Thanks to our friend Javier and his 8 year old son, Adrian, we spent the day yesterday driving an hour north of Vancouver to the Britannia Mining Museum.
And let me tell you - it was WAY worth it. This is a terrific museum, beautifully designed, well thought out, and fascinating. Britannia Beach was a copper mine from 1904 to 1974, when it closed because it wasn't worth the cost of getting the copper out of the rock. Above is one of the giant pieces of machinery that litter the grounds of the museum - very very very big pieces of equipment!
Every half hour you can hop on the tiny bright yellow train - I suspect everything's this color so you can see it in the dark - and take a trip into the heart of the mountain where the copper was mined.
And, although you don't go too deep into the mine, you definitely get the sense of what it's like to work there - 8 hour shifts in the dark and damp and cold, thousands of feet into the rock of the mountain. Scary stuff, especially when the very knowledgeable guide turns off all the lights and you can't see the hand in front of your face. And when he demonstrates the drills, even with your ears covered, the sound of it is apocalyptic. I can't imagine hearing that for 8 hours a day - and early on, they didn't have very good ear coverings, and went deaf very quickly.
Miners also, in the early years, died of inhaling the silica that was released into the air with the drilling. It definitely wasn't the kind of job that left you healthy, wealthy and wise at the end of it.
And it wasn't all that much better if you worked in the outside of the mine - see those steps on the right? They go up twenty stories at a 45 degree angle and they didn't have railings when they were in use. Basically, you climbed up them and then back down without handholds of any kind. Good for your cardio, I guess. The railings on the left were used for a skid that carried equipment up and down - you were fired immediately if you tried riding it because it didn't have brakes and occasionally came off the rails at the end - they found it once four buildings over.
If you want to take a beautiful drive out of the city - and stop at Horseshoe Bay for a beer and fish and chips on the way back - this is an amazing place. I loved it, took dozens of photographs, and even though it was a bit scary being in the mine, I learned a lot and enjoyed every minute of it.