October is being celebrated as Heritage Month in Jamaica. Over the course of the month, diGJamaica will be sharing information related to several aspects of our country’s heritage, including natural sites, food, language, important monuments and, of course, the contributions of the various racial and ethnic groups that make up the population.
This week, we kick off with a look at some of the natural heritage sites across the island.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, which covers the Port Royal, Blue and John Crow mountains, incorporates much of the interior of the parishes of Portland, St Thomas, St Andrew and a small section of south-east St Mary. It was listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site on Friday, July 3, by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. World Heritage status is given to natural and cultural sites across the globe that are considered to be of outstanding universal value, that is, they possess cultural and natural significance so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and are of common importance for present and future generations. It is currently Jamaica’s first and only World Heritage site listing.
The Cockpit Country is a rugged, forested area of western Jamaica, rich in biological diversity and home to the Leeward Maroons. The wet limestone forest of Cockpit Country is Jamaica’s largest remaining primary forest and a refuge for rare Jamaican animals. Below the surface of the Cockpit Country are hundreds of rivers, streams and caves. The area is of great importance to Jamaica’s –
- Geological heritage: It is the type locality for cockpit karst, a special landscape where abiotic conditions, such as soils, slopes, temperature, humidity and rainfall, have shaped how wildlife and humans adapted to survive.
- Biological heritage: It is an island-within-an-island of specially-adapted biodiversity found nowhere else in the world and is a last refuge for some species driven from the rest of Jamaica by humans.
- Cultural heritage: It is a historic site where a population of Maroons was able to force the British into signing a peace treaty in 1738.
Dunn’s River Falls
The Dunn’s River Falls in St Ann is a unique attraction: it has been described as a ‘living phenomenon’ as it continuously regenerates itself. The falls are fed by spring water rich with calcium carbonate, which deposits travertine. Dunn’s River Falls is one of the very few travertine waterfalls in the world that empties directly into the sea.
Dunn’s River is believed to be the site of the battle of Las Chorreras, fought in 1657 between the Spanish and the English for possession of the island. The Spaniards called the area ‘Las Chorreras,’ which means ‘the waterfalls or the springs.’ The meaning of Las Chorreras has been reduced over a period of time to ‘Ocho Rios,’ which means ‘eight rivers,’ although there are actually only four rivers in the area – Cave River, Roaring River, Turtle River and Dunn’s River. These ‘Chorreras’ are characterized by clarity, unending flow and swift descent, punctuated by rapid cascades and waterfalls which pour directly into the Caribbean Sea.