolution
Jamaican Caves Organisation Expedition 2009 - Click for full resolution
(Nov 2/09)
The European premiere of the March 2009 Expedition film will take place on December 12 in Belgium, presented by JCO members Guy Van Rentergem and Kurt Garrez. Details can be found on the poster seen to the left (click for full size).

Jan Pauel, Andreas Haiduk, and Ivor Conolley carried out a visit to Jackson Bay Cave yesterday, November 1, as part of an Archaeological Society of Jamaica (ASJ) outing. We regret to report that there is fresh graffiti at the entrance area, apparently from a March 2009 visit by persons unknown. Unfortunately, this is a site that may eventually have to be gated.

The JCO will collaborate with the Fundacion Espeleobuceo Hispaniola, Dominican Republic, in a cave diving project to begin later this month. More anon.

A visit to St Clair Cave planned for November by a prominent Canadian museum is currently uncertain due to lack of permits. The site contains the largest batroost in Jamaica, and is one of the few known historical roosts for the bat Phyllonycteris aphylla.

An article by Alex Padalka published in the October issue of Caribbean Travel and Life is now on the server in its original unedited form as a trip report for Devil's Staircase.

ASJ en route to Jackson Bay Cave - Nov 1/09
ASJ en route to Jackson Bay Cave - Nov 1/09
Another article on the JCO, recycled by Bob Morris from the original in Condé Nast Traveller, will appear soon in AirTran Airways inflight magazine.

(Oct 19/09)
Jan has posted another video, this one of trash dumped at New Green Cave {12 MB WMV). Unfortunately, many caves in Jamaica that are located near residences are used to dispose of garbage, a situation we'd like to change.

(Oct 7/09)
An article on the JCO has been published in the October issue of the magazine Caribbean Travel and Life, written by Alex Padalka, who was with us last April. Alex was very solid, very helpful with recon for the CC transect while working on the article, and we hope to have him with us again.

Alex's original write-up, more substantial, was seriously edited by the magazine for space reasons. We will post the full version as a field report for Devil's Staircase if it seems we won't get in trouble by doing so.

Mormoops blainvillii (Antillean Ghost-faced Bat) - Aug 22/09
Mormoops blainvillii (Antillean Ghost-faced Bat) - Chukka Cove Cave - Aug 22/09 - Click for medium resolution
(Oct 2/09)
Another video is online - a monitoring visit to Dromilly Cave, August 23, 2009 [46 MB WMV].

A sketch map for Chukka Cove Cave, visited on Aug 22, has been posted on the server (video linked lower on the page). It was part of a brief report recently forwarded to NEPA addressing the presence of bats (which we ask everyone to please not harass). For the JCO, the cave was notable in being our first unlisted seaside grotto - we're usually inland. Curiously, the Plan looks vaguely like a large fish swimming from left to right, at least to the person who sketched it, Stefan (Jan has humoured him, and Andreas suggests it must be pregnant).

September 30th marked the seventh anniversary of the JCO News. Many thanks to all of the visitors who have read the page over the years. There would be no point in keeping it alive if it weren't for you.

(Sept 29/09)
The survey of Hull Cave, Aboukir, St Ann, carried out on Aug 19 has been run through Compass, exported as image files, sketched over with GIMP, and posted on the server here: Hull Cave - Plan, Hull Cave - Profile. The position has been removed from the online versions because of the sensitive nature of the site. A detailed report will be forwarded to the appropriate Jamaican agencies, and we also invite researchers interested in pristine bat roosts to contact us.

L-R: Stewart, Pauel, Haiduk, and Slack - Windsor, Trelawny - Aug 23/09
L-R: RS Stewart, J Pauel, A Haiduk, and E Slack - Windsor, Trelawny - Aug 23/09 - Click for medium resolution
(Sept 28/09)
Four videos from the August 2009 session have been posted on the server, with more to follow. The personnel are Andreas (white helmet), Jan (videographer - not seen, just heard), Elizabeth (blue helmet), and Stefan (red helmet).

