The Sutro Tunnel united with the Savage Mine
July 9, 1878
A Full Description of the Important Event — the Preparation for the last Blast — operations of the air current — Mr. Sutro and Sons make the First Passage Through the Tunnel.
At 9 o’clock last night a Chronicle reporter, accompanied by W.H. Patton, Superintendent of the Bonanza mines, and M. G. Gillette, Superintendent of the Savage, went down the Savage shaft to witness the making of the connection of the Sutro tunnel with the Comstock lode. Reaching the bottom of the shaft, the party descended the Incline and stopped at the 1610 station. Proceeding along the south drift 270 feet, the spot was soon reached where the connection was to be made.
A CONNECTING DRILL-HOLE.
At the end of the drift a chamber had been stopped out about ten feet in hight and eight feet broad. On the south side was a small drill-hole which constituted the first actual connection between the tunnel and the Savage. Through this hole a rush of hot air was coming up from the tunnel with a sound which could be heard some distance from the spot. The reporter placed his hand before the hole and found the air current very strong and hot. The hole went down diagonally eastward, and by placing the eye on the proper range a glow of light could be seen at the other end.
THE MEN TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER.
Present a voice came up from the tunnel: “How’s everything?”
The reporter yelled back: “First rate.”
The man at the other end of the hole, which was five and a half feet distant, however did not seem to understand, and the reporter was obliged to yell again at the top of his voice. It was hard to talk against the current of air, but every sound came up from the tunnel with great distinctness. Each man in both parties took a turn at the hole, and conversation was carried on for half an hour. The following is a fair sample of the dialogue:
Savage — Is it hot down there?
Tunnel — As ‘ot as ‘ell.
Savage — Has Sutro ordered the champagne?
Tunnel — No, not yet; ‘ave ye got henny beer?
Savage — Five casks up in the works.
Tunnel — Then we must bust ’er through to-night.
DISPATCHES FROM SUTRO.
At this point Superintendent Gillette pulled the following dispatch out of his pocket and read it to the shift at work in the Savage:
Sutro, July 8 — To M.G. Gillette: Your drills are distinctly heard directly over our last set of timbers, which is fifteen feet past our face. You seem to be slightly south of our line.
A discussion then arose as to the correctness of the survey made by James and Wrinkle, and it was generally agreed that the line was not more than a foot out of the way. The tunnel was but a few feet under the end of the drift, and the header of the tunnel had passed some sixteen feet on toward the west.
While this discussion was going on a man came stumbling along the drift and handed Superintendent Gillette the following dispatch:
Sutro, July 8th
To M.G. Gillette: Should your men succeed in knocking a drill-hole through, let them stop and not enlarge it until I am fully notified. There should be ample time given for your men and ours to retire, for I am afraid a column of several thousand feet in length of hot, foul air, suddenly set in motion, might prove fatal to the men. I shall telegraph again at 9:30, and give report of shift, which will then be out.
After the dispatch was read there was a desire on the part of the Chronicle reporter to gain the surface as soon as possible, but noticing that the rest of the party did not seem much alarmed, he kept mute and looked unconcerned. Mr. Patton said that it had been his experience that when a connection was made which caused the sudden mingling of different temperatures, that the men were nauseated, and that sometime the sickness was quite violent. Another dispatch was soon received from Mr. Sutro to Superintendent Gillette, which read as follows:
Men report drill holes knocked through near north side. Put in your blast and let your men retire to the incline. Will be at the header at 11 o’clock.
Orders were now given to wait until 10:45 before blasting, and the party chatted among themselves until the hour arrived.
THE LAST BLAST.
At a little before 11 o’clock word came up from below that Mr. Sutro was coming. The Savage men replied that they were about to blast, and the usual blasting signals were given by pounding on the rock. They were answered by the tunnel men, who filled the bottom of the drill hole with clay. Eight Rigorret powder cartridges were then put in, and another signal given that the blast was to be fired. It was answered, and the men withdrew. B.O. Williams, the foreman of the Savage, directed the operations. Tom Tengelley fired the blast. All hands withdrew to the station, and presently there was
A DULL ROAR
That shook the ground. Everybody rushed pell-mell to the spot to see the connection. About half way up the drift they were met by a blinding rush of smoke and a blast of hot air that seemed to come from Tartarus. The reporter’s lantern went out with the draft, and one after another the rest of the lights succumbed to the tremendous air-current. All groped their way along the drift, which was as black as Erebus, and presently come to the big hole which the blast had knocked out of the rock. It was about five feet square and through the gap which had been rent by the blast the light of the tunnel streamed up with a cheerful glow, and at the same time a shower of fine dust and fragments of quartz shot from the edge of the opening in the faces of the men in the drift. All hands now stripped to the buff, and with picks and bars began to enlarge the opening. As each fragment of rock fell with a crash, a cheer came up from below, and the Savage men responded heartily. The heat increased quite perceptibly, and the foul air, which had found its level in the crevices of the tunnel for years, was gradually sucked by the draft, and found its way into the Savage drift, together with the overpowering aroma of perspiring mules and sweltering men huddled in the header with the heat at 110 degrees. The Savage men faced the sudden heat gamely, but at times were compelled to group around the pad of the compressed air pipe and drink in the refreshing and cooling currents as thirsty men gulp down water.
MR. SUTRO MAKES THE PASSAGE.
After the hole had been considerably widened Superintendent Gillette ordered a ladder brought and it was let down to the floor of the tunnel, which was about ten feet below the drift, and Mr. Adolph Sutro realized his dream of years by coming up through the hole into the Savage with his two sons. He shook hands with the party and went into the 10-10 station to cool off, after which he went back by way of the tunnel to the town of Sutro.
JOLLIFICATION IN THE SAVAGE.
An American flag was placed in the giraffe as soon as the blast was made, and in a few minutes it point up the shaft in the great draft as stiff as a piece of tine. A flag was also hoisted over the works and several kegs of lager sent for. Each cage full of men that came up drank in the great event, and there was a general jollification all night.
This morning the draft of air was still very powerful but lower in temperature.
BENEFITS IN OTHER MINES.
The opening of the Sutro Tunnel has as yet made no perceptible difference in the temperature in the Hale & Norcross or California and Consolidated Virginia mines. It was quite hot in the Gould & Curry today, but there is no doubt that it will become much cooler.
The survey made by Jamie & Wrinkle, was found this morning to be curved to one inch. Mr. Sutro gave all hands a holiday this morning, and there was speech making and wine drinking at his residence.