Jamaican Caving Notes
May 6, 2005
Team: Stewart, Conolley.
Notes: RS Stewart
Stephenson Cave was visited by us immediately after the associated Bonafide Cave. It has many of the same characteristics as its close neighbour, and indeed, most of the entries in the datasheets are identical. Regarding the association between Bonafide, Stephenson, and Marta Tick, I will quote below the pertinent section of the notes for Bonafide Cave:
"Bonafide Cave, rather than being an independent site, is more correctly described as part of a larger system that also includes Marta Tick to the south, and Stephenson to the north. In the lower sections of all three, fossil phreatic sponge extends, at similar elevations, in a line that appears to connect them into one larger system. In August 2003, an airflow was noted in the lowest sections of Bonafide, deep in complex sponge, on the Marta Tick side of the cave. The sponge continued on that bearing, but became very small and tight. It appeared to be identical to the sponge found in Marta Tick, that extends towards Bonafide (see JU map for Marta Tick). In Marta Tick, Nov 22, 2002, JCO members observed small numbers of bats far into this section, past crawls that did not appear to supply suitable access for bats, and it was speculated that there was a separate entry point (apart from the main entrance). To the north of Bonafide, only 40 metres away along the same cliff, is Stephenson Cave. Both Bonafide and Stephenson have their development primarily parallel to the strike of the hill (18 deg true), with the bearing of this strike in the southward direction extending behind the saddle towards Marta Tick. At first sight, it can be seen that Bonafide and Stephenson are essentially connected, although it might not be possible for a human to squeeze through from one to the other. If Bonafide does indeed connect to Marta Tick, then these three caves comprise one system. It is unknown if the route is large enough to allow a caver to pass through, but it is the current belief of the JCO that further exploration is warranted."
I can also quote from the biological notes for Bonafide, because they apply equally well to Stephenson Cave:
" The few bats observed appear to be Artibeus fruit-bats, in the upper twilight zone, and in such small numbers that guano was limited to individual feces appearing as spots on rock surfaces. Because of the wide breakdown entrance, stretching along the hillside, the cave is very airy, and humidity is close to the ambient outside humidity. These factors seem to have combined to supply very poor habitat for trog species. There is very little nutrient input, because there is little guano, and no rafting of detritus by streams, and accordingly little of biological interest. In two sessions of looking carefully, we have essentially seen no trog species in this cave. If it is indeed a part of a larger Marta Tick system, then trogs can be expected somewhere deep through the sponge in that direction, but when regarded as a separate cave, Bonafide has little of biological value."
How Stephenson Cave does differ is in its size. The length quoted in Jamaica Underground, and in the datasheet above, of 215 metres, is deceiving because as always, lengths given from cave surveys are a total of all of the survey legs, and not the actual horizontal extent of the cave in the longest dimension. In the case of Stephenson, the actual length is somewhat more than 50 metres, running interior and parallel to the cliff line. Nevertheless, this is much larger than the known extent of Bonafide.
Stephenson Cave also has the distinction of being the last known cave, at the north end, of the western series of shafts and caves that begins far to the south with Belmore Castle Pit-1. There is, of course, every possibility that there are other, unknown, caves and sinkholes lurking in cockpits further into the bush, beyond Stephenson Cave, that await discovery by intrepid explorers in the years to come.
We are listing this site with a low vulnerability because of its remoteness and lack of visitation.
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