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Industries – Mining – Methanometer

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Detection of methane in the mines was a matter of life and death as the gas is highly explosive. Before the invention of the methanometer, miners relied upon the blue halo effect the gas gave to the flame of their safety lamp as a means of detection.

To help detect toxic gases, miners used to carry a canary with them underground. These small birds have a very high metabolism and would quickly become distressed in the presence of gases, alerting the miners to the danger. Even after the invention of the safety lamp in the 1800s, chemical gas detectors in the 1930s and later the methanometer in the 1950s, miners continued to rely on their feathered friends well into the 20th century.

Would you believe that the last 200 pit canaries were retired as recently as 1986? The miners were very fond of their canaries and took the retired birds home as pets.