Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Greetings from Weardale.

Welcome to what must be the longest running mineralogical soap opera on the web. 16 years now. If you’ve stuck with us for this long, that must say something about your character, but I’m not sure what. We’ll at least pretend that it is something quite flattering, as most people these days seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Or is that a midge?

Arrived in London last Wednesday on the usual commuter flight from home. The flight was only four hours late getting out of San Francisco, and was a chaos of frantic travelers with missed connections upon arrival. I was glad that I had planned on an overnight at Ian’s apartment before continuing on to Cardiff to meet up with him. Once there, I completed negotiations for his wife Di’s 10 year old Toyota Yaris, which is now the company run-about, and after a further day to recover from the 8-hour time change the two of us headed North.

Arriving in Weardale Saturday afternoon we found ourselves greeted by a very pleasant spring day in the North Pennines, quite unlike the torrential rains of last year. We also discovered that the phone and internet connection at our cottage had gone down. The landlord here is not what you would call “technically inclined” but has promised that we will have a visit from a phone company technicial some time today. I hope he’s right.

Fortunately, the Blue Bell now has wifi available, so I have been able to check emails and make Skype calls back home while nursing my first pint of the evening. Upper Weardale is still a fairly remote place and mobile phone signals can be spotty (not to say non-existent when inside an old stone-walled cottage. I’ve also located a spot in the driveway outside the cottage where reception is possible, so have been able to make calls while leaning on the neighbor’s gate. Fortunately, it hasn’t been raining much since we arrived.

After unloading our stuff to the cottage we (of course) headed to the Blue Bell. The pub changed hands over winter as the former owners have gone their separate ways. Things like this are always a cause for a certain amount of anxiety amongst the pub-going locals (and visitors), but other than a couple new faces behind the bar, things seemed well in hand. Ian’s football team Arsenal were playing in the FA Cup final that afternoon, so it was a “not-to-miss.” Fortunately, it started late afternoon so we were able to make the journey and settle in before the action began. Sunday, as usual, was spent on a trip to Hexham to pick up food and supplies for the cottage, and a few bits of warm clothing from an outdoor supply shop.

Monday morning we met up with Dave at the mine and things were off and running for the season. The water line was quickly reinstalled with only one leak to troubleshoot, and then we got to mucking out the crosscut where we were working last summer. The crosscut itself is about 20 feet long, and the excavation in the pocket zone is now another 20-30 feet long. As this is not on the main drift and accessible to the Eimco, any mess we make in there must be hauled out by hand. Welcome back to the world of a manual laborer. Shoveling mud and rock in a narrow cramped tunnel is not something I stay in practice for over winter, but by the end of the day we had it cleaned out to the face and found fluorite showing. Always a good sign!

Yesterday the compressor was delivered on schedule, so we are now fully mechanized – except for mucking out the crosscut, that is. After spending a bit of time digging at the face of the pocket zone, we decided that we needed more room to work, so Ian and I spent several hours lowering the floor and hauling out the mud and muck. Today’s photo is of Dave shoveling the muck into the ore car at the mouth of the crosscut. Upon finally getting a chance to examine the ace in detail, the exposures didn’t look overly promising, so after consultation with Dave, we’ve decided rather than spend more effort in the crosscut, to continue driving the main drift north and angle slightly east in hopes of intersecting the pocket zone further along. If we can hit it with the main drift, this will save us having to muck by hand over a long distance. My back will appreciate that!

This morning dawns clear and slightly breezy, and looks to be another nice spring day in these parts. Ian will be going in to the mine with Dave while I wait for the phone company technician who will, hopefully, get us reconnected with the rest of the universe.

Welcome back to Weardale, stay tuned for more.


Jesse & Ian

The life of a manual laborer...

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