Posts Tagged ‘death’

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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A calculation of risk and reward. Why do I obsess over stuff like this?

IMG_8240, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is a tunnel – a crawling tunnel that had once been half filled with water. It is possible to wriggle through here without touching the roof but my concern would be, how safe is it?

Three things wrong with getting squished flat. Firstly the personal cost – it would hurt, my wife and family would be upset and I would no longer be able to continue caving. Secondly a nasty accident such as that would bring a bad name to caving in Ontario and thirdly, I am our company’s on-site safety manager. I am responsible for the safety of a lot of┬ápeople. Dead safety manager! There is some irony there. Ha – always knew the guy never practiced what he preached. We have a term for that – “Disengagement”

I have mulled over the risk and motivation thing and a collegue quite neatly summed it up. I like to do dangerous things in as safe a manner as possible. How true. You cant eliminate risk from life. You need some degree of uncertainty to keep yourself on edge. Risk brings reward. To live wisely you need to minimize the risk, but you must balance it with reward. What do you have to gain? What is the certain cost? What is the possible cost? There is nothing to gain by negligence in one’s work environment. There is plenty to gain by setting goals and making reasonable calculations.

My goal is to know what lies beyond. Why? It appeals to my spiritual well-being.

My question to you is; does this look safe? I know the water goes on around the corner. There is a sound of falling water coming from on beyond. Do you think the roof might fall in if touched? It looks like some blocks have fallen already.

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