Jamaican Caving Notes
One Day Cave|
June 1, 2006
Team: RS Stewart, E Slack, Dr Gina Green and family [Kew Park Coffee]
Notes: RS Stewart
Not long before the start of the expedition, it had been suggested to us by Andrew Ross that we contact Gina Green regarding several caves and sinkholes located on her land near Kew Park, Westmoreland. This was done, and we made arrangements to drop by on June 1, the day after our outing with Kimberly John of The Nature Conservancy. We would be spending the night of May 31 in Maggotty, in the right part of the island, so this worked out well.
The drive to Kew Park was quite pleasant. It started at Maggotty, at the "Apple something" guesthouse (courtesy of TNC), at about 8:00 AM. Our route would take us across to Y.S., then north on the Cambridge road, and then after 10-15 km's, onto the minor roads that snake across to the northwest toward Bethel Town. I would drive, bouncing along in the Grand Vitara, and Elizabeth would navigate, using sections of the topo maps I'd printed beforehand. Along with the maps, we had Gina's description of the best route, given to us via cell-phone soon after we were on the road. This drive would go quite well, in big part to Elizabeth's navigating duties - she's one of the rare people that can keep track of where you are on a topo map and give you a heads-up on the next turn, even when you're travelling on constantly winding roads.
I had never been through here before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The land itself is wonderful, with long, high ridges stretching northwest, giving fine views from the upper parts. The edge of the Cockpit Country, eight kilometres to the east, shows well, with the great wall that defines the western border very impressive in its extent. The people seemed very pleasant, and we heard no shouts of "Whitie" as we drove along. Whenever we stopped to ask directions, folks were helpful and friendly. The ninety minutes that we spent driving from Y.S. to the northeast corner of Westmoreland, en route to what would prove to be a fine day, must be noted, so that when frustration levels are reaching critical levels in other districts, we can think to ourselves, "Well, it's not always like this..."
Our route took us through the village of Rat Trap, two kilometres before Kew Park House, and this would later become our reference point for the locale; it is midway between Gina Green's "cottage", and the caving area of interest (despite its name, Rat Trap is a very pleasant place.) After a quick stop to check that we were about to drive up the right road from the Rat Trap square, we covered the last, short stretch, to arrive at Dr Gina Green's residence, Kew Park Cottage.
We received a warm welcome when we got to Gina's, and found both our hostess and the estate to be quite nice. The house, very old, sits high on a hill that has a fine breeze and beautiful views. The land is very well kept, not only around the house and gardens, but as we would see later, throughout the extensive coffee fields that make up the main crop on the farmlands here (in truth, some of the best coffee trees I've seen on the island). Several children were playing about the place, and I regret that I didn't write their names down, since they would turn out to be very brave explorers who would point us into the right part of the cave we would visit later, this allowing us to make a very interesting discovery. Amidst these enjoyable surroundings, we spent some chatting with Gina, and company, and then we all loaded up into a couple of vehicles, and headed down the road, via Rat Trap, to investigate the caves and holes that Gina knew of on her land.
There were several sites looked at, but I will address only one in these notes; the others require a longer visit, and we hope to attend to those in the future. That site is "One Day Cave". The cave is known locally by the same name as a cave listed in Alan Fincham's "Jamaica Underground" (JU), but JU gives no information other than "Copse Mountain area - Synonym: Copse Mountain Cave - A site noted by a JCC party". There seems to have been some confusion about where One Day Cave is located when the old JCC logbooks were being examined. There are two places in this part of the island called "Copse". One is a small town in Hanover, "Copse", and the other is "Copse Mountain", 14 km to the south. The coordinates given in JU for One Day Cave are near Copse, in Hanover. We have not looked there for a cave called One Day, but we do know that in Copse Mountain (the name given for the district in the JCC log), Westmoreland, there is a cave locally called One Day. We cannot believe that there would be such a coincidence that there would be two One Day caves, one in Copse, and one in Copse Mountain, so we must assume that the Jamaica Underground listing is wrong, and the cave we visited this day, in Westmoreland, is the one and only One Day Cave.
