Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather continues to be somewhat changeable but overall fairly summer-like – for the North Pennines, that is. Days have been largely overcast, with occasional outbreaks of sunshine, but any rain that has come down has kept itself to overnight. This morning begins bright and clear. Yesterday evening at the pub I heard reports of midges, but have yet to encounter them myself.

A good bit of Sunday was spent hosting the Sussex Mineral and Lapidary Society, who were on a trip about the area, visiting some of the few mining sites still accessible. The group, around ten people including Mindat Meister Jolyon and his wife Katya got a tour about the workings, and then busied themselves having a ratch about the tip, and trying to break up some large bits of fluorite-containing rock into sizes that might not ruin a car’s suspension on the trip back south. All-in-all, everyone seemed to have a good time and most came away with some souvenir bits.

Yesterday, our ongoing equipment problems continued to dog us, albeit in an ever-changing fashion. The service van from the compressor hire company was back first thing. Third visit seems to have done it, as once the old alternator was swapped out for a new one, the unit fired up and ran as it should. Despite the fact that the service tech was a very friendly fellow, I hope we won’t be seeing him again for a while.

With Dave out chasing after replacement seals for the jack legs, we decided to get out the chain saw and cut up our recent accumulation of large specimens. So far this year, the chain saw power unit had started up without trouble, but not this time. Despite having a new battery, it was acting like the battery was not fully charged. Last summer we replaced the alternator on the unit, so I am not quite sure why the battery wasn’t charged, but fortunately, last summer I had also purchased a battery charger. Out it came, and we fired up one of our portable generators and settled back for a bit to let the battery charge. Only trouble was that the generator motor kept dying on us after around 10 minutes of use. After a few restarts, we finally got enough charge in the battery to start the chain saw power unit and finally got to cutting up the rocks.

About the time we finished with the sawing, Dave and Joe arrived. Unfortunately, the new jack leg seals we were promised had not yet materialized, but he was assured they would be available by the afternoon. With the compressor back in action, they were at least able to muck out the mess we had made at the face while collecting the past few days, in preparation for another round of drilling in the new crosscut. Today’s photo is of Dave tipping a load of muck off the end of the landing.

With Dave mucking at the face and the sawing complete, there was little we could do at the mine, so we decided to drive to Bishop Auckland and visit a tool supply shop to get some new drill bits for our portable rock drill. On the way, I managed to get a flat tire, and after pulling over a place that looked safe enough to change a tire, found out that the rental car I had been driving the entire trip did not have a spare. Not only that, it didn’t even have a jack or a wrench to remove the lug nuts from the wheel! Cal told me that something similar had happened to him a while back, and he was forced to call the emergency road assistance number on the car’s rental contract in order to get the tire changed. He was later charged over $500 for the service, along with the cost of the new tire. I can only think that by sending out cars without a spare tire, the rental companies are trying to squeeze more money out of customers by forcing them to call (and pay for) their roadside assistance service because they can’t take care of the problem themselves.

Fortunately, we were able to get Dave on his mobile phone, and after a bit of a wait he showed up to help. Being a local, he knew of a tire shop not far away in Bishop Auckland, and after a couple trips back and forth, we had a new tire on the car and were back on the road. We also made it to the tool shop just as they were closing the doors for the day and were able to get out drill bits.

Lesson learned from this – always make sure the hire car has a spare tire before driving it off the rental lot! Unfortunately, while we were waiting at the tire shop, Dave got a call from the fellow he was supposed to get the jack leg seals from saying that there was yet another problem and they would not be available until this morning. I guess we’ll find out soon if this will be the case.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hello All,

Yesterday was a pleasant, warm by local standards -- perhaps mid-upper 60's F and mostly cloudy with a few sunny breaks and little wind and no rain.

Jesse, Ian and myself went up to meet the compressor repairman who was waiting for us at the gate. He set right to replacing the alternator and was gone before noon. We got into our gear and planned on a chainsaw session with the larger bits we had been accumulating.

Once all the specimens had been retrieved from the face and other dumping spots around the mine, we rolled out and the hydraulic power unit and hooked up the chainsaw and set to. Well, that is until we tried starting the hydraulic unit, which has a short somewhere so the battery was fairly drained. Jesse remembered he had purchased a charger last season and went down to retrieve it. It has the typical household plug used here as opposed to the more robust connectors used commercially. Unfortunately the only generator we have with that style of plug is our oldest which worked for ten minutes before shutting off, if let cool for ten you could get it run for ten more -- which happily enough was sufficient to get the hydraulic unit going and letting us get on with trimming down specimens. It was a two-person specimen to move and position. After dieting it is down to about 40 pounds or less and easily moved. During this process Dave and Joe showed up with good news and bad news. The bad news was that the new seals for the drill legs were the wrong size, the good was that they would be available the following day by 9:00a.m.

Dave and Joe set to firing up the compressor and mucking out the face while the three of us put the new trimmed specimens into soak and washed the specimens that had been soaking for several days. We took bait and at that point with little else to do decided to drive to Bishop Auckland and get some longer SDS drill bits for the 36V Bosch. What we have is far too short to do the job properly. Somewhere 8-10 miles or so shy of Bishop Auckland the sidewall of our tire gave out with a 3-inch gash. You would expect this to be a minor setback. However, Hertz in their infinite wisdom decided not to put no spare tire in, not even one of those little short haul ones. Also, no jack, no wrench to get the lug nuts off, just a sheet of paper explaining how to use the liquid for repairing punctures or the little 12V compressor to inflate your flat. But anything catastrophic and you were SOL.

I had my cellphone and contacted Dave at the mine site with our problem. He came out with a jack but the van wrench was the wrong size, of course, so into Bishop Auckland go Jesse and Dave, later back with a spider-wrench and off with the tire then back to BA for a replacement tire and we were on our way -- probably 2 1/2 hours later and all of us highly irritated with Hertz.

We did manage to get to Tool-Time just a closing time (it would have been sooooo irritating if it was already closed) and purchased the drill bits for the Bosch and made it back to Burnbrae about 6:00p.m. Really accomplished very little and it seems that our equipment problems continue to plague us.

That's all from the North. Cal & Kerith, Jesse & Ian

another load of muck over the edge.

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