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Mine Exploration Forum

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Author Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
derrickman

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Joined: 18/02/2009

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 17/08/2009 17:09:18
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exactly. A contemporary of mine was suffocated in Wheal Jane around that time, hunting for specimens in an area off the main ventilation circuit.

I remember the two Germans. I find it difficult to believe they just 'wandered in', the cliff path was pretty scary even then, but access was wide open and there were some big drops between levels for the unwary
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sougher

Joined: 16/10/2008
Location: Hampshire

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 17/08/2009 22:32:20
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Most of my caving was done in the 1950's and 60's. Okay, we had freedom then which one can only dream of today, as long as we approached either the mine or land owner for permission of access, there were many old lead mines to visit and explore. There was no Health and Safety in those days but one took safety precautions as we considered a lot of the mines were old and unsafe even then, and strong friendships grew up amongst caving club members, as one's life depended upon one's mates - a few of whom have remained life long friends and who are in regular contact with me. Our equipment was primitive to say the least, but was carefully looked after and maintained. Rope ladders with round rungs about twelve inches apart, hemp rope for belaying, old cast off clothes, boiler suits, paper mache (Bevan boy) helmets, carbide lamps, hand torches of all descriptions, carabiners (if one was lucky) otherwise one learnt how to tie many types of knots (rabbits and bowlines still stick in my mind, as do sheepshanks etc.), ex-Army ruc-sacs, boots, jumping jackets, anaraks, dixies,ex-US Army tents etc. One cannot compare the equipment on sale today with what we managed with. We then started to make our rope ladders narrower and with straight rungs, following on with electron ladders, and finally about 1958 my club designed a winch which was initially hand wound but later motorised, and built to tow behind a vehicle.

To start with we were limited to where we could visit because of lack of transport, when I first started we all caught a bus or a train to Matlock (bus fare was cheaper), then we had to walk to our club's headquarters near Jugholes. Whatever mine or system we chose to explore at a weekend we had to manually carry these hefty rope ladders and rope a considerable distance over rough terrain, one person who acted as belayer always remaining on the surface. Eventually members started buying motor cycles and finally cars and the club became mechanised buying it's own club transport (which in turn towed the winch) but not until the late 1950's onwards. Another inhibitating restraint upon us was lack of money, most of the lads were apprentices and on small wages, as I was, working in an office, so this restricted us to what gear we could buy, and what transport we could afford. Summer holidays eventually found us exploring further afield in Yorkshire etc., but not often. Finally what a lot of people forget about was the fact that National Service was still in existance until about 1960, this was a big shadow that hung over young men who were not apprenticed or in a reserved occupation such as farming or mining or failed their medical, at the age of eighteen they were called up to do eighteen months National Service in the UK's armed forces, which was increased to two years at the time of the Berlin airlift. If they were apprenticed, call up was deferred until they were twenty one, they were just coming into good money after serving an apprenticeship and then had to go straight into the Armed Forces on very low pay. Lots of cavers were lost this way, as on their demob they were no longer interested in caving. I lost a few boyfriends through National Service, some of whom had to serve in Korea (the reason why the Magpie Mine was reopened by the New Zealand mining firm in the early 1950's).

So on reflection I think the better days for caving and mine exploration were the 1960's and 1970's. We still had freedom of access and we were able to explore further afield the mining regions of the UK, and also participate in expeditions to such places as the Picos de Europa in Spain, Greece (Provatina), France (The Gouffre Berger), Turkey and Iran etc., etc.

Regarding Health and Safety no major caving accidents took place until the Neil Moss Disaster in Peak Cavern in (?)1958 (I think). Afterwards several Derbyshire caving clubs attended a meeting about the accident with Derbyshire County Council patting themselves on the back on what a good job they'd done. We all jumped up and disagreed, lots of heated arguments took place (as only Derbyshire cavers can argue) and it was from that meeting and the suggestions that were put forward at the meeting that the roots of the present Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation was formed. Nowadays it is a very credible organisation which has helped many cavers and farmers over the years.
IP: 94.0.172.69 Edited: 17/08/2009 23:08:23 by sougher
derrickman

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 18/08/2009 08:59:37
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my main recollections of caving are from through the 1970s, a period beginning with the old Thetford helmets and carbide lamps still being in general use, second-hand Oldham and CEAG lamps of very various states of maintenance, old clothes and boiler suits being progressively replaced by wetsuits and the 'belay belt' coming into general use.

Plastic helmets were pretty much universal by the mid-70s with a few die-hards still using their old ones.

SRT just being introduced, the Don Whillans sit harness being about the first one widely used. Climbing type helmets brought in by SRT enthusiasts.

my old club ( 4C's from Cambridge ) still had a few rope ladders and hemp ropes, but they were not used, being regarded as past their best. I do remember making 100's of metres of wire ladder in the Scout Hut in Perne Road.... working on till everyone's head was ringing with araldite fumes then round to the Grasshopper in Mil Road for a pint Smile

IP: 149.254.49.97 Edited: 18/08/2009 09:00:44 by derrickman
Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 18/08/2009 09:22:27
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For me it has to be the present decade. Now more than ever before I can provide myself with information and contacts via the internet. I can provide advice to others. We can disseminate important imformation as never before. We have historical research that is easier than ever before. Regarding physical exploration, knowing so much more thanks to the above, trips into mines allow us a much better appreciation of what we see and therefore we have a better understanding of what we need to protect and how places can be made safer.

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Hey, who turned out the lights!
IP: 81.144.191.248
Redwinch

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Joined: 14/06/2008
Location: Yorkshire

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 19/08/2009 00:03:48
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What is that excitment of your first undergound trip, beit a 100 ft or 10000ft, the feeling of leaving sunshine, the cool air, the water wetting your ex-army boots, the feeling of a mixture of elation and fear, all these mixed, encouarge me to a lifetime of exploration, the fear/danger/exhilaration and most of all friendship of like minded people, the era doesnt matter so much as the memories that will remain for the rest of your life. My mining exploration started after a hard caving career in the late 60's. peaked in the 80's and has resurfaced now with a son who is determined to relive my exploits, happy days

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Mr Mike

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Joined: 09/06/2007
Location: Bury - In The Laboratory

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Who had it best - which decade was the best for mine explorers
Posted: 19/08/2009 09:30:24
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Redwinch wrote:

What is that excitment of your first undergound trip, beit a 100 ft or 10000ft, the feeling of leaving sunshine, the cool air, the water wetting your ex-army boots, the feeling of a mixture of elation and fear, all these mixed, encouarge me to a lifetime of exploration, the fear/danger/exhilaration and most of all friendship of like minded people, the era doesnt matter so much as the memories that will remain for the rest of your life.


Bang on Mr Redwinch, everything else everyone has said, all true, but this is straight to the point - I can related instantly to all of these as I am sure others will !

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Mr Mike www.mineexplorer.org.uk
IP: 80.41.96.214
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