Thursday, July 18, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The BBC weather forecast this morning said that yesterday was the hottest day of the year, so far, routinely reaching temperatures over 30C in the South. Not quite so hot up here, but I am glad I spent much of it underground. This morning, it looks like we’re for a repeat performance, at least for the weather.

Tuesday morning Dave and Joe finished mucking out ant timbering the alcove in the Northeast Crosscut. This done, they took off so Dave could spend a few hours getting ready for his trip to Belgium and the bike race. With the alcove secured (at least until we make a mess in there again), Ian, Cal and I spent the afternoon taking turns at collecting. The alcove is fairly small and until we manage to widen it out a bit, there is only room for one person to collect at a time. If we widen the collecting area too much we run the risk of undercutting the roof and destabilizing it, so it is likely that collecting will remain a one person at a time job unless/until we find collectable fluorite at another spot in the mine.

By the end of the day we had managed to collect several tubs of decent specimens along with two fairly large plates covered with fluorite twins and scatterings of small galena crystals. As hoped, the quality of the fluorite is improving as we get further from the vein, and though some etching still shows up, the overall luster of the fluorite is much better than what we were finding last week. Unlike the Penny’s Pocket Zone we have been working for the past two years, the new flats at the head of the crosscut appear to have fluorite at three or more layers, the entire area is much more broken up. This means that we are not finding the overly large specimens we got the past two years, but the broken and jumbled nature of the new flats means that there is often a fair amount of damage on some pieces. Fortunately, most look like they will yield good material through judicious trimming and sawing once back home.

Cal had made some calls in the morning in an attempt to get someone familiar with electrical systems on diesel engines to come and have a look at the hydraulic power unit, and hopefully render it more reliable for us. Toward the end of the day a fellow showed up and after looking at it commented that the electrical harness looked like it had been assembled by a five year old. Fortunately that five year old was not one of us. Given our collective lack of knowledge about electrical systems, however, if it had been it likely would have been even worse. He decided that the best thing would be for him to dismantle the entire electrical system and take it back to his shop for a complete check up. Hopefully we will have it back in a few days so we can get the chain saw going before too many big bits accumulate.

Yesterday it was just Cal, Ian and myself at the mine, and we spent the entire day taking turns at collecting. Over the course of the day we recovered nine tubs of specimens, several bags full of individual crystals and fragments, and perhaps a dozen larger plates. This must have been one of the best collecting days we have had at the mine since the height of the Blue Bell Pocket in 2008. By about 1700 we had excavated a small tunnel northward from the head of the crosscut to just about the limit of anyone’s reach. Everyone was thoroughly muddy, wet and tired by the end of the day, but lounging about on the landing in the current heat while washing up was certainly a pleasant experience. Today’s photo is of a portion of the day’s harvest.

Today we will be wrapping and packing the accumulation of specimens from the past few days, and we will likely have enough bins to assemble another pallet for shipment home. Afterwards, I am sure we will be back to digging in the mud. Hopefully I can find a pair of wellies that don’t leak.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith




Good Morning,

Yesterday was quite warm. When I got in the car to leave the mine a little after 5:00 p.m. the temperature was 28C or 82F. We had light breezes and some clouds drifting by during the day and not a hint of rain. The coolest place to be was inside the mine. It was pleasant enough that once again we sat out for dinner but when the breeze died out the midges returned in force.

Jesse, Ian and I spent the entire day digging in the cross-cut and had probably the best day of digging since one or two days during the heyday of the Blue Bell pocket some years ago. Due to the way the pocket (tentative name Bluebird - suggested by Ian) is constructed with everything arranged in a crushed higgly piggly fashion we were all surprised at the amount of material that came out. While most specimens suffer from some damage, much of it can be trimmed away. One of the nicest things is we are not dealing with huge blocks of specimens as we did on the west side in Penny's Pocket.

I had hoped we might see the electrician with all the paraphernalia for our sad looking stripped down power unit. By late in the day we were all very sore, tired and wet -- in Jesse's case he had traded in his pair of boots in which one leaked for a pair in which both leaked, in Ian's case he managed to run water down his arm into his jacket and down his shoulder and shirt and in my case I managed to fill a boot full of water. Due to the pocket's construct we tend to spend a fair bit of time laying on our sides blasting away with the water. We will have at it again today though we must change directions since the northern section we have been following is now at maximum reach. We also need to finish packing three blue bins worth and put together another pallet before Alistair closes down for two weeks on Friday.

Today, Thursday, is predicted to be another warm one. Hot by local standards.

Cheers from the Far North, Cal & Kerith, Jesse & Ian



Some new specimens from the Northeast Crosscut.

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