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Archive for the ‘Caving in Ontario’ Category

snogof, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Jeff and I visited a spot in the forest where we had found a tunnel this past summer. We had been trying to dig into the tunnel but the bugs were terrible. Now that the ground is heavily laden with snow there is no such problem – now its the cold. Anyway, after about 4 hours of digging and levering frozen boulders we managed to create a hole large enough to look well into our suspected cave and what we saw within was an elliptical shaped tunnel that was plugged by boulders. A small waterfall dropped from the roof of the tunnel and beyond, a chamber in marble.

See video for Snowgof – breathing tunnel here.

We are yet to access the chamber, but with great difficulty Jeff photographed a small segment of the chamber. In his picture you can see a wall of pure white marble and you can hear the water falling within.

Near the entrance the roof is encrusted with frost thus indicating airflow from deeper in the earth. In fact it was the smear of frost on the wall outside the cave that first got us digging there in earnest. Based on its proximity to the edge of a steep slope and no apparent resurgence at its bottom I am left to conclude that the water flowing into the cave must be dropping down deep quite quickly. I suspect that it goes down a shaft such as you see in Twin Trickles Cave.

Spring will reveal what lies beyond.

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Embryo2, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Rob, Jeff and I visited Embryo Cave with the intention of digging out something of the earth plug at the lower end of the cave’s main stream passage.

see video of Cave Exploration in Canada (video) here

lying pressed between the rock and the dirt it was an experience from which I was unable to shake the feeling that it was as though we were returning to mother earth. We dug for some time in the earth as we suspected that in breaching an earthen crest up ahead we would possibly break into tunnel that led onwards and downwards. There appears to be a lower water filled level in this cave. The flowing stream bubbles up in sand part way along the main trunk passage and it sinks again just short of the earthen plug.

Sadly we tired before we got through the dirt, but it was close and next time we visit we will certainly complete the job.

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IMGP7322, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Jeff and I made a recent reconnaissance in the Wasteland Waterway Cave system as we suspected that with the filling of the Blue Barrel sink, the cave passages had been blocked and so the deeper reaches of the cave system would now be sealed forever. But nature is more persistent than that and the sink had cleared itself out from beneath. On the surface there is a slight indent, but below the tunnel is perfectly clear.

see the video of Cave exploration in Canada – Wasteland Waterway here.

I suppose this now brings to light the question as to when we are going to push the tunnel to its very furthest endpoint. We strongly suspect that beyond the ‘gulch’ and the aerofoil the tunnels get bigger again. You ask what is stopping us? It’s a long cold crawl and a tight squeeze at the end of that which makes me somewhat leery.

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For cave exploring in Ontario this one is possibly one of the more exciting possibilities. This past weekend Jeff and I explored the tunnels for some short distance, but we were turned back by the conditions which were less than favourable – namely the cold, the prospect of a storm on the surface and my knee pads which kept sagging down and so my knees were torn to shreds.

nevertheless, for Adventure in Ontario I am still optimistic of eventually reaching the end. Thus far several pushes have not revealed the sump-point. On one trip we reached a spot called the aero-foil and past that a squeeze then bigger tunnels beyond.

I am thinking that the cave goes deep and the many sinkholes in the area must meet up with these tunnels somewhere beyond where we have crawled.

see the video here for Adventure in Ontario, Exploring the Wasteland Waterway Cave, Caving in Ontario, Canada

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IMGP5962, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

We hiked through a jumbled terrain of massive slabs fallen from the cliff face and rounded boulders that have been washed by epic wind-spawned storms.

As entrances go these sea caves far surpass others that I’ve seen, though admittedly there are few sea caves to rival Rover’s some distance further along the shore.

In the picture above Jeff and I have been hiking and reached the end of dry land. Further progress would have to be through Georgian Bay’s icy water. What I found most intriguing about Cave Point was its sea caves part way up the cliffs. For the most part it looked like difficult climbing and I’d imagine few if any people have ever visited some of those harder to reach places.

See video on our trip to Cave Point (Georgian Bay)

Our initial idea had been to see if we could locate low-lying bedding plane squeezes close to the water line as we are aware that not every opening in this area is a sea cave, there is huge potential for solution caves and as has already been discovered, there are nearby that are intensely decorated with speleothems.

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Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.

Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.

See video of Branko going beyond the Jaws of Death getting stuck underground, here.

In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.

