Friday, 31 May 2013

Britannia Mine Museum

This week we made our much anticipated trek to the Britannia Mine Museum.  In its seventy-year life (1904-1974), the Britannia Mine had a fascinating history. With over 60,000 people living and working here, it was the site of the making of many exciting stories! There was pioneering work on ore extraction technologies and the peak production rates made it the then biggest copper mine in the British Commonwealth.
Heading underground via train into the first tunnel of a network of over 270 km of tunnels.
Inside we hung onto our hardhats and had a brief taste of what a miner would experience.  A miner would make $3/day (excellent pay for the time) but, in exchange, he spent his workday in darkness surrounded by horrendous noise and dirt (the "gun" in the bottom left corner, used to drill into the walls of the tunnels was nicknamed "the widow-maker" due to the excessive pollutants and noise it produced).

Dubbed the "honey cart" this contraption was pushed around by the "new guy" in order to familiarize him with navigating the extensive tunnel system in the dark.  Unfortunately everyone knew when he was coming because he was pushing the portable bathroom! This was one time that the darkness came in handy - it afforded privacy to the user.
Our guide blasted the bell once after we exited the tunnel signalling the end of our shift (3 blasts still indicate an emergency).
We then took a quick look in the building that housed all of the core samples - racks and racks of them.
The next building was an amazing one - complete with a staircase consisting of over 300 stairs.  This was were the minerals were separated from the muck.
We ended our visit by panning for gold and other gemstones. 
What a fun day!

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