A great man once said, "Politics is inherently stupid." That great man was me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Another Cross on the Rib

--Bumped to the top for updates--

My grandfather worked as an electrician in the iron ore mines on Bell Island his whole life. He wasn't the only one employed by DOSCO who could claim to have lost friends down there. Working in those mines was extremely dangerous work; cave-ins were common, miners got caught in the mechanical trams, and workplace safety legistlation was non-existant. Hundreds of lives ended there, in the deep underground darkness.

In 1942, German U-Boats sank several ships in Lance Cove, Bell Island. They were carrying iron ore from these mines. 69 merchant mariners died in the only direct attack on a North American Settlement by Germany. My great-grandmother, plucky woman that she was, swam out into the bay and personally saved the lives of some drowning merchant marines. If you visit the mining museum on the island today, you can actually see fragments from the torpedos on display.

I've been down there, at least into the section nearest the surface. You don't ever want to get lost in them - they're an impenetrable maze and without a light you're as good as dead. I took this photo two years ago when I took the tour, and it should give you an idea of what it looks like down there.

The Bell Island Iron Ore Mines, 2005

Of course it's different with the lights off:

The Mines, lit only by the camera flash.

These mines were the longest operating mines in Canada (they still hold the record). They go three miles out underneath the ocean in Conception Bay, and are still loaded with iron ore, just waiting to be mined. Unfortunately, the mines are flooded by runoff from rainwater which has slowly and steadily accumulated since the last one closed in the sixties.

There was a story in The Telegram (St. John's) Saturday about how a group of divers were exploring the mines in an attempt to investigate their suitability as an 'adventure tourism' attraction for cave divers. One thing kept entering my mind as I read the article: that place is a deathtrap. Someone is going to die down there.

Unfortunately, someone did.




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