The People of Gibraltar
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar – Part 3

Catchment Cave
The history of the water-catchments on the eastern great sand dune begins in 1903. The catchment area was more than doubled during 1911 to 1914 and then again from 1958 to 1961. The catchments became uneconomic to run and by 1991 they were slowly dismantled and the slope was allowed to return to its natural state.


The Rock from the east showing area occupied by the water-catchments as well as Gibraltar’s infamous Levanter cloud (1940)

Unfortunately, the only cave I know of within the Catchment area is Ibex Cave - which is covered at length elsewhere. Equally unfortunate is that the eastern Catchments are not the only ones that were constructed on the Rock. There were several other smaller affairs on the western side as well. All of which means that I cannot even hazard a guess as to where to find Catchment Cave.

Cave S - Sewell’s Cave 
Near Holy Boys Cave – Human remains were found by W.L.H. Duckworth in 1910 that were probably not of a modern man. These are his notes on the cave:
It opens on the Mediterranean face of the Rock due east of St Michael’s platform and almost immediately beneath a higher cave, designated Holyboy’s Cave on a survey made by Sir Charles Warren. I refer to it as Cave S . . .  
About 30 feet below Cave S, the great catchment area (constructed by the Admiralty) abuts on the nearly vertical rock and marks the upper limit of the underlying sand-slope now concealed by corrugated iron plates. The cave is accessible to skilled and active Cragsmen only but thanks to the kind co-operation of Mr. Wakeford of H.M. Dockyard, two of the men constantly engaged on the catchment area were placed at my disposal. These men fixed ropes and a ladder which made access to the cave perfectly easy.
The “Sewell” refers to Major J.W.S. Sewell, a Royal Engineer stationed in Gibraltar who was active in cave explorations during the early 20th century. Duckworth visited the cave with him in 1910 and 1911. Lieutenant Charles Warren – he wasn’t a “Sir” as yet – is the man who surveyed the Rock from 1861 to 1865 and with the support of Major-General Frome and created two, 8 metres long scale models of the Rock. One of these was kept at Woolwich, the other, which survives, is on display at Gibraltar Museum.

On a more general note Duckworth went out of his way to note that:
Passing from matters of opinion to those of fact, it is a pleasure to record the very keen interest now manifested in these matters by those on the spot, whether they be officers of the various Services of the Crown, members of the Civil Administration, or residents.
A very rare mention indeed of any interest in such matters by the local inhabitants. Ironically I am almost certain that Duckworth exhibited his various cave findings – including those from Cave S (Sewell’s Cave) – in the Garrison Library – a military institution where local civilians were strictly non-grata at the time.




Specimens found in Cave S by Dr Duckworth – possibly from an exhibition in the Garrison Library  (1910)


Specimens found in Cave S by Dr Duckworth – possibly from an exhibition in the Garrison Library  (1911)


The cave is listed in the 2018 - Heritage and Antiquities Act.

Collins’ Cave 
You might be able to find this one in the north-eastern part of the Rock behind Catalan Bay. During the early 20th century collections of specimens found in various caves were exhibited - again in the Garrison library - in three large cases with glass lids. The first cased nearest the doorway contained trays with specimens from Collins’ Cave. More recent excavations have suggested that the Cave shows signs of Neolithic activity.  I really ought to know more about this as it is listed in the 2018 Heritage and Antiquities Act - but I don’t.



Plan of the northern section of the Rock showing the Nature Reserve on Green – (2016 – Nature Reserve Management Plan document – adapted)


The locations of four Nature Reserve caves -Transmitter Fissure, Middle Hill, Collins’, and Brown’s Caves - can be found more or less in a line north to south inside the area circled in red on the above plan. Of the four only Transmitter Fissure Cave – perhaps also known as Reservoir Cave - is mentioned on the 2016 Nature Reserve document. 

I have no idea as to the source of the names Collins and Brown. As regards Middle Hill, I imagine it gets its name from finding itself just below that section of the ridge of the Rock with the same name.


Eastern side from the air – Catalan Bay is the village on the far left – the caves mentioned were probably found in the Rocky area above it.

Columba Cave 
Mentioned in the World Heritage site document but described as not having potential for future research.

Comcen Cave
Previously a NATO and UK command centre in the centre of the Rock, ComCen or Communications Centre was the hub of the military establishment’s command centre during WWII and later. Now obsolete, the authorities have attempted to convert it into a sort of museum in which the intention is to preserve the planning room as well as the War Room from where General Eisenhower planned and executed the North African Campaign during WWII.