Chukka Cove Cave on Aug 22 [30 MB WMV]. A previously unlisted grotto on the north coast that has large fossils and a good bat roost. Video and editing by Jan.

Dixon Hole on Aug 24 [20 MB WMV]. Another new sinkhole in Huntley, Manchester. Video and editing by Jan.

Gourie Cave on Aug 28 [27 MB WMV]. The last cave of the session. Video by Jan. Edited by Stefan.

Patois lesson on Aug 24 [9.5 MB WMV]. At Suzette's, NW of Mandeville (18 01 50.0, 77 34 12.5), after Huntley. Video and editing by Jan.

News items from 2007 have been shifted to Archives Volume 6, linked at the bottom of this page. More, from 2008, will soon follow - it's taking too long to load /news.htm on dial-up.

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Conolley, Haiduk, and Harris en route to Coffee Gully Cave
Conolley, Haiduk, and Harris en route to Coffee Gully Cave, Sept 20/09 - Photo: J. Pauel
(Sept 23/09)
The weekend visit to Lethe, St James, went quite well. Conolley, Haiduk, and Pauel partially explored an unlisted cave that has several levels, with water flowing in the lowest section.

Jan Pauel reports:

"Small opening about 3 ft wide and 5ft high. It's a drop of about 15ft max to the floor of the cave... Andreas was a champ, leading the way and pushing the passages and crawls...

On the way back close to the entrance chamber, there is a breakdown on the side, and Andreas climbed down there to discover another passage that had good continuation underneath the floor
Coffee Gully Cave
Coffee Gully Cave, Sept 20/09 - Photo: J. Pauel
level of the main passage. We started down that one, and after just a few yards, there is a dropoff that goes about 20ft down to another level. I saw a small stream flowing down there. A few yards beyond there is another 'hole' that drops down to a lower level. We continued on second level passage till it constricted and Andreas crawled his way forward, I waited back. It continued, but then split up, he had no flagging tape, so we called it off and came out...

It's quite a cave. Complex with multiple levels and passages. Good bat roost, and fly larvae webs down on the second level. Bats down on the second level passage too. The outside of the cave is good forest cover for foraging. It should be high priority for a second visit to map and finish up the exploration. Small nine for the entrace and a couple more ropes for inside. Biota, waterflow and mapping still of interest."


The site, tentatively named Coffee Gully Cave, is high on the to-do list for further exploration and mapping.

Taino petroglyph - Photo: E. Slack
The map of Shorty Cave (archaeo site, but not the one with the glyph) is done. The PLAN is here, with the lat/long position removed because of the sensitive nature of the site. The report that accompanies it will be completed this week.

(Sept 18/09)
Progress is being made on processing the data collected last session. NEPA has received a report and shape files. Information from the fieldsheets is being moved into the main database.

Next on the agenda is the map of Shortys Cave, and a report to the ASJ on the new petroglyph found in St Ann (site to remain unnamed).

A photo of the petroglyph is posted to the left. It's somewhat hard to see, so we've added lines to the med-res version (click on the photo) to make it more clear. There is also video taken by Elizabeth that shows it fairly well, which we'll get on the site as soon as possible.

A photo of a similar glyph at Coventry Cave that has been severely damaged by someone scratching over top of it can be found here. The site was recorded as having glyphs, but of the three we found, only one remained undamaged. Quel triste.

Our confidence level in the protura identification for McLean Cave is now hovering slightly above zero. There should be no darkened dorsal sclerites on the abdomen (from Dr Peck). It seems we might instead have a beetle larva (adult staphylinids are present in the cave). One of the best overall photos taken through the microsope is posted here (method was a camera pointed into an eye-piece). We ask that any entomologists who stumble across this page to please offer advice on our conclusions.

Examining cave invertebrates, Aug 30, 2009 - Click for full size
In other News:

Elizabeth is writing an article on the expedition for the NSS, which we'll post on the website.

