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Archive for December, 2010

 

diamond mine, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out Anne Gordon’s incredible description of her descent into South Africa’s Bultfontein Diamond Mine – “Here“.

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Trill Mill Stream, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

My mother worked at Christ Church (Oxford University) and she was the first to bring the Trill Mill Stream to my attention. Pictured here the stream appears deep and slow – coming from under the University into Christ Church Meadow.

At one time the stream actually flowed on the surface, but it was eventually buried. The high walls within which the stream is channeled  (just before it reaches the Thames – or the Isis as they call it in Oxford) is because in the 1800s the vapors coming off the water were blamed for causing a cholera epidemic- hence the idea to contain it. Initial exploration of the stream in the 1920s revealed a rotting Victorian punt wedged somewhere within and populated by 3 human skeletons.

Numerous people have traversed this underground waterway, Lawrence of Arabia did it in a canoe and one enterprising adventurer used a sea plane float. Modern urban explorers record their adventure and reveal an arched roof of bricks, the undersides of numerous manhole covers and a passage that makes at least 6 90 degree turns – finally ending in an iron gate – as seen from the outside it is this incredibly archaic industrial age contraption – a plate of metal that is raised and lowered by a wheel.

In Ronald Knox’s book, “The Hidden Stream; the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” he mentions Trill Mill Stream in his introduction in saying that, “if you know the right turning close by the gas works you may thrust your canoe up to the mill-pool under the castle walls where an entrance hardly more dignified than that of a sewer invites you to leave the noise of Oxford behind, and float down through the darkness.”

If I still lived in Oxford, I would certainly have been one of the explorers. I had at one time entertained the idea of using an air mattress. Now that I live in Canada the gloomy tunnels under Guelph will have to suffice – sadly they do not have the history of the Trill mill stream.

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Tourmaline – Bancroft Gemboree

If I was asked to pick one gem as my favorite, it would definitely be tourmaline. Look at these colors. These cabs are in a tray that was displayed by a merchant at the Bancroft Gemboree.

Red tourmalines are known as “rubellite”, one of the better known deposits being some 30 kilometers south east of Mogok in Burma where the gem is found in an alluvial bed of decomposing gneiss. Chinese miners generally worked this deposit as red tourmaline was needed for the buttons of mandarin’s gowns.

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Paradise Falls, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I can’t remember what I’ve blogged about this trip so far – so here is the full story (as I remember).

There is this incredible storm drain that is very spectacular (as storm drains go). Many years ago SNFU and I resolved to follow it up as far as we could – this in place of the especially old drains in Niagara falls that I still intend to visit.

Well you enter in a rather public place – at the edge of a highway and the noise from within is quite intimidating. As a caver that sound of water suggested that we were about to be swamped by a flash flood, but it never came so we waded in and soon found ourselves at the bottom of a stairway down which flowed a gush of very cold water.

It was midwinter and though you might not be able to tell, I am wearing a wet suit beneath my coat.

It took us about 40 minutes of careful walking up two flights of stairs to get to the in-fall; a large grate at the edge of a golf course.

The stairs slope toward their center and with the algae build-up and the coldness it was not exactly easy, but we were very pleased to have done it and we rose from about the water level at the lake to the height just at the base of the cliffs. Along the way we had the fortune to observe some rather spectacular rust stalactites which were growing from cracks in the roof from which water poured. We resolved in the spring when the water was higher and warmer to inner-tube the drain from infall to outlet (wearing helmets) but in retrospect, its probably better that we didn’t.

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Queen’s Regiment, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Having served a short time in the Canadian Army I left and joined the British Army (Queen’s Regiment).

This is me in Portugal. We spent a huge amount of time in the eucalyptus forests. I remember that we were always short of water. I was so thirsty once that I  filled an old pop can that I had found with stinking water from a tire rut. In plugging the end with plastic I had saved it for a treat later in the day. It turned out that there was an orchard near there and the people who were picking oranges gave us fresh water and lots of fruit.

Most of the time we moved at night and I honed my map and compass skills to perfection.

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13C – 3RCR (Hohenfels), originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Looks like our M113 is broken down again. That’s me sitting with my feet on the edge.We are somewhere in Hohenfels (Germany)

Behind me is a 50 cal. I can’t recall the exact issue with the APC, but I believe it was something to do with the track tension which seemed to be an on-going thing.

What I later came to regard as quite odd was that not everyone in the section knew how to use the 50 cal. I believe you needed a special course. In the British Infantry (as I later joined the British Army), if there was a weapon in your section – you knew how to use it.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Marmora Cave – Ontario

You can pretty well tell that this picture was taken in one of the Marmora caves. The rock in that area, though much the same as that in Dewdney’s Cave (Bobcaygeon Formation) is wickedly sharp – comparatively, the rock in Dewdney’s is much smoother.

