Dripping Cave

Mon 29 Mar 2010 12:08
Yesterday we spent nearly the whole day on a sail/hike/spelunking expedition. We sailed just a mile north on the Banks side to Oven Rock, tearing along with a 20-knot following wind. (Our friends Heidi and Bill from Act III, along with their guest Paula, accompanied us. Heidi took some excellent photos and video of Sea Fever under sail.)

We drew up on the beach at Oven Rock -- a limestone formation that looks like an enormous old-style bread oven -- got out and started our hike. We had good general directions to the Dripping Cave from our friend Jeff Van Peski who we'd met two weeks ago with his boys Kook and Tootie (Roger and Elliot) on Aldora. The directions were something like this: "Start at Oven Rock, find the trail that leads around the north side of the hill. It's not the first turn off the trail, but it might be the second or third." Armed with that, we walked up the beach a few hundred yards, found the trail -- which at times was more of a bushwhack -- and then hiked in a half mile or so.

After much poking about in the underbrush on the hillside, we found the cave entrance. It's thirty feet across and ten feet high, half obstructed by fallen rock and many bushes. It leads downward into the cool earth several hundred feet, where it opens up into a huge cavern, serveral hundred feet across and maybe forty feet to the ceiling. Stalagmites rise up from the floor and stalactites drip from the ceiling. Toward the back is a large pool of salt water filled with tiny shimp, and rumored to contain a rare species of blind fish. The pool stretches away into the blackness in the back of the cave. We made our way down in with flashlights, but after your eyes adjust to the darkness you can see pretty well from the daylight that comes in from the opening. We swam in the underground lake. In places underwater stalagmites, formed hundreds or thousands of years ago when the water level was lower, rise up to heights where you can stand on them in the water. The girls picked one of these submerged "islands" to swim to repeatedly from shore about twenty feet away. It was all very eerie, and magical, and awe-inspiring. We are extremely grateful to Jeff and the boys for telling us about this place. It was so cool down in there on a hot dry day -- you could imagine the Lucayans using it as a summer home a millenium ago or so. . . .

For the record, here are some GPS coordinates if anyone else ever wants to visit the cave:
Trailhead on the beach: 23:58.929 N / 76:19.759 W
Turnoff from trail: 23:59.050 N / 76:19.651 W (When you turn, bear diagonally to the right as you go up the hill. Small cairns mark the way.)
Cave entrance: 23:59.037 N / 76:19.646

After an hour or so of cave living, we hiked out and made our way to a nearby Sound-side beach, where the strong east wind had whipped the waters into a frenzy -- big swells breaking on ironshore and sending spray up over our heads. But a small lagoon let the breakers roll in and then flatten out, so we parked ourselves there for a picnic lunch.

When we got back to the boat, it was high and dry and would be for an hour. We considered ourselves lucky, though, because we got to witness a hermit crab drama. One crab, who resided in the cramped quarters of a tulip shell, was getting ready to attack a smaller hermit crab who lived in a roomy conch shell. We watched for a while and then got the idea to offer the tulip dweller one of our pristine conch shells from Norman's Pond (of which we have many) in trade for his tulip shell (of which we have none). As soon as we set a conch shell down by the action, the tulip shell crab showed great interest. The other crab took advantage of his adversary's moment of distraction and took off (very slowly) in the opposite direction. Our tulip hermit crab took his time checking out the empty conch shell, examining it from all angles, turning it, partly entering it. After about 45 minutes, he walked away, rejecting the conch.
We figured it was too heavy, so we offered him a smaller conch shell and put it and and the crab in a bucket. In no time at all, the hermit crab moved into the conch. We hope he is as pleased with his new home as we are with his old one.

We took a lot of photos, which I hope we'll be able to post in the next week or so as we pass through Black Point or Staniel.

In the evening we attended a birthday dinner for Heidi at the Little Farmers Cay Yacht Club.

Now we'll need to check the weather to see if we can move on from here today. We'd like to get up to Staniel and then to Cambridge Cay, which has excellent snorkeling that we missed on the way south. But we may be socked in by strong winds.