Archive for June, 2008

I’m so confused!!!

IMG_7452-1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This was a bizzarre scene. The herbacious material growing along the edge of the water was trembling in the most unusual manner – like it was being agitated by something beneath the water and yet there was nothing there – the whole bed was vibrating and it was not possible to see why – was it atmospheric or something to do with the current – I have no idea.

Anyway the point of this picture is to illustrate the clay deposits in the area of the sinking stream. Clay is a very fine-grained mineral that results from the breakdown of silicate bearing rocks. The usual means of corrosion is carbonic acid.

In this picture it is possible to see ridged striations in the stream bank – varves. In the winter fine sediments are deposited at the bottom of a still body of water the clay layer builds up. (Hard to see by this picture but the clay is pink) In the summer coarser sediment is deposited. The silt layers are more quickly eroded by the stream hence the striations.

This clay layer lying up against the limestone ridge beneath suggested some kind of glacial intervention to Marcus and Daryl. If I recall correctly somebody had mentioned the possibility of the systems in the area forming in reverse – that is the water pushing up from the stream’s present point of resurgence. Come to think of it – that may explain the difuse way in which the water leaves the system downstream. Sorry, just thinking while I am typing.

Anybody who knows the geography of this area care to throw in an interpretation?

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Searching for caves in Ontario

IMG_7433-1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

As I say, the question is – are there caves beneath. Naturally, I would answer – “Of course there are” and set about digging right away, but I am involved on another dig right now (Stay tuned).

This here is a soil pipe – big enough up top to loose a leg into. The river swirls down several of these and it would appear, at times of real high flow – back up and fill the entire valley, flow out across the field along a gulley and fill another forest stream and flow down several sinks along there.

This backing up thing was to Marcus not so encouraging a sign. He said it suggested possibly a restricted tunnel system or, more hopefully, just entrance blockages. By tests that Marcus conducted on the calcium held in suspension, the temperature and the drop in elevation between the sink and resurgence Marcus further developed a gloomy outlook on the possibility of tunnels.

Firstly the solution content of the water changed from 380 something up top before it sank to 400 at the point of re-surgence. Marcus said that this meant that this was not so unusual a reading at a resurgence fed by a sinking stream. It did not suggest a great deal of solution had taken place while the water was underground. Daryll suggested hopefully that maybe the water was gassing off as Marcus was taking the reading as the liquid flowed out of a talus slope. The temperature changed from 20 degrees down to 15 and there was a drop significant enough to suggest the possibility of a vadose cave. According to Daryl, this is one of the few cases in this type of rock strata where the water flows down-dip.

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Geography as an exciting adventure sport (Or at least it feels that way to me)

IMG_7450-1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, here I am with Greg in the background at one of the most impressive sinks that I have seen in Ontario. The stream to my left flows around the corner and entirely disappears into several gargantuan soil pipes.

Greg (Background in yellow rain coat) is standing at the edge of a rock lined gully that obviously also functioned as some kind of sinkpoint for the stream. There was some debate between Marcus and Daryll as to what was going on beneath. I cant recall who said it as so much was being said, but somebody had the idea that the river was likely following the join between a clay plain and a buried limestone escarpment.

Of course to me the question was – Are there caves beneath?

There was lots of time to consider that question as we slogged back to the car in a heavy downpour – soaked to the bone and half eaten alive by mosquito and black fly. I am still finding welts on my head a week later.

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The unfortunate tradgedy at Ongley’s Hole – Dewdney’s Cave

old pics 168, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I decided that it would not be delivering on my promise if I held off on Dewdneys so here is my story.

The triangular shaft that you can see in the last post is actually called “Ongley’s Hole” – named I suspect by Ongley who had made the first map of the cave that is more commonly known as Dewdneys Cave.

When I first visited Dewdneys around 18 years ago there was an old hemp rope hanging down this shaft – it goes down around 10 or 15 feet to the cave’s main tunnel. Wearing my backpack that was packed with camera equipment I began the descent. The rope was really thick but it broke and I fell to the bottom of the shaft and landed on my back on top of all of the equipment. It was a costly outing. An important lesson there that should be illustrative of bold-faced stupidity, but lets be honest – who has never done something stupid?

You will notice by the last post that someone has placed a ladder there. The triangular shaft is the way in which most people enter the cave but there are several other karst windows. The picture with this post is up the other end of the horshoe that makes up the main passage. Some have asked whether the wall in the background is natural – it is.

A point in note is that just a litle further up this passage there is another triangular shaft up to the surface, but it is too small to fit up. I suspect the shape is representative of the dominant joint trends in the area. Notice the channel that has been incised in the floor by vadose action. Observe the tunnel in the background that was predominantly formed by pheratic solution.

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Mystery person, mystery shaft, mystery cave – story yet to come.

Scan85, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I was over at my parents place today looking for some back-up pictures for a travel article that will be appearing in the South China Morning Post (Dec. 13) – keep you eyes peeled if you are over in that part of the world – and what should I discover but an old box of Ontario caving slides.

