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Archive for the ‘Ontario geography’ Category

Volume 2 of the ‘Rockhound’ series is now available. This particular volume focuses on the perception of value in mineral resources and the shifting lens through which Ontario’s mineral wealth is seen.

In Rockhound: Opening the Treasure Chest we visit such old collecting classics as the Saranac Zircon Mine, Bear Lake, Grace Lake, Bessemer Mine and Kuehl Lake. The mineral focus is on apatite, rare earths, tremolite, diopside and the more exotic treasures that are displayed at the Bancroft Gemboree. For any rockhound, mineral collector or crystal enthusiast this is without a doubt an invaluable accompaniment to a summer of collecting. Within ‘Rockhound’ you’ll learn how and where to collect. Over 80 mineral locations are detailed along with directions and specifics on the minerals found there.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy or Rockhound: Opening the Treasure Chest visit the Lulu purchasing site here.

Volume2

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IMGP1430Well as you’ve probably gathered by the above picture, I’ve just discovered some pretty incredible mineral specimens – a pocket of gem quality tremolite at the contact between quartz and calcite veins. Tremolite evolves to actinolite under the right conditions, and sometimes changes to diopside. Anyway, the finer points of the discovery are detailed on my youtube site (caver461) and within the video details are provided for the purchase of my latest book on minerals – ‘Rockhound: An Experience of the North’. In the book I detail how to find gemstones and something of the experience of finding rocks and minerals in the north.

To see purchase details or for a preview, just type the book name into Google and click on the link, it will take you directly to the print company (Lulu), or click this link here for immediate access to the book on Lulu.

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snogof, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Jeff and I visited a spot in the forest where we had found a tunnel this past summer. We had been trying to dig into the tunnel but the bugs were terrible. Now that the ground is heavily laden with snow there is no such problem – now its the cold. Anyway, after about 4 hours of digging and levering frozen boulders we managed to create a hole large enough to look well into our suspected cave and what we saw within was an elliptical shaped tunnel that was plugged by boulders. A small waterfall dropped from the roof of the tunnel and beyond, a chamber in marble.

See video for Snowgof – breathing tunnel here.

We are yet to access the chamber, but with great difficulty Jeff photographed a small segment of the chamber. In his picture you can see a wall of pure white marble and you can hear the water falling within.

Near the entrance the roof is encrusted with frost thus indicating airflow from deeper in the earth. In fact it was the smear of frost on the wall outside the cave that first got us digging there in earnest. Based on its proximity to the edge of a steep slope and no apparent resurgence at its bottom I am left to conclude that the water flowing into the cave must be dropping down deep quite quickly. I suspect that it goes down a shaft such as you see in Twin Trickles Cave.

Spring will reveal what lies beyond.

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Embryo2, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Rob, Jeff and I visited Embryo Cave with the intention of digging out something of the earth plug at the lower end of the cave’s main stream passage.

see video of Cave Exploration in Canada (video) here

lying pressed between the rock and the dirt it was an experience from which I was unable to shake the feeling that it was as though we were returning to mother earth. We dug for some time in the earth as we suspected that in breaching an earthen crest up ahead we would possibly break into tunnel that led onwards and downwards. There appears to be a lower water filled level in this cave. The flowing stream bubbles up in sand part way along the main trunk passage and it sinks again just short of the earthen plug.

Sadly we tired before we got through the dirt, but it was close and next time we visit we will certainly complete the job.

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IMGP7322, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Jeff and I made a recent reconnaissance in the Wasteland Waterway Cave system as we suspected that with the filling of the Blue Barrel sink, the cave passages had been blocked and so the deeper reaches of the cave system would now be sealed forever. But nature is more persistent than that and the sink had cleared itself out from beneath. On the surface there is a slight indent, but below the tunnel is perfectly clear.

see the video of Cave exploration in Canada – Wasteland Waterway here.

I suppose this now brings to light the question as to when we are going to push the tunnel to its very furthest endpoint. We strongly suspect that beyond the ‘gulch’ and the aerofoil the tunnels get bigger again. You ask what is stopping us? It’s a long cold crawl and a tight squeeze at the end of that which makes me somewhat leery.

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IMGP5962, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

We hiked through a jumbled terrain of massive slabs fallen from the cliff face and rounded boulders that have been washed by epic wind-spawned storms.

As entrances go these sea caves far surpass others that I’ve seen, though admittedly there are few sea caves to rival Rover’s some distance further along the shore.

In the picture above Jeff and I have been hiking and reached the end of dry land. Further progress would have to be through Georgian Bay’s icy water. What I found most intriguing about Cave Point was its sea caves part way up the cliffs. For the most part it looked like difficult climbing and I’d imagine few if any people have ever visited some of those harder to reach places.

