Posts Tagged ‘sport’

Puzzled? Not so for the experienced Ontario cave searcher

I whimped out!

I am at this time still barely able to walk. My excuse …

I am out of shape
Jeff is in shape
He walked too fast, I walked to slow
My backpack was too heavy
It was too hot, I missed my dog

Just plain failure of morale, in part based on the everfluctuating readings of a GPS in which I had little faith.

Anyway, those are some of my excuses, but on the bright side we finished the day with some hope and a plan for next time (About a month from now)

We had learned of a cave beneath the power lines and at the edge of a lake and so on this beautiful sunny day we headed up north to investigate. From pictures that another caver had shown me, there is a hole that drops through the rock down into a stream channel that runs through a rubble strewn – sometimes wet passage eventually ending up at the shores of the lake. (Ontario cavers may have seen Cornelie’s pictures. From what I understand the Niebelungen cavers made a visit here about 2 years ago)

We initially arrived where the power lines crossed the road and from the air photos, I had suspected there was only a small stream to cross and then 2 kilometers to the cave – not so, the beavers had set up obstacles since the air photo was taken and we had to approach from another route where the car was parked several kilometers away. We followed up rutted road that became a dirt track that eventually intercepted the power lines. Power lines are hell to follow; you wont get lost but its not easy walking. Jeff and I slogged along over rocky hillocks and through marsh. Again the beavers made the walking circuitous and exhausting. At times we teetered along the rim of muddy beaver ponds – beautiful in amongst the lillies and dragon flies if it were not for the beating sun, progressing headache and screaming legs.

By midafternoon I was utterly exhaused and I backed out before reaching the suspected cave location – not one of my more spectacular outings. It just seemed that the power lines marched on for ever (and they do) and the hills were getting higher and higher and my legs were getting less and less co-operative (and they were -stubborn like mules)

End result, a five hour drive back to Guelph, legs that I am still barely able to get functioning, and a plan to return with a rubber raft before winter and cut across the newly formed lake to take a great distance off the hike.

There are supposedly several other caves in this area and we are resolved to pay a visit to a couple of likely sites before the snow arrives.

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Lake of the Dahlias somewhere beyond

P1010079, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here it is – over the hump. I pressed through this low slot and on to the passage beyond – an elliptical tunnel that wound off into gloom. Its hard to imagine but somewhere further on the helictites become so dense and interwoven that it is impossible to go onwards without damaging them. I did not get much further than this, but I was shown a map that indicated the most fantastic formations were isolated beneath a military zone. After my little private jaunt I saw a 3D movie that the curators were making of what was deep within – unbelievable!

One General Frederico F. Gavada wrote in 1870 in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine of his experience in the Cuevas de Bellamar saying that he eventually reached an underground lake, 18 feet deep and 180 feet long. He called it the “Lake of Dahlias” for the crystals that looked like petaled flowers.

As the general wrote …

“These dahlias are formed by triangular, concave crystals, starting from a common centre, in layers one above the other, precisely as the petals of dahlias are arranged. They vary from three to five inches in diameter. Their greatest beauty consists in the exquisite manner in which they are tinted with veins of violet and blue and delicate yellow and pale crimson. These colors are probably due to the presence of mineral salts which filter down with the water from the overlying strata.

Here, then, we have an enchanted lake in which the most fastidious of naiads would not refuse to dwell. A lake with its surrounding landscape of fantastic, sparry forms and its beds of wondrous flowers, and with its own sky bending above it full of sparkling constellations – a lake on which the sun has never shone, and whose smooth and silver surface the light wings of the breeze have never rippled, nor the rage of the tempest ever maddened into foam”.

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There is lots more to see

IMG_4684, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I had been carefully picking my way through the dust and breakdown in the upper level of an obscure cave in Ontario’s marble. The marble forms in bands of especially pure white rock in this area; it is very hard and sharp – thus gloves, elbow and knee pads are essential for cave exploration.

I know of several areas in the shield that have significant potential – some discovered while cruising through the internet, others by looking on topo maps. This particular cave is already a cave that is somewhat known to the older members of Ontario’s caving community.

At the far end of this series of underground chambers I came across a huge embankment of mud from which grew strange elongated stalks – some kind of germination whereby seeds carried in by bats, rodents or the underlying river were deposited and in growing never finding the light but stretching upward into the darkness for nothing. For some reason, I found the tunnels a little depressing – sure they were interesting and where I stopped at the clay/mud embankment I set my lantern for greater light and progressed a short distance down a nearby incline toward the river that enlargened and carved all these fissures in the rock. I never really saw all there was to see of the system – I will return one day and make a better effort.

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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 people. 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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This is caving in Ontario


Caving in Ontario – Sanctum of the Bruce!

It is what you might call a rather challenging mental problem – an exercise in self control – sensory deprivation. What is it about pushing the boundaries that is so appealing?

Physically – oh there’s no problem there. I will fit. I figured it out the first time I tried it; Asked my partner to pull me out by the ankles if I stopped kicking. But mentally, you have to lay on your back in freezing cold ground-water. Your ears are underwater so you quickly start getting dizzy. You have to fight hyperventilation as you start wriggling over the cobbles – stifling the urge to scream out as the water turns you into a blast freeze Popsicle. Too many waves and ripples and this same freezing water is lapping over your nostrils. You do the sump on your back.

This is caving in Ontario!

One step beyond the challenge of holding your breath in an icy cave pool is cave diving into the unknown with scuba tanks, Check out this new movie coming out – Sanctum in 3D, it appears to be the ultimate in cave experience without actually caving, it’s about a bunch of cave divers who are exploring an underwater labyrinth – see the trailer for Sanctum 3D here I myself will be one of the first to see this, it opens February 4th.

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Be careful – Ontario caves

IMG_8233, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Just a word (2) to would-be cavers – “airborne pathogens!”

I suppose I suspected the worst at my very first breath. I think I wrote something about 6 weeks ago about exploring an underground shelf that was heaped with animal feces to either side of my crawlway. I cant say it was necessarily the most pleasant section of underground terrain that I have ever travelled , but it was the end result that I had in mind.

As I was crawling along I was certainly breathing in some kind of fungus or spores – I could feel it – like that smell of damp freshly turned earth. And as I breathed there was this feeling that left your throat tickling. Anyway when I got home I told my wife that if I came down with something “lung related” and was unable to express myself to the doctor she was to suggest to them that I had breathed in something from the caves. I know of several cave air related illnesses – histoplasmosis and hauntavirus spring immediatly to mind – but those are associated with more southerly environments (it makes for interesting reading if you follow up on the internet).

Anyway – sure enough, about 3 days later I started coughing with a dry rasping choking feeling. It got so bad that I could not sleep at night. I have for the last month slept 3 hours max each night and upright at that! Every time I lay down I felt like I was choking and would cough myself until I was almost vomiting. Aside from the fact that my family doctor has retired and a cough at emerg usually takes 8 hours to get attention I left the situation to run its course for at least 3 weeks. I realize you must be thinking that I am missing a few brain cells – guilty as charged!

At six o clock one morning one week ago today I could take it no more and headed in to hospital. There was one guy in the waiting room and they managed to see me by 09:30am. I can imagine the wait if there had been 2 or 3 people in the waiting room. The doctor was very helpful though and on a prescription of steroid puffers and zithromax I am vastly improved.

Above is a picture of the entrance to a tunnel that we were investigating this past weekend. I had been there before but for the tunnel’s water filled appearance just kind of wrote it off as interesting but going nowhere for me. (I still keep caving despite the lungs) Today the tunnel was water free and Jeff and I crawled in some short distance to feel air flow. (picture to follow soon)

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