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Archive for June, 2007

Canadian Cavers explore a tunnel in solid marble

2007pictures 098, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

So very unlike the province’s limestone and dolostone – marble has an entirely different feel – wearing differently and looking different. Most immediatly noticeable are the flowing striations – a telltale clue as to the rock’s metamorphic past.

In the above photo Donald of the Niebelungen Caving Club crawls across a broad expanse of worn rock, its surface never having seen the light of day as it is part of an underground river bed. This photo was taken along with the other recent picture of Corneile on one of their caving trips in Northern Ontario.

See another picture of Donald and Corneile on a caving trip that we did in Ontario’s dolostone – a passage that we followed along as it got deeper and finally sumped entirely. (Entry on June 21st 2006)

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What on earth is behind the tunnel blockage ?

IMG_6794, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well – not quite but the strange stoppage at the end of the tunnel kind of reminds me of pictures that I have seen of Castleguard Cave’s terminus beneath a glacier.

Here Jeff poses at the end of the tunnel – just a short walk and the odd amplification of the sound of roaring water, again that rather suferous stench and this bulging – apparently plastic cap that barred progress further along the tunnel. You might notice the pointed metal thing above Jeff’s shoulder – it is certainly a valve of some kind that would shut off the water flow from behind. I wondered if this tunnel might have had something to do with the construction of the nearby dam and lake Gibson. I was suspecting that maybe water was diverted from its present course down the side of the escarpment during the construction process via this passage.

The nearby power station was built in the 1930’s in part to boost up the processing of raw materials during the war. It has a head of 265 feet and sucks in over 8000 cu feet of water a second.

Anybody know anything about this place – I would be interested to learn of its purpose – also soon, my suspicions of the other tunnel and its possible cave-like appearance at its sink point.

Oh, BTW, if anyone has an interesting pictures of Ontario’s underground – be it caves or tunnels, and a paragraph or two explaining the picture, I would be happy to post it.

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Is the rock oozing blood?

IMG_6799, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Jeff examines the roof within and brings to my attention the oddly stained speleothems. We wondered as to whether the rock was this color due to natural iron pigments in the rock or was it some kind of pollutant leaching from the surface? I recall hearing of strange colored stalactites and curtains forming in a passage running under a cemetary in Toronto – in that case polluted by a century of formaldahyde and decay. I know that when we made an exploration of the “Stairway to Paradise” in Hamilton we saw similarly tinted formations and some really impressive orange soda straws hanging from the roof.

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We were uncertain as to the purpose of the shafts – but we hoped to soon find out.

IMG_6798, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Following in along the tunnel we negotiated a sloppy stream. The water was quite cold and a little smelly. It looks like there was once a narrow gague rail line that had run along the passage, the rails are clearly visible at the tunnel entrance. I cannot remember whether it was the Decew Formation that the tunnel cut along but I think it was – notice the smooth layer above – the rock is perfectly cleaved away from it thus leaving a ceiling that appeared to be cast in concrete (Though it is natural).

We were at this point totally perplexed as to the purpose of the shafts – the second one running parallel some 100 meters off to the side. There was quite a flow of water coming from the second tunnel but its mouth was blocked by a perforated wall – we hoped that this tunnel might have a connecting passage.

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Exploration of old shafts down near Niagara Falls.

IMG_6782, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

To our great surprise we found two shafts that ran into the side of the gorge – needless to say, we were equiped with lighting as we had come to find caves and so we followed in to investigate.

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The rock at Decew Falls

IMG_6779, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Because of its thickness, the elevation and the placement of shales beneath the rock I had long suspected the Decew Formation to be a likely cave forming strata. Sadly today’s trip to Decew Falls proved me wrong but all was not lost as the geology was interesting and the scenery – beautiful.

This is Jeff as we began our scramble down into the gorge; he stands upon the promionant strata in the area, a fine grained grey dolostone of the silurian age – the Decew Formation. The rock here can be found in a thickness of up to 12 feet – great for the development of nice big tunnels. The fact that the strata is underlain by the Rochester shale added to my hopes of it being “a cave bearing formation”. The shale is somewhat impervious to water so water within the rock pools above the shale and by its movement and dissolving action bores out tunnels.

