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Posts Tagged ‘Caves’

For cave exploring in Ontario this one is possibly one of the more exciting possibilities. This past weekend Jeff and I explored the tunnels for some short distance, but we were turned back by the conditions which were less than favourable – namely the cold, the prospect of a storm on the surface and my knee pads which kept sagging down and so my knees were torn to shreds.

nevertheless, for Adventure in Ontario I am still optimistic of eventually reaching the end. Thus far several pushes have not revealed the sump-point. On one trip we reached a spot called the aero-foil and past that a squeeze then bigger tunnels beyond.

I am thinking that the cave goes deep and the many sinkholes in the area must meet up with these tunnels somewhere beyond where we have crawled.

see the video here for Adventure in Ontario, Exploring the Wasteland Waterway Cave, Caving in Ontario, Canada

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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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IMGP3419, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It has been my unfortunate experience to visit many shelter caves near Toronto and for the paucity of decoration and the generally shattered and graffiti-scarred innards, had come to regard them as a waste of time – no beauty there, only a miserable reminder of what a wild cave ought not to be.
Today JC and I followed up a canyon which in my own thoughts had probably been traversed by many people. Not having the energy to make a long trip and storing up all our caving ambition for the coming trip to Marmora (which I am leading for the TCG), we just settled for a none to ambitious scouting over what we’d thought must be territory that should have been well traveled before.
The going was difficult, but the scenery was spectacular and we soon found ourselves in a gorge with an increasingly thickening bedding plane. The riverine growth was somewhat reminiscent of the edges of the Maitland and that karst terrain of a ‘River Ledge Limestone Pavement’ – but not entirely as there was also thick growth up the sides of rubble mounds in places – pink flowers that looked like giant snap dragons nodded in the humid air as we pushed our way between them. Simple shelter caves began to exhibit features of greater complexity – many having stone tongues hanging out of their mouths – of tuffa, or in some cases more finely deposited flow stone. To me that suggested water flowing from within, it gave us hope of onward leading tunnels.
Against all odds we came across not one but several shelter caves that were somewhat beautifully hung with spelothems. The most impressive decorations were a stacking of rimstone dams that led inward to deeper passages. Sadly they seemed too tight for explorers, and thankfully nobody had tried to push it. I was astounded by the complexity of the deposition and looking over the wriggly walls it reminded me of waves of molten wax. And not far above I could hear the sound of passing traffic. It was an amazing little hidden oasis.
The point is that just by pushing on a little further beyond where it is easy walking, hack through the stinging nettles and mud and cobbles and there is still a lot to see in Ontario. And thanks to whoever preceded us, for having the forethought to restrict themselves from standing on the speleothems.

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We descended by cable ladder into the cave that we call the Death Bell. That morning we had no idea what we would find. My greatest fear was rattle snakes. I have come across the Massasagua rattle snake in caves before, but being in Ontario, we are fortunate that the Massasagua is the only poisonous snake.

We cleared loose rock from the lip of the shaft and Greg joked that it was like an episode from the X – Files where Skully and Mulder found the black slime alien in a cave much like this one.

See video on the Death Bell here.

As we followed into the cavern – down the swinging ladder it soon became apparent that this shaft was like no other that we had visited. You step off the ladder onto a boulder that is perched atop a 10 foot high mound of bones. Some of the bones were those of animals likely thrown in, along with some garbage from a nearby farm, but by the size of the mound you would imagine that it would have taken thousands of years to grow and depending upon the initial depth of the shaft, the pile might go down well beneath ten feet.

A tunnel led off at the deepest point, following downward along a joint. I crunched through a sediment of tiny black nuggets similar in appearance to charred rice. A puff of wind blew from the terminal pinch-point. Possibly the tunnel goes onward, but it has been blocked by the crunchy fill-in. I believe it must be the casings of a thousand years of maggots that have feasted on the ever-growing heap of corpses from fallen animals.

I am optimistic that this is a solution cave as opposed to a sea cave. Sea caves in Ontario; Rover Cave or Grieg’s Caves for example are generally wide mouthed and narrowing like a funnel. This cave seems to have no surface connection but the porthole in it’s roof, and that hardly provides a suitable portal for erosion.

Whatever the case, an animal that falls in to the Death Bell is doomed to a slow and lingering death – there’s no way out. And for a human, much the same without a ladder.

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Extreme Outdoor sports in canada, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Though many would consider caving to be an extreme outdoor sport, I believe that there are few experiences that have the soul baring qualities of first time exploration of virgin tunnels. Though there are plenty of opportunities for exploring such passasges in western Canada – in the gargantuan shafts and passages of the Rockies, Ontario has remained somewhat unrecognized for its wild caving potential.

As it has recently become apparent, there are plenty of opportunities for cave exploration near Toronto. Parts of Ontario are honeycombed beneath by cave passages that have never been seen before.

Check out this video from our exploration of some passages that we are in the process of opening somewhere near Toronto – see video on Extreme Outdoor sports near Toronto here.

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Greetings cavers and cave interested readers. As you might have gathered by the photo, I have spent some time underground today in the solitary and yet thought provoking pursuit of extreme cave digging. Admittedly there were times when it felt like I was buried alive and there were also the issues of trying to squeeze back out of the hole by which I had entered this tunnel.

