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.
On one of those days I did a solo side trip in through the Snedgar’s Saltpetre entrance while most of the other cavers were doing a shaft somewhere off at the edge of a farmer’s field (it dropped into a section called the “Cobble Crawl”. The tunnel’s are massive – way bigger than anything yet known in Ontario and during the Civil War slaves had kept digging in the accumulated bat guano to keep the South supplied with Saltpetre. I always wonder how many of those poor people disappeared into the darkness never to return.
Anyway I got back to the camp sometime in the afternoon and two cavers who had not been with the other group asked if I wanted to join them on another trip back through the Snedgar’s entrance. Typically, not wanting to feel responsible for the actions of others who were possibly less experienced than me, but more ambitious – I declined.
Later that night (around 11pm) it occurred to me that the two cavers that had invited me on their trip had not returned.
The Toronto Cave Group (TCG) were fortunate to have several highly experienced cave search and rescue people who were members of the club and who were also on the trip so search teams were quickly organized and we started hitting up the likely locations where we thought the lost cavers might be stranded.
Several American cavers who were returning from the cave joined us and assured us that they could set a call out process in motion and have at least 200 cavers from nearby grottoes there by morning (if things still were unresolved within a few hours).
Incidentally Friar’s Hole is endless, literally one of the most extensive known systems in the world. As one experienced American caver pointed out – “Some tunnels nearby will take you quickly deep into the system and from there you are lost forever”.
Our approach in searching was to target the area that could be most easily reached and we would blow a whistles down the bigger passages and listen for a response. Fortunately we got a response within a half hour and shortly after that one of the two cavers came hurrying into our headlamp beam – so fast in fact that she dropped down a relatively deep hole between us and came steaming up the other side without a pause. Most would have considered that a relatively serious fall, but she seemed to not even notice it. The two cavers had got lost in the Saltpetre Mine in amongst the old mining implements. We found the second caver sitting on a ledge – having eaten all his granola bars he just seemed kind of dazed.
The cavers had climbed down into a passage through a hole in it’s roof and when it was time to return, there were a myriad of possibilities down around eye level – the hole in the roof had entirely been forgotten. When we blew our whistle at the entrance to the passage the energetic caver had headed in that direction and eventually seen some kind of faint light from the hole above her.
Needless to say, there is a lesson here and that is to know that as confident as you might feel you gotta know your limits. Inexperienced cavers without a fear of consequence can quickly find themselves in a whole world of trouble.
Flower pot Cave West Virginia – Toronto Cave Group
I took this picture at least a decade ago. These are several members of the TCG who are preparing a cable ladder for the descent down the shaft into flowerpot cave.
We spent several hours underground and two things really stand out in my mind, firstly, Andrew (young guy second from the left) had his carbide leak in his equipment and as we were crawling down a tube about 6 hours into the trip the carbide gas went off after touching the flame of his headlamp. There was a loud bang and we all learned the lesson of not letting water get at you carbide.
The other thing that really stood out about the trip was when I got stuck in a narrow squeeze and almost passed out. (Wrote an article about it in the Toronto Caver – “Fat Guy gets Stuck in Flowerpot”) I was wedged so tight that as I pushed forward my helmet just twisted and almost wrenched my head off from my shoulders. Fortunately John Kozak was behind me and he pushed along with Andrew and I only just managed to squeeze free as I was blacking out.
When we left the cave it was already dark and the wind was whipping across the field above – we were soaked to the bone. I remember all of us huddling together as we waited for the last cavers to make it up the ladder.
Following the release some time ago of my book "Rockwatching; Adventures above and below Ontario", I am pleased to announce the release of my new book "Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica". It is a story of opportunity. Edgehill Press is the publisher. (www.edgehillpress.com)