At a recent meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers, observations on the temperature of the earth, as shown by deep mines, were presented by Messrs. Hamilton Smith, Jr., and Edward B Dorsey. Mr. Smith said that the temperature of the earth varies very greatly at different localities and in different geological formations. There are decided exceptions to the general law that the temperature increased with the depth. At the New Almaden quicksilver mine, in California, at a depth of about 600 feet the temperature was very high - some 115 degrees; but in the deepest part of the same mine, 1,800 feet below the surface and 500 feet below sea level, the temperature is very pleasant, probably less than 80 degrees. At the Eureka mines, in California, the air 1,200 feet below the surface appears nearly as cool as 100 feet below the surface. The normal temperature of the earth at a depth of 50 or 60 feet is probably near the mean annual temperature of the air at the particular place. At the Comstock mines, some years since, the miners could remain but a few moments at a time, on account of the heat.

Ice water was given them as an experiment; it produced no ill effects, but the men worked to much better advantage; and since that time, ice water is furnished in all these mines, and drunk with apparently no bad results.

Mr. E.B. Dorsey said that the mines on the Comstock vein, Nevada, were exceptionally hot. At depths of from 1,500 to 2,000 feet, the thermometer placed in a freshly drilled hole will show 130 degrees. Very large bodies of water have run for years at 155 degrees, and smaller bodies at 170 degrees. The temperature of the air is kept down to 110 degrees by forcing in fresh air cooled over ice.

Captain Wheeler, U.S. Engineers, estimated the heat extracted annually from the Comstock by means of the water pumped out and cold air forced in, as equal to that generated by the combustion of 55,560 tons of anthracite coal or 97,700 cords of wood. Observations were then given upon temperature at every 100 feet in the Forman shaft of the Overman mine, running from 53 degrees at a depth of 100 feet to 121.2 degrees at a depth of 2,300 feet. The temperature increased:

  • 100 to 1,000 feet deep, increase 1 degree in 29 feet.
  • 100 to 1,800 feet deep, increase 1 degree in 30.5 feet.
  • 100 to 2,300 feet deep, increase 1 degree in 32.3 feet.

A table was presented giving the temperatures of a large number of deep mines, tunnels, and artesian wells. The two coolest mines or tunnels are in limestone, namely, Chanarcillo mines and Mont Cenis tunnel; and the two hottest are in trachyte and the "coal measures," namely, the Comstock mines in trachyte and the South Balgray in the "coal measures." Mr. Dorsey considered that experience showed that limestone was the coolest formation.