Friday, July 25, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

I think summer has finally arrived in the North Pennines, or at least a few days of it. Since Tuesday it has been uniformly sunny, and yesterday it got downright hot for Weardale. When we left the quarry around 1700 the thermostat in the car said it was 28C (82F). That may not seem very high if you live someplace like Tucson, but with the high local humidity, it makes spending the day underground seem all the more attractive.

Tuesday was a catch up day at the mine, and we spent much of the morning scrubbing the mud off of specimens that had been put to soak in our tubs of truck wash detergent. Being a nice sunny day, everything dried quickly and we were able to wrap and pack them away for shipping. This brought us to around 20 bins of fluorite so far, which is fairly meager compared to last year. With several weeks yet to go for this season, we will hopefully get a bit more.

After finishing with the washing and packing, we spent the afternoon taking turns in the current pocket. There was still a good bit of fluorite showing but most was attached to the left-hand wall of the cavity and fairly difficult to remove without resorting to blasting. The back of the pocket, while still broken up and mud-filled was showing little fluorite, and for our efforts we only managed a tub or two of specimens. Ian spent a bit of time working at the head of last summer’s pocket and managed to dislodge a rather sizeable rock with several patches of fluorite on it. Given its size, no one was eager to carry it out, so we left it in the pocket with the thought to drive it out the next time we have the loco at the face.

Back up dale we found that Ian’s wife Di had arrived for a visit of several days and brought along a catered feast of lamb tagiene for us. Given the nice weather, we set the table in the small patch of lawn in front of the cottage and had our first outdoor dinner of the season.

Dave and Joe were back on Wednesday, so we had at cleaning up the mess the three of us have made collecting at the face over the past week. We had dug a considerable amount of mud from the pocket, which when mixed with the rock at the face from the last blast Dave made before leaving for his bike race in Belgium had created quite a sticky mess. Mucking this sort of stuff can be a chore as it tends to stick to everything, including the Eimco bucket, the muck tub, and when tipped onto the dump usually just piles up on top rather than sliding down hill. Sometimes the muck will become so sticky that it won’t even dump when the tub is tipped over and can take the tub with it over the side. Fortunately, this didn’t happen to us this time, but we did end up taking turns with the hack scraping the stuff down the dump between loads.

That accomplished, we spent the afternoon helping Dave install a new set of timbering at the face. There was one large and rather dodgy-looking rock hanging in the ceiling near the pocket, which Dave thought we would need to bring down with a small shot. Fortunately, the rock broke into several pieces when he began drilling it and he was then able to get it down with a bar. Today’s photo is of Dave with the air saw cutting timbering at the face.

Dave’s bike had blown a head gasket at his race, so yesterday he took the day off to start working on it in preparation to his next race at the end of the month. The three of us went in to the mind with the intention of having at the remaining fluorite on the wall of the cavity. The plan was to drill the rock behind the fluorite with our Bosch portable hammer drill and break it away. Unfortunately, the going was slower than hoped and the resulting specimens were not all that great. At one point during the afternoon Cal decided to take the 14-pound hammer to the large rock Ian had recovered on Tuesday, and succeeded in reducing it to two more manageable specimens, which now require the chain saw.

Back up dale late afternoon, we met up with friends Dave and Audry Lloyd, who are visiting for a few days, and enjoyed yet another dinner outside on the lawn.

After yesterday’s disappointing take from the pocket, we’ve decided it’s time to throw the dice and blast the area again. Cal, Kerith and our visitors are off to a pottery festival in Penrith today, so Ian and I will be in to the mine helping Dave move things along. Hopefully, there will be more fluorite at the end of the tunnel when we’re finished.

Stay tuned for more.

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Dave in carpenter mode.

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