Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.
Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.
In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.
This is an extract from my book (a screen shot of part of a page), that is finished as of now – with about a half hour before the new year. It should be available for purchase from Lulu or the Edgehill Press site within about 2 or 3 days (depending upon the size of their backlog). You would not believe the complications at the final stage of preparation. I have spent my every spare minute since the last post uploading, downloading, readjusting, making PDFs, more uploading, using photoshop, learning how to do things I never wanted to do; any way it’s done and the book looks amazing.
This section of page from my new book, “Caving in Ontario; Exploring Buried Karst”, speaks a little about how cavers see spelunkers. To be called a spelunker by a caver is a derogatory remark.
So the point is, and I need to make it quick, as there is no more than about a half hour before midnight(new Years Eve) and I have a big glass of scotch and my hot tub waiting – if you are a caver, or underground explorer of any type, somewhere near Ontario, this book is a must have (excuse the massive sentence). Caving in Ontario tells you about the caves, how to find the caves, the geography of Ontario, the geology of Ontario and the culture of the sport of caving (in Ontario). Caving in Ontario is in full color, and it contains information and pictures of places that have never been publicly seen or written of before.
You think you know Ontario? I bet most have not seen it from this angle – a caver’s angle (looking from below).
My mother worked at Christ Church (Oxford University) and she was the first to bring the Trill Mill Stream to my attention. Pictured here the stream appears deep and slow – coming from under the University into Christ Church Meadow.
At one time the stream actually flowed on the surface, but it was eventually buried. The high walls within which the stream is channeled (just before it reaches the Thames – or the Isis as they call it in Oxford) is because in the 1800s the vapors coming off the water were blamed for causing a cholera epidemic- hence the idea to contain it. Initial exploration of the stream in the 1920s revealed a rotting Victorian punt wedged somewhere within and populated by 3 human skeletons.
Numerous people have traversed this underground waterway, Lawrence of Arabia did it in a canoe and one enterprising adventurer used a sea plane float. Modern urban explorers record their adventure and reveal an arched roof of bricks, the undersides of numerous manhole covers and a passage that makes at least 6 90 degree turns – finally ending in an iron gate – as seen from the outside it is this incredibly archaic industrial age contraption – a plate of metal that is raised and lowered by a wheel.
In Ronald Knox’s book, “The Hidden Stream; the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” he mentions Trill Mill Stream in his introduction in saying that, “if you know the right turning close by the gas works you may thrust your canoe up to the mill-pool under the castle walls where an entrance hardly more dignified than that of a sewer invites you to leave the noise of Oxford behind, and float down through the darkness.”
If I still lived in Oxford, I would certainly have been one of the explorers. I had at one time entertained the idea of using an air mattress. Now that I live in Canada the gloomy tunnels under Guelph will have to suffice – sadly they do not have the history of the Trill mill stream.
Where does the tunnel go from here? Is there airspace or do the passages descend beneath the water table?
Next visit we will remove the wheel and try back-float the passage in a wet suit.
A short distance through the mud left me up against this wheel – a good place for mud bogging if you can get your monster truck past the entry squeeze. Notice the scalloping where the water funnels down and the alternating layers of rock above – the tunnel goes on – but it will be a water crawl from here.
I just got back from Cobalt last night, it was a long drive – 6 hours.
While in Cobalt I took an abandoned mine tour. Its a service offered by the local museum – well worth doing if you like that kind of thing. This here is one of the tunnels in the old Colonial Mine. There are over 27 kilometers of passage – stretching as far as Lake Temiskaming I am told. Beneath the level we were at the tunnels are all flooded. Shafts lead up and down – but not anywhere near where we were – it was quite sanitized and safe for the average visitor.
Tunnels spidered along through dense black rock following the calcite veins that had led to silver. Outside every mine there were big piles of scree, it suggested something of the extent of the tunnels within.
I had one heck of a time finding the Harcourt Graphite Mine, following directions from an old guide book only to discover that the directions were wrong. Simply put, the mine is only about 150 meters off highway 648 – just outside Harcourt. Being densely wooded, I wandered well past the old buildings and ended somewhere off in the middle of nowhere.
Amongst other somewhat unfortunate events that day I stepped on a rusty nail in the remnants of the old mill. I actually found the diggings by limping through the bush, imagining from clues how they would have situated the mill in respect to where they would have been digging their ore.
This is an example of the kind of mine that is better left un-explored. I went only as far as the adit entrance to get this picture. The roof looks like it needs scaling – just waiting for some errant explorer to bump a rock and down it all comes. I would imagine that the graphite is in the lighter coloured rock as the guide book says that ” yellow jarosite and and rusty goethite” are powdered over the graphite.
On my hunt for zircon in the Bancroft area I managed to find this old mine that had reputedly unearthed some pretty interesting mineral specimens – many of which were said to be radioactive – some of which are reported to have been zircon. Being a gemmologist I was interested to see the crystals, by my experience zircon crystals are generally box shaped with 4 sided pyramids at either end. “A doubly terminated tetragonal prism,” as the lingo describes it.
From my book that is still as of yet unpublished I provide the following extract …
“In 1955 a pit known as the “Blue Rock Cerium Shaft” was sunk in the bush to the south of Tory Hill. It dropped down to 440 feet, with three levels at 100, 250 and 400 feet.
There is apparently an adit somewhere nearby that leads down to the 100-foot level but I was unable to find it. The No. 1 shaft is about a kilometer and a half to the north, it was 657 feet deep with 4 different levels. “Lead Ura Mines” which later became the “Rare Earth Mining Company” initially explored the No. 1 pit in 1948. No commercial production was ever drawn from either of the “Rare Earth” sites but the legacy of that unsuccessful enterprise still haunts the bush making for an exciting day of discovery.
James and I wandered around the hillside wondering how the mine had appeared and where the head frame was situated. Eastern Hemlock and cedar had shrouded the already decaying concrete abutments and we trod carefully through the waist-high bush not wanting to find ourselves plunging down a hidden pit into the bowels of the earth.
As it turned out a huge concrete slab capped the shaft. James pointed to the cast iron hoops set within. It suggested the option of future removal if the company so desired. There was a small opening at one edge of the concrete slab and I tossed a rock through it. The stone bounced and boomed for six seconds before I heard a great hollow splash”.
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)