Archive for August, 2006

IMG_5238, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check these guys out, there were several clusters of these furry little agglomerations hanging from the roof. Some had fluffy white bellies. I find them quite endearing and have a bat house in my garden.

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Originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A friend and I recently visited this mine and in discussing syenite in the last post, (a silica poor rock) I thought it might be of benefit to show an example of the stuff. The mine tunnel initially cuts through the reddish syenite in the bottom of a high hill but further in it deviates away, following along the middle of a seam that can be traced along the roof of the tunnel.

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IMG_5170, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A friend and I had visited a small local cave today to enjoy its beauty and hopefully examine the area and locate other likely caving spots. Following up a densely wooded valley there were signs of slumping rock and an old stone construction along the valley wall. We soon abandoned this course of action as it was not as fufilling as photography in the cave. It is such an incredible spot that the explorations away from the cave become harder to justify as your distance from the tunnels increases.

Having visited here on several previous occasions I had always regretted not paying better attention to the rock and was excited to find the diverse and beautiful metamorphic striations through which we were exploring. It is a change to the typically sedimentary nature of Ontario’s cave strata.


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gemboree2 020, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Aristocracy oozes from his very pores, he is cool and non commital. I wonder if I am worthy to even barter. The table in front draws me closer. The salavitating rockhound within is fixated on the stones. Oh, oh, I must have a citrine! I cant help myself and he knows it.

I inquire as to where the stones come from and am told that everything passed through Jaipur. Apparently this guy lives six months in Montreal and six months in Deli. “Jaipur is only a three hour drive from Delhi, but that can vary quite considerably” he says with understatement. The roads in India are a nightmare. It appears that there is little in the way of rules, beyond “don’t hit the cows”. They are sacred animals and have every right to snooze undisturbed in a busy intersection. Trucks choose whatever side of the road they wish to travel on and the carnage of burned out smashed up auto shells litters the roadside.

I mention that I am writing a book on gems, “Oh but you cannot forget the Indians,” he asserts. “Jaipur is the major coloured stone cutting centre in the world”.

A massive wall and seven defensive gates surround the Old City, where the gem trade thrives. It is a place that breathes colour and is dyed with an ancient culture. People call it the “pink city though it is also the state capital of Rajasthan. “It was founded over four hundred years ago by the great prince, Maharaja Jai Sing ”. Brightly clad women, in silk saris, float through broad-street’d markets. A monkey with leathery and wizened features peers from a darkened alcove. At sunset the streetscape melts into a world of orange and pink pastel, a camel cart creaks by led by a wraith-like figure. He glides slowly along on stick-like feet. As the warm evening breeze ruffles his cotton shroud you might suspect that it were only a skeleton beneath.

“We Indians have the buying power that other regions do not,” the dealer tells me. You see my stones, none of them were found in India. They were however all cut in Jaipur. Of course there are other places”. “Bangkok”, he raises a knowing eyebrow. “Brazil” he shrugs. “China”, he sighs. “Its big and new and just entering the market”. A great beam breaks his saddened features, the very sun shining from his teeth, fanning his hands over his product he proclaims in a golden voice, “And then there is India”.

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gemboree2 026, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

The utilitarian, concrete shell of the curling rink is our first view of the show. It is one of the two buildings in which the gemboree is taking place; the other location is 100 yards beyond at the North Hastings Community Centre. Several canvas shelters are pitched outside. The heat, the dust and tented pavilions have a strangely exotic air. It reminds me of something out of Kipling, a wind-blown wasteland in the remote deserts of Rajistan, maybe the Pushkar Fair or the famous meeting of Berbers in the Atlas Mountains – to wed their daughters. Other far-flung gatherings are greeted with no less promise than this.

The high-pitched whine of power tools suggests the focus of activity, the heart to which the travelling hounds are drawn. From beneath a blue plastic awning in the baking heat a cloud of dust billows. This is Paul Shier, the premier artist attending the show. He has been commissioned to produce a work for the town of Bancroft, a great mineral spike protruding from a block of stone. The work proceeds with the aid of an industrial size grinder. He is I am told, “freeing the gem within.” I watch him labour, the lower half of his body exposed in a scorching wedge of afternoon sun. “How’s it going?” I shout during a lull in the noise. He peers at me trying to decipher my words. I expect he is half stupefied by the heat and noise; his face powdered by the product of his labour. “Exhausted” was the obvious reply.

