On Wednesday morning, June 6th, Grand Bahamians awoke to the tragic news that Ben Rose and his wife Judy had perished in a house fire.
Legendary Ben Rose was the first to ever dive the world renowned Ben’s Cave system in the Lucayan National Park. In the fall of 2017, the BNT Council traveled to Grand Bahama for their meetings. As part of the Council Agenda, they visited the Lucayan National Park and were treated to a special tour of Ben’s Cave, where Ben related the story of the discovery, which led to the creation of the Lucayan National Park.
Lucky for us Ben was also a writer as well as an explorer. We present the story of the discovery of Ben’s Cave in memory of his great contributions to the BNT.
The discovery of the underground cavern system now known as Ben’s Cave, in the Lucayan National Park, is due in no small measure to an overheated car radiator and an Anglican priest!
In 1960, Father Underhill, then head of the GB diocese was driving along Grand Bahama Highway near Freetown when his car broke down so he took refuge in a nearby cave. He decided to explore his surroundings and climbed down into the cave a little further. What he discovered there led to an exciting phone call to his friend Ben Rose, whom he knew had been studying marine life, however, it wasn’t until a few years later, in 1969, that the full extent of the discovery was realized, long after Father Underhill had left the island.
Deciding to investigate the caves a little further, Ben and his brother took their diving gear and after walking some distance through the pine forest entered the first cave, now known as “Burial Mound” (where there are huge limestone ridges) Once in, they discovered an opening to the east that revealed the 80′ wide cavern now known as “Ben’s Cave” where they found beautiful crystal formations and fossilized coral and shells. Further exploration revealed the cave known as the “Skylight Room” and the three are located on a triangle within 200 yards of each other. Additional caves in the vast system include Owl Hole, north of old Freetown, and Mermaid’s Lair.
For years Ben led professional diving expeditions on behalf of Unexso, through the six and a half miles of ‘passageways’ that form the world’s largest underground, a surveyed cave system. Divers enter on the north shore and are able to traverse the island, resurfacing on Gold Rock Beach on the south shore.
A few years later Jill Yager (former teacher at St Paul’s School) discovered a new species of crustacean Speleonectes lucayensis while diving and researching in the cave system.
Ben Rose was a retired businessman and the owner of the former Silver Reef Health Spa. He was a former diver who had pioneered shark diving in Grand Bahama and was also a nature enthusiast who had first discovered the caves at the Lucayan National Park, which are named Ben’s Cave. He was a great supporter of the Bahamas National Trust in Grand Bahama and will be greatly missed the BNT members and staff.