Archive for June, 2008

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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Crystals in Cuevas de Bellamar – Cuba

P1010109, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This picture was taken in the Cuevas de Bellamar on a recent trip that I took to Cuba.

Calcium carbonate most generally comes in two varieties in a cave. Most commonly it is seen as calcite, but it can also be found as aragonite. A simple way to distinguish between the two is by their form. Calcite grows in tooth-like crystals, aragonite grows in spines.

I believe that crystals such as these grow in super saturated solutions and in the case of where I was in the cave these types of formations could be found mainly in pockets. These pyramidal shapes are commonly known as “dog tooth Spar”.

One of the properties that gemmologists recognize in calcite is its doubly refracting nature. Thin slivers of transparent calcite known as “icelandic spar” are used in certain gemmological applications. The calcite splits a light ray into two (as do most of the crystal families) and if one such sliver is placed over an object it will be seen as a doubled image.

If anyone can corrrect me or add to my knowledge – especially in terms of what the presence of these crystals say about the cave environment, I would be most appreciative.

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Youngsters enjoy their school outing

P1000872, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Old Havana had more than its share of school children. Everywhere you looked there were mobs of youngsters, partnered up, boy and girl, following the teacher in a string of hand-holding buddies. I thought this picture expressed their characters so well. Notice the extrovert, the shy one, mrs friendly etc. Each child shows their character when observed through the discrete telephoto lens of my camera somewhere near the Plaza de Armas.

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Cubans are wonderful people

P1000301, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

What can I say – Cubans are wonderful people. I was wandering along the beach somewhere near Jibacoa and these two young fellows approached me. “Ola Senor”. They just wanted to have their picture taken and to look at my camera. Cubans will drive you anywhere, take you anywhere and help you in any way they can. We stopped a car and asked the guy if he could drive us to Havana for 20 pesos, this he agreed to do but when I tried to give him 30 pesos he refused and insisted that it was only 20 pesos that we had agreed to. Fantastic people!

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Its a long Process

IMG_7425, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In reading old caving manuscripts and following along geological hunches my caving partner and I had eventually found our way to an area of karst that we had inexplicably overlooked. I suppose it is a question of following known leads and likely areas and tunnels that we are yet to explore etc. and it is only when those leave us quite discouraged that we venture out and look for something new.

This particular area that has come to our attention was mentioned in an old manuscript and in having read about it and the well-known study that was done involving one of its springs left me wondering what took place there. Apparently there was some significant vertical relief in this particular system where a spring trickled over the karst and sunk beneath a moraine that runs along the upper edge of a valley. Deeper down in the valley the spring resurges.

As usual I had conmfused my directions and in scouting the lip of the valley on the oposite side I came across a dry river bed. I guess the river runs in the spring, eventually crossing over the edge of a steep scarp. I followed down this dry river bed – into the valley and it was down there that I first heard this faint roar. I traced the sound to a crevice that I was able to enter and in digging I located the source. It was a stream that re-emerges underground and flows down what appears to be a cliffface in a crevice that has been packed with debris. A lot of digging would be required to know exactly what there is beneath.

In following up the dry river bed we got to this little pool (As seen above) into which a small stream was flowing but no water was leaving. The size of the river bed down-stream is significant, with huge 8 foot deep sinkholes. There is certainly a lot going on in this area and we will pay a few visits up here this summer – stay tuned.

While I am on the topic of Ontario cave digging there is one point to be made. Because of the sensitive nature of a cave environment, to just hand over locations to everyone is not necessarily the best idea. Caves are not like hockey cards, they are rare and easily destroyed by those who do not value or understand them. If you are interested in caves as a sporter who would equally trade caving for mountain biking or canoeing then Ontario caves are not for you.

If a person takes the time to learn about geology and karst and is willing to check into old manuscripts and search ariel photos the information I give will all come together, but you must earn your stripes if you want to be an Ontario caver – it must be a passion that spanns years not seasons. I have never found a cave easily, it is generally by blood, sweat and tears – and lots of fruitless digging.

Whatever I cough out is for those who are willing to take the time to investigate the matter further.

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