Jan is working on videos from the last exped, plus pursuing better optics for the invertebrates (courtesy UWI).

Guy will soon have the March 2009 video completed.

Stefan has been interviewed by Canadian Caver for the October issue, and there should be an article in a Caribbean travel magazine showing up in the next month or two.

Most importantly, Jan, Ives, and Andreas will assess recently reported caves in St James this weekend.

More on everything soon.

*


The August 2009 Expedition
Bats, Invertebrates, Maps, and Taino


Slack, Haiduk, Stewart, Pauel - August 2009
Slack, Haiduk, Stewart, Pauel, and friends - August 2009.
(Sept 2/09)
The JCO has recently completed two weeks of fieldwork, from Aug 17-30. The core team was Haiduk, Pauel, Slack, and Stewart. Most of our goals were met, and good work was done.

Amongst our accomplishments were: invertebrate bioinventories at six caves (New Green, Dromilly, McLeans, Coventry, Mosely Hall, Retreat Gully); assessments at several other bat caves in aid of projects being carried out by NEPA; mapping at two sites (Hulls and Shorty's), and the discovery of a previously unknown Taino petrogylph in St Ann (information and coordinates will not be posted online, but are being forwarded to UWI and the ASJ)).

Observed invertebrates included 22 species in addition to the usual critters (G. cavernicola, U. cavicola, P. americana, etc) in four of the six caves, with images from the other two still to be examined. Orders included Coleoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera, Isopoda, Diptura, Protura, Collembola, Hemiptera, Mantodea, Araneae, and Amblypygi.

Unfortunately, we could not enter Morgans Pond Hole due to suspicion by the landowner that we are seeking treasure, rather than water samples for the WRA, which was the actual case (deepest underground river in Jamaica). On that, the JCO would like to again make it clear that there are no precious metals or jewels in Jamaican caves. We run into this nonsense on a regular basis, and valuable research was prevented this session because of it. Pirates did not trek for km's inland and descend 200m deep caves to stow their ill-gotten gains. They had neither the means nor the need. Diamonds and gold do not naturally occur in limestone. Further, it should be understood by all who read this item that the site is dicey at the best of times, and if it didn't have hydrological importance, we wouldn't consider going back there. There is a history of problems stretching back to at least 1985, and even if you get permission from the owner of the land around the cave to enter it (the cave itself is the property of the govt of Jamaica), you need serious security to ensure your safety. We do intend to make one last effort to have the owner understand the cave's true importance and value to Jamaica, but if we have no luck, so it goes. At least we won't have to worry about someone almost killing us, as happened in 2008.

Notes, images, and videos for the session will begin to appear on the website as soon as we've forwarded information and data to NEPA, WRA, and UWI - we expect it to be done by the end of the week.

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Jamaican Caves Organisation Update
The August 2009 Expedition

Click for full size
The Asuno - March 25, 2009 - Photo: Jan Pauel
Click for full size.
(Aug 14/09)
This will be the last update until the end of the next session of fieldwork, which takes place from Aug 17-30. Email will not be checked/answered until Sept 2.

In the event of emergencies that require our assistance (rescue and/or body-recovery), contact us at 876 990 7255 (Jan Pauel), or 876 397 7488 (Stefan Stewart).

The August session will focus on biospeleology, hydrological connectivity, and archaeology. The sites are primarily in St Ann and Manchester, and include Hulls, Morgans Pond, Hopeton, and New Hall. A number of other caves that we've yet to visit, such as Thunder Cave near Stewart Town, will be assessed in aid of work being carried out by the biodiversity division of NEPA.

Personnel will include many of the usual suspects, including Conolley, Haiduk, Hyde, Pauel, Slack, and Stewart.

If all goes well, we will post news in early September of a successful, casualty-free expedition. If disaster strikes, there may be no further updates. Wha' fi do. Jah guide and protect.


