Monday, June 25, 2018

June 24,25 – To Squamish and Britannia Mine Museum

It was a long day yesterday. Two ferries and lots of twisty narrow roads with people in cars wanting to get around us.

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The first ferry to go back south left Saltery Bay at 9:25 am. We left the campground at 8 am to try and miss any traffic and succeeded. We were the second RV in line and got a front spot on the ship. When we left it was quite full.


The drive from the Earls’ Cove terminal to the Langdale terminal was the most stressful. Lots of 30 and 40 kph curves, no shoulder and because I was near the front of the ship there were lots of cars behind me. I would pull off to let a bunch by and wait for an empty spot to start again but soon there would be more cars. There are not a lot of places to safely pull off. It’s only about 70 km down to the Langdale Terminal but it takes about 1 1/2 hours even in a car.

As we pulled into the terminal around 11:45 am the ferry was just leaving. Since they are running two ferrys on this route we only had to wait until 1 pm for the next one. Another very full ferry and this one was a triple decker.


The drive from the Horseshoe Bay terminal up to Squamish on the Sea to Sky Highway wasn’t too bad. It is mostly 4 lane so I didn’t hold any one up.

But wow! Since it is Sunday the traffic heading south back to Vancouver was a solid line and mostly stop and go just about all the way from Squamish. I was really glad we were going the other way.

Heading into Squamish we could see the Stawamus Chief. We hope to hike up it, if we find the stamina and a nice day.


We are in our first Provincial Park of this trip. I am not using very many this time because the BC parks are quite expensive. They are almost equivalent in price to the private parks. While the scenery in the provincial parks is better, if I am going to pay that much I want full hookups and WIFI.

At Alice Lake Park we at least get 30 amp electricity but no water or sewer and definitely no WIFI. We can easily last 5 days on our water supply and we have a cellular internet connection but that gets expensive if we use a lot.

A nice campsite in the tall trees. No hole in them for the satellite TV though.



After we got setup it started raining and poured down almost all night. I like it when it rains at night because we sure need it to control the forest fires.

The forecast today called for a bit of everything from sun to showers but mainly cloudy. It certainly wasn’t a day to go to a viewpoint so I went down a bit south to check out the Britannia Mine Museum. Jennie wasn’t interested so didn’t come but I think she would have enjoyed it.

It is a copper mine from the early 1900’s that is right on Howe Sound and next to the highway. The main thing everyone see as they go by is the massive mill building as it cascades down the hill.


After paying my admission, I went into the visitor’s center. There was a movie playing but it was really corny and more aimed at kids so I didn’t stay. I did see several classes of kids getting tours.

There were displays on how copper and the other minerals were used but my eyes glaze over at these. There was, however, a darkened room with some interesting mineral specimens. Since it is a low number picture day (for me) I am going to include a bunch.








Outside, I guess every mine museum need a gold panning area even though this was not a gold mine.


I guess they also need a large dump truck but this was not an open pit mine so I doubt that it was used here.


There are a few building from the mine to explore filled with old rusty equipment.


One building said it had Mystery Machines.


Not too much mystery about this one.


And I am pretty sure everyone can guess what this was.


This is the only rock that I could see lying around that had some copper in it.


The highlight of the museum is the guided tour into the mine. They run every hour. While I was waiting on the elevated platform I took this shot of Howe Sound.



From what I learned later I think the green colour is due to the millions of tons of copper tailings that they dumped into the Sound, killing most of the fish and other animals.

While we waited there were some displays to look at.


I could not figure out what this very strange and kind of scary sculpture was supposed to represent. It deserves a closeup.


Everybody has to don a hardhat and them we boarded a small tram to take us down a tunnel into the mine. The guide said that there were 210 km of tunnels.




After our short ride we walked down to a demonstration of the drilling equipment.


Looking back to daylight.



She showed us the different generations of drills and then actually turned on the compressed air and ran one of them for a short while. It is so loud that we all had to plug our ears meaning no picture.


Around the corner the next demo was of a mucking machine that picked up the blasted ore and put it into rail cars. Again the compressed air went on and she drove it back and forth a bit and dumped a rock into the bin. The picture is really out of focus. I stopped using the flash in case it was bothering people.


She had s single rock in the scoop which, after the demo, she had to grab from the bin to put back in the scoop for the next tour.

Two of my summer jobs while in university were in the nickel mines in Sudbury, since my dad worked for Falconbridge Nickel Mines. Most of the equipment here I had seen in actual action, although much newer versions. Thankfully I was never an actual miner. I was too much of a nerd and 98 pound weakling. One summer I was an electrician’s helper and the other I was a surveyor’s helper. Both were great jobs because I got to see many different parts of the mine, as the jobs were all over the place.

There was one part of the surveyor job I did not like. Once the ore is mined on each level it is dumped into a vertical shaft to be eventually loaded into skips to be taken to the surface. Once a week I had to climb down about a thousand feet on ladders in heavy steel toed rubber boots. At each level I was supposed to measure the amount of ore in each shaft.

The mine was 6500 feet deep. Down at about the 4000 foot level it is about room temperature. As the low man on the totem pole I usually got to climb down the section from the surface, where it was the coldest.

To measure the depth, officially I was supposed to drop a line to see the depth but the regulars told me that the line would snag too often so they just threw a rock down and then timed its fall. Using the gravity formula they got a good idea of the depth.

To get between levels I would sometimes take the very cramped ladders that zigzagged down next to the hoist. Other times I had to take long straight ladders bolted to the walls of roughly 40 foot square ventilation shafts. With just the light on my helmet and no cage around the ladders, it was pretty scary. I seem to remember that the levels were about 120 feet apart so that was a long climb.

The next demo the guide did was of the various lights they used, from candles, to calcium carbide flames, to battery power incandescent bulbs to, now, LEDs. She also turned the lights out so we could all see what real pitch black is like.

I also have a story about that. As an electrician’s helper we were down at the very bottom of the mine. The only light you have in on your helmet. The electricians were trying to fix a piece of equipment and needed a battery to test a circuit. Guess whose lamp got disassembled. There I was sitting in the dark trying not to think of the more than a mile of solid rock above my head.

Back outside we walked passed the building where they stored all the core samples that they took to locate the copper.



And then a quick peek into the mill building.


The ore entered at the top and they use gravity to feed it from one process to the next.

To get to the upper levels the men had to climb up this long staircase.



I managed to get a quick photosphere before we were herded out.


And then home. I found the whole place very interesting, especially the tour. Highly recommended.

The weather looks kind of lousy all week so I am not sure what we will be able to do. Our next move it just up to Whistler so we may have to drive back to the not to be missed things.

1 comment:

  1. I always like seeing photos of The Beast on a ferry! Thanks for the tour of the mine and we enjoyed hearing your stories of young Stuart in the Sudbury mines!