Why did miners use to take canaries with them to the mine?

Very often, reading a fascinating book, we are surprised by how rich and fanciful the imagination of the author is, and what extraordinary turns of life he comes up with. However, life itself presents us with such storylines that a person would never have guessed to invent. The most bizarre facts become quite ordinary after they have been explained. For example, the miners’ strange love of canaries. After all, it is known that people in this profession never went down into the mine without a cage with a canary. Were they so enchanted by the bird’s singing that they could not work? Did the trills of the canary make you more productive? No, it was much more serious than that.

The dangers of working as a miner

The work of a miner was never considered easy. Not only that but it was also considered life-threatening. Rock falls, structural failure, carbon monoxide…

If rockslides could be prevented by good, high-quality reinforcements, the fight against carbon monoxide was much more difficult. Mines’ gas, most often methane, was produced in coal mines, metal mines, and salt mines. It was extremely difficult to detect – it was colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It was dangerous to human life. When it accumulated, explosions occurred.

The problem was so acute that scientists also became concerned about it. They invented special devices – Devi lamps. With them, people went down into the mines. By the fire in the lamp, it was possible to determine the amount of methane in the air.

However, such lamps were incredibly expensive. In addition, the flame of the lamp had to be monitored at all times, which made work difficult. Companies increasingly refused to buy this device.

Why were there canaries in the mines?

But then salvation was waiting in the wings – zoologists said that a common canary was the answer. The bird is so sensitive to any gases that even low doses of methane in the air can affect it negatively.

The companies tested this statement in practice and were delighted: in a normal mine where there was no carbon monoxide; the bird behaved wonderfully it chirped merrily and jumped around the cage. But as soon as a small dose of methane appeared, the bird would first stop singing and then behave restlessly. Here, there was no need to constantly monitor the behavior of the feathery bird, the welfare of the tiny bird could be heard by its singing, and people could work in peace.

Coal mines and other companies connected with mines began not only to buy up all the canaries but also to breed them themselves. There was even a law in Great Britain that prohibited going down into mines without cages with canaries.

By the way, people monitored the condition of the little saviors. As soon as the singing stopped and the bird behaved anxiously, the miners urgently left the mines and were the first to take away the cages with the little bird. In the fresh air, the rescued bird would quickly regain consciousness. Why a female? Because male canaries sang too beautifully and therefore cost much more than females. And companies were buying females.

Until 1995, little yellow birds guarded the lives of people in the mines. But who knows, maybe even now in some distant mine, the cheerful trills of the tiny rescuer can be heard.

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