(Jul 21/09)
The Jamaican Caves Organisation is now a member of the Union Internationale de Spéléologie (UIS). Dr Donald McFarlane, who attended the annual congress over the past weekend (this year in Texas, USA) reports that, "UIS met in formal session this morning (Jul 19/09), and introduced the Jamaican application for membership. I gave a short summary. Jamaica was voted in unanimously." Many thanks to Don, and the other members of the UIS. We hope that regular collaboration will result, and will do our best to encourage it.

Guy Van Rentergem has moved a very kriss, higher resolution video of our visit to The Asuno, Mar 25/09 (124 MB wmv) to the server. The lower resolution version (63 MB wmv) has also been improved. We invite our visitors to view them now, or save them to disk to watch later (we don't do flash).

The next extended period of fieldwork will take place from Aug 17 to 30. The team will include A Haiduk, A Hyde, J Pauel, EA Slack, and RS Stewart. Amongst the JCO targets will be Morgans Pond Hole (for water sampling in the deepest underground river in Jamaica), New Hall Cave (to assess the bat population in the lowest chamber), Huntley, Manchester (in search of more, unexplored deep pits), and Aboukir, St Ann (in search of another Hulls Cave). Pro bono work will be carried out in assistance to NEPA (monitoring in St Ann and Manchester), and the WRA (mapping at Lucky Hill Pen, St Mary).

The last part of the exped will take place on the birthdays of Pauel (26th), Stewart (28th), and Slack (30th), so a proper bashment will be in order one night (we'll do our best to get Elizabeth Slack to finally drink a Red Stripe).

More details will follow. Interested parties whom we've neglected to contact should get in touch as soon as possible. Reports of interesting caves that should be put on the to-do list are very welcome, especially from Aboukir, and Huntley.

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The March 2009 Expedition
Deep Holes, Bad Air, Unlisted Caves, and Old Cockpit Country Trails

The crew at Hulls Cave - Mar 26/09 - Click for full resolution (Jun 22/09)
Three accounts of the Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO) visit to The Asuno on March 25 have been posted on the server: Asuno - J Pauel, Asuno - RS Stewart, and a video compiled by Guy, currently in low resolution, with higher to follow, at Asuno Video - G Van Rentergem (57 MB WMV). Collectively, they present a thorough documentation of the 2009 descent - the first to take place since the original KHE exploration in 1965.

(Jun 11/09)
Jan Pauel has posted a video of our visit to Coolshade Mountain Cave (9.6 MB WMV), taken March 24/09 with his compact, waterproof, digital photo camera. It doesn't record the greatest footage, but is fairly bomb-proof, and survives caves, such as Coolshade, that destroy the more expensive, delicate gear. An account of the visit will follow (the first, in depth, since the 1983 exploration by the JCC).

(Jun 9/09)
Guy Van Rentergem has recently made some great additons to the website, Caving in Jamaica. In particular, check The Obelisk description, and the details on rebreather design and construction. Good stuff.

Progress is being made on posting the rest of the reports for the March session. We hope to have it complete before the next session begins in mid-August.

(Jun 4/09)
Bouygues has acknowledged receipt of Jan Pauel's report, which we've posted in .doc (html will follow) at Curatoe Hill Cave.

An email enquiry from our friend, Minke Newman, regarding conversion of the 1:12,500 topo coords to JAD2001, Lat/Long, etc, has prompted us to finally post the method online (one less item on the to-do list) at Clarke 1880 Jamaica Imperial Grid. It accompanies the JAD69 and JAD2001 pages to now supply a complete set of methods for converting between all three Jamaican coordinate systems (a first for the internet).

(May 29/09)
The JCO is pleased to welcome another Caribbean speleo website to the internet (there aren't many of us). Dr Paul Shaw, UWI - St Augustine, has a great site underway at The Caves of Trinidad and Tobago. Please have a look, and bookmark it.

(May 28/09)
We've posted a video of Curatoe Hill Cave (29 MB wmv) taken by Jan Pauel on May 23. JCO members are asked to view it and use it in conjunction with Jan's emailed preliminary report to offer recommendations vis a vis Highway 2000 and preservation concerns.

