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Archive for April, 2013

It’s hard to imagine how thrilling it was to see this wonderful yellow spotted newt. He crawled out from beneath a rock as we were digging in Newt’s Nook, a local cave near Toronto (Ontario).

Newt’s have both a terrestrial and aquatic phase to their life, they hatch from eggs at a length of about 1 centimeter and they exist on land, hiding beneath leaves and old logs. Officially a young land-dwelling newt is referred to as an ‘eft’. After about 3 years the eft moves into a swamp to continue the remainder of its life (about 10 years), flippering about in the mud and slime.

I am thinking that maybe the yellow spots have something to do with warning other animals to stay away. I understand there are toxins in the newt’s skin that make them poisonous to everything but a garter snake. Apparently there is a ploy whereby a beleaguered newt flops over onto it’s back to display a belly that reddens in proportion to its anxiety – another form of warning. Once transplanted from the spot beneath the rock that we found it, the newt blinked myopically and then began dragging its feet in a slow but persistent dash for the nearest crevice.

See this documentary video of our dig at Noot’s Nook and the discovery of the above pictured creature – here.

Our intention is to return to Noot’s Nook and continue following downward toward tunnels that appear to exist about 3 feet beneath the solid base of the cavern in which we found the newt. It is possible to see the space below through a narrow crevice. However great our excitement, we must exercise care as safety is paramount on any dig – especially where there is so much loose rock.

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P0000199, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Echoing my own sentiments our guide says, “We hope it no make an eruption today si!” He has the habit of stuffing the microphone under his arm pit and snickering like a mad man. “We go 10 kilometres to 8000 feet now.

In the accompanying picture you will notice, the lake down in the caldera. It is hot and acidic I am told (.01 Ph). “You put your head in the water and SSSSTT. Smells like a barracks, how you say… a foort” He hides the microphone and giggles again.

Maggie, my wife, and I are in Costa Rica for a holiday. It is an amazing place but we cannot aford to go there all that often. I am hoping to have the cash again soon. Sadly the tax man was not so kind this year. We are in a little tourisimo bus winding our way from lush green slopes, planted with coffee bushes, up into the cloud forest. We pass a mountain biker, they are everywhere. Up ahead a bank of clouds hangs low; Invariably those who reach the summit find themselves in thick mist. “We are lucky today si! If jesus is with us it is sunny”. Apparently jesus is only with 30% of the tours. “Iss very important we have rules in the national park, we do not take rock or drugs, only pictures”.

The “Tourismo bus” parks with several others and we file out into the thin mountain air. I hope for Jesus to appear but he is nowhere in sight. There is a short hike to the rim from here. “We spend 15 minutes at the crater, if it makes eruption you run for the bus!” Jason our guide can hardly finish his next sentence; “If you do not see me and the driver, and the fire is behind you (he is doubled over now making choking sounds) we are back in San Jose already”. Its great to see a guy who loves his job, hes having almost as much fun as us. “Good luck compadres”.

We are definitly noticing the elevation, I am right out of breath though it appears that there is a small patch of sunlight up ahead. Just as we arrive, Maggie dragging along in tow obsessed by the humming birds, the clouds streak over the rim. They move at phenomenal speed and we find ourselves breathing fog as thick as cotton balls. Somewhere in the mist ahead I hear the sad lament of “Jesus has left us”. We hover there on the edge and then as though by miracle, the clouds are suddenly torn away and for about two minutes we are treated to intermittant glimpses of the moonscape below. “Jesus, he has come back! You are all lucky persons. You know why? It is because you come with me”.

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This weekend Jeff and I descend to the bottom of a cold and dripping sinkhole in Ontario, Canada. It would appear that most are unaware of the existence of these pits, thinking that they only occur in Florida and other places where there have been some well publicized swallowings of people and posessions. Sinkholes occur for several reasons, but in stable rock they develop slowly and predictably over thousands of years and it is only the careless who end up lying broken and dying at their bottom.

In Toronto, it is most likely an underground pipe that has broken and eroded the lake deposited sediment beneath the city streets that would pose a sinkhole hazard. On rare occasions there have been collapse windows that have unexpectedly appeared in farmer’s fields, and of course there have been the celebrated cave-ins around mining communities like Cobalt and Kirkland Lake that have resulted in the loss of buildings. I believe it was in Timmins that a school bus was swallowed up one night with a sleeping beggar who had sheltered there, little suspecting that he would wake up entombed within the earth.

See the Documentary video on the sinkhole that we had explored this weekend – a Deep Mysterious Pit in Ontario Canada – here.

I spend my weekends caving and it appears that for the scarcity of horizontal cave openings near Toronto, it is now the vertical shafts that we are breaking open in hopes of exposing buried tunnels. Pictured here is one such shaft that sinks deep into virgin rock.

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