Jamaican Caving Notes
May 8, 2005
Team: Stewart, Conolley
Notes: RS Stewart
Main Entrance: WGS84
- 18 11' 50.7" N, 77 42' 44.4" W, +/- 10m; Aspect: 270 deg
This site was found with the help of Ricardo Schoburgh, and Mikial Campbell, two youths who live in the district, and know of various caves. We linked with them not far from the Aberdeen square, after asking a few friendly people if they knew of Penthouse Cave. We soon learned that the proper name was Pennhouse, it was well known, and that it was nowhere near the JU listed coordinates. (We'd plotted the position on the topo map, using Arcview, prior to the expedition, and expected it to be in hills to the northeast of the square. Instead, we were told it was over to the west). A lane that led towards it was pointed out, and as we hiked along we were joined by Ricardo and Mikial, who knew exactly where it was and would show us not only this one, but Welsch Ratbat, River Maiden, and three unlisted shelter caves.
First was Welsch Ratbat (confirmed by a match to the NSS cave map), and then Penthouse. The north entrance to Penthouse is in the side of a low hill, about 50m southwest of Welsch Ratbat. It is small (a couple of metres wide and high), and leads to a passage that soon becomes low. After crawls, higher sections are reached, and after about 60m, a large fossil stream passage is joined. To the left, it soon ends at a smaller choked passage. To the right, it carries on, about 10m wide and high, until a jog to the left enters a somewhat smaller section. At the end of this, it becomes low, but is still wide, and then the south entrance is reached, sitting in bush on the hillside. The south entrance is the easiest way to get in and out of the cave, but the north entrance has the best track leading to it.
The cave is very dry, and warm. This is probably because there is a good airflow through the cave between the two entrances.
Bats are roosting in several parts of the cave, in both the dark and twilight zones. Species are more than Artibeus, although we don't know how many, or which.
Invasive roaches, P. americana, are found in fair numbers. This is probably a result of the guano mining occurs here.
Few other inverts are seen, other than roaches. Fungal gnats weren't obvious. We didn't note any cave spiders, amblypygids or other predators.
The guano mining has taken place for many years, and continues occasionally. The deposits being taken now consist mostly of dirt.
The cave is a good example of degradation that results from guano mining. The roaches that were carried in, hitching in fertilizer bags that were repeatedly reused, have out-competed other scavengers that would have served as a base for predators. The removal of the guano has reduced nutrients for fungi, and this has limited the numbers of fungal gnats, a food source for predators. The physical quality of the site as a bat-roost is good (roosting space in dark-zone, and easy flight-lines in and out), but it would be suspected that species numbers have been altered by human disturbance. The cave, even though relatively dry, would have been a biologically more diverse and interesting site if not for guano extraction.
We are listing this site with a high vulnerability due to the bat-roost and the guano mining.
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