Monday, March 28, 2016

Shifting Sands at Doctor's Cave Beach

The purpose of this post is to illustrate the way in which hurricanes, storms, tides and currents shift the sand at Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay. However, first here is a little history, taken from Doctor’s Cave website.
   It began in 1906 when Dr. Alexander James McCatty generously donated his beach property to found a bathing club in Montego Bay. The Club got its name because it was used by Dr. McCatty and his friends, who were mainly from the medical profession and, at that time they entered the tiny beach through a cave. The cave however, was destroyed by a hurricane in 1932. The water which is crystal clear has a temperature range, winter and summer from 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, 22 to 28 Celcius.
     In the end of early 1920's, Sir Herbert Barker, a famous British Osteopath visited the beach and later published an article boosting it by declaring that the waters have curative powers and that he was restored to good health after bathing there. He said the waters could cure several ailments. This heightened the allure of the beach and Doctor's Cave became famous overnight as foreigners, many rich and famous came to try the water. Hotels were built in the immediate vicinity and thus began the tourist trade.

The following information is taken from History of Doctor’s Cave by Emile Martin in Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club 80th Anniversary Souvenir. (1986)
In 1932, a hurricane destroyed the cave and as a result the entire layout of the bathing club saw drastic changes with considerable improvements to the facility. With better accessibility, the large beach came into its own.
In the 1940’s another severe hurricane swept away much of this beach and the trustees employed an American expert, Sidney Makepeace Wood, to restore it. He designed and built concrete groynes to harness sand-bearing tides and currents. As a result, the beach grew to about 20 times the original size.

         At one point there was a diving platform at the end of the west groin, but it collapsed into the sea during a storm. The remains of it can be seen encrusted with corals.
        The photographs below show changes in the beach over a period of seven years.
August 2009

In this photo, taken in August 2009, you can barely see the top of a concrete column sticking up above the sand, and sand comes to within about a foot of the top of the walkway. Many years ago there was much less sand on the beach and this walkway was a jetty to which boats could be tied.

November 2012, after Hurricane Sandy

The next two photos were taken in November, 2012, about a week after hurricane Sandy had scoured away the sand under the walkway. The two concrete columns are completely exposed.
The picket fence was erected at the end of the walkway soon after these photos were taken.
November 2012, after Hurricane Sandy

By November 2014, the sand had built up again under the walkway, completely covered the concrete columns and extended further into the sea, entirely as a result of forces of nature.
November 2014

November 2014. The sign warning of concrete columns
under the sand may appear superfluous to the unwary.

View of eastern end, August 2009

At the eastern end of the beach also there is a cycle of sand building up and being washed away by the action of the sea.

In 2015, part of the groin broke away. Waves surged in and gouged out a section of the beach in a matter of days.
Breach in the groin, March 2015
 When a gabion basket filled with rocks was put in the breach, the beach came back again equally quickly.

February 2016. Rough weather piles up more sand on the beach.

The effects of the weather are no less dramatic under the sea surface. During calm weather, assorted seaweeds and turtle grass thrive. During hurricanes and winter storms, tons of sand churned by water scour rocks and the sea-bottom, ripping them away. Roots of turtle grass remain, new leaves soon sprouting from them. Dome-shaped flower, star and brain corals in the reefs withstand many storms, but the branching staghorn corals are easily broken and survive only in sheltered pockets. As reefs and turtle grass beds serve to protect the beach from erosion, every effort should be made to preserve them, including allowing parrot fish to live.



Janet Silvera said...

This is excellent Helen

Janet Silvera said...

This is excellent Helen

Helen said...

Thanks, Janet.

Claudette Beckford-Brady said...

Wow! This is sooo interesting! The people in charge of Hellshire Beach in Portmore should read this.

Helen said...

I don't know what's happening on the South Coast, Claudette. It's had a worse battering from hurricanes in recent years that the North Coast has.

Olive Senior said...

Thanks Helen. Great information.