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Mine Exploration Forum

Author The Questions we don't ask
Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 13/06/2012 13:19:35
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On forums such as this many questions are asked which usually produce either partial/complete answers, or failing that an interesting discussion. However there are many questions that are never asked because it is obvious that the answer can never be known.

It might be quite interesting to see what these questions are. So if we had a "Time Machine Telephone" that enabled the asking of a single question to either a named individual or "the guy who" what would those questions be?

My question whould be to Thomas Challoner "How did you develop the process to produce the alum mordant at Ravenscar?"

For any who don't know this process was developed in the 1600s and took about a year to convert mined alum shale into a suitable form for use in the dye industry.

The steps in the process were:-
1. Mine a large quantity of alum shale.
2. Build very big clamp (30 - 50 ft high) with the the shale and wood.
3. Fire the clamp for 9 months.
4. Extract aluminium sulphate by soaking the fired shale in water.
5. Add cooked seaweed and human urine.
6. Allow the "goo" to settle to the bottom and filter off the liquid.
7. Concentrate the liquid by boiling and collect the alum mordant as it crystalizes out.


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RJV

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 13/06/2012 13:22:43
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I thought the (quite possibly tall) tale was that he nicked it from the Italians & the Pope tried to excommunicate him as a consequence?

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Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 13/06/2012 13:31:27
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RJV wrote:

I thought the (quite possibly tall) tale was that he nicked it from the Italians & the Pope tried to excommunicate him as a consequence?


My understanding was that the Pope banned the export of the naturally occuring product from europe and the British then had to have their dying done in Europe until a way was found to make the mordant in this country. In other words no process to nick!

It was Henry VIII the Pope was trying to put pressure on.

Even if the process already existed somewhere else the question is still valid - how do you develop a process like that without today's chemistry,

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~~~ The future is not what it used to be ~~~
IP: 81.178.3.180 Edited: 13/06/2012 13:40:45 by Digit
christwigg

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 13/06/2012 16:07:09
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Digit wrote:


Even if the process already existed somewhere else the question is still valid - how do you develop a process like that without today's chemistry,


http://www.teeswildlife.org/new/alum-history

According to these possibly even taller tales he brought some Italians home in barrels.

If the alum process has been around since 2000BC, then thats an awful lot of time for trial and error.

It can accidentally get calcined by grass fires and people have been peeing on stuff for centuries too Laugh
IP: 145.8.104.65 Edited: 13/06/2012 16:07:49 by christwigg
Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 13/06/2012 16:54:56
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Perhaps I didn't word the original post very well. My intent was to discover the (mine and associated industry) questions others would like the answers to, if only they hadn't been lost to the mists of time.


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~~~ The future is not what it used to be ~~~
IP: 81.178.3.180 Edited: 13/06/2012 16:59:21 by Digit
RockChick

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 14/06/2012 17:17:15
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well, the question that springs to mind for me is - why does everyone else seem to think we have a strange hobby?!! Laugh

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NewStuff

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 14/06/2012 17:48:01
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RockChick wrote:

well, the question that springs to mind for me is - why does everyone else seem to think we have a strange hobby?!! Laugh


They are obviously weird... or scared of the dark Wink

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lab rat

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 14/06/2012 20:36:32
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When folk ask me why I go underground, I usually say 'why not!' I have fun in my life - what do you do? they usually answer either go to town shopping = BORING or watch tv = BORING!! going underground is fun... socialize, peacefull, quietness, experience life, adrenaline (junkie=me!), clamness, gathers thoughts and puts life back into perspective! They kinda understnad it then!
Big Grin

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gNick

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 17:50:43
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Been thinking about the original thread and strangely, apart from some questions about very strange processes like the original, there are strangely remarkably few.

Some ones about specific mines, like why is the Grand Level at Goldscope where it is when it could have been quite a bit lower with not much of an increase in tunnelling.

I'd love to be able to watch the guys building the arching at Nenthead as well, more of a Time video-conference call...

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Yorkshireman

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 18:03:08
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christwigg wrote:

Digit wrote:


Even if the process already existed somewhere else the question is still valid - how do you develop a process like that without today's chemistry,


http://www.teeswildlife.org/new/alum-history

According to these possibly even taller tales he brought some Italians home in barrels.

