Mining on Milos

27 September 2017

** WARNING: If you are reading this thinking you are about to get a lesson in geology, think again!

Before we left Milos for Crete we wanted to understand a bit more about the mining industry we had seen so many scars of on both Milos and the other islands in the Cyclades that we had passed through so far.

So before we left that afternoon for our night passage to Chania we popped down to the mining museum in Adamas to learn a little bit more about the importance of the minerals and rocks found in these volcanic islands and the people who mined them.

Having spent much time this year in and around volcanos extinct (Ponza and Procida)and very much alive (Vesuvius and Mount Etna) we should by now be expert volcanologists but we must confess that the science of the volcano has largely gone in one ear and out the other. There was a helpful exhibit, however, to remind us that the hot stuff from the middle of the earth somehow finds its way to the surface and with it layers of all sorts of different rock for us to admire as we sail passed it.

The rock and minerals found on Milos and the surrounding islands includes obsian (used since prehistoric times for making sharp tools), sulphur (used for, amongst many other things, making fireworks) and baryte (used to make corrosive resistant paint for vehicles). Whatever its uses in industry baryte will always remind me of a Cadbury’s Flake!

The diversity of colours, texture and density of the rock that came from just one small island was incredible and very, very pretty. So much diversity and prettiness meant little real geological knowledge was retained!

However, the best bit for us social history lovers was the film of people talking about working in the mines, the hardship and poverty they endured and yet the love and pride they had for the industry. We were left in no doubt that the men, women and children who mined for these minerals did so in conditions that should rightly not have seen them make old age and we suspect that many didn’t. The women talked about working in the mines from as young as 12 years old. The little boy on the left of the photo looked much younger than that.

We left the museum grateful for childhoods not spent breathing in sulphurous dust.

As we left Milos that afternoon we had some more encounters with its incredible rocks. The copper in some of the cliffs made them look like mouldy bread!

But for now we were turning our backs on the mines of the Cyclades and heading south to Crete and our winter home…

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