Field Sites

Three field sites within the active Atlantic hurricane basin were chosen for the study: Yok Balum cave in southern Belize (A). Conch Bar Caves on the island of Middle Caicos (B), and Leamington Caves, Bermuda (C). The spacing of these sites allows for a wide geographic coverage of past hurricane activity.

Field sites in southern Belize with hurricane tracks Field sites in Turks and Caicos with hurricane tracks Field sites in Bermuda with hurricane tracks
Above, field sites in southern Belize (A), the Turks and Caicos islands (B) and Bermuda (C) showing historical hurricane tracks of category 1-5 storms which passed within 100 km of each site (Created using the NOAA online hurricane query tool at Purple, pink, and red tracks are major hurricanes (categories 3 to 5). Maps are courtesy of Google Earth and Google Maps


Map of Yok Balum Cave

Actun Yok Balum (meaning Jaguar Paw Cave in Mopan Indian and hereafter referred to as Yok Balum Cave) is situated in the Toledo District of Southern Belize. It lies about 40 minutes walk from the Mopan Indian village of Santa Cruz. The cave is extensively decorated with stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones and draperies. The diverse morphologies of the actively growing stalagmites suggest that there are a variety of hydrological pathways within the cave system. Long term monitoring of stalagmites will help to determine which samples are most likely to record individual storm events.

Right, plan view of Yok Balum Cave, southern Belize with stalagmite and cave monitoring locations identified.

Turks and Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands consist of 40 islands and cays in the Atlantic Ocean, at the northern edge of the Caribbean basin. Conch Bar Caves on the Island of Middle Caicos is a flank margin cave, developed in the mixing zone between brackish and salt water. Conch Bar was mined extensively for bat guano in the first part of the twentieth century. It is now a show cave managed by the National Trust, with daily tours being conducted during peak season. Research has already been carried out by project team members on this cave, including expeditions in 1992 and 2008 to map the cave, investigate groundwater chemistry and dissolved carbon fraction in a vadose setting, and assess speleothems for palaeo sea-level reconstruction.

location of Conch Bar Cave in the Turks and Caicos islands
Conch Bar Cave Map
Above, plan view of Conch Bar Cave, Middle Caicos Island, with the location of the chamber circled where actively growing stalagmites have been identified and cave monitoring instruments emplaced.


Bermuda is a small island situated in the North Atlantic approximately 1000 km off of the North Carolina coast. Leamington Cave (32°20' N, 64°42' W, 18 m a.s.l) is located in Hamilton Parish, NE Bermuda. The cave was discovered in 1914 and was open to the public until the 1990s cave when access was restricted to permit only. Like all other caves of the island it is connected to the sea with tidal pools and sump. Environmental (pCO2, cave air temperature, drip rates) monitoring of the cave was initiated in March 2013 and since then, three site visits have been conducted (March 2013, July 2013, May 2014). Two stalagmites, BER-STO-13 (Stormy) and BER-SWI-13 (Swizzle), were collected during the second trip.

Location of the cave in Bermuda
Leamington Cave Map
Above, satellite image of the island of Bermuda with the location of Leamington Cave identified. Left, plan view of Leamington Cave showing the location of cave monitoring equipment.