Thursday, July 19, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

I recall hearing rain coming down through much of the night, but this morning I can see the sun out between broken clouds. Not much breeze, but I guess we can’t have everything.

Yesterday was spent with the all-consuming task of extracting our fluorite-covered rock. After betting the padded pallet secured on a timber platform, Cal drilled a series of holes in a “keystone” rock, next to the object of our desire that appeared to be holding it in place. Sure, enough, after splitting the rock with a set of feathers and wedges and removing the bits, or large rock dropped easily into the pallet. Nothing like this ever goes completely as planned, however, and it turned out that the rock had more of a tail than we had hoped, and was still being held, if only marginally so, at the back. After about an hour of further wiggling with long bars, and chipping of a small corner of the matrix that was hanging up on a neighboring rock, the thing came completely free. Now what to do with it?

Dave and Joe finished mucking the tunnel to the point where we could get the loco up to the cross cut, and after a break for bait began the laborious process of building a two-stage ramp that would allow us to first slide the thing down onto the alcove floor, then down, out of the alcove (which is above the tunnel level) onto the waiting loco. Given the size and weight of the thing, this was no easy task. About the time the construction began our German and Austrian friends, Jurgen, Robert and Eddie arrived, and after a bit of touring about the mine were recruited to the effort for their muscle power. Dave pretty much took over the operation at this point, occasionally barking orders to Joe, but generally telling the rest of us to stay out of the way. I figured the best I could do was to serve as the photographer and stood out of the way, trying to keep my camera out of the mud while documenting the event.

Finally, about quitting time, the monster slid down the second ramp and onto the waiting loco. Today’s photo is of its final passage out of the alcove, with Jurgen and Joe assisting. Considering just how heavy and awkward the thing is, Dave’s job of getting it out was nothing short of amazing! I’m not sure we could have done the same.

Today we will haul it out onto the landing, try to flip it over, wash it off, and see what all this effort has bought us. After that, first priority will likely be to saw the back of it down a bit so the thing isn’t quite so heavy. To this end, Cal has already replaced the old, worn chain on our saw with a new one. Ready to slice and dice!

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Out it comes.

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