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Archive for the ‘My Book’ Category

JC and I have been privileged to recently explore an incredible secret cave whose walls are absolutely lined with crystals. (don’t ask where – we’ve been sworn to secrecy)

The cave leads down steeply from the forest in a rift of calcite that has been worn by running water. We initially entered from the upper entrance and worked our way downward beneath a low wall on a sloping floor. Everywhere there were crystals, they are most strongly concentrated in bands, but some of the larger crystals float in the calcite – beautifully formed with sharp and lustrous crystal faces. Some lie loose, having worn out from the calcite. There is a crevice into which I looked and within there was an apatite crystal about the size of a football just lying wedged there and from within that crevice there was a noticeable breeze that was cold and smelling of the earth.

JC and I proceeded up one of the waterways and found ourselves in this pothole pictured above.

see video on Julia Cave here.

Possibly one of the most exciting discoveries was what appeared to be a tiny jelly sack that was lying in the water and within the sack there was what appeared to be a filament like fishing line, about half an inch long but displaying every spectral color – all along its length there was a prismatic effect – like it was fire cast off from a diamond, and around that filament there wriggled tiny worms. So if one morning these worms burst from my forehead you know it was likely some alien species that i’d picked up in the cave (It would not be the first time).

So this recent visit puts us onto thinking about visiting more caves in calcite. Admittedly we are experts in finding limestone and dolostone caves, we have made some impressive discoveries over the years, but we know the clues in sedimentary geology/geography and it doesn’t take us long to root out a dolostone tunnel. Calcite is unpredictable, I can’t imagine that aerial photos will be all that useful, but we now have several leads and have visited two such caves (Both parts of Julia we count as one – there is also Milo Cave that I am yet to post on and the exciting discovery of an albino-ish crayfish which I photographed).

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I am by no means a professional rockhound. My education is as both a gemologist and a geographer, but I believe both rockhounding (collecting minerals) and my other great interest – caving have been in my heart since childhood. And where better to rockhound than Bancroft, but a word of caution, as both rockhounding and caving appear on my site. Both activities are related to rock, but neither should ever meet. Cave mineral deposits must stay in the caves and a caver who shares both interests (and there are many) should never let their inner rockhound loose beneath the surface.

Wearing my rockhound persona this past Saturday afternoon I headed out to the Bancroft Chamber of comerce to get a vibe on the local collecting possibilities. For a place that styles itself as the mineral capital of Canada, they do very little to encourage that reputation. Remembering back to my childhood, rockhounding was everything in Bancroft – now it is just faded memories and hanging onto loose and fragile threads. Fortunately mother nature takes care of basics and continues giving back. I left the Chamber of commerce disillusioned – not by the staff, not their fault, just the general malaise of the people who call the shots. No effort to justify the reputation.

Anyway I picked up an ice Cap from Tim Hortons and headed off on a kind of aimless ramble, and within about half an hour I’d come upon a spectacular crystal vug (cavity) from which I spent the next few hours scooping crystals.

The cavity is shown in my video – Click here for Crystal cavity in Bancroft video

It was a calcite seam within a road cutting that had been opened by someone else and then abandoned as they obviously did not know what they had found and if they had looked within the cavity when they hammered it open it would be they not me who was posting the pictures.

My point is, you just need to know what to look for. Bancroft is famous for its calcite intrusions, a mineral that solidifies last from molten rock and so it acts as a medium for other minerals to grow in. The vug that I extracted crystals from was predominantly filled with amphibole and feldspar crystals and lying loose in the bottom of the part of the cavity that I dug into were a few doubly terminated crystals – having grown in the medium as opposed to being attached to the cavity wall. In retrospect, looking at the video it becomes obvious that the seam runs on an angle and there is likely to be a lot more to be extracted if rockhounds just follow up and down along the incline of the seam. As this rock cut is in a public place I will just leave its exact location for you to figure out, but there is enough in what I have said and shown on the video for you to quickly pin-point the general vicinity of the deposit.

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IMGP3419, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It has been my unfortunate experience to visit many shelter caves near Toronto and for the paucity of decoration and the generally shattered and graffiti-scarred innards, had come to regard them as a waste of time – no beauty there, only a miserable reminder of what a wild cave ought not to be.
Today JC and I followed up a canyon which in my own thoughts had probably been traversed by many people. Not having the energy to make a long trip and storing up all our caving ambition for the coming trip to Marmora (which I am leading for the TCG), we just settled for a none to ambitious scouting over what we’d thought must be territory that should have been well traveled before.
The going was difficult, but the scenery was spectacular and we soon found ourselves in a gorge with an increasingly thickening bedding plane. The riverine growth was somewhat reminiscent of the edges of the Maitland and that karst terrain of a ‘River Ledge Limestone Pavement’ – but not entirely as there was also thick growth up the sides of rubble mounds in places – pink flowers that looked like giant snap dragons nodded in the humid air as we pushed our way between them. Simple shelter caves began to exhibit features of greater complexity – many having stone tongues hanging out of their mouths – of tuffa, or in some cases more finely deposited flow stone. To me that suggested water flowing from within, it gave us hope of onward leading tunnels.
Against all odds we came across not one but several shelter caves that were somewhat beautifully hung with spelothems. The most impressive decorations were a stacking of rimstone dams that led inward to deeper passages. Sadly they seemed too tight for explorers, and thankfully nobody had tried to push it. I was astounded by the complexity of the deposition and looking over the wriggly walls it reminded me of waves of molten wax. And not far above I could hear the sound of passing traffic. It was an amazing little hidden oasis.
The point is that just by pushing on a little further beyond where it is easy walking, hack through the stinging nettles and mud and cobbles and there is still a lot to see in Ontario. And thanks to whoever preceded us, for having the forethought to restrict themselves from standing on the speleothems.

