Thursday, July 26, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

After a brief outbreak of sunshine here on Monday, things seem to have gotten back to a more normal weather pattern for us here this summer. The past two days have been heavily overcast, humid and absolutely still – almost no breeze at all. This seems to be the ideal conditions for our lurking hoards of small, biting insects to emerge en-mass and torture any and all who find themselves unfortunate enough to be out and about. I refer to it as “midge weather.”

Tuesday morning was spent trying to process an accumulated pile of specimens lying about the mine from previous day’s collecting. Cal fired up the chain saw and promptly reduced most to more manageable sizes. There remained two fluorite-covered rocks near the face that were too large to carry over the muck heap in front of the cross-cut, so Robert and I got out the drill and feather and wedge sets in an attempt to break them up in place. The first one went as planned and Cal was able to carve a nice, if large specimen out of the remains. The second was more troublesome, refusing to fracture where we wanted it to and breaking a drill bit in the process. Meanwhile, Ian and Jurgen continues to mud wrestle in the cross-cut and came away with a few more decent specimens.

After Cal finished with the sawing, Dave pushed the power unit back into the mine and set to the long-delayed task of rearranging the track outside the mine entrance. This is some of the first rail we laid early in our adventure here, and for an ever-increasing number of reasons has needed re-doing. The bend in the track at the portal is fairly tight and is constantly causing derailments of the loco and muck tubs. Anyone who has ever had to get a full muck tub back onto the rail will appreciate what a real pain in the ass this can be. The I-beam supporting the portal has been taking some weight from above as a result of years of rock and sediment washing down from above, and needs some support beams installed. Moving the track outward at the portal will give us room for this as well as solving the tight bend problem. It will also allow Dave to shift the outer track closer to the edge of the tip so we can continue to dump our muck over the side with relative ease. By end of day, Dave and Joe had made good headway in digging out the track and moving it into its new position. Today’s photo is if the job in progress.

Due to the high water pressure in our lines here, we are constantly having problems with the line and spray nozzles inside the mine. In particular, spray nozzles usually have a life expectancy of no more than a couple months. The current one had pretty much reached that point in its lifecycle so I undertook the task of replacing it. I thought we had a new replacement but after thoroughly searching our tool and supply cabinet came up empty handed. As a fall-back, I found an old one that looked like it might have a little life left in it, and with the addition of an extra gasket, was able to press it into service without a huge spray of water coming out of the coupling when the pressure came on. Wednesday morning Cal picked up a new one on the way in to the mine, and this was then swapped for my temporary fix. That done, we almost immediately had a large rock we were trying to dislodge from the cross-cut land on the water line and puncture it, adding another hour or so to the repair process.

Jurgen, Robert and Eddie were away yesterday morning, back to home, family, and jobs after a week’s holiday in mud. While here they helped us move a lot of rock, so I guess we’re back to bending our own backs now. The rock that needed moving was yet another large one with a patch of fluorite attached, that was dangling somewhat precariously in the cross-cut ceiling. While Dave and Joe continued with the track up front, Ian, Cal and I had at the rock. First order of business was to remove another large, but barren rock that was blocking our quarry in place. That accomplished, we then had the punctured water line to attend to. After bait, we returned to the task and finally got the thing dropped onto a pile of the improvised plastic bag filled with foam peanuts cushions we used to good effect with the large one last week. Rock down, we then constructed a timber ramp. Flipped the rock onto a pallet and slid it into the center of the cross-cut, where it will remain until Dave has time to muck the main tunnel out and bring up the loco to carry it out for butchering.

Today Dave is off, taking care of some chores at home. We are planning on having a ratch about the cross-cut to see if there is anything more to be collected before the need to blast again. There is also some sawing to be done, and a batch of specimens from the past few days that need to be wrapped and packed for shipment home.

Until Next time…


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith


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