Wednesday, June 17, 2009
One Kilometre Underground - clunk!
One of the scariest things I have done, is to travel one kilometre underground to a coal mine, west of Brisbane.
Meeting the men who would ultimately be in charge of saving my life if anything went wrong, I was kitted up with grey overalls, heavy boots and a 20kg emergency pack, (well it seemed that heavy anyway) slung over my hip. Tragically, I also had to wear a hard hat, my poor head is just too small for these things, lol. The hardhat also had my light, which I would need in the total darkness.
Walking was difficult as my hard boots were a mans size, and my little size 6 feet had to lift and clump, lift and clump. The Emergency Pack held my supply of oxygen and other things you and I don't wish to know about, suffice to say it was bloody heavy, and very awkward on my hip.
We went down the mine on a low-riding thingy, (see picture) which I have no idea what the name of it is now days...and the immediate thing that struck me was that all the walls are painted white, to help reflect what little light there is.
Electricity, telephone and water are also powered down the mine, allowing limited lighting and use of water for washing etc. Throughout the mine, there are ante-rooms, some with a table and chair for smoko-time, lol. These "rooms" are for safety and access to rest whilst heavy machinery operated close-by.
The men joke with me, and one smarty says "Let's show Patty just HOW dark it is in here, lights OFF!" and with that, I am plunged into total, mind-numbing darkness. I feel like a bat, using all of my senses to strain to listen to where the men are. "Fellas?" I call out, nervous, but also enjoying the joke.
It is incredibly hot and humid underground, the temp was prolly 38c and water seemed to run everywhere on the ground. 'Underground creeks" came the answer, hmmm.
Huge diggers came and went, shifting tonnes of coal and structure around like it was a sandbox. As I was not allowed to use my normal Uniden mobile phone in case of a spark, I had to use the underground landline phone.
Throughout the whole interview, you can hear "Clunk, hello Peter, can you hear me?
"Clunk", I am speaking with Joe Blogs, good morning Joe, Clunk!" My hands were shaking so much, I kept hitting not only my own hardhat, but also poor Joe Blogs hardhat, each time I placed the phone near him for his interview responses.
Fresh air never seemed so good at the surface, and then we relaxed and took our photos. Whew!