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June 15, 2004


Position: WGS84 - 18 15' 49.6" N, 77 48' 58.6" W, +/- 5m

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack

Time in: 13:00 EST, Time out: 13:45 EST


Niagara, St James, was visited for two days as part of the St James assessment project. Several caves are listed in JU for this district and our intention was to locate all of them, get the info we needed, and also see if anything new showed-up during the search. We were successful on all counts.

We had a general idea of the positions for several of the caves, from JU, and after arriving at the Niagara crossroads we quickly found the rough secondary road that leads north, into the hills, to where our targets should be found. After some 10 minutes of slow-driving on a very rough road, we came to a large pumphouse on the west side of the road. There were several cars parked in the lot, and we knew that the water commission employees would be a great source of info for the caves of the area, so we pulled in to inquire. The gentlemen that I soon met were of enormous help and supplied most of what I needed to know. I took the opportunity to fill several water bottles while there, and 15 minutes later we were again driving north along the road, with definite information to work with.

Dietrich Roggy at the main entrance of Nodewood Cave 2 Nodewood Cave 2 is on land owned by a large flower nursery two km north of Niagara. The main building, and a large set of netting-shaded "greenhouses", is several hundred metres further along the road from the pumphouse, on the west side. We stopped here to obtain permission for our activities this day, (having been told by the water commission employees that the first two caves on our list, Nodewood 2 and Niagara River Cave, were on the land of the nursery), and were fortunate in finding one of the owners present. We soon had permission, further instructions, and a key.

En route to the entrance, we linked with another employee at a vehicle compound and then were soon at the cave. The need for the key now became apparent.

Nodewood Cave 2 is somewhat of a labyrinth, with about 8 entrances. The Main Entrance is the one closest to the road, some 50 metres away. It has been walled and gated. Upon unlocking the gate, and entering, we found that the chamber immediately inside the entrance has been also walled off from the adjoining chambers and is being used as a cool storage room for cut-flowers prior to shipment. On the left and right walls, there are gates into other chambers and it was through the left gate that we passed to reach the rest of the cave. I am attaching the Jamaica Underground map, with the current block walls drawn in by myself. Please note that Nodewood 2 is actually in St James, 3 km north of the parish boundary with St Elizabeth.

McGrath map via Jamaica Underground - Nodewood Cave 2

In this walled chamber, amongst other things, was a concrete "pool" of some 2 m by 3 m width and 50 cm depth, raised from the floor, used for holding certain flowers. A constant flow of water was piped through this and, from what I could see, was then allowed to run off as overflow to escape through fissures in the floor of the cave. I am not 100% on this.

After passing through the left gate, we found that part of the next chamber was being used to dump plant trash, and this had formed a pile over a metre high and about six wide. When we chatted with the owner later in the day, I suggested that this might be cleaned up at some point in the future to minimize the disturbance to the cave. This suggestion was readily accepted; it will be interesting to see what becomes of this.

During the next 45 minutes, we had a close look at the rest of Nodewood Cave 2 and will note the more valuable observations below:

The geology of this cave is interesting. It is formed in hard cretaceous rock, with Rudist fossils present in cross-section on the chamber walls. In areas of the southwest part of the cave, breccia was abundant in relatively undisturbed horizontal deposits a couple of metres off the floor. Some was rather crumbly, but some was fairly hard, and much of it had ancient snail shells embedded. This combination of Quaternary fossil deposits, stuck onto walls that hold Rudist fossils over 65 million years old, was a wonderful set of snapshots into the geological history of Jamaica. The Rudists formed when the island was submerged, and the breccia formed when the island was above the waves, but flooded, (at least seasonally), in that particular location.

Biologically, the cave was surprisingly healthy considering that a portion of it is used for commercial plant storage. It appeared that other than the storage-chamber, and the vegetable-matter trash-pile, the cave is rarely disturbed. It is on private, well-controlled property, and the owner uses perhaps 10% of the cave. The rest of it seldom has humans in it.

There is a fairly healthy bat colony in the western section, in the dark-zone, that looked like it might have more than just Artibeus in it. Several species of spiders were seen, as well as cave-crickets, only a few American roaches, (Periplaneta americana). Most surprisingly, a Sesarma verleyi, (crab), was seen low on the wall, above several thin fissures, in the bat-roosting chamber. This is absolutely the first time that I have seen a Sesarma in a cave that does not have at least standing water somewhere in it. I called the others to come have a look, and it soon scuttled down into the fissures, to apparently reach water somewhere below. It should be noted that this cave is not much higher than the near-by Niagara River Cave and the phreatic zone could be at no great depth under Nodewood 2. I wondered about the flow through the flower-holding pool in the blocked-off chamber, if it might be helping to supply habitat wherever it runs off to, but the crabs could not have colonized this cave by making their way overland, so there must be an original, accessible water-table under Nodewood.

I'm listing the vulnerability as high for the following reasons: there is easily-damaged breccia present; both the invert and bat populations are in not-bad shape; the cave is being used commercially now, and although it has caused no catastrophic damage yet, this could change if the plant-nursery decides it needs more storage space. It would be beneficial for the future of this cave if the owners could be asked to limit their activities to what exists now, and to also stop dumping plant material in the adjoining chamber.

It should be noted that the location of Nodewood Cave 1 is unknown. It was recorded by McGrath, presumably with an uncertain position, and the JCC could not relocate it in 1970. During the course of the two days that we were in this district, I inquired several times of those who seemed to know the land well, and found no information. Nodewood Cave 1, by virtue of it being listed in the Register, is part of the St James project, but at this point it will be entered into the database as "Lost".

Having seen what we needed to see, we carried on to Niagara River Cave.

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