Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

As if to make amends for our first two weeks here, the weather has been mostly sunny and without a drop of rain since last Friday. Yesterday was an almost perfect Weardale day with a few clouds floating about, light breeze and temperature of around 20C/68F. This morning promises more of the same.

I can now safely say that trying to collect fluorite from the roof of our main tunnel while standing on a scaffold was every bit as enjoyable as I had imagined it would be. The space was too small for two people to work at the same time, so Ian and I had to take turns at it. The floor of the scaffold was just a bit too high to allow one to completely stand upright while digging at the mud and rock. It was impossible to use water while standing on the scaffold unless one wanted to become completely soaked and covered in mud almost instantaneously. Because of the lack of water, it was often hard to tell if any given lump of mud and rock was a fluorite specimen, so most were passed down for washing in hopes of finding something. Large rocks had a habit of coming loose with little warning, giving one the option of either stepping aside and hopefully letting it fall to the floor of the scaffold without hitting you, or quickly trying to hold it in place while you pondered your next step.

By mid-day we had recovered a number of decent specimens from the muck, and had largely exposed two rather large fluorite-coated rocks on the east side of our window through the roofing timber, which are the subject of today’s photo. Ian managed to get the first (and smaller) of the two out without dislodging its neighbor. After spraying the area down with water while standing below the scaffold in hopes of washing out a bit of the ever-present mud, I had a go at the second one. Upon close inspection, it quickly became obvious that this one would be too massive to simply lift down once it came loose. Scavenging about for some scraps of mine timber, we built a small platform under it, shoved some carpet scraps in for padding, and gently dislodged it. As hoped, it came to rest on our padded platform, but in the process, brought with it a huge slab of mud and clay that came to rest on my back. As it was behind me, I was unable to see exactly how large a portion of the ceiling I was now supporting, but fortunately it was small enough to slide past me onto the scaffold floor as I headed for the ladder.

Dave and Joe were spending much of the day hauling up newly delivered timber from the quarry floor. After extracting myself from the mud, I went out to get his opinion about just how to deal with our large and now loose specimen resting on the rafters. Dave agreed that it was too large for anyone to lift down and suggested that we construct a stack of timbers under it, which could then be removed one at a time in hopes of lowering it far enough below the roof timbering to then get it onto a board and slide it onto the waiting loco to be driven out of the mine. This is rather like what he did to get the Giant down and out of the mine last summer. On the plus side, this rock is smaller. On the minus side, it is much higher above the tunnel floor. Guess we’ll find out today if this works.

Tired and wet, we headed back up dale for a supper of smoked haddock cakes, sautéed mushrooms and mash, washed down by a nice Macon Village.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse & Ian

Fluorite-covered rocks in the mud, exposed in the tunnel ceiling.

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