Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather pattern seems to have shifted a bit. Normally we get it coming from the west, but in the last few days it has been coming from the southwest. The weather has been fairly warm (for these parts), around 12-14C, but has been very slow moving, so not much breeze to keep the midges away. Yesterday morning started out sunny and pleasant but as I stopped at the bank in Stanhope on the way into the mine, the clouds let loose with a downpour. This continued off and on through mid-afternoon, at times accompanied by some fairly dramatic thunder. The storm finally passed, but the lack of breeze allowed every midge within several kilometers to swarm into the quarry making any attempt to work outside a misery. Fortunately, I was preoccupied underground, but I think Shanade and her friend Charlotte, who were scrubbing specimens for the day departed a bit early. Don’t blame them in the slightest.

Yesterday was one of those all-round frustrating days, and the swarms of biting bugs were just the icing on the cake. Friday afternoon Dave fired a couple light charges at the face in order to loosen up the floor under the fluorite seams and, theoretically, allow for better collecting this week. Byron wanted to play tourist with his visiting brother over weekend so we didn’t get back to the mine until yesterday. What greeted us upon opening was a huge pile of rubble at the face, including a couple very large blocks that had dropped from the ceiling. It was immediately obvious that after mucking out the face, we would have to shoot it again to square up the tunnel floor and put another timber set in to keep the rest of the ceiling in place. Not at all what we had planned to do, but sometimes reality dictates otherwise.

With no collecting possible, Byron and I set up the chain saw and cut up a few of the nice bits he had collected late last week. One real nice plate came out of it, providing at least one bit of satisfaction for the day. Afterwards, I went down to the storage container to wrap and bin specimens in order to make room for the upcoming bits that the young ladies were scrubbing up for us. Byron decided to make a run to the petrol station where we get our off-road diesel for the compressor and chain saw power unit. Evidently, as he was in the middle of filling our set of jerry cans a power outage, undoubtedly caused by the thunder and lightening storm, left him (and a host of other customers) standing about with nothing to do for about a half hour.

Greg spent a little time digging in the old West Cross Cut and came away with a couple tubs of fairly grotty looking stuff. One specimen, however, was rather interesting, being a ridge of quartz and ironstone, perhaps 12 cm across. The quartz is dotted with small fluorites, but perched on top of the ridge is a large, perfect fluorite cube, about 2.5 cm on edge. Not really gemmy, as is most of the stuff from the Rat Hole area, but will hopefully clean up nicely.

Escaping the gathering midges, I spent the latter part of the afternoon helping Dave drill the face once again, and install some cross-braces on the timber sets in hopes of keeping everything in place during the blast. All this took some time, but better spent trying to prevent potential problems than fixing them afterwards. Shooting a face that has been timbered to always presents the possibility that the blast will take out some of the timbering. We’ve done that before. Dave likes to refer to it as a “learning experience.” Around 1830, after a satisfying “thump” was heard as Dave twisted the detonator, we closed up and headed up dale, cold, wet, and tired. Today’s photo is of Dave at the rock drill.

This morning dawns overcast and still, but no rain at the moment. After finishing up with the (almost) daily installment of our soap opera, I’ll get to finishing the packing of a couple boxes of specimens that need to be mailed out today. One is to go home to San Francisco for an upcoming mineral show next month, and one is for our Deutsches friend Jurgen to take to the Ste. Marie Aux Mines show.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

Dave with the rock drill.

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