Some time ago I did some winter hiking near Toronto (Niagara Escarpment) and explored behind a waterfall to see how it would look with all the icicles. Needless to say it was amazing – exceeded my most hopeful expectations. Most impressive was this low rumbling sound that filled the whole cavity, it was a new dimension to my unusual Ontario based travels – sound.
In line with the publication of my first book in 2005 (Rockwatching), in the video that I have linked to just above, I show a little bit of the local rock and the contact between the Queenston Shale and the Whirlpool Sandstone.
I suppose on of the most gratifying things about cave exploration is the ‘buzz’ that you get, and everything in existence seems to be encompassed in the yellow circle of your headlamp. Outside your headlamp there is mystery – turn your head and the mystery reveals itself. Each turn, corner and passage feels like it’s own first time discovery – I guess its something like the gambler’s buzz, and once you leave the cave the buzz dies away and then I feel like i’m in this slump and the rest of the week is grey and gloomy.
First human in a place that has lain untouched for several thousand years – beat that! How can you? The greater the challenge, the more the buzz. If somebody has already gone before you and poured a concrete sidewalk where’s the wonder there? I believe caving can become an addiction, and having caved for 26 years now I am hooked just like a junkie. And oddly I’ve become a connisour of rare and unusual sights – a flowstone dam, cave pearls, speleothems and speleogens, crawling in tunnels that are washed by frigid streams, deep tannin stained pools in marble, dolostone, calcite and limestone – privy to a sleeping porcupine’s bedside, wondering if a bear lies just beyond. Where does the waterfall come from? What wondrous crystal is that? some would pay a fortune at a mineral show, I prefer the mineral exactly where it sits – a concept of eco-mineral exploration which is something quite closely allied to ethical cave exploration.
We visited a beautiful – pristine marble cave in Northern Ontario this week. The cave had initially been discovered in 1964 by Bob Burns and it was documented the following year in an archive that was managed by Derek Ford. The last visitors to this cave were Marcus Buck and Brad Wilson who spent the time to make a highly detailed map of the underground tunnels. This cave had been known by another name, but we had to change it to protect it’s location (on the advise of Brad and Marcus) The new cave name is after the former owner of the cave who has since passed away.
By its most simple understanding, the rock in the area dips quite steeply into the earth and there is a large swamp with a dry valley running parallel to it. We began our search for the cave based on Marcus’s memory of his visit many years before and so we made a few wrong turns before we finally found the cave. Whereas it is relatively easy to predict cave entrances in limestone – whose surface topography depicts what lies beneath quite accurately – here in the north, the contortions of marble and calcite veins are not so simply seen upon the surface. On the bright side, we did find a small sink point in the dry valley that might justify a second look.
When we first stumbled across Marvin’s Cave we actually came upon the point where the upper cave took water directly from the swamp, broke onto the surface for a short distance and then dropped down through a series of crevices into the lower system.
Marvin’s Cave is typified by a number of small cataracts that move its stream beneath the edge of a small escarpment in the forest. JC and I made a chilly October exploration up its stream that was still darting with minnows in mid-October. The main features in this cave are its two bowed out stream passages through incredibly banded marble. There are several sizeable rooms within the system, heavily littered with breakdown.
For more information on caving in Ontario, buy my book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst”. There is a link on the side of this page that connects to “Lulu” where the book can be purchased.
It is a well known fact that 90-95% of Ontario’s caves are within 100 feet of a road. As of late we have taken to exploration in dense tracts of forest over a karst terrain that has been long suspected to harbor the best caving possibilities in Ontario.
As a rough guide we have been using an old manuscript that was produced by Martin Davis, he had already visited the area andf for the most part his initial reconnaisance has been invaluable to our success in finding, or re-finding significant karst features. we believe this shaft was first marked on one of Martin’s maps and in looking down it appears to exceed the depth of the abyssthat we found last month and also several other cave shaft features that we had recently happened upon. Most exciting about this shaft is the belling out of the bottom reaches so that we cannot see the bottom of the wall beneath where Jeff is standing – in fact we are believing that it could be a tunnel as a surface joint also leads in that direction. We are intending to descend the pit this coming weekend and answer the question as to whether there is going cave tunnel at the bottom.
