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Archive for the ‘health and safety’ Category

This is an extract from my book (a screen shot of part of a page), that is finished as of now – with about a half hour before the new year. It should be available for purchase from Lulu or the Edgehill Press site within about 2 or 3 days (depending upon the size of their backlog). You would not believe the complications at the final stage of preparation. I have spent my every spare minute since the last post uploading, downloading, readjusting, making PDFs, more uploading, using photoshop, learning how to do things I never wanted to do; any way it’s done and the book looks amazing.

This section of page from my new book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst”, speaks a little about how cavers see spelunkers. To be called a spelunker by a caver is a derogatory remark.

So the point is, and I need to make it quick, as there is no more than about a half hour before midnight(new Years Eve) and I have a big glass of scotch and my hot tub waiting – if you are a caver, or underground explorer of any type, somewhere near Ontario, this book is a must have (excuse the massive sentence). Caving in Ontario tells you about the caves, how to find the caves, the geography of Ontario, the geology of Ontario and the culture of the sport of caving (in Ontario). Caving in Ontario is in full color, and it contains information and pictures of places that have never been publicly seen or written of before.

You think you know Ontario?  I bet most have not seen it from this angle – a caver’s angle (looking from below).

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Abandoned Ontario Mine – Croft Mine

My purpose for visiting the Croft Mine had been was to photograph the fabled head frame – Ralph Schroetter, my guide at Coe Hill had said that it was one of the last such relics in the area. I soon came to realize that finding the abandoned structure would be no easy task. The forest was so thick that I could barely see twenty feet ahead.

I attempted to piece together the most likely location for a mining structure from the location of the dumps, adit, and the many overgrown tracks. Along one old bramble covered path I found a shelf system that had held the drill cores, along another track I found a collection of rusty old barrels. I spent some brief amount of time on the dumps looking for traces of the garnet bearing pegmatite. Mysterious, moss-covered beams were strewn everywhere. Might one of these heaps be the head frame that Ralph had spoken of?

Climbing the hill above the adit, I hoped to sight my goal, but I soon realized that I was out of luck. A yellow carpet stretched off bewilderingly in every direction. Breaking through the canopy was impossible. It was like I was drowning in an endless rain of sticky wet leaves. If it were not for the contour of the hillside, a factor that helped maintain my orientation, I doubt that I would have found my way back to the access track.

The water in the adit was knee-deep and crystal clear. I could see corrugations in the sand from big knobby tires. It seemed that somebody had driven an ATV into tunnel. Touching the wall I got an immediate whiff of the earth – it was that mouldering fungus smell you get when you dig in rotting leaves. Unlike the Richardson adit, there is no air movement here; it is absolutely still – like a mausoleum. Knowing the dangers of such an exploration I only stood in the entrance and though I had to fight my curiosity, I turned back for the fresher air of the forest outside.

Check out this rare earth mine near Bancroft – the shaft drops down to a depth of over 400 feet …. Here We found it in the bush by following the surface clues – a mine dump and old beams and tin.

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Finding the Croft Uranium Mine – Ontario

Between 1953 and 1955 Croft Uranium Mines worked the area for radioactive minerals. They found betafite, uranite, uranothorite, allanite and pyrochlore. Their appearance is flagged in the pegmatite by a dark red color and quartz that has darkened to a grayish-black. There are also said to be small pink garnets in the gneiss and larger specimens in the pegmatite – some reaching up to 3 centimeters in diameter.

A couple of hundred meters along the mine road I got Maggie to pull over in a little clearing and I continued on foot, leaving her there with the understanding that I would be back as soon as I had found the mine and explored the dumps. She had Shaka with her for company and I had my whistle that I tooted on intermittently so as not to walk unexpectedly into a hunter’s ambush. The whistle also served the dual purpose of letting bears know of my presence as the bush was thick and close to the path and I had no wish to meet the “mother of all bears” in a circumstance of mutual surprise.

The road dropped steeply down into a valley and I soon realized that leaving the car above was a wise move. There was nowhere to turn around, the ruts got deeper, and the track was soon entirely underwater. Beavers had built a stick and mud palisade that held back a stinking organic tidal wave that would one day inundate the swamp below. As for the road, forget it. I climbed across on logs and waded knee-deep in mud, thinking what it might be like during bug season (What looks like a stream in front of the beaver dam is actually the mine road).