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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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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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As JC was in the process of studying for a test today, we could only make a short trip. Our excavation of the Tooth Tube will have to wait till next Saturday. We initially visited a place near Paris called Sinkhole Swamp and that was a bust though the place was quite beautiful. I suppose we should have known it from the start, the whole area is too thickly overlain by till.  On the way back to Guelph we made a diversion to the Galt Shelter Caves as I had never seen them.

I believe I had first learned of the Galt Shelter Caves from Ongley’s Manuscript. He described them as “small”, I add to that description, “shallow nooks in the cliff along the shores of the Grand River – humble in appearance, and by the added blight of spraypaint, not worth the struggle down the cliff face and through the vicious thorn bushes”.

Some of the features were in the upper portion of a heavily fractured cliff face. We climbed a short way to access most and where for the most part pretty disappointed. There was nothing but gutted hollows – cave vandalism at its worst. Fortunately I don’t believe there were any formations to break, just the usual empty cavities of a shelter that had been worn by running water.

Two things that work against preservation of these features, firstly they are well known by local kids, and secondly, they are easily accessible as they are literally within an urban area. Can you imagine the impact of people who did this kind of thing visiting LS Cave or Rovers or the Tooth Tube or P Lake Here.

I am very selective about whom I share locations and this is why..

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Jeff and I spent the day digging for connecting tunnels around the Wasteland Waterway System.

At the end of a blind valley, where a stream disappears we began our excavation. Digging was mainly by following toward the sound of running water. Several times we bent down and listened for the noise and then that is the direction in which we dug. Being early January, despite the harsh sunlight, the water was very cold. Soon we were covered in a stinking goo of rotting leaves and slimy clay which when dried was very painful to pick free, it had matted like scabs on my arm hair and the only way to free yourself was with a garden hose and a frigid stream of water.

We hacked through clay and leaves and sticks. Finally with a puff of warmer cave air we found ourselves peering through a crevice into a passage underneath, and within there was the sound of running water. Next weekend we’ll break through the cap rock and then we’ll be into virgin tunnel. It looks like the passage is pretty clogged, but I’ll bet it is similar to the main entry, where it starts off tight and grows into something bigger. We can excavate some of the debris and crawling will be easier. This tunnel possibly links with the main Wasteland System, but there’s no guarantee.

See the mess that was our surface dig on youtube here – Digging for Caves in Ontario, and if you want to learn how to find your own caves, or just read about some really extreme explorations beneath Ontario, by divers, cave divers and explorers like myself buy my book,  Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst, here.

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This picture of me  (Michael Gordon) was taken the first time we (JC and I) went deep into Wasteland Waterway. The cave is initially a watercrawl along elliptical; pheratic tubes that wriggle around on a relatively level plain, but after our escape hole (Blue Barrel sink), and the huge spiders there, the passage quickly drops down deeper and becomes narrower and more jagged.

Some time this winter we will push beyond where we have explored thus far, into passage that remains unseen by any other human,  and hopefully find the chasm that we believe exists somewhere up ahead.

Read more on the exploration of Wasteland Waterway in my new book on caves in Ontario and see the momentous occasion of the arrival of my first copy from the printers today – new book on caves in Ontario here.

If you are interested in purchasing “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst” click here. It looks like you can save 25% on any purchase from Lulu today if you enter the code onemorething at checkout – but deals like that change from day to day so just check the screen for codewords any day you order.

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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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Caving in Ontario – Exploration of Buried Karst – JC following up a cave tunnel

“The newly published book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploration of Buried Karst”, is now available for purchase from Lulu at this link – “Caving in Ontario” – buy the book. On the Lulu web page you will be able to preview several pages and in paying on their site you can choose shipping options that range from single day to 1 week delivery time.

“Caving in Ontario” has been a joy to write, it records the underground caving explorations that I and those that I know have taken over the last 2 decades in Ontario. There have been some extremely hazardous, world class adventures beneath the rock of this province and I felt the need to document those as well as saying something of the culture of those who are involved in extreme sports such as this.

If you are in any way interested in what lies beneath your feet, the rock and tunnels of Ontario – this book is for you. I am personally attracted by the beauty of the underground and the mystery of what lies beyond. In “Caving in Ontario” I write of many of the known caves and some that are known only to me and my closest caving friends.  I summarize two decades of exploration and tell prospective cavers how to find their own caves. Finding caves involves understanding local geology and the clues of surface geographical features.

Buy the book “Caving in Ontario”. I look forward to hearing of your own discoveries, there’s plenty more to find.

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