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Pole to Pole

Day 126: Johannesburg

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleI ask Martin if this is a model mine, the showpiece of the company.

'This is Anglo-American standard, the model mine's the South Mine. They all drive around in Land Rovers down there.'

Temperatures at this depth are around 50 Centigrade, and so Anglo-American have had to air-condition the earth's crust to a maximum of 28.5 degrees . . . 'the limit set by the human sciences laboratory'.

So far the experience has been curiously undramatic, the surroundings clean and spacious. Then quite suddenly there comes a point where underground car-parking becomes potholing and all Anglo-American's environmental cosmetics cannot disguise the realities of mining.

The shaft narrows to a slippery rock passage, full of water. The only light is from my helmet, and footholds are not easy to find. A scramble up spilled rock-fall leads through to a narrower chamber. The noise of the drills makes it difficult to hear instructions and it is no longer possible to stand upright. Away from the air-conditioning the heat quickly rises and the sweat begins to run. We edge carefully through into a man-made cave with little more than three-foot clearance where crouching miners are at work on the rock-face. There is great heat and terrific noise when the drills are in action.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 126
  • Country/sea: South Africa
  • Place: Johannesburg
  • Book page no: 284

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