Thursday, July 25, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather here continues to be humid and warm, though a little cooler than the highs last week. Breezes have been scarce so evenings continue to be rather buggy. Yesterday began with a heavy overcast, but by late afternoon this had broken up and the remaining clouds lingering in the west gave us a very nice sunset. Obviously, the clouds came back overnight as I was awoken around 0430 to the sound of heavy rain. Dragging myself out of bed around 0700 I found the sun breaking through again, so we might have a sunny day today. This being the North Pennines, I am placing no bets, however.

Dave and Joe were back on Tuesday and spent much of the day preparing the Northeast Crosscut for a blast at the end of the day. I had picked up a small supply of powder and dets on the way in, anticipating having Dave open up the crawl space we had created collecting while he was away. After looking it over, Dave decided that it would be best to push the crosscut one more round to the east and then back up and open up our collecting tunnel, which heads north. This meant a return trip to our store for more, but by day’s end the main face of the crosscut was drilled and fired.

Wednesday morning found that the shot had gone off as planned, leaving a large mound of rock and mud in the tunnel, and fortunately, all the timbering still in place. While blasting in a fluorite-producing area, the tendency is to shoot lightly in hopes of not accidentally blowing up too much of what we are searching for. Unlike the Penny’s Pocket zone on the west side, the flats here have so far been low in the face, near the tunnel floor. Over the fluorite zone are a couple layers of large limestone blocks. If we shot the area hard, these would likely be reduced to manageable sized rubble that could be shoveled out. Shooting lightly, we are finding ourselves faced each time with some large and insecure blocks remaining in the roof. Sometimes they can be bared down and then beaten into submission with Dave’s 14-pound hammer. Sometimes they remain stubbornly in place and require drilling and blasting again. This time we got both.

A quick hole through one of the offending rocks and a light shot squared up the ceiling of the crosscut, and we then got to the task of hand mucking. As there is no rail in the crosscut, everything must be shoveled into a wheelbarrow and shifted into the main drift, where it can then be removed with the Eimco. The thought of shifting a rather large pile of muck by hand struck me as a bit intimidating, but I was reminded of the old saying that one eats an elephant one bite at a time and had at it. Taking turns at the shovel, we had almost all of it moved into the main drift by end of day. During the process, Joe got a lesson in the proper application of a large hammer to a large rock, something I assured him would most certainly come in handy when he returns to pursuing a physics degree at university in the autumn.

The day begins rather tired and sore from the experience, but most of it is done and today Dave will concentrate on timbering the new portion of the crosscut and then opening up the collecting area for us. The roof layer above our crawlspace looks broken enough that hope is we can do this by hand. If all goes according to plan, we should be back at the fluorite by this afternoon or tomorrow morning. One never knows what will happen until after the fact, but at least we’ve got a plan.

Just to add some local color to a story full of relatively colorless mud and rock, today’s photo is if the hillside above the Heights quarry, which is currently covered with common ragwort in bloom.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Some local color.

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