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Archive for the ‘mystery’ Category

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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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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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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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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Caving in Ontario – book, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Release of the book, Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst is now imminent. I am expecting that it should be available for purchase through Lulu, or the Edgehill Press site within about 10 days – End of Dec. 2011.

Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst is as much about Ontario’s caves as it is the experience of exploring them, the culture of cavers and the people that involve themselves in this activity. Caving in Ontario is large, colorful and full of fascinating sidebars – experiences of first time explorations in places where no human has ever gone, unusual anecdotes and snippets of geological, geographical and caving information. There are the better known caves such as Dewdneys Cave, Spanky’s Paradise, Moira Cave and others, then there are also the newly discovered caves- some of which still remain only partially explored. If you are into exploring caves, this book will tell you how to find them.

If you are in any way interested in Ontario’s geography, geology or cutting edge exploration, or you’re just simply interested in caves and would like to see some interesting pictures, Caving in Ontario definitely is for you. I have been caving for over 25 years now, primarily in Ontario, where many believe that caves do not exist. Caving in Ontario will show you otherwise.

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Beaver Valley, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I was out scouting for a possible cave dig location today. Caving in Ontario can sometimes involve a little digging. Beaver Valley has a few promising possibilities. Investigations from a past trip revealed the likelihood of a bedding plane tunnel, there was no remarkable amount of solution taking place. Again I was drawn back here. There is too much sinking and all the signs that would suggest that something very active is taking place beneath the surface – huge sinkholes all lined up, elevation, exposed rock (the right kind of rock) and plenty of serious corrosion on the surface.

There has to be more to this place than beautiful colored leaves.

Check this out – it was under the search term of a “sink”, but it’s really a washout, but still worth seeing. I gotta ask myself what the odds of catching this on video was. Here

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There’s a crevice that cuts under a cliff face. It leads to an underground lake that just goes on and on. Dan and I spent about two hours underground wandering waist deep in water. I am thinking that the mine is somewhere between 100 and 170 years old.

Back in the 1820′s and 30′s there was a serious demand for building stone in Southern Ontario; Whirlpool Sandstone was one of the most valued materials. It was extracted from a  layer just above the Queenstone shale.

Near Belfountain you can see this rock at the base of Church’s Falls. See the chapter on Belfountain on page 69 of my book “Rockwatching; Adventures Above and Below Ontario” The rock that came from there was a maroon color and was used to build Queen’s Park and various buildings at University of Toronto. Down here in the more southerly areas of the escarpment the Whirlpool Sandstone seems a lot higher on the escarpment than it is further to the north. It is also more varied in color and I am told that it is possible to find azurite and malachite in chert pockets in that rock.

Anyway the construction of the Welland Canal generated a great deal of demand for building stone as did the increasing size of the urban structures around the “Golden Horseshoe.” Finally around 1900 the skyscraper came into being. The strength of the modern skyscraper comes not from its rigid outer shell but from its internal steel girder skeleton. This change in design meant that standard construction stones suddenly lost their market and materials such as Italian and Indian marbles started showing up. They formed a thin veneer as did materials like glass, labradorite and granite. they were in no way responsible for the buildings structural integrity. Sandstone had seen its day and the mines closed shortly thereafter.

Some years back year Jeff Mirza and I traveled up to Belfountain to see if we could find our way into one of these underground tunnel systems. Apparently there are several deep passages above the hairpin bend as you wind down from Belfountain into the Credit Valley. Jeff had even seen a picture of a shaft in the forest with a ladder leading down into the mines. After a day of trudging along the hillsides we came to the conclusion that the entrances had all been blasted shut. It was not the case here. The tunnels lie wide open. It was as much a historical exploration as it was a geological one. The rooms were quite low though generally very wide and initially lit by small shafts that cut up to a brambly plateau above. The vegetation was so thick that it was almost impossible to progress on the surface, nevertheless, the shafts of light on the underground lake were really picturesque.

At times high banks of rubble rose out of the water and it was necessary to slither along on our bellies. In places deeper into the mine calcite deposition had made a hard, translucent shell across the top of these banks and we had to be careful so as not to damage the profuse clusters of soda straws that were forming on the roof. The bats seemed quite perturbed by our arrival in their world and somebody was cheeping angrily from up a crack in the roof. On several occasions they fluttered by and I could just catch glimpses of their chaotic flight. I was surprised by the extent of speleothem formation in the mine. I had believed that under good conditions soda straws could grow at about an inch every hundred years though in remembrance of a winter excursion Jeff and I had done up a storm sewer in Hamilton a few years back, that one inch can be quite drastically stretched.

As we waded through the lake there were tunnels that branched off in every direction, the air  seemed dead and the steam that rose from our coveralls clung to us. it made photography quite difficult.

The water was so still and clear in one spot that I was surprised by the ripples when I crawled right into a pool. We continued on along a mound that was just beneath the surface. Dan wandered off to the side into the deeper water and suddenly found himself hip high in really treacherous mud. I had a similar experience moments later and we decided that further exploration would have to be done with an air matress. Up ahead it sounded like a heavy rainstorm and I think that there must have been a spot where the water was pouring in.

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