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Posts Tagged ‘exploring caves’

Cave shaft – Canada, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In the same area where we discovered the Tooth Tube, a cave that we have been clearing of a glacial plug of clay, we have also found numerous deep shafts, aligned along joints they tend to be deep and narrow with fluted sides and moss around their upper lips. To a caver, a cave shaft is generally indicative of something that might be occuring lower down. Often, but not always, the shaft represents the dominant passage of water as it drops beneath the surface, and as Marcus Buck had pointed out in the excavation of the ‘Birth Canal’ at Olmstead in the Eramosa Karst, “Usually if you follow where the water goes, it takes you on to tunnels”.

This particular field of shafts and pits is in an area that is not too far north of Toronto, Ontario , Canada. For a Torontonian I believe it is one of the coolest things to do near Toronto.

The shafts that we found occur in a plateau that sits well above a large body of water and though the local water table is sometimes known to be perched, it would appear that by looking down into some of these holes, it must still be way below the surface. Many of the more slender shafts appear to be relatively debris-free. Wider shafts tend to be clogged with soil and leaves and logs. They can approach a diameter of about 10 feet in width and we speculate that like in the St. Edmunds System, water may have entered the underground at a time when the area was beneath a kilometer thick sheet of ice. As the pressure head built up, the water beneath the glacier was forced down tiny crevices, down to the bedding plane, and then out at the base of the plateau. Most of these shafts are at the bottom of a conical depression of between 10 and 25 feet in depth. In an old manuscript Martin Davis mentions a stream that he had dye traced that seems to take most of the surface water from this area and drains it out at a single point in the cliffs around the edges of the plateau.

Strings of shafts line up along the general orientation of local joints and we intend to plumb the depths of one such shaft this weekend. Our best case scenario is to find an open cave tunnel that requires minimal digging to clear it. I dropped a bolder down one deep shaft where I could not see the bottom and after an impressive pause I heard the muted ‘thunk’ of tin that had been pounded by my falling missile.

In one relatively shallow shaft we have found a crevice that seems to drop down into a water worn passage beneath, that will be our first priority. It was hard to get a good look at the passage as the crevice above still requires some cleaning, but I had the distinct impression it was human sized and floored with cobbles like we found in the Wasteland Waterway – still to be pushed to its endpoint.

For a final look at where we got with our excavation on the Tooth Tube – Click for cave video of the Tooth Tube here.

Check out the shaft at C-H sink, it is also in an area where sinks dimple local fields. Check out a short video of the C – H sink here

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Natural cave gate, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Last weekend we enjoyed a feeble sunshine and weather that made it seem like spring was just around the corner. On a plateau that was totally cleft by grykes and pocked with sinkholes we found a joint that had several likely entrances into the underground. Jeff also explored a crevice cave that soon became a solution passage.

This is an intriguing shot of tree roots that spider over top a water worn crevice on the surface. As you can see the soil is thin and tree roots block entrance to this crevice. No big deal, it looks like a natural cave gate, and a short distance further in the tunnel is blocked by sticks and twigs.

It seems that the water percolates through many fractured rocks and leaves the nearby clifface from multiple locations. It’s not that the rock is un-cave like, its just that the water remains unconcentrated. When wear is spread over so many possibilities, the tunnels can only be small and crawley. For good cave tunnels you need nice thick layers, less joints and fewer points of water entry. That natural cave gate hardly brings me much concern. In what they are calling a potential flash freeze, Wolfmaaan, JC and I are preparing to do a wetsuit crawl in some very exciting circumstances. Weather and courage permitting I will have some amazing cave pictures by tomorrow night.

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Skull Cave, Finding caves in Ontario

This past Sunday JC and I took a little trip out into the insipid February sunshine. It was just warm enough to feel a taste of spring, you could smell the decaying leaves and the fungus in the soil. As usual we were following up on cave leads and in crawling inwards through a crumbling passage, Jeff discovered a small solution tunnel.

There is something to be said for discovering caves where others have already been and discounted what was there because it seemed improbable and others have been there before. There were several places where we had suspected there might be tunnels, but it seemed that they all required tight and muddy squeezes. And having to ride in Jeff’s pristine 4X4 we were both reluctant to get too dirty.  Opting for the sunny side of a low escarpment, I waited outside a crevice while Jeff crawled in to check it out. I was entertained by the antics of a vast colony of tiny black-headed birds in a tangle of vines along the cliff face. Suddenly they all went dead silent and a fellow hiker peered over to inquire whether I was following a path. Soon Jeff returned with a discovery. Admittedly the passage started like any other crevice cave, but in turning around a bend it suddenly adopted the classic shape of a solution passage in a joint. See Jeff’s pictures.

For the worn rock slabs up top, the sinkholes and the springs that are flowing out along the sides of the plateau we are optimistic of better passages lower down.

This coming weekend we expect to be busting into some virgin passage at Wasteland Waterway with Wolfmaan. It is another of our recent discoveries – this cave being large and challenging and at this time with an end that still eludes us. No doubt Wolfmaan will take some high quality video.

After discovering caves the next logical step is exploring caves and that is exactly what we intend to do. There is a spot in Wasteland Waterway beyond which we haven’t ventured. Our intent will be to squeeze beneath a rock that Jeff had named the ‘aerofoil’ and from there a short squeeze through the ‘porthole’. It will take us into nowhere land. From what I could tell the tunnel widens out beyond the porthole. At Wasteland Waterway we are already into a significant passage that is dropping down deep and stretching high in places. For more on the discovery of Wasteland Waterway check out my book on caves, ‘Caving in Ontario; Exploring buried Karst’.

For more on Skull Cave check out Jeff’s map and pictures here.

To hear more of our exploration this coming weekend visit again.

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This picture of me  (Michael Gordon) was taken the first time we (JC and I) went deep into Wasteland Waterway. The cave is initially a watercrawl along elliptical; pheratic tubes that wriggle around on a relatively level plain, but after our escape hole (Blue Barrel sink), and the huge spiders there, the passage quickly drops down deeper and becomes narrower and more jagged.

Some time this winter we will push beyond where we have explored thus far, into passage that remains unseen by any other human,  and hopefully find the chasm that we believe exists somewhere up ahead.

Read more on the exploration of Wasteland Waterway in my new book on caves in Ontario and see the momentous occasion of the arrival of my first copy from the printers today – new book on caves in Ontario here.

If you are interested in purchasing “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst” click here. It looks like you can save 25% on any purchase from Lulu today if you enter the code onemorething at checkout – but deals like that change from day to day so just check the screen for codewords any day you order.

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A cave in marble – Ontario, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Subject to my failure a few years ago to find a particular marble cave I have always felt this sadness whenever anyone mentions Ontario Marble caves. Well this coming Tuesday I am again going to attempt to locate the “P-Lake Cave” and photograph the beautiful stream that runs within. This picture was taken of me in another Ontario marble cave.

It’s rather a grim and rainy day outside and I’ve spent most of it here in front of my computer – working on my soon to be released book “Caving in Ontario; An exploration of Karst”. The name may have changed a little since I last mentioned it, but I think this title better captures the true content of the material.  Here is part of the foreword and if you are waiting (and I know some are) you will not be disappointed. I am taking longer than expected because the work needs to be perfection.

Foreword to “Caving in Ontario”

“Caving in Ontario” has been written as my second book on Ontario caves – the first being “Rockwatching” which was published by Boston Mills in 2005.

I am still left with the feeling that I want to be more specific about what it means to be a caver in Ontario. And so in writing this book I am writing for a specific reader; those who want to understand caves and the subculture of the caver in a part of the country where many believe that caves do not exist.”

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