Jamaican Caving Notes
Mar 03, 2003
SCHAW CASTLE CAVE,
AKA - RAT BAT HOLE:
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, M. Taylor, Clive
On the morning of March 2, while on our way to Maroon Town via the Deeside road, we'd looked for Tony, a man met in November, who had told us of cave entrances in the district that he could lead us to. This area was not covered by the GSD in 1951, the Bristol Caving Club in 1967, or any of the JCC outings, and has no entries in the JU Register, so we were keen to see what might be found in the hills and valleys of this seldom visited part of the Cockpit Country. Although Tony was not around, having moved to the bright lights of Maroon Town, at Zion's yard we met a youth named Clive who knew of several caves. He seemed trustworthy and fit so we'd made arrangements to link up the next morning, March 3, 2003.
The weather on the morning of this day continued to be fair and dry. The usual 90 minute drive from Windsor got us to Zion's at about 10:30 AM, and a short drive up the road found us Clive.
Clive knew of two caves in the area, the nearest called Rat Bat Hole, and this was our first target for the day. The cave is approached on a good trail that leads NW from the road; a walk of 15 - 20 minutes, through relatively, tick-free terrain brought us to the entrance. A good GPS position was taken and saved as wpt's 66/67.
The opening to this cave is large, about 15 metres, and sits at an angle of apx 30 deg from the horizontal, in the eastern side of a hill, looking over a smallish cockpit. The way down into the cave is simple and obvious and requires no vertigear. As one enters the cave, one sees an enormous dome-shaped breakdown chamber, at least 40 metres high and twice that wide. The entrance sits high at the eastern side and illuminates the entire visible chamber. This opening, when seen from the further parts of the chamber, provides a fine view of the sunlit trees outside, (see photo).
This cave, as indicated by the local name, had been used as a source of bat guano by the people of the district to such an extent that a rock-supported, switchbacked trail had been established down the southern side of the chamber. The current population of bats is not overly large and probably consists primarily of the light-tolerant fruitbats. Sprouting rose apple fruits indicated their presence. The current colony is concentrated high on the northern side of the chamber and has guano deposits immediately underneath the roost.
We went down the mentioned guano trail and began a slow search around the bottom perimeter of the cave for any continuations. On the SW side, it is possible to squeeze through into an area of crawls and inclines that appears to be an extension of the main chamber that has yet to break down enough to join the rest, but enables one to make circuitous journeys that return one to the main chamber as much as 20 metres away from where one entered. The formations in this part, unlike the main chamber, are undisturbed and attractive. On the north side, a climb down between boulders by Ivor found a small pool of water that appeared to be a remnant rather than active. No openings that lead to extensions were found. This cave is very much like another local cave, Liebert's Great Hole, in its physical structure albeit somewhat larger.
It should be noted that the considerable damage that had been done to the stalagmites near the guano trail have exposed remarkably clear and sparkling calcite. Some shards resembled the purest quartz and were almost transparent. The smaller pieces, sitting in heaps, reminded me of automobile glass that has been shattered. The appearance of this calcite, when seen under the illumination of the headlamp, was very fine.
It seemed as though we had accomplished about as much as we could this visit, so we made our way up and out, then back to the road, and the Lada, to search out the next cave.
This cave has a local name, Rat Bat Hole, that is identical, or similar, to the local names for countless other caves that have been used by farmers for guano, and thus seemed entirely inadequate for the official name. Nevertheless, etiquette dictates that the existing name used by the people of the district, when no other exisits, be respected. It seemed incumbent on Clive to decide on a better name under which this cave will be placed in the Register. An explanation of what was required of him, and some lengthy careful thought by him, resulted in the solemn declaration that it should be called Schaw Castle Cave. This struck everyone as being quite good and was readily agreed to. A search on the 1:50K topos later in the day showed this to be the name of the nearby district, so it is indeed suitable.
This cave, although it does not offer potential for further exploration, is valuable as a roost for fruit bats, as well as for its beautiful calcite and fine view up to the entrance.
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