If the alum process has been around since 2000BC, then thats an awful lot of time for trial and error.

It can accidentally get calcined by grass fires and people have been peeing on stuff for centuries too Laugh


Interesting article here about Alum:

http://www.tvrigs.org.uk/industrial-geology/alum#The+Secret+of+Alum+Making

Cheers
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Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 18:40:50
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"Yorkshireman" and others, many thanks for the pointers to alum manufacture but please don't be offended if I point out that my original post was to try and find out what questions that can only be speculated upon and not actually answered were intriguing other forum members.

I find these unanswerable questions very interesting to speculate on. For example another question - why did none-precious metal working (to all intents and purposes) not happen in the pre-Columbian Americas? After all there is lots of ore out there and they did work gold and silver, and also failed to discover/use the wheel!

"gNick" You are right a "Time Machine Video" would be very usefull if only to get rid of the endless speculation as to how the stones were moved to Stonehenge and what on earth the place was used for.

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~~~ The future is not what it used to be ~~~
IP: 81.178.3.180 Edited: 15/06/2012 18:50:44 by Digit
JohnnearCfon

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 19:23:51
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I already know the answer to the most important question:-

Forty-two!
Laugh Laugh
Okay, I will get my coat! Laugh Laugh Laugh Laugh
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AR

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 22:28:42
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Just to be totally pedantic, I thought Challoner's pioneering alum works was near Guisborough ( the works at Ravenscar started quite early, but it wasn't the first one) and he wouldn't recognise the name Ravenscar, which is a Victorian invention, the place was simply known as Peak until it got re-branded!

There are all manner of questions I'd love to ask the mid-19th century mine agent William Wyatt, top of which would be why did you sink a completely new engine shaft at Field Grove when there was already a perfectly good one there?

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exspelio

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 22:46:38
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How about (re;Stoney Middleton Dale) was there more money in stal. formations than lead? IP: 87.127.158.157
Yorkshireman

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 23:23:28
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Digit wrote:

"what questions that can only be speculated upon and not actually answered were intriguing other forum members.



Hi Digit (is that dig-it or as in finger?)

I've often wondered just how seeds from an obscure tree in an area with very little water came to collected, fermented, roasted, ground and mixed with boiling water to give us coffee.

BTW: I'm almost certain that I read somewhere that lead and copper were actually used by the Aztecs and Incas. Also that Inca bronze was amazingly pure with a copper content of up to 86%. Another article I read also mentioned their use of bismuth and lead in alloys.

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Trewillan

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 15/06/2012 23:51:18
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Digit wrote:

Perhaps I didn't word the original post very well. My intent was to discover the (mine and associated industry) questions others would like the answers to, if only they hadn't been lost to the mists of time.


Is this more what you had in mind:

What were the logistics of supplying coal to the St Just mining district?

For example:
How many tons per day?

From Penzance harbour?

C19th transport horse and cart. Uphill all the way so 1 ton per load a generous maximum?

How many loads per horse per day?

Did mines own horses or use haulage contractors?

Where were the horses stabled?

Finally - has someone covered this already? Crying
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Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 16/06/2012 00:09:26
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Yorkshireman wrote:




Hi Digit (is that dig-it or as in finger?)



As in finger, the other is too suggestive of hard work.



BTW: I'm almost certain that I read somewhere that lead and copper were actually used by the Aztecs and Incas. Also that Inca bronze was amazingly pure with a copper content of up to 86%. Another article I read also mentioned their use of bismuth and lead in alloys.



I did say "to all intents and purposes" by which I meant no metal tool making culture, just decorative and religious objects etc.

As to coffee lets just be thankful someone did figure it out.


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IP: 81.178.3.180
Digit

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 16/06/2012 00:19:15
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"TreWillan" Yes that's the sort of thing but I think you blinked and missed one, namely:-

How did they cope with the much reported shortage of horses after (and caused by) the Napoleonic Wars?



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Trewillan

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The Questions we don't ask
Posted: 16/06/2012 00:31:14
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I think I missed a few, but it is getting late!

Napoleonic wars not something I know about, but a good point about a shortage of horses. And under those circumstances would farming/food production get priority over industry?

I suppose after WW1 motorised transport was becoming available, but it must have been a similar situation.

I never liked "Kings and Queens" history at school. I think this sort of detail is far more interesting.
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