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Archive for July, 2012

IMGP3419, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It has been my unfortunate experience to visit many shelter caves near Toronto and for the paucity of decoration and the generally shattered and graffiti-scarred innards, had come to regard them as a waste of time – no beauty there, only a miserable reminder of what a wild cave ought not to be.
Today JC and I followed up a canyon which in my own thoughts had probably been traversed by many people. Not having the energy to make a long trip and storing up all our caving ambition for the coming trip to Marmora (which I am leading for the TCG), we just settled for a none to ambitious scouting over what we’d thought must be territory that should have been well traveled before.
The going was difficult, but the scenery was spectacular and we soon found ourselves in a gorge with an increasingly thickening bedding plane. The riverine growth was somewhat reminiscent of the edges of the Maitland and that karst terrain of a ‘River Ledge Limestone Pavement’ – but not entirely as there was also thick growth up the sides of rubble mounds in places – pink flowers that looked like giant snap dragons nodded in the humid air as we pushed our way between them. Simple shelter caves began to exhibit features of greater complexity – many having stone tongues hanging out of their mouths – of tuffa, or in some cases more finely deposited flow stone. To me that suggested water flowing from within, it gave us hope of onward leading tunnels.
Against all odds we came across not one but several shelter caves that were somewhat beautifully hung with spelothems. The most impressive decorations were a stacking of rimstone dams that led inward to deeper passages. Sadly they seemed too tight for explorers, and thankfully nobody had tried to push it. I was astounded by the complexity of the deposition and looking over the wriggly walls it reminded me of waves of molten wax. And not far above I could hear the sound of passing traffic. It was an amazing little hidden oasis.
The point is that just by pushing on a little further beyond where it is easy walking, hack through the stinging nettles and mud and cobbles and there is still a lot to see in Ontario. And thanks to whoever preceded us, for having the forethought to restrict themselves from standing on the speleothems.
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Descending a pit is a somewhat awe inspiring experience, especially if that pit has never been descended before. This particular area of Ontario is absolutely pocked with holes and solution shafts through the rock and this past weekend we found another cluster somewhere near the cave that we call the Death Bell.

See video on the descent of the pit – here

When I got to the bottom of the pit I discovered that I was standing on a boulder choke and beneath that choke you could see a shaft that dropped down at least another 30 or 40 feet. Any dig of the boulder choke would have to be done very carefully as there is the hazard of engulfment where the floor could collapse away and you would find yourself tumbling down amongst hundreds of tons of rock. Bottom line – diggers would have to be roped off.

The size of this shaft is out of all proportion to the water that presently drains into it so I would imagine that it is a relic from the glacial past – in fact the clusters of shafts in the area are generally aligned along some prominent joint and there is little that would explain why they had formed there. Without surface wear marks that would suggest a river that had drained into the shaft the only other thought that I am having is that the shafts formed beneath a glacier with an enormous pressure head that injected water deep along the bedding planes – kind of similar to the formative process of Museum or Leopard Frog Cave.

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As I am still recovering from my mexico trip – (a nasty ailment that leaves me wishing that I’d been a little more cautious in the cenotes), we thought that we’d take it easy this weekend and though we pass Greig’s cave several times a month, we finally stopped in for a visit. Cost is $10 per adult and there is a nice picnic area, washroom, free walking sticks and the use of a flashlight, having my caving helmet I did not inquire about the cost (of the flashlight rental).

When I was younger I recall seeing that great and tacky classic ‘Quest for Fire’ and so it was with some amount of recollection that I viewed one of the larger caverns and I believe it was there that one of the epic battles between the Neanderthals and the other hairy guys took place. Another vivid memory was that unforgettable scene when the three stone-age morons were sleeping up in the tree and one of them had eaten all the leaves. I believe he was taunting a lion or a tiger beneath when the branch he was sitting on broke.

Anyway, more significantly, after a very interesting trip to Shallow Lake and the observation of one of it’s sinkholes, JC and I donned our packs and helmets and spent a little time looking for evidence of something other than the usual sea cave formative processes at Greig’s. I can’t really be totally sure of what I was seeing, I sometimes like to mull over what I have seen before I come up with a theory. For the most part there is a lot of collapse and evidence of wave action, but there was this one spot where a massive joint cut into the rock and from there a low crawling tunnel branched off along an anastomosing route – quite different from the smooth worn walls in other areas. It may have just been a rotting corroded section of rock, but the tunnels were somewhat regular and unchanging in size and one passage that I should have crawled down further, but was filled with porcupine feces, seemed to be quite promising – not so much for what you could see, but rather the floor was dirt and I wondered if there was anything that could be unearthed with a little digging (like a passage that had been miraculously overlooked). Several people have suggested the possibility of solution tunnels playing a part in the formation of Greig’s Caves – I’d like to prove that theory.

The above picture is of a little squeeze beside a pool. Up ahead JC’s camera on a telescopic extension revealed a small cavern that slopes down to the left with the possibility of further going tunnel, but that is just a guess by looking at his pictures. We both tried fitting through here, but neither of us had either the ability or inclination, but Jeff is strongly considering giving it another try – I believe he will fit. It seems that there are sseveral passages oriented along the bearing of a joint that runs somewhat parallel to the clif face – one is quite long and the crawl was increasingly painful in jeans and tanktop. I hope to prepare a little video sometime later in the week.

All in all, the $10 was well spent. The property is very scenic and we suddenly realized that we’d spent several hours in speculation. Admittedly this is not a wild cave, but it certainly has some interest and who could possibly shun it for the fact that it was the setting of that great theatrical masterpiece of my teenage years – Quest for Fire. If you are looking for a casual outing with your kids, providing you keep a good eye on them as there is plenty of opportunity for injury, this could well be one of the fun things to do near Toronto. This is a good example of what cavers call spelunking. I felt a little overdressed with my helmet, but what the heck.

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Cenotes in Tulum, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In case you were wondering why I stopped posting, I’ve been in Tulum for the last little while – exploring cenotes and just generally enjoying the culture of the Yucatan.

Check out this video on some cenotes near Tulum here.

we stayed in our usual hotel, the Punta Posada Piedra, spent time learning Spanish from Santiago, the night watchman, watched turtles crawling up on the beach to lay eggs – and one that changed its mind. We visited the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve and to me, most significantly visited several local cenotes and snorkled in them.

Cenotes that I have documented on the video link above are Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavara (Temple of Doom), Manati Cenote and Dos Ojos. Of course there are plenty of others, but those are the ones that are most easily reached from Tulum.

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