madshutterbug (madshutterbug) wrote,

Life on a Karst Formation

Nigh on 13 years ago or so, Herself's brother Pasomthing brought out to teh Ranch two China Spots and a Yorkshire which he called Corky, and Corky a gift to his sister. In a scene which would prove prophetic, he plopped all three young hogs (a sow and two boars) into the same paddock as the goats, which amused the goats not one whit. It took a bit before even a corner of that paddock could be fenced off. It took a bit longer to get started on building individual pens for the hogs, and in fact involved the China Spot boar (called Dale, short name and as a namesake for one of Pasomething's favourite NASCAR drivers...) killing Corky.

Which is only incidental to the remainder of this story. Killing Corky, that is. Not the building of pens and fences.

He and Herself started working on building these smaller pens, and got two of the posts in place. While digging the third post-hole and for some reason not using the usual method (sort of 'throw' the post-hole tool shovel straight down into the ground, which results in better penetration of soil than just digging with it - this is pertinent and I hope I've explained it well enough), Pasomething felt a sudden and drastic loss of resistance to the post-hole tool.

Pulling it out of the hole (only about 20 cm/8" accross), he looked down into it and saw... dark. Only dark. Might not seem so unusual, you say, looking into a hole and seeing dark. This hole at the time shouldn't of been so deep to be denying the penetration of light. In fact, only about 30-45 cm/12-18" or so.

Calling Herself over, they both looked in and saw... dark. Herself looked about and picked up a small rock (which had come out of said hole, BTW), and dropped it in and heard a stretch of silence followed by a splash. So she dropped another and counted and heard a two-second stretch of silence followed by another splash. Definitely, a splash.

Shining a light down the hole didn't shed much light on anything except the hole sort of just stopped having any dirt at the bottom of it.

Instead of building a pen there, they decided to fence that hole off from the rest of the corner of the paddock. When I looked at things later, we determined that hole went down some 20' - 30'/6 - 9 metres or so. That, based on lowering a rope with a weight on the end until it went slack, and marking the rope, then measuring it when we pulled it back out. So we kept the fence about that hole, and in fact some time later replaced it with much stronger fence on three sides, and routed our private road in an arc around it only a bit further away than a mere 10'/3 metres.

Now, the fact that it existed didn't surprise us. North Central Baja Jorja is known as a karst formation, a limestone foundation underneath mostly sand and other soils, and limestone dissolves quite readily in water given time, which forms caves, and other things, and is why sinkholes are such a prominent landscape feature hearabouts.

It took us a while. Like, nigh on 13 years, to get our friend and neighbor James over with a couple of his friends. James is a carpenter by trade and a spelunker by hobby. James has checked out two-three of the sinkholes which opened up on our property and on neighbor's places to see if anything truly interesting (other than a hole in the ground threatening to swallow tractors or cows) presented itself.

He came by a couple evenings back with another friend of his, Buford. I'd met Buford at the New Years Eve party over at James place and we'd talked about this. Another sinkhole which is a good size (yeah, it could hold a tractor or cow) turns out to be not so interesting as it doesn't actually go anyplace, or not yet. However, this little hole I'm telling you about is more interesting.

First of all, over the intervening years the hole did what holes will do with just the action of rain and such, and gotten a bit wider. So now it's easier to get into. Getting out of it again requires a bit of preparation and the proper equipment, which these spelunkers have. This is why I called on them. When you need the right stuff, check with the people who use it and know about it.

After emulating Alice following the White Rabbit, this is what Buford tells us. What we have is a Solution Pipe. This is a channel in limestone that erodes away from water flow, yet often remains capped by soil and such. Seems that, here in North Central Baja Jorja, geologists figure there are 17 - 20 of these solution pipes ever 100 feet/30 metres or so. Most aren't particularly big. Lots of sinkholes are solution pipes which cleared their throats.

Ours goes down 28'/8.5 metres. Not straight down, it angles off a bit to the south. Down there, it opens up into what appears to be the roof of a chamber, only the chamber has filled in over time so it's not particularly high. It is about 25 feet/7.5 metres in diameter, with a mound of debris/soil which peaks under the solution pipe. It looks like, at the low spot, it might be slowly draining/filtering into another channel which could be a path to another chamber.

What are the time spans we're talking about here? Meaning, that chamber filling in over time? Oh, mebbeso 50 - 100 years, mebbeso 10,000 years. Yanno, something like that.

We figure we'll leave that fence in place around it for the time being. Buford says we might just have the next Devil's Den (another big, BIG local sink-hole which is also a swimming/diving place). Or not. However, he did asks some questions to complete the Baja Jorja Cave Survey, which is an officially unofficial geographical database of caves in Baja Jorja. How deep, how large (see above), general description (ditto), and coordinates (I find, from Buford's GPS device, that my calculations using the USGS Topographic Sectional maps wherein one may find teh Ranch to be... accurate. Damn.), property location in the record books (section, township, and such), and name.


Yes, all the caves get names, and since it's on your property you get to name it. Sometimes they get the great fancy names like Devils Den or Devils Millhopper (a really really big sinkhole/spring to the NW side of Hoggetowne), most often they get the name of whoever found them.

Well, that being the case, I said, since I didn't find it but Herself and her brother did, I expect should be one of their names. And since Herself is one of the co-owners of the property the cave is in, I guess it should be Herself.

So Buford put down the name of the cave on the form, and it is so entered in the Baja Jorja Cave Survey, as Herself's Pit.
Tags: baja jorja, life the universe and everything, teh ranch

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