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Archive for the ‘guelph’ Category

Caves near Guelph, Canada, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Jeff and I believe that this small group of shelter-like caves near Guelph, Ontario, Canada might well be the resurging exits to a system that slopes downward from the river valley along the bedding plane. It appears that from the visit that we made, the tunnels all slope downward and are soon filled with clay and gravel.

See the video on a few areas that we were looking at here

It appears that since our visit the previous weekend, the ice crawl into the #8 cave has got significantly tighter. The February thaw and then flash-freeze has almost closed some passages in places. I vaguely entertained the thought of the tunnel freezing shut behind me. That would be a nasty way to die, especially considering that lying on the ice, with my coat pulled up from my stomach I was getting a taste of how it would feel to be slowly freezing.

Anyway, we did find a spot with blowing air on our previous visit and we also saw 2 likely spots where digging might open further passage. I am reminded of the dig and railway system that I had once seen in the Cheddar Cave. Eventually those cavers reached the river Axe and from there some incredible stories of underground and underwater exploration.

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Conservationists from the ‘Friends of the Eramosa Karst’ and cavers from the ‘Toronto cave Group’ have joined together over these last three weekends (Nov – Dec 2012) to hopefully expose the tunnels that all suspect lie beneath the clogged entrance of Kinney Cave. Three weeks ago this karst feature was no more than a pile of glacially rounded boulders stacked at the edge of a walking path, now there is exposed entryway into the underground.

Vern, a local resident had first bought this spot to the attention of Brad, president of Friends of the Eramosa Karst. Vern could recall playing in this spot as a child, the hole was supposedly infested with Copper Heads and rattlers. Some time between then and now the cave had been filled in with enormous field-stone boulders. That is the norm in Ontario – farmers fill openings to the underground with rocks.

Anyway this dig has been an epic event, a collaboration between the Toronto Cave Group and the Hamilton based ‘Friends of the Eramosa Karst’. Both have come together in appreciation of what nature has given the area and to preserve for future generations what some obviously fail to see today. For the most part the conservationists are not cavers, but they can understand the idea of preserving something for its own sake. I could hear them talking about the highlights of the area, a stream flooded to the edges of its banks, trees swaying in the mist, dewdrops on bare branches, and various small creatures that they have proudly kept a habitat for – priceless.

This tunnel dig, as was pointed out, is returning the environment to what it was before farming and developers – and for me, I have this curiosity to know whats under there.

Today we dug downward and along a tunnel just beneath the surface. I struggled enormously with some of the huge flaked off pieces of rock, and moving them to the surface was exhausting. Jeff Collens spent his time deepening the entry shaft and in retrospect my time would have been better spent helping him. We all suspect a tunnel down at the bottom of the pit. There is said to be at least 30 feet of elevation between this sink point and its resurgence a few hundred meters away. Marcus explained how the water that sinks here and the water that sinks at another nearby stream cross paths, obviously at different levels – resurging in places that seem to make no sense.

See the video for the dig at the Eramosa Karst (Dec 2012) here

In comparing this entrance (Kinney Cave) to one that I had helped excavate at the initial clearing of the Eramosa Karst, they are very similar. Over a decade ago we began our investigation of the area at a place we called the Olmstead Caves. In a shaft much like this that we called ‘The Birth Canal’ I dug all day and the bottom finally dropped away with a distinct inward sucking of air and there beneath was a crawlway that led on to a chamber beyond. I made it as far as the chamber, but Nina Mueller and Marcus Buck (and maybe others of a slimmer build than myself) actually pushed the tunnel system way further, wiggling beneath rock flakes that are precariously wedged in muddy tubes way beneath the ground.

There is so much in this area, sinkholes everywhere that are rapidly being buried and secreted away by development interests. Jeff and I are still to explore the further reaches of our epic Wasteland Waterway discovery – it is in a similar geological setting and we often worry that in not making its whereabouts known to preservationists we might beĀ jeopardizingĀ its existence. Its a tricky situation and we are hope to resolve it eventually with the good advice of those who care about this kind of thing – the caving and preservation communities.

