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Wheal Victoria Mine Underground

Underground Exploration
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 First Adit, down by the river (see the end of the page on Wheal Victoria), 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). 

View inwards, taken from further inside the main First Adit
View inwards, taken from further inside the main First 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 First 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. 

Looking down at the flooded winze in the floor of the First Adit
Looking down at the flooded winze in the floor of the First 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.

Looking closer at the pipes remaining in the 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, but possible, but it is equally unlikely that it was pumped from the main shaft - the "Engine Shaft" (see previous page) - that can be found up on the hill. Though if the shaft and adit met at some deeper level, this would of course be feasible. Another possible explanation comes from surface evidence outside on the hillside, where there are a number of possible locations for the still un-discovered 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 pipe that crosses the river in the woods above the Falls.

This un-discovered Third Shaft that was not found during my earlier surface feature researches, and from Stuart's findings, he expects that this new shaft would have been the one that the pumps worked from. This is a big step forward in solving the historical puzzles of Wheal Victoria. It is possible then, that the winze in the First 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.

The word "End" written in Lamp Black at the end of one of the adit passages
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 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 the two branches. The photographs explain...

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

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

Wheal Victoria Mine underground
The flooded shaft.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Mine underground
Looking down the flooded shaft in the lower adit, pipework is still inplace disappearing down the shaft.
The adit continues further in past this shaft.
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

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

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

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

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

Wheal Victoria 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 Mine underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Mine underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Mine underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Wheal Victoria Mine underground
(photo courtesy of Orphan on AditNow)

Return to the main Wheal Victoria PhotoFile page.

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