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Aug 25, 2003

ROEHAMPTON SCHOOL CAVE


Position: WGS84 - 18 24' 17.2" N, 77 54' 36.7" W

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor, R. Ranger

Roehamton School Cave, located near Anchovy, St. James, was brought to our attention by Joan Blake of the near-by village of Wales Pond. She had given us valuable assistance in the past, and on this day her help was to prove to be even more important. At no great distance from Lawson Bottom Cave, there is a hydrologically active cave that had somehow been missed by explorers and cave surveyors of the past. This stream-passage cave, possibly associated with Lawson Bottom, was a true pleasure to find.

Martel and I had journeyed from Windsor to Wales Pond early in the day, and had then linked with Ian Blake at his shop in Wales Pond. Our visit was intended to accomplish several things; we were scouting for good rock-climbing walls in the Montego Bay area, hoping to get tips on unlisted caves, and also getting ourselves closer to the airport to pick up someone in the early evening. We were successful with the latter two goals but had no success finding good climbing potential in the Anchovy district. The new cave more than made up for it.

After linking with Ian, and a solid friend of his with the wonderful, true name of Rohan Ranger, we were at last able to meet Joan in person. Her very impressive house is up the road a short distance from Ian's shop. During my previous visit, she had been in her "other home" in Canada. Mrs. Blake proved to be a very charming, well-spoken, well-educated woman, and in the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she had heard of a cave near Roehamton School. After a visit of some 20 minutes, we headed off with Ian, and Rohan, to Roehamton in pursuit of it.

The description of the location that we had from Joan put it quite close to Roehamton School, and most easily found by way of the school property. Because it was August, and school was not in session, we found the gates to the school locked and so parked on the road close by the entrance. To the left of the gates we found an easy place to get over the surrounding wall, and headed off to the northwest where we hoped to find the entrance. None of us, Martel, Ian, Rohan, or myself, had ever been to this system so we went into search mode.

To the north of the school, a wide, flat bottomland is found. It was expected that the entrance would be somewhere on the side of this, where the land rose, so as the main group searched along the eastern side, I worked my way towards the hill that rises to the road on the western side. After skirting pools, and copses of Cowitch, I arrived in what were essentially the backyards of those whose houses were on the road above. In hopes of getting info on the location, I made my way through a collection of pigs and chickens to inquire at the closest house. The first person I came across was a child who seemed startled to see a white man suddenly appear through the pigs with a bright red helmet on his head. Fortunately, she didn't run in terror, and I was able to have her lead me to her mother.

The child's mother was delighted to see us, knew of the cave that I sought, and in exchange for several cigarettes told her son, Ian Weatherburn, to lead us to the entrance. With several shouts and whistles, I reassembled the party and we headed off. Humorously, as we passed the next neighbour's yard to the south, en route to the entrance, a man appeared from his house to demand money, a demand that had absolutely no effect on any of the party. He neither owned the land across which we walked, nor had any credibility beyond what any common bumba-clot possesses. In five minutes time, we reached a very promising entrance on the side of the hill that rises to the west of the Roehamton School Valley.

The entrance to the cave faces 50 deg true, is 2.5 m wide and 6 m high, and sits under a low cliff. The position was marked as waypoints 136/137, 18 24' 17.2" N, 77 54' 36.7" W, with the actual entrance 12 m, azimuth 230 deg true, from the waypoints. The fix was 3D Differential, WAAS, and will have an accuracy of less than +/- 5 metres.

Ian Blake remained on the outside while Martel, Rohan, and myself went in. We soon discovered that this was a fine cave.

Roehamton School Cave, the obvious name for this new river cave, takes the waters of a small stream that flows from the bottomland that lies to the east. It has been carved into very hard, strongly bedded, Montpellier limestone. The best description is "labyrinth". Within 20 metres of the entrance, a climbable drop of 3 m is reached, and then the water flows further in with small branching passages encountered that join with what we determined to be the main river passage. The cross-section of the passages is very particular. The height is 2 - 3 metres, with a width of under 1 metre, and has a profile that is corrugated on both sides due to alternating strata of sedimentary layers with differing resistance to erosion. A sketch of the cross-section is in the notebook and should be scanned. The general trend of the active stream course is to the northwest. A line survey will follow below.

Martel, Rohan, and I worked our way slowly into the system. We could see signs in the outer parts of long-term visitation by youths of the district in the form of scratched initials and love-notes on the walls of the main passage. After a time, we left these behind. The passage that we followed, that which seemed to be the main stream course, had been joined by many other more narrow passages as we made our way along. I flagged the route well having no desire to make circuitous detours on the way out in search of the way home. On a first visit, this cave was confusing enough that we didn't want to take chances. At a point well into the cave, but not as far as we might have gone if it had not been a wet time of year, I called a halt. We turned around and began a line survey of the flagged route out. The vectors follow:

A-B, 3.5 m, 205 deg true
B-C, 7.5, 117
C-D, 6.5, 125
D-E, 18, 190
E-F, 2, 305
F-G, 9, 190
G-H, 12, 110
H-I(Entrance), 20, 95

Side passages are marked in the notebook. A more accurate survey, that extends to the furthest reaches of the cave and includes all the side passages, will be done next session, (Jan 2004).

Plotting the line survey on the topo, after the visit, suggests that this cave is part of a larger system associated with the near-by Lawson Bottom Cave. Lawson Bottom, to the southwest, trends in the direction of passages that feed water into the main route that we followed. It appears that Lawson Bottom is an upstream part of a common system that has its downstream section in Roehamton School Cave. It is unknown if a connection might be made between the two caves, i.e. one that a human may pass through, but we will find out next time.

Sesarma Verleyi were present in good numbers in the active river passages. No American Cockroaches were seen. No suitable chambers are available for bats and none were seen. Amblypygi and other inverts that might be found in a dry cave, associated with bats and guano deposits, were not present. No paleo resources were observed and would not be expected due to the hydrological activity of the system and the restricted active passages.

After having left the cave, and taken the GPS position noted above, we made a brief return to Wales Pond and then headed to the airport to await our visitor.

To summarize: Roehampton School Cave is found to the northwest of the school. A stream flows into the cave and then underground to the northwest along fissures that parallel the hill above. The flow from Lawson Bottom possibly feeds into the cave at its upstream section. Biological activity is stream-passage type.

Collected notes for Roehampton School Cave.


Roehamton Cave, St James, Jamaica
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