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|Tuesday, December 21, 2010||Contact the JCO|
ARCHIVES - VOLUME 9
This will be the last update before the next session, which will run from December 28 to March 27. We invite all those who might be interested in joining the JCO for fieldwork to contact us as soon as possible.
The targets for the session include New Hall Cave, Morgans Pond Hole, Schwallenburgh Cave, Crofts River Cave Two, Avisfield Cave, and the many caves at Portland Ridge.
The personnel will include Stewart, Pauel, Conolley, Hyde, Ekparian, Selvyn, Kingman, Taylor, and several researchers who are in need of pro bono assistance.
The site administrator, Stewart, hopes to improve on the frequency of updates to the website this time. A USB modem is top of the list of things to get before he hits the field.
As always, we hope things go well. One never knows. A few good wishes directed our way might help.
The JCO attended another Ministry of Tourism (MoT) meeting regarding cave use yesterday. More to follow, but for now we would like to thank MoT for including the JCO guidelines as part of their own document.
Jan Pauel was interviewed last night on Lloyd D'Aguilar's program on "Newstalk 93 Jamaica" regarding the Mandeville Parish Council allegedly giving permission to build over sinkholes. Needless to say, if this is taking place, it's not only bad for the environment, it's dangerous.
Jan has posted a video on the netting session at Windsor Cave last weekend (13MB WMV).
Andrea Donaldson has passed along word that the biodiversity crew at NEPA may have found Phyllonycteris aphylla, which many of us were beginning to believe had gone extinct. We hope to have more to report in the near future.
Kurt Garrez has forwarded a report on the February 2010 cave diving session, in .doc. Also, Jan Pauel has posted the video for Mexico Cave (72 MB WMV), dived as part of it.
Stefan has finally completed the report for the July-August session, sent to NEPA and others yesterday. Web versions for fifteen sites that weren't online yet have been posted, and formatting for one other was fixed: Jacksons Bay - Part 1, Jacksons Bay - Part 2, Jacksons Bay - Part 3, Salmon Gully Cave, Vauxhall Cave, Me No Sen Cave, Duanwarie Cave-1, Richmond Park Cave, Beardyman Cave, Patrick Cave, Crofts River Cave One, Crofts River Cave Two, Belmont Cave 2, Sherwood Forest Stream Cave, Friday Gate Cave, and Clapham Cave. They accompany the previously posted notes, Raymonds Cave, Belmont Cave-1, Long Pond Sinkhole, and Schwallenburgh Cave, to complete the online reports for the last session. All can also be found via the Main Fieldnotes Page.
The Main Video/Photo Page has had eighteen videos added to it that had previously only been linked to from this page. They can be found at the top of the list that follows the screenshot videos.
The next session of fieldwork begins December 29, and runs until March 27. More to follow, but for now we can say that we anticipate a very productive session, and we're all very much looking forward to it.
Another video, the JCO visit to Coventry Cave (63 MB WMV) on September 25, 2010, has been put on the server.
A video of the JCO visit to Mosely Hall Cave (41 MB WMV) on September 25, 2010, has been put on the server.
In other news, Mines and Geology has confirmed that cave ownership in Jamaica is currently undefined. It is the position of the JCO that ownership of caves must be vested in the Crown because of simple physical reality (systems with multiple entrances, located on properties held by multiple landowners, with passages that lie below the properties of even more landowners). We hope that the GoJ will eventually come to the same conclusion.
The Onychophoran Speleoperipatus spelaeus, of which we found only the fifth individual, earlier in 2010, at Swansea Cave (the first four were known from Pedro Great Cave), has been added to the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered in response to a request from the JCO.
A report for Schwallenburgh Cave has been posted. The cave was one of the most important investigated during the last session, and our descent was only the second since the original JCC visit in 1963. The exact position has not been included because of the sensitive nature of the site.
The JCO met again last Thursday with the Ministry of Tourism regarding cave use in the Cockpit Country. We might eventually have good news to post on the issue (preservation of vulnerable caves).