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What is adventure travel in Ontario is for cavers a regular Sunday afternoon. Rob, Jeff, Jeff and I revisited this marble cave to hopefully explore other, thus far un-visited passages.

see video on Adventure travel in Ontario – Exploring marble caves, here

At this time we have discovered several other likely cave leads in the area, in particular, a sinking stream (thanks Steve M.) with massive potential for tunnels, but unfortunately it will take some land-owner permission and then a concerted effort by a team with capabilities of heavy rock removal.

Within our already visited cave we explored out into the darker nooks that I had missed last visit. We found several going passages. This particular spot as seen above – with the wad of flowstone marks the entrance to a tube that we are yet to explore. Getting to this spot is somewhat disarming as you wade through about 18 inches of water and 2-3 feet of soupy mud. Every step causes the water around you to literally boil with escaping methane. You can feel sticks and branches down beneath the mud and in their decomposition they are releasing gas. I am wondering what effect open flame might have on the journey across the expanse that leads to this spot.

Anyway – distant as this location is from my home in Guelph, it seems to be rife with caving possibilities so the focus for our caving exploits seems to be increasingly concentrated in this area. There are many karst features in the limestone right at the edge of the shield – in part due to the rocks natural suitability and in part due to the acid water running off the shield.

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For some this would be a winter caving hell, and admittedly, the weather was 30 below zero and wallowing around in that muddy tube was getting a little cold. We cleared a space through about 5 feet of bedrock, dredged the water down by bailing with buckets and rubber boots, then we entered the tunnel on our bellies – see short video on Winter caving hell – adventure sport in Canada – here

At the end of this tube the water and tunnel roof came to within about an inch of each other and there was a good breeze blowing through the gap. Unfortunately I finally lost my nerve as the tunnel along which we’d come was refilling with water, and underground water (midwinter or otherwise) can be a little numbing. My caving partner at the time had traced the resurgence of the water in this passage to a spot several hundred meters distant.

When I finally emerged from the tube the front of my wet suit was pierced by innumerable rusty spines from the barbed wire that had once lain over the top of the feature, I suppose I must have looked like an industrial-age porcupine that had run into decline like the many factories of the region. Oddly, though my skin had also been punctured I had never felt a thing, but knowing they were there and pulling them out was a little creepy – I’m surprised I never got tetnus.

This project took place around 10 years ago and it certainly presented a few challenges, amongst those obstacles the need for me to loose around 20 pounds to fit in the tube and make it back alive.

 

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In the Fall 1998 edition of the Canadian Caver, Brad Wilson relates an interesting experience that he had while exploring a remote cave in the Canadian Shield. He says that he could see a small room beyond a horribly tight squeeze so instead of going face forwards like he would normally do, he went feet first and after a little struggling he suddenly slipped through into a tube – chest deep into icy water. As Brad points out, to have gone head first would likely have been the end of him.

Exploring the rock from within, as we did at Twin Trickles Cave was certainly an amazing experience. The marble and calcite was incredibly sculpted and at the bottom of the shaft pictured above, there was a room that was bowl-like, and entirely striped black and white by the surrounding rock. When I mention a cave in the same sentence that I mention Bancroft, I do not for an instant suggest that it is a site for rock and mineral collecting. Caves are natural wonders that have been thousands of years in the making. They should be left exactly as they are found.

Check out this video documentary of exploring rock and minerals from within (Bancroft) here.

Twin Trickles Cave is some short distance into the forest and on the day that we visited, it was horribly inundated with ferocious black flies – food for the bats that reside within. although Twin Trickles is not a large cave, the rooms are sizeable for Ontario and there is a long tubular tunnel that seems not to have been followed either by ourselves or Brad’s group in 1987 – obviously it is no easy task and it dips down toward the water table. There are plenty of unprobed leads in the area of Twin Trickles so there will be more trips up in that direction this coming summer.

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Embryo Cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I spent the weekend at one of our favorite northerly destinations exploring both Embryo and Twin Trickles caves. Both these caves are seldom visited and if it were not for the initial visit by Marcus and Brad they likely would be entirely forgotten by now.

Both Embryo Cave and Twin Trickles are marble caves at the edge of the Canadian Shield (near Toronto Canada), but they are very different in character.

Much as you might imagine, Embryo Cave is a cave that is smooth inside, easily traversed, the long borehole crawl being in soft silt, while Twin trickles is a cave in which you shred your knees, cave suit and anything else on or around you. The rock in Twin Trickles is sharp and jagged, the cave dips quickly downward through jagged portals and though the marble is beautifully banded there is more a feeling of intimidation in this cavity, it varies between tight and spacious, dry and soaking wet, jagged and more jagged, with lots and lots of black flies – see video on Embryo Cave here.

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