The fate of us all lies deep in the dark
July 26, 2006 6:32 AM   Subscribe

Abandoned iron mines - imagine exploring this one.
posted by Wolfdog (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mines are not generally good places to get your underground fix - they are often unstable, and more subject to cave-ins than, well - caves. The owners of land that includes a mine are usually well aware of the hazards, and unwilling to accept liability for strangers getting hurt. They therefore usually don't grant access.

If you can find a stable mine with a property owner who'll let you in, go for it. Do equip yourself properly, though - three independent light sources, warm clothes, hardhat or helmet, boots - and tell someone where you went and when you'll be back. And remember to call them when you are back. And unless each of your party has their own ascending gear that they've practiced using, do not descend into any pits.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:07 AM on July 26, 2006

There are a few in CT which they didn't list. (Although most info I can find is about the furnaces rather than the mines)

I used to live right near this one. Not terribly impressive in size, but cool (literally) nonetheless. You can climb inside the old furnace. 40-50 degrees at all times, and tons of cool slag to collect.
posted by rollbiz at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2006

Also cool and in CT: Tory's Cave.

Don't even think about it unless you have no issues with bats, though. The tunnel down is very narrow, and you WILL encounter them.
posted by rollbiz at 7:26 AM on July 26, 2006

I learned some new words today: stull, winze, stope. Fear me, Scrabble players. And thanks for the spelunkotastic post.
posted by bokeh at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2006

Holy ...

I'm such a geek ... upon reading about the drop, my first thought: Blackburrow.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:49 AM on July 26, 2006

Amazingly good photography.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 AM on July 26, 2006

Carbon dated at +40,000 BC, Lion Cavern in Swaziland is the worlds' oldest known mine [link added]:
...why would people interested in haematite go to all the trouble to mine a material that could easily be got by mining the surface.

Specularite (a different ore) was the answer. This form of iron has no surface oxidation and looks much like modern glitter. Specularite is considered to have great power by traditional Swazis and only chiefs and the most qualified priest diviners are permitted to wear it, smearing the whole body and hair with it. In one of the adits they even found a mortar and pestle to grind the specularite. In effect these ancient adits were cosmetic mines producing glitter for ceremonial occasions.
It's estimated that some 1,200 tons of material were removed from drifts up to 100 meters long.
posted by cenoxo at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2006

I'm amazed by the photos. Assuming it's pretty dark in these tiny tunnels, they must be using some astoundingly bright lights to get such clear pictures.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:29 AM on July 26, 2006

I keep reading this link as "abandoned irony mines."

That is all.
posted by Foosnark at 9:39 AM on July 26, 2006

"abandoned irony mines."


Wolfdog, Enjoyed that exploring. Thanks. Something alluring and mysterious about mines. Buried treasure.

A Death Valley miner's tunnel.
posted by nickyskye at 10:02 AM on July 26, 2006

Ugh. I get nauseous looking at these. I made through maybe five.

About ten years ago, several friends and I spent the longest 24 hours of our lives utterly lost in a cave system near my hometown. We made every mistake in the book: no maps, one battery-powered flashlight to a person (except for my poorly charged "coon hunting light.", no one knowing where we were, and no one marking our trail back.

For hours, we went deeper and deeper into the cave system, wading through water and squeezing through cracks just big enough to let skinny 17-year-olds through. When we turned back, we realized the chamber we were in had 7 entrances and no one knew through which one we had come. When we finally figured it out, the previous chamber had 5 entrances. And so on. Flashlights began blinking out one by one over the next several hours, and with the big 12-volt battery on my hip breathing its last, I swore to every God that would hear me that I'd do anything to get out.

Somehow we managed to find our way back out and were promptly greeted by a pair of irate state troopers patrolling the park looking for the owners of the cars in the lot. As best I can guess, the sun rising on the next day brightened the upper chambers, which to our now-Morlock eyes was like a magnesium flare, but it sure felt a hell of a lot like luck to me.
posted by quite unimportant at 10:58 AM on July 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Caves are one thing, mines are a completely different beast. No thanks. Caves, sure.
posted by tomplus2 at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2006

Outstanding post.
posted by tomharpel at 9:02 PM on July 26, 2006

quite unimportant , Great story and wonderfully told. Have you ever written a longer version? I'm interested in how the hell did you find your way out?! Sounds like a miracle you're here today posting in this thread rather than a skeleton in a cavern like so many movies. I'm glad you're alive. :)

wolfdog, The more I explore that site, the more interesting it gets. The Iron Miners are a group of mine researchers dedicated toward capturing and preserving the historic mining industry of the northeastern United States. In particular, our work covers the Highlands region of NJ and NY and the Anthracite region of PA. The stories of miners laboring hard underground are forever lost. This is a glimpse into their world... Faxcinating. I had no idea there were iron mines in the northeast. Love the dripping water hint of foreboding music in the index.

Nicely done "terms" page too. In the miners' forum part of this excellent site, there's some good mining art too.
posted by nickyskye at 9:55 AM on July 27, 2006

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