Another video has been posted, Crofts River Caves (70 MB WMV), recorded August 15, 2010. The participants are Jan, Stefan, Ives, Adam, Kingman, and Alysha. The videographer is Jan Pauel.
On other fronts: we might have a project in the works to examine the deep guano deposits found at Schwallenburgh last session; Dr Fenton has two students returning to Jamaica in the next couple of weeks, which Jan will assist with; the meetings with MoT regarding cave use continue; things are on track for the next extended session of fieldwork, January through the end of March; and we've been contacted regarding a Discovery Channel shoot.
Jan has posted a 54 MB WMV video of Swansea Cave recorded August 12, 2010. The participants are Jan, Stefan, and Tanika.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to our bredren and sistren across the island who have been affected by Tropical Storm Nicole in the last couple of days. Amongst other things, Marie in Pollyground has lost part of the roof of the shop (donations of new zinc would be appreciated - call 876 419 5530), and her freezer got wetted up. There's no telling if it still works, because they haven't had current in two days. Andreas is once again cut off because the Harbour View crossing is impassable - Jah only knows why the idiots who run the island decided to recently remove the bailey bridge in the middle of the hurricane season (forcing people to use the ford) before the new bridge was finished. And the damage to the infrastructure of the island will hammer the govt budget - some of the rural roads that were washed out may never be repaired.
Ivor Connolley, Jan Pauel, Andreas Haiduk, and Michelle Braham were in the field on Saturday doing prep work for an Archaeological Society of Jamaica outing at three Taino Caves - Clapham, Coventry, and Mosely Hall. Clapham is the most recent of our archaeo discoveries - a report will be put online this week.
An overview of the last session follows. We will insert the reports, linked from the overview, as they are sent to the server. Four are online now (JBC, July 25, has been added).
July 19-22: Jan Pauel attended, and assisted with, a workshop in bat handling at the WRC in Windsor, Trelawny.
Jul 21: RS Stewart (Stefan) located a sinkhole at Long Pond, Clarks Town, Trelawny, being used for the dumping of refinery waste, this done in assistance to the applicable govt agency (which will remain unnamed).
Jul 24: Andreas Haiduk, Pauel, and Stewart visited St Clair Cave, Riverhead Cave, and the river sink in Worthy Park for monitoring and water sampling.
Jul 25: Adam Hyde, Mike Ketover, and Stewart visited Potoo Hole, and Jackson's Bay Great Cave, in Portland Ridge, for georeferencing of the JU area map.
Jul 29: Kingman and Stewart found and entered Belmont Cave-1, north of May Pen, Clarendon, as part of establishing base-line data for the caves of the parish (in assitance to NEPA and others). The cave, similar to many found last session, has been degraded by guano mining. A second site, an unlisted collapse feature, was noted, and a position taken, but not entered. Local reports indicate a shaft at the bottom, but the accuracy of this is uncertain.
Jul 31 - Aug 1: Bart Robinson, Brad Hanson, Martel Taylor, and Stewart pushed the Middle Trail further into the Cockpit Country, spending the night camped out at the farpoint. All but Taylor then drove to Accompong Town, by way of Flagstaff, late on the afternoon of Aug 1. This would become the base for the next few days. The JCO must again thank Tony for letting us stay at Babu's Garden, and we encourage others who plan to visit Accompong Town to do the same.
Aug 3: Stewart carried out monitoring at Vauxhall Cave. The site has still not recovered from the changes caused by large-scale guano mining in the past, and currently has only very low numbers of the most tolerant species, Artibeus jamaicensis.
Aug 4: Sammi Travis, Nick Kirk, and Stewart visited Me No Sen Cave. Unfortunately, the squeeze to the 6m drop, which descends into the rest of the system from entrance 1, is still blocked by bamboo and mud. An attempt will be made next session to find entrance 2 from the surface by georeferencing the cave map (and hoping the survey accuracy is very good). The gated entrance to Duanwarie Cave 1 was also GPS referenced, and photos were taken.
