Centaur's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Redonda, northern end of the island.
(16.9410512, -62.3445476)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologylava cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=12 m, W=3.5 m.
Guided tours: n/a
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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11-NOV-1493 Columbus discovered the island and named it Santa Maria la Redonda meaning St Mary the Round.
1860's start of guano mining.
1869 island claimed by Great Britain by planting a flagstaff there.
1895 130 Montserratians employed by the Redonda Phosphate Company.
1914 mining closed.
1929 caretaker staff left the island.


Centaur's Cave is a tiny cave about 3.5 m wide and about 12 m long. It is not very much of a sight, but it has an impressive history. And it is a shady resting place on a walk across the barren rock of Redonda.

The island of Redonda is 2.4 km long and 800 m wide, a round rock in the sea, with sheer, almost perpendicular cliffs and a 295 m high summit. This rock has been the home to millions of seabirds for millennia. They have been dropping their waste on this rock, so that at last the whole island was covered by a thick layer of guano. Guano is rich in phosphates and thus used to produce fertilizer and gunpowder.

Redonda was mined for its bird guano since the 1860's. The huge amount of guano made mining rather simple, and the nearby sea provided an easy way for shipping. Nevertheless, the mining was hard work. The best deposits of guano were on the northern part of the island. The workmen headed baskets of guano the length of the island to a small plateau on the southern end. Here was the head of a cableway, and the buckets of valuable guano were lowered to a stone pier, where it was taken out to steamers in barges.

First the upper layer of mainly calcium phosphates was mined. Later aluminium phosphates were discovered beneath the guano, which were valuable too, and operations were transferred to mining this mineral. The guano mining was operated by the Redonda Phosphate Company, an American firm. They employed Montserratians and paid the British Government in Antigua a royalty of 20 cents a ton.

At the outbreak of World War I quarrying was shut down, mainly because the guano was primarly sold to Germany, Britain's enemy. And there were also shipping problems. The company kept a skeleton crew to maintain the equipment, but they left the island in 1929 after a hurricane had blown most of the buildings away. Mining was never reactivated because of technical advances, made during the war, which rendered further mining uneconomical.

In order to mine the guano, every hole in the ground was dug out. And when the ground was finally reached, this cave was discovered. Like the whole island is was completely filled with guano, which was removed by the miners. So this cave, although it is a natural cave, was made accessible by mining activities.

Today the island is mainly visited for its impressive nature and wide variety of wildlife. The cave may be visited freely, but it is very hard to get there. It is necessary to charter a boat from Antigua, which lands at the still existing stone pier at the southern end of the island. There is only one access to the plateau above, by a narrow ravine. Be careful when you climb up. On the plateau it is rather easy to walk to the northern end, but there is no trail. It's also possible to fly there with a helicopter, there is a helicopter landing pad close to the cave. It seems that it's a result of the ongoing efforts to remove rodents from the island to protect the local flora and fauna. The rodents were brought by the miners and tend to destroy anything on the island, because they have no natural enemies.