Archive for the ‘fossils’ Category


IMG_8547, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It should come as no surprise that an Ontario cave is cold and wet and smelly – so much so in fact that we have named a nearby sink “the stink sink”. Anyway, here is me crawling from the entrance of the cave, the snow is yet to fully melt on the nearby slopes, but when you find an undiscovered cave (undiscovered to cavers that is) you have no choice but to explore it.

We only went in a short distance today as we need wetsuits, I believe we must have seen about 100 feet of tunnel. It gets more spacious once you pass the entrance and the tunnel meanders in a limestone bedding plane. By the gently curved roof, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that the passage had initially developed beneath the water table, and by the multitude of other nearby karst features you absolutely know that numerous other sinks will be linking up as you get deeper in. Looking over the hill above the cave we can only speculate the route of the underground passage, a nearby sink leads us to suspect the first part of the route, but after that who knows? Unlike the relatively predictable route of a joint oriented tunnel like my recent trip to the Casselman Cave, the bedding plane orientation (without joints thus far noticed) is a crap shoot.

If this passage does not dip beneath the water table soon it will be a provincially significant find – it can only get larger.

Not tio diverge, but check out my new book “Tamarindo; Crooked times in Costa Rica“. If you have read my first book Rockwatching, you will certainly want my second.

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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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Going deeper!

Jeff’s picture

Not being quite high enough to crawl on all fours I had to belly inch my way down this slope throgh numerous jagged glass obstacles that struck up through the rock. Down below the passage gets a little higher and in one spot there is a pretty sizeable fossilized sponge with a scallop scooped into it. The rock looks fractured and the passage wide, but down near the bottom of the slope it almost seems like the pool ahead is possibly in a joint. It is also possible to see the water worn walls of the passage, but I am sinking down into deep mud.

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Who says there are no caves in Ontario?

Where the water flows from the mouth of the cave

A chance encounter on a bridge over a shallow ravine led us here to this swath of pebbles and rock that cut through a wheat field. We had been looking through the area as the air photos suggested the liklihood of caves. Jeff had seen several promising stream features – streams that would disappear in piles of breakdown to be specific. While peering over the edge of the bridge a local farmer stopped and our converation led to caves.

“Know of any caves around here?”

“Umm, no, not really, unless you could call that one on the …..’s property a cave, its more like a fox hole, kids went down there. I dont think it goes anywhere – maybe a few feet”.

Well you can imagine where we were headed off – to see the fox hole and it turned out to be more than that.

After speaking to the owners who had heard of a cave at the back of their property, but never actually saw it, we were off down a fenceline that intersected what we assumed would be where water flowed from the cave. This picture was taken at the edge of a field that is plowed each year, you can imagine the nature of the water flow coming from the cave, it is brief in duration, possibly tied to downpours and with it the water drags a fair amount of debris.

Needless to say Jeff is probably scouring all related air photos at this very minute to look for other caves that might be in the area.

More on this cave in upcoming posts.

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A combined project between the Toronto Cave Group and Ontario Cave Divers

old pics 117, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Not bad for Ontario eh?

Beleive it or not this is a cave dig. The TCG and Ontario cave divers all worked on this project for a number of years. As you can see, it proogresed on through the winter. Generally speaking, at its lowest level the water was about knee deep when the pumps were running. As soon as the power stopped the pit began to quickly fill with icy water.

That tube that looks like a fire hose hanging into the pit was connected to a suction nozzle that sucked up gravel, clay and dirty water which were dumped out in the adjacent field.

Many believe that this is a tunnel that had formed before the ice age in an area known as “The roof of Ontario”. It would appear that the exposed rock in the area had once been an active karst but as it was buried under clay it stopped developing. We found numerous large bones in this pit (ice age caribou amongst them), but inexplicably the project ground to a halt shortly after we reached the source of the water – an underwater tunnel.

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Does anyone know what kind of vertebrae this is?

IMG_6953, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Shortly after descending the bone pit Greg found two beaver skulls in a corner and as I was walking I kicked something that made an oddly porcelean sound – very unlike the sound of the rock shards beneath my feet.

In examining the cave floor I found this broad plate-like piece of what I think was bone – a vertebrae fused to the inside of it. The plate was far thinner than the other bones and appeared to be partly stone in places or maybe it was just scaled over with flowstone.

Some possibilities that came to mind – it is certainly from something larger than a beaver and with a thinner skull – someone suggested a deer ??? I will show the picture to my chiropractor this wednesday and see if the vertebrae look human. They have a model in the office that shows the lower lumbar – where my problem lies with all the nerves coming out. If it were human, might this be a burial site – or more likely just some unfortunate who had fallen down the shaft in the forest.

(Just been checking out pictures on “google images” of human vertebrae – never realized how different they all are and also I am not seeing the hole at the center of the vertebrae like you would see in a human – also wonder about the angle of attachment looks like the skull would be pretty flat on top.)

I recall the bones – like water-logged slabs of wood – that we had pulled up from a sinkhole north of Orangeville. Buried deep in the glacially deposited clay and agregates we had exposed them with a sucking dredge and they turned out to be what was left of many ice-age caribou. I suppose a shaft that bells out at the bottom is a natural trap and anything that falls down there is unable to climb out. Fascinating! The debris is really deep on the floor – it would be an amazing place for an archaeologist to dig.