For more information on caving in Ontario, buy my book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst”. There is a link on the side of this page that connects to “Lulu” where the book can be purchased.

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Karst geography near Toronto – a likely spot for caves

To be successful as a cave hunter, that is a person who searches the countryside for caves, you must combine a variety of skills. In particular, by experience, the mind now tips me off to areas that are likely cave locations. A sound knowledge of sedimentary geology is helpful, understanding a little about physical geography will certainly add to your success, and most importantly, cave geography really tips the scales. In Ontario it helps to understand something about how glaciers influenced the landscape and of course the human interaction on top of that – in particular the tendencies of farmers over the last 150 years and their preference for plugging openings in their fields with coils of wire and other household debris.

Jeff and I went out searching this past weekend and we found a likely cave location on this area of land above a valley. Thus far researchers have visited and dye traced the most obvious spring out to a resurgence in the side of the nearby valley. We followed along and tried to intercept a possible tunnel entrance. It seems to be that in some cases tunnels get bigger deeper in. In this case we found a large soil pipe that had the sound of rushing water flowing beneath its clayish plug.

See the video here to learn more about how we search for caves in Ontario.

The above picture is a spot near where we found our promising soil pipes – it is a blind valley where a small stream disappears under ground.

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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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When, “Clear to Engage” came over the radio, 2 CF – 18 fighters streaked by, sound following behind them and a massive chain of explosions rocked up the runway. Who would expect that at a sleepy little airport just outside Guelph?

Check out the video of the CF – 18 Hornet bombing run here

It appears that the Royal Highland Fusiliers were the unit who were functioning as infantry in the LAV III vehicles, they were supported by reinforcement from a Gryphon helicopter. All in all it was a worthwhile demonstration by the Canadian military at the Kitchener Waterloo air show. Today being Sunday, and the show still being on, I recommend that you go. Other big attractions were the Snowbirds aerial acrobatics team, parachutists jumping out of a Hercules, a corsair and numerous other displays, stunt planes and militaria.

As for the insurgents, well they were the target of artillery, the infantry assault and repeated air strikes by the CF – 18
Hornets.

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Creepy Tree , originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Looking for caves we spent a long hot day slogging through the forest near Toronto. The bugs were really bad and we were pretty much disoriented for a significant part of our search. Jeff had located some deep conical sinkholes on a high-rez aerial photo. It appeared that here were 4 or five of these pits somewhere out in the bush. we began by following fields, then a fence line that disappeared in the forest and then finally, just us, the mosquitoes and a bear.

Not having drunk enough water, this creepy looking tree seemed to have qualities other than just natural ones. I imagined it as some sinister kind of entity, inhabited by all sorts of odd figments of my imagination – but sinkholes and finding caves, were those a figment of our imaginations?

See video of our day of cave hunting here.

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Death brings life underground, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It would seem that one night in the middle of one of those incredible storms that blow off the lake, one hapless creature stumbled over this narrow crevice in the grass and slid down to become wedged between the back and the front of it’s skull; it was as good as dead the instant that it disappeared beneath the surface. There was no returning from the crack and as it’s head became wedged the creature would have hung for days before it died of suffocation, hypothermia or thirst.

Now moss is starting to grow on the skull and the remainder of it’s bones are likely scattered beneath it. Next time I visit the area I am bringing a hook to try and retrieve the skull. This is by no means a rare sight in caves and cavities beneath the rock of Ontario,, especially in systems with precipitous entrances, like shelburne, G-Lake and a new cave that we’ve just found this past weekend.

to see the video on this macabre find click here … ‘video – Death brings Life Underground’

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This was our third weekend of digging in the cave we call The Toothtube. We suspected that there was a tunnel entrance in a blind valley and in digging in a likely spot this tunnel was broken open. Glacial clay filled the sealed passages to within about a foot of the roof, but with bucket and garden claw we persevered.

Admittedly its nice to open up a passage but our real goal is to intercept the main branch tunnels that we know must lie beneath. It only stands to reason that there must be some huge underground rivers in this area, all the features point in that direction – in particular some impressive shafts that are partly filled with soil, the lack of surface resurgences, the thickness of the local bedding planes and other nearby tunnel systems that stretch beyond the ability of humans to explore them. This lower level if dug out might provide an eventual connection to this main trunk drain.

