Thursday, August 8, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

There has been little rain since our deluge on Monday, and the temperatures have dropped a bit from the heat wave we had here last month. Evenings have become a bit chilly now, though daily highs are around 20C/68F. The rains successfully refilled our ephemeral ponds in the quarry, but the road is drying out nicely so the area around the mine is no longer a mud bath. If we want that, we now have to go underground.

As anticipated, most of Tuesday was spent hand-mucking the Northeast Crosscut. After putting off the task by packing a few shipping bins with specimens and wandering about the quarry taking photos of the profusion of wildflowers, we finally got suited up and headed in to the mine to see what awaited us. Daveís quickly improvised timbering in the pocket area survived the shot in good condition, and we were presented with a neat pile of mud and rock filling the drift. So as Dave and Joe got back to mucking out the main drift with the Eimco, Cal, Ian and I had at the crosscut with hack, shovel and wheelbarrow. After trying to pick out most of the big rocks by hand, Ian took the first position with the hack at the face, raking all the stuff back to me, in the middle of the drift. I, in turn, would rake it out into the main crosscut where Cal would shovel it into the barrow. After several hours of this (liberally interspersed with rest breaks) we managed to get it cleaned out and the face exposed once again. Todayís photo shows Ian taking one of these breaks in the drift.

After a quick wash-down, we found that the ironstone alteration had moved higher up and there were several bands of fluorite showing. We also found that a large section of rock, which we had previously undercut while chasing the fluorite layer on the west side of the drift was developing some cracks. To keep things from becoming difficult, we quickly gathered together a collection of timber scraps from around the mine and blocked the rocks from below to keep them in place. By that point, the afternoon was getting on and everyone was feeling pretty knackered from a day of hand-mucking. While Ian and Cal wandered out to clean of and warm up, I got in about 15-20 minutes of washing and poking at the face. About the time Dave came to chase me out and lock up the mine I managed to get a very nice plate of gemmy, lustrous fluorite twins out of the mud. Excited about the prospect of a new exposure of fluorite, everyone headed up dale for a few pints, some venison burgers and a relatively early evening to bed.

Back at the mine yesterday, we got a lesson in what can happen if one letís the imagine run off on a tangent. Cal was first in to the mine and headed straight for the crosscut, and managed to recover a few more nice pieces. About the time Ian and I arrived, he was heading off to Stanhope to meet up with Bob and Carroll Jackson, who are visiting from the States, and show them the way to the mine. John Land from Gemcraft showed up to buy a few specimens for their shop, so I rounded up a selection of bits from about the mine for him to look through while Ian took his turn collecting. By the time I finally got to the crosscut, things had altered considerably. Gone were the discrete layers of fluorite I had seen the afternoon before, and what were now presented with was a broken-up jumble of mud, rock, and small fragments of fluorite, all mixed up as if someone had put the whole mess through a blender. Cal brought in the portable Bosch hammer-drill and was able to get a couple specimens off a large rock to one side of the pocket zone using some feathers and wedges, but otherwise, we spend the rest of the day washing mud and picking out colorful bits. I donít think I found a single intact specimen all afternoon.

Today at the mine Dave plans to start the process of installing a set of rail points at the main face. This will allow Dave to split the tunnel and create a siding where he can park a second tub to use during mucking. There is an old set of points sitting on the landing that he is planning to refurbish and then haul to the face for installation. These things are really heavy and large. I am not sure just how he is going to get the thing moved to the face, but Iím sure he has a plan. And it probably involved some lifting on the part of the rest of us. All will be revealed soon, Iím sure. After that, we can try to figure out how to proceed in the crosscut.

Stay tuned for moreÖ

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Ian taking a break from mucking out the crosscut.

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