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IMG_6849, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Reaching the shore of this nameless – somewhat desolate looking patch of water we skirted around its edges until we found the caves. To any caver the rock – a shattered dolostone should suggest some promise – though the fractured nature of the material might also suggest a material that is to crumbly for the formation of cave tunnels.

The ideal cave rock would be a nice thick strata of limestone. Dolostone is porus – like a sponge – and the water seeps through vugs and is not concentrated in any particular place. Limestone has a tight interlocking crystal structure and water only penetrates along joints and bedding planes. Thus tunnel formation will be concentrated along those arteries.

If you know your local geology you will know the orientation of the local joint sets – the thickness of the bedding planes and the location of impermeable shale layers above which the water is concentrated. In short cave passages are somewhat predictable and this is the specialty of cave hunters.

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A painful, weary start to a day of fantastic discovery.

IMG_7012, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Corneilie and Marc appear here – part of our 5 person team that investigated a little known caving location today. Having permission from the authorities that control the area we had petitioned for a permit to explore and in so doing agreed, amongst other things, to leave the environment as we had found it and also to proceed with the understanding that if things went wrong we were to provide our own rescue team.

We had hiked in that morning along a sandy track – populated more by agressive deerfly than anything else – though the bear scat and large imprints in the mud were reminders of the other – larger inhabitants.

Greg and Valerie related their experience the night before when Valerie awoke to a snuffling sound beside the tent (a bear). Greg was already sittling upright in the dark and 3 sharp claps warned the scavenger away. Valerie now spoke with trepidation of the upcoming night and the possibility of sleeping in their car as opposed to their tent.

My back – not quite healed yet from some previous unremembered injury was surprisingly co-operative. I have been seeing a chiropractor for the last three weeks and their attentions along with stretching, exercises and robaxacet got me through the day. I had been advised to leave the Robaxacet for the evening but took it for the initial car ride as that is when I am usually the stiffest.

Getting off work around 11:00pm, returning home to pack and then shooting off at 04:30am left me not quite my usual self but all said and done – I think I did pretty well. As planned we all met at the end of a forest track and headed off on foot from there.

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Looking for caves near Lake Erie

IMG_6825, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is Jeff C. – a photo taken recently while we were exploring an area south of Hamilton – looking for caves. Jeff had alerted us to a discovery that he had made and we were especially excited as it was a tunnel in Devonian age rock. Devonian caves are a rarity in Ontario.

I had taken the above picture at a strange bend in the river where we had hoped to find some kind of lead. There are riverbank tunnels upstream – one of which appeared to go but would require some kind of digging. As would be expected – the tunnel is in the vicinity of a cataract – and though I have not seen it myself (The land owner was not amenable to a visit that day) I would suspect it is much like many other Ontario tunnels – formed at a river edge from lateral penetration.

The Devonian rock makes its first appearance in Ontario at Brantford where the “Bertie” formation breaks the surface. The devonian age layers occur beneath the till, sucessively aging as they near Windsor. One unusual geological occurence appears just west of Grand Bend at Kettle Point – the rounded bowling ball – like concretions known locally as “Huron Boulders”. If sliced the concretions are found to have layers that have grown one atop the other. Apparently many such boulders have fossil remains of Pre-historic sharks preserved within.

Of interest to cavers are the many sinkholes and disappearing streams that appear as far south as Lake Erie and are spotted across the land up through Hanover and north to Goderich.

Over 50 sinks have been mapped in a small area around West Perth and Hibbert County. The largest sinks are said to occur in the “Tuckersmith and Chiselhurst cluster – a dye tracing failing to locate a resurgence for the water that sinks there. I recall hearing of a lady who worked as a town clerk in that area and she had said that she had heard the sound of running water coming from a bush on her property. Investigations revealled a perfectly cylindrical hole at the bottom of which was flowing some kind of underground conduit.

The cave searching community is yet to make a serious investigation of the possibilities but we live in hope. If anyone knows of sinks or caves in this area I would be pleased to hear of them.

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Fossilized creatures of the Devonian Age still lie along the ancient Lake erie shoreline.

100_1896, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Anyway … To continue with the narrative about our “Caving off the radar”…

The Devonian Age rock (360 -408m yrs in age) first cuts the surface in Ontario as far east as Brantford. This is but a short drive from the homes of several prominant cave hunters and we have made a number of forays to this area in search of underground tunnels.

Ariel photographs show many sinking streams and by the prevalence of limestones and shales in the Devonian Age rocks we were somewhat optimistic.

The last of the Silurian Age rock – the Bertie formation appears as a coral-derived dolostone just south of Hamilton and from there on the unknown factor of the Devonian Age rock. “D” was absolutly blown away by the fossils on his first visit and he sent me the above photo that he took. On the way down today he ranted on in the car about their incredible variety and size – I think he should have been a paleontologist but instead he took the noble pursuit of ….. for a career. It seems oddly prevalent that many cavers follow that trade.

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