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No daylight reached this far so they worked by candle light, but dangerous, explosive gases seeped from the rock and if they collected in one place (a pocket), the candle flame could cause an explosion. Even if there was no explosion, the gas was poisonous and could choke the miners to death. Engineers tried to clear the gases by ventilation, making fresh air flow through the workings to carry the gases away.
Young trappers had to open and close trap doors that sealed the tunnels to control the gas and fresh air flow. Sometimes fires were burned at the bottoms of shafts so that the heated air was drawn out of the pit. There was a danger that this fire could cause an explosion. Furnaces were built at the top of shafts to do the job more safely. Scientists and inventors designed special lanterns, or safety lamps. You may have read about Stephenson and Davy. Where possible, candles were still used because they were cheaper.
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01-Aug-2007 © North Tyneside Libraries 2007-8