Jamaican Caving Notes
Apr 3, 2004
ROEHAMPTON SCHOOL CAVE
Position: WGS84 - 18 24' 17.2" N, 77 54' 36.7" W, +/- 5m
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, G. van Rentergem, I. C. Conolley, M. Bellinger, R. Stirling.
Time in: 11:30 EST, Time out: 15:30 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: Intermediate
This was our second day in a row at Roehampton School Cave, the first having found us new discoveries and prompting us to return for a more thorough exploration and mapping survey. Today, for the first time this expedition, we only had experienced cavers onboard. Furthermore, it had been decided that Ivor and I would go out front, taking care of exploration, while Guy, Mark, and Rona worked on the survey. I was very much looking forward to the session.
We were able to make much better time across to St James than Apr 2, in large part because I had traded in the first week's rental car for a better vehicle the day before. The old one had had poor suspension, a faulty exhaust system, a faulty CD-player, and finally, a smashed in fender as a result of me hitting a pick-up truck on the North Coast Road on Thursday evening. This fender-bender had been entirely the fault of the other driver, Vincent Barret, of Kempdale. Mr. Barret had pulled from the Daniel Town cross-road, suddenly navigating his ancient, heavily-laden, red pick-up truck directly in front of me, as I cruised along towards Discovery Bay, (presumably because his neck would only turn in one direction, and he was therefore unable to look both ways before entering the highway), and despite my best efforts to stop in time, a minor collision occured. So it goes.
Well before noon, we were at the entrance to the cave and beginning our work. Ivor and I went ahead, while the others began the survey, and we were soon at our previous farpoint. I had carefully rearranged flags on the way out yesterday, and today there was no confusion as to which were the passages that we needed to follow.
Once again, at the wide, low, pool that would take us to our new ground, I crawled through the water until the passage rose slightly, the ceiling grew higher, and we met the large passage that would conduct us to the unexplored section of the cave. Ivor was close behind and we were soon standing in the main collector, Guy's discovery of the day before.
This wide passage had been reached by way of a similar passage that had choked then cut sharply right, to pick up the main collector running parallel about 10 m away. This collector was itself rather choked at its upstream end. In the downstream direction it became like an underground highway taking us under the hills above. It at times became lower, then again higher, but kept going on, zig-zagging its way to the west. After some 100 metres, we reached a rather broken-down section that was passed by way of a very tight slither over rocks, the vertical space being about 50 cm. Past this, we hit water again, trickling through a series of rimstone pools. The passage height was from 1.5 to 2.5 m high, but we were steadily going further down, dropping about 5 m in 20 m. We managed to follow this route for roughly another 60 m, and then the passage ceiling lowered to less than 50 cm from the water surface, in a final flooded wide section. Both Ivor and I were very aware of how low we were in the cave and the catchment conditions outside of the cave. We were in a place that could flood rapidly if a storm were to move through. Even though it was the dry-season, the many passages that we had found throughout this system, that all fed into the section where we were now, would funnel waters quite effectively. Ivor made a valiant effort to push it at the very end, but ran out of breathing-space. We called a halt and began to make our way back out to find the others.
Not far outwards of the slither, we found Guy and Mark toiling their way through the passage, steadily surveying along. They had done about 50 survey legs, from the entrance to here. Time was getting late, and it was decided that when the survey reached the slither, it would be stopped for the time-being. This done, the four of us returned to link with Rona at the first pool, and then we made our way to the entrance.
It should be noted that the geomorphology of this cave is fascinating. The outer parts are a classic labyrinth of parallel passages, some too small to enter, oriented with the main water-bearing passages trending from 120 to 300 deg and intersecting passages roughly perpendicular. At the main collectors, the trend suddenly turns west, running straight under the hills rather than paralleling the contours of the hill as it does towards the entrance. Where we stopped, we had certainly not run out of passage, just available breathing-room. Our previous farpoint, in January, 2004, was not found to our knowledge. There are more routes through the cave than have been mapped to date. A return must be made.
There is a great flood risk in this cave, much of the year, in the further, lower sections. We hope to attempt additonal exploration and survey this Aug, after the spring rains are over.
The map below is based on the survey data obtained by Guy van Rentergem and Mark Bellinger this day. Guy will produce his own, better-quality version, but I have taken the numbers and run them through Compass to produce the temporary map found here. It will be seen that it matches our previous effort fairly well, with the 6 degree variation between magnetic and true north factored in. The map below extends much further, but a couple of side passages not indicated can be found on the older map.
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