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Archive for the ‘urban exploration’ Category

Beneath Robillard Mountain

Craigmont is about as distant from the reach of the modern world as you are likely to get in the “near north”. Indeed it appears on the map as a substantial settlement but as you cruise up Boulter road you become aware of how far you really are, both geographically and culturally from the bustle of Southern Ontario.

Coasting over hills that stretch off greenish-blue into the summer haze it seems as though you are crossing into a time warp. Meadows are saturated with intense colour and high pastoral fields line the road, strewn with orange and yellow flowers. Beyond this lies the valley of the “Little Mississippi River”. Spike-topped conifers wander unbroken to the horizon and in hillside fields lazy cows watch disinterestedly at the crumbling demise of old log barns.

As a collecting locale, Craigmont is remarkable. Not only is the beauty unsurpassed but its minerals are spectacular. Corundum here is found in large euhedral (perfectly formed) specimens; lapidaries have been known to cut them into cabochons. In their book, “Rocks and Minerals of Ontario” the Ontario Department of Mines say that there are unusual curved mica crystals. Garnets, molybdenite, allanite, uranite, euxenite, magnetite, pyrite and hornblende also appear from time to time.

Blink and you just might glide past Craigmont. The inhabited part is now a private town. It exists as a cluster of houses, barns and sheds and around it the vegetables flourish in earthy rows.

Robillard Mountain is situated within sight of the present habitation; an impressive upheaval of rugged red rock. Some twenty separate excavations scar its slopes.

As a general rule most corundum is found in pegmatites and structures associated with nepheline syenites. In this area north of Bancroft the most abundant deposits (corundum) are said to be sandwiched between scapolite, nepheline andesine and a band of alkaline syenite.

I took a hike beneath the mountain to see the syenite from below.

More on corundum in Craigmont here …

Check out this abandoned mine in Cobalt ... Here

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Abandoned Ontario Mine – Croft Mine

My purpose for visiting the Croft Mine had been was to photograph the fabled head frame – Ralph Schroetter, my guide at Coe Hill had said that it was one of the last such relics in the area. I soon came to realize that finding the abandoned structure would be no easy task. The forest was so thick that I could barely see twenty feet ahead.

I attempted to piece together the most likely location for a mining structure from the location of the dumps, adit, and the many overgrown tracks. Along one old bramble covered path I found a shelf system that had held the drill cores, along another track I found a collection of rusty old barrels. I spent some brief amount of time on the dumps looking for traces of the garnet bearing pegmatite. Mysterious, moss-covered beams were strewn everywhere. Might one of these heaps be the head frame that Ralph had spoken of?

Climbing the hill above the adit, I hoped to sight my goal, but I soon realized that I was out of luck. A yellow carpet stretched off bewilderingly in every direction. Breaking through the canopy was impossible. It was like I was drowning in an endless rain of sticky wet leaves. If it were not for the contour of the hillside, a factor that helped maintain my orientation, I doubt that I would have found my way back to the access track.

The water in the adit was knee-deep and crystal clear. I could see corrugations in the sand from big knobby tires. It seemed that somebody had driven an ATV into tunnel. Touching the wall I got an immediate whiff of the earth – it was that mouldering fungus smell you get when you dig in rotting leaves. Unlike the Richardson adit, there is no air movement here; it is absolutely still – like a mausoleum. Knowing the dangers of such an exploration I only stood in the entrance and though I had to fight my curiosity, I turned back for the fresher air of the forest outside.

Check out this rare earth mine near Bancroft – the shaft drops down to a depth of over 400 feet …. Here We found it in the bush by following the surface clues – a mine dump and old beams and tin.

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Finding the Croft Uranium Mine – Ontario

Between 1953 and 1955 Croft Uranium Mines worked the area for radioactive minerals. They found betafite, uranite, uranothorite, allanite and pyrochlore. Their appearance is flagged in the pegmatite by a dark red color and quartz that has darkened to a grayish-black. There are also said to be small pink garnets in the gneiss and larger specimens in the pegmatite – some reaching up to 3 centimeters in diameter.

A couple of hundred meters along the mine road I got Maggie to pull over in a little clearing and I continued on foot, leaving her there with the understanding that I would be back as soon as I had found the mine and explored the dumps. She had Shaka with her for company and I had my whistle that I tooted on intermittently so as not to walk unexpectedly into a hunter’s ambush. The whistle also served the dual purpose of letting bears know of my presence as the bush was thick and close to the path and I had no wish to meet the “mother of all bears” in a circumstance of mutual surprise.