JC and I have delayed a return to the shafts that we found last weekend (so as not to bother the land owner too much) and instead we investigated another lead. Somewhere near that lead we found a blind valley and in clearing the sticks and leaves away we found a pheratic tube that is choked with yellow clay.

As I was digging there was plenty of time for reflection and I came up with the thought that this tube must have drained the lake that we think must have existed in the hollow of a nearby field. Although the field is in an area of highly developed karst, it’s contact with the rock is sealed by this clay and so not surprisingly the drainage points are limited to a few locations – this is one of them. again, this geographic situation is similar to the geography of the cave system that we found in Hamilton last year – Wasteland Waterway (Consider this when looking for caves in Ontario).

We are still unsure of when the cave tunnels were choked (glacial or at the initial clearance of the land), but it must have been some time ago as calcite has dripped down onto the surface of the fill and formed a solid scab in places. Obviously our excavations have to be very carefully performed as we do not want to damage speleothems. The tube appears to be elliptical in shape and the formations fill the airspace between the clay choke and the roof. whatever we excavate will be our crawlspace.

See the video we took of some bones that were discovered. Video of the newly discovered Tooth Tube (tentatively called that until we settle on a final name). also check out my book on caving here – ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst

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This is a shaft at the back of a well known sea cave on the Bruce Peninsula. It might appear that I am desperately fighting a giant serpent that is in the process of swallowing me. Well gravity is on it’s side and I slid quite easily down its throat.

This particular weekend was a very successful one for caving in that area. JC and I located a swarm of deep rock shafts and we are returning quite shortly to conduct further investigation. We had been pointed in this direction by the exploits of cavers from decades past. The majority of our cave discoveries had been from building upon the investigations of others.

See my video on some caves beneath the Bruce Peninsula here – video on caving beneath the Bruce Peninsula.

It is here at the very tip of the Niagara Escarpment that Ontario caving is at its very best. And the discoveries of what lies beneath is just beginning. There are countless kilometers of bush and limestone alvars that remain to be explored.

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Argument Hole – so named for the dispute that took place at it’s discovery and subsequent exploration (that was many years ago).

JC and I had spent some time scouting along the bottom of the escarpment beside the sometimes flowing resurgence river. I was real tired and had slipped several times on ice coated rock, not to mention having fallen through several thinly covered snow roofs – beneath there were crevices of varying depths – fortunatly there was nothing that did any permanent damage.

As we were leaving we decided to quickly pop into the Argument Hole and it was then that the real potential of the feature became apparent. At it’s first exploration, the hole had seemed to be going nowhere. Maybe my impression of what was tight was more finely honed at that time. Today, in following inward, the tunnel jogged deeper into the escarpment, over a crevice that had been running with water from deeper inland last time I had visited. Admittedly there is a lot of breakdown, but up ahead, past this mid passage icicle there are troughs that run perpendicular to this crawl way and down which water flows parallel to the resurgence valley. Further exploration is dependent upon the stability of the tunnel.

Check out my video on caves that JC and I made here – It is a brief discussion on Argument Hole, Another Entrance to the Marmora Maze Caves.

Also see my book on caves here – ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst’.

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The Marmora area in the winter (a few hours north east of Toronto) certainly gives the impression of pristine Canadian wilderness, it feels wild and remote and it certainly is most beautiful. JC and I made the 3.5 hour drive from Guelph / Hamilton this past weekend with the intention of busting open some cave passage in the vicinity. There is this escarpment that is buried under forest and beneath which we know cave passages must exist. It is not a question of there being caves, it is only a question of how to reach them.

Along our route we passed over the Crowe River and beneath the water you can see the local geology, a karst landscape of weathered limestone, joints and fissures and eroded bedding planes down which the water flows.

As for breaking into the tunnels that we had hoped to reach we were sadly unsuccessful. Everything was frozen together, the slabs of rock were way bigger than I’d remembered and crowbar, shovel and human effort were grossly ineffective. On the bright side we have scouted what appears to be a simpler underground route, a tunnel that is partially clogged by boulders, but which could be clearable with about a day of effort. I believe we could wiggle along a bedding plane and soon reach the spot that up until this weekend seemed only accessible beneath about 100 tons of rubble.

In addition to the escarpment connection tunnel, JC and I also pushed a previously known connection that we had called Argument Hole and discovered that it continued on – possibly into the upper tunnels of the Marmora Maze Caves. We had been avoiding the traditional entrance that Josh and I had uncovered some years ago as it looks unstable and a visit is hardly worth being buried alive.

Learn more about the Marmora Maze Caves and their discovery in my book ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst’ here.

So for a winter exploration near Toronto, I’d say we had a pretty successful day, but now a day later I feel absolutely shattered and I believe JC can hardly feel to much better – he’d wrenched his shoulder when the ice gave way along the escarpment edge and he fell into a crevice. I’ve felt like I’ve had lead weights attached to my limbs all day and no matter how high I crank the heat up, I still feel like I’m sitting in a snow drift, and the toes, they haven’t recovered from the hours long submersion in the ice melt that had trickled into my boots while I was crawling down iced-in cave passage – see a picture of some tunnel in the area – here and here.

Check out this video that I’d taken – showing something of the Marmora area, and also this video that shows one of the places where water sinks underground beneath a shattered karst landscape – Ontario karst landscape 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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