Thursday, July 3, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

Yesterday began as a bright sunny day here in the North Pennines – the sort we haven’t seen too many of this year. When we arrived at the quarry the temperature was already up to 20C/68F. This did not last for long, however. By mid-afternoon heavy clouds had returned and a strong wind was whipping up the trees around the mine. I was sure that a rainstorm was imminent, but it never arrived. I think we got a little rain over night, but that was all. Hopefully our population of midges has been blown out over the North Sea by the winds to there serve as fish food.

Tuesday morning got a bit of a late start as Dave had to make a trip into Bishop Auckland for another tank of oxygen. While waiting for him to return, Cal and I spent some time trying to hack and wash down the end of the tip to make room to dump more muck. Much of what we have been dumping for several days is wet and muddy, and rather than flow or roll down, it just piles up at the top, hence the need for us to scrape and wash it down regularly. After about an hour of this I thought we had made good progress, but soon realized that it would be quickly filled up again with the first load out of the mine.

Around noon Dave finally arrived with the new gas bottle, but it turned out that the supplier had only very large ones in stock. The ones we usually get can be hauled up the stairs by two people with a bit of difficulty, but no way were we going to carry up his one. Dave pulled the winch cable down and we pulled it up the tip – a process that scraped up the new paint job on the bottle more than a little, but sure saved some abuse to our backs.

Dave then set up the torch and began cutting bolt holes in the ends of the rail, while I took of to Durham to pick up Ian at the train station. Upon returning about an hour later I found that Dave had the new length of rain installed at the face and was getting ready for yet another small shot on the right-hand side of the face. We were certain that we were very close to the eastern flats, and only a few feet from the end of last summer’s hand-dug collecting tunnel. Aside from moving us forward another foot or two, there were some seriously large rocks hanging in the roof that needed to come down for safety if no other reason. The shot went off at day’s end as planned, and we headed back up dale for a traditional supper of Cumberland sausage and mash, followed by a bit of time at the Blue Bell watching a bit if the World Cup.

Back yesterday, first order of business was to get the face mucked out once again and see what had turned up. Despite our attempts at chemical persuasion, a couple very large rocks remained hanging precariously over the spot in the face where we hoped the flats would be. Dave had them down with a bar in short order, but one of them was truly huge and I was sure Dave would need to drill and shoot it. He seemed to think otherwise, and I think he sees it as a challenge to get the largest rock possible into the tub using the Eimco. It took a while, and several derailments of the Eimco, but he finally got it. I was truly impressed, if not a little terrified to see this huge rock balanced atop the Eimco and slowly heading in my direction as I stood by the tub and loco. Finally out, Cal and Ian had the pleasure of tipping it over the side and watching it roll away, which is the subject of today’s photo. I don’t think any amount of mud could have held it at the top!

Once the face was cleaned up, we spent several hours cutting and installing the necessary timber, and by around 1630 everything had been made safe again (or at least as safe as we’re going to get doing this sort of thing). Out came the water hose and we started washing mud and poking at rock in the highly altered zone where we hoped the flats to be. Shortly we were finding bits of green fluorite and galena, and even recovered a few intact specimens. Being time to head back up the dale, we gave it a good hosing down with hopes that the water will loosen some of the clay over night, and headed back to the cottage for some fresh (if not quite traditional) ahi and a bottle of Sardinian vermentino.

Everyone has high hopes that today we will be spending out first day in quite a while getting thoroughly wet and muddy in pursuit of fluorite specimens. We’ll know more soon.

Until next time,

Jesse, Cal & Kerith

Just another rock on the tip.

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