Friday, June 26, 2009

Greetings from Weardale.

Although it started out dark and overcast, yesterday turned into another sunny warm day, with just enough breeze to keep the bugs away. This morning the cloud cover has returned. Hopefully it will move on without dumping anything on us.

Timbering and cleanup at the face took Dave most of the day yesterday, so not much collecting happened. I spent the morning at scrubbing and wrapping accumulated specimens, and Byron helped Dave haul our timber up onto the mine landing for easier access, when needed. Hauling all the timber up by hand would be a long and tiring process, so we usually do this using a hydraulic wench, known as a “tugger.” The tugger is bolted to the rock at the far end of the landing, near the stairs from the quarry. The cable from the tugger is run through a large pulley at the mine entrance, then down the mine tip where it is attached to stacks of timber to be pulled up. This process went as it should, except for one instance where Dave became a little over ambitious and tried to pull up too large a load at once. The stack of timbers became tangled on the tip and had to be taken apart and hauled up the final bit by hand. Today’s photo is of Byron at the tugger and Dave stacking timber.

By noon all the timber had been neatly stacked again, just outside the mine entrance, and Dave and Joe finally got to timbering the face. With no opportunity to collect yet, Byron took advantage of the good weather and set up the rock saw on the landing to cut up some of the larger bits that have been accumulating about the mine. One of these larger bits was a large roof rock, close to a cubic meter in size that had some patches of fluorite on one side. Dave had noticed it in the muck at the face while cleaning up after the last blast, brought it out in the ore car and dumped it on the landing. Fortunately, it did not land fluorite-side down, and Byron was able to slice several plates of crystals from it.

The chain saw is attached to the hydraulic power unit by a couple stiff and heavy cables, and wielding it for any length of time can be tiring. At one point in the butchering of the rock I offered to take a turn so Byron could rest his back. It didn’t occur to me until after I started the thing up that I wasn’t wearing one of our orange coveralls as I had been working downstairs wrapping specimens. The chain saw uses a large amount of water for cooling and lubrication of the chain, and I got soaked in short order. Fortunately, it was warm and a little breezy out, so I dried up fairly quickly, afterwards.

This morning, Byron is off to the mine early, and will be washing the dust and debris from the face in hopes of finding something interesting revealed by the last blast. We will also be having a visit from the Durham Constabulary at the mine this afternoon. There has been a changing of the guard in the department that issues our blasting permits and the new officer wants to come out and see what we are doing. He sounds like a pleasant and friendly chap on the phone so I am hoping that all will go smoothly.

Tomorrow Joan arrives from San Francisco for a week in the North Pennines before we both return home, leaving the mine to Cal and Kerith for July. After almost a month non-stop at the mine, it will be nice to have a little distraction.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

Stacking timber.

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