Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

Sunday evening the clouds moved in and it began raining around midnight. The rain continued throughout the day yesterday, and was at times quite heavy. Lunch break was one of those thoroughly forgettable experiences where everyone huddles in our storage container, dripping mud and water while eating their sandwiches and staring out at the pouring rain and the rapidly growing mud puddles. Fortunately, days like that have been rare this summer, though last year I think they were more common than not. By the end of the day our waterfall into the quarry had even come back to life. Fortunately, the clouds broke during the evening and this morning dawns clear, if a bit chilly.

Although collecting in the crosscut has slowed down, we have continued to get specimens out over the past several days. Nothing really great, but all good saleable material. On Friday Cal, Ian, Jurgen and I took turns between collecting and mucking while Dave and Joe drilled the main face for a blast at the end of the day. Cal has opened up an area in the north portion of the crosscut heading to the west, which continued to produce specimens for us. Perhaps the most interesting thing to turn up were two near identical fluorite covered stalactites about 6-7 cm long each. Both had a bit of damage, which is not surprising given the jumbled nature of the flats in this area, but were interesting none the less. We also spent some time digging at the section of flats heading south from the crosscut. The area was fairly productive, and a fair number of large single twinned crystals turned up. Sadly, most things from this portion of the flats continue to be heavily etched. By the end of the day progress in this direction had become impeded by a very large block of ironstone that turned up directly in the middle of our excavation.

The weekend was fairly quite, largely due to the fact that everyone is beginning to get rather tired from the almost non-stop physical labor that comes with having a small mining operation. On Saturday we hosted a group of mine explorers, most of whom were pleased to see a mine that was actually still in operation – a rare experience around here any more. Cal got a little digging done in the crosscut, but we all decided to head home by around 1600. Kerith and Jurgen took a sight-seeing drive through the Lakes District in Cumbria and returned shortly after we got back from the mine.

Sunday morning Jurgen was off for his return trip home to Bamberg. After a few coffees Ian and I got up the motivation to drive up to a section of Hadrian’s Wall known as Steel Riggs for a hike. The wall was built by the Romans during the 2nd century and formed the border between “civilized” Roman Britain to the south and the unruly barbarians to the north. This section of the wall was built upon some high bluffs and a hike along the top gives some spectacular views, if the weather cooperates. Fortunately, it did. Today’s photo is of the remains of one of the Roman mile-house fortifications along this section of the wall. When we left Cal and Kerith were lounging about reading. When we got back they were doing much the same, so a needed restful day was obviously had.

Friday’s blast at the face had gone off as planned and on Monday morning everyone was greeted by a large, neat pile of rock in the main drift. Before Dave and Joe got too far into mucking we ask Dave to drill and shoot the large rock we had uncovered in the southern part of the flats. This is where things started to go wrong. The shot was fairly light, and broke up the rock as planned. However, the shock also brought down part of the roof in the northern section. We had been hoping to keep the tunnel in this section of flats narrow enough that timbering would not be necessary. So much for that plan. The rest of the day was spent mucking the area out once again (it seems like I’ve been doing this almost daily for the past week or so), and installing some timber to support the roof.

I think the plan for today is to move some rock to push the northern section of the crosscut forward, and finish the timbering. Hopefully, Dave and Joe can then get back to the job of mucking out the main face and the rest of us can do it in the crosscut once again!

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Hadrian's Wall near Steel Riggs.

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