Thursday, June 18, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

For the past few days we seem to have been in a repeating cycle of cool and cloudy in the morning, sun in the afternoon, and nice clear evenings. Yesterday it actually got rather hot at the mine, and this was (of course) when we decided that we needed to haul a bunch of heavy timbers from the quarry floor up to the mine landing. This morning begins cool and cloudy again, with almost no breeze. Hopefully, the cycle will continue.

At the mine on Tuesday, first order of business was to repair the ruptures air hose, so Cal and I had at it while Dave went to work at the face. Fortunately, the rupture had occurred right at the coupling to the compressor, so armed with a bread knife to cut the hose and a camping stove with a bowl of hot water to soften the end of the now slightly shorter hose, we were able to get it back onto the connector, and back in business.

After inspecting the face, Dave decided that he was going to make another small blast before installing the next set of timbers, so that was drilled and fired by lunch-time. Having air to the face means that, in theory at least, we can fire a shot during the day and get back in to work without having to let the air clear over night. In fact, however, the only air blower we have been able to find available here in the North English outback is the sort used to inflate bouncy castles. While these things may be effective at keeping the kiddies amused for hours, they struggle to push a lot of air along what is now around 1000 feet (350 meters) of air ducting from near the portal to the current face of the mine. As the shot was fairly small, we decided to have a go at mucking after taking our lunch break anyway. We found the main tunnel still fairly thick, but the ventilation has created a habitable zone at the face, so we were able to begin cleaning up our mess while the rest of the tunnel slowly cleared. The newly revitalized Eimco performed as it should, though Dave continued to have derailment problems around the tight bend. Despite that, the face was cleaned out by end of day, and we found a nice large area of ironstone alteration mixed with bits of green fluorite and galena covering about one third of the newly exposed face.

Back on Wednesday, the first order of business was to secure the new section of tunnel before Cal and I start making a mess by picking at and hosing down the altered zone. After shoveling out the last bits of debris from around the face, Dave cut and installed a new section of rail, which should help with the derailment problems. Cal, meanwhile, could not stop himself from poking around a bit, and managed to recover a few fairly decent specimens from a patch of the ceiling that would shortly be covered with timber.

A couple friends, Lloyd and Helen showed up in the morning for a visit. Lloyd lives in Norfolk and spends much of his time working on oil platforms in the North Sea off of Norway. For some reason, he seems to like spending his time off crawling around wet muddy mines up here in the North, and will hook up with local collector and fearless mine explorer Helen for a bit of muddy fun when time allows. Always happy to have some free help, we turned them loose in last summer’s crosscut while Cal and I helped Dave at the face.

While our guests had at collecting, Cal and I helped Dave haul up a load of timber to the mine landing from the quarry floor. This involves carrying 8 to 10 foot long bits of timber from where they are stacked in the quarry to the base of the mine dump, stacking them again and then wrapping a cable around the end. Yours truly, manning the winch up on the landing, then reels in the cable, pulling up the load, which is then restacked on the landing prior to being cut to the correct lengths. This process was repeated several times, during the middle of what is possibly the hottest day we’ve had here so far, and by the end all three of us were likely approaching heat stroke. About the time we finished with that chore, Lloyd and Helen emerged from their collecting, thoroughly soaked, and complaining of potential hypothermia. They spent a bit of time basking in the sun and warmth while the rest of us went underground to cool off.

After recovering our composure, Dave quickly measured up the area for timbering and cut the required bits, which Cal and I loaded into the loco and drove to the face. By the end of the day, much of the assembly was in place, and will now (hopefully) keep too many rocks from dropping on us as we dig away at the newly discovered alteration zone.

After a quick clean-up back at the cottage, we rendezvoused with Lloyd, Helen and Barry over the hill at Langdon Beck for a few pints and some supper. Today’s photo is of a lovely clear North Pennines summer evening as seen from Langdon Beck in upper Teasdale. Today we hope to find out what lurks behind the mud in the newly exposed and now secure portion of the face.

Forward in all directions.

Jesse, Cal & Kerith

A nice summer evening in the North Pennines.

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