More construction around water level

The volunteer team added to the workplace infrastructure yesterday and today.Approach to water level in Bell Island Mine

The plans call for a boardwalk down to the water’s edge and an entry platform on the water’s surface so that divers can get into the water without silting things out.

Unlike the vertical or near vertical shafts found in many mines, the iron ore seam on Bell Island slopes at a roughly ten degree angle.

During past exploration, the dive teams getting into the water and beginning their dives had to wade for quite a distance before being able to float themselves and their kit. At the end of a “workday” the visibility in the water column from around three metres to the surface could be zero.

Getting measured for work platform
measuring for the work platform
Bell Island Mine shaft
excellent lighting for the work area

This slope, and the average height of the mine workings — approximately three metres/ten feet — makes for a slow descent and ascent… If you recall your High-school trigonometry and sine, cosine, tangent calculations, getting to a depth of 40 metres (130 feet and around the maximum for most of our planned exploration) requires a swim of approximately 230 metres / 750 feet.

 

Investigation into Bacterial Growth

Steve Lewis exploring the Water Pipe Tunnel
Image: Jill Heinerth

One of the scientific tasks our team will undertake during the Bell Island Mine project this February is collecting samples of bacterial mats, sediment, and water at various collection points throughout the exploration area, and sending them for analysis to Dr. Cheeptham, in the microbiology department of Thompson Rivers University, B.C.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that because daylight does not penetrate caves and mine shafts, these environments support no life at all. However, this is far from the truth. Life will find a way to thrive even in conditions that seem harsh to surface-dwellers. Certainly in the dark, underground environment of Bell Island Mine, life is tough and organisms must find an alternate energy source to sunlight. But we noted very prolific bacterial growth on equipment and fixtures during our initial exploration.

Fascinated by this, we contacted Dr. Cheeptham, who has several papers published on cave life. Our hope was she had a grad student willing to research exactly what’s made its home deep in shaft #2. Luckily she agreed. Thanks Ann!