(May 27/09)
A video of Jan Pauel describing the Australian Red Claw invasion of the Cave River System, recorded by Guy while Stefan and Kurt were in Hulls Cave, is on the server as an 8 MB low-res wmv.

Jan and Ives were in the field last weekend near May Pen carrying out a rapid assessment of a cave on the route of the Highway 2000 extension, at the request of Bouygues. A report, and recommendations, will result. After receipt is acknowledged, it will be posted on the JCO server.

Stefan and Guy are making progress on the Jamaica Underground Supplement. The main task at present is to find, and organise, all of our data, published notes, unpublished fieldsheets, and put it into a printable format. Stefan is working on the former; Guy is already very much on top of the latter.

An account of our descent into The Asuno last session will be posted later in the week, complete with videos.

(May 19/09)
Guy Van Rentergem has posted a full video for Hulls Cave, Aboukir, which is quite spiffy and provides a good overview of the visit. It can be downloaded as a low-resolution 30 MB wmv, or a med-resolution 51 MB wmv. We've also added it to the main photos/videos page, which is where more videos will appear soon. There's a lot of very spectacular footage from the last session, and the server has whole heaps of bandwidth. We intend to get most of it online, at least in low-res versions.

In other news, Alpart, as of last Friday, is out of business for at least a year, which bodes well for the survival of Smokey Hole (Jamaica's deepest). Alpart was steadily closing in on the cave during 2008, and despite our best efforts, the JCO was never given an iron-clad guarantee that they'd establish the buffer area we'd asked for. Alpart is majority owned by UC Rusal, a company headed by a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska, formerly a billionaire, who made his fortune during the turbulent post-Soviet years of the 1990's. Due to the recent economic crash, he is now facing bankruptcy. Oleg, and UC Rusal, cared nothing for the environment of Jamaica, and only wanted their pile of money to grow ever higher. Important caves and sinkholes were destroyed during their operations (documented thoroughly by the JCO), which will result in future flooding in Manchester. Farmers were scammed out of their land with empty promises, and have nothing to pass on to their children. Reclamation, when it actually took place, was a joke, with only enough topsoil replaced to grow weeds. All in all, the island is better off without Oleg. Goodbye, and good riddance.


Golding - Mar 28/09 - L-R: Kurt, Stefan, Guy, Knut's GF, Knut (May 6/09)
More reports and videos from the last session are in the pipeline, and will appear later this week.

In other news, a meeting between the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and Jamaican non-governmental organisations with an interest in environmental concerns, will take place this Thursday, May 7, at 10 Caledonia Avenue, Kingston. The Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO) has been invited to attend, and will be represented by Jan Pauel. As always, the JCO is pleased to collaborate with NEPA to further cave preservation in Jamaica, and we hope for a productive meeting.

Ivor Conolley, the JCO archaeo expert, was mentioned in a March Gleaner article regarding a dig of an 18th century slave village at Papine that he's been leading. Apologies for it taking so long to get the link in the News.

Guy Van Rentergem has produced a new version of the St Clair Cave map utilizing data gained from our recent visit. Please take note of the warnings regarding histoplasmosis, bad air, and flooding. St Clair Cave, in parts, is very dangerous. Do not use the posting of the map as an invitation to get yourselves into serious trouble.


JCO Security Team - Click for full resolution (Apr 23/09)
A video clip of Jan Pauel at Hulls Cave on March 26 (11 MB wmv) has been posted on the server. It's a good example of the educational component of the JCO sessions, and we invite interested parties to download and use it themselves.

Because of the current problems with White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in American bat caves, the JCO requests all cavers visiting from off-island, especially from eastern North America, to disinfect all gear and ropes that will be brought to Jamaica. Please regard this as the minimum protocol - it's best to not bring any equipment that's been used at bat roosts in affected areas. We'll post a separate page on the situation in the coming days.


