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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

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 visit to Sian Ka’an is one of the oddest experiences that I’ve ever had. Who’d think that a day in the swamp is a day well spent? And yet the haze, the turquoise water and holes from which the lake bubbled were intriguing.

The Mayan ruin of Muyil is one of many Mayan treasures crumbling in the forest and sinking into this oddly scenic place. There is a very unique feeling to the landscape – nothing like the sterile desolation that the well traveled tourist ruins at Tulum have become. And in amongst the grass and crocodiles there is a rusting narrow gauge railway. There is also a channel that connects the lake in the middle of the swamp out to the Caribbean Sea, and a current of incredible strength flowing down this channel which was dug by slave long dead and sacrificed.

In the accompanying video on the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, we wandered amongst the pyramids and climbed to the top of one such crumbling edifice that Manuel called the castle. It was over fractured blocks that I clawed my way up to a platform way above the canopy. One misplaced handhold would have sent me bouncing back down the pyramid – a fall that I’d not survive.

I assume it was an alter that I found myself leaning on and behind me a grotto from whence I gazed across the swamp to a structure known as the Customs building. In the shadow I noticed a kneeling figure up against the wall, just a faint outline where the light caught the edges of raised plaster. It seems that the fresco must be decaying in the humidity, and the building is supposedly slowly settling into mud.

Check out this video on the Sian Ka’an –  Mexican documentary, Exploring the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

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Turtles in Tulum – Mexico, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It was a quiet shuffling in the sand and a strange mewling sound that announced the arrival of the drunk policeman. I think he had come looking for a lost cat, but when he saw that Maggie had cigarettes, he made it plain that he’d like one. It did not seem sensible to argue as he had an UZI. When he wandered off, making cat sounds and looking under bushes in the darkness, we finished dinner, blew a little time in town and then returned to the beach in search of turtles.

It was an incredibly stormy night, with warm wet winds moaning off the Caribbean – a beautiful setting that took me back in time. I waited in expectation to see a huge black hump rising from the surf – it was not long before I saw exactly that.

See video of turtles in Tulum – Mexico here.

That night I stumbled across  several sets of tracks and one monstrous turtle as big as my coffee table crawling through the sand. It was something that I’d never imagined would be exciting, but until you see these creatures you have no idea how incredible they are. It’s like you are face to face with a million years ago, and yet they are so gentle.

The above photo is of two gents who took me out onto the Tulum Reef the next day – again to see if I could see more turtles lying in wait for nightfall. Unfortunately, I later learned that the biggest turtles lie out much further than where I was.

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Waterfall in cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I suppose on of the most gratifying things about cave exploration is the ‘buzz’ that you get, and everything in existence seems to be encompassed in the yellow circle of your headlamp. Outside your headlamp there is mystery – turn your head and the mystery reveals itself. Each turn, corner and passage feels like it’s own first time discovery – I guess its something like the gambler’s buzz, and once you leave the cave the buzz dies away and then I feel like i’m in this slump and the rest of the week is grey and gloomy.

First human in a place that has lain untouched for several thousand years – beat that! How can you? The greater the challenge, the more the buzz. If somebody has already gone before you and poured a concrete sidewalk where’s the wonder there? I believe caving can become an addiction, and having caved for 26 years now I am hooked just like a junkie. And oddly I’ve become a connisour of rare and unusual sights – a flowstone dam, cave pearls, speleothems and speleogens, crawling in tunnels that are washed by frigid streams, deep tannin stained pools in marble, dolostone, calcite and limestone – privy to a sleeping porcupine’s bedside, wondering if a bear lies just beyond. Where does the waterfall come from? What wondrous crystal is that? some would pay a fortune at a mineral show, I prefer the mineral exactly where it sits – a concept of eco-mineral exploration which is something quite closely allied to ethical cave exploration.

See my latest cave trip here to the incredible beauty of Marvin’s Cave and its mysterious tunnels through marble beneath a forest escarpment.

I’d have a problem topping this discovery – Mountain River Cave here.

For more on caving see my book, ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst’ – there is a link on the right side of the blog that will take you to Lulu where the book can be purchased.

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Milo Cave, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I recently visited this fascinating cave that formed as a result of calcite being dissolved from a fissure. There were little in the way of crystals – nothing like the Aladin’s paradise that is Julia Cave, but still it had a beauty of its own.

See video on Milo Cave here.

The most intriguing part of Milo Cave is the bedding plane crawl that leads from its lower resurgence. The crawl is water washed gravel and you are drawn inwards by a cold breeze that blows from somewhere in the blackness. The roof soon came down so low that crawling for me became very uncomfortable and I resolved to return with a shovel as the only thing that was stopping me was this gravel bar and beyond that a large sprouting of ghostly white fungus.

As I backed outwards, steering as far as possible from some truly horrifying monster sized Ontario cave spiders, I chanced to see a pale, translucent shelled crayfish skittering off for cover. Troglobyte adaptation (spelling?) does not happen within a few generations and to my memory there is little in the literature of Ontario cave and karst studies that mentions albino creatures (Ongley talks of one case near in Stone House Cave).

The breeze and the presence of albino creatures is indicative of deeper tunnels further in. Looking on the surface I see that the direction of the tunnel is intercepted by one possible sink point, but more hopefully it might be leading on beneath a massive hill of solid granite – that being the case, clearing a crawl-way through the gravel would open some really interesting exploration. I wonder if there is a sink point somewhere in the forest beyond the granite hill.

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A free learning is something of value that you gather by way of the experience of another. while visiting Tulum – Mexico (Yucatan) I decided to investigate the properties of tequila – in particular, the mescal variety along with it’s distinctive worm that is found floating at the bottom of your bottle.
Being reasonable thinking people I would hope that you can enjoy a free learning at my expense.
see video on mescal tequila – here.
Not only should you derive wisdom from my suffering, but also an understanding of tequila’s psychoactive properties, and from a local, something of its preparation, consumption and the finer differentiation of various mescal drinks.

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The author of “Caving in Ontario”.

Pay no attention to that picture, they took my Scotch away and I got a little grumpy.

I thought that it might be advantageous to the prospective book buyer to understand a little about my motivations in writing the book “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst” and so you can click on the link and it will take you to a discussion in my study.

See the interview here – Interview with author of Caving in Ontario. as you will hear I speak a little about some of my previous books and why I choose to write this one.

Check out a 12 page preview of “Caving in Ontario” here. Read more about a book on caves in Ontario here on the Edgehill Press site.

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