DAMPS PDF Print E-mail
Unclassified - Unclassified
Written by Ephraim Chambers   
Thursday, 01 January 1728 09:00
in Natural History,are noxious Steams,or Exhalations, frequently sound in close, subterraneous Places, particularly Mines, Pitts, Cellars, &c. For the Rationale of the Effects of Damps, See POISONS and MEPHITES.

The Damps in Mines are of 4 Kinds : The first which withal is the most ordinary, the Workmen apprehend in its Approach, by the Flame of the Candle's becoming orbicular, and lessening by degrees, till it goes quiet out as also by their Shortness or Difficulty of breathing : Those whoescape swooning, seldom suffer any great harmbv it but such as swoon away, tho' they are not downright su r socated, yet on their first Recovery are tormented with very violent Convulsions : Their way of Cure is to lav the Pcrson down on the Earth in a prone Posture, with a Hole dug in the Ground under his Mouth ; is this sail, they sill him full of good Ale ; and is that will not do, they conclude him desperate. The second is the Pease-slloowDamp, which is called so from its Smell. This Damp always comes in the Summer-time, and hath not been known to be mortal : The Miners in the Peak atDerby sancy it arises there from the Multitude of red TresoilFiowers, called by them Honey- Suckles, with which tht Lime-Stone Meadows of the Peake wiuch abound ; perhaps the Smell of this gives timely Notice to get out of the Way : The third is the moll pestilential, and most strange of all, is what is said of it be true: They, who pretend to have scen it, (for they say it is visible) do thus describe it : In the highost Part of the Roof of those Passages in a Mine, which branch out from the main Grove, they see a round Thing hanging, about as big as a FootBall, covered with a Skin of the Thickness and Colour of a Cob-web : Is this Bag, by a Splinter, or any other Accident, become broken, the Damp immediately slies out, and sutrocates all the Company : The Workmen, by Help of a Stick, and long Rope, have a way of breaking this ataDistancc; and when they have done it, they purisy the Place well with Fire : And they will have it, that it gathers from the Steam of their Bodies, and Candles, ascends up into the highest Part of the Vault, and there condenseth, and in Time has a Film grown over it, and then corrupts, and becomes Pestilential. The fourth, is theFulminating,or Fire-Damp, whose Vapour being touch'd by the Flame of the Candles, presently takes Fire, and has all the Essect s of Lightning, or sired Gun-powder. Thes« are sound frequently in the Coal-Mines, and sometimes, tho' rarely, in the Lead ones. How Mineral Steams may prove poisonous, may be understood from Doctor Mead's Essay on Poisons. Naturalists surnish us with very surprizinglnstanccs of the Effects o£ Damps. In the Hist. de I'Jcademie des Sciences Jin. 1701; We read of a Well in the City of Renlies, into which a Mason, at Work near its Brink, letting sall his Hammer, a Labourer, who was sent down to recover it, e're he reach'd the Water, was slrangled. A second sent to setch up the Corps, met with with the same Fate, and so a third: At last a fourth, half drunk, was let down, with Charge to call out assoon as he selt any Thing incommode him. He call'd accordingly, as soon as ho came near the Water ; and was instantly drawn out : yet he died 3 Days afterwards. The Insormation he brought them was, that he selt a Heat, which scorch'd up his Entrails. ADogbeingletdown, cried about the same Placeand died assoon as he came to Air ; But throwing Water on him, he recover'd ; as happens to those thrown into the Grotto del Cani near Naples. See Grotto. The three Carcasses being drawn up with Hooks, and open'd ; thern appear 'd not any Cause of their Death. Now, what renders the Relation the more considerable, is, that the Water of this Well had been drawn and drunk se vera I Years without the least ill Consequence. In the same History, An. 17 10. a Baker eUChartres having carried 7 or 8 Bushels of Brands out of his Oven into a Cellar 51S Stairs deep ; his Son, a robust young Fellow, going with more, his Candle went out on the JVIiddle of the Stairs. Having lighted it a-sresh, he was nosooner got into the Cellar, than he cried out for Help ; and they heard no more of him : His Brother, an able Youth, run. immediately after him ; cried out, he was dead ; and was heard no more. He was sollow'd by his Wise ; and she by a Maid, and still 'twas the same. Such an Accident struck the whole Nighbourhood with a Panic ; and no body was sorward to venture any further : till a Fellow more hardy and zealous than the rest, perswaded the four People were not dead, would go down to give them Help; He cried too, and was scen no more. Upon this, a 6th Man requiring a Hook to draw some of them forth without going to the Bottom; drew up the Maid: who, having taken the Air, setch'd a Sigh and dyed. Next Day, the Baker's Friend, undertaking to get up all the Carcasses with aHook,was let down with Ropes on a wooden Horse, to be drawn up whenever ho shoulct call. He soon call'd, but the Rope breaking, he sell back again ; And tho' the Rope was soon piee'd again, he was drawn forth dead. Upon opening him,his Meninges were sound extravagantly stretched ; his Lungs spotted with black, his Intestines swell'd as big as one's Arm, inslamed and red as Blood • an d what was most extraordinary, all the Muscles of his Arms, Thighs and Legs, torn and separated from their Parts. The Magistrate, at length, taking Cognizance of the Case, and the Physicians, being consulted ;. they gave their Opinion, that the Brands had been but ill extinouisiVd : tne Consequence of which mull be, that as all 3, e Cellars mChartres abound with Saltpetre, the unusual Heat in this, had rais'd a malignant Vapour, which had done the Mischies : and that a good Quantity of Water must be thtown in to put out the Fire, and lay the Vapour. This perform'd, a Dog, and a lighted Candle were let down withoutlnjury to either : An insallible Sign the Danger was over. A third Hislory we shall add from Dostor Connor, in his Diss'ert.Med.Phys. Some People digging in a Cellar at Paris, for supposed hidden Treasu're ; after a few Hours working, the Maid going down to call her Matter, sound them all in their digging Postures : but stark dead. The Person who managed the Spade, and his Attendant who shovel'd off the Earth, were both on Foot, and seemjngly intent on their several Offices : The Wise of one of them, as is a-weary, was satdown on theSide of aHopper, very thoughtsul, and leaning her Head on her Arm : And a Boy, with his Breeches down, was evacuating on the Edge of the Pit; his Eyes slx'd on the Ground :° All of them, in fine, in their natural Postures and Actions, with open Eyes, and Mouths that seem'd yet to breath ■ but ttiss as Statues, and cold as Clay.