Thursday, June 10, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

Cold and rainy out this morning. Third day in a row, and I suspect the quarry has become quite the mud bath by this point. I can remember some summers here when this was what it was like just about every day, so I guess we should be use to it. The BBC forecast for tomorrow calls for “patches of sun,” which still doesn’t sound very summer-like, but likely better than what we have this morning.

The past two days at the mine, along with being cold and wet, have been spent on the “nuts and bolts” of mining – moving rock. After he finished mucking the front of the tunnel to the face on Wednesday, Dave spent the afternoon drilling the forward east cross cut. We started this tunnel last summer in hopes of finding a continuation of the Blue Bell pocket to the east of the main tunnel. Unfortunately, we found that it pinches out rather quickly, but we have encountered another zone of heavy ironstone alteration in the limestone. After the last blast there last summer, we found some stringers of massive fluorite and galena, and a few small but relatively uninteresting cavities. After drilling the face of this tunnel Dave tells me that we are still in altered ground, so there is hope that something new may turn up after the tunnel is mucked out.

Yesterday, the process was repeated in the forward west cross cut. This tunnel, like the east one, has encountered heavy ironstone alteration and last summer we found some cavities containing large opaque fluorite crystals here. This sort of cavity has been fairly common as we have driven tunnel along the main vein over the years. Unfortunately, the surrounding ironstone is usually pretty solid, making the fluorite very difficult to extract without breaking it into bits. This area is no exception, though we did get a few decent pieces out late last summer. The face of this tunnel was fired at the end of the day, so this morning we will see if all went as planned.

Byron and Greg have continued digging in the crushed zone at the head of the main tunnel on the west side. There are currently three alcoves that have been dug heading away from the tunnel. Byron has been spending much of his time in the farthest one, and by now has excavated a fair size hole. We have gotten a fair amount of material from this spot, so far this summer. Sadly, much of it has been damaged by pocket collapse and ground movement on the nearby mud-filled fracture zone, but the stuff is still pretty enough to make for some nice wholesale flats. Some of the larger pieces may also trim out some good specimens, but much of that will have to wait until we ship everything back to California in the fall. Yesterday afternoon, Byron decided to dig out the floor of his cavity and found yet another fluorite layer below where he has been working for the past few weeks. Again, much of what he has found here so far shows heavy damage. He did turn up one real interesting specimen late in the day, which is a combination of deep green gem twinned fluorite crystals and our usual slightly altered octahedral galena crystals. The specimen should clean up nicely and could be interesting, despite the damage to some of the main crystals. Hopefully there will be more.

Much of my time has been spent cleaning and wrapping specimens, and we are getting close to needing a second order of our blue shipping bins. Our usual washing assistant Shanade has not been available very much this summer because of commitments with school, boyfriend, and another part time job. As a result, there is a growing backlog of collected stuff needing attention, which I am trying to stay on top of. On Tuesday I had Brian scrubbing specimens for me, but yesterday he had his hands full (quite literally) mucking out the forward east cross cut. This task was not quite finished by day’s end, and with the other cross cut now to be mucked as well, I don’t suspect he will be available again for a while.

I was not horribly good company yesterday, as I was fighting off a migrane much of the day, and turned in after only one pint at the Blue Bell. I didn’t hear the others return to the cottage until around 2145, so I am assuming that they made up for my missing patronage at the pub.

Today we hope to repeat the cycle of the past couple days with a shot at the main face. This will leave us with quite a bit of mud and rock to haul out of the mine, so I thing everyone will truly be earning their beer for the next few days. Today’s photo is of Dave and Brian with the loco and ore tub outside on a typically wet summer day in the North Pennines.

Forward in all directions,


Jesse & Crew

Brian and Dave with the loco on a summer day in Weardale.

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