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The workmen employed in the mine had last made an inspection, ander General Rule 38, during the month preceding the explosion. This examination was made by two of the miners and extended over 10 days; a report of the examination was entered into the book kept in the office of the mine. The report was satisfactory and that referring to the Low Main seam was as follows:“5th September :-We
have examined the inlets and return air ways, pory ways, engine plane, and all working places in the North Flat, 1st East Flat in the 1st East district, also 2nd East Flat, South Flat and West Flats in the Stable way district, and have found them satisfactory." “7th September :-We
have examined the inlets and return air ways, pony ways, engine plane, and all working places in 5th North and 6th North in the 2nd East district, and found them satisfactory."
The record of the colliery as regards accidents is favourable. No previous disaster involving considerable loss of life had occurred during the 67 years it has been established.
The reports of the various officials on the last working day before the explosion, Saturday the 13th October, when work ceased at 1 p.m., disclosed no unusual source of danger. The customary Sunday morning examination of the mine was made by some of the officials from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
The speed of the fan had been reduced over the week end as usual.
The examiners in the various seams descended the shaft about 8 p.m. on Sunday, the 14th October, and were followed by the repairing and stonework shift at 10 p.m., and sufficient time had elapsed to allow the workmen to reach their places of work in all the seams before the explosion occurred. At the time of the explosion there were 204 persons underground, distributed as follows :In Five Quarter seam
26 Main Coal
4 Low Main
The 24 persons who lost their lives are described in a table attached to this report, Appendix I., and the positions in which their bodies were found are indicated on the plans on Plates II. and IV.
The persons in the Low Main seam were distributed as follows at the moment of the explosion : Thirty-six, including the master shifter, the official in charge of the
seam, and an examiner, were in the Stable way district; all wer at or near the working faces except a shifter, named Bloomfield, who was engaged with a pony and tub cleaning up the engine plane. Of this number two lost their lives, Bloomfield by
violence and the other by after-damp. Four were in the 1st East way, including an examiner ; three of these
persons lost their lives by after-damp. Thirteen were in the 2nd East way district, with an examiner, and nine
of them lost their lives by after-damp, including a shifter named Metcalfe, the only person using a naked light in the seam, who
was bailing water from a sump by the side of the engine plane. A shifter named Elliott, at the downcast shaft, was blown into the shaft
and killed. A stoneman named Maddison, on the engine plane, between the Stable
way junction and the 1st East way, was killed by violence and burning.
In the Main Coal seam there were, at the moment of the explosion, four persons. Of this number three lost their lives ; a shifter, named Dixon, was killed by violence, close to the downcast shaft, a man with him escaping; and a mason and labourer, who were repairing a door near the foot of the incline in the stone drift to the Five Quarter seam, lost their lives by after-damp.
Twenty-six persons were in the Five Quarter seam, most of them at or near the working faces at the moment of the explosion, and five of them were killed by after-damp.
In the seams below the Low Main seam all the persons were at or near the working faces at the moment of the explosion, with the exception of three; two were attending the steam pumping engine situated in the Hutton seam, about 100 yards from the downcast shaft, and a rapperman in the Harvey seam, who was close to the shaft.
NARRATIVE OF THE EXPLOSION.
The effect of the explosion on the surface was small, but it was at once apparent that something serious had occurred and all the officials were quickly in attendance.
The downcast shaft was undamaged at the surface, except that some of the flat sheets were displaced ; 10 panes of glass in windows facing the shaft in the Harvey seam winding engine house were broken and the glass lay on the floor of the house. One Harvey seam cage was a fathom or two below the flat sheets at the surface, the other a corresponding distance from the bottom. The Hutton seam cages were set by clear in the shaft.
The casing surrounding the top of the upcast shaft was very little damaged. The cages running to the Low Main seam, set by in the shaft
, were not damaged. Doors in a short arched road, isolating the Guibal fan from the passage leading to the Waddle fan, were displaced ; this was not discovered for some days, and until it was rectified the full ventilation was not obtained in the mine.
The fan was not damaged, but the engineman, who was in close attendance, and who had raised the speed of the engine in the usual way about 10 p.m., noticed a check in the speed of the fan engine at the moment of the explosion, and looking at the water-gauge found it reduced, no doubt owing to the short circuiting of the air in the Low Main seam as the result of the explosion. He at once gave the engine more steam until the water-gauge was nearly raised to the normal 3 inches.
Only the winding engineman for the Harvey seam winding engine was in attendance at the time of the explosion, but the other winding enginemen were quickly summoned. When the Harvey and Hutton seam enginemen tried to move their cages they were unable to do so, but the cages in the upcast shaft were free and a descent was made by that shaft.
When the Main Coal seam was reached, the rescue party were able to proceed in-bye and found the body of Dixon near the downcast shaft. They found the top of the drop staple wrecked. They were able to proceed in-bye to the stone drift to the Five Quarter seam and round the workings of that seam.
