Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

Well, here we are once again. It’s year number 12 for us at the Rogerley, something I would not have imagined when we began this back in 1999. Things never quite turn out how one expects then to, do they? I guess I shouldn’t complain. Despite all the long airline flights, awful airline food, jetlag, and expense, it’s good to be back here again.

The flight from California was routine, and we were fortunate enough to have a shift of winds over the North Atlantic, which is now blowing all the volcanic ash from Iceland to the northeast, away from Britain. Maybe a few slightly soiled polar bears, but no closures of British airspace. Arrived on time at Heathrow on Saturday morning, and made the drive north. The weather here over the past weekend was surprisingly nice, and upon arriving in Weardale we found it almost cloudless and very warm. Quite a change, as I’m told there were frosts and minor snow on the felltops just a couple weeks ago. No complaints here, as the usual greeting we get here is rain. This morning it looks like things have gotten back to normal, however, as it’s cloudy and cool. No forecast of rain, so maybe we’ll be able to enjoy working in a dry quarry for a little longer.

Along with Byron, this year I have an out-of-work friend from San Francisco – Brian – who somehow though that spending a month in rural northern England shifting rock in a mine might be fun. We can certainly use the help, and his back is a good bit younger than mine. There’s a lot of rock lying about in a couple tunnels that needs to be moved before we can do much else, so I guess he will find out fairly quickly just how much fun this is.

Sunday was spent shopping for provisions at the Morrison’s supermarket in Barnard Castle, catching up with some local friends, and generally trying to adjust to the local time zone. Yesterday morning was off to the mine to pick up where we left off last August. Dave has accomplished a number of necessary chores over winter, including replacement of some worn-out bearings on the Eimco pneumatic shovel, and having a leaking section of our water line in the quarry replaced. The last of these chores was finished yesterday when he plumbed in one of our new compressed air reservoir tanks in the mine. Today’s photo is of the master at work.

Byron was the first in to the mine and got the water hooked up in short order. Without the leaking line, we now have much better water pressure. This should help immensely with collecting in the pockets, but I fear we may be back to our old problem of the high water pressure constantly blowing out our hoses. Guess nothing’s perfect. After getting the water in, he promptly started collecting at the exposed pocket on the east side of the face. Last fall this area produced a fair number of specimens, but sadly, many were damaged as the pocket is near the shear zone along the main vein. Never the less, by day’s end he had a good pile of green bits accumulated about him.

Brian and I started in with mucking out the mess Cal and I made in the Rat Tail pocket area at the end of the last season. The pocket debris is loaded with green fragments of crystals, and after hauling our several wheelbarrows of rock, I had Brian start screening and collecting the bits out of our copious mud. There appears to be some potentially nice specimens remaining at the back of the pocket, so after some mucking I began trying to lower the pocket floor and make some room to work.

We knocked off work a little early as Dave had a milling machine on e-bay that he really wanted, and the auction was ending at 1730. After a couple pints of bitter from the local Jarrow brewery at the Blue Bell, I put together a quick dinner of grilled salmon and roasted new potatoes.

Today the compressor is to be delivered, so we will be fully automated and ready to do some serious mucking.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

Dave installing our new compressed reservoir tank.

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