Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather for the past few days has been positively schizophrenic, which I guess is really not too unusual for the North Pennines. Friday it rained much of the day along with strong winds and cold temperature – I don’t think it ever got much above 5C (40F). Over the weekend things completely flipped and we had a couple sunny (and sometimes cloudless) days with temperatures around 18C (65F). Yesterday we swung back to cold and wet, but fortunately, not nearly as cold as Friday. This morning begins much where we left off yesterday afternoon with heavy overcast, strong breeze and wet streets from overnight rain.

First thing Friday morning Dave set off for Consett, where he was able to pick up several lengths of threaded bar needed to secure the end of the rail on the mine landing to the rock below. He also managed to find a new ladder for us to use in the mine, as the one we have been using is rather flimsy and probably won’t take having many more rocks dropped on it. Back at the mine by early afternoon, he set to cutting some holes through a sleeper plate through which the threaded rod would go, only to find that the oxygen tank with the cutting torch was running out. Being the start of a holiday weekend, there was not much to be done about getting it refilled for several days. Fortunately, he had one of his own that he uses for working on his motor bike, and promised to bring it in on Monday to finish the job.

Ian and I spent much of the day at the face, washing and digging mud and rock from the ceiling at the face of the tunnel in search of more fluorite. We managed to recover another fairly good (if large) specimen and a tub of smaller bits, but by around 1600 were so cold and wet that I was beginning to feel hypothermic. Ian had also been clobbered by a falling rock, which though doing little injury to him directly, put a nice tare in his waterproof jacket. About that time we decided to knock off and head up dale to try and get warm and dry again.

Over the weekend, Dave had to make a trip down south to Exeter to pick up Joe, who had just finished his term at university. With Dave away, Ian and I decided to make roughly the same trip in order to see a collection of North English minerals that a friend had recently acquired. Driving down south on Saturday was rather hellish because of all the holiday weekend traffic, but coming back on Sunday we breezed through fairly quickly, making it back in time to partake in a bit if the Langdon Beck beer festival, held ever year over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.

Yesterday morning, with both Joe and a bottle of oxygen in tow, Dave quickly finished cutting the necessary holes in the various bits of steel necessary to secure the end of the rail. Holes were then drilled in the rock at the end of the landing, the threaded bar set in cement and everything bolted together. While Dave and Joe were at their task, I played host to our first visitors for the season, giving a quick mine tour and explanation of how a small scale mine using antique technology works. Today’s photo is of Dave at work with the cutting torch.

After lunch, Ian and I returned to the face, and though we shifted a good amount of rock and mud, came away with little for our efforts. There is one large, fluorite-covered rock showing on the right side of the face, but it looks like trying to take it out whole might destabilize more of the roof than we care to deal with. There appears to be only a small patch of the rock that would yield a decent specimen, so we are thinking of drilling the rock and using feather and wedges to try and split that part out. Otherwise, I think we are to the point where we need to shoot the face again. Hopefully we can get this done later in the week.

At the end of last summer’s mining season, along with the main face we shot the north end of the alcove where the Giant came from, creating another crosscut back down to the main drift. This still needs to be mucked out, and will likely be Joe’s first chore when we’re back at the mine today. Shifting piles of rock in the cold and dark is probably not what the lad would prefer to do over his summer break, but it puts some money in his pocket, and Dave figures it might teach him what he doesn’t want to do when he finishes school.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse & Ian

hopefully, this will stop the tub next time...

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