Friday, August 24, 2012

Spooky cemetery in Peru

The oldest cemetery in Peru has become a hit with tourists and locals.

The Presbitero Maestro Cemetery was built between 1805 and 1808 on the former outskirts of Lima and was the first municipal cemetery in Latin America. This impressive and beautiful historical Sanctuary houses the final resting places of many historical important personalities, but is still in use. The neoclassical complex contains the largest collection of 19th century European marble sculptures in Latin America. It’s absolutely worth seeing!

It was cold and dark, and people clutching lanterns in the moonlight gave a spooky cast to Peru's oldest cemetery, now Lima's oddball hit with locals and tourists. "It is scary. But we're into it," said a teenage girl clinging to her boyfriend as they walked through darkness and silence interrupted only by visitors' footsteps.
Each group has a guide who entertain visitors with tales about those buried at the Presbitero Matias Maestro Museum-Cemetery, a Peruvian national historical monument.

The cemetery covers an area of 25,000 m². It has 6 magnificent main gates and over 220,000 people found their final resting place at this outstanding burial ground. Although the Presbitero Maestro Cemetery was declared a National Historic Monument in 1972 the sculptures and the impressive mausoleums are threatened by natural aging, air pollution, pressure of the growing population and unfortunately by vandalism. At least the Public Beneficence Society of Lima tries to preserve this jewel of peace with a very tight budget.

Night tours are scheduled with different themes for different crowds: one focuses on love; another on patriotic fervor; still others on presidents; and inevitably one focuses on death itself. "What really brings in the most people is the tour focused on death, in November, and another on love, in February," says historian Jose Bocanegra, who has the historical details at the ready.

Some visitors are so apprehensive about being in a cemetery that they tiptoe around expecting something worthy of a horror movie. 
When tours started a decade ago they were limited to no more than 40 people; but they have become so popular that groups are now as large as 350 people, mainly young people and tourists, Bocanegra said.

One of the most popular tombs for local visitors is Peruvian poet Jose Santos Chocano, who asked to be buried standing, in a one square meter space. "So his coffin was placed in the niche vertically. And on his tombstone, there are lines from his poem 'Shipwrecked Life,'" Bocanegra said. "This square meter that I have looked for on Earth will be mine, if a bit late. Dead, in the end, I shall have it. ... I only expect now a square meter, where one day they'll have to bury me, standing," the poem reads.

It is a cemetery, and it is dark, to be sure. But there is enough light for visitors to stop and get a look at Carrara marble sculptures like the "La Dama de la Mantilla" (Lady in a mantilla) and "El bastón de Hermes" (Hermes' staff). Bronze works such as "A mother weeping at her son's tomb" and "A cry of pain" also are on display, steeped in the mood of the location, adorning mausoleums that are often caked in mud and apparently forgotten.

The cemetery, tucked into a corner of Lima's Barrios Altos district, was named for its designer, the priest Matias Maestro, who also was buried there. Opened in 1808 by Viceroy Fernando Abascal during Spanish colonial rule, the facility is a sort of history of Peru in tombs and crypts. Decorated with a staggering 940 sculptures -- some of them from as far away as Italy, by sculptors like Santo Varni, Pietro Costa, Ulderico Tenderini, and Rinaldo Rinaldi, or France's Jean Louis Barrias and Antonin Marcie.

The success of the tours is a blessing for the facility, providing a source of funding to care for tombs and sculptures that have themselves often seemed on their last legs.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Naica Mine, The Cave of Giant Crystals, Mexico

The Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico, is a working mine that is known for its extraordinary crystals.
With air temperature of 50C(122F) plus relative humidity of over 90% we get humidex value of 105C (228F) !!! This is one of the most extreme places on the planet.
Naica is a working mine and the only times you can get in is on Sundays and even then only if you know someone working at, or conected to the mines. The days of just suiting up and going in or long gone.

Naica is a lead, zinc and silver mine in which large voids have been found, containing crystals of selenite (gypsum) as large as 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet long. The chamber holding these crystals is known as the Crystal Cave of Giants, and is approximately 1000 feet down in the limestone host rock of the mine.

The crystals were formed by hydrothermal fluids emanating from the magma chambers below. The cavern was discovered while the miners were drilling through the Naica fault, which they were worried would flood the mine. The Cave of Swords is another chamber in the Naica Mine, containing similar large crystals.

The Naica mine was first discovered by early prospectors in 1794 south of Chihuahua City. They struck a vein of silver at the base of a range of hills called Naica by the Tarahumara Indians. From that discovery, until around 1900, the primary interest was silver and gold. Around 1900 large-scale mining began as zinc and lead became more valuable.

The huge mines at Naica have been excavated for years, but in 1975 a massive area was drained so mining operations could take place. When the water disappeared the crystals stopped growing, however, it was more than 25 years before two miners stumbled across the vast Crystal Caves and the incredible collection of gypsum was discovered. The formation of the beams 290 metres below the surface, occurred when super-heated water began cooling and became saturated with gypsum. Over time, crystals formed in the water. One of the major problems still facing scientists wishing to study below the ground at Naica is the heat. A hot spring located close to the Crystal Caves means the temperature is too hot for people to remain in the crystal chamber for longer than ten minutes at a time.

Just before the mine was closed, the famous Cave of Swords was discovered at a depth of 400 feet. Due to the incredible crystals, it was decided to try to preserve this cave. While many of the crystals have been collected, this is still a fascinating cave to visit. In one part there are so many crystals on one of the walls, they appear to be like an underwater reef moving in a gentle undulating motion in an ocean current.

