Friday, June 20, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

This morning it is cool and the breeze is up, blowing clouds through the dale at a fair clip. One minute you look out and it is bright and sunny, the next, overcast and threatening rain. Yesterday was much like this and on several occasions the clouds carried through with the threats. As a result, by yesterday afternoon the quarry was back to mud-pit status. Driving in and out when the quarry is in this condition can be a real treat. The quarry floor is on a rather fissile layer of shale. When water is added this stuff becomes quite slippery and it is very easy to “fish-tail” your car even at very low speed. If someone out there has a spare Bobcat or JCB and would like to come and shift some gravel onto our slick and potholed road, I would be most grateful.

Yesterday at the mine we were in full mucking mode. With both Byron and me assisting Dave, things went fairly quickly and by mid-afternoon we had the entire face cleaned up. The debris from the last shot had a lot of mud in it, which when wet (as it usually is) can cause much of a load to remain stuck to the bottom of the mucking car when it is tipped onto the dump. One would think that this stuff could simply be washed out with a water hose when the tub is tipped over, but such is not the case. Our prize-winning mud at the Rogerley makes such a fine adhesive that it has to be scraped out, which is a time-consuming process. As there are other ways we would prefer to have our time consumed around the mine, Dave quickly came up with a solution, which involved laying a sheet of plastic fashioned from an old livestock feed bag on the bottom of the empty tub and dumping the muck in on top of it. Worked like a charm in keeping the muck from sticking to the tub, but each time we dumped a load (and we did about 12 of them), the plastic diaper went down the dump with everything else. Guess who had the pleasure of sliding down the muck pile to retrieve it each time.

Upon inspecting the now cleaned face it was apparent that the blast had pulled a section of the tunnel roof to a higher level than would have been ideal. Even less desirable was the large rock in the middle of this area that appeared to be held in place solely by our fabulously adhesive mud. With the ceiling of the tunnel now about a meter above the level of the previous timber sets, Dave had to construct a second support on top of the new set in order to insure the rock remained in place. Obviously, this is not the first time Dave has encountered this issue as he had it sorted fairly quickly. Today’s photo is of the timbering process. Dave’s boots can be seen as he disappears up onto the top of the first set, while Byron looks on and provides suggestions and encouragement.

Peter & Co. took the day to play tourist and went up to some of the Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall. Evidently the same rain squalls that periodically passes through the dale caught them as well. At least we could retreat underground. Everyone rendezvoused back at the cottage around 6 pm for a few pints of Theakstons at the Blue Bell and then a spaghetti dinner at home.

Today our guests are moving on to Glasgow and then on to the Ste. Marie Aux Mines mineral show in Alsace, France. Ste. Marie is a great show and Alsace is a beautiful place. Wish I could go but have my hands quite full with work here at the mine. Byron is, of course, away to the mine already this morning, and will undoubtedly be washing down the now secured main face and getting ready for another round of collecting. This afternoon there is a reception for the launch of the just published “Minerals of Northern England” up at Killhope that I hope to attend. This book was supposed to have been published around ten years ago, but the publisher backed out. It is good to see it finally available. With the pending publication of “Minerals of Britain and Ireland” by Andy Tindle, it should be a good summer for British mineralogy.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

I sure hope the tunnel ceiling is up there somewhere.

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