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.
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.
JC and I have a lead on a Pre-Cambrian marble cave that we will be exploring on Thursday. Most exciting is the fact that the area is host to several known tunnels – they are small but beautiful and where there are some, there are more. Best thought in this area will be to speculate on what is buried. The surface geography will be our initial clue, we will be looking at unexplained dips in the soil, sink points and resurgences, contacts between marble and granite, and possible funnel points that have been created by glacial erosion.
Either way there will be some good pictures of the known cave (assuming that we can find it) and hopefully we can find something else in the area that presently lies waiting for us to discover it.
In 1965 E.D. Ongley produced his much sought after caving manuscript, ‘A Study of Caves in Southern Ontario’. In that work Ongley mentions the existence of Stone House Cave, a tunnel that had been blasted by the railways to drain a swamp that was seasonally flooding the nearby railway. In that blasted tunnel Ongley had found an albino crayfish and he speculated that the side of the tunnel, which had been blocked by a human-constructed rock wall, likely led onto a deeper, natural cave.
In the attached video, see – Looking for Stone Church Cave here, I show the caving possibilities at the edge of the Canadian Shield and I explore the small tunnel pictured above. This is not the fabled Stone Church Cave, but it is context for the next post that I will publish, which is the now revealed – Stone Church Cave.
It’s hard to imagine how thrilling it was to see this wonderful yellow spotted newt. He crawled out from beneath a rock as we were digging in Newt’s Nook, a local cave near Toronto (Ontario).
Newt’s have both a terrestrial and aquatic phase to their life, they hatch from eggs at a length of about 1 centimeter and they exist on land, hiding beneath leaves and old logs. Officially a young land-dwelling newt is referred to as an ‘eft’. After about 3 years the eft moves into a swamp to continue the remainder of its life (about 10 years), flippering about in the mud and slime.
I am thinking that maybe the yellow spots have something to do with warning other animals to stay away. I understand there are toxins in the newt’s skin that make them poisonous to everything but a garter snake. Apparently there is a ploy whereby a beleaguered newt flops over onto it’s back to display a belly that reddens in proportion to its anxiety – another form of warning. Once transplanted from the spot beneath the rock that we found it, the newt blinked myopically and then began dragging its feet in a slow but persistent dash for the nearest crevice.
Our intention is to return to Noot’s Nook and continue following downward toward tunnels that appear to exist about 3 feet beneath the solid base of the cavern in which we found the newt. It is possible to see the space below through a narrow crevice. However great our excitement, we must exercise care as safety is paramount on any dig – especially where there is so much loose rock.
Karst geography near Toronto – a likely spot for caves
To be successful as a cave hunter, that is a person who searches the countryside for caves, you must combine a variety of skills. In particular, by experience, the mind now tips me off to areas that are likely cave locations. A sound knowledge of sedimentary geology is helpful, understanding a little about physical geography will certainly add to your success, and most importantly, cave geography really tips the scales. In Ontario it helps to understand something about how glaciers influenced the landscape and of course the human interaction on top of that – in particular the tendencies of farmers over the last 150 years and their preference for plugging openings in their fields with coils of wire and other household debris.
Jeff and I went out searching this past weekend and we found a likely cave location on this area of land above a valley. Thus far researchers have visited and dye traced the most obvious spring out to a resurgence in the side of the nearby valley. We followed along and tried to intercept a possible tunnel entrance. It seems to be that in some cases tunnels get bigger deeper in. In this case we found a large soil pipe that had the sound of rushing water flowing beneath its clayish plug.
As it was a beautiful warm day in early April, JC and I headed up to conduct some further exploration on the Bruce Peninsula. Our intent was to try and locate a stream that we had heard of; apparently this stream drains a sizable plateau and normally flows with at least 10 cubic feet of water a second. Being a plumber JC estimated that a 1 foot high by 2 foot wide pheratic tube might flow with about 4 cubic feet a second, but 10 cubic feet might possibly be human sized, also considering that we have had an especially dry winter so who says that the tunnel will be full of water. An ambitious caver might slither up that worm hole and find bigger passages on beyond that entry portal.
