Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Greetings from Weardale,

The weather yesterday was positively schizophrenic, alternating between sunny and pleasant, and torrential rain through several cycles. This is what the local weather reporters describe as “patches of sunshine.” On days like this, one can often look up the dale from the mine landing and see the accompanying “patches of rainfall” approaching us from the west. Sometimes these showers will pass us to either the north or south, but yesterday the wind direction was just right to bring all of them directly over the quarry. The mud bath continues. Today dawns windy and overcast. Cal had the BBC weather forecast on the telly a bit ago and I heard the phrase “patches of sunshine” once again.

On Sunday while Cal was busy with his tour group from Derbyshire, I began the task of sawing our accumulation of large specimens into smaller, more manageable ones. Though cool and windy, the weather was not nearly as miserable outside as the previous day, making the process more enjoyable than it could have been. After finishing with his tour Cal joined me and by mid-afternoon we had much of the job completed. After several months of use, the chain on the saw is becoming well-worn, which makes the cutting job more difficult as the thinned chain tends to bind up easily when making deep cuts into a large rock. This, in turn, tends to slow the process, particularly when the specimens have a hard, silica-rich matrix as the ones from the current pocket do. We could always change out the chain for a new one, but these things cost us several hundred Pounds/Dollars/Euros each so we try to get as much life out of each one as we can manage.

The job finished, we decided to close up and head back up the dale with the thought of a pint or two at the Blue Bell before dinner. Ian had stayed at the cottage to watch the open football match of the season for his hometown team, Cardiff. Shortly after we arrived Cardiff scored a winning goal in overtime play, making Ian a very happy lad. Don and Jane Edwards from the Derbyshire group stayed over, joining us at the pub and then afterwards for a dinner of sautéed salmon and roast potatoes at the cottage.

Yesterday at the mine was a tough one for Dave, Joe and Andrew. In the morning Dave drilled and shot both the large boulder that was inhabiting the middle of the tunnel, as well as the rock below the cavity we have been working. Having decent ventilation to the face now means that, if needed, we can blast in the morning and allow the air to clear over lunch. The boulder responded appropriately by turning into smaller bits, but the shots under the pocket zone were somewhat less effective. Ian and I spent a couple hours barring our loose rock from the area during the afternoon but had not managed to seriously undercut the pocket. Fortunately, while drilling the main face during the afternoon, Dave was able to place a few more holes under the pocket zone and fire it again at the end of the day.

After clearing the remains of our boulder from the tunnel, Dave and crew laid a new 10-foot section of track, which will allow the Eimco to easily reach the face. Drilling the face didn’t begin until around 1600 and because of the broken-up nature of the exposed rock in the vein, getting decent holes for blasting proved rather difficult. As a result, the shot didn’t go off until after 1900, making for a long day for the crew. Today’s photo is of Dave and Joe finishing off the day. This morning we’ll see the results.

The currently productive pocket zone is now far enough back from the face that we should be able to collect without getting in Dave’s way as he mucks out the face. This is the theory, at any rate. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Jesse & Crew

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