Lucky for us, there is a hurricane a happening. Or perhaps a tropical storm. There are conflicting reports on what to call it at the moment. Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Leslie is heading towards Newfoundland and here in Cape Breton we are feeling the effects of its passing. Lots and lots of rain and wind. Which really doesn’t make seeing the sites all that much fun. Well, it’s still a little fun.
Glace Bay boasts quite a few museums in comparison to its size. The most notable being the Cape Breton Miner’s Museum.
It’s a definite must see, if only for the Mine Tour that they do. The Miner’s Museum tells the history of coal mining in Cape Breton. In my opinion this history is fascinating. I had no idea the issues the coal miners faced in the early 20th century. Or that boys, as young as 9, would work in the mines. Riots, strikes, a fight for basic rights, like food and shelter, were all huge issues that coal miner’s faced for many years. It’s interesting stuff.
The Miner’s Museum was created in 1967. They built a mine specifically to use as a teaching tool for the children of the community to show them what their parents, grandparents and ancestors did to make a living. Then it became a big tourist attraction. This mine was never in operation for mining coal. The tour guides are former coal miner’s themselves. Therefore they give a personal touch to the tour. Our tour guide was fantastic. He was this gruff old man, who had worked in the coal mines for 32 years before retiring/the coal mines closed. He was able to share his own personal anecdotes which gave the tour something a little extra and enabled you to envision what working in a coal mine may have actually been like. Plus he was funny. He was also able to give a nice summary of all the exhibits in the museum in his tour.
For the tour you are given a hard hat and a cape/poncho thing. The tour guides informed us that we must wear the helmets at all times when in the mine. I learned firsthand why this was the case. The mine is really very short and for most of it you are forced to walk hunched over. The shortest point was 4 foot 2 inches. At different intervals there are large steel posts that stretch across and hold up the ceiling. They hang lower than the rest of the roof. They are solid metal and quite rusted because they have been there since 1967. I walked right into one. Hard enough that it made me fall back a couple steps. But because I was wearing the helmet I didn’t feel a thing. Without the helmet I probably would have cut my head open.
Prior to that somewhat embarrassing incident, it was funny to listen to the others of our tour group as they walked because every so often there would be a “ping” sound as someone knocked their head off the roof of the mine because they weren’t walking hunched over enough.
There were some entertaining exhibits of sorts set up in the mine, such as the Pit Ponies. There was even an underground garden. According to the museum’s website, this pony is animated, but it wasn’t when we were down there.
Additionally the Miner’s Museum has outdoor exhibits showcasing a few “Company Houses” and different mining equipment too big to keep inside the building.
The museum itself is on the edge of some cliffs overlooking the ocean. On a nice day I’m sure the view is really very nice. As it was, it was kind of bleak due to the rain and clouds. In the cliffs, though, you can see the coal.
After going to the Miner’s Museum we wanted to go to the Marconi Museum. Unfortunately it was closed 😦 As was the Glace Bay Heritage Museum 😦 Apparently we need to be in Glace Bay before Labour Day to visit these museums. But the Cape Breton Coal Miner’s Museum was interesting, educational and fun, so go there. Now. They also have a musical group called the Men of the Deep, which we didn’t see, but it might be fun.