Amy Ekparian at Aboukir - Mar 26/09 (Apr 21/09)
Two reports are now online based on fieldwork done during the last session. Guy Van Rentergem has posted his account of our visit to St Clair Cave on the JCO server, as well as on a Dutch rebreather website that was very helpful when he was designing the equipment used in the Acheron. Stefan has posted a report on the exploration of Hulls Cave, Aboukir (edited on April 24/09). More will soon follow.

(Apr 8/09)
The March session has gone quite well, with most of our major goals met, and no casualties. We have many photos, and hours of video to work with, which we'll start to post in the coming days, but for now we invite you to view a short video trailer in low resolution (12.7 MB WMV), or medium resolution (27 MB WMV), put together by G Van Rentergem. Accounts based on notes and fieldsheets will begin to appear next week.

The participating team included: K Borstad, K Garrez, D Harrisingh, A Hyde, J Pauel, RS Stewart, G Van Rentergem; and from the Peace Corps, A Ekparian, D Ingleman, A Kolb, T Moss, A Schumaker, and S Zagorski. Also contributing was A Padalka, who assisted RS Stewart in prep work for the Cockpit Country transect, as well as a descent of Devils Staircase.

Future JCO members in Pollyground Our accomplishments included: a partial exploration of the Acheron at St Clair Cave using rebreathers in 7.9% O2 air; a descent of the 187 metre deep Morgans Pond Hole, the first since the exploration visit by the JCC in 1975, with us having reached the bottom of the shaft, but out of rope for the final 10 m descent into the river passage; a descent of The Asuno (137 m), the first since the KHE exploration in 1965; completion of the exploration of Smokey Hole Cave; the location and partial exploration of New Hall Cave; the location of Blocked Shaft-1; and the discovery of two new sites near Aboukir, one of which, Hull's Cave (named after the owner, by us) is over 100 m deep, entered via an 80 m deep shaft, previously unexplored, with a sizeable batroost in a large dome-shaped chamber.

We'd like to thank the many local people who assisted us during the session, especially: Marie and Carlos in Pollyground; Marcia, Shelley-Ann, and Bull in Cross Keys; Lisa in Aenon Town; Bertie in Aboukir; Marlon Campbell in Grant Bailey; Ives and Hoskins in Windsor; and Tony in Accompong Town. Bless up, and much respect.


JCO Rebreathers (Mar 14/09)
The next major JCO session begins tomorrow, March 15. If all goes as planned, we will report in this space on April 7 that we've accomplished all of our goals, with no casualties.

Amongst the sites visited will be Smokey Hole, Morgans Pond Hole, Volcano Hole, Asuno Hole, and St Clair Cave. The photo at left is of the rebreathers that Guy designed and built to tackle the bad air in the Acheron.

Email will not be answered until April 7. In the event of emergencies that require our assistance (rescue and/or body recovery), we can be reached at Stefan - 876 414 2489, or Jan - 876 990 7255.

Little more. Jah guide and protect.

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JCO Update

NEPA at St Clair Cave - Jan 28/09 - Photo: J Pauel (Mar 2/09)
Details are being finalized for the March session, with things coming together quite well. Our plans will be solid later this week, and an updated exped email will be sent out to everyone involved.

The Peace Corps will be well represented, with a total of twelve volunteers hoping to join us, most of whom are from group 79, on-island until July 2010. We hope to squeeze everyone in, and, as always, are very glad to have them onboard. The PC/JCO relationship has existed since late 2003, when Mark Bellinger first contacted us, and has been of great benefit over the years. We would like to see it continue for some time to come, and hope that Barack Obama in his economic deliberations will see fit to maintain Peace Corps funding, and perhaps even bump it up a little. It represents the best of the USA. Much respect.

(Feb 16/09)
The Jamaican Caves Organisation would like to express our appreciation for two recent, very helpful, donations:

Many thanks to Geoff Kegerreis for a supply of "Rite in the Rain" paper and binders. With this, we now have solid fieldbooks for more of the team, and can worry less about jotting down notes in wet conditions.