In April 2000, brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez were drilling a new tunnel when they made a truly spectacular discovery. While Naica miners are accustomed to finding crystals, Juan and Pedro were absolutely amazed by the cavern that they found. The brothers immediately informed the engineer in charge, Roberto Gonzalez. Ing. Gonzalez realized that they had discovered a natural treasure and quickly rerouted the tunnel. During this phase some damage was done as several miners tried to remove pieces of the mega-crystals, so the mining company soon installed an iron door to protect the find. Later, one of the workers, with the intention of stealing crystals, managed to get in through a narrow hole. He tried to take some plastic bags filled with fresh air inside, but the strategy didn't work. He lost consciousness and later was found thoroughly baked.
Momentarily, the penetrating heat is forgotten as the crystals pop into view on the other side of the "Eye of the Queen". The entire panorama is now lighted and the cavern has a depth and impressive cathedral-like appearance that was not visible on earlier trips with just our headlamps.
When inside the great cathedral of crystals, the pressure of intense heat create a gamut of emotions and perhaps hallucinations. One can only remain for a short period of time.

Ten years after the amazing discovery, scientists are petitioning the Mexican government to claim for Unesco World Heritage status to protect the unique formations for future generations.

It takes 20 minutes to get to the cave entrance by van through a winding mine shaft. A screen drops from the van's ceiling and Michael Jackson videos play, a feature designed to entertain visitors as they descend into darkness and heat. In many caves and mines the temperature remains constant and cool, but the Naica mine gets hotter with depth because it lies above an intrusion of magma about a mile below the surface.
It is still incredibly hot in the cave due its proximity to a magma chamber, deep underground. The air temperature is 50C with a relative humidity of over 90%, making the air feel like an unbearable 105C (228F) Entering the cave without special protective suits can be fatal in 15 minutes. I will be entering the cave wearing a special cooling suit with chilling packs inside and a specialized backpack respirator which will allow me to breath chilled air. Even with all this equipment, I will still only be able to stay in the cave for no more than 45 minutes at a time.
In extreme heat, the body begins to lose higher brain functions which made the expedition much more difficult with the risk of falling into deep pits, or being impaled on a sharp crystal. All the camera gear needs to be slowly brought up to temperature beforehand by pre-heating it and most cameras with moving parts and tape mechanisms simply will not work at all.
It is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

Geologists report that these natural crystal formations are incredibly complex, yet so simple. They have a magical or metaphysical personality independent of their chemical structures. There is a magma chamber two to three miles below the mountain and that heat from this compressed lava travels through the faults up into the area of the mine. Super heated fluids carry the minerals the miners are seeking as well as form the crystals. The mine is ventilated; otherwise, it could not be worked. Some parts, however, are not air-conditioned, such as the Cave of the Crystals, and there you feel the heat from the magma deep below. The fluids travel along the Naica fault, enter voids in the bedrock, and then form entirely natural structures that are not easily explained scientifically.

In April 2000, the mining company became confident that the water table on the other side of the fault had been lowered sufficiently to drill. When they did this, it is almost as if a magical veil of reality was breached and an entirely new world was discovered. Two caverns filled with the Earth's largest crystals were immediately revealed. More discoveries are expected to be made in this magical kingdom of intense natural beauty.

Selenite, the gypsum crystal, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, Selene, due to its soft white light, is said to have many metaphysical and healing benefits. Selenite powder has been used cosmetically for thousands of years to enhance one's natural beauty. It is believed that this crystal assists with mental focus, growth, luck, immunity, and soothes the emotions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

TauTona Mine - World’s Deepest Mine

The TauTona Mine or Western Deep No.3 Shaft, located in South Africa, is the deepest gold mine in the world with miners working 2.4 miles below the earth’s surface. Known as one of the most efficient mining processes, 5600 miners roam through 500 miles of tunnels removing the gold containing ore.
The TauTona mine exists within the West Witts area slightly South West of Johannesburg in the North West of South Africa. The mine is near the town of Carletonville. TauTona neighbours the Mponeng and Savuka mines, and TauTona and Savuka share processing facilities. All three are owned by AngloGold Ashanti. 

The mine was originally built by the Anglo American Corporation with its 2 km (1.2 mi) deep main shaft being sunk in 1957. The mine began operation in 1962. It is one of the most efficient mines in South Africa and remains in continuous operation even during periods when the price of gold is low. In 2006 AngloGold Ashanti commenced a project to extend its South African TauTona gold mine to 3.9km. This was completed in 2008 making it the world’s deepest mine, surpassing the 3,585m deep East Rand Mine by a good distance. The name TauTona means "great lion" in the Setswana language.

The mine is a dangerous place to work and an average of five miners die in accidents each year. The mine is so deep that temperatures in the mine can rise to life threatening levels. Air conditioning equipment is used to cool the mine from 55 °C (131 °F) down to a more tolerable 28 °C (82 °F). The rock face temperature currently reaches 60 °C (140 °F).

The journey to the rock face can take one hour from surface level. The lift cage that transports the workers from the surface to the bottom travels at 16 meters a second. The mine has also been featured on the MegaStructures programme produced by National Geographic.

Gold production declining due to increased seismic activity in the vicinity of the CLR shaft pillar which is being mined, and at several highgrade production panels, where production was halted for limited periods during the course of the year. Both face length and face advance were negatively affected by seismicity during the year. The increased geological risk from this seismic activity necessitated re-planning regarding mine layout and mining methods.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | GreenGeeks Review