Cavannagh Cave

Iguana Cave


Useful Information

Location: Katouche Valley. Near the north-western coast between The Valley and North Hill, in the southern side of Katouche Valley.
(18.2115, -63.0717)
Open: by reservation.
[2021]
Fee: Adults USD 75, View Fort Estate Guests free.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension:  
Guided tours: D=2h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Donald A. McFarlane, Ross D. E. MacPhee (): Amblyrhiza and the Quaternary Bone Caves of Anguilla, British West Indies, Cave Science Vol 16, Nr. 1., April 1989. pdf
Address: View Fort Estate, P O Box 1398, View Fort, Anguilla, Tel: +1-264264-584-8712, Tel: +1-264264-584-8713.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1868 large bones discovered.
2016 Pure Anguilla established.

Description

Cavannagh Cave is located in the limestone cliffs of Katouche Valley. In 1868 large bones were discovered in a cave in this area, most likely in Cavannagh Cave. The bones were the remains of the extinct rodent blunt-toothed giant hutias (Amblyrhiza inundata), which could reach a weight of up to 200kg. Sounds actually like real world R.O.U.S.es (Rodents Of Unusual Size).

They lived during the Pleistocene, when the sea level was considerably lower than now, and Anguilla together with the nearby St. Martin and some other islands formed a single landmass. The nutria-like rodents of the Caribbean had ideal life conditions and no predators. As a result they became larger and larger with every generation until they were up to 2m long. However, they were not the biggest rodents ever. The Josephoartigasia monesi , which lived 4 Million years ago in South Africa, weighed up to 1.3 tons. Modern day hutias are some 2kg heavy and 20cm to 50cm long, while capybaras, the world’s largest living rodents, are some 50 kg heavy. At the end of Pleistocene the ice shields of the cold age melted, the sea level rose to its current level and the lowlands between the mountains were flooded. Those mountains are the islands of today, too small to maintain large populations of these large animals. And once the number of giant hutias fell below 1000 and less, the population was not viable anymore and species went extinct. They were already extinct when the first people came to Anguilla sometimes around 1300 BC.

The caves were inhabited by bats which caused a thick layer of phosphatic sediments or bat guano. Those were mined in numerous caves in the Caribbean caves during the 19th century. Like in the rest of the world this mining destroyed enormous amounts of palaeontological and archaeological values. But a sample from this cave was sent to Philadelphia in 1868, to estimate the value of fertilizer. Pieces of crushed bone in the guano were given to American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope who recognized them as belonging to an unknown, enormous rodent. He asked H. E. van Rijgersma, a physician from St. Martin, to look for additional specimens in Anguilla. Rijgersma visited Anguilla several times and discovered fine samples of bones, but unfortunately he did not note where he found them. Once he noted, that he found them in Bat Cave, a name which is today unknown from the island. Probably it was not the name, it may have been descriptive. From other comments it is assumed that the bones were discovered at Cavannagh Cave or at least in Katouche Valley.

The cave is horizontal and easy to visit, though there is no development. Inside the cave there is a karst fenster where the ceiling is collapsed. A fig tree grows from inside the cave through the hole in the ceiling of the cave.

The cave is also known as Iguana Cave, although sometimes nearby Katouche cave is said to be Iguana Cave.

Today the Katouche Valley is privately owned by Pure Anguilla which are located at View Fort Estate on Crocus Hill. This hotel is located on top of the hill, on the highest ground on Aguilla some 60m asl. They offer guided tours which must be booked at the hotel. Actually due to COVID-19 we had problems to verify this, and the website does not currently contain contact data like phone number or email.