Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather over the past few days has been a good example of what one can expect, here in the North Pennines. Tuesday was cold and rainy – the sort of day where you stay underground because it’s warmer and perhaps even drier than outside. Then, overnight, it becomes a proper summer day on Wednesday. The sun was out all day, and there was a light breeze to help dry things out and keep the bugs away. This morning it looks as if we may have two good days in a row.

This week has also been one of ups and downs at the mine. On Monday, Byron managed to dig out several nice and relatively undamaged plates covered with twinned gemmy fluorite from the crushed zone at the face. On Tuesday, along with the weather, it all seemed to turn to crap, and much of what he dug out was again damaged and generally beat up. There remains one very large plate exposed in the wall, which despite several days of excavations has so far resisted recovery. The rock looks like it has a very nice coating of fluorite on its underside, but because if its apparent size will likely be difficult to get out. I’m sure Byron will be working at it again today.

Greg has been working in the section of the zone just back from the face, where Byron has been, and seems to have encountered even more “large rock” problems than Byron. A number of large rocks with fluorite coatings on the underside are interlocked and make up the cavity roof. In addition to the likelihood that these will be quite heavy and difficult to remove, it looks like we will also have problems with stabilizing the roof in this area if we pull them out.

Taking advantage of the turn in the weather, and taking a break from working in a cold, wet, cramped pocket, Byron spent the day yesterday at the chainsaw. We had accumulated a good supply of large rocks with patches of fluorite that needed trimming, and a warm day is what one wishes for when doing this. Though the power unit had sat idle over winter inside the mine, it fired up without too much trouble this time. This has not always been the case, but Byron treated all the electrical contacts with dielectric (conductive) grease last year before closing up, and this seems to have done the trick. At least this time. By the end of the day we had about five tubs worth of large bits that had been turned into smaller, more manageable bits, including a few that look quite nice. After a bit more cleaning, I hope to send some of these back home for their debut at the San Francisco Fine Mineral Show in early July. Today’s photo is of Byron at the saw. What you will see is the “small specimen technique.” When dealing with large, multi-kilo rocks that will hold still for cutting, one simply positions the rock and takes the saw to it. When cutting smaller bits, it is much easier to position the saw and hold the rock to the chain. The best way to immobilize the saw is to put a piece of 2x4 on top of it and sit on the thing. This arrangement is surprisingly stable and works quite well.

My day yesterday was spent running back and forth between the mine and the cottage. We had a morning appointment at the mine with the fellow from the Durham Constabulary who handles our permits. Nice fellow, and he just wanted to stop by and see if we had made any changes to the operation since last year, and perhaps get out of the office for a bit on a nice day. Afterwards, it was back up the dale to await delivery of our first order of blue shipping bins and bubble wrap, which arrived mid-afternoon. I then loaded the rental car with as many bins as I could squeeze in, and dashed off back to the mine to spend the last few hours helping Byron with the sawing.

Shanade and friends have been in washing specimens over the past few days, so we now have an accumulation that need to be wrapped and packed in our newly acquired blue bins. Guess I know what I’ll be doing today.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron



Byron sawing up some bits on a warm sunny day.

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