See video on our trip to Cave Point (Georgian Bay)

Our initial idea had been to see if we could locate low-lying bedding plane squeezes close to the water line as we are aware that not every opening in this area is a sea cave, there is huge potential for solution caves and as has already been discovered, there are nearby that are intensely decorated with speleothems.

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Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.

Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.

See video of Branko going beyond the Jaws of Death getting stuck underground, here.

In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.

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Dragonfly at Feldspar Mine, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past week I was looking at an old feldspar mine near the former MacDonald Mine (Bancroft). It would appear that the whole area is pitted with abandoned diggings through the forest and the mineral varieties range from amazonite through to Ellsworthite and uranite, a deeply shadowed quartz (smoky) being indicative of the radioactivity that is inherent in several of the local mineral species. In fact in the 1950’s the Bancroft area was a major location for the mining of radioactives. This namelss mine that I visited in the bush was especially well endowed with the typical feldspar minerals.

As soon as I can get my Camtasia video editing software going you will be able to click here to see a short video on the trip.

Anyway this particular mine was along a barely distinguishable track that was lined with tailings which made great rockhounding possibilities. A word of caution, without even realizing it both Jeff and I cut our hands to pieces on glass sharp shards of quartz. Unlike feldspar which has a tendency to break cleanly and smoothly along natural cleavage plains, amorphous crystalline quartz breaks in a random, haphazard way with concoidal fractures – exactly like you would see in glass. You might recall that the Aztecs used to cut the chests of their sacrificial victims open with obsidian blades, this quartz is much the same.

Though bug season is now mostly behind us, they are still pretty bad in places, in particular around the stagnant water of the place that we visited. Perched on a rock in front of me was this giant dragonfly – I’ve never seen one quite as large as this. From end to end the dragonfly was probably about 4 inches in length and it sat dead still as I photographed it. You can see the circle of lights from the close-up function of my camera – reflected in its eyes. The best thing about dragon flies is that they eat blackflies.

Hopefully the dragon flies do their thing over this week as the Rockhound Gemboree 2013 is this coming weekend and those mineral gathering trips are always better when the bugs are fewer.

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What is adventure travel in Ontario is for cavers a regular Sunday afternoon. Rob, Jeff, Jeff and I revisited this marble cave to hopefully explore other, thus far un-visited passages.

see video on Adventure travel in Ontario – Exploring marble caves, here

At this time we have discovered several other likely cave leads in the area, in particular, a sinking stream (thanks Steve M.) with massive potential for tunnels, but unfortunately it will take some land-owner permission and then a concerted effort by a team with capabilities of heavy rock removal.

Within our already visited cave we explored out into the darker nooks that I had missed last visit. We found several going passages. This particular spot as seen above – with the wad of flowstone marks the entrance to a tube that we are yet to explore. Getting to this spot is somewhat disarming as you wade through about 18 inches of water and 2-3 feet of soupy mud. Every step causes the water around you to literally boil with escaping methane. You can feel sticks and branches down beneath the mud and in their decomposition they are releasing gas. I am wondering what effect open flame might have on the journey across the expanse that leads to this spot.

Anyway – distant as this location is from my home in Guelph, it seems to be rife with caving possibilities so the focus for our caving exploits seems to be increasingly concentrated in this area. There are many karst features in the limestone right at the edge of the shield – in part due to the rocks natural suitability and in part due to the acid water running off the shield.

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For some this would be a winter caving hell, and admittedly, the weather was 30 below zero and wallowing around in that muddy tube was getting a little cold. We cleared a space through about 5 feet of bedrock, dredged the water down by bailing with buckets and rubber boots, then we entered the tunnel on our bellies – see short video on Winter caving hell – adventure sport in Canada – here

At the end of this tube the water and tunnel roof came to within about an inch of each other and there was a good breeze blowing through the gap. Unfortunately I finally lost my nerve as the tunnel along which we’d come was refilling with water, and underground water (midwinter or otherwise) can be a little numbing. My caving partner at the time had traced the resurgence of the water in this passage to a spot several hundred meters distant.

When I finally emerged from the tube the front of my wet suit was pierced by innumerable rusty spines from the barbed wire that had once lain over the top of the feature, I suppose I must have looked like an industrial-age porcupine that had run into decline like the many factories of the region. Oddly, though my skin had also been punctured I had never felt a thing, but knowing they were there and pulling them out was a little creepy – I’m surprised I never got tetnus.

This project took place around 10 years ago and it certainly presented a few challenges, amongst those obstacles the need for me to loose around 20 pounds to fit in the tube and make it back alive.

 

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