Harrison's Cave


Useful Information

Location: At Allen View. In the center of the Island. Near the southern end of Welchman Hall Gully in the Parish of St. Thomas.
Open: All year daily 8:45-15:45 (first and last tour).
Closed Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Kadooment Day and Christmas Day.
[2010]
Fee: Adults BBD 60, Children (0-12) BBD 30.
Barbadian Residents: Adults BBD 50, Children (9-12) BBD 25.
[2010]
Classification:  Karst cave,  river cave.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=4,800m, T=27°C.
Guided tours: L=1,600m. V=150,000/a.
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Jeanne Gurnee (1978): A Study of Harrison's Cave, Barbados, West Indies, National Speleological Foundation, 32 pp illus SB
If you ever want to develop a show cave then this book tells you how to do it!
Christian Juberthie (ed), Vasile Decu (ed) (2001): Encyclopaedia Biospeologica, Tome 3 viii + 1375 - 2294 pp illus, some in colour. Barbados, p 32.
C. Groves, R.H. Gurnee (1995): Structural conditions within Harrison's Cave, A Study of Environmental Factors in Harrison's Cave, Barbados. National Speleological Foundation, pp. 98-104.
Address: Harrisons Cave, Welchman Hall, St. Thomas, Barbados, Tel: 246-417-3700. E-mail: contact
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.
Last update:$Date: 2015/08/30 21:52:31 $

History

 
1796first historical references.
1970first serious exploration by the Danish speleologist Ole Sorensen and Anthony Mason and Allison Thornhill of Barbados.
1974start of development.
1981opened to the public.
07-JUL-2006closed for 15 month redevelopment work.
01-APR-2007cave opened for one month for visitors of the Cricket World Cup. New website.
NOV-2010cave reopened.

Description

Harrison's Cave is said to be the most popular tourist attraction in Barbados. Many tour operators offer trips to this cave, and so it is easy to book such a trip from your hotel. The cave is located in the hillcountry in the center of the island.

The cave visit starts at a new park where a new exhibit was created. Next stop is the Visitor Reception Centre (VRC), where visitors buy the tickets. It is located at the cliff top, overlooking the valley, the cave tour starts at the valley floor. There are three glass-fronted elevators which offer a breathtaking view while descending. However, we recommend to walk down on one of the two scenic trails, if time permits. At the valley floor lies the Cave Interpretative Centre (CIC), which is the original cave entrance building which was renovated between 2006 and 2010. This is a good place to spend the time until the tour starts. There are numerous exhibits and interactive displays on the cave, its discovery and exploration.

The tour starts with a nine minute introductory video in the multimedia room. The cave is visited using a so-called electric tram, an engine which pulls several trailers, which are wide enough to seat five persons in a row. It stops at two points and the passengers are allowed to disembark and have a closer look. This cave visit is very comfortable but also has some drawbacks. Although photography is allowed or even supported, which is laudably, it is difficult from a moving tram. It is also hard to have a closer look at the features, as the tram moves on. And finally, the development works which were necessary to allow the use of this tram were substantial, and affected the cave essentially. It is a sort of paved single lane road which was built through the cave, with some massive tunneling work in the narrower passages.

A visit to Harrison's Cave is definitely worthwhile. The cave shows numerous speleothems, common dripstones but also pools, dogtooth spars and more. Some of the formations are yellow or beige, but most of them show a beautiful bright white. The cave is very well lit, which brings out the character of the cave. The cave branches out immediately after the entrance. Both the two main passages are toured, and as both are dead ends, it is necessary to turn around and go back the same way. Not really a drawback, as it gives the visitors the chance to see the cave from the "other side", which often looks different.

The passages are rather big, halls are often 20m high. One sight is a green lake, which provides a connection to a natural entrance. This is the place where the cave was originally discovered. The modern entrance is an artificial tunnel. Another sight is a 14m high waterfall at the end of the second branch.

Harrison's Cave and nearby Harrison College were both named after Thomas Harrison. But while he established the school in 1733 which later became Harrison College, it is unclear if he ever visited the cave. He simply owned the land and the cave on it, so it was named after him. During the 18th and 19th century several expeditions tried to explore the cave, but the cave was technically challenging and they did not get very far. Actually the cave was more or less unexplored until 1970. At this time Ole Sorensen, an engineer from Denmark, and Anthony Mason and Allison Thornhill, two young men from Barbados, heard of the cave and explored and surveyed it. The development of the cave by the Barbados government started in 1974. Shafts and tunnels were excavated, and the cave was equipped with a tram. It was opened to the public in 1981.

Harrison's Cave was maintained and developed for years by the Gurnees, a couple with many merits in caving. They are famous for their book about show caves in the USA (Gurnee Guide to American Caves) and they worked on many karst areas on Carribbean Islands and in Middle America. Russel Gurnee was president of the National Speleological Society (NSS) 1961 to 1963, Jeanne 1992 to 1994. Jeanne Gurnee is a member of the Society of Woman Geographers (SWG) since 1967 and was honored with SWG's Outstanding Achievement Award in 1987. Today the cave is maintained by the Barbados National Trust.

In July 2006 the cave was closed for redevelopment work. The project was planned to take 15 months and cost BBD 34 million. Obviously this plan was not met, as the cave was finally reopened in 2010, after four years and four months closure. And after it cost a total of BBD 84 million. The explosion of costs, which was offically explained by the introduction of "ecologic" improvements, was critizized by numerous locals. It also caused an enormous raise of the entrance fees, which were doubled. Actually the new entrance fees were published almost half an year before the cave was reopened. Obviously it will take some time until this investment will repay, even with the new fees.

The renovation works included the installation of state-of-the-art trams, including one for wheelchair-bound visitors. The trams are powered by batteries which are now recharged using solar power. Other ecologic improvements were the installation of a water treatment plant and the usage of rain and grey water for irrigation. A new car park with 114 parking spaces was created, a new visitor center solely for the selling of tickets and elevators to the old visitor center, which has now an improved exhibition on the cave.


See also


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