Saturday, August 4, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather the past few days has been typical for the North Pennines, with alternating outbreaks of sun, heavy cloud moving in, and a few showers. Fortunately for us, most of the liquid has come down over night and not while we are working at the mine.

Between Dave being in the middle of another drill, blast, and muck cycle, and Cal and I having to deal with a recalcitrant hydraulic power unit, not much collecting has gotten done this week. Thursday morning Joe and Andrew finished mucking out the cross-cut after the last shot there, while Cal and I dealt with the power unit. For a while now we have been having trouble keeping the battery charged on the unit, despite the fact that the battery is fairly new. The obvious culprit would be a faulty alternator, and after a bit of searching around on the internet for a suitable replacement, our local auto garage found us something that would work. We were able to pick up the new alternator early afternoon, and soon had it installed. I had taken the battery back to the cottage the previous day and had it on a charger over night, so everything should have been ready to go. Unfortunately, the battery hadn’t taken enough of a charge to turn the starter, so after a bit of swearing we pulled the battery from our van to get the unit started. This accomplished, we began the task of trimming the matrix on the large rock, and were actually able to get some work done with what remained of the day.

Ian, meanwhile, had gone back into the cross-cut to dig mud in hopes of recovering more specimens, while Dave worked at mucking out the main face. After a bit of work, Ian was able to recover a few decent specimens and a lot of bits, but nothing like the quality of the previous week seemed to be coming our way. After getting the face cleared, it looked as if there were no new pockets exposed, so it is likely that we will begin the drilling cycle here again in short order.

Yesterday morning I took our battery into the garage to have it load tested, and was told that we may have a warped cell in the battery, which would account for the lack of current to the starter on our power unit. They offered to put the battery on their charging system and kindly gave us a loaner so we could get the unit going for the day. Guess we’ll find out on Monday whether we need to buy a new battery as well.

Back at the mine, new battery in hand, we soon had the power unit up and running again. Cal and current visitor Jurgen Tron had to run some errands, so I set to carving away at the backside of the large rock, while Ian had at the mud in the cross-cut once again. By the time Cal and Jurgen returned I had much of another large slice carved off the back of the piece. Even with a diamond saw, cutting a large mass of solid limestone is slow going. After a while of lifting the saw and cables while constantly pushing into the rock while getting bathed in a back-spray of muddy water, one needs a break, so Cal and I traded off at the saw for much of the afternoon. By late afternoon we had it down to the point where it could be pushed about on top of the flatbed car by two people, though lifting it is still a way off. Today’s photo is of Cal taking a turn at it. Mid-afternoon, Ian emerged from the mine with the news that the pocket in the cross-cut, though still quite muddy, looked like it was pinching down and was only giving him a few broken bits. It looks likely that we will need to blast again early next week in hopes of uncovering more. After finishing with cleanup at the face, Dave had drilled for another small shot in our incipient east-facing crosscut near the face, and the round was fired at the end of the day.

Today, I need to make the drive to Newcastle airport to exchange the rental car, but hope to be back in time to have at another round of sawing at the big rock. After we get it down to a manageable weight, we will need to find some way to crate it and secure it to a pallet for shipping home. Fortunately, the company we get our blue shipping bins from also has some prefabricated wooden boxes listed in their catalogue, which will hopefully do the job.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers,

Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith





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