Aug 6: Stewart attempted to find Patrick Cave, in central Clarendon, by way of Crofts Hill and Beckford Kraal, only to learn that the road south to Pleasant Valley, and the cave, is no longer open. He returned to Pollyground, in part, by driving along, and in and out of, the bed of the Pindars River from Oaks to British. This is not recommended unless you're in a serious 4-wheel drive (like a Landrover Discovery), and it's outside of the rainy season (lest you be swept away).
Aug 10: Kingman and Stewart drove from Pollyground to north Clarendon, and then found and entered Raymonds Cave.
Aug 12: Tanika Stewart, Pauel, and RS Stewart carried out a monitoring visit at Swansea Cave.
Aug 13: Richmond Park Cave, and Beardyman Cave were located by Stewart and Kingman. Patrick Cave was unsuccessfully searched for - the area is on Windalco land, and there are no residents.
Aug 14: Carlos and Stewart returned to Swansea Cave to retrieve a lost headlamp.
Aug 16: Stewart returned to the area of Raymonds Cave, and Belmont 1, to determine whether Birdgiddie Cave exists as a separate site, or is a duplicate. Investigations strongly suggest that Raymonds and Birdgiddie are one and the same.
Aug 18: Stewart drove from Kingston to Portland for the day, in search of several caves for NEPA. An unlisted stream passage cave was found, and Friday Gate Cave was located and entered. Windsor Forest Cave was not visited, but enquiries in the district suggest that it is a large shelter cave, with only Artibeus jamaicensis - thus not worth netting at.
Aug 19: Pauel and Stewart attended a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism regarding tourist use of caves in the Cockpit Country (an idea we are not keen on, other than a small number of low vulnerability sites).
Aug 20-21: Stewart nursed a badly infected foot in Pollyground, this acquired from minor cuts on Aug 14, dirty cave water on Aug 15, and then contact dermatitis on Aug 18.
Aug 23: Stewart was pressured by a large number of people in Pollyground to finally see a doctor about the infected foot. He went on antibiotics, was told to keep his foot raised whenever possible, and to not walk on it.
Aug 24: Pauel and Stewart met with NEPA in Kingston regarding the JCO Cave Use Guidelines.
Aug 25-27: Fieldwork suspended because of the foot.
Aug 28: Haiduk, Selvyn, and Stewart descended Schwallenburgh Cave, the first to have done so since 1963, and only the second visit ever. It was found to be a very important site, and was one of the high points of the session. A very enjoyable birthday party for Stewart, in Pollyground, followed.
Aug 30: Selvyn, Carlos, and Stewart visited Clapham Cave, Moneauge district, where undocumented Amerindian petroglyphs were found. This was the last day of fieldwork, and the first archaeo discovery of the session, so was especially rewarding. As with a few other sites visited during the session, the exact position will not be posted, and will be by request only.
During the last six weeks, the JCO has carried out assessments and monitoring visits at Long Pond Sinkhole, St Clair Cave, Riverhead Cave, Worthy Park River Sink, Potoo Hole, Jackson Bay Cave, Water Jar Cave, Raymonds/Birdgiddie Cave, Belmont Cave-1, Belmont Cave-2, Richmond Park Cave, Salmon Gully Cave, Mulgrave Sinkoles, Duanwarie Cave-1, Me No Sen Cave, Beardyman Cave, Vauxhall Cave, Swansea Cave, Crofts River Cave-1, Crofts River Cave-2, Friday Gate Cave, Schwallenburgh Cave, Clapham Cave, and an unlisted site in Sherwood Forest, Portland (proposed name is Sherwood Forest River Cave). The Middle Trail of the Cockpit Country was also pushed further, and there were two meetings with govt agencies (MoT and NEPA).