Twenty-two persons were rescued from the Main Coal and Five Quarter seams, and the bodies of the 8 victims were sent to the surface. The bodies were found at the points indicated on the plan on Plate IV.
During the exploration of the Main Coal and Five Quarter seams, the ambulance knowledge of several of the explorers came into play ; some of the miners undoubtedly owed their lives to the artificial respiration to which they were subjected.
Before the Low Main seam was reached shouts from below that seam indicated the safety of the persons in the Hutton and Harvey seams.
When the Low Main seam was reached about 1 a.m. on the 15th October it was evident from the disturbance about the shafts that this, the central seam, was the plane of the explosion.
No living person was seen near the shafts nor any bodies ; the body of Elliott, who was at the downcast shaft in the Low Main seam at the moment of the explosion, was found on 23rd October in the sump of that sbaft at the Harvey seam.
The casing at the upcast shaft in the Low Main seam was destroyed, and the bulk of the air was passing direct from the downcast to the upcast shaft.
Heavy timbers in the shaft siding were displaced, but neither here nor at any point, owing to the strong nature of the roof, were there large falls of stone, which so often impede progress and interrupt the work of exploration after explosions. The Low Main seam was rapidly explored, but owing to the state of the shafts and the fact that the explosion had wrecked the steam pipes and no use could be made of the winding engine in the Main Coal seam at the top of the Harvey seam staple or of the steam winch at the top of the staple between the Harvey and Low Main seams, the men in the Hutton and Harvey seams, who were all alive and uninjured, were compelled to wait until some repairs were made to the shafts. Refreshments, however, were lowered to them from time to time down the downcast shaft by means of a rope and small engine on the surface.
In exploring the Low Main seam it was found necessary first to erect canvas stoppings or doors between the shafts, and, as the exploration proceeded, to repair some doors and stoppings which had been displaced, but practically no difficulties of any moment were encountered and very little trouble was experienced from after-damp. The positions in which the bodies of the persons, who lost their lives in the Low Main seam, were found are shown on the plan on Plate II.
No fires were caused by the explosion.
Unremitting exertions resulted in the recovery of all the bodies of the victims, except that of Elliott, and the safe rescue of all the living by 9 a.m. on Tuesday the 16th October. In the work of rescue the shaft men, both the regular hands at the colliery, and some sinkers and shaft men from adjoining collieries who volunteered their services, had the most dangerous and disagreeable duties to perform. Mr. F. Coulson, a mining engineer in the district who specially devotes himself to shaft sinking and allied work, was called in by the owners, and under his able direction the restoration of the shafts was safely accomplished.
The body of Elliott was only found after a long search, but it was early surmised that he might have been blown into the downcast shaft, and his body was eventually found, as already stated, in the sump of that shaft on October 23rd.
In the stables in the Low Main seam shown on the plan, 56 horses and ponies were killed, they were not burned or injured, and all appear to have sunk down quietly and died from after damp, with the exception of two near the engine plane. the position of whose bodies indicated some struggling. The explosion had passed from the intake to the stables, blowing forward a metai tank and displacing a stopping, but it did no damage in the stables, beyond perhaps displacing a loose box door.
Eight ponies were out of the stables in the Low Main seam at the time of the explosion. Two of them were killed, one on the Stable way engine plane at the point where Bloomfield's body is shown on the plan, and one near the junction of the 1st East way with the Main road, and six, in the workings of the Stable way, survived.
Two ponies which were out of the stables (situated between the downcast shaft and the top of the drop staple in the Main Coal seam) were killed by after damp in the Five Quarter seam, near the top of the stone drift.
The field of the explosion was nearly confined to the Low Main seam ; practically no damage was done to the seams below, and the only damage to any seam above was confined to the neighbourhood of the top of the drop staple in the Main Coal seam. The shafts were damaged by the explosion, and the steam pipe in the downcast shaft broken ; the damage to the shafts being confined to some 20 fathoms above the plane of the explosion : below the plane of the explosion there were the scaffolds already mentioned in the upcast shaft, which protected it, the downcast shaft was more or less wrecked to the Harvey seam 43 fathoms below, but part of this damage would be due to thiugs falling in the shaft.
In the Low Main seam itself the explosion was confined to intake air ways which were also used as main and tail rope haulage roads. The roads traversed by the explosion are shown by the broken blue line on the plan on Plate II.
From the upcast shaft to the Stable way junction is 240 yards, and in this length, perhaps, the greatest evidence of force was observable, but this was probably due to the fact that there were more things here on which force could be exerted than on other lengths of the roads traversed. The explosion made a side excursion into the Stable way for 490 yards.
Returning to the junction of the Stable way it extended 900 yards in-bye in a direct line to the North, making a small side excursion up the 1st East way for about 50 yards. It extended from the main road to the top of the drop staple to the Main Coal seam, a distance of 100 yards, but cannot be said to have penetrated any distance in that seam.
