Jamaican Caving Notes
June 14, 2004
Position: WGS84 - 18 19' 09.2" N, 77 49' 46.2" 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
THREAT VULNERABILITY: Low
June 14, a Monday, saw the crew back in St James to continue work on the assessment project. This would be our first session with Elizabeth Slack, an American Peace Corps volunteer who would help us out for five days this week.
The day before, a large team had successfully tackled Volcano Hole. We hadn't been finished until 11:30 PM, and I hadn't gotten to sleep until 2:00 AM. Needless to say, I was running late this morning and didn't make it to Dietrich's, in Montego Bay, to pick up D and Elizabeth until late morning. I must confess to be rather exhausted and was glad that our targets for the day weren't terribly ambitious. Our objectives were Pumphouse Cave and Flamstead Cave, both in the Flamstead district and fairly close to each other. We had made arrangements the previous week with Ecleston Waite, an employee of the water commission, to show us the entrances to these two systems, and not long past noon we had tracked down our guide and were heading for our first target, Pumphouse Cave.
Pumphouse Cave is a resurgence that has been tapped into by the water commission as a source for the St James water supply. According to JU, the origin of these waters is at Mocho Sink, where a stream disappears below a cliff into a low passage, to reappear at Flamstead. According to Ecleston, the waters flow, "all the while", in a good quantity.
The entrance is found at the base of a hill, below a road, and faces 35 deg true. To the NE, a large concrete basin collects water for the adjoining pumphouse. Some of the flow is allowed to continue on its way. The entrance itself is rift-like and the passage it leads to is also a rift, some 1 - 2 m wide and 2 - 2.5 high. It is flooded to a depth of about 1 m, athough there are sandy shelves in places.
We made our way upstream through this small underground river to see what could be seen. It was soon apparent that the cave was formed in cretaceous rock, as evidenced by rudist fossils in cross-section on the passage walls and deposits of chert in strata that protruded slightly into the passage. The cave has been developed in a fault-based fracture in very hard limestone and has had little development otherwise. Few formations are present, as a result of the hardness of the rock. Several samples of the material suspected to be chert were taken in the form of loose nodules found on shelves. The Red-Stripe Test, conducted later, determined that they were indeed chert.
No terrestrial inverts were seen, possibly because of a lack of food resources due to upstream filtering of rafted organic material, and also the absence of bats in the downstream passage. The lack of bats is probably due to the high humidity and scarcity of roosting space on the strongly-bedded ceiling of the passage. Sesarma verleyi were present which suggest the potential for other stygobites that were not observed. Biologically, this cave primarily consists of an aquatic habitat, and this could be examined more thoroughly.
The main importance of the cave is in its use as a water source, and we will have a good look at Mocho Sink in the future to determine the quality of the above-ground stream and associated catchments.
Having had a good look, I worked my way back out of the cave passage, took a good GPS position, and then we carried on to Flamstead Cave.
It should be noted that JU lists the position of this cave at the head of the wrong stream.
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