Jamaican Caving Notes
Welsch Ratbat Cave
May 8, 2005
Team: Stewart, Conolley
Notes: RS Stewart
This cave is located in the same hill as Penthouse, about 50-100m to the northeast. The entrance is medium-sized, and leads to a fossil stream passage that is very low in the first part (about 60cm) being almost choked with old, dry mud. It seems odd, because the cave is dry and about 5-6m above the glade floor. We don't know if this is very old sediment, or if the cave occasionally takes water in extreme rains (hurricanes, etc).
Past the crawl, the cave eventually gets higher, and is comparable to parts of Penthouse (over 5m). Towards the end, about 80m in, the passage becomes more restricted until it finally chokes.
We saw no bats in this cave, despite the name, a history of guano extraction, and this entry in JU, "A dry passage with a large bat colony". There were no accumulations of guano left, and anything that is being removed now is just dirt with some nutrients leeched into it. We were told by our local helpers that the cave was used to take "ratbat dung", but they didn't know how often this happens at present.
We can speculate that this is primarily an Artibeus roost, and they come and go, so perhaps at certain times of the year there are bats still using the cave. The low entrance passage doesn't seem particularly enticing for bats to fly through, and we have to wonder if agriculture on the hill in the past decades has caused the passage to partly fill with mud, in heavy rains. That combined with kerosene bottle torches used by the guano miners (observed by us, abandoned in the cave) might have been enough to destroy this site as a significant bat-roost.
We saw no trog invertebrates. We did see invasive roaches, which would indicate a certain degree of nutrient input (usually guano), so this suggests at least occasional roosting by bats. The absence of fresh bat faeces, if there are only a few bats using this cave at times, would be explained by the roaches - there are enough of them to clean up the fresh droppings before they become available for trog scavengers.
The jointing in this cave is fairly strong, like at Penthouse and River Maiden, and these fissures apparently extend to ground level (the hill above is of no great height). This was indicated by the presence of E. cundalli throughout the cave, rather than just at the entrance where they are usually found. In the past, we have been able to determine that there are small connections to the surface by using E. cundalli as a tracer (farpoint of Deeside Cave, et. al.).
* There is a reference to F Grady, "Bones from Jamaican Caves", found in footnote 199, JU pg 397. We do not have access to the article but assume this was Quaternary vertebrates. It would seem that they were located in a part of the cave that was not mined for guano.
Breccia is present.
We are listing this cave with a high vulnerability, because of the historical bat-roost, and guano extraction, but in truth, it is degraded to the point where little more damage can be done.
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