Jamaican Caving Notes
Position: WGS84 - 18 20' 16.2" N, 77 33' 24.3"
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor
These notes have been written 6 years after the visit to Ramgoat Cave.
In the spring of 1998, Martel and I set out to find the mysterious Ramgoat Cave. We had knowledge of other searches that had not found the cave, but strangely, it is one of the few caves marked on the road maps of Jamaica. The successful search was made sometime between Jan and May of 1998, but it was before I started keeping proper notes, so the date is uncertain. It was also before the SA was removed from the GPS, so although I used the GPS as an aid in finding the cave, I did not get a proper position. The position listed above is +/- 50 m and was primarily determined by using our referenced topo maps and my very good recollection of where the cave is located topographically.
Our main crew at the time was myself, Martel, Sun, and Ray. The four of us, in a rented Samurai, headed up the Barbecue Bottom road in search of Ramgoat. En route, in Duanville, we picked up a gentleman whom Sun and Ray claimed knew where the cave could be found. As it turned out, he didn't have the foggiest idea where it was, but did supply traction through his added weight when we four-wheeled our way out of Stonehenge. We had, of course, wound up in Stonehenge because our guest misdirected us at the start of the Barbecue Bottom road, and sent us on a very interesting journey into the eastern Cockpit Country, until the road dead-ended.
I should note for others, who might read these notes before traveling the Barbecue Bottom road, that at Campbells, where one meets the road from Kinloss, and then turns left, and then is presented with a fork, what looks like the road is the wrong way, and what looks like a farm lane running through a cane field is the right way.
At this time, I did not have the digital topo maps, only photocopied sections of the hardcopy maps, and I also didn't have the datum transform worked out yet, but nevertheless I was able to get a rough WGS84 position worked out from the JU listed position, and had entered this into the GPS. In the end, it was good enough.
When we had finally gotten on the Barbecue Bottom road, and approached the rough position for the cave, I held the GPS up as I drove, and where it showed us closest to the entrance, we stopped and had a look. Where we had stopped was midway up a rockwall, of some 200 m height, on a road that was blasted out of the side of a small mountain. Above us, there was no sign of a cave, and it seemed unlikely that one would occur in such a place. Below us was a very deep valley, part of the great fault line that slices through this end of the Cockpit Country. The obvious thing to do was find a way down.
To the north, about 200 m, we found a scramble down into the valley. At the bottom, 30 minutes later, we began to make our way south looking carefully for cave entrances. We found a series of small, choked sinkholes, but no caves. After some 300 m of this, we turned around and looked behind us again. Still nothing. We turned to the south once more, and as we toiled though the scrub and rocks, Sun said, "Look, man, up there!". We had found the famous, but unfindable Ramgoat Cave.
Ramgoat Cave is situated roughly 50 m up a vertical cliff, and about the same below the road, and is a cave in name only. From what we could see, it appears to be a small shelter cave with an opening of about 5 m, that looks like it will extend no more than 10 m into the cliff. We did not, of course, attempt to enter it because there is no point. By looking at it from below, and by looking at the morphology of where it is found, it is obvious that it goes nowhere. It is a shelter cave that became famous many years ago because of its absolute inaccessibility. One would have to be a "ramgoat" to reach it. We could easily hang a rope from the road above, rap down, crawl in, and then ascend back up the rope, just so we can say we've done it, but honestly it would be rather a waste of time. Perhaps, one of these days, when we've run out of caves, and are very desperate, we'll have a go at it.
This session, rather than being a waste of time, explained the mystery; the cavers that we'd heard of, who had not found it, did not find it because they looked above the road, or in the valley, and did not expect it to be in between. The reason that it is on the road maps is because of its historical fame... anyone who ever knew the district had looked up at that hole and said, "Cho! Only a Ramgoat go deh, man!"
If any who read these notes become inspired to visit and enter Ramgoat Cave, please contact us with a report of the visit. I am quite sure that you will be the first to have done it.
[It was determined seven years later, May 21, 2005, that our "guide" was Herman Hyatt. See Kinloss Cave for more on this.]
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