See the video on today’s efforts and the downward sloping conduit that we found – video for Ontario cave passage here.

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Greetings cavers and cave interested readers. As you might have gathered by the photo, I have spent some time underground today in the solitary and yet thought provoking pursuit of extreme cave digging. Admittedly there were times when it felt like I was buried alive and there were also the issues of trying to squeeze back out of the hole by which I had entered this tunnel.

JC and I have delayed a return to the shafts that we found last weekend (so as not to bother the land owner too much) and instead we investigated another lead. Somewhere near that lead we found a blind valley and in clearing the sticks and leaves away we found a pheratic tube that is choked with yellow clay.

As I was digging there was plenty of time for reflection and I came up with the thought that this tube must have drained the lake that we think must have existed in the hollow of a nearby field. Although the field is in an area of highly developed karst, it’s contact with the rock is sealed by this clay and so not surprisingly the drainage points are limited to a few locations – this is one of them. again, this geographic situation is similar to the geography of the cave system that we found in Hamilton last year – Wasteland Waterway (Consider this when looking for caves in Ontario).

We are still unsure of when the cave tunnels were choked (glacial or at the initial clearance of the land), but it must have been some time ago as calcite has dripped down onto the surface of the fill and formed a solid scab in places. Obviously our excavations have to be very carefully performed as we do not want to damage speleothems. The tube appears to be elliptical in shape and the formations fill the airspace between the clay choke and the roof. whatever we excavate will be our crawlspace.

See the video we took of some bones that were discovered. Video of the newly discovered Tooth Tube (tentatively called that until we settle on a final name). also check out my book on caving here – ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst

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FOTEK Dinner and Dance, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Tucked away in the back of Michaelangelo’s plush event room is the dinner table of several Ontario cavers. The event was FOTEK’s annual dinner and dance fundraiser 2012. There were at least 400 people present. After dinner conversation was punctuated by various speechs from politicians and the raffling of a print of Josh Tiessen’s, ‘Guardian of the Karst’ painting. Josh is a member of FOTEK – Friends of the Eramosa Karst’. Our table won 5 of the 20 door prizes. It felt like the odds were in our favor, so it was especially hard to accept our loss of that wonderful painting to a non-caving guest.

Dinner was either beef or chicken, roasted potatoes pasta to start and steamed vegetables – money well spent for both the cause and the company. Moving around the table left to right, myself, Jeff Collens (my regular caving partner), Steve Worthington and Marcus Buck (co-authors of the report – Earth Sciences Inventory and evaluation of the Eramosa Karst Area of Natural Scientific Interest), Marcus’s wife Norma, two ladies who I had not met, and Nina. People who were present but not in the picture were Greg Warchol – schmoozing with some local dignitaries and my wife Maggie who took the picture.

It was Greg Warchol who had first investigated the Eramosa karst area and exposed the significance and possible loss of valuable Niagara escarpment features to the caving community – in particular Marcus Buck, and it was Marcus (who had been the key-note speaker at last year’s event) in co-operation with Steve Worthington who had undertaken all the scientific study to legitimize the Eramosa Karst’s value as an area of natural scientific interest – thus preserved from the impending developments. Derek Ford, a world renown cave scientist from McMaster University had supported the project in saying that the Eramosa Karst was one of the gems of the Niagara Escarpment.

Of greatest interest to cavers are the features of Nexus and Potruff Cave. Unbeknown to everyone in the the room (with the exception of our table) is the incredible occurrence of another similar caving feature within about a 15 minute drive of the Michaelangelo’s Conference room. Jeff and I had discovered the cave last spring and since then we have made several forays into the tunnels. we call the feature Wasteland Waterway and in response to our request to Marcus to accompany us in the near future on a mapping expedition Norma said, “he’ll have to bring his walker.” (there’s a story to be told on that). Anyway, the point is, there’s a lot more in Ontario than people might imagine – especially around the Hamilton area, my book Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst speaks of the province’s undiscovered and yet exciting caving potential.

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