The decew Formation can be seen as far west as Hamilton, the obvious conchoidal fracturing being a feature that immediatly identifys the strata. You will notice, when weathered, the rock cleaves off in saucer shaped scoops – this is conchoidal fracturing.

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Caving in Ontario – Geology and the north

Cor, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Cornelie Dinkel, a Quebec caver from the Niebelungen Cave Club visited this beautiful Ontario cave recently and with her kind permission I am posting these pictures.

As I am sure you will surmise the rock is not limestone – in fact it is typical of the marble found in the Canadian Shield. As already mentioned there are many such caves in the north, they are generally quite small often multi-entranced.

As Cornelie wrote, “The cave is small and requires a long walk. You follow a river through the tunnels, but you can stay dry. Most of it is walking passage. I think it is a good cave to visit in early spring when you suffer from cave withdrawal and all other caves are flooded and the walk to the cave is very scenic. In summer you may have a problem getting there by foot – you need a boat.”

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A tunnel that I am yet to explore.

IMG_1243, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is a great spot near Bancroft. An abandoned road runs northwards – an old settlers road – and though you can drive part of the way in your car, it soon degenerates to supposedly become impassable.

Just before an old cemetary there is a bridge and beneath the bridge this great wriggling expanse of blackend rock – it looks like lava – but is some kind of folded- ridged metamorphic material. The river sinks some distance off and It only flows on the surface during spring melt.

There is a pool below the bridge where the sinking river resurges – at times flowing very strongly but by late summer the flow is just a trickle. I am considering a crawl up the underground stream some day soon – I just have to summon the energy to get there. as for a trip the location is fantastic – one of the most atmospheric places in Ontario – a real connection to the past. The old wagon road crossed just a small distance downstream from where I took the picture. All sorts of cast iron pegs have been pounded into the rock – their purpose is unclear.

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Natural treasure

gemboree1 018, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This ancient creature is immortalized in pyrite – a guy at the Bancroft Gemboree was selling several such relics.

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free climbing cliffs above the ocean – when sitting on the beach and drinking wine became boring.

old pics 122, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is a post from my other site – “thetravelnet.org”, it is rock related …

“Here I am one sunny afternoon climbing the cliffs at the edge of Camp Bay in Gibraltar. The peninsula is a 6 kilometer long block of Jurassic age limestone, faced at it’s north end by massive cliffs – rising to around 1200 feet above the ocean level runway of the airport. Cliffs also skirt much of the southern edge of the rock where it meets the ocean.

This was an especially popular spot (Camp Bay) for easy little climbs and for cliff jumping. The ocean was generally deep enough to handle a falling human body and the rocks – stable enough for climbing. On some days when there were large waves it was important to time your jumps to coincide with the the inwash of the swell. This prevented a cliffside battering and 5 or 6 feet less water than you were expecting. I only misjudged the swell once and on a nearby beach I had to surgically remove a rounded pebble from my palm with a can opener.

There is a spectacular path that runs along Gibraltar’s eastern face and in following it you will wander through a unique cliffside ecosystem and be in close proximity to the wildlife and unusual vegetation of the region.

There are many unique plant and animal species that grow on Gibraltar’s cliffs and the climber has to be especially wary. At Little Bay scientists have found the only known occurance of the plant species – “Aeonium Haworthii” outside of the Canary Islands. They speculate that the tiny seed was likely carried there on the eastward blowing winds.

Bats inhabit the many cliffside caves and at Gorham’s Cave – an impressive water-level sea cave – archeologists have found evidence of the last known colony of Neanderthals. The Neanderthal was a stocky hunter of the European plains and with the spread of modern man into his domain he all but disappeared around 30 000 years ago. The Gibraltan Neanderthals survived on this isolated peninsula for at least 2000 years longer than was previously suspected.

Rife with history and spectacular vistas a visit to Gibraltar and its amazing cliffs is a worthy travel venture”.

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