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Archive for the ‘documentary’ Category

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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What is adventure travel in Ontario is for cavers a regular Sunday afternoon. Rob, Jeff, Jeff and I revisited this marble cave to hopefully explore other, thus far un-visited passages.

see video on Adventure travel in Ontario – Exploring marble caves, here

At this time we have discovered several other likely cave leads in the area, in particular, a sinking stream (thanks Steve M.) with massive potential for tunnels, but unfortunately it will take some land-owner permission and then a concerted effort by a team with capabilities of heavy rock removal.

Within our already visited cave we explored out into the darker nooks that I had missed last visit. We found several going passages. This particular spot as seen above – with the wad of flowstone marks the entrance to a tube that we are yet to explore. Getting to this spot is somewhat disarming as you wade through about 18 inches of water and 2-3 feet of soupy mud. Every step causes the water around you to literally boil with escaping methane. You can feel sticks and branches down beneath the mud and in their decomposition they are releasing gas. I am wondering what effect open flame might have on the journey across the expanse that leads to this spot.

Anyway – distant as this location is from my home in Guelph, it seems to be rife with caving possibilities so the focus for our caving exploits seems to be increasingly concentrated in this area. There are many karst features in the limestone right at the edge of the shield – in part due to the rocks natural suitability and in part due to the acid water running off the shield.

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For some this would be a winter caving hell, and admittedly, the weather was 30 below zero and wallowing around in that muddy tube was getting a little cold. We cleared a space through about 5 feet of bedrock, dredged the water down by bailing with buckets and rubber boots, then we entered the tunnel on our bellies – see short video on Winter caving hell – adventure sport in Canada – here

At the end of this tube the water and tunnel roof came to within about an inch of each other and there was a good breeze blowing through the gap. Unfortunately I finally lost my nerve as the tunnel along which we’d come was refilling with water, and underground water (midwinter or otherwise) can be a little numbing. My caving partner at the time had traced the resurgence of the water in this passage to a spot several hundred meters distant.

When I finally emerged from the tube the front of my wet suit was pierced by innumerable rusty spines from the barbed wire that had once lain over the top of the feature, I suppose I must have looked like an industrial-age porcupine that had run into decline like the many factories of the region. Oddly, though my skin had also been punctured I had never felt a thing, but knowing they were there and pulling them out was a little creepy – I’m surprised I never got tetnus.

This project took place around 10 years ago and it certainly presented a few challenges, amongst those obstacles the need for me to loose around 20 pounds to fit in the tube and make it back alive.

 

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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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Embryo Cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I spent the weekend at one of our favorite northerly destinations exploring both Embryo and Twin Trickles caves. Both these caves are seldom visited and if it were not for the initial visit by Marcus and Brad they likely would be entirely forgotten by now.

Both Embryo Cave and Twin Trickles are marble caves at the edge of the Canadian Shield (near Toronto Canada), but they are very different in character.

Much as you might imagine, Embryo Cave is a cave that is smooth inside, easily traversed, the long borehole crawl being in soft silt, while Twin trickles is a cave in which you shred your knees, cave suit and anything else on or around you. The rock in Twin Trickles is sharp and jagged, the cave dips quickly downward through jagged portals and though the marble is beautifully banded there is more a feeling of intimidation in this cavity, it varies between tight and spacious, dry and soaking wet, jagged and more jagged, with lots and lots of black flies – see video on Embryo Cave here.

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IMGP1872, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I have a lead on a Pre-Cambrian marble cave that we will be exploring on Thursday. Most exciting is the fact that the area is host to several known tunnels – they are small but beautiful and where there are some, there are more. Best thought in this area will be to speculate on what is buried. The surface geography will be our initial clue, we will be looking at unexplained dips in the soil, sink points and resurgences, contacts between marble and granite, and possible funnel points that have been created by glacial erosion.

Either way there will be some good pictures of the known cave (assuming that we can find it) and hopefully we can find something else in the area that presently lies waiting for us to discover it.

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Stone Church 1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In 1965 E.D. Ongley produced his much sought after caving manuscript, ‘A Study of Caves in Southern Ontario’. In that work Ongley mentions the existence of Stone House Cave, a tunnel that had been blasted by the railways to drain a swamp that was seasonally flooding the nearby railway. In that blasted tunnel Ongley had found an albino crayfish and he speculated that the side of the tunnel, which had been blocked by a human-constructed rock wall, likely led onto a deeper, natural cave.

In the attached video, see – Looking for Stone Church Cave here, I show the caving possibilities at the edge of the Canadian Shield and I explore the small tunnel pictured above. This is not the fabled Stone Church Cave, but it is context for the next post that I will publish, which is the now revealed – Stone Church Cave.

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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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