Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aye, must be a rough sea up there…

In addition to all the other reasons I wouldn’t want to be a miner, the Cornish mines added the twist of extending their horizontal shafts – the ones spreading out from the central vertical shafts – under the sea. So the miners could hear boulders on the ocean floor above rolling back and forth with the tide. I’d find that quite disquieting.

The last tin mine in this area closed in 1990, and little as we might want to be miners, the retired miners who man the reconstructed engine house of the old Levant mine seem quite nostalgic for the good old days. I asked one how to find my way up to the Geevor Mine, the mine closed in 1990, now operated as a tourist site. He walked me 100 yards up the small path that functions as a shortcut, and told me to follow this to Maggies Lane (“Of course, you won’t know it’s Maggies Lane, but it is”), and then up the lane to Geevor.

The Levant mine engine house has a remarkable two-stroke steam engine which operated from 1840 to 1930, hauling ore up to the surface and powering the cage which moved miners up and down. Amazingly enough, the engine still works today:

The Pendeen lighthouse appears in the background. One of the consequences of having high headlands is that it allows short, squatty lighthouses. This one certainly lacks the imposing presence of, say, Diamond Head on the outer banks of North Carolina. The Pendeen lighthouse does, however, prove the earth is round. The keeper at the next lighthouse up the coast could see the Pendeen light at low tide, but not at high tide. The earth’s curvature between the two was just enough for the rising tide to cut off the view of the Pendeen light.

The Crowns Shaft engine houses slightly down the coast were built in a seemingly impossible postion on a rocky outcrop. It is possible to walk down to them – I didn’t – but its hard to see carrying building materials and steam engines down the path, or hoisting them up from the rocky cove below.

As what I almost promise will be the last mine picture, I can’t resist putting in a picture of the Botallack engine house, a few hundred yards further down the coast.

Finally, speaking of tides, I had a chance to take another picture of the harbor of St. Ives the morning after the one in the post below.

The first picture was taken roughly at high tide. This second picture, with boats lying on the harbor’s sand bottom, was taken when the tide was about half out.