Friday, August 15, 2008

Greetings from Weardale,

Welcome to the summer that wasn’t. Joan and I arrived here in Weardale last Wednesday and it has been raining almost constantly since. The weather forecast for today was fairly optimistic about the appearance of some sunshine, but looking out the window this morning, I think that qualifies as “wishful thinking.” At least with the road in the quarry now graded and the large potholes filled, we are not in danger of having the car swallowed by mud while driving in to the mine. I suppose that I shouldn’t complain, however. Back home in California we had a record low snowfall over winter in the Sierra Nevada, which means water rationing is likely before next winter.

Work at the mine has progressed nicely over the summer, and we have managed to extend the main tunnel by 40-50 feet. The flats to the east have been more or less constantly productive and we have some good specimens as a result. The down side is that the area is highly fractured, giving up some very large and loose rocks in the ceiling that must be constantly dealt with. Yesterday was my first day back at the mine since early July, and while there was good fluorite showing at the face, there were also a tangle of large rocks hanging over the cavity that looked far to dangerous to work under. Dave and Joe had gotten the face mucked out after the last round of blasting and Byron was anxious to get back to collecting, so the first order of business was to bring the rocks down and make the place a bit more secure. The tangle of rocks looked like they would come down in mass so Byron and I took turns standing to one side and trying to work them loose with a long bar. Nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems, and the rocks had to be pried out one at a time. This, fortunately, meant that we didn’t have a cascade of large rocks to stay out of the way of, but unfortunately, when one particularly large one came down it landed on top of the bar I had just let loose of, which bounced up and smacked me in the palm of my right hand. Nothing broken but quite sore today, so I will be temporarily left-handed. Hope I don’t have to sign any checks.

By mid-afternoon the rocks had been dealt with and we got back to collecting. Byron managed to work out two large plates, which when cut up should yield some nice specimens. Taking a turn at the face when Byron went out for a break I managed to dig a bunch of bits that will likely make filler for wholesale flats. Maybe I’ll get a good one today, provided I can get Byron away from the face for long enough to dig myself. Today’s photo is of Cal digging for specimens in the West Cross Cut while likewise waiting for a chance at the main face.

Dave and Joe spent a good part of the day picking up another load of light gauge rail we’ve managed to secure. This stuff is becoming very hard to locate because of its high scrap value these days, but we’ve managed to get enough to keep us going for another year or two. After returning with our new find of old rail, Dave fired up the Eimco and in short order they had the mess Byron and I made at the face cleaned up and dumped outside.

Yesterday evening was spent visiting with Ian Jones, Lloyd Llewellyn and his wife Sandra, who have come from out of town for our 10th anniversary party. Today we will likely have a parade of visitors at the mine today, including folks from the Natural History Museum in London who are coming up for the party. I will be on tour guide duty at the mine as Cal and Kerith will be handling the final grocery shopping in preparation for the festivities this evening.

Until next time,

Jesse, Joan, Cal, Kerith, and Byron



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