Caving Expedition

Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia - Sept. 27 - Oct. 06, 2007

The purpose of this expedition was to follow the water systems of Vancouver Island as they dip below the Earth's surface and carve out deep underground caves. We explored numerous different caves, all near the Port McNeill area in the northern section of Vancouver Island. This was the start of the rainy season in the Pacific Northwest and the temperate rain forest lived up to its name. It rained every day we were caving.

Many thanks to the other team members - Tony, Peter, Dave, Charles, Ariel & Alasdair.

Eternal Fountain

Eternal Fountain was the first cave we explored. It's main attraction was the fantastic waterfall that marks the opening of the cave. To get inside, we had to drop down and pass through the waterfall. Inside, the tunnels twist and turn as an underground stream thunders through the cave to the end where it drops into a deep pit. Where it goes from there, who knows?



Charles rappelling down to the waterfall at the entrance of eternal Fountain cave.

Here I am behind the waterfall. Beyond this point, an underground stream continues downward until it finally disappears in a sump at the end of the cave.


Dave and Charles helping out with the underground filming. The mud, cramped conditions, water, and humidity make it a very tough place to film in.

Minigill Cave

Minigill Cave was a challenge for us to find. All we had was a sketchy description from another caver and a questionable map but after several hours of driving in circles on dirt roads, we finally found it, tucked away out of sight in the woods. To get into the cave requires a stunning 110 foot rappel straight down into an opening in the cave's roof. The drop in was easy but the laborious haul back up the rope was a tough ascent. Caving is the opposite of mountaineering in that the uphill part comes at the end, after you've been crawling around dark, difficult passages for hours.

The formations inside the cave were fantastic with a variety of stalactites, stalagmites and crystals to be found. There were also some very tricky, technical passages that provided an exhilarating challenge.



The entrance to Minigill requires a hair raising 110 foot rappel into the mouth of the cave.

Geared up and ready to head down into the abyss.



Tony about halfway down the entrance. A large portion of the rappel is in open air.

At the bottom looking up, waiting for the next team member to drop down into sight.



The main entrance chamber has an underground river flowing through it.

Inside one of the deeper chambers where a roof collapse has left the floor strewn with boulders.



Countless soda straw stalactites cover large areas of the ceilings.

This chamber was completely covered in limestone deposits that have been building up for thousands of years.


A small crystal pool filled with stalagmites and feather-like crystals.

Devil's Bath

Devil's Bath was one of the muddiest caves I've ever had the pleasure of mucking through. The goal was to hike through the forest with two inflatable kayaks and then drag them through the cave, reinflate them and launch them out onto the underground lake. There were also other small water filled passages that required ducking under the water's surface to explore.



Hauling one of two inflatable kayaks into the cave and down to the subterranean lake.

Tony and I making final preparations to go out onto the water. The sharp rocks slashed a hole in one of the kayaks which required a hasty repair.


Exploring the waterways and flooded sinkholes.

Log Jam

While driving along one of the remote logging roads that we used to get to one of the caves, we encountered a huge log jam on Maynard Lake. These logs are the by-product of years of clear cut logging in the area and may have been floating here for years. Climbing out onto the unstable mass was akin to traversing a glacier made of wood. The entire raft of logs was moving under our feet and every so often a section would dislodge, spreading tree trunks outwards and creating slippery gaps in the flotsam. The real danger here was falling into the water between the logs and having them close back in overtop of you



A giant log jam on Maynard Lake created what I call a "wood glacier"

Charles, Tony and myself exploring the vast expanse of floating logs.


The entire wooden raft moved like it was alive. So much so that the next day, the half sunken boat boat in the background was nowhere to be seen.

Land Rovers

Transportation for this trip was provided by Devil's Gap Expedition Vehicles. The company based out of Canmore, Alberta, specializes in providing off road vehicles for long distance wilderness travel. The two Land Rover Defenders were certainly put to the test on this trip.

Many thanks to Alasdair Russell for the sweet rides.



Loading vast amounts of climbing and filming equipment in Vancouver.

Alasdair miscalculates while turning around and one of the trucks ends up in a deep ditch up against the rocks. Not good.



It took a tremendous amount of teamwork plus the electric winch on the other Land Rover to get it pulled out of the ditch. If this had happened to any other vehicles, we might have been stuck out there for days.

Back on the road and ready for more cave action. These trucks were completely tricked out with winches, off road lights, hi-lift jacks... the works.


Here I am on the hood, discussing the day's plans with Alasdair.