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Interview with Raymo Shaw, The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

Posted 23/04/2019 in People

Raymo Shaw, founder of the Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc


Raymo Shaw has been exploring abandoned gold mines since he was ten years old. About six years ago he founded The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc, a team of professionals who abseil down into Victoria's historical mines to survey our long-forgotten underground. 

Their explorations and discoveries are documented and published on YouTube and social media, providing us with a unique glimpse into Victoria's rich mining history. The photos, videos and information they share of their adventures through Victoria's abandoned underground mines are absolutely fascinating. If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you subscribe to their YouTube channel and follow them on Facebook/Instagram.

The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc has now grown to about thirty five members. Using the single rope abseiling technique along with safety equipment and careful risk management, Raymo has been down at least 600 mines, sometimes surveying twenty or more per day.

Keen to learn more about these guys, I got in touch with Raymo for an interview about The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc and the amazing work they are doing. Check it out below... 

Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

How long have you been exploring underground mines?
I've been exploring since I was about ten years old.

When did The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc form as a group?
We got into it professionally about 5 or 6 years ago when I thought I had something here.

A few of the crew. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

How many members are in the Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc and how many typically go underground at one time?
We have about 35 members now. There are about 15 of us that come out on trips regularly. We also have about 4 prospectors that spot us on the surface while we are underground.

I can see in your videos that you guys take safety very seriously, what are some of the safety precautions and equipment that you use when exploring abandoned mines?
We use a variety of equipment. Gas meters and confined space tickets are a must have. We are constantly doing high risk management and watching the back of the mine is a must. Sometimes we have to abandon our explorations due to bad air and come back with an industrial blower to make entry levels safer for members.

Going down... Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

What techniques do you use to get down into the mines safely?
We use the single rope technique. On the deeper mines we use a back up line with an ASAP fall arrest device. 

What is the deepest mine you have been down?
My limit is about 123 metres due to safety and bad levels of air. But it can be more as we never really know as we go down heaps of winzes that take you down further and further. 

Raymo making his way through a very confined space! Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc


How long do you typically spend underground? What's the longest time you've spent inside a mine?
Most of the small scale abandoned mines are quite small they can only take about half hour to get down inside and finish the survey. In a big one it can be anything up to 12 hours or more. Example the Balaclava Mine we've spent the last 1 1/2 years exploring multiple times due to extensive workings. We leave no rock unturned when the geckos come out to play. 

That's amazing, it must be tough being underground for so long. Roughly how many mines have the Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc been down? 
I've been in at least 600 plus holes by now. My documentation shows about 550 I've been to but sometimes we can hit an area that has has the unknown. Sometimes we do like 20 or more a day.

Unreal! How do you locate all these mines?
Well I use old maps from trove etc that have recorded old workings and where heaps of gold rushes started. Then it's a matter of driving and bush walking with heaps of members.


Have you encountered any accidents or close calls while underground?
Nah, not as yet. I've been hit by a few rocks while climbing back up though. The deeper you go the more they hurt, almost like bullets at 100 metres or so. We just keep monitoring safety and knock anything down that we deem unsafe.

Aside from videos and photos, are you documenting these mines in any other formats? Maps, written notes, etc?
Yeah, we do document the really good ones. The Balaclava Mine is a mysterious one. The mine's plans don't look anything like how it's been drawn up. 

Mine entrance in Blackwood. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

What are some of the coolest things you have found left underground by the old time miners?
Well we find all kinds of things. Shovels, picks, old signatures, ore trucks, candle wrappers, old explosives boxes, winches, kibble buckets, axes, you name it, people's crib tin kits.

What's the strangest thing you've come across while underground?
That's a good question. Now I have to think lol. Probably miners boots.

Exploring a mine in Inglewood. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc


Do you ever come across animals or other people while you're underground?
Yes we come across animals a bit. We've rescued dogs, kangaroos, etc and lots of reptiles. We generally get a crowd if it's in a popular area.

You've been doing this for a long time, are you often still surprised by what you find in these mines today?
Yeah mate, definitely we are always learning about things. Especially different types of workings.

13 year old Aidan exploring an underground mine. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

Your 13 year old nephew Aidan posted to The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc Facebook page the other day describing one of the mines he explored with the crew. Tell us a bit about him, how long has he been exploring underground mines?
He's been exploring the underground for the last 5 years with myself. He then wanted to start to learn how to climb and go down to the deeper levels. We bought him some gear and he was off and running. To be honest he's turning out to be a great climber.

13 year old Aidan abseils down into the darkness. Image source: Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc

It's awesome that he's gotten into it from such a young age! Final question, what is it that draws you to these abandoned mines? What do you love most about what you do?
The unknown I guess, I just gotta see what's down there! 

Many thanks to Raymo Shaw, founder of the Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc, for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check these guys out on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram!

Please note that The Victorian Historical Mine Shaft Chasers Inc are an experienced team of professionals who use safety equipment and sensors during their explorations - do not attempt to enter abandoned mines without proper training and equipment as doing so may result in injury or death.

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