Dean and I are regular hikers, fit and healthy, and were walking in the clear Cornish air. So let's try to put my posting of 25th May into perspective where I talked about the 'hellish conditions' in the deep mines of Cornwall in the 1890s, recorded by photographer extraordinaire J.C. Burrow.
An American geologist on LinkedIn commented on the posting and Burrow's photographs "primitive by today's standards, but "Hellish"? What in these photographs invokes the term "Hellish"?
But these were not fit and healthy hikers - the miners were prone to many different diseases as a result of working daily in hot, damp and dusty conditions underground. Bronchitis, silicosis, TB and rheumatism were all common complaints, making life expectancy short, and few miners in the early days were fit to work beyond the age of 40. Even in the late 20th century many tin miners died from silicosis caused by rock drilling, but in the 19th century there was no dust suppression by water. Particles of mica dust punctured the miners' lungs - it was a terrible, wasting illness.
Conditions at the rock face were almost unbearable, temperatures reaching 45C due to the very steep geothermal gradient in Cornish granite. The cramped, hot tunnel ends were occasionally fouled by the stench of human excrement. In such damp, moist conditions, a disease known as ancylostomiasis thrived, the symptoms of which were red skin blotches and anaemia, caused by contact with a parasitic hookworm that lived in human faeces. The air in the mine was polluted by dust and fumes from detonated explosives and could barely sustain a candle, some miners choosing to snub their candles out and work in complete darkness in order to conserve air.
All miners, including the women and children on the surface would work a ten hour day, six days a week in the 19th century, and although many miners and their families lived in cottages rented from the mining company, many would still have to walk several miles to and from work, in clothes wet with sweat from hours of underground toil.
Life for a miner was a far cry from the romantic view portrayed in so many of today's tourist brochures and the success of Cornwall's tin mining industry often overshadows the human cost. And there is me whingeing about the gruelling walk that Dean and I did. It really puts into perspective how lucky we are today.