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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Johnny Haglund

Feb03

A huge, strange, outdoor sauna

By Johnny Haglund, Monday February 03, 2014
I caught Santosh just as he had lit up a cigarette and stood still for a few seconds. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm on a tripod. Exposure was 1/4sec at f/5, ISO 8000.

I caught Santosh just as he had lit up a cigarette and stood still for a few seconds. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm on a tripod. Exposure was 1/4sec at f/5, ISO 8000. © Johnny Haglund

It is estimated that the remaining coal under Jharia, India, has a value of about 12 billion US Dollars. Some of it will be exploited but most of it will end up in flames. Although one coal mining company has found a different way to exploit the burning coal.

“We pump water in to the ground and when the coal has cooled down a bit, we use excavators to dig it out,” says night-watchman Santosh. He and his colleague walk around the coal mine at night long to “keep an eye” on the property. I met them both during the day, took a few photos of them, and asked if I could join them for a few hours on duty the same night.

They were both a bit surprised as nobody has ever asked them that question. But they were happy to have some company.
At first they did not relax in front of my lens, but after a while the camera did not bother them anymore, and I got my shots.

In this photo of Santosh (above), we stood just atop of the place where they pump water in to the ground. When the water meets the extreme heat of the burning coal, it evaporates and this creates a huge amount of steam. On top of that, the ground is so warm I can feel the heat through the soles of my sturdy shoes.

It’s like a huge, strange, outdoor sauna out there. But probably not quite as healthy. The air is filled with ash, poisonous fumes and dust...

This is me, taking photos of Santosh and his colleague during the daytime. Taken on a Canon PowerShot G16, the exposure was 1/40sec at f/2.8, ISO 80. Photo by Moon Boruah.

This is me, taking photos of Santosh and his colleague during the daytime. Taken on a Canon PowerShot G16, the exposure was 1/40sec at f/2.8, ISO 80. Photo by Moon Boruah. © Johnny Haglund