glory hole

The term glory hole can refer to a cylindrical feature in a reservoir, built right in front of the dam, designed to keep the dam from being overtopped—that is, if the water gets too high, it flows into the glory hole and is transported under the dam and downstream. However, glory hole is most often used as a mining term. Originally conjured during the gold rush to describe the process employed by those miners who could not afford conventional and more sophisticated extraction methods, the glory hole was the single shaft dug straight down in hopes of happening upon a gold seam. The Glory Hole near Central City, Colorado, for instance, was once part of the most productive gold mining area in the world. In modern mining, the term has come to signify the belowground cavern—whether natural or man-made— from which material is mined. This contemporary sense, ironically, harks back to another colloquial use of the term to mean any small room or cupboard, or, in the instance of Jack London’s novel Michael, Brother of Jerry, the hidden locker at the stern of a ship. Connotatively, the expression indicates both the means to, and the chamber of, secret and sequestered booty.

Antonya Nelson