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Archive for the ‘rockhounding in Ontario’ 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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I just attended the Bancroft Gemboree 2015, Canada’s largest gem and mineral show. There are 3 distinct areas where rockhounds can explore their interest, the curling rink and the hockey arena which are both indoors and the outdoors trading stalls. In my experience the trading stalls are the best places to purchase minerals. Dealers come from all across the country, they have incredible¬†¬†¬† stories and the prices are phenomenal. Check out my youtube video on the Bancroft Gemboree here.

Barite from Morocco

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IMGP1639

Yes, that is indeed yours truly on the front cover. This is my latest book which is on rock and mineral collecting. As you can see its called ‘Rockhound: an Experience of the North’. This is actually the first of several books in the Rockhound series and it consists of several chapters detailing how to find minerals, identify minerals and the human experience related to that. This first book covers finding gold, feldspar, radioactives, sodalite, apatite, titinite and silver.

As it says on the back cover “In this first volume of rockhound we will explore the mineral world in the context of the whole experience – the deposits, the landscape and the people. whether you are a hard-core collector or a casual enthusiast ‘Rockhound’ will take you to where you want to goand show you what you never believed possible in the mines and forests of the north”.

If rockhounding interests you check out the preview of my book right here – click for a review of Rockhound.

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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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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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IMGP3595, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC and I recently visited a cave in solid marble (The Natural Marble Bridge). Our intention had been to follow up river a short distance to see if there were other caves in the area. You might know the old adage – were there is some caves, there are more. Sadly there were no more that we found, but JC found a hole in another nearby valley that was blowing cold air and about 100 meters away, a hole (on the opposite side of the marble bridge) where it looks like the stream that presently runs through the cave must have sunk at one time. A cave dig might be in order when we run out of other going options.

The Natural Marble bridge has an entrance at one side of an elevated ridge of marble, and a downstream exit on the other side of the ridge. The entry way looks quite ominous and the roar of water is impressive – well out of proportion to the quantity that sinks.

Your passage through the cave is quite magical – traversing through bands of marble of various earthy colors, a granite contact being some short distance into the rock (facing downstream to your right).

See video of the natural Marble Bridge here.

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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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As I am still recovering from my mexico trip – (a nasty ailment that leaves me wishing that I’d been a little more cautious in the cenotes), we thought that we’d take it easy this weekend and though we pass Greig’s cave several times a month, we finally stopped in for a visit. Cost is $10 per adult and there is a nice picnic area, washroom, free walking sticks and the use of a flashlight, having my caving helmet I did not inquire about the cost (of the flashlight rental).

When I was younger I recall seeing that great and tacky classic ‘Quest for Fire’ and so it was with some amount of recollection that I viewed one of the larger caverns and I believe it was there that one of the epic battles between the Neanderthals and the other hairy guys took place. Another vivid memory was that unforgettable scene when the three stone-age morons were sleeping up in the tree and one of them had eaten all the leaves. I believe he was taunting a lion or a tiger beneath when the branch he was sitting on broke.

Anyway, more significantly, after a very interesting trip to Shallow Lake and the observation of one of it’s sinkholes, JC and I donned our packs and helmets and spent a little time looking for evidence of something other than the usual sea cave formative processes at Greig’s. I can’t really be totally sure of what I was seeing, I sometimes like to mull over what I have seen before I come up with a theory. For the most part there is a lot of collapse and evidence of wave action, but there was this one spot where a massive joint cut into the rock and from there a low crawling tunnel branched off along an anastomosing route – quite different from the smooth worn walls in other areas. It may have just been a rotting corroded section of rock, but the tunnels were somewhat regular and unchanging in size and one passage that I should have crawled down further, but was filled with porcupine feces, seemed to be quite promising – not so much for what you could see, but rather the floor was dirt and I wondered if there was anything that could be unearthed with a little digging (like a passage that had been miraculously overlooked). Several people have suggested the possibility of solution tunnels playing a part in the formation of Greig’s Caves – I’d like to prove that theory.

The above picture is of a little squeeze beside a pool. Up ahead JC’s camera on a telescopic extension revealed a small cavern that slopes down to the left with the possibility of further going tunnel, but that is just a guess by looking at his pictures. We both tried fitting through here, but neither of us had either the ability or inclination, but Jeff is strongly considering giving it another try – I believe he will fit. It seems that there are sseveral passages oriented along the bearing of a joint that runs somewhat parallel to the clif face – one is quite long and the crawl was increasingly painful in jeans and tanktop. I hope to prepare a little video sometime later in the week.

All in all, the $10 was well spent. The property is very scenic and we suddenly realized that we’d spent several hours in speculation. Admittedly this is not a wild cave, but it certainly has some interest and who could possibly shun it for the fact that it was the setting of that great theatrical masterpiece of my teenage years – Quest for Fire. If you are looking for a casual outing with your kids, providing you keep a good eye on them as there is plenty of opportunity for injury, this could well be one of the fun things to do near Toronto. This is a good example of what cavers call spelunking. I felt a little overdressed with my helmet, but what the heck.

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On the surface it was sweltering and buggy, but in the dolostone rock beneath the water was icy cold and I was plagued by a constant drip, drip, dripping that frequently found my eye.

Jeff, Greg and I had returned to the cave that we had recently found to do some digging and hopefully expose a tunnel that we thought must exist somewhere beneath the choke of branches and leaves.

We were absolutely stunned by what we found in about two hours of digging – mind you my thighs and back are paying for it now. In front of us the tunnel wall fell away and beneath we could see a passage.

See video on Prometheus; cave of the alien – here

Although the tunnel is tight we theorize that this might be a feeder tunnel as the scallop orientation suggests that possibility and also the size of the in-flowing stream also leads us to suspect that we are yet to make the most significant discovery.

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IMGP2229, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It is a well known fact that 90-95% of Ontario’s caves are within 100 feet of a road. As of late we have taken to exploration in dense tracts of forest over a karst terrain that has been long suspected to harbor the best caving possibilities in Ontario.

As a rough guide we have been using an old manuscript that was produced by Martin Davis, he had already visited the area andf for the most part his initial reconnaisance has been invaluable to our success in finding, or re-finding significant karst features. we believe this shaft was first marked on one of Martin’s maps and in looking down it appears to exceed the depth of the abyssthat we found last month and also several other cave shaft features that we had recently happened upon. Most exciting about this shaft is the belling out of the bottom reaches so that we cannot see the bottom of the wall beneath where Jeff is standing – in fact we are believing that it could be a tunnel as a surface joint also leads in that direction. We are intending to descend the pit this coming weekend and answer the question as to whether there is going cave tunnel at the bottom.

Check out this video of the cave shaft and also another feature that we are calling the void – cave shaft video here.

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