Saturday, June 22, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

Despite forecasts to the contrary, we have received little rain here over the past couple of days. We have had some heavy overcast much of the time but it never quite got around to much more than an overnight sprinkling of rain. Thursday evening it was quite humid and absolutely no breeze, which seems to have prompted the midges to finally emerge in force. This morning the wind is up again, so hopefully the little buggers have been blown into the next county.

Thursday morning Dave drilled several holes behind the large fluorite-covered rock remaining at the side of our new crosscut, allowing up to try and fracture it out with some feather and wedge sets. Assuming that the rock would come out in one piece, we constructed a timber platform and put some padding under the fluorite-covered face, and began hammering away at the wedges. The rock put up a surprisingly good fight but with the aid of a few additional chisels we were finally able to break it loose and muscle it down a plank onto the loco, and drive it out of the mine. Today’s photo is of Dave, hammer at hand, ready to start swinging at the wedges behind the rock.

Cal had taken some old drill steel to a blacksmith located near Barnard Castle to get them fashioned into some more collecting tools, and returned to the mine as we were driving the large rock out onto the landing. After washing the mud off of our new prize, we gathered up a few other large specimens lying about the mine, fired up the chainsaw, and soon had them reduced to a manageable size and weight.

Since getting into the Penny’s pocket zone two years ago, we have recovered a considerable number of very large fluorite-covered rocks from the zone. Having the chain saw has been a life-saver in allowing us to cut away much of the matrix on these large things lightening them considerably for shipment home. On the down side, it seems that few collectors want specimens much larger then 15 cm (6 inches), so almost all of them need to be cut down further in order to make them saleable.

With the rock now out of the crosscut, Dave and Joe set to another round of drilling for a small blast that would square up the new tunnel and allow it to be timbered. The shot went off as planned at the end of the day, and we all headed back up dale for our appointment with a swarm of midges.

Back at the mine yesterday morning, Ian and I helped Dave and Joe muck the crosscut while Cal spent a bit of time exploring what remains of the fluorite seam in the area we found the Giant last summer. There remains a considerable amount of mud in the area, and after a couple hours work, Cal seemed to be wearing a good bit of it, but sadly, only came away with a few decent single twinned crystals for his efforts. Looks like that area is pretty well worked out.

Dave has a bike race up in Scotland this weekend, so he and Joe left early so he could get packed up for it. Cal, Ian and I went back into the newly mucked crosscut and had at the fluorite seam for a couple hours. Unfortunately, our take was even worse than what we got from the area on Wednesday. Although there is a lot of fluorite showing, the area seems to be completely crushed up and everything comes out in bits. Time to roll the dice and blast again.

Back up dale, there was a domino tournament on at the Blue Bell last night. These things are usually quite lively and vociferous, particularly as the evening progresses and more alcohol is consumed. Despite this, Kerith was interested in participating and made it through three rounds, keeping her up well past her normal bedtime. Ian and I, opting for a more sedate solstice celebration, drove over the moors to the Langdon Beck Hotel and had a couple pints and some conversation with Dave, the bartender there.

After being at the mine almost non-stop for five weeks, I need to make a quick trip home and help Joan with things around the house such as paying bills, business accounting and looking into some failing insulation in our upstairs atrium. Ian, having fewer domestic obligations at hand, is making his annual trip to the Ste. Marie Aux Mines mineral show in France. We will return on July 8 to pick up the pieces and carry on through August. Hopefully some tunneling in the meantime will get us into a more productive zone.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith




Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hello All,

We had another nice day on Friday, it was moderately warm for Weardale with temperatures approaching the upper 60's, very light breezes -- not enough sadly to keep the midges at bay which have finally arrived about a month late but ferocious as ever-- and overcast and fairly humid.

Thursday morning Jesse and Ian took off a bit before 10:00a.m. to accept a delivery at Heights then on to the mine where I had gone and opened things up shortly before they along with Dave and Joe arrived. I took off with a 6' section of old drill steel to be made into chisels and a drawing of a medium-sized version of our small feather and wedge sets. The blacksmith is located in Little Newsham about 5 miles outside of Barnard Castle to the east. The town appears to consist of two building, the shop and a pub. Upon my getting back from that errand, I looked up while getting outfitted to see Jesse, Ian, Dave and Joe unloading the big hanging wall block that had defeated our efforts to move it. Dave had drilled a series of holes to use the big feather and wedge sets but even that was not enough till the crew was able to loosen the top. A huge amount of effort, stark contrast to the first two large bits that came out, seems to be some sort of balance in the universe. If something comes easily you can always bet you will pay for it with something you have to struggle over.

Dave and Joe spent the balance of the afternoon drilling and preparing a cross-cut for an afternoon blast. Things went off smoothly and we were able to leave the quarry by 5:00 p.m.

Thursday afternoon's blast was to square off the new cross-cut which it did, so Friday morning Dave and Joe mucked it out and did some initial timbering before taking off mid-afternoon. Jesse, Ian and I spent part of the morning washing up the previous day's small haul out of the zone, meager though it was it still was more than we found on Friday. This is a crush zone so specimens have been hard to come by. Jesse and Ian helped Joe and Dave and as a fifth would have been useless I decided to go back into the area where we removed the Giant last season. I got exceptionally wet and muddy but had only a few specimens -- mostly single gem twins to show for my effort -- but I know it is truly worked out up there now.

As Friday was the longest day of the year, we had extra time for the pub. The Blue Bell was hosting the John Barron domino tournament. Kerith decided to participate as she did last year. This year, in the field of 32 players she survived into the third round before falling in the best of five games. It goes without saying that the pub was crowded for this and amazing amounts of beer were consumed by the participants and the peanut gallery.

Saturday morning dawns overcast and cool and we have had some rain overnight. BBC is telling us this weekend will be one of rain and showers so our unbelievably long spate of decent weather is coming to an end.

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



Dave with hammer at hand.

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