Participants included Jan Pauel, Andreas Haiduk, Ivor Connolley, Adam Hyde, Kingman, Donovan Selvyn, Martel Taylor, Sasha Sterling, Warren Brown, Bart Robinson, Brad Henson, Sammi Travis, Nick Kirk, Tanika Stewart, and Carlos.
Things went quite well overall, although, unfortunately, the Principal Investigator, RS Stewart, lost a full week of fieldwork at the end of the session due to a badly infected foot acquired from minor cuts and dirty water in Crofts River Cave-2. However, this gave him the opportunity to meet a very nice girl while healing, so he can't complain all that much.
Our apologies for the lack of updates during the session, but internet access was minimal. We hope to improve on that for the next period of extended fieldwork (January to April 2011), with a USB modem.
We would like to thank Marie in Pollyground, Tony in Accompong Town, Ives in Windsor, and the Pauels in Kingston for helping to make it all possible. Bless up.
Several reports are ready to go online now, with more to follow asap, along with photos and videos. The site administrator (Stewart) just needs a couple of more days to catch up on emails, sleep, food, plus send info to collaborators, the govt, and generally recover. More to follow.
The next extended period of fieldwork begins tomorrow, July 20, and runs until September 1. Arrangements have come together quite well, and we anticipate a very busy, productive session.
The participants will include some of our earliest members (Adam, Andreas, Jan, Martel, Stefan), some more recent (Amy, Donovan, Kingman, Sasha), and some brand new (for which we are very grateful, and more to follow on who they are).
Email access will be almost non-existent for the duration (don't bother until after Sept 2), but contact phone numbers have been posted on the /contact.htm page. That said, we hope to update the News, and post reports as often as possible, nevertheless. The website admin (and principal investigator) should be able to periodically forward files on a flash drive to be uploaded to the server by other members.
Further on the website - a last-minute bit of work was done yesterday (the admin was feeling guilty), which added links to reports on sites visited during the last session to the Main Fieldnotes Page. There are now notes for 177 caves linked from that page, with a few other partially-linked rogues kicking around on the server, and at least another 40 sites still on fieldsheets. Eventually, it will all be done.
Lastly, we ask that everyone who follows our activities via the website to please wish us luck. We never know exactly how these expeds will go, especially when particularly challenging things are planned, as with this time. So far, so good (no casualties, despite close calls like Morgans Pond Hole, and The Acheron), but positive thoughts directed our way certainly won't hurt.
Bless up, Jah guide, and thank you for caring about the caves of Jamaica.
A return to The Acheron, in St Clair Cave, has been added to the to-do list for the next session. We intend to be very careful.
Much of the caving fieldwork will take place in Clarendon, and St Elizabeth, lending a hand to the biodiversity section at NEPA. These are two parishes we haven't spent enough time in yet, so nice to do it.
We will also assist in reestablishing the Accompong-Flagstaff trail. The project, like our own transect work, is one that must finally reach completion.
Plans are shaping up well for the next extended session of fieldwork, which will take place from July 21 to August 31. Several of the new Peace Corps group will be with us, continuing an association that goes back to early 2004. Meetings and fieldwork with NEPA, and JTB will take place. The last of the St Ann cave assessments will be done. We'll collaborate on radon studies with people at UWI. And most importantly, we will finish the prep work for the Cockpit Country transect - at least two of the six weeks in the field will be devoted to it (the Chair of the JCO is on a mission, and must get this done, even though it's not in a cave).
As always, we ask everyone interested in joining us for the fieldwork to contact the JCO in the next couple of weeks, if you haven't heard from us. We still don't have a secretary (minimal funding), and we lose track of things. After July 18, our email access will be intermittent, but we'll post the contact phone numbers at the top of this page, as well as at /contact.htm.
We'd like to welcome a new caving group to the community, and ask that you check their website at The Dominican Republic Speleological Society.
The Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO) attended a meeting with the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), the Tourist Product Development Company (TPDCo), and the Windsor Research Centre (WRC), on Thursday, June 17, that discussed factors with regard to cave use and ecotourism in the Cockpit Country. It was very productive, and we believe (and hope) the consensus is that protection and preservation are the priorities.
The JCO has fowarded a document, Jamaica Cave Protection Guidelines (pdf), to NEPA, WRA, MGD, JNHT, MoT, and JBI. It makes clear our recommendations on cave use in Jamaica, and also defines the official code of conduct for members of the JCO, and our collaborators.
The guidelines are based on a model cave protection act written by Henry L Welch, adapted extensively by members and collaborators of the JCO for use in Jamaica. It is not yet as comprehensive as we would like, but we believe it is a good first effort that will improve with future ammendments. Other caving groups active in countries with no specific guidelines or legislation that apply to cave preservation are invited to contact us for the .doc version to use as a template for their own needs.
On the website side of things, the server will be down for about four hours on the evening of Saturday, June 19, due to an upgrade at the hosting company.
Plans for the next session of fieldwork are starting to shape up. We expect to be at things from late July to early September. Prep work for the Cockpit Country transect will eat up a couple of weeks of it, and the rest will be devoted to cave assessments and monitoring.
Jan Pauel has posted a video of our visit to the Bog Walk gorge train tunnel (27MB wmv) last March, done the day after our return to Hutchinsons Hole as a fun outing. Also, Jan had some lengthy quotes in yesterday's Observer regarding the Font Hill development.
We've posted a report for Mount Plenty Cave, visited on March 19 and 24. The coordinates are included for this one, despite the fact that it's an important batroost - this because there is a certain degree of protection in place. We will also keep an eye on things - anyone who reads the report with thoughts of exploiting the site should know we will do something about it if you try.
Thanks again to ESRI for the donation of ArcGIS 9.3.1, which we received during the last session. It took a little while to get it running (had to uninstall ArcView 3.1 to do it, and register the new program online, which was not possible during the expedition), but our GIS person, Stefan, now has it all loaded, with enough RAM in the computer (2GB from eBay) to figure things out (very steep learning curve compared to 3.1). The most interesting part is 3D Analyst, along with the 6m DEM that a sympathetic colleague recently donated. We will soon be able to post fly-throughs of approach routes to caves, of routes through caves we have survey data for, and of our explorations in the central Cockpit Country. Very kriss.
We're currently working on cave use guidelines, in collaboration with other interested parties, that will be submitted to NEPA for their consideration. More on that when we're nearing completion.
The JCO wrapped up ten weeks of fieldwork last Wednesday. The post-exped recovery period is now fairly much complete, and we'll get the rest of the reports online in the coming days. We also have a backlog of emails to attend to, which will be taken care of as soon as possible.
Jan Pauel was on the radio last Thursday, HOT 102, discussing the importance of cave preservation. We have a copy that will be posted as soon as it's turned into an mp3.
Over the last few weeks, the JCO has been at Wallingford River Cave, Mexico Cave, Black River Blue Hole, Swangabang Cave, Moneague Blue Hole, Pennington Ratbat Cave, Bogue Spring, Elim Springs, Two Sisters Cave, Creighton Hall Cave, Mount Plenty Cave, Hutchinsons Hole, as well as Tydixon Ratbat Cave and Pedro Great Cave.
Several days were spent in the Cockpit Country last week carrying out prep work for the transect. Part of the route from the west end was done, and the old, lost Middle Trail that runs deep into the bush from Bamboo Bottom/Guthries was pushed further to the south.
We return to the field today for the final part of the session, with capture and release of bats at Mount Plenty this evening.
We've been quite busy diving, mapping, netting, etc, and have been away from the internet much of the time lately. The biggest discovery so far has been of the Onychophoran, Speleoperipatus speleus, at Swansea, recently confirmed by Dr Peck. A photo will be seen to the left, and a report can be read at Swansea Cave.
