wait until the job was over. In about an hour or so I was again under weigh. And so on da capo, until about six in the evening, when I found myself within sight of the great mine. The post-house where I was set down was an inn, though without a signboard. The landlady was a bright, cheery, jolly woman. She could not speak a word of English, nor I a word of Dannemora Swedish. I was very thirsty and hungry, and wanted something to eat. How was I to communicate my wishes to the landlady? I resorted, as I often did, to the universal language of the pencil. I took out my sketch-book, and in a few seconds made a sketch of a table, with a dish of smoking meat upon it, a bottle and a glass, a knife and fork, a loaf, a saltcellar, and a corkscrew. She looked at the drawing and gave a hearty laugh. She nodded pleasantly, showing that she clearly understood what I wanted. She asked me for the sketch, and went into the back garden to show it to her husband, who inspected it with great delight. I went out and looked about the place, which was very picturesque. After a short time, the landlady came to the door and beckoned me in, and I found spread out on the table everything that I desired -- a broiled chicken, smoking hot from the gridiron, a bottle of capital home-brewed ale, and all the et ceteras of an excellent repast. I made use of my pencil in many ways. I always found that a sketch was more useful than a blundering sentence. Besides, it generally created a sympathy between me and my entertainers.

The order for dinner

My visit to the Dannemora Mine at Osterby was one of peculiar interest. I may in the first place say that the immense collection of iron ore at that point has been the result of the upheaval of a vast volume of molten igneous ore, which has been injected into the rock, or deposited in masses under the crust of the earth. In some cases the quarried ore yields from 50 to 70, and even as much as 90 per cent of iron. The Dannemora Mine is a vast quarry open to the sky. When you come near it the place looks like a vast deep pit, with an unfathomable bottom. Ghostlike, weird-looking pinnacles of rocks stand out from its profound depths; but beyond these you see nothing but wreaths of smoke curling up from below. The tortuous chasm in the earth, caused by the quarries beneath, is about half a mile long, and about a thousand feet wide.

Dannemora iron mine. After a drawing by James Nasmyth.

The first process of the workmen in the quarries below is devoted to breaking into small fragments the great masses of ore scattered about by the previous night's explosions. These are sent to the surface in great tubs attached to wire ropes, which are drawn up by gins worked by horses. Other miners are engaged in boring blast holes in the ore, which displays itself in great wide veins in the granite sides of the vast chasm. These blast holes are charged with gunpowder, each with a match attached. At the end of the day the greater number of the miners are drawn up in the cages or tubs, while a few are left below to light the slow-burning matches attached to about a hundred charged bore holes. The rest of the miners are drawn up, and then begins the tremendous bombardment. I watched the progress of it from a stage projecting over the wild-looking yawning gulph. It was grand to hear the succession of explosions that filled the bottom of the mine far beneath me. Then the volumes of smoke, through the surface of which masses of rock were sometimes sent whirling up into the clear blue sky, and fell back again into the pit below. Such an infernal cannonade I have never witnessed. In some respects it reminded me of the crater of Vesuvius, from which such dense clouds of steam and smoke and fire are thrown up. In the course of the night, the suffocating smoke and sulphureous gases has time to pass away, and next morning the workmen were ready to begin their operations as before.

The ore extracted from this great mine is smelted in blast furnaces with wood charcoal, and forged into bars. The charcoal is, of course, entirely free from sulphur. When sent to Sheffield the iron is placed in fire-brick troughs closely surrounded by powdered charcoal. After a few days' exposure to red heat, the iron is converted into splendid steel, which has given such a reputation to that great manufacturing town. It is also the steel from which the firm of Stubbs and Company, of Warrington (to which I have already referred), produce their famous P.S. files.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.