I cant tell who this is but I certainly know where it is. If anyone can guess the location I will provide the story – hint; One of the tunnels in this cave appears on the front cover of my book “Rockwatching; Adventures Above and Below Ontario”.

Please someone get it right because I want to tell the story.

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With beer and lots of disco music!

P1000489, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is the mouth of a large Cuban sea cave at a place called “Escaleras de Jaruco”. The environment and what constitutes preservation is not always what we call “preservation”. From my diary I offer the following extract…

“It was still high in the mountains and from the viewing platform I could see the hills disappearing into the haze. Behind us there was a field and then limestone cliffs.

From a huge sea cave entrance the disco music was blasting (The speakers looked like they had been salvaged from a Metallica concert). Behind a concrete counter there stood a red-vested waiter (very animated in his conversation with M…) We drank several beers in quick succession and then crawled up behind the bar to see if the tunnels went – they did not. There was no air flow but plenty of corroded stalactites.

M… drove further into the park – thrashing the smoking Lada through the grass. We walked along a path in extreme “holokarst”  – soon several other more promising cave openings”. (more on this area to follow)

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Will explore this as soon as the water level drops

34, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

There is a similar picture to this in my book “Rockwatching; Adventures above and Below Ontario” on page 190, it is entitled “mysterious stream” – well it kind of keeps you guessing.

This is actually “Pilgrims Crawl” a prospect that I am yet to fully explore – there are several other posts on this site about that cave. At the time the picture was taken the tunnels are in full flood but later in the summer the spring dries up entirely and it is possible to crawl up here. I am yet to reach the end.

I intend to finish this crawl some time soon (yes I know – I said that last year also).

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Cave / shaft – in the roof of Ontario

old pics 060, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is a picture of the structure above the big shaft. Cavers had constructed the shelter to assist in the digging when the hole was still directly beneath. In time the hole went in the direction of the hose you can see hanging in the picture – it cuts under the rock in a kind of “J” shape.

This little shed brings back memories – I had been a caver for some years already (caving on my own and with friends) and was corresponding with Marcus who had kind of been mentoring me.

Marcus told me of the dig that was taking place (thus unleashing the caving monster within) and so by various means I ferreted out the location and headed up there. There was nobody there on the day that I made my visit so I left a note in a can in the structure saying that I wanted to be a part of the digging. About 3 weeks later I got a call from Greg who said they would be digging that weekend. It was my first contact with the TCG and from there I met many other cavers and my knowledge and opportunity leap-frogged forward.

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A combined project between the Toronto Cave Group and Ontario Cave Divers

old pics 117, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Not bad for Ontario eh?

Beleive it or not this is a cave dig. The TCG and Ontario cave divers all worked on this project for a number of years. As you can see, it proogresed on through the winter. Generally speaking, at its lowest level the water was about knee deep when the pumps were running. As soon as the power stopped the pit began to quickly fill with icy water.

That tube that looks like a fire hose hanging into the pit was connected to a suction nozzle that sucked up gravel, clay and dirty water which were dumped out in the adjacent field.

Many believe that this is a tunnel that had formed before the ice age in an area known as “The roof of Ontario”. It would appear that the exposed rock in the area had once been an active karst but as it was buried under clay it stopped developing. We found numerous large bones in this pit (ice age caribou amongst them), but inexplicably the project ground to a halt shortly after we reached the source of the water – an underwater tunnel.

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One of the better known Ontario Caves (amongst cavers)

old pics 107, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

As of late there seems to be a lot of interest in Dewdney’s cave. This was probably the first Ontario solution cave that I had visited. Entrance into Dewdney’s is by several collapsed slabs and also its signature triangular shaft.

The shaft enters into a passage that is generally ankle to knee deep in water and as the bugs are so outrageous it is always a hurry to enter the tunnels. Dewdneys is situated at the edge of the Canadian Shield in Bobcaygeon formation limestone. Though the picture may not show it the rock is pure and white and well known amongst local cavers for its cave forming potential.

If you were to imagine a bowl that was centered over Michigan, its outer edges running along the edge of the Canadian shield, you would more or less know that the Bobcaygeon rock makes up the bowl’s upper/outer lip. In a fortunate caving co-incidence, this pure limestone is set right up against the shield in various places and so it takes the flow of especially acidic water from that area – hence an increased level of tunnel formation.

Dewdneys is a well known system amongst Ontario cavers. Marcus has mapped a good portion of it and says that it runs on well beyond where most might imagine it. Other cavers report similar tunnel systems nearby and I suspect there is still a lot to be found. Apparently Marcus (an expert) says that there is a mysterious gap between the longer systems in Ontario and the smaller. We should exect that ther are many more caves hidden beneath the glacial debris of an intermediate length.

My point is – KEEP LOOKING! There is lots more to find. Let me know what you discover.

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