On the other side of the beaver dam the track began a slow and steady climb upward. I noticed the appearance of crushed granite where I walked and of course the telltale patches of eastern hemlock. These trees tend to grow in clusters wherever the natural forest has been disturbed. They tell you where to look for hidden human habitation.

I soon discovered the mine dumps on my left and in a marshy gully I unexpectedly found the adit.

 

See another abandoned uranium mine in Ontario …  here or my trip to the Sarnac Zircon Mines  … here (where we were again terrorized by the possibility of being eaten by bears

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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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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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Marmora Cave – Ontario

You can pretty well tell that this picture was taken in one of the Marmora caves. The rock in that area, though much the same as that in Dewdney’s Cave (Bobcaygeon Formation) is wickedly sharp – comparatively, the rock in Dewdney’s is much smoother.

This tunnel was formed above the water table by water running along a joint, you can see the wear along the wall and the incision inward along a bedding plane.

In the spring these particular tunnels are entirely submersed by running water and so bats seem not to find them suitable as a hibernaculum, in fact, in my experience, most of the tunnels in the Marmora area are unpopulated by bats.

Looking at a map in the winter /spring issue of the Toronto Caver the progression of “White Nose Syndrome” in bats appears to have made it into Southern Ontario this year (2010). The disease was first seen in 2006 in Schoharie New York. Initially the White Nose Syndrome is thought to have spread southwards in the States, but mysteriously it was not confirmed to be present until it was discovered at several sites including Moira in 2010

By the map in the Toronto Caver it would appear that distribution of White Nose Syndrome is on a North/South axis – in fact quite narrowly confined to certain areas. As Kirk MacGregor says, the fungus responsible for the symptoms that are referred to as “White Nose Syndrome” (Geomyces destructans) has been identified as far north as Kirkland Lake and yet at this time there is no evidence of it being east of Ottawa.

Geographically you would wonder what it is that is defining the spread of disease … Travel patterns of the bat?

Below I copy an excerpt from an e-mail that a friend and I were bouncing back and forth in Feb. 2008 …

“not being a bat scientist or anything, but would the fungus not be indicative of what is going on inside. Is the fungus growing on some kind of sputum that the bat is exhaling? What type of medium does this fungus usually grow on? Is there any connection between that and the sputum? How fast does this come on? Consider that the bat is dormant and its body temperature drops so drastically – what kind of weird virus would grow inside a creature at those temperatures? Does the bats temperature rise – might that be what is killing it? Notice in the picture(although it is only one picture), but the bats in the middle of the picture are most heavily affected and as you get further away, the fungus seems to be growing less profusely. I wonder if that suggests the bat in the middle was affected first and then the disease spread outward from him – spread in situ that is – as the bats were dormant. I wonder if the disease is even cave related as bats obviously leave the cave. Can the bat act as an incubator like the pig does in transferring influenza from the chicken to the human and mutating it along the way?

Lots of questions 2 years ago and yet, no doubt answers will eventually follow.

Information for this post in part, was obtained from an article in the Toronto Caver …

MacGregor Kirk, “White Nose Syndrome Moves into Southern Ontario, published by The Toronto Caver, The Toronto Caver Winter and Spring 2010, pg. 5

Map showing distribution of White Nose Syndrome as of 12th of May 2010. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission.

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Me teaching the use of the GPMG – the student not listening all that well

Well – You might wonder what any of these topics have to do with caving – not much I guess except its on my caving blog.

I’ve been on a train the trainer course for the last few days in Etobicoke at the THSAO, now amalgamated with several other companies under a larger company that is somehow linked to both the Government and the construction industry.

The quality of instruction is outstanding (thanks Ivan!) and the end result is that I will have completed a course in principles of instruction (POET). Being in health and safety for a living, I would suggest the course to anyone who teaches for a living. After this initial 3 day course I am then taking their reach truck instructors course.

I did my practical presentation today – that went OK, glad to get it done with as it’s always a little stressful when you are being judged. I taught on the 4 basic principles of a safety culture.

