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|CAVING IN JAMAICA|
Hello, welcome to this web site. Here you can find everything you ever wanted to know about caving in Jamaica, but didn't dare to ask :-)
This site is made because there is not so much information on the web about this Tropical Caver's Paradise. Indeed there are a lot of reasons to go caving in Jamaica.
|WHY JAMAICA?||THE EXPEDITIONS|
EXPLORING THE ACHERON WITH A DIY REBREATHER (aka the Bat Rebreather)
After my first visit to the St Clair cave, in January 2005, I wrote down:
"St Clair is about bats, bats and bats. Oh and cockroaches... It's difficult to explain what it is like, but if you have been to the movie "Batman Begins", then you will have the picture. I've never seen so much life in one place (ok maybe an ants nest, but I'm speaking about mammals). It's really like a kind of underground Serengeti. It is more than impressive. The environment is rather hostile and very demanding to equipment and people. Let's give an impression:
The cave is smack in the middle of a jungle in very rough terrain. You have to carry everything on your back. There are so many bats that you have a natural phenomena they call thermoclines. Walls of heat. From one step to another, the temperature rises 2-3 degrees. This goes in different steps, from 25 degrees C to 33 and higher. Humidity is 100%. Oh, and you have to go through hip-deep water for hundreds of meters. There are also passages you have to slide through on your belly like a snake. And take into account that all these animals have to poo and you can see that the ground is covered with an immense carpet of bat guano (batshit). Ah, and some Old Bat lore: Never fly with a full bladder. So when they start to fly in the evening, it starts raining... And for the not faint of heart, the floor is covered with a living carpet of cockroaches..."
During the March 2006 expedition the plan was to explore the Inferno+. With a small team (Stef, Hilde and Guy) we pushed the exploration of the Inferno+ into the discovery of an up till now unknown river: the Acheron. Here is an excerpt of my notes:
"Stef and I go further, bitten by the exploration virus. We have to find our way through chaotic rocks, and then come, at last, into a wide corridor. Soon, the cave changes and the passage starts to slope down. The bottom is covered with small pebbles, and sand, and we hear a sound like running water. Since sound behaves strangely in caves, we weren’t sure yet. It could be another colony of bats too. Closing in reveals the real nature of the sound. What we hear now is definitely a roaring river. Meanwhile, the cave also starts to smell like a sewer. We go faster, duck under a low arch and behold... we arrive in a large corridor with a large river. The passage is 8 meters wide; at the left, there is an ink black lake. A river spills over the right edge, and tumbles down a chaotic slope right into the black void of an immense passage. Euphoric, we continue our fast descent to the river, but suddenly we both have to stop! In a fraction of a second, we both instinctively turn around and scramble as fast as possible to higher ground again. It’s only now we realize the smell of sewer gas is overwhelming. Something down there is not right. And we decide wisely to stay on high ground.
After some time trying to get our breath under control, I realize we still have a job to do. I have to go down again and try to survey what we can. I inch back slowly towards the river until I find a place where the air is just breathable. 10 cm lower and I would suffocate. I quickly take the compass bearings and also take some pictures. Be damned, this is really so frustrating! There is this massive collector right before our nose, but we can’t explore the damned thing. Later, we decide to call this river the Acheron. After one of the four rivers of Dante’s Hell. A well chosen name if you ask me!
Since the Acheron leads to a certain death, we decide to go back and survey the new ground we found in the Inferno+. This survey goes fast at first, but when we're once again at the new chamber with the bats, the cave becomes more chaotic, with big boulders, and the surveying becomes more tedious and slower. Meanwhile, Hilde joins us and our troop is complete again. After what seems hours and hours we finally reach the old survey point of last year. Our goal is reached!"
During the vivid discussion after this new discovery Don McFarlane mentioned on November 26 2006:
could you design a compact, lightweight rebreather rig?
My reply 5 minutes later:
wohaa! Never tought of doing this. Maybe I should have a look. Who knows...
The rest is history…
Here you can read more about the development and usage of rebreathers
This site was updated 01-June-2009
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