Saturday, February 25, 2017

Down in a Hole

I love this sign that was displayed in the mine. I want to get one for my house.
This is part two of our adventure into the Cullinan Diamond Mine. Part one can be found here. 

When I last left you, Mr. Deep and I were in a metal cage-like elevator with six other tour goers, George, and a lift operator, descending 763 meters into the Cullinan Diamond Mine. While I was not scared to go into the mine and booking the tour was my idea, it was one of those moments when one wonders if one has made a mistake. I would imagine it might be like flying in a plane for the first time having that strange sensation that your body is doing something that your mind thinks might not be the best idea. I'm not sure how long the trip down took although it seemed like a while. Maybe it was three minutes? 

Me having just arrived 763 meters below the surface of the earth. 
If you've never been in a mine before let me tell you what it's like. First, it's dark. Not pitch dark because there are some lights (as you can see on the wall behind me in the photo above) and everyone is wearing headlamps but certainly dim. It's also warm.  From what I remember George told us the temperature was 26C (79F.) I didn't feel hot, sweaty or uncomfortable though even though we walked the entire time and I was decked out in the suit and the boots. It's also dirty. There wasn't litter on the ground, in that regard it was very clean, but it was dirty as in we were surrounded by rock and dirt being inside the earth and all. The whole purpose of the mine is to transport rock and dirt from one place to another. So there was a lot of dust and everything was a shade of grey. I think they gave us masks in our bags but none of us wore them. There was also a lot of water in spots which I think helped to minimize the dust. The water and dust formed a grey, silky paste on the ground. 

Walking through the mine.

The mine is also very loud. We didn't hear any blasting but there were train-like vehicles that moved through the tunnels. You can see the tracks in the photo above. The trains were smaller than regular trains and were comprised of a series, maybe six per train, of small dumpsters for the purpose of collecting and transporting the rocks. The trains themselves were loud as they squealed and gasped the way that trains do but things really got loud as huge amounts of rocks came pouring down through chutes to fill each dumpster. And we were standing right next to these trains. We were so close that if we reached an arm out we could have touched the dumpster. You can see below how we all stood to the side of the track. Except for George, he got up close and personal. 

We were told how the tunnels were created with explosives and here is proof. 
Standing as the train moves by. 

While at some points during our tour rocks were poured from above into the dumpsters, at another point, each dumpster was tipped and rocks were poured from the dumpsters through some large metal grates. After the pouring took place, we were able to walk back and view the grates and see the rocks that were too large to fit through. 

Standing near one of the chutes

During the tour, George took us into a refuge room. This room is used in case of emergency for workers to congregate. If you've seen the movie The 33 about the Chilean miners, they were gathered in a refuge room as they waited for rescue. Strangely, that movie was on TV the night we returned home from Cullinan. 

 Not sure if you can read this sign but it is a stern reminder that the refuge bay is "not supposed to be used as a tea room." Below while in the refuge bay, George showed us a map of the mine. 

One of the reasons I didn't find being in the mine scary is that there were so many workers there just going about their normal business. I managed to get a few photos of some of them. 

 Train driver

Woman working in the mine. 

Safety is obviously of critical importance and there were safety reminder signs everywhere. Also, the practice of having signs naming the employee responsible for certain areas continued underground. 

After about an hour and a half it was time to head back up to the surface. Some real live miners got on the lift with us and agreed to let me take their picture. I showed the photo to the guys and one guy, the lift operator with the glasses, said he wasn't ready when I took it so I took a separate photo of him.  That seemed to make him happy. 

The only time this tour felt like a tour was when we ended up in a jewelry store at the end. No the Deep's did not make any purchases. 

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.