The Belgian dive crew will finish up tomorrow with a visit to Moneague Blue Hole, and return to Europe on Wednesday. Stefan will return to his own projects the same day, with assessment and exploration at Worthy Park, and netting with NEPA in St Ann on Thursday. Amy, Jan, and Andreas will join him later in the week.
The ROM St Clair bat exhibit has just opened, and we're getting a fair bit of press out of it, including links to the website. We assume our bandwith will be enough to handle it.
Reports for the following caves have been put on the server: Ewart Town Bat Cave, Guinea Corn Cave, Lumsden Property Cave, Grierfield Cave, and Clover Hill Cave. Chesterfield Cave, Worthy Park 3, Riverhead Cave, and Swansea Cave were also visited - reports will be posted as soon as possible. For now, a video recorded at Swansea (80 MB wmv) is online.
Ewart Town Bat Cave was located and assessed on Feb 6 by Stewart, and will replace Rock Ramble Cave on the NEPA bat netting list. The latter site was determined to be the same cave as the previously visited McClean Cave (Aug 18/09), with a true position 1.1 km from the GSD coordinates received via Jamaica Underground. Progress was also made on finding three other sites on the list, Chesterfield, Guinea Corn, and Johnnie Spring, with final location and assessment expected to take place this week.
Two videos have been posted on the server, Brock Fenton at Pollyground Primary School discussing bats (60 MB wmv), recorded during the ROM-JCO St Clair Cave work in January, and New Green Cave (73 MB wmv) recorded during the last session, on Aug 25, 2009.
An account of our visit to Norwood last weekend has been posted on the server at Norwood Ratbat Hole - January 30-31, 2010.
We would like to thank ESRI, and Dr Don McFarlane, for the donation of ArcGIS 9 to the Jamaican Caves Organisation. It will be put to good use.
Several days were spent last week on prep work for the Cockpit Country Transect. We'll be back at it again next week.
A video of Dr Brock Fenton discussing bats by the pool at Jan's after the ROM work is online at Dr Fenton discussing bats - January/2010.
The JCO will be at Higgins Town in north St Ann over the next couple of days doing recon for NEPA, and pursuing our own projects.
The JCO has just finished several days of collaborative work with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) at St Clair Cave. All went quite well, and the ROM has what they need for the upgrade of the "Bat Cave" exhibit in Toronto. A report that includes some excellent bat photos by Dr Brock Fenton can be found at St Clair Cave - January, 2010.
The JCO will be in the field for the next ten weeks. Updates will be less frequent (although thorough when they happen), and email might be answered less quickly. We very much hope that things go well, and that the added stress on the west end of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault caused by recent events won't result in us becoming footnotes in accounts of the next major Jamaican earthquake. On that, we'd like to remind everyone that the island is overdue for a big one, and you should plan ahead. If things start shaking, and you're not sure if you have enough rebar, get out of the house as quickly as possible. If you're on the coast and the sea suddenly recedes, head for the hills - much water soon come.
Haiti, our neighbour to the east, has hit a rough patch and is in need of help. We invite visitors to the site to consider donating to appropriate charities, such as Médecins Sans Frontières.
A heads-up to crew, volunteers, collaborators, and associates: The schedule for the next extended session of fieldwork is now solid: January 19 to March 30. The objectives include: rapid assessments of the remaining speleo sites in Manchester, and St Ann; monitoring and clean-up of previously assessed sites in various parishes, with an emphasis on vulnerability to guano mining, and input of trash; pro bono assistance to NEPA with regard to bat monitoring; consultation with the Jamaica Bauxite Institute on methods to reduce damage to speleo sites by strip-mining; collaboration with the dive crew from the Dominican Republic; collaboration with our Belgian friends; collaboration with the Royal Ontario Museum, at St Clair Cave; and the completion of the Cockpit Country Transect.
We invite all interested parties to contact us as soon as possible. Do not assume that we will contact you, even though we very much appreciate all the help and are very glad to have it. The JCO does not have funding for a secretary, and we can't remember everything.