General Eisenhower – possibly in an office inside ComCen Cave

Comcen Pool - once also known as Troubled Waters Pool – must have been part of the complex. I am uncertain as to how much of this “cave” was dug out by military engineer or whether any at all was natural.



Plan of the Rock showing ComCen Pool (2011 – Preliminary Flood Assessment Report)

Coptic Cave
A sea cave, similar to others within the Gorham's Cave complex. This site, like many other sea caves has a wide entrance that narrows and ends in a small chamber.


The name comes from a pottery lamp found in it in 1937 by Mr A. C Greenwood that was believed at the time to be of Coptic origin. A more careful analysis suggests that it is actually late Roman c500 AD, and possibly brought to Gibraltar by either the Byzantines or the Vandals. The entrance has been fitted with a red brick wall which almost entirely covers it leaving a small access door - part of which can just be seen on the photograph    


(Underground Gibraltar website )

During War II a secret plan was hatched which would involve leaving behind military men on the Rock should the Germans succeed in taking Gibraltar. It was known officially as Operation Tracer. However, the British were well aware that the plan would only succeed if it remained secret so they decided to set up decoy projects in Beefsteak Cave - confusingly identified in the plan as Operation Monkey Cave - and another decoy involving Coptic Cave. The entire decoy project was known as Operation Monkey.

As a rather nice twist, when Operation Tracer was finally launched in 1942, Admiral John Henry Godfrey – the man who masterminded Operation Tracer - released a memo which stated among other things that 
. . . I should like Cdr Scott to adopt it (the operation) and take it over as soon as possible, but he will certainly need help from Fleming and Merrett for some time to come.
Merrett was Admiral Godfrey’s secretary and Fleming was Merrett’s assistance and the man who would later write all those James Bond books. The Nomination document lists Coptic Caved  as having potential for future research.

Cormorant Cave
The Great Cormorant is an accidental species in Gibraltar but is apparently is regularly found in small numbers, mainly in winter. I say “apparently” because I cannot recall ever having seen one when in lived in Gibraltar. In fact on the whole I would say that the word “Cormorant” mainly brings to mind the old HMS Cormorant, a receiving ship in Gibraltar which was renamed HMS Rooke in 1946 and broken up in 1949.


HMS Cormorant on the left anchored off Coaling Island – the other ship is HMS Hart

None of which is of any use in allowing me to hazard a guess as to the location of the cave or why it was so named. Nevertheless, what I do know is that it located within the World Heritage site and is therefore on the south east side of the Rock. The cave also appears on an undated and unattributed plan as being close to the coast not all that far from Sandy Bay. It is not earmarked as having any potential for further discoveries.

Cousin's Cave
It’s on plenty of cave lists but that’s about it.

Crack Cave
I think this cave is the same one identified as Devil's Fall (West-Upper) elsewhere. It lies
close to Devil’s Fall itself, Diesel’s Delight, Glen Rocky Cave and Glen Rocky Shelter – all of them, of course, within Glen Rocky Gorge.

Cueva del Tesoro
Does not appear on any modern lists but is mentioned by Alonso Hernandez del Portillo writing in the early 17th century:
Hay hoy en este monte muchas cuevas de tan admirable forma y hechura que espantan a quien con atención las miras y considera: principalmente hay dos, una que llaman la cueva del Tesoro por no sé qué vanidades que se encuentran en ella y por tal las dejo;
Cumberland Cave
The word “Cumberland” was first used as a place name - Cumberland Place, Ramp and Road - in 1868. In 1871 I found Cumberland Hill and Street and from 1878 onward it’s just Cumberland Steps.


Cumberland Steps – known locally as la Escalerita de Piri (Late 19th or early 20th century)

There was also Cumberland Building on Cumberland Road at the southern end of the harbour.



Cumberland Road with Cumberland Building on the right   (Early 20th century)

As for the cave - no idea where or why so named.

Dead Man's Cave
No information available on this one either.


2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Introduction
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 1 - All’s Well - Beefsteak
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 2 - Blackstrap - Buena Vista
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 3 - Cave S - Coptic
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 4 - Devil’s Fall - Devil’s Tower
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 5 - Europa Pass - Forbes’ Quarry
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 6 - Genista - George’s Bottom
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 7 - Gorham’s - Harley Street
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 8 - Holy Boys - Ibex
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 9 - Judge’s Cave - Martin’s Cave
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 10 - Monkey’s - O’Hara’s
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 11 - Poca Roca - Ragged Staff
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 12 - Spur Road - St Michael’s -
2019 - The 200 Caves of Gibraltar - Part 13 - Star Chamber - Viney Quarry