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Archive for April, 2006

Greetings bloggers, rockwatchers, rockhounds, cavers, historians and anyone with an interest in geology. You might like to know about an important event taking place in the northern bush this summer. No, it is not me doing a reading from my book “Rockwatching”. It is a bonafide mining town rock and mineral show. The event takes place in Cobalt, about an hours drive north of North Bay Ontario. It is a region that is the source of many of my mine pictures. Appropriatly it is called “The Rock and Mineral Show and Great Northern Treasure Hunt”, running between July 29th and 30th.

You can visit the miners tavern pictured below or any one of dozens of mines along the famous silver trail. Samples of cobalt and raw silver are still plentiful in the debris scattered through the bush. For pictures you will never find a better place. The town is in my opinion a national treasure and a few years back it won the title of “Most Historic Town in Ontario”. The locals can tell many exciting stories as mining was the exclusive occupation in this place. A train runs from Union Station in Toronto and makes daily connections to the outpost. It seems quite surreal to find such a large and beautiful station so far out in the wilderness.

Other events taking place are the live theater, adit tour where you can take a guided tour underground and of course the festivities in “the blind pig beer tent”. “A Blind pig” is an illegal drinking establishment. Cobalt was the Ontario Provincial Police’s first official detachment and a great deal of money slid beneath the counter to keep the bars running.

One of my favorite Cobalt stories is of the Chinese Laundromat. Apparently a customer had walked in there one evening and the place was sitting in good order, the food was on the stove, the various machines were running but everyone had vanished. It was as though they had evaporated. Nobody ever heard “head nor tale” of them again. Today the laundry is a senior’s centre. Some think that they must have ended up at the bottom of a mine shaft. The underneath of the town is honeycombed with tunnels and locals tell of crazy underground explorations across deep chasms on cast iron air pipes.

Do your best to make it up here this summer, it is a rock lovers dream. There is all manner of natural discovery and adventure and for the historian it is an exploration of raw, untouched history.

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IMG_2693, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This particular picture is of an airy cavern below a sizable skylight. From above the window looms as an ominous blackhole just to the side of a well traveled path. The sumac densely blankets the area and hikers need to keep a wary eye lest the earth swallow them. D, Gord and I examined a watery tube within the cavern that Rob Laidlaw had reputedly followed out to the nearby river.

As can be seen by the picture the rock is very fractured. The underground passages hereabouts are in a seriously unsafe condition. Large caves seldom develop in this crumbling terrain. Kirk MacGregor says that an ideal layer of cave forming rock lies just beneath this strata and its appearance further up the river accounts for the development of some really large passages there. That system is well known to local cavers and several miles of tunnels have been mapped.

The countryside near Belleville is an area that has traditionally been considered as Ontario’s premier caving country. The TCG makes several trips here every year. They have as of late been conducting explorations in a riverside system that was discovered by Lori Nichols, Rob Laidlaw and Nina Muller.

James Sled spoke to me of a large cave in the area that he called Bell Cave. It is said to exist atop a high rock ridge. At the bottom of a relatively deep shaft there is a watery tunnel that runs on for some distance.

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A study at Rutgers University has revealed that there is an increasingly high number of violent human/chimpanzee interactions. The chimp often ambles away as the victor. This is not surprising as despite his diminutive stature, the chimp is thought to have an upper body strength of between 5 and 10 times that of a human being. The Rutgers study documents 11 chimp killings that have taken place since 1970, 8 of which have occured along the borders of the Kibale National Park in Tanzania.

Last night’s article in the Toronto Sun (April 21st) entitled “Killer Chimps” bought the issue to my attention. Apparently a group of chimps attacked four people at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sancturary in Sierra Leone. Three of the four victims, tourists, escaped with serious injuries but the group’s driver was killed. Seventy apes live in the Parks borders and today paramilitary police are combing the surrounding jungle to see if they can capture any of the perpetrators.

Maggie and I had been discussing the primates of Costa Rica yesterday and she had mentioned that she knew of three types of monkey, the howler monkey and spider monkey who were quite passive and some other type of monkey who had on a number occasions demonstrated some unusually cruel behavior (“Hateful litle beasts” as Maggie called them.) The agressive primate species were known to have captured other small animals and tortured them, throwing the hapless victim amongst themselves, poking out its eyes and generally making sport of the killing. By their actions it is hard to not describe chimps in anthropomorphic terms.

What really intrigues me is why chimps choose to attack. They are a species that are so close to humans. I suspect that there are so many social and emotional connections that if we understood them properly, we would be horrified at not having given them the vote! I think that they might attack for many of the same reasons that humans attack each other. This manner of judgement would hardly seem all that inappropriate, to me they are so human-like that their actions would be quite obvious if we simply stopped seeing them as “animals” and instead considered them as “Distant cousins”. Like humans I think that at times the spirit of the moment might govern their actions. Controlled by a dominant individual or the frenzy of a mob, otherwise gentle beings might be induced into some rather uncharacteristic acts. There is also the aspect of territorial aggression and of course the age old motivation of testosterone.

Eight of the 11 attacks documented by the Rutgers study took place along the border of the Kibale National Park in Tanzania. A number of reasons have been suggested for this concentration, in particular the high population and the shrinking territory in which the chimps are confined as the local logging industry approaches the park’s borders. Its the age old problem of diminishing resources and increasing population. Somethings gotta give; we humans usually end up in a war.

