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Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground

Photographs (see credits given) taken 2009

Underground Exploration of the lower Second Adit

Firstly a serious note of warning. Underground exploration is not for the casual tourist, and the access to underground workings are not normally permitted, and usually restricted by locked access. Such activities should ONLY be undertaken with permission from the relevant landowners, and ONLY with experienced cavers and mine explorers, usually through a specific Caving or Mine Exploration Association or Club.

However, now we have the internet, and the wonders of digital photography, armchair exploration is also possible, and there are a number of very interesting websites with photographic exploration records. The following three websites are good places to start:

Mine Explorer ~ Mine exploring, history, archives and an extensive photographic database.

Mine Explorer Society ~ Mine exploration society in Cumbria (not Cornish, but a very good site!)

AditNow ~ Mine exploration and information sharing resource, and discussion forum.

With regard to the underground workings of Wheal Victoria, I have been contacted by an experienced Mine Explorer - Stuart Dann - who has kindly provided me with some exploratory (and explanatory) information and photographs of what he has found out about the mine. There are also some excellent photographs taken by another mine explorer "Orphan" from the AditNow website who ventured further in to the mine with a camera. By piecing all the information together, a clearer picture can be gained of the interesting history of the Wheal Victoria Copper Mine.

What was Discovered in Wheal Victoria

The photographs taken by Stuart were exceedingly hard to get, as the humidity was 100%, and in Stuart's words, " breath hangs around like clouds", but they are nevertheless a very interesting record.

The Second Adit, down by the river (see the Further Research into Wheal Victoria page), was Stuart's entry point, and progress inwards was a trial, but what was revealed were the various branches off the sides of this access adit, that were dug to see if the strings of ore discovered by the nineteenth century miners were pinching or swelling (getting smaller or larger).

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
View inwards, taken from further inside the main Second Adit, at an adit junction,
and beyond the winze found in the adit floor (photo S.Dann)

There is a pool in the floor of this Second Adit, which is called a Winze, which is an internal shaft sunk along a lode to see if it proved in depth. The depth of this winze, and whether or not it "goes", could be tested by bailing a few buckets of water out of it, but this was not able to be done. If the water level in such a shaft doesn't change, then the drowned workings are extensive.

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground Winze
Looking down at the flooded winze in the floor of the Second Adit (photo S.Dann)

The pipes that are visible in the water suggest by their presence that the winze was originally (and still is presumably) quite a deep hole, but that it can't have been very wet, due to the size of the bores.

It is very likely that, as this adit was used for expelling pumped out water from the mine, and there is evidence of pipework descending into this winze, that the winze gives access to other levels that connect with the main Engine Shaft where the pump rods descend to the mine sump, recorded as being at a shaft depth of 57 fathoms (342 feet) from grass (shaft surface).

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground Winze
Looking closer at the pipes remaining in the winze (photo S.Dann)

It is possible that this winze was pumped by "flat rods" but this was thought probably unlikely, and not practically feasible given the respective positions of the adit and the wheel-pits. It is however much more likely that this winze was effectively pumped out via the main shaft - the "Engine Shaft" - and the water present here is simply due to the complete mine having since been flooded (see the Further Research into Wheal Victoria page for more details about the Engine Shaft being the source of pumping), given that the Engine Shaft and this adit meet at some deeper level. Another possible explanation comes from surface evidence outside on the hillside, where there are a number of possible locations for any still un-discovered but postulated "Third Shaft". Just further up from the Second Wheel-pit (again see the previous page) is an aluminium pole which is hollow and drilled at the top, and whacking the top and listening reveals a possible ventilating pipe of a capped shaft, but this turned out on later investigation to be linked solely with the old china clay pipeline that crosses the river in the woods above the Falls, and has no connection at all to the mine.

This un-discovered Third Shaft that was not found during my earlier surface feature researches, and from Stuart's findings, he suspected that this new shaft could have been the one that the pumps worked from. These are all big steps forward in solving the historical puzzles of Wheal Victoria. It is possible then, that the winze in the Second Adit underlies into either this Third Shaft or the Engine Shaft, with the pump gear going down the shaft, and the water pumped out up through the winze (through the pipe in the photo) and thence out of the adit and into the river. This now seems very plausible.

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
The word "End" written in Lamp Black (soot) probably from a carbide lamp or similar,
at the end of one of the adit passages (photo S.Dann)

From Stuart's findings underground in Wheal Victoria, and as with many other mines where it is similarly not evident from the surface workings, it is quite often the case that the old miners' tools and equipment are all still in place. Stuart expects Wheal Victoria to be one of these. The winze and lower adit still have pipes in them which suggests the mine was simply abandoned, and not stripped for scrapping.

And one final point of note, using Stuart's words: "Caves are all well and good, but remember that these mines and their huge cavities were made by people with candles". A humbling thought.

Further Explorations inside the Second Adit of Wheal Victoria (courtesy of AditNow)

These further photographs taken by "Orphan" show even more detail of what lies within, further down the main passage and down the two branches that revealed themselves. The photographs explain further...

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
The view into the adit entrance - there has been some disturbance of pipes since my own photo here was taken
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
Just inside the gate in the lower adit, with a small void just to the right. No pipework on the floor.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
Further into the adit now, small amount of water running out. Good condition.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
In the adit, ahead a shaft can be seen flooded.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground Winze
The flooded shaft.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground Winze
Looking down the flooded shaft, the pipework is still in place disappearing down the shaft. The adit continues further on past.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
Looking onwards past the flooded shaft.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
Moving further in...
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
More workings.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
The split - here the adit splits off into two branches.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
Looking right from where the two branches split to where the passage ends.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Some more photographs taken from within the main adit...

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Copper Mine Underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Return to the main Wheal Victoria Copper Mine page,
or visit the Further Research into Wheal Victoria Copper Mine page

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