21 February 2011

Paradise revisited

Does it all come down to
the thing one girl fears
in the night
is another girl's paradise?

Tori Amos might not have had mine exploration in mind when she wrote that. But it may well apply! There must be girls who would not see where we ventured last Sunday as paradise. But for me it's quite close. The Cornish mine explorers introduced themselves with a proper blast, taking me on a ten hour stroll through this mine of epic beauty and extent. And now, 9 months later, they would take me back there. I was thrilled.

The entrance, and thus also the exit, was a 140 ft shaft, and some of us weren't looking forward to having to climb that. These people were catered for by a winch the Cornish had brought. This lead to me having an opportunity for enjoying some Sunday laziness while the men got that thing into position. And then we went down! Descending the rope I switched my light on. I thought. Nothing. I wouldn’t be going into a mine with the most impressively huge stopes with only my spare light, would I? I wondered if I had somehow drained the batteries unnoticed, but switching these did not help. It just wouldn’t work! Said my X-chromosomes. Luckily there were some Y-chromosomes around too, that faffed and fondled a bit, and tadaa! The light worked again. And it would continue doing that all the way.

We first went to a massive stope with the teetering tram rails balancing on decaying wood structures where we had been the previous time as well, and then we went in another direction. This mine is just amazingly beautiful wherever you go. And this time we did a smaller round, so there was plenty of time for photography. All worked together painting by light. If you have enough headlights and enough time you can light up a stope of any size! And of course there were smaller features to admire and document as well.

Strangely early the men decided to go back up (I was too busy taking pictures of oozing stuff to engage in the deciding process). First Lionel and Daz, being bold, fit and technical, would go up, and they would then work the winch to get the lesser gods up. They would need some time to get that done, so the others made a small extra round. More pretties to behold!

When the surface men were supposed to be done, two eager spirits hung themselves in the rope (the winch could pull two men at the same time), and awaited the moment they would be brought up effortlessly. And then we heard “we’ve broken it; you’ll all have to climb!” I thought that was very funny. Not everybody agreed.

We all came up without issues. Winches are for weaklings! And we evidently have none. And with that knowledge we de-rigged, changed, and buggered off, all looking forward to seeing the fruits of our photographic efforts. And you, my reader, can enjoy these already!

The first thing you see when coming in. Do notice the stope with the ladders.

The mine had evidently dried up and then gotten inundated again. Desiccation cracks underwater!

One of the treats of this mine: dodgy chemistry, leading to blood red water...

This feature might impress all, but probably has special appeal to geologists: the hanging wall, which resembles a ship's hull, is a sill, probably a gabbro specimen. And all adjacent rock has been mined away, so here you can actually see a sill in its natural habitat!

 That same sill, now from the side

 And now with people for scale

A forest of timbers

A fairytale tunnel almost choked with dripstone formations

This looks surreal... there was a waterfall that had created amazing flowstone formations. They extended forever. Do notice the dark stalagmite on the left, the broken ladder top left, and Mike's boots top right.

The water evidently contained all sorts of stuff, and precipitated amazing and colourful stone coatings on whatever it came across.

Simon (left) and Mike are ready to be hauled up, and Mark keeps radiocontact with the surface crew. He's about to hear there will be no hauling up... 

So we climb! The arm belongs to Simon who keeps some of my kit out of the way so I can take a pic of Mike, whose kit is not optimally configured, so he is struggling. But in a photogenic way!

Coming up over the edge of a shaft can be a challenge. But cavers look after each other!

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