Friday, 24 February 2012

Boulby’s Underground World (NZ761183)

Boulby is home to the second deepest mine in Europe – its 1,400m (4,600ft) depths being a mere 40-odd metres short of those of the Pyhäsalmi Mine in Finland.  Construction began there in 1969, and it began giving up its treasure – potash – in 1973.  It supplies more than half of the UK’s requirements of the stuff (which is used in agricultural fertiliser), with rock salt being harvested, too, as a by-product.

The mine is, however, perhaps more famously known for its underground laboratory.  Due entirely to the depth of its workings, boffins run two very expensive-sounding items of equipment near the foot of the mine, namely, the ZEPLIN-III and DRIFT-II dark matter detectors.  If you’re expecting a layman’s explanation of the nature and importance of this strange-sounding and invisible material, then I’m sorry to disappoint.  Try Wikipedia or the BBCwebsite instead – where, at the latter, you will find a TV report from Boulby.

But it’s clearly important work.  And this remote outpost on the Cleveland coast is pretty privileged to be host to such a barrage of expensive equipment – for the DRIFT-II is one of only two such gadgets in operation worldwide.  And why a mine shaft, you may wonder?  Well, at more than a kilometre below ground and surrounded by solid rock, the delicate equipment is safely shielded from interfering radiation from outer space.

It’s all been running for several years now, though I don’t think they’ve found much.

More information here. - New, Secondhand, Rare Books

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