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IMG_4968, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

From left to right, Carol-Anne, Danni and Dale. They are following along one of the trench’s that leads beneath the escarpment. The bedding plane (around shoulder height) stretches out to either side. In mid-winter the water flows from the tunnels beneath the island. By all appearances the joints that score a nearby plain all lead off underground, it is just a matter of following them to where they disappear. This particular joint was the most obvious but I can see many others that could possibly be entered with a bit of work.

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gemboree1 025, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A few days ago Greg Warchol posted a comment that led me to believe that he might be a rockhound in the rough. His comments about visiting Bancroft and previous questions about the gemboree and where to find interesting rocks have prompted me to say something about Bancroft’s annual rockhound Gemboree.

A crowd sidles into the auditorium through a rather inconspicuous door at the end of the building. $12 gets you an adult pass that will last the event, four days of gem-encrusted heaven. I am soon convinced that the success of the show is not linked to its magnitude. The show at Tucson is far larger. It is the spirit and energy of this place. Its long-standing reputation as the largest and most important gem and mineral event in Canada draws rock hounds and dealers from everywhere. In a sense it is a right of passage, a pilgrimage that every rockhound worthy of the name needs to make. A strange conglomeration of people and products in a buggy forested wilderness of rock. A good many of those glittering jewels in museums and high-class jewellery emporiums had come from somewhere near here. Bancroft’s landscape encompasses some of the most diverse concentrations of minerals in the world. At a conservative estimate over 1600 species are found in the region.

Some might argue that it is the people that make the gemboree, not its location. It has become a cultural event, a Woodstock of sorts for mineral collectors. The crowd here is an unusual one: university professors, millionaires, kids, fashion models and eccentrics; a varied assemblage of humanity.

In the accompanying photo, gem and mineral enthusiasts pour over a table of semi precious beads. It is an opulent display of colour that is mirrored in any one of a great multitude of booths.

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IMG_5039, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I am again jumping back to the trench tunnels that Danni, Jeff, Dale, Carol-Anne and I explored this past weekend. Here is a cool picture down one of the crawls that lead into the shelves to either side of the main trench. The formations crowd the spaces so profusely that we dared not leave the trench for fear of damaging the cave.

As you can see the soda straws are everywhere. The soda straw grows by the calcium laden water that moves down its central tube and leaves a precipitate around its bottom edge. When this central tube is blocked the deposition moves to the outside of the growth and the tube becomes more carrot-like than straw-like. This is how stalactites form.

Most Ontario caves have formed after the last ice age, thus only about 14 000 years of cave forming potential. People who study caves see the process in a number of ways. I remember reading a book by somebody Davis who proposed distinct periods of cave development. Initially there was the scouring or solution that formed the cavities and then, the deposition, once the solution stopped. It was at this time that he proposed that the formations began to grow.

I suppose there is not really such a strict division in nature, the processes happen simultaneously in many places, deposition occuring up high and solution and abrasion happening at the tunnel floor.

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IMG_5078, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out this amazing cataract in the middle of the river. It was an incredibly hot day and after caving we took a dip here. Sitting in the froth beneath is like a natural jacuzzi and if you lean back through the falls you find yourself in an overhanging cavity. From there you can look out through the distorted glassy wall at the reflections of the forest to either side.

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IMG_5051, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In the distance I could see a white shape hanging down from the roof. As I crawled toward it the obstruction materialized from the gloom as a hanging boulder – not big enough to crush a house but big enough to cause some serious damage to a caver if it fell. I considered slipping under it but also knew that to do so might cause it to drop. I looked up and saw that trying to work it free might bring a few other boulders trapped behind it down as well.

I can think of only one solution here, “Greg and his microblaster”. I remember the beastly crawl into “XS Wire Cave”. D, Greg and I had visited in mid January. Greg had slithered into the tiny water filled tube, his portable drill ahead, the tooth by which he bored a hole in the underwater hump that was obstructing our continuance. In comparison this should be “a cake walk”. He can do his subterranean dentistry, not by filling a cavity but rather “removing the tooth”.

I took this picture underneath the hanging boulder, the tunnel goes on, straight and somewhat unobstructed. The groove in the roof indicates that the passage follows a joint (horizontal weakness in the rock) and its rounded shape suggests that it is pheratic in nature (formed beneath the water table). As I had said, the water flows down here at times and so there has obviously been a change in the area’s water flow. The debris seems quite significant, it increases as you go deeper in. I notice that most other tunnels in the area are more trench-like than this.

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