Thursday, August 7, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

The weather here in Weardale has been it’s usual combination of sunshine and rain. Fortunately, much of the rain has come overnight, and I recall waking up around 0230 yesterday morning hearing a fairly serious downpour in progress. This had moved on by morning and between the breeze and afternoon sunshine, the quarry was on its way to drying out again. This morning begins with a chill in the air, but only a few clouds about.

The week so far has been taken up by another drill-blast-muck-timber cycle. Monday morning I was away early to meet the delivery wagon at our magazine to receive what will likely be our last order of explosives for the season. Cal had gone in to the mine to open up and wash some of the specimens we had collected over the weekend, and had this well under way by the time I arrived. Dave had some errands to attend to during the morning and arrived around noon. After a short conference at the face, we decided to drill and shoot the right (east) side of the tunnel just back from the pocket zone. This would (hopefully) widen the tunnel enough to get the Eimco up to the face and give us better access to the section of flats we have found.

Taking the main heading from the west side of the main vein to the east this summer has produced an “S” curve in the track, which we have just completed and are heading northward again. Timbering a curve is a bit more complicated that a straight section of tunnel, so a good bit of time was spent during the afternoon installing timber braces (known as “stretchers” and “kickers”) to try and keep the upright support posts from moving during a blast. That completed, we drilled and fired the shot at end of day.

Back Tuesday morning, we found that the shot had gone as planned, leaving us with a nice pile of rock against the west side of the face and all timbering intact. The shot had been relatively small, only 5 holes (as opposed to 24 or more for a full face blast), leaving us with a fairly small pile of rock to remove. What should have been a quick job quickly became complicated by the Eimco, which developed the bad habit of jumping the track while backing over the most recent curve in the rail. Dealing with a fairly massive piece of equipment that has gone off the rail would likely take most of us here a good bit of time, but Dave having years of experience with these things can make short work of it, and by lunchtime we had the area cleaned up once again.

The afternoon was spent hauling up another load of timber, cutting it and constructing another timber set at the face. No curves in the tunnel to deal with this time, so the job was finished by around 1600. Their job finished for the day, Dave and Joe headed off, leaving the three of us to attack the newly accessible portion of the pocket zone.

The currently exposed flats are a very tightly packed jumble of mud, rock, and occasional fluorite. Digging is a slow process, and somewhat like trying to disassembly a jigsaw puzzle one piece at a time. I am amazed that we can get anything out of this mess intact, but surprisingly, the zone is continuing to give us some good specimens. By the end of the day we had collected several more tubs of fluorite specimens, and left for the cottage feeling encouraged – a rare thing this year!

Yesterday Dave took the day to put in some time working on his bike before the next race, leaving us to have at the pocket zone once again. The day quickly turned into one of the best collecting days we have had this summer. Not only did a good supply of specimens come emerge, but the sun came out, drying out the muddy quarry as well. During the day we had several visitors, including an Italian couple, who got a chance to see what is suppose to happen here. When the pocket is producing, everyone somehow forgets about things like lunch breaks, but by mid-afternoon everyone was getting cold and thoroughly soaked, so we hauled out our take and enjoyed a bit of sun. Today’s photo is of three of the larger specimens from the day’s collecting. The fluorite crystals in this zone are not as large as we have had elsewhere, but they tend to be very lustrous and transparent.

After taking lunch (finally) and putting the new specimens to soak, we went back to inspect the pocket zone. As has been the case lately, a day’s worth of collecting had undercut the ceiling of the pocket zone to the point that it was looking a bit dodgy, so we decided that it is time to shoot the walls and move the tunnel forward again. Cal spent the last hour with the water hose, washing pocket mud for single crystals and bits that will go into our ever-popular baggies of aquarium gravel, and we called it a day.

Today we will likely begin another cycle of moving the tunnel forward. We are also at the limit of our installed rail so will need to put in another section. At least the tunnel is not curving now, so no rail bending will be required. The flats are still visible at the head of the pocket zone, so hopefully we will get another collecting day like yesterday before we pack up for the season.

Stay tuned for more.

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Some more bits from the new pocket zone.

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