Saturday, December 11, 2010

In the Tunnel

Miners with Open Flame Lamps, September 1908. Gary, West Virginia
When men first began to tunnel into the earth to remove coal, open flame lamps or candles were the only devices to light one's way. If a miner opened a pocket of lethal gas, the lack of oxygen could not only snuff out his open flame light — a warning too late — but the lives of miners also could be snuffed out. This is why miners often carried caged live canaries into the tunnels. Canaries are more sensitive than humans to diminished oxygen and poisonous gases and provided an early warning to miners. Even more obvious, an open flame could trigger an explosion or fire.

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