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CHAP. platform, constructed over it in such a manner
as to command a view into the great opening as far as the eye could penetrate amidst its gloomy depths : for, to the sight, it is bottomless.
Immense buckets, suspended by rattling chains, were passing up and down: and we could perceive ladders scaling all the inward precipices; upon which the work-people, reduced by their distance to pigmies in size, were ascending and descending. Far below the utmost of these figures, a deep and gaping gulph, the mouth of
the lowermost pits, was, by its darkness, rendered impervious to the view. From the spot where we stood, down to the place where the buckets are filled, the distance might be about seventy-five fathoms; and as soon as any of these buckets emerged from the gloomy cavity we have mentioned, or until they entered into it in their descent, they were visible; but below this point they were hid in darkness. The clanking of the chains, the groaning of the pumps , the hallooing of the miners, the creaking of the blocks and wheels, the trampling of horses, the beating of the hammers, and the loud and frequent subterraneous thunder from the blasting of the rocks by gunpowder, in the midst of all this scene of excavation and uproar, produced an effect which no stranger can behold unmoved. We descended with two of the miners, and our Descent interpreter, into this abyss. The ladders, in- Iron Mines. stead of being placed like those in our Cornish mines, upon a series of platforms as so many landing-places, are lashed together in one unbroken line, extending many fathoms; and being warped to suit the inclination or curvature of the sides of the precipices, they are not always perpendicular, but hang over in such a manner, that even if a person held fast by his hands, and if his feet should happen to slip, they would Ay
CHAP. off from the rock, and leave him suspended over
the gulph. Yet such ladders are the only means of access to the works below : and as the labourers are not accustomed to receive strangers, they never use the precautions, nor offer the assistance, usually afforded in more frequented mines. In the principal tin-mines of Cornwall, the staves of the ladders are alternate bars of wood and iron : here they were of wood only, and in some parts rotten and broken, making us often wish, during our descent, that we had never undertaken an exploit so harzardous. In addition to the danger to be apprehended from the damaged state of the ladders, the staves were covered with ice or mud; and thus rendered so cold and slippery, that we could have no dependence upon our benumbed fingers, if our feet failed us. Then, to complete our ap
prehensions, as we mentioned this to the miners, Catastro- they said, “ Have a care! It was just so, phe which
talking about the staves, that one of our women' fell, about four years ago, as she was descending to her work.” “ Fell!” said our Swedish interpreter, rather simply; “ and pray what became of her ? “ Became of her.”” continued
befell a Female Miner.
(1) Females, as well as males, work in the Swedish mines.
the foremost of our guides, disengaging one of CHAP. his hands from the ladder,and slapping it forcibly against his thigh, as if to illustrate the manner of the catastrophe," she became (pankata) a pancake !"
As we descended farther from the surface, large masses of ice appeared, covering the sides of the precipices. Ice is raised in the buckets with the ore and rubble of the mine: it has also accumulated in such quantity in some of the lower chambers, that there are places where it is fifteen fathoms thick, and no change of temperature above prevents its increase. This seems to militate against a notion now becoming prevalent, that the temperature of the air in mines increases directly as the depth from the surface, owing to the increasing temperature of the earth under the same circumstances and in the same ratio; but it is explained by the width of this aperture at the mouth of the mine, which admits a free passage of atmospheric air. In our Cornish mines, ice would not be preserved in a solid state at any considerable depth from the surface.
After much fatigue, and no small share of ap- Bottom of prehension, we at length reached the bottom of berg-Minc. the mine. Here we had no sooner arrived, than our conductors, taking each of us by an arm,
scene in the Great Cavern.
CHAP. hurried us along, through regions of “thick
ribbed ice” and darkness, into a vaulted level, through which we were to pass into the principal chamber of the mine. The noise of countless hammers, all in vehement action, increased as we crept along this level; until at length, subduing every other sound, we could no longer
hear each other speak, notwithstanding our utStriking most efforts. At this moment we were ushered
into a prodigious cavern, whence the sounds pro-
other female figures to exhibit, holding their dim quivering tapers to our faces, and