Archive for September, 2008

I thought I had made a new discovery

P1010863, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I noticed this blocked up mine and an interesting scar above it when I was travelling along Old Mumford Road after an unsucessful attempt to find the Tripp Nu-age mine. I thought that I had found a new area for collecting rocks as there was plenty of purple fluorite in the crevice above but this turned out to be the Dwyer Fluorite Mine. It looked like there might be some radioactives in the seam with the fluorite but I could’nt be sure.

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Abandoned Mine in Northern Ontario

P1010856, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I had one heck of a time finding the Harcourt Graphite Mine, following directions from an old guide book only to discover that the directions were wrong. Simply put, the mine is only about 150 meters off highway 648 – just outside Harcourt. Being densely wooded, I wandered well past the old buildings and ended somewhere off in the middle of nowhere.

Amongst other somewhat unfortunate events that day I stepped on a rusty nail in the remnants of the old mill. I actually found the diggings by limping through the bush, imagining from clues how they would have situated the mill in respect to where they would have been digging their ore.

This is an example of the kind of mine that is better left un-explored. I went only as far as the adit entrance to get this picture. The roof looks like it needs scaling – just waiting for some errant explorer to bump a rock and down it all comes. I would imagine that the graphite is in the lighter coloured rock as the guide book says that ” yellow jarosite and and rusty goethite” are powdered over the graphite.

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Just scattered in the woods so densely you can hardly walk without standing on a crystal

P1020064, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out these orthoclase feldspar crystals – or at least my guide told me they were orthoclase crystals. I have not had the chance to verify this.

I met an interesting gent who runs ecotours for mineral collectors. His philosophy is that the minerals should remain in-situ so that future generations can enjoy them. I had been picking away at a road cutting when my host approached me to introduce himself. Are you a rockhound? I asked.

I have since learned that Mark is more focused on preservation than collecting – which is good. It would be a crime to whack away at this beautiful specimens and turn them into dusty old rocks in someone’s basement. I will be visiting Mark again and if he is agreeable I will display some of his other amazing mineral wonders – all “in-situ” “As god has made them”. On Mark’s tour I saw huge horneblende crystals, long thin spines of fluor – richterite and plenty of red zircon.

Both the fluor – richterite and hornblende are amphiboles though they can be quite easily distinguished apart by the more squat and blocky nature of the hornblende. Fluor – richterite has a diamond shaped cross-section and so it is simply distinguished from a pyroxene family member which tends to have crystal angles at close to 90 degrees.

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A calculation of risk and reward. Why do I obsess over stuff like this?

IMG_8240, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is a tunnel – a crawling tunnel that had once been half filled with water. It is possible to wriggle through here without touching the roof but my concern would be, how safe is it?

Three things wrong with getting squished flat. Firstly the personal cost – it would hurt, my wife and family would be upset and I would no longer be able to continue caving. Secondly a nasty accident such as that would bring a bad name to caving in Ontario and thirdly, I am our company’s on-site safety manager. I am responsible for the safety of a lot of┬ápeople. Dead safety manager! There is some irony there. Ha – always knew the guy never practiced what he preached. We have a term for that – “Disengagement”

I have mulled over the risk and motivation thing and a collegue quite neatly summed it up. I like to do dangerous things in as safe a manner as possible. How true. You cant eliminate risk from life. You need some degree of uncertainty to keep yourself on edge. Risk brings reward. To live wisely you need to minimize the risk, but you must balance it with reward. What do you have to gain? What is the certain cost? What is the possible cost? There is nothing to gain by negligence in one’s work environment. There is plenty to gain by setting goals and making reasonable calculations.

My goal is to know what lies beyond. Why? It appeals to my spiritual well-being.

My question to you is; does this look safe? I know the water goes on around the corner. There is a sound of falling water coming from on beyond. Do you think the roof might fall in if touched? It looks like some blocks have fallen already.

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This is caving in Ontario


Caving in Ontario – Sanctum of the Bruce!

It is what you might call a rather challenging mental problem – an exercise in self control – sensory deprivation. What is it about pushing the boundaries that is so appealing?

Physically – oh there’s no problem there. I will fit. I figured it out the first time I tried it; Asked my partner to pull me out by the ankles if I stopped kicking. But mentally, you have to lay on your back in freezing cold ground-water. Your ears are underwater so you quickly start getting dizzy. You have to fight hyperventilation as you start wriggling over the cobbles – stifling the urge to scream out as the water turns you into a blast freeze Popsicle. Too many waves and ripples and this same freezing water is lapping over your nostrils. You do the sump on your back.

This is caving in Ontario!

One step beyond the challenge of holding your breath in an icy cave pool is cave diving into the unknown with scuba tanks, Check out this new movie coming out – Sanctum in 3D, it appears to be the ultimate in cave experience without actually caving, it’s about a bunch of cave divers who are exploring an underwater labyrinth – see the trailer for Sanctum 3D here I myself will be one of the first to see this, it opens February 4th.

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Be careful – Ontario caves

IMG_8233, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Just a word (2) to would-be cavers – “airborne pathogens!”

I suppose I suspected the worst at my very first breath. I think I wrote something about 6 weeks ago about exploring an underground shelf that was heaped with animal feces to either side of my crawlway. I cant say it was necessarily the most pleasant section of underground terrain that I have ever travelled , but it was the end result that I had in mind.

As I was crawling along I was certainly breathing in some kind of fungus or spores – I could feel it – like that smell of damp freshly turned earth. And as I breathed there was this feeling that left your throat tickling. Anyway when I got home I told my wife that if I came down with something “lung related” and was unable to express myself to the doctor she was to suggest to them that I had breathed in something from the caves. I know of several cave air related illnesses – histoplasmosis and hauntavirus spring immediatly to mind – but those are associated with more southerly environments (it makes for interesting reading if you follow up on the internet).

Anyway – sure enough, about 3 days later I started coughing with a dry rasping choking feeling. It got so bad that I could not sleep at night. I have for the last month slept 3 hours max each night and upright at that! Every time I lay down I felt like I was choking and would cough myself until I was almost vomiting. Aside from the fact that my family doctor has retired and a cough at emerg usually takes 8 hours to get attention I left the situation to run its course for at least 3 weeks. I realize you must be thinking that I am missing a few brain cells – guilty as charged!

At six o clock one morning one week ago today I could take it no more and headed in to hospital. There was one guy in the waiting room and they managed to see me by 09:30am. I can imagine the wait if there had been 2 or 3 people in the waiting room. The doctor was very helpful though and on a prescription of steroid puffers and zithromax I am vastly improved.

Above is a picture of the entrance to a tunnel that we were investigating this past weekend. I had been there before but for the tunnel’s water filled appearance just kind of wrote it off as interesting but going nowhere for me. (I still keep caving despite the lungs) Today the tunnel was water free and Jeff and I crawled in some short distance to feel air flow. (picture to follow soon)

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