This makes a total of 1,780 yards of passages over which the explosion had extended with any considerable force. From this area gusts of air had extended throughout the mine, capable some short distance from the actual area of combustion, of displacing any light doors or stoppings, or lifting air crossings but dying out rapidly and reaching distant points with so little force that it was attributed by some of the miners at the faces to a heavy fall of roof, or to the concussion from a shot. Some of the miners had to be warned to leave their work, and one was so little concerned that he fired 'a shot about 1 a.m. or more than an hour after the explosion. Two men in the Five Quarter seam were discovered by the explorers calmly getting their“ bait.”
Clear evidence as to the passage of flame, in the shape of deposits of coked coal dust, was abundant at the termination of the explosion to the north, but in the direction of the shafts it was meagre.
Only four of the victims were actually within or near the flame area ; these persons were Dixon, Elliott, Bloomfield and Maddison.
Dixon was close to the downcast shaft in the Main Coal seam, but had been outside the flame area ; his body was not burned and he had been killed by force. A man named J. McDougall was engaged with Dixon and escaped alive; when questioned, McDougall said there was a great rush of steam (owing to the fracture of the steam pipes in the shaft), and there was a quantity of dust in the air, with which he was blackened, besides being scalded by the steam, but he saw no flame.
Elliott's body, as already stated, had been blown into the sump of the downcast shaft and it was much mutilated ; the doctor could not state positively whether it was burned or not, as it had lain in water for 10 days and was much decomposed.
Bloomfield, who was engaged with a pony and tub near the limit of the explosion in the Stable way, was killed by violence, but the doctor stated his body was singed. The pony Bloomfield was using was found by the explorers alive with two of its legs broken, but it was stated not to be burned.
Maddison's was the only clear case of burning.
Persons near the shafts in the Hutton and Harvey seams experienced a. gush of dust-laden air and steam, but saw no flame.
A careful examination resulted in the finding of a considerable deposit of coked coal dust sticking to the coal, about 3 feet from the floor, on the side furthest from the shåft of the short road connecting the main road and the bottom of the drop staple, and of a lesser deposit on the in-byeside of a square rapper wire support, on the left side of the Stable way engine plane, about 20 yards on the out-byeside of the curve to the South.
Except for these two deposits, and the deposits already referred to at the limit of the explosion to the North, there was an absence of coked coal dust. In other extensive explosions, confined to dusty intake air ways and engine haulage roads, where the passage of flame could be proved in other ways, a similar absence of coked coal dust has often been observed.
Thirteen samples of dust from the mine were supplied by us to Dr. Bedson, Professor of Chemistry, and Mr. H. Louis, Professor of Mining, at the Armstrong College in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and they kindly furnished us with the analyses printed in Appendix II., together with the analysis of one specimen, No. 2, collected by Mr. Louis himself.
Mr. W. N. Atkinson, H.M. Inspector of Mines, examined with the microscope two samples of dust, one from the top of the drop staple, and the other from timber on the main haulage road in the Low Main seam opposite the downcast shaft. He informed us that the sample from the top of the drop staple “ contains shelly particles showing fusion caused by flame.” The other sample he said “ contains very few particles large enough to be certain about as to fusion. There are many conglomerations of fine particles.”
From the indications of the direction of force there was no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the explosion had come out-bye to the shafts from some point on the main road to the north, beyond its junction with the Stable way, and had then passed to the shafts and into the Stable way. Indications of the passage of force out-bye on the main road were observed both between the shafts and the Stable way junction and in-bye of the junction, then extending about 90 yards there was a distinct length of road on which, although there were things to disturb, no disturbance had taken place ; beyond the undisturbed length evidences of a renewal of disturbance were apparent, and indications that the explosion had passed in-bye and a short distance
up the 1st East way. The explosion did not continue its course in-bye. . far until all evidence of force ceased. Ñear where the force ceased going in-bye. there was, as already stated, most coked coal dust observed, and this coked dust was nearly all deposited on the in-byeside of the
on the in-byeside of the props and crowne. This somewhat curious phenomenon led some observers in this explosion, as similar indications often did in earlier explosions, to come to an erroneous conclusion as to the direction in which the explosion had travelled, as at first sight it appears likely that the crusts of coke would be deposited on the surfaces of timber facing the direction of the explosion. But it has been abundantly proved that as a rule the deposits of coked dust are on the opposite side of timber, &c. to that facing the direction in which an explosion travels. In this case there could be no doubt that, wherever the origin of the explosion lay, it had gone in-bye past where this coking was observed.
CAUSES OF THE DEATHS.
The circumstances attending the deaths of persons within the area of the flame and force of an explosion can alone afford any evidence as to the immediate cause of the explosion, but there are important considerations as regards the safest course to be followed by persons in the seam or mine outside such area, particularly in the case of those so situated that roads full of after-damp lie between them and the shafts, which make it necessary to describe in some detail the remaining deaths, as well as stating the reasons why others escaped.