As you can see by the above picture (me kneeling in the foreground, I think I’ve got instruction in my blood. This was 25 years ago when I was a British soldier. As you can see, I am teaching the use of the GPMG to the soldier of another country (guess which one). This guy just couldn’t grasp the concept of 3-4 round bursts – then again it was hard to explain as neither one of us spoke the same language. I remember that I physically grabbed the belt and broke it off when he went Rambo on me. The rounds were going everywhere.

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Friar’s Hole – West Virginia

This is me in a small side tunnel of Friar’s Hole in West Virginia. Some years ago I went down there with the Toronto Cave Group. We camped in a valley below Droop Mountain and made several forays into the system.

On one of those days I did a solo side trip in through the Snedgar’s Saltpetre entrance while most of the other cavers were doing a shaft somewhere off at the edge of a farmer’s field (it dropped into a section called the “Cobble Crawl”. The tunnel’s are massive – way bigger than anything yet known in Ontario and during the Civil War slaves had kept digging in the accumulated bat guano to keep the South supplied with Saltpetre. I always wonder how many of those poor people disappeared into the darkness never to return.

Anyway I got back to the camp sometime in the afternoon and two cavers who had not been with the other group asked if I wanted to join them on another trip back through the Snedgar’s entrance. Typically, not wanting to feel responsible for the actions of others who were possibly less experienced than me, but more ambitious – I declined.

Later that night (around 11pm) it occurred to me that the two cavers that had invited me on their trip had not returned.

The Toronto Cave Group (TCG) were fortunate to have several highly experienced cave search and rescue people who were members of the club and who were also on the trip so search teams were quickly organized and we started hitting up the likely locations where we thought the lost cavers might be stranded.

Several American cavers who were returning from the cave joined us and assured us that they could set a call out process in motion and have at least 200 cavers from nearby grottoes there by morning (if things still were unresolved within a few hours).

Incidentally Friar’s Hole is endless, literally one of the most extensive known systems in the world. As one experienced American caver pointed out – “Some tunnels nearby will take you quickly deep into the system and from there you are lost forever”.

Our approach in searching was to target the area that could be most easily reached and we would blow a whistles down the bigger passages and listen for a response. Fortunately we got a response within a half hour and shortly after that one of the two cavers came hurrying into our headlamp beam – so fast in fact that she dropped down a relatively deep hole between us and came steaming up the other side without a pause. Most would have considered that a relatively serious fall, but she seemed to not even notice it. The two cavers had got lost in the Saltpetre Mine in amongst the old mining implements. We found the second caver sitting on a ledge – having eaten all his granola bars he just seemed kind of dazed.

The cavers had climbed down into a passage through a hole in it’s roof and when it was time to return, there were a myriad of possibilities down around eye level – the hole in the roof had entirely been forgotten. When we blew our whistle at the entrance to the passage the energetic caver had headed in that direction and eventually seen some kind of faint light from the hole above her.

Needless to say, there is a lesson here and that is to know that as confident as you might feel you gotta know your limits. Inexperienced cavers without a fear of consequence can quickly find themselves in a whole world of trouble.

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Training in Portugal – NBCW

My father had always said that sleeping in a hole was comfortable and warm. I beg to differ!

This is Bev, a friend of mine an incidentally also my section commander while were were serving together. This picture was taken in Portugal somewhere. (It was either a place called Santa Margarita or Pucarica)

This picture brings to mind the hideousness of “digging in” while wearing NBC equipment and then experiencing some kind of air burst attack with less than lethal gas.

Above Bev you can see the roof is caving in – there was dirt above and then the unpleasantness of sleeping in an NBC suit with dirt and sweat in every crease in your body. To top the experience off we had these primitive field telephones and in the middle of the gas attack where the stuff was streaming down from these big concussions above us the phone rang. I really hate the phone, but something unexplainable made me lift my mask to answer it. Well I soon wished that I hadn’t done that.

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Walton Monster Energy CMRC Nationals

Everyone was gunning for the “holeshot”.

In motocross the “holeshot’ is the position that a rider takes who manages to make it through the first turn ahead of the pack. Not anyone can take this spot, the rider needs reflex, aggression and just all-out lack of fear.

In the time it took my camera to reset itself from the picture of the running 30 second girls, this was all that could be seen of where they stood – the pack had passed and up ahead the riders were already going down and scrambling for their lives.

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