An article by Wairagala Wakabi entitled “Drunk and Disorderly Chimps Attack Ugandan Children” comments on the prevalence of attacks in situations when the band is thought to have raided illegal brewing establishments. The moonshine industries are concentrated in river valleys along the Kibale Park’s borders where the chimps are also especially prevalent and once intoxicated they are known to become very agressive. There is onee notorious chimp known as “Sadam” who is reputed to have killed at least 3 babies. An untended child is usually snatched up by the drunken band and torn apart in the trees.

It appears that most chimps operate in a similar manner when attacking. It is not unusual for groups of chimps to attack the red columbus monkey, biting off its limbs and disembowelling it. Chimps are thought to only attack when they perceive that they have the advantage. They usually demonstrate by their facial expression,(A tight lipped grimace) what their intentions are. I suppose that their might be some variation in their method and by the manner of the attack one might surmise something of their motivation. In a great many attacks the victim’s feet are torn off. Genitals are another favorite target. I wonder if there is any corelation between the nature of the damage and the reason for the attack?

In an attack that took place in a California sancturary where an elderly gentleman had his foot torn off and genitals mutilated by two male chimps, Jeffery French, a physiobiologist from the University of Nebraska suggested that the presence of two other female chimps might have spoken of the motivation in some way. Apparently male agression in chimps increases in the presence of sexually receptive females.

The California situation arose when a couple visited the sancturary with a birthday cake for 39 year old Moe, a former pet and current inmate of the facility. They were just about to cut the cake when the lady present was pushed aside, having her thumb bitten off and the two male chimps that had been skulking on the sidelines then asulted the older gentleman. Moe stood by uninvolved in the incident. A theory proposed by Deborah Fouts, a chimp behavior specialist is that there was some jelousy. She says that primates have a highly developed sense of what is fair and what is not fair. It may have been that they resented the attention being lavished on Moe. The attack finally stopped when the agressors were shot by the owner.

The chimp’s tendancy to display individual agression is not surprising as it exists in most animal species but their tendancies to wage war seem very unusual. It is eerily human. One observer commented that though they wage war, they only pursue it as long as the odds are very much stacked in their favour. We humans dont always follow that logical path, a fact attributed to the increasing tendancy for the “war makers” to not nessisarily be the “war fighters”. The article “Wired For War”, a special to World Science” cites a case in 1998 in Uganda where a number of male chimps were seen beating and jumping on the body of another dead chimp. They had torn out his wind pipe and fingernails as well as pulling off his testicles. There are also examples of where “chimp genocide” has occured, whole population wiping out other populations.

Up until last night I had always considered chimps to be docile, hairy caricutures of a dim human but this mornings investigations have proved otherwise. There complexity seems astounding and their reactions quite complex. Next time you see some dopey looking little fellow staggering along in a pair of diapers, realize that there is a complex and developed brain behind those eyes, as capable of loving and trusting as it is of sheer, calculated ferocity and malice.

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Well as I am sure you can all imagine, “yours truly”, “the human mole” has scarcely had any decent time to himself as of late. It is for this reason that my posts of yesterday might seem a little stilted. Maggie was hot on the mole’s tail first thing in the morning. I think I crawled from the bed around ten. Staggering down the stairs I flopped into my “Captain Kirk Chair”. It sits in front of my computer in the “blogging room” (formerly the study). You need to pass through here to reach the rest of the house.

I am usually a little stunned and bewildered when I first wake up. Naturally she took advantage of my vulnerable state. There I was sitting there all rumpled and glassy eyed when she casually asked me to help her find another memory card. Being a good husband I obligingly did this; even installed it in the camera for her. It was a bad thing as the lens was immediatly turned on me. I had initially thought that she was just an admiring wife but, the truth became shockingly apparent when I noticed her snapping shots of my clothes from the day before (collecting evidence). I had left them beside the cupboard intending to take them to the laundry later. I knew then that I was in for a “rough ride”.

The real joy of the situation is that she has not figured out how to use her flicker account. She usually submits remarkably well written entries (see http://www.greencanuck.net/snuffy) so dont be persuaded by her poisoned pen, remember there are two sides to every story.

Burned once I was wise to her request later in the day to help her get the “Flicker account” working.(It allows you to upload pictures to your blog). Information is power and I am on top right now so I intend to live it up.

At the end of the month I will be able to upload new pictures to my flicker account. It only allows you 100 per month and I have already archived the maximum. I hope to be mowing the lawn as soon as its sunny so You will likely see a picture of the good work that I do in the garden come the first of May. I will also include a picture of the peach blossoms, they are beautiful. Gardening is a great pleasure of mine. Look forward to some counter surveillance. She is no saint either.

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IMG_1899, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Another interesting piece of old mining machinery.

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IMG_2578, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is one of the icy tunnels I probed this past winter. I had come here to map the surface features but I couldnt resist the temptation of a quick crawl underground. Up ahead I hit a barricade of frozen icicles and could go no further.

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snakepit2 035, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Behind me is a pile of debris that has been hauled up to the surface with a bucket, a rope and human back power. A cave dig can be utterly exhausting if approached in the proper spirit. Despite the blistered hands and aching back the possibility of exposing virgin tunnel is totally addictive.

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