This tunnel was formed above the water table by water running along a joint, you can see the wear along the wall and the incision inward along a bedding plane.

In the spring these particular tunnels are entirely submersed by running water and so bats seem not to find them suitable as a hibernaculum, in fact, in my experience, most of the tunnels in the Marmora area are unpopulated by bats.

Looking at a map in the winter /spring issue of the Toronto Caver the progression of “White Nose Syndrome” in bats appears to have made it into Southern Ontario this year (2010). The disease was first seen in 2006 in Schoharie New York. Initially the White Nose Syndrome is thought to have spread southwards in the States, but mysteriously it was not confirmed to be present until it was discovered at several sites including Moira in 2010

By the map in the Toronto Caver it would appear that distribution of White Nose Syndrome is on a North/South axis – in fact quite narrowly confined to certain areas. As Kirk MacGregor says, the fungus responsible for the symptoms that are referred to as “White Nose Syndrome” (Geomyces destructans) has been identified as far north as Kirkland Lake and yet at this time there is no evidence of it being east of Ottawa.

Geographically you would wonder what it is that is defining the spread of disease … Travel patterns of the bat?

Below I copy an excerpt from an e-mail that a friend and I were bouncing back and forth in Feb. 2008 …

“not being a bat scientist or anything, but would the fungus not be indicative of what is going on inside. Is the fungus growing on some kind of sputum that the bat is exhaling? What type of medium does this fungus usually grow on? Is there any connection between that and the sputum? How fast does this come on? Consider that the bat is dormant and its body temperature drops so drastically – what kind of weird virus would grow inside a creature at those temperatures? Does the bats temperature rise – might that be what is killing it? Notice in the picture(although it is only one picture), but the bats in the middle of the picture are most heavily affected and as you get further away, the fungus seems to be growing less profusely. I wonder if that suggests the bat in the middle was affected first and then the disease spread outward from him – spread in situ that is – as the bats were dormant. I wonder if the disease is even cave related as bats obviously leave the cave. Can the bat act as an incubator like the pig does in transferring influenza from the chicken to the human and mutating it along the way?

Lots of questions 2 years ago and yet, no doubt answers will eventually follow.

Information for this post in part, was obtained from an article in the Toronto Caver …

MacGregor Kirk, “White Nose Syndrome Moves into Southern Ontario, published by The Toronto Caver, The Toronto Caver Winter and Spring 2010, pg. 5

Map showing distribution of White Nose Syndrome as of 12th of May 2010. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission.

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Michael14, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Somewhere above some pretty deep shafts that lead down to Friar’s Hole this lama used to live. I was returning from one such shaft and he followed me – more like terrorized me, just kind of pacing along behind. I’ve had a few weird experiences with lamas so …

Any way, off that particular topic, but on the topic of cave shafts, check out these cave base jumps. Not a sport I’d considered before, but it looks amazing, as the Chinese guide says in a massive understatement, “Everybody will have an exciting day today” …

Cave of the Swallows – Mexican cave base jump

Cave Base Jumping in Oman – Base jump in Oman

Chinese Cave Jump – Chinese sinkhole jump

Down the shaft – another of the Cave of the Swallows

Guatemala Sinkholes – How sinkholes form

It’s Timmay – something just a little different

Rubber rafting it – a deviation from cave jumping!

Detroit – Sneaky Base jump

Just a bit much – Fainting

If you are wondering why no update on broken rowboat cave, its serious snow up there right now and neither JC or myself can hack through that kind of terrain in those conditions and also I’m working like a mad man to finish off my next book – it’s now a week overdue. Keep your eyes peeled – “Tamarindo”,  Published by Edgehill Press.

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This picture was taken on a recent exploration that JC and I did in an area that has long been suspected of being “cave rich”.

In Ongley’s long forgotten cave manuscript he relates the impression at the time of Ontario being a cave desert – a paucity of karst! not so! Theres lots of caves in Ontario you just gotta find them. Marcus Buck said that 90 -95% of Ontario’s caves are found beside a road or path – still true, its because of our rugged terrain and people’s unwillingness to hack through the bush. JC and I do that quite often and sometimes we hit lucky.

My book on Ontario’s cave geography “Rockwatching” is again available at Amazon. It appears that it had risen quite significantly in price while it was out of print – Teebooks1 – $156.13, The_Meirin_USA – $94.00, and any_book for – $56.46.

Rockwatching is back on at Amazon for $20.96 – buy it and stop e-mailing me for directions to caves, you’ll learn in the book how to figure those out for yourselves.

But for now, I hope to update you in the next month or so on our further explorations of Broken Rowboat cave – it all depends on whether the location is totally snowed in for the winter or not. It’s a hike of several kilometers through some pretty rugged terrain.

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