Caves in the Cockpit Country are of major paleontologic interest (Anthony 1919-20, Pregill et al.1991, MacPhee 1997). Jamaica holds pride of place in the discovery of Antillean primates, because it was here in 1920 that the first fossils of an unquestionably distinct Antillean monkey (Xenothrix mcgregori) were discovered by Harold Anthony of the American Museum of Natural History at Long Mile Cave, near Windsor (MacPhee 1997). Anthony's expedition to the Cockpit Country, which included Windsor Great Cave, Long Mile Cave, Wallingford and Wallingford Sink Caves, and Oxford Cave, represents the first biological study of Jamaican caves and provides important baseline information for assessing current conditions. The fossilized remains improve our understanding of the biogeography of the Greater Antilles and facilitate comparison of prehistoric extinctions to the resolved extinctions that have taken place in the past 500 years (MacPhee and Flemming 1999).

Although Caving is a popular pastime, there are associated threats both to humans (see Health Caution below) and to the cave ecosystems


Histoplasmosis is a human fungal disease resulting from infection with the organism Histoplasma capsulatum, and is a potential hazard to anyone entering a tropical cave. Pulmonary histoplasmosis causes flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, requires hospitalization. The fungus is considered common in Jamaican caves and is closely-linked with, but not exclusive to, cave-dwelling bats. A brief exposure is likely to result in infection. This was first recognized in 1978 when, a group of visitors were taken into a Jamaican cave; 25 of the 28 subsequently showed some symptom of the infection, including a woman and her son, aged 4yrs, who had remained at the cave entrance (Fincham 1978). Histoplasma spores may be present in dry guano piles even if the cave is no longer occupied by bats. Any persons known to be immunologically compromised should not expose themselves to the risk of histoplasmosis and all visitors to Jamaican caves should be aware that infection probabilities are high.

Great sources of information on Jamaica Underground are:- the BOOK and the WEBSITE, both authored by Alan Fincham

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