Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has returned to what we normally expect here in the North Pennines rain. Sunday it clouded over and began to drip a bit in the afternoon. Yesterday was pretty drippy all day, though no heavy rain actually reached us at the mine. This morning the upper dale is heavy with fog and mist, obscuring our usual view of the nearby hillsides, farms and sheep. While decidedly cooler than last week, at least the rain has not brought a serious drop in temperature with it.

Yesterday Dave was back from his week-long holiday in the Austrian Alps, and we had a full shift at hand at the mine. First order of business was mucking out the area around the main face and our two currently active crosscuts. Both Brian and I helped out with this while Byron crawled back into his alcove off the head of the tunnel for a bit more collecting. Greg chose to enjoy the cool wet weather and applied his carpentry skills to improving parts of our ladder from the quarry floor.

Mucking was complete by around 1300, and before breaking for lunch, we decided it was time to get the three large fluorite-coated rocks out of the mine. The first two were relatively easy, as they were the smaller ones of the lot. The largest and most promising one (pictured in our last report) was quite a fight. Somehow, we finally managed to get it onto a section of timber and slide it out of the alcove and onto the flatbed behind the loco without having it roll onto the face with all the fluorite. Once out on the mine landing we had a similar fight getting it onto the pile of old railroad ties where we do our sawing.

After lunch, Byron decided to get the saw out and have at the collection of large rocks, while Dave and Brian finished the latest round of timbering at the face. On close inspection, we decided that the smallest of the three rocks we brought would not yield any specimens of a sufficient quality to justify the time and effort to be spent cutting it up, so over the side it went. The second largest bit had some promising spots on it, and Byron had it dissected with the saw in short order. The rock proved to be mostly a soft ironstone that cuts fairly quickly, and we got at least one good plate, along with a bunch of wholesale-quality bits from it fairly quickly.

The largest, and most promising rock proved to be somewhat less accommodating. The bulk of the rock turned out not to be the easily cut soft ironstone, but a very hard silica-replaced limestone. After studying the rock, we decided that there was one corner specimen that could be cut off, but that the remainder would need to come off in one large slice. Butchering the thing was a slow and tiring job, with Byron, Greg, and yours truly taking turns at it, but by around 1800 we had the fluorite-covered face sliced off. Im not sure how many miles we put on the chainsaw (not to mention our backs) in the process, but the large plate looks like it will yield at least two real nice pieces when further trimming is done.

Back at the cottage it was a quick pint at the Blue Bell to help me forget a sore back, then a quick dinner of local sausages and some oven-roasted potatoes for the crew. Today will be a day of drilling at the face and both forward cross cuts in anticipation of moving some rock at days end.

Forward in all directions,


Jesse & Crew

Byron with rock.

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