June 6, 2000
Greetings from the Great Wet North. Weather improves, but I would still have a problem thinking it's actually summer. Monday was our first day driving tunnel. Dave is already a big help to Jim and Byron, having lots of experience drilling and blasting in the local rock. Jonina and I dropped them off at the mine to get started, and went to Mark Watson's to try and arrange for some off road diesel (which is not taxed, and thus costs much less). The first supplier contacted would not deliver into the quarry. The second would, but would not say when they could deliver. Finally, Mark loaned us his pickup truck, and Jonina picked up the empty drum in the quarry left from last summer. We paid a deposit on this one, but the supplier never picked it up, despite our calls. Anyway, Mark said he knew someone locally who would fill the drum for us, so hopefully we will have compressor fuel tomorrow. I think we're running on fumes.
Went back to the quarry, which is now pretty much a lake due to the weekend's rains. Several waterfalls are actively flowing from the north into the quarry. If the sun would ever come out, I bet I could give Galen Rowel a run for his money with my trusty old Pentax. Jim, Byron, and Dave had things under control, and it looked like I would be superfluous in the mine, so Jonina and I set off to recon the western veins, and Jonina's first lesson in field geology. On the way out I managed to miss the now submerged stepping stones crossing one of our ponds, and filled my Wellies. Off for dry socks..... We managed to get some bearings on the western cross vein, and hopefully can get an idea where it may intersect with the vein we are currently on. I was hoping that the local Ordnance Survey maps might have sufficient detail for me to pick out the promontories in the quarry which contain the main and cross veins, but no such luck. To get any sort of accuracy, it looks like I'll have to tape-and-compass it between the two. Think I'll wait until it dries out a bit. Don't fancy trying to do a survey ass deep in a mucky pond.
We found some small fluorite-containing cavities while climbing around on the promontory containing the main cross vein in the western quarry (there are two). The midges were particularly fierce up there, so we didn't stay long. Kind of like the harpies guarding the golden fleece, though not quite on the epic scale. There are also several very large rocks at the base of the promontory which look like they might be full of cavities. I believe Lindsay and Mick may have blasted these loose from the face some years ago, and Lindsay is of the opinion that they could produce some good stuff. I saw some old specimens of the cross vein fluorite at Lindsay's last week. It's quite attractive, glassy twins with a stronger purple color component that we are finding on the main vein. To collect these boulders we would have to drill and blast them, as we are talking truly large rocks here. Getting a compressor anywhere near would be a real pain, anyone want to bring over a portable drill for us?
Got back to the mine mid afternoon and ran into some frustrated miners. Evidently the drills were not operating to optimum specifications, and the going was slow. They still managed to get most of the holes drilled, so this morning, Jonina and drive to Kendal for the explosives. Byron spent a little time in the BSP, and collected about a dozen specimens, a couple of which, including a nice looking stalactite about 4" long, may turn out nice after cleaning. It's so tight in the back of the pocket that Byron says he'll wait until the tunnel reaches the back before doing more collecting. As is, we can't use water in the pocket to wash out the mud because the remnants of the Great Wall will create the Great Lake if we do.
After a quick stop at the pub, everyone headed back to LA, where the temporary resident chef whipped up a dinner of sautéed chicken breast with garlic and mushroom sauce. Everyone cleaned their plates, and there was talk of how they could keep their cook for the whole summer. I offered to stay if they could cover my lost income, and would have to negotiate the rate with Joan. I think they have resigned themselves to the inevitability of cooking. Everyone was a bit nackered (Britspeak) and sacked out early. Jonina did recount a humorous bit of local trivia, which the crew came across last summer. Seems that the crew spent a day off in Hartlepool, a coastal town north of Newcastle. Just why they went there was never disclosed, but tucked away in the back of a local history museum they found something on a local incident which occurred during the Napoleonic wars. Seems that there was a ship wreck off the coast, and the only survivor to wash ashore was someone's pet chimp. The locals had never seen a chimp, or a Frenchman, for that matter. As they knew that England was at war with France, and the poor chimp could not speak any English, they assumed that it must be a Frenchman, and promptly hanged the poor thing. The story, true or not, appears widely known in the northeast of the country, and is often used to infer that the residents of Hartlepool are of somewhat substandard intelligence. Jim and I thought it would be a good laugh to open a pub in Hartlepool called "The French Monkey", complete with one of those nifty hand-painted pub signs depicting a chimp in a Napoleon-like uniform with its hand stuck between the coat buttons. Somehow, I don't think we would get much business.
Well, enough of the daily babble, time to shower, fix breakfast, and go in search of unstable nitrogen compounds.
Jesse, Jim, Byron, and the fully permitted to transport and handle explosives in the UK Jonina