Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Glace Bay Coal Miners Museum

We arrived in Cape Breton last Friday after an uneventful drive from Seabright. Thank Heavens!

Friday night we met Arch`s niece Debbie and her husband, Gerry and together we went to the opening concert of the Celtic Colours Festival. A fabulous evening. Following the concert we boondocked in the parking lot of the Port Hawksbury Civic Centre, where the concert was held. How convenient was that!

Yesterday we moved to the Cabot Trail Campground in Baddeck. After getting settled in we went into Baddeck to wander through the town, get some groceries, visit the Bell Museum and check out the golf at Bell Bay. If it ever dries up we will go back and play 9 holes at Bell Bay - it looks like a fun course.

Today was another rainy day (to start) so we went to the Coal Miners`Museum in Glace Bay. What a great experience.

The museum consists of an outdoor exhibit of the very large mine equipment and an indoor exhibit and movie depicting the history of coal mining in Cape Breton. All very well done. But best of all was a tour of an undersea coal mine - with a retired miner as our tour guide:
This is Wish (Wishie) Donnell. He worked in the coal mine for 23 years before retiring. What a great tour guide he was. Very patient with questions and very knowledgeable about everything to do with the mine and the area. He had a very attentive audience:
There was Arch and I, a couple from Quebec, a young woman from Florida and about 20 young military officers from around the world. They were at Camp Aldershot on a NATO military exchange training program for 3 months. Most were majors in their home armies but one was a captain and highly respected by the others. The young men pictured here were from Brazil, Botswana, Kenya and Nepal. Also represented were Sierra Leone, Libya, Colombia and one young woman, from Edmonton.

First we were given a hard hat and a cape to protect us from the low ceiling and the dampness:

We were also offered canes to use when we entered the lowest point in the mine, where the ceiling was about four and a half feet high. Note the sign above the canes.

Then we entered the Ocean Deeps Colliery:
This tunnel, which had a very gentle slope, took us out under the ocean for a small distance. In the original mine the slope was much steeper, went out under the ocean for 7 miles and the trip took one and a half hours in very small rail cars:
At the end of the passage way we entered a passage with a lower ceiling and then another with an even lower ceiling:
Note how bent over everyone is. One young man, who was about 6`4`` tall was bent nearly in half. At the end of this passage was a display depicting how the miners worked with Pit Ponies which were used to haul the coal to underground collection stations. The ponies lived underground in stables. They only came out of the mine once a year when their handlers went on vacation. Sort of a vacation for the ponies as well.
Sorry this picture isn`t very clear. It was very dark at this area in the mine. This is a model of a pit pony in the stable area.

This was what they called a room and pillar mine - the miners worked in rooms supported by pillars - and our next stop was in one of these rooms:
The ceiling was very low at this point. This photo depicts two `retired`miners in the mine. Arch worked in the gold mines in Northern Ontario in the late 1950s and so wanted his picture taken with Wishie in this mine. (as a matter of fact it was that experience, in the gold mines, that persuaded Arch that a university education was indeed a good idea!) 

Following this stop we passed through the lowest area of the mine and ended up at a small garden that is maintained as a memory of a garden one of the miners created out under the ocean in the original mine.
It is very cold in the mine during the winter months and this garden is left to fend for itself. The spike plant (I am sure it has a more botanical name) grows unattended during these months and has survived for three years,

This tour was a wonderful experience and we highly recommend you take it if ever in this area.

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    Thanks for reading my blog. I think the coal mine might be too much for me. I was waiting for the rain to end, which it has, and have read many pages of your very interesting blog. Thanks for the entertainment.


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