Also, many thanks to Jennifer Carey for the donation of a stereo microscope. It will make a world of difference in our struggles to identify cave-adapted invertebrates. To date, we have been using hand-lenses, and a very old, very poor microscope (cracked optics - fuzzy image), owned by Stefan. Now, at last, we will see things in proper detail, and (with a little ingenuity) record sharp photographs that we can then email to colleagues who know troglobytic critters better than us.

A big-up to both of them, and much respect. The donations were made purely because of their love of the environment, and their desire to preserve it. We'll try to do our part by using the gifts well. The information recorded will be applied directly to our efforts to preserve the caves and karst of the island.

In other news:

The next major JCO research expedition will take place from March 15 to April 6. The participants will include K Garrez, J Pauel, M Rohr, RS Stewart, M Taylor, G Van Rentergem, and K Walker, with others likely (we're still sorting out schedules). Further information on the exped will be posted in the coming weeks. There are great things planned.

Dr Christoph Schubart will be back on island soon, for two weeks of fieldwork. The JCO has been doing what we can to assist. Part of his research involves aquatic cave-adapted invertebrates (stygobytes), with his studies serving as yet another demonstration of how important caves are.

(Jan 31/09)
Jan Pauel was with NEPA at the Pollyground entrance to St Clair Cave on Wednesday carrying out bat monitoring. The outing went well, with relatively few casualties, none human (there may be one less cat). A short video of the visit, recorded and compiled by Jan, can be found here (9 MB .wmv).

The two recent visits to the cave have presented us with a bit of a mystery: At the east end (Lemon Ridge), on the previous Wednesday, the three species caught and released (Mormoops blainvilli, Pteronotus macleayii, and Pteronotus quadridens) consisted only of males. At the west end (Pollyground) the five species caught (Monophyllus redmani, Mormoops blainvilli, Pteronotus macleayii, Pteronotus parnellii, and Pteronotus quadridens) included both males and females. The reason why females were not found at the east end is unknown. Perhaps the greater flight-path to the east is involved (1800 metres, versus 200 metres to the west); perhaps it's something else. We'd like to follow it up when time permits, with the cooperation of NEPA, and net again at Lemon Ridge to see if the bias persists.

In other news, Guy Van Rentergem's rebreathers under construction for the Acheron in March are nearing the testing phase. If all goes as planned, each unit will supply six hours of breathable air, which should be more than enough for the exploration and survey of the new passage.

NEPA at St Clair Cave - Jan 21/09 - Photo: J Pauel (Jan 22/09)
Jan Pauel was in the field yesterday with the NEPA crew carrying out bat monitoring at the Lemon Ridge entrance to St Clair Cave. Catch and release netting began at 17:00 and continued until 19:40. The hike out along the now dry Black River bed went well (with the aid of JCO headlamps), and the team was back in Kingston by 22:00.

Surprisingly, cats were observed at the Lemon Ridge entrance - they've long been a fixture at the Pollyground end, but we didn't realize they had both entrances covered. The concern is that not only do they catch and eat bats during the nightly emergence, they carry a parasite called Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM) that has afflicted many visitors to the cave over the years. The process is such: The CLM is deposited by the cats in their faeces, and it then moves into the surrounding dirt. If visitors sit on the ground, it migrates into their skin, and then takes up residence for several weeks in areas of the body that one would very much prefer to be parasite-free. At some point, the cats should be eradicated, but this new information suggests that the surrounding bush has a wide-spread population, which may make the task impossible. Unfortunately, the feral cats are not only eating bats, they're eating birds, lizards, coneys, and anything else they can sink their fangs into, with, in all likelihood, a corresponding impact on local biodiversity.

The spring downstream of the outer cave entrance noted during our visit in July 2008 continues to be active, and apparently flows year round. We have yet to determine the source.

Jan will return to St Clair Cave with the NEPA crew next Wednesday, January 28, this time at the Pollyground entrance. As usual, we're glad to help. As Jan noted in his email report, "I must say that everyone of them are to be commended on their good attitude and work ethic."

