New BoingBoing feature on the Boulby subsurface laboratory

Posted on Sep 23, 2014 in News | 0 comments

New BoingBoing feature on the Boulby subsurface laboratory

Get the low-down (sorry) on the dark matter and astrobiology lab hidden from view deep under the Yorkshire coast from the ASB’s very own Lewis Dartnell.

I’m standing apprehensively in the gloomy dark, my entire body vibrating with the shuddering metal cage I’m in, and surrounded by an overwhelming roar of air that’s not so much heard as felt. I turn my head to peer out through a gap in the cladding and see the enveloping cliff of rock rushing past. This is the lift serving the Boulby Mine on the north-east British coast, one of the deepest in Europe. The gale of air buffeting my clothing is from huge compressor fans ramming air down the shaft to ventilate the miles of tunnels below – to even get to the lift shaft we had to pass through a double set of airlock doors, our ears popping with the pressure pulse as we equalized.


As we descend through the darkness the roar of the fans becomes steadily more muffled and distant, and the surrounding air grows warmer. Eight minutes later we descended over a kilometer straight down into the crust of the planet.


Commercially, Cleveland Potash Ltd operates these mines to extract valuable potash, a vital component of agricultural fertiliser, as well as rock salt for wintery roads. Since opening in the early 1970s, over a thousand kilometers of tunnels have been burrowed down here. And if we were to follow this rabbit warren of branching tunnels out to their furthest extent, we’ll have left the UK mainland behind us entirely and find ourselves many miles offshore, beneath the bed of the North Sea. But it’s not the industrial operation I’m here to see today; it’s the world-class science being conducted in these Hadean passages.

Read the rest of the piece over at BoingBoing.

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