Saturday, July 14, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather for the past few days has continued to be gloomy and heavily overcast, though we did have a brief respite late Thursday afternoon, when the clouds broke and we had a marvelous evening. Friday morning the cloud cover was back, and this morning it remains. Fortunately, there has been little rain so the swamp in the quarry is slowly receding. Our resident family of moorhens are thoroughly enjoying our swamp, however, and I think some ducks have joined them recently. At the current rate, the ponds are likely to remain long enough for both to get their young ones fledged.

Cal, Ian and I have been almost totally preoccupied with our new find for the past few days. Much of both Thursday and yesterday were spent in the new cross-cut exposing a plate of fluorite that now looks to be more than a meter across. As with many other pockets, this one was filled with an incredibly tenacious clay, that takes hours of washing and careful scraping with a wooden spatula (original marketed as a crepe turner at my local kitchen wares store) to reveal what is lurking behind it. By yesterday afternoon we had removed a good bit of the mud and worked out some large rocks, exposing the right margin of the plate. It currently appears that the fluorite plate is on the bottom of a truly massive slab of rock and will be far too massive to extract as a whole. Current thought is to bring in the diamond chain saw and try to cut it out as two pieces. There appears to be a relatively nondescript section of the plate in the middle that could be sacrificed, yielding what could be a really nice, large plate of gem twins from one half, and a mound with the large crystals from the other. We’re still not sure that lurks behind the large crystals as we haven’t yet removed all the mud from that portion of the specimen.

Having a plan is one thing, executing it is another. Working in a small, confined space with the chain saw is not easy for a number of reasons. It is often difficult to get the beast into the positions necessary to make the desired cuts. If and when that problem is overcome, holding the rather heavy and cumbersome thing in position and pushing to make a cut while having large amounts of mud and water spraying back at you can be quite a challenge. Working underground with the saw requires bringing the diesel power unit into the tunnel, which makes the air pretty foul. Fortunately, we now have the ventilation ducting close to the face. Added to all this is the possibility that the rock contains fractures that we have yet to see, which could split the specimen in ways other than those desired. If we do go ahead with this plan, we will need to drop another very large, but barren slab of rock out of the ceiling in order to get better access to the exposed side of the plate. Dave has installed a support post under this rock to keep it in place while we have been working in the pocket. Removing the support and bringing down the rock is also an iffy thing to do as one never knows what else will come down along with it.

While we have been wallowing in the mud and contemplating the fate of our new find, Dave and Joe have been busy with blast, muck, and timber cycle of moving the face forward. After mucking out last Wednesday’s blast at the face we saw little sign of any new pockets in this area so gave Dave the go-ahead to do it again. Dave wants to start a cross-cut to the east for the dual purpose of seeing what is happening on the opposite side of the drift from where we are currently working, and to start a siding where he can park a second muck tub. We are now far enough from the mine portal that having a second tub available near the face would speed up mucking as one could be filled in the time that it takes to haul out and empty the other.

Today Cal and Kerith are heading to Kendal for a visit with friends and former operators of the Rogerley, Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank. Despite feeling rather tired and sore from a week of moving rock and mud in confined quarters, Ian and I will be in at the mine today to continue work in the pocket. After removing a large rock to the right of the plate yesterday afternoon, Cal discovered a broken layer of mud and rock that looks to be filled with crystals and small specimens that needs to be harvested.

Dave and Joe will be away on Monday as it is daughter Shanade’s graduation from school with a teaching credential, and a family do is planned. If we decide to bring in the chain saw, this may be the day to do it.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

The more we dig, the bigger it seems to get.

Go Back