Check out this video of the cave shaft and also another feature that we are calling the void – cave shaft video here.
Ontario Cave - Down the rabbit Hole - Wasteland Water Way
Though we were disappointed by the flooded entrance to Wasteland Waterway we decided to check a nearby sink and in hearing noise JC and I burrowed away and opened a karst window in the bottom of what looked like a meteor crater – the roar from within was encouraging.
The picture above shows what my camera picked up, a vadose passage that had airspace and was sucking more from the hole through which we peered. as we left we packed the sticky soil over a framework of sticks to keep our tunnel safe till we return next week. Hopefully the water will have dropped by then and we can push the cave.
From the guy who bought you the book Rockwatching, stay posted for the release of my new book about 2-3 months from now on caving in Ontario it will feature some 38 good Ontario solution caves (some possibly unknown even to experienced local cavers), along with details of their exploration and formation, lots of pics (no locations). Check out my last book - Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica here.
I can’t remember what I’ve blogged about this trip so far – so here is the full story (as I remember).
There is this incredible storm drain that is very spectacular (as storm drains go). Many years ago SNFU and I resolved to follow it up as far as we could – this in place of the especially old drains in Niagara falls that I still intend to visit.
Well you enter in a rather public place – at the edge of a highway and the noise from within is quite intimidating. As a caver that sound of water suggested that we were about to be swamped by a flash flood, but it never came so we waded in and soon found ourselves at the bottom of a stairway down which flowed a gush of very cold water.
It was midwinter and though you might not be able to tell, I am wearing a wet suit beneath my coat.
The stairs slope toward their center and with the algae build-up and the coldness it was not exactly easy, but we were very pleased to have done it and we rose from about the water level at the lake to the height just at the base of the cliffs. Along the way we had the fortune to observe some rather spectacular rust stalactites which were growing from cracks in the roof from which water poured. We resolved in the spring when the water was higher and warmer to inner-tube the drain from infall to outlet (wearing helmets) but in retrospect, its probably better that we didn’t.
Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.
We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).
So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on
1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.
8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).
9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.
Over the past two years I have become increasingly aware of the presence of a karst area between Lake Erie and Hamilton.
This area has been mentioned in a few past manuscripts -generally alluding to this possibility or that, or possibly a small cave or karst feature.The ‘North Erie Karst’ is marked by bare rock along the Lake Erie shoreline and gypsum conglomerate further toward Hamilton and Cambridge.
The most promising cave area in the North Erie Karst is on private property at the edge of which Jeff C. had an interview with the OPP as to why he was loitering there.
The gypsum seems to stretch most obviously around Cayuga and Paris. Mines produced the substance from which casts were molded – “plaster of Paris” they called it.
There are many abandoned mines – thus far by our observation they are small and mainly collapsed at the entrance. We would expect to find caves in rock which is so easily eroded.
Thus far we have not been overly successful in either mine or cave location, but there have been a couple of diverse discoveries, most notably, Dead Mouse Cave, Bed of Glass Cave (both in limestone), a crevice cave at the edge of a waterfall in thinly bedded limestone above fractured shale, and a cave in conglomerate of which I’m sure there is more to see.
I will explain this thus far unmentioned discovery in a post that I should get to some time in the next two weeks. Look for “Devil’s Cave”.
Just a little something from Ontario – The water is cold and the tunnels black. I had the experience a few years ago of dredging out a sumping tube somewhere near Hamilton – where the temperature on the surface was many degrees below zero and I had to submerge myself up to my neck in this horrendous muddle puddle to scramble away with my hads to try and loosen the boulder that was blocking our way. It took us more than one visit to the location to clear our route and even so – beyond that the tunnel did not go on that far – but what a rush when we broke through.
Caving in the tropics is much more spectacular than what we are used to up here, but still, in Ontario you need a special kind of dedication; it is a pursuit that sometimes leaves you wondering – What is wrong with me?
Here I am just feeling the atmosphere. The cave is not so big, but it leaves one with the hope of something else further up the stream. I am yet to investigate.
Following the release some time ago of my book "Rockwatching; Adventures above and below Ontario", I am pleased to announce the release of my new book "Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica". It is a story of opportunity. Edgehill Press is the publisher. (www.edgehillpress.com)