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South Trelawny
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March 31, 2005


Big Swanga: WGS84 - 18 18' 45.2" N, 77 34' 10.1" W, +/- 10m
Swanga-Banga: WGS84 - 18 18' 29.7" N, 77 34' 05.3" W, +/- 10m

Field notes: R. S. STEWART

Cavers: R. S. Stewart, I. C. Conolley, D. K. Roggy, E. Slack

Time in: 12:00 EST, Time out: 13:30 EST


On this third day of our investigations of the caves of Rock Spring, Trelawny, things became rather more confusing, although ultimately the day would be instrumental in helping us to pin-down the many entrances that we were finding, to the listed caves that they led to. In total, I don't know how many entrances we found in the five days spent here, (I have yet to add them all up), but it was surely dozens, distributed amongst twelve caves, (this not counting the caves closer to Spring Garden that we also hit). Our steady GPS referencing would eventually make things clear, later in the week, and today was to supply a valuable data-point: the rising of Swanga Cave, from which we found and identified several other of our targets.

The morning had started with Carambie Cave, and after finishing it we moved up the Good Hope Glade road to start our search for Swanga, Pool, Crayfish, and Iron Maiden caves. They were all listed as being accessible from this side of the bush, arrayed across towards Printed Circuit Cave. We had linked with a friendly local man, Gary, soon after parking at the bottom of the Good Hope Glade road, (near wpt 203), who not only knew of Swanga Cave, but would take us there, (no charge - it turned out he wanted our assistance in exploring another cave he knew of and was curious about). We hiked up the road, (a very minor rural road, more of a lane), until at the end it forked off into two trails. The left branch, we were told, headed to the Good Hope Glade, where we would search for several other caves later in the week. To the right, we were told, was Swanga. This seemed odd to me, because we were now well past the listed position for Swanga, and heading even further away. Nevertheless, we followed him down the trail to see what could be found. Whatever it was, it would be unlisted.

Printed Circuit Cave Topo After passing through a saddle, we descended into a large bottomland that was fairly bushed-up on the slopes. Once down, we swung to the left, and a short distance ahead we came to an enormous, shallow shelter-cave hard against the side of the valley, (wpt 195). This, we were informed, was Swanga. Now, we knew that the listed Swanga is a small stream-passage cave, with a small entrance, and this of course in no way matched what we sought. We hiked closer into it and had a look at things.

At the bottom of this giant shelter, there was an obvious seasonal stream-rising, currently impenetrable due to mud/silt. It was not active, but it was dry-season so this was no surprise. The effects of the last rising were certainly visible, though, in the form of dried mud covering a large part of the bottomland, and extending a good distance up the trunks of trees found in the valley immediately below the cave. This appeared to be, once again, a result of Hurricane Ivan, some months before, as seen at Mouth Maze. Hurricane or not, it is apparent that this rising is terrifically active at times, unlisted, and has its source undetermined.

I questioned our friend carefully about the name of this cave, and also asked if he knew of anything in the area where the "real" Swanga was supposed to be that had a small stream-passage type entrance. Indeed he knew of such a cave, locally known as "Banga". After getting a GPS position, (wpt 195), for this new "cave", we hiked back out to the end of the lane where the fork is found, and then back towards where we'd parked, and much closer to where the "real" Swanga was listed to be.

Partway back along the lane, we turned southwest onto a good trail, and after a short hike of about 100m, we came to something that looked much more promising. It was in the general vicinity of where Swanga should be found, (although it was also the same vicinity as several other caves, within the accuracy of the JU listed positions). An entrance of 2-3m high, and 2 wide, held a pool in rocks in front of it, and a minor flow of water issued forth. I took a GPS position, (wpt 204), we stuffed some things into a dry bag, and then waded in.

Beyond the entrance, the passage extends onwards to the south, upstream. We followed this, passing through places where the water is deep, and the ceiling is low, with the passage never increasing in width more than 3m wide, or in height by 3m. At times we did not do much more than keep our chins dry. Nonetheless, we moved through in good spirits, carefully looking for trog and stygo inverts as we went. After 100+ metres, we hit a sump, (part of a stream-passage where it is so low that it is flooded to the roof), and began to wend our way out.

Once out, we were still not certain which cave we had been in, Swanga or the nearby Pool or Iron Maiden caves, but we had a position, knowledge of the inside of the cave, and good biological observations. We pencilled it in as "Pool?", as it seemed to be closest to that listed position, and assumed we would get it nailed-down after more time spent searching through this part of Rock Spring for the other entrances. Later in the week, once Pool Cave and Crayfish Cave had been found, basing our search on a suspicion that this one had actually been Swanga, everything fell into place, (except for Iron Maiden Cave, which we have not found as of yet). The other nearby GPS marked entrances for Printed Circuit, along with these positions, allowed us to match everything to the unreferenced hydrological area map of the KHE expedition.

Before moving on to the biological observations, I should again note the problem with the naming of this cave. It is undoubtably the listed Swanga Cave, but it is not the one that the people of the district call Swanga. Locally, it is known as Banga Cave. It is easy to see the origin of the confusion: the KHE were British, not great at Patois, and when hearing the names Swanga and Banga, mixed in with a lot of other "unintelligible" words, got confused and stuck the wrong name to the cave. But, what to do about this? There is a large shelter cave resurgence named Swanga. If a visiting researcher comes to the area, and asks for Swanga Cave, as described in Jamaica Underground, he will be steered the wrong way. What we did for our own clarification, when we had things sorted out, was to refer to the large shelter as Big Swanga, and the listed cave as Swanga-Banga. We suggest that these be the new names for these two different caves.

Swanga-Banga is a relatively healthy stream cave in its downstream section. There is some siltation, but not a great amount. The upstream sink, found on a separate day, is heavily silted and is taking surface water that runs through heavily cultivated land. The area between the sink and the sump, (the sump reached from the downstream end), is apparently acting as a silt-trap, with perhaps only periodic flood-pulse events flushing it through. At any rate, during our visit the downstream water was clear, and silt build-up was not critical, (to the point of filling the passage in, such as at the nearby Farmyard Cave). Sesarma spp, suspected to include both verleyi and windsor, were present in good numbers, and samples of legs were taken that have been forwarded to Dr Schubart for identification. As with the other Rock Spring caves, no shrimp were seen. Neoditomyia farri, (predeaceous fly larvae), are present in good numbers. One juvenile Periplaneta americana, (roach), was seen, with the relative absence of these pests directly related to the absence of bats and the associated guano. No other macroinverts such as trog-spiders and cave-crickets were noted, this being typical for a stream-passage cave with no bats in it, and occasional flooding. Buffo marinus were occupying the outer section of the cave, close to the entrance. E. cundalli, (troglophile frogs), were present in the entrance area.

Formations are primarily composed of flowstone, draperies, and rimstone pools. The cave, like others at the same elevation in the same area, is formed along bedding-planes in the yellow to white limestone transition.

We now moved on to a cave that our new friend, Gary, wanted us to look at, one that he did not know of a name for. As realized later, it was also a cave that we were not aware of as being one of our targets, the confusingly named "Good Hope Cave". I say confusing, because there are two other caves in the district called Good Hope One Cave and Good Hope Two Cave. In preparing our information before beginning the expedition, this one had somehow escaped being put on the target-list. Separate notes for this will follow.

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