July 3, 2001
Good Morning. It's truly summer-like here. Yesterday was warm and clear, and even got hot at times as the wind has died down. This morning is still and clear, so it looks like we're in for more of the same today. Everyone's attitude around seems to be "enjoy it while you can 'cause it won't last long". The farmers are certainly taking advantage of it, as most fields are now full of hay rolls.
Spent the better part of the day yesterday on cleaning specimens. I think we managed to move along about 6 tubs of specimens. Byron says he collected five yesterday, so we're barely ahead. I was manning one water gun, Bill the other, and Jonina was sorting and loading up tubs with new specimens for the dithionite bath as we emptied them. By early afternoon we had a number of flats ready for packing up, and Bill took them into the cottage. I'm not sure how far he got with the wrapping as I heard snoring noises coming from the living room soon after. He is on vacation though, after all.
One technical malfunction got in our way though. For those not familiar with cleaning mineral specimens, one of the standard items we use is a water gun. These things are actually manufactured primarily for the dry cleaning business, and are hand held pressure guns with a reservoir for liquid attached. The gun when fired puts out a tightly focused stream of high pressure liquid, which if accidentally directed at one's hand can inflict some serious pain even through a glove. For dry cleaning purposes, one would fill the reservoir with the appropriate solvent and spray it at spots to be removed. For our purposes, we fill it with water and blast away at the specimens hoping to remove mud and other adhering crud. Doing this without removing crystals as well is sometimes a challenge. The process, as you can imagine, gets water (and often mud) on everything in the near vicinity, including the person wielding the gun. This is often compounded here at Little Allercleugh by the weather. Water has a very high heat capacity (it's ability to store heat energy - remember basic chemistry class?). This is a very good thing, as it allows the earth's oceans to act as temperature moderators, making life on this planet possible in the first place. When you're sleeves are soaking wet despite wearing full rain gear, and the outside temperature is around 48 F with a serious wind going this marvelous heat capacity sucks it right out of you as the wind evaporates the water. This can make both mining and cleaning specimens here without getting hypothermia a serious challenge sometimes. The warm weather is a real asset to production.
But I digress, so on to the technical problems. These guns come from a number of manufacturers, and have widely varying prices. Last year we had purchased an expensive Italian-made unit that, despite costing us somewhere around $350, managed to function properly for only a couple of minutes before crapping out on us. I decided to go to the opposite extreme and purchased a couple of cheap Chinese units. I use one of these at home and have had no trouble with is, but it never gets the workout one of these things will get here. While shuffling specimens around, I accidentally knocked it over. The spray nozzle, which is attached to the unit by a very thin metal tube promptly broke right off. Cheap price, cheap construction. People say "you get what you pay for", but given the Italian gun experience I would say that if you buy something cheap you'll definitely get a cheap product. If you buy something expensive, you may get a good product, but you may have just bought someone's advertising hype instead. You pay your money and you take your chances. Anyway, with the aid of the internet, Jonina was able to locate a UK distributor for a Swiss-made unit, and with the aid of a credit card, it will be here in a couple of days.
By mid-afternoon I decided to make a trip to the mine to see how things were going on that front. Just missed the guys who had shot for the day and closed up. Stopped by the Golden Lion on the way back and got into a conversation with an old fellow who was a WWII veteran. He took great pleasure in relating many stories about his experiences with the "Yanks" during the war. He was also "Labor Man" and described to me in detail how Thatcher and her conservatives had ruined the economy of Britain. Being an outsider, I generally try to avoid getting into detailed political discussions with the locals. America being the 1000 lb gorilla in the neighborhood imparts a certain amount of political baggage one must deal with when traveling. It was certainly entertaining, though, and I can certainly see the effect that "market capitalism" has had on the British way of life.
Just as I was thinking of heading up the hill to the cottage, the crew walked in, and after another pint and more war stories (this time directed at Byron), we headed off to the mine to meet the Killhope volunteers for the tour. A large group of folks showed up - perhaps 15 total - with boots, hard hats, and lamps. Jonina played master of ceremonies and I filled in with technical details. Everyone was quite enthusiastic and a surprising number of folks took a turn at crawling onto the now opened up Black Sheep Pocket and getting quite muddy in the process. The afternoon's blast had been at the face of the west tunnel, so there was lots of chunks of galena scattered about in the muck. Byron and I had stockpiled some, and passed them out as eagerly accepted souvenirs. After almost an hour everyone emerged, group pictures were taken (today's postcard), and boots were hosed off. One cheery lass had even managed to get a good bit of mud on her face, but declined an offer of a face washing.
We finally managed to get away from the mine about 9 pm and stopped by the Mill Race for a quick dinner. Everyone was fairly exhausted by that point so it was off to the cottage and bed in relatively short order.
On today's agenda at the mine is mucking both faces, repairing a few timber sets that got rearranged during yesterday's blast, and if time allows, another round of drilling and blasting. We are also making a trip to Kendall to pick up more powder, and perhaps stop by the Morrison's "Super Store" for provisions. The Morrison's has a much better selection than the more local Safeway, so we try to take advantage of it when we go over that way.
Stay tuned for more….
Jesse and the Crew
The Killhope volunteers after the tour. I think we got them all out of the mine, but I didn't count.