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JCO - 2009

Dr. Finchams's webpage for Jamaica Underground (Jan 8/09)
The Jamaican Caves Organisation is entering 2009 in good form, with much on our collective agenda. We look forward to a very productive year, perhaps the best yet.

First and foremost in our plans is continuity. Everything that the JCO accomplishes is possible only because of the efforts of those who came before us. Principally, the Geological Survey Dept, circa 1950 (GSD), under McGrath, and the Jamaican Caving Club (JCC), led by Ron Read, Alan Fincham, and Adam Hyde, from 1958 to the late-1990's.

The records and accounts of the GSD exist in an accessible form solely because of Alan Fincham and his book, Jamaica Underground. None of our members knew Mr McGrath, or had mutual friends. There are no oral stories that have been passed on to us. But, from 1958 to today, there has been a direct link from caver to caver. Ron Read checks in when he has time. Dr Fincham gives us guidance. Adam Hyde is with us. The current group includes David Lee, Don McFarlane, Guy Van Rentergem, and Andreas Haiduk. Indeed, we are blessed with having every principal Jamaican caver active in the last 50 years as part of the team. It is quite incredible, and an honour for all of us.

Unlike the JCC, the JCO has published only to a limited degree since our formation in 2002, relying instead on relatively ephemeral electrons, and magnetic states, stored in various computers and website servers. In 2009, with the permission and encouragement of Alan Fincham, we intend to change this. The JCO will publish a supplement to Jamaica Underground that will bring things up to date, and supply hardcopy for those who may follow us. It will include all of the notes and data found on the JCO website, the data headers and register from JU, Guy Van Rentergem's notes and maps, plus specialist sections by several of our PhD colleagues. We will try to do a very good job of it, and produce something that will be valuable for many years to come.

Secondly, our expeditions and fieldwork will kick up a little in 2009. Along with the continuing NEPA outings led be Jan Pauel, there will be a major expedition in March. It will include a push into the Acheron River, at St Clair Cave, led by Guy Van Rentergem, using recently designed rebreathers that will, we hope, enable us to explore and map this unknown part of the system. There will be a return to Morgans Pond Hole, Smokey Hole, Volcano Hole, plus visits to various unexplored sites that are on our to-do list. Also, the author of this item, RS Stewart, will spend a week in the depths of the Cockpit Country doing prep work for the transect. This has been long on the agenda, and progress must be made.

Later in the year, at least two major research expeditions will take place. More will follow as schedules firm up.

Ongoing research outings will continue on occasional weekends throughout 2009. We invite those who have contacted us in the last months wishing to join the group to keep in touch for those via Jan Pauel. They're usually a little easier, and better for beginners. Please accept our apologies if we have not contacted you recently - we very much appreciate your requests to join us - unfortunately, we can't afford a secretary, and things are forgotten - feel free to send us follow up emails as a reminder.

Most importantly in 2009, the JCO crew will continue to be the guardians of the caves and karst of Jamaica. It is our mission, our raison d'etre, and a responsibility we take very seriously. All of us know that if we don't do it, no one else will.

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NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 11
(Jan 7, 2013 to Dec 27, 2014)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 10
(Jan 10, 2011 to Jan 1, 2013)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 9
(Jan 2, 2010 to Dec 21, 2010)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 8
(Jan 8, 2009 to Dec 21, 2009)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 7
(Jan 6, 2008 to Dec 23, 2008)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 6
(Dec 12, 2006 to Dec 3, 2007)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 5
(Apr 24, 2006 to Dec 8, 2006)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 4
(Jan 22, 2005 to Mar 19, 2006)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 3
(Mar 9, 2004 to Dec 31, 2004)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 2
(Aug 15, 2003 to Mar 2, 2004)

NEWS ARCHIVES VOL 1
(Sept 30, 2002 to Aug 15, 2003)

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

Editor: RS Stewart.


Jamaica Road Map

Introduction to Jamaican Caves and Sinkholes