In the day and age of Google maps, satellite photography, and the internet, many people believe there are few places left to explore in the world. These people also believe that there are few areas of the world that have been unseen by human eyes.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I teamed up with cave expert Jeff Collens and author Mick Gordon to try and find one of these areas. Sworn to complete secrecy, we travelled 6 hours north of Niagara Falls to a remote hardwood forest. As I walked barefoot through the woods, I could feel the cool, moss covered rocks under my feet. As we stepped off the trails I could smell the faint garlic aroma of wild leeks. The area was completely covered with young trout lilies.
As I approached what appeared to be an old farmer’s field, Mick explained “This wide open area was once a lake bed. If you look around the edges you will see they are much higher than the valley we are in.” I looked out across the landscape in awe that Mick could so quickly identify this information.
Slipping back into the woods, I noticed several large depressions in the ground. Mick advised me “these depressions are called sinks. These were left over from the last ice age” Mick went on to explain how water running underground slowly eroded the softer rock in a process called solution. Eventually the cave roof collapsed and left the sinks.
One of these sinks had a small manhole cover sized hole in the bottom. “There it is!” Jeff exclaimed.
The forest was silent, except for the roar of wind blowing through the almost bare trees. The beside me lay what looked like a spring run-off channel, which ended in a hole in the ground.
The last time that Mick and Jeff were at this cave entrance, they found dozens of ancient Rib, back, and some other bones. They also found a tooth. As a result, this cave was named “Tooth Tube Cave” as the cave is what is known as a keyhole solution cave which lay under the original water table.
Quickly, Mick and Jeff removed their packs, put on their caving equipment and got to work. They started digging gently to remove the soil and sediment which had plugged up the cave entrance over thousands of years.
I stood at the top of the sink, with a bucket attached to a rope. Mick and Jeff took turns coming in and out of the cave entrance with shovels of ancient dirt and filled the bucket. I scattered the buckets full of soil at the top of the sink.
“There’s a skull in here!” Jeff yelled out. He took his camera and photographed what appeared to be a skull, near the top of the cave, off in the distance. He furiously dug through the soil to get closer to the skull.
What kind of skull could it be? Maybe even an ancient, extinct animal like a Mastodon or even a Woolly Mammoth!
After some time digging, Jeff reached what he thought was the precious skull. Sadly, it was not a skull but a flat, pancake like deposit of calcium. This deposit formed over thousands of years when the water dripped from the roof of the cave onto the dirt. It had never – ever seen the light of day before now. No humans had ever seen this rock formation. It was spectacular to behold!
After several hours of removing bucket after bucket of soil, it was time for me to climb into the cave entrance and be the third human who has ever set eyes onto the walls of the cave.
I slipped into the hole, and my head torch lit up the walls of the small cave.
The smell of dirt filled my lungs. The environment felt cool and damp. The light illuminated beads of water which defy gravity and collect on the ceiling of the cave. I was the third human being to have ever seen this sight.
Small stalactites (which “hold tight” to the ceiling) hung down, over my head. In the distance, I could see the cave opened up to a much larger cave. Who knows what hidden treasures lie in the unexplored section of the cave.
Directly in front of me, a small tube extended deep into the ground. About fist-sized, this hole extended into another cave system which lay directly beneath the present one.
I Looked behind me to see that I was inside this cave about twice my body length. I could see the cave disappeared into the distance, and opened up significantly. This find by Mick and Jeff will be a significant cave system in the near future when it has been cleared out of centuries of debris.
After an afternoon of digging, hauling, and exploring the cave system, we packed up. Walking back to the car I reflected on the fact that I was one of the first humans to ever set eyes on the inside of a new cave system in Ontario Canada.
It is simply amazing that in this modern day and age, there are still unseen sections of the earth that intrepid explorers still manage to seek out and find.