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Archive for the ‘accident’ Category

giraffe thumb, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Admittedly, the speed limit is 40 k in the reserve, but I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the town and it was late afternoon. Coming around a corner in the bush I came up really fast against several giraffes that were grazing upon acacia trees in the middle of the road.

see video on giraffes in Hluhluwe here

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Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.

Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.

See video of Branko going beyond the Jaws of Death getting stuck underground, here.

In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.

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In the Fall 1998 edition of the Canadian Caver, Brad Wilson relates an interesting experience that he had while exploring a remote cave in the Canadian Shield. He says that he could see a small room beyond a horribly tight squeeze so instead of going face forwards like he would normally do, he went feet first and after a little struggling he suddenly slipped through into a tube – chest deep into icy water. As Brad points out, to have gone head first would likely have been the end of him.

Exploring the rock from within, as we did at Twin Trickles Cave was certainly an amazing experience. The marble and calcite was incredibly sculpted and at the bottom of the shaft pictured above, there was a room that was bowl-like, and entirely striped black and white by the surrounding rock. When I mention a cave in the same sentence that I mention Bancroft, I do not for an instant suggest that it is a site for rock and mineral collecting. Caves are natural wonders that have been thousands of years in the making. They should be left exactly as they are found.

Check out this video documentary of exploring rock and minerals from within (Bancroft) here.

Twin Trickles Cave is some short distance into the forest and on the day that we visited, it was horribly inundated with ferocious black flies – food for the bats that reside within. although Twin Trickles is not a large cave, the rooms are sizeable for Ontario and there is a long tubular tunnel that seems not to have been followed either by ourselves or Brad’s group in 1987 – obviously it is no easy task and it dips down toward the water table. There are plenty of unprobed leads in the area of Twin Trickles so there will be more trips up in that direction this coming summer.

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The Niagara Gorge is rich in history. From the disasterous assault by American militia on Queenston Heights to the geological record in the Gorge’s rock there is no shortage of things to see and learn about.

Of particular interest to me was the story of the short and disastrous life of the Niagara Gorge Railway. It runs along the bottom of the American side, just above the river. It is said that the construction was the most costly stretch of railway ever to be blasted. And not only was the line costly in money, but there was a heavy price in human life as well.

See the documentary video on the Niagara Gorge Railway and the wrecked train that we found while hiking along the Niagara River.

Amongst the more memorable disasters for the Niagara Gorge Railway were the sewage pipe explosion beneath the tracks, where passengers were showered in raw sewage, and there was also the huge landslide that killed 9 people. As mentioned in a coment about a recent accident in the gorge, NenaSan says, “The Gorge is a beautiful but unpredictable place that needs to be both feared and respected”. true enough, several helipads are marked out beside Devil’s Whirlpool for the recovery of injured hikers and the all to frequent bodies that are fished from the river.

Pictured above is the boiler of an old train that we found while hiking in the Niagara Glen. It lies beside the Niagara River just across from the spot where the landslide wiped the Niagara Gorge Railway from existence – oddly, I suspect it might not have been the train that was used on that line.

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A map of Costa Rica will be confusing in the maze of convoluted roads along the Guanacaste shoreline. Here we are, several world class beaches within about 20 minutes drive. But where to surf in Tamarindo?

A simple map of Costa Rica with some broad destinations plotted relative to each other might sometimes be the way to go. Follow road signs and ask the locals and providing time is not an issue you will get there.

As they say in Costa Rica – Pura Vida!

Check my simple map of Costa Rica here.

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Arbag – Fuel line burst, hot gas on the engine 10K into the bush (Tom’s picture – unknown photographer)

Aside from the hum of the mosquitoes under a grey, cloud-laden sky the northern forest is quiet. It is as though man had never touched this raw and rugged land. From somewhere there arises a faint revving sound, it intrudes into the otherwise pristine morning growing louder over a period of about 15 minutes. Bone jarring thumps reverberate through the trees and soon human voices can also be heard. Now visible, a convoy of several vehicles jolts into view. It looks like something out of a northern version of a Mad Max movie. Mud spattered vehicles with various oddments of human survival strapped atop. Whooping, shouting and cheering the off roaders do their stuff.

A green Neon is of particular interest, why is it out here? The convoy is several miles from the nearest passable road, this is dense bush, its crazy! Tom is the driver. Blond hair, pony tail and ragged beard, he is in his mid 20’s, dressed as per normal in his trademark color, “baby blue.” The sunroof is open, the road is crap and Tom is in his element. As he explained, “My intention is to do a few rock pitches, get the car dirty, I’m a bit of an off road groupie.” The vehicles enter a clearing, it is just a huge expanse of rock, polished by the glaciers, its deeper hollows filled by mud and bog grass.