The cave is reached by way of a lane through farmland, southwest of Rat Trap (please note that this is private property and permission is required to visit this site). A large entrance low on a northwest facing hill leads into a wide and high passage, developed to the east-southeast in white limestone, which narrows, becoming rift-like, and chokes after about 100m. After our first while spent in the cave (enthusiastically guided by Gina's children), when we had journeyed to the far end and looked around to find no extensions, I assumed that this was a mildly interesting site, with a moderate-sized mixed-species batroost (<500), many cave crickets, some trog spiders, and, curiously, many snails foraging on the walls (perhaps on algae that grew there due to the light)? All but the very back part was twilight zone. It was certainly good habitat for various critters, and important to that extent, but my thoughts were that it was a fairly ordinary, smallish cave. However, Gina and the children soon took as back toward the entrance to show us a little passage that cuts down to the side, which they had mentioned several times earlier. The exploration of this would turn out to be the most interesting part of the visit.
As noted above, the upper level of this cave is clearly developed in white limestone. However, a small opening found low on the north wall of the large, obvious, main passage extends horizontally for about 5 metres, through white limestone, and then suddenly cuts down through in a vertically descending joint to hit old, Cretaceous, rudist-bearing limestone, mere metres below. The transition is remarkably well-defined. The joint, in its first step, cuts down about five metres, and you pass from white to Cretaceous limestone before you hit the bottom. In this short stretch, the age of the rock has changed tens of millions of years (from Maestrichtian, >70 ma, to Middle-Eocene, <50 ma). Chert nodules are present, and rudist fossils are seen in cross-section on the walls. We have been into various caves (e.g. Roehampton, Niagara) where development is in this same Cretaceous limestone, and of course many that are in white limestone, but we've never been in a cave that is developed in both, on two levels, with the morphology entirely different in the two sections.
The morphology of the lower level must be addressed: development here is strongly bedded, and jointed, with narrow passages similar to Roehampton School Cave. At the bottom of the joint that we scrambled down to enter this section, a crawl is reached through a bedding plane, but we could see that the joint continued downwards, very tight, to at least one lower level, another 5 metres down. This appeared to run parallel to, and underneath of, the crawl, with the bearing of the joint similar to the orientation of the main part of the cave above (entrance to choke - apx 115 deg true). Because of the relative lack of experienced cavers during this visit (just Eliz and I went to the lower level), we decided to not push the rudist limestone section too far this visit, but it must be noted that other caves with similar development (Roehampton School) have been found to extend for hundreds of metres past constrictions of the sort found at the start of the lower levels of One Day. To make the situation at this cave more clear: the passage we reached at the lower level was a low crawl, and I did not push it more than about 10m, just enough to see what was going on. In the direction opposite, running out toward/under the entrance, it choked after several metres, but it was in another joint that was wide enough to give Eliz a place to get out of the way when I crawled backwards out of the inward section of the passage. I did not see a place large enough to descend to the level seen below, but this might be found further along the crawl passage.
The predaceous fly larvae, Neoditomyia farri, was present in the lower section, although they are not found in the main section of the cave above. At least two species of cave-adapted spiders were seen. This lower level supplies the majority of the true trog habitat found in the cave, i.e. with zero light and non-external-ambient temperature and humidity conditions.
External to the cave, a seasonally flooded gully leads to the entrance from the southwest. The waters that enter (this happening only during severe weather) appear to flow into the lower level at this time. Many thousands of years ago, the main flow was, no doubt, through the white limestone of the upper level, but this upper passage is now high and relatively dry (there might be some pooling when the lower level is completely flooded). We suspect that the rising for this site is on the edge of the lowland basin to the east.
Having done as much as we considered safe to do, today, in this part of the cave, we scrambled back up the jointed vertical to hit the little passage above that leads back to the upper level. The entire time, we had had at least one of Gina's children peering down curiously from the top of the scramble, and I'm quite sure they would have joined us at the bottom if we had let them. Elizabeth was slightly apprehensive about the climb up, being now so used to vertigear and ropes on verticals that anything else seems dodgy, but once on the climb she relaxed and did splendidly (it is about 5m in a narrow crack, and although there are enough handholds and footholds, it looks a little intimidating at first). Before too long, the entire crew was again assembled near the entrance, and we made our way out.
I had left the GPS in the car somehow, so after a walk back, I retrieved it, and then Eliz and I returned to the entrance to get a position and write up some notes, while Gina and the children carried on to the house. When Elizabeth and I had finished up at the cave entrance, we dropped back to Gina's for a while, were fed a very good lunch, discussed what we had found, and made tentative plans to come back for 2-3 days in the future to look into things in greater depth. At about 3:30 PM, we headed on our way, back to Windsor via Maroon Town and Springvale, thereby completing a complete loop of the Cockpit Country, begun three days before, in Windsor.
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