Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

As usually happens this time of year, one morning you wake up to a chill in the air that tells you the brief northern summer is on it’s way out. Yesterday was that day here in Weardale. Seems a little early this year, but considering how anomalously warm and sunny June and July were this year, maybe we’ve had a condensed and concentrated summer that has now expended it’s self. Yesterday was cool and breezy with some occasional clouds that threatened rain but never seemed to get around to actually doing it. At least not on us at the mine.

Back at the mine Monday morning, we resumed our aborted job of modifying a set of rail points to be installed at the face of the main tunnel. Dave arrived with a refilled oxygen bottle for the cutting torch, along with a selection of special cobalt alloy drill bits that he hoped would finish the task of drilling holes in the rail and new steel sleepers. The bits were an improvement on the cheap ones we tried unsuccessfully to use on Friday, but still crapped out before Dave had quite finished, forcing him to use the torch to cut the final holes. That finally accomplished, the old sleepers were then cut, allowing us to separate the points into three sections, which were hopefully light enough to be transported to the face.

That accomplished, Dave and I set to mucking out the remaining debris from the face during the afternoon, in order to make room to lay the points. All went according to plan until the batteries in the loco died as I was driving out the final tub of muck. Fortunately, we didn’t need to get any other equipment in or out of the mine at that point, as the full tub remained in the middle of the drift while the loco went on the charger for a while.

Kristina was with us for the day, and after watching Dave and I dealing with the rail for a bit, joined Cal and Ian at the perhaps more interesting job of collecting. The north end of the Bluebirds pocket continues to be a tease. Just when we think we have reached the end, something else seems to turn up. On Sunday Ian and I had reached the limits of anyone’s reach while getting out the large plate, and I figured it would take some explosives in the floor to open it up again. Cal began digging the floor by hand and soon discovered a thin layer of fluorite about a foot below the layer Ian and I were following. The lower layer is thin, but during the day yielded a fair number of small to medium sided specimens covered with small gemmy fluorite crystals, along with the occasional galena, and Kristina had the opportunity to collect a few for herself.

Knocking off a bit early, Ian and I drove Kristina up to the Newcastle airport to continue her tour of England in the south, making it back to the cottage for a late supper and a quick pint at the Blue Bell.

Back at the mine yesterday, I continued helping Dave with the rail while Ian and Cal took turns collecting in the crosscut. With the points cut into three pieces, we were able to lift them onto the flatbed rail car (known as a “boogie”) and pushed them to the face. After unloading them and laying them in place, the new steel sleepers were bolted on to reassemble the points. Despite the fact that we had successfully assembled everything outside on the landing after drilling all the boltholes, once in the mine some of the holes did not line up when it came to final assembly. Fortunately, a large hammer was all that was called for in most instances, and we only had to re-drill one of the holes to get everything bolted back together. Today’s photo is of Dave beginning the job of reassembling the points at the face.

Cal and Ian continued to be successful with collecting in the crosscut, and while almost all of what was found will end up in wholesale flats, Ian recovered a couple very nice specimens toward the end of the day. In the process of collecting the newly discovered lower fluorite layer, Cal and Ian had moved the floor forward, close enough to the end of the exposed cavity that Ian could get access to what lay behind the large plate we recovered on Sunday, and got out the two nice pieces. The cavity now resembles what we faced last Saturday, with a very large rock in the floor, blocking access to whatever may lay beyond. While I am helping Dave install the points at the face today, I an sure Ian and Cal will be doing their best to remove this obstacle.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Dave working on a set of rail points at the main face.

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