Saturday, June 9, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather here has been very un-summer like the past couple days. Thursday morning started off fairly sunny and warm but by early afternoon a storm front blew in, everything clouded over and the temperature dropped by a considerable bit. Yesterday it rained most of the day and by afternoon the waterfalls in the quarry were flowing nicely. This morning begins cold, overcast and windy. If the winds keep up and the rain holds off, at least things may dry out a bit.

The face was shot again at end of day on Wednesday, so Thursday was spent mucking and timbering. Once again, I got to practice my skills as a trammer and only managed to derail the loco once during the process. Ian and I have watched Dave put things aright after such incidents often enough that we now seem to be able to rectify these types of incidents without dragging him away from what ever he is doing at the time. By mid-afternoon the face was cleared, and we hauled more timber up to the mine to start another set.

We use a compressor to power much of the machinery around the mine, and the thing has quite an appetite for diesel fuel. The supply was getting low so Cal decided to take the van in search of more. Because of the economics of rural life here, many gas/petrol stations have recently closed in the area. The only one remaining in Weardale is in Stanhope. This one, however, doesn’t stock the type of fuel we need for the compressor, and only keeps limited hours. The nearest place to get what we need is about 10 miles toward Darlington, and we usually need to do this twice a week. We weren’t planning on making a fuel run on Thursday and had not brought enough cash with us, but Cal figured he could use his credit card and get reimbursed. Unfortunately, after filling our cans with diesel he found out that, despite having told his bank that he would be using the card while in England this summer, they had put a block on his account. Fortunately, the manager at the filling station let him leave in search of some way to pay. After a trip into Stanhope to get some cash with my ATM card and another trip out of the dale we were able to settle the bill.

With the face mucked out and timbered, Friday was spent collecting. Cal, working from a ladder, had at the area to the west side of the tunnel that we first exposed late last year, while Ian and I worked at the face. The Mud Ball pocket, which Ian and I were working last week appeared to be continuing down low on the face. In keeping with its name, the cavity was filled with a large amount of very tenacious clay, which kept us busy for several hours trying to remove. Behind it all was a very large knob of rock, covered with large fluorite twins. Unfortunately, most of them were so heavily etched that we decided it wasn’t worth the effort to extract the entire rock. Ian did manage to chisel off some of the better bits, so the day’s efforts were not entirely a waste.

Cal had better luck and uncovered a couple large plates that appeared to be covered with gem twins. The difficult part of the exercise was that the fluorite zone right there is about 8 feet or so above the tunnel floor and digging had to be done uphill at the limit of one’s reach. This meant a constant shower of rock, mud, and water coming back at whoever was taking their turn in the pocket. The real joy of this is when a blast of muddy water ends up going down the sleeve of one’s waterproof jacket and pooling about the elbow. Despite the obstacles, by the end of the day we were able to extract two nice large plates and a number of smaller bits. Two photos today - first of Cal and Ian trying to extract one of them, and second of Cal with his prize. With all the large specimens accumulating at the mine, we will need to get out the chain saw soon. Hopefully we will get a sunny day soon as there is no way to avoid a thorough soaking when using the thing

Dave had the day off yesterday but is going in this morning to drill and shoot the beginning of a crosscut into the area we were working yesterday. We are going to start this a couple feet above the tunnel floor in hopes of having an easier time getting at the fluorite. Cal and Kerith are off on a shopping trip so Ian and I will go in and see what the result is in a bit. I actually see a bit of sun outside at the moment, so perhaps that is a good sigh.

More soon,


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Cal and Ian in hot pursuit of another specimen.

Cal with his prize at the end of the day.

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