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Aug 30, 2002

WINDSOR GREAT CAVE, TRELAWNY, JAMAICA, W.I.


FIELD NOTES: I. C. CONOLLEY

Cavers: I. C. Conolley, R. S. Stewart, M. Taylor

Windsor caves was my hunting ground. You could say it was my landscape. It was the reason I had found my way to Windsor in the first place. I was looking at the Cockpit Country on the road map and had seen it. And when in 1973 I approached the mouth and felt its breath blowing like cooling wind I knew I would return. I did not take a flashlight then and so just perused the perimeter. I noticed scaffolding then indicative of an age when guano used to be mined there and cargo loads of the manure would be shipped overseas for the manufacture of various chemicals. Then it was big business but it all came to a halt with the advent of the Second World War when shipping was curtailed and later when other means were found to manufacture those chemicals. But the bat population there continued to grow but unless told you may never know at least not on merely visiting the cave. The cave is so massive that the bats rarely do their dive-bombing exercise. On the so-called tourist route you may see the odd bat flying around. Of course if you look up on the roof of the cave that may be an entirely different matter. You may see them there hanging upside down waiting for dusk to commence their gourmet flight into the Windsor plant and insect life.
But the more adventurous venture further, going down a rope climb on a thirty foot drop, wading through pools of water and finally emerging from another opening on the back side into an area called Bamboo Bottom taking its name from the numerous bamboo plants found in this area.
But Stef qualifies as the super-adventurous and a slight indication in Jamaica Underground shows another drop. There isnít much to it. But for him a mention is enough. He takes his rope and finds his way down there. It is not the most comfortable area in the world. There is water there. Running water. And different from the rest of the cave it is not wide open and huge. It is enclosed suggestive that this is a channel for water and not for explorers. So he approaches it with caution. In a dryer season he has gone there and has traversed a good distance down this cavernous watery track. But this is a rainy period and he approaches with extra caution.

It is my first descent using repelling gear. I share his equipment. I am taught what to do. The area through which we descend starts at about ten feet by six feet and narrows to approximately six by six. Quite spacious by cave measures. There are crabs down there. Windsor cave is teeming with life.

We descend , the intrepid team of Stefan, Malibu and Ivor, and observe the flowing water only a few feet away from our vertical rope. Stef notes that the water is high. It is my first time in so I have no point of comparison. We wonít be able to traverse the channel today. We poke around. Stef determines the direction of water flow. It seems from ones natural sense of direction to be flowing south but the compass says north and so does logic. We are on the northern side of the Cockpit. Any southerly flow would have to be very temporary, turn north and proceed to the Caribbean Sea on the north coast of the island

Back on the ropes again we are up and with a brisk walk out of the Windsor Great Caves. Another exciting adventure.

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