Well we never found the stream as we were sidetracked by a visit to a well known local sea cave (see the picture above) and then as we were heading up toward the stream that we had heard of we we were again way-laid by what looked like depressions in the forest. Well one thing led to another and those depressions morphed into incredible solution shafts – several of them grouped together and deep, deep, deep (but that’s another post). We spent the rest of the afternoon assessing the local geography and seeking to understand the situation with all those pits. We are in no doubt as to the possibility of a cave system beneath – the surface features kind of remind me of the sinks and their dispositions around Museum and Leopard Frog Cave, its just that they appear to be totally relic from the ice age and subject to some heavy water pressure beneath a glacier (Museum and Leopard Frog are still obviously recharged with surface running water).
More to follow on this exciting new cave possibility (including video). It makes C-Hurst look a lot less impressive for the depth and volume that these new solution shafts encompass.
I was out scouting for a possible cave dig location today. Caving in Ontario can sometimes involve a little digging. Beaver Valley has a few promising possibilities. Investigations from a past trip revealed the likelihood of a bedding plane tunnel, there was no remarkable amount of solution taking place. Again I was drawn back here. There is too much sinking and all the signs that would suggest that something very active is taking place beneath the surface – huge sinkholes all lined up, elevation, exposed rock (the right kind of rock) and plenty of serious corrosion on the surface.
There has to be more to this place than beautiful colored leaves.
Check this out – it was under the search term of a “sink”, but it’s really a washout, but still worth seeing. I gotta ask myself what the odds of catching this on video was. Here
At first glance the Essonville Road Cut looked much like many others in the area – gnawed upon by rockhounds and strewn with shards of calcite and sand. Most immediately obvious were the huge black crystals that protruded from the calcite – a dyke that is theorized to run off into a southerly direction onto private property. A sign on the fence behind the cutting advertises “Rockhound Eco-tours”. A rockhound eco-tour? It almost seemed contradictory.
“You’re a rockhound?” I asked the fellow crossing the road from the pickup he had parked on the opposite shoulder – “You might say that”, I was told with a grin. “I am more a prospector and I operate the eco-tours – like to show the minerals on my property but we prefer not to set pick or hammer to them. We like to think of ourselves more as stewards”. “Stewards?” “Yeah, caring for the land. I know it sounds hokey, but I think we were meant to have our property – to look after it. Collecting can be destructive”.
I kind of edge my rock hammer around behind me. “Is there a problem with us collecting here I ask? Nah, its public land. Place is already trashed with all the blasting”.
In reverent terms Mark explained, what had formed in the cutting was Fluor-richterite. You will notice that some of the crystals have a metallic sheen – kind of stained by an iridescence, Its only a skin of goethite, beneath it is still fluor-richterite, one of the few minerals that can really be called “totally Canadian”. It was only distinguished from hornblende and recognized as a separate species in 1976”.
“So, in truth, you would have a hard time distinguishing between the two?” “Not really” my eco-teacher told me. “They are both amphiboles and they form a solid solution series, but fluor-richterite has a scaly white surface and it forms in prisms that are longer and thinner than those of hornblende”.
“Do you sell any specimens?” I ask hopefully. “How can you put a dollar value on them?” I am chastised.
As fortune would have it, I found myself in the company of Lee Clark later that afternoon. Having seen the township’s blasting Lee had asked for the debris to be dumped beside his barn; he had scooped the lion’s share – enormous boulders with fluor-richterite spines and as Lee pointed out hexagonally appearing prisms that cleave away in flakes. “phlogopite mica; they used it for windows in the old wood stoves.
Having weathered out of the calcite there were doubly terminated prisms lying amongst shards and unusually shaped prisms that appeared fully formed on the one edge and flattened on the other. I was in the process of trying to decide what unusual growth condition had so stunted the crystals when Lee apparently read my thoughts “The prisms frequently cleave down their center,” he slipped me a smaller perfectly formed specimen that he had been carrying in his pocket. “It’s my worry stone” he explained, “You take it; folks down south have greater use for that than I”.
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.
JC and I have recently found a cave in a relatively well traveled area. It looks like just a simple undercut that is easily discounted. At the time I was tired and waited while JC pushed it. Needless to say we were both pretty excited when he returned with pictures.
Admittedly the cave was blowing cold air quite strongly so that should have been a hint. We had intended to re-visit this weekend as there is a craw tube deeper in from which the cold air comes and for which neither of us had energy, but Maggie wants to go to Toronto so the exploration will have to wait (more details and pictures to come tonight).
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)