Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

Back again for my second shift this summer. Had the usual long commuter flight from San Francisco to London where I met up with Ian, then up North on Sunday. The weather here has been uniformly miserable much of the summer, and I think may set a record for the most rain and least sun since we began this project 14 years ago. The quarry has been pretty much flooded for more than a week, and our ephemeral pond has even over-topped the road in two places. This use to happen regularly but several years ago we had someone with an excavator come in and build up our road bed to prevent this. It hadnít happened again until this summer. Since returning the weather has been overcast, humid and windless. Perfect weather for midges. Fortunately, it hasnít rained much in the past few days so Lake Rogerley has receded to the point that we are no longer in danger of floating the hire car away while trying to drive in to the mine.

Thinking back on past summers here, Iíve come to the conclusion that there seems to be an inverse correlation between the quality of the summer weather here in the North Pennines and the quality of the mineís production. The last really wet summer we had was in 2007, and that was the year we found both the Rat Hole and Jewel Box pockets. While the amount of production this summer will likely fall far short of what we got from the Rat Hole, the quality of some of what weíve found is the best since we were in the Blue Bell pocket three years ago. It will be really nice to see what we have once weíve got it all cleaned and trimmed.

Last Friday, while Dave drilled and shot another round in our westward crosscut, Cal worked at excavating a pocket that he found about 3 meters off the tunnel floor in the upper west side of the face. Working on a ladder with all our mud and water is a difficult task, and to add to it, this pocket had appeared right behind the latest set of timbers Dave had installed to keep the tunnel roof in place. Despite the difficulties, Cal was able to recover several excellent specimens, and a good bit of wholesale material. Yesterday Ian and I, on our first day back at it, were able to undercut the pocket a bit, allowing somewhat better access to what remained. By the end of the day, all three of us were thoroughly soaked as a result of having to wash the mud out of a pocket over our heads. Several more nice plates were recovered and a surprising number of nicer small specimens.

Yesterday, while we flailed away at the pocket, Dave and Joe got the crosscut mucked out, creating a large pile of rock in the main drift, which will be cleared out this morning. After thatís done we will shift our collecting efforts to the crosscut, allowing Dave to drill the face again for another blast. In hopes of finding a continuation to the high up pocket weíve been working, Dave says he will drill and shoot the face lower down, allowing us to work upward into the pocket zone. Thatís the plan, at any rate. One never knows what will really happen until it does.

This morning, while Dave gets the mucking finished, Cal and I are planning a trip into Bishop Auckland to visit our branch bank and deal with some stuff, like getting a proper debit card for our account. A trip into Bishop Auckland and back will take us a few hours, so this chore has been put off repeatedly. When faced with the choice between dealing with bankers and collecting fluorite, the choice has been obvious. With Dave busy at the face, this morning seems like a good time to get it over with.

And just so you donít get the idea that absolutely everything here in the North Pennines has been dark, gloomy and wet, todayís photo is of Sunday eveningís sunset. Mind you, this is the first one anyone can remember seeing since the end of May!

More soon,


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

A rare sunset this summer.

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