As I’m sure you can imagine it can be very expensive. Tom has had his neon for two years and as he says, “It looks like xxxx” “I have been my cars own worst enemy.” He confesses. “All the damage is because of me,” he whispers. People say it looks like garbage and regrettably there are a few mechanical problems. I have no power steering and the ball joints are gone, it makes a horrible grinding noise when it goes around a corner, it has no starter so I put it in first and roll it along till the engine kicks in. The car always overheats and it has to be stopped sometimes on the way to work. If you ride in my car most people want to get out quickly because they think it is unsafe but it is not, there are just a lot of little things. (I will clarify this for the reader, it is Tom’s driving style that concerns his passengers.) I have tape on the lights, the mirror is missing, no hubcaps, some of the door handles are off and as Najeeb pointed out, “It smells like weed.” Tom corrects him, “most of that smell is the burning from the engine.”

Off roading is not for everyone, as you can see there are consequences but both Tom and Pablo say, it’s a great way to see the outdoors. They explore any little trail they can find and were most excited when I told them of the lost settlers roads that span the province, overgrown by trees and forgotten to all but the most aged historian. If you find a battered green neon far out in the forest you will know where it came from and you will know that Tom and Pablo have probably graduated to a farmer auto.

While on the topic of misfortunes and accidents, check out this incident when the rope broke in Dewdney’s Cave … Here

Or more to the point, the accident with the Leopard tank … Here

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Leopard Tank – Reforger, Germany, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

An odd thing happened to me while I was in Germany. I was injured in a tank accident and I still bear the scar on my forehead.

This is me posing in front of one of the tanks – can’t remember which one it was, but some of the vehicles in the background are M113s – used for carrying the infantry sections that add to the “punch” of a mechanized brigade. We are in an armored defensive position somewhere in Hohenfels.

Being new I was still in the process of experiencing the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Grouping, understanding who does what and how it all fit together. 4 CMBG was tasked with plugging an Eastern Bloc advance if things ever came to that – thankfully they didn’t as it’s unlikely that I’d be telling this story if it had.

Shortly after this picture was taken I found myself in the gunners seat of one of these tanks (Leopard). It was nauseating as the whole turret spins both on top of the tank and in a cone down inside the cursed thing.

The Leopard tank cruises in excess of 60 kilometers an hour and so as you hit trees, holes and whatever at those speeds, going backwards,sideways and all ways with no visibility beyond this scope thing in front of you it doesn’t take you long to start feeling motion sickness. The tank can keep going forward on its own long after the crew within it has been battered to death by impacts – it is a truly terrifying machine whose purpose is to crush, incinerate and kill other people in trenches, lesser tanks, houses or wherever they may be hiding. In retrospect – being part of a tank crew – its an odd kind of career to aspire to (but someone has to do it!).

I can’t remember exactly what the reason was, but the other 3 members of the crew had these tanker helmets on and I did not. The crew commander kept shouting to get my face against the sight, but every time I tried we would hit a tree or a hole and it felt like somebody had just punched me in the nose. Incidentally, a tree in a Leopard at 65 KM/hr is not quite the shock that you’d imagine,it’s generally just a bump. I can’t imagine that anyone can actually sight onto a target like that – they had to be having some fun with me (because I was new???).

Having already thrown up I kept trying to do as instructed when suddenly the tank bottomed out into a large crater and I hit the sight full impact in the forehead. I remember the incline when the tank stopped and we were tipped well forward and then the engines gunned and the tank backed up onto a level and started off again. The crew commander and radio operator also took it pretty hard, but the driver seemed unaffected.

I couldn’t feel my face and when I reached up to see if everything was still there it was totally wet with blood. Around this time my vision started closing in and I knew I was soon to faint.

I had a head set on and I was trying to figure out how to operate the thing and I could just hear my two companions shouting and what have you.

The inside of a tank is cramped and full of nasty, sharp and explosive things. Worst of all, down near my feet there was a hatch that connected to the driver’s compartment and when the turret is lined up you can pass through the hatch, but when the turret is turning its like a guillotine – as I was passing out I was sliding down toward the hatch imagining that I was soon to be cut in two. I had heard that Russian tanks were even more difficult to operate, apparently there was some kind of hazard where the guy who operated the gun was sometimes caught up in the mechanism and loaded into the breach. I can only imagine that it would be lethal as a human being is not meant to fit into a tank barrel.

Somebody must have heard me mumbling and gagging on the headset and they finally figured all was not well within the Leopard. Apparently it took some time to stop the thing. I was too out of it by then to know anything, but I do remember trying to find ways to wedge myself in my seat so I did not slide into the scything hatch thing. While still conscious I still had some control, but as I was passing out I rightly believed with all the shaking and slamming of the journey I’d soon be sliding into the guillotine. The driver, though he had backed the tank out of the crater was actually the most messed up of all he was kind of dazed and he just kept plowing on in shock – trees, holes, whatever was in the way just got knocked down.

Anyway, when the tank was finally stopped, not from direction within, but by someone outside, I got hauled out on top of the tank where I was treated along with the others and sent off to a hospital.

Would I want to go in another tank? – absolutely not, its a real scary machine to operate (not that I was in it long enough to get used to it) and even worse to have it coming at you – 600 km range, massive gun and quick to crush anyone who’s not fast enough to get out of the way.

I believe we still have 114 of these bad boys.

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