By Rebecca Drew
EERIE images reveal the Cornish mining tunnel that was once used to test explosives and research the potential impact of nuclear tests during the Cold War under the code name Operation Orpheus.
The haunting pictures show inside the 2,180-foot tunnel where rusting sleepers and collapsing structures remain. Other shots, look down into an adit (entrance) and show the unsuspecting exterior of the mine where a metal gate has been closed across.
The spectacular images were taken at the Excelsior Tunnel, Kit Hill, Callington, Cornwall by editor, Nat W (46) from London. To take the pictures Nat used a Canon EOS40D.
“I went to school in Callington which is a town at the bottom of Kit Hill, at school we would run cross country up Kit Hill and there had been persistent rumours that there were tunnels under the it,” explained Nat.
“Despite there being rumours I never met a single person who could actually identify where they were or who had been in them, or even seen them.
“The rumours that were going around when I was at school made no mention of a military connection.
“So when as part of my research into urbex locations I heard that not only were there indeed tunnels under Kit Hill but that they were part of a military research project determining how to measure the payload of nuclear weapons I was fascinated.
“As we progressed into the fascinating tunnel it dawned on us that no-one knew where we were and that the torrential rain from the days before meant a very real chance of a tunnel collapse.”
The tunnel was first dug out in around 1880 to connect to a nearby mine shaft to gain access to tin but this was abandoned half way in.
During the Cold War, the tunnel was chosen to become the first site to experiment with the detection of underground explosions under the name, Operation Orpheus to coincide with the United States’ Operation Cowboy.
There is no evidence that nuclear weapons were detonated there but in 1959, the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment exploded small charges into the granite of the tunnel at 100-feet and 300-feet.
The tunnel has been abandoned ever since the tests ended in 1960 and moved to Cumbria.
“My interest in photography centres around contrasts – decay and dirt versus new and renewal, the line between the aesthetic and the intellectual and conceptual, beauty in the mundane,” added Nat.
“I’m interested in capturing a moment in time via photography.
“I think that urbex is a particularly interesting area of photography because you clearly record a very transient moment.
“Either something that will soon be gone, or something that is already decaying, I enjoy making a beautiful photograph from something that is dirty, decaying and mundane.
“People are universally surprised that these tests were conducted in the village in which I went to school and that no-one really knows about it.”