Monday, August 15, 2011

Greetings from Weardale,

The weather over the weekend was largely as it has been all week – cool and rainy. The forecast for Sunday was supposed to be better, but as we arrived at the quarry yet another heavy shower greeted us. The ground in the quarry is thoroughly saturated with water now, and some of our occasional ponds are beginning to fill up. Fortunately, by around noon the clouds parted and by late afternoon we had what passes for a very nice summer day in the North Pennines.

At the end of the day on Friday we fired the rock underneath the pocket zone in the alcove we have created over the past few weeks. This is always a balancing act between using too little explosive and not breaking enough rock and using too much and destroying what we are after. Upon arrival at the mine on Saturday we found that we had erred on the side of caution, but not drastically so. The blast had created a nice little chamber below the pocket zone, but had failed to remove the layer of hard rock just below the pocket. The layer was fractured into several large rocks but despite our efforts they remained in place.

Working at the north end of the alcove we were able to expose yet another large plate, which in this case only took several hours to extract. Today’s photo is of the specimen in place. What finally came out was a really good piece, with hardly any damage at all. It shows no obvious places to cut it up into smaller pieces, so it will likely remain as-is for the moment. It’s quite an impressive specimen and may rank among the top 10 or so pieces we’ve recovered from the mine. Unfortunately, we’ve found that no one buys large specimens like this, so it may eventually need to be butchered unless someone here decides to keep it. We usually can’t afford to do that, however.

About the time we got the specimen out of the pocket the roof began to show signs of dropping things, so we decided to vacate and let it do what ever it was going to. We were hoping that Friday’s blast would buy us at least a couple days of collecting, but this obviously wasn’t going to be the case. Can’t complain about the bit we did get, however. Collector friend Lloyd Llewellyn was about for the weekend, so Ian and I along with local friends Helen and Barry met up with him for dinner and a few beers at the Langdon Beck Hotel. When we departed Lloyd said he was going to have one more pint then head for bed. When we saw him at the mine the next morning it came out that a certain amount of Spanish brandy and sambuca got into the mix as well. Being the trooper he is, Lloyd gamely offered to work it off by helping us muck out the rock and that had fallen into the alcove over night.

On Sunday we had planned on sawing up some of the recently collected specimens, but arriving in the pouring rain made that plan look a bit less than enjoyable. Cal started off by giving some visiting friends from the US a tour around the mine, while I hauled out and set up the saw. About the time the tour finished up the rain had stopped and the sun was actually lurking between broken clouds. Sawing was a bit of a fight as the chain is getting fairly worn, but by around 1430 we had everything done. The most difficult part was trying to thin the matrix on the large plate we had collected the day before without splitting up the specimen. This took a while with both Cal and me alternating on the saw, but finally came out as desired. After packing up the saw everyone headed back to the cottage early to chill out a bit.

Today we will be cleaning and packing the remaining specimens for shipment back home. We will also need to plan out strategy with Dave about what to do about out troubles in the pocket zone.


Jesse & Crew

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