The road dropped steeply down into a valley and I soon realized that leaving the car above was a wise move. There was nowhere to turn around, the ruts got deeper, and the track was soon entirely underwater. Beavers had built a stick and mud palisade that held back a stinking organic tidal wave that would one day inundate the swamp below. As for the road, forget it. I climbed across on logs and waded knee-deep in mud, thinking what it might be like during bug season (What looks like a stream in front of the beaver dam is actually the mine road).

On the other side of the beaver dam the track began a slow and steady climb upward. I noticed the appearance of crushed granite where I walked and of course the telltale patches of eastern hemlock. These trees tend to grow in clusters wherever the natural forest has been disturbed. They tell you where to look for hidden human habitation.

I soon discovered the mine dumps on my left and in a marshy gully I unexpectedly found the adit.

 

See another abandoned uranium mine in Ontario …  here or my trip to the Sarnac Zircon Mines  … here (where we were again terrorized by the possibility of being eaten by bears

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diamond mine, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out Anne Gordon’s incredible description of her descent into South Africa’s Bultfontein Diamond Mine – “Here“.

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Trill Mill Stream, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

My mother worked at Christ Church (Oxford University) and she was the first to bring the Trill Mill Stream to my attention. Pictured here the stream appears deep and slow – coming from under the University into Christ Church Meadow.

At one time the stream actually flowed on the surface, but it was eventually buried. The high walls within which the stream is channeled  (just before it reaches the Thames – or the Isis as they call it in Oxford) is because in the 1800s the vapors coming off the water were blamed for causing a cholera epidemic- hence the idea to contain it. Initial exploration of the stream in the 1920s revealed a rotting Victorian punt wedged somewhere within and populated by 3 human skeletons.

Numerous people have traversed this underground waterway, Lawrence of Arabia did it in a canoe and one enterprising adventurer used a sea plane float. Modern urban explorers record their adventure and reveal an arched roof of bricks, the undersides of numerous manhole covers and a passage that makes at least 6 90 degree turns – finally ending in an iron gate – as seen from the outside it is this incredibly archaic industrial age contraption – a plate of metal that is raised and lowered by a wheel.

In Ronald Knox’s book, “The Hidden Stream; the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” he mentions Trill Mill Stream in his introduction in saying that, “if you know the right turning close by the gas works you may thrust your canoe up to the mill-pool under the castle walls where an entrance hardly more dignified than that of a sewer invites you to leave the noise of Oxford behind, and float down through the darkness.”

If I still lived in Oxford, I would certainly have been one of the explorers. I had at one time entertained the idea of using an air mattress. Now that I live in Canada the gloomy tunnels under Guelph will have to suffice – sadly they do not have the history of the Trill mill stream.

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Paradise Falls, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I can’t remember what I’ve blogged about this trip so far – so here is the full story (as I remember).

There is this incredible storm drain that is very spectacular (as storm drains go). Many years ago SNFU and I resolved to follow it up as far as we could – this in place of the especially old drains in Niagara falls that I still intend to visit.

Well you enter in a rather public place – at the edge of a highway and the noise from within is quite intimidating. As a caver that sound of water suggested that we were about to be swamped by a flash flood, but it never came so we waded in and soon found ourselves at the bottom of a stairway down which flowed a gush of very cold water.

It was midwinter and though you might not be able to tell, I am wearing a wet suit beneath my coat.

It took us about 40 minutes of careful walking up two flights of stairs to get to the in-fall; a large grate at the edge of a golf course.

The stairs slope toward their center and with the algae build-up and the coldness it was not exactly easy, but we were very pleased to have done it and we rose from about the water level at the lake to the height just at the base of the cliffs. Along the way we had the fortune to observe some rather spectacular rust stalactites which were growing from cracks in the roof from which water poured. We resolved in the spring when the water was higher and warmer to inner-tube the drain from infall to outlet (wearing helmets) but in retrospect, its probably better that we didn’t.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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This picture was taken on a recent exploration that JC and I did in an area that has long been suspected of being “cave rich”.

