Wilkinson Quarry Cave   

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Caver Letter

I have been asked to provide information to the Bermuda government in order to try to save a cave from destruction by a limestone quarry.  The government is accepting letters from experts who can state why caves should be preserved.  The quarry owners in turn have hired 3 professional consultants – Cumberland Caverns manager Roy Davis, former UIS president Prof. Arrigo Cigna and mining engineer Peter Calder – to state why the cave needs to be destroyed.  I would very much appreciate any help or advice you could provide in this matter.  To give you an appreciation of the cave and its significance, I have created a draft of a website which I would like you to look at and comment on for me.  Please note the video of diving explorations in this cave which I have linked to the webpage.  This webpage on the cave is at:  http://www.tamug.edu/cavebiology/Bermuda/Quarry/WQcave.html


I have also attached copies of letters from the quarry manager and his three hired guns so you can see the arguments that I am faced with.  Once I have finalized my webpage, I plan to write noted speleologists, other scientists, conservationists and cavers like you soliciting letters to try to save this cave and the endangered species with it.  Any help or suggestions that you can provide would be most appreciated.  Letters are due in Bermuda by Oct. 1 and the tribunal hearing to decide the cave’s fate is scheduled for Oct. 20.


Located immediately adjacent to and on the edge of the quarry is Admiral’s Cave, one of the largest, best decorated and most historically significant caves in Bermuda.  A map of Admiral’s Cave is prominently featured in my article on Bermuda caves in the NSS News, August 2003:216-224 If arguments for the destruction of the Quarry Cave succeed, I am afraid that it will not be long until Admiral’s Cave is also lost.


Sincerely,  Tom Iliffe

Professor of Marine Biology


Letter to Able 

Thanks for your quick reply.  I am attaching copies of letters from the quarry manager and his three consultants including Prof. Cigna.  Their arguments are that the cave is 1) small, 2) structurally comprised by blasting activities in the quarry and 3) not ecological or aesthetically significant.  I have quite different opinions.  The cave is approximate 150 m long with a depth of nearly 40 m including a 15 m deep, wholly submerged section of the cave.  On a relatively small island like Bermuda where caves are confined to an even smaller region, this cave is of significant size.  Regarding the structural integrity of the cave, large cracks are evident in several places, even splitting apart a 2 m flowstone slope in the cave; however most fragile soda straws and helectites that were not intentionally smashed by quarry employees have not been harmed.  Since this cave has apparently never had a natural entrance to the surface, all speleothems are dripping and actively depositing new crystal.  In the underwater galleries, meter long soda straws and dense clusters of 30 cm long helectites, formed during low stands of sea level during the Ice Ages, are present and perfectly preserved.  At least 4 species of stygobitic crustaceans collected from the cave are on the 2003 IUCN Red List as “critically endangered”, the highest threat level accorded to organisms – see: http://www.redlist.org/.  Since these animals are only know from this and a very small number of other caves in Bermuda and since the groundwater quality in many parts of the island is declining, the survival of these species are in serious doubt already.  If further time were permitted for study of this cave, I am confident that additional endemic, cave-adapted species would also be found.  The intentional destruction of their cave habitat is totally unwarranted.  I see no reason why the quarry owner should be rewarded for having severely damaged the cave by being allowed to reap substantial benefits in being allowed to quarry it away.  This sets a various dangerous precedent which could eventually lead to the destruction of many Bermuda caves and the extinction of much of Bermuda’s endemic cave fauna.  Indeed, the very large cave and historically significant Admiral’s Cave is situated on the edge of the quarry and is in severe peril due to blasting and other activities at the quarry.  If the quarry owner’s”we damaged it, therefore we should destroy it” philosophy is adopted, it will not take long for Admiral’s Cave to be destroyed as well.  On one hand, the quarry operator has argued that blasting and other quarrying activities can be done without jeopardizing nearby caves – see the article “Blasting in Paradise” in the attached PDF file – but here takes the case that his actions have made the Quarry Cave so structurally unsound that it needs to be destroyed.  He can’t have it both ways.  Any help or suggestions you could provide would be most appreciated.  For more information including photos and maps of the cave along with video shot in the underwater section, see my webpage on the subject at: http://www.tamug.edu/cavebiology/Bermuda/Quarry/WQcave.html


Sincerely, Tom


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Dr. Thomas M. Iliffe
Dept. of Marine Biology
Texas A&M University at Galveston
Galveston, TX 77553-1675
(409) 740-4454 (office); (409) 740-5001 (fax)