In Ongley’s long forgotten cave manuscript he relates the impression at the time of Ontario being a cave desert – a paucity of karst! not so! Theres lots of caves in Ontario you just gotta find them. Marcus Buck said that 90 -95% of Ontario’s caves are found beside a road or path – still true, its because of our rugged terrain and people’s unwillingness to hack through the bush. JC and I do that quite often and sometimes we hit lucky.

My book on Ontario’s cave geography “Rockwatching” is again available at Amazon. It appears that it had risen quite significantly in price while it was out of print – Teebooks1 – $156.13, The_Meirin_USA – $94.00, and any_book for – $56.46.

Rockwatching is back on at Amazon for $20.96 – buy it and stop e-mailing me for directions to caves, you’ll learn in the book how to figure those out for yourselves.

But for now, I hope to update you in the next month or so on our further explorations of Broken Rowboat cave – it all depends on whether the location is totally snowed in for the winter or not. It’s a hike of several kilometers through some pretty rugged terrain.

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Church and coffin in Chester Sandstone – Chester

Just recently Maggie and I had spent the day walking around the walls of the ancient Roman city of Chester – the town from which her father came and in which her mother had worked as a nurse. Apparently the two of them met when her father was choking after an appendix operation and her mother applied her nursing skills.

We had visited Chester some twenty years ago and had stayed in a bed and breakfast down on the banks of the River Dee.

This ruin was situated above Chester’s Roman Wall and it is part of the structure of the church of Saint John the Baptist. Set up into the wall there is a most unusual feature – a medieval coffin of solid oak. It looks like the coffin was cut from a solid tree trunk and inside it is inscribed “ashes to ashes.”

Nobody really knows the exact story behind the coffin but there are many theories – everything from, “it was bought from gypsies,” to “somebody dug it up while digging another grave.”

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IMG_8289-1, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I just got back from SNAFU’s which is always interesting and you never know what kind of stuff hes gonna hit you with. He open’s the mind to some really outside the box ideas. Ask me about his musical invention “The Pneumungaphone” one day.

Today it was chamomile tea and dried seaweed as a snack. “What is it that captures the essence of SNAFU? I asked intending to take a picture. He opened his kitchen draws to find some kind of cooking implement to explain the core of his inner being. No, that didn’t do it – he’s an artist in the disguise of a mad genius, or possibly a mad genius disguised as an artist.

Anyway, you might wonder where I got a title like “Man beats hyena with a bone – look at the album cover, there is this guy there with a bone and a muzzled hyena. I’m not sure whether the thing is a pet or a captive that he beats to amuse himself when bored.

SNAFU started at Uof G around the same year as me and though neither of us were particularly well suited to formal education we both scraped through and he’s now finishing his PhD. in chemistry after spending years in Japan as an English teacher.

This record in SNAFU’s hand is called “Lagos Shake” and though I didn’t have the faintest clue as to anything about it SNAFU introduced the album with , “Well presumably you know the basic story (and I was all ears as I had thought he was going to explain the man and the hyena) “It’s a lot of electronic producers re-mixing Tony Allen stuff.

“Whos that?” I ask

“He was one of the drummers for Fela Kuti – a veritable god in African music”.

In the background there is this sound like an angry beehive that is slowly sinking in a pond and bubbling. I believe that was “Flying Lotus”, a group according to SNAFU that plays abstract hip hop. “I thought you might like it, the vocals are from Gonjasufi, but they changed it so much you’d never recognize it as Gonjasufi. “This stuff is similar to “Gas Lamp Killer and the reason that I’m telling you about them both is that Gonjasufi works with both of them and they all had a role in producing this record”.

Listening to a little Flying Lotus and leafing through his collection SNAFU suddenly shouts out “Oh, I love this record, it’s not bizarre but he did a great job anyway”. It appears that the artist is Losfeld and his album is called “Gospel” and “not bizarre” is only a matter of perception.The music starts normally and then gets bizarre with flute trilling in the background and this vocal like the guy is chanting something down a toilet role.

I was assured that “Non” would be entertaining – and that it was. “It’s spoken of as easy listening for those who’re hard of hearing. Here, I’ll just drop the needle wherever”. I only hear this roaring sound that instantly reminded me of the sound before my first parachute jump – a ripping of wind and flapping of coveralls and terrible anxiety as to whether the thing would open.

I don’t like your “Non” lets head off before the Albion fills up”.

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