Thursday, August 14, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

The weather here in the North Pennines has definitely turned Autumnal this week. There’s a noticeable chill in the air each morning, and we have been alternating between outbreaks of breezy sunshine and rain squalls from passing clouds. Summer doesn’t last long in the North.

Tuesday was our last “official” collecting day at the mine this summer, and it turned out to be quite the feeding frenzy. Cal went in early to start scrubbing the lot of specimens that Ian and I had recovered the previous afternoon, as everything needed to be packed for shipment by day’s end. By the time Ian and I arrived, the specimens had made it to the drying rack outside out storage container, and Cal has obviously gone up to the mine for a turn at collecting himself. Shortly after getting myself suited up in our bright orange waterproof overalls Cal came down bearing one of the more interesting specimens we’ve recovered this year. Many of the pieces from this year’s pocket zone have been rather sculptural, and this one took the cake. It was basically an undulating plate of gemmy fluorite crystals with two stalactite-like fingers poking up at an angle. Cal said that a finger-sized loose stalactite had been found next to it in the pocket mud. After washing through a tub of specimens collected at the same time I found it, and sure enough, it fit back in place on top of the specimen. We don’t normally repair specimens but we might make an exception for this one. Today’s photo is of Cal with the piece shortly after it was recovered.

About this time a number of visitors arrived, including our local friend Helen Wilkinson, Cumbrian miner Mick Croft and his son Nathan, and French fluorite fanatic Phillipe Duboeuf. After suiting up, all visitors were pressed into service ferrying down tubs of muddy specimens while I set them to soak in detergent and began scrubbing the mud off. This continued until well after noon and I soon found myself completely overwhelmed with specimens needing the attention of water and a brush. Fortunately, production slowed down from the pocket and after a while Cal showed up to start wrapping specimens and filling more of our blue shipping bins.

As I recall, some very nice specimens came out, but I scarcely had time to really look at anything, other to decide whether it was worth keeping or should go into the pile of bits we leave for the over-winter visitors who come to pick on the dump. About 1500 we called a stop to cleaning and wrapping, loaded the bins into the van, and took them over to the timber yard to assemble our third pallet for shipment home.

Dave and Joe spent much of their day cleaning up and timbering the face of our old main heading. Now that we have shifted the tunnel eastward across the vein to access the current flats, plans are to push this porting of the tunnel forward far enough to use it as a siding for a second muck tub. As we are about 250 meters from the portal and having a second tub available will help Dave speed up the mucking process. Plans were to get the face cleaned up and timbered, and drill and fire using our remaining explosive the following day.

Yesterday, while Dave set to drilling the face at the old heading Cal and I busied ourselves with picking up things around the mine, lubricating things such as the chain saw and storing bits away for the winter. Naturally, some people could not resist having another dig at the pocket zone, despite the fact that the pallets were now assembled and waiting for pickup by our shipper. And naturally, a number of good things emerged. After a quick wash, Cal chose a few that he will mail back to California and hopefully have available for the upcoming Denver show. Ian and I selected a few more that we will keep here with him in Cardiff to make their first showing at the Hayward’s Heath show here in November, and I have a few more to add weight to my bags on the trip home.

The pocket zone now shows signs of pinching down and once again there are some dangerous-looking rocks hanging in the ceiling. If more remains, it will likely require drilling and blasting to get at, so this will (hopefully) be the first task we deal with upon returning next year. Today’s second photo is of one of the last specimens for this season, wrestled from the mud by yours truly.

The rock at the face of the old heading was rather broken and gave Dave a good bit of difficulty during drilling. What should have been a fairly straight-forward job turned into a day-long ordeal, but by 1730 the shot was fired and we closed the doors. As the blast was very close to the junction we created at the start of the summer, splitting the tunnel, I really hope the timbering has survived the shot. Guess we’ll find out today. At the end of the day I checked in at the timber mill and our pallets had disappeared, hopefully on their way to California.

Cal and Kerith are away today, and Ian and I will be closing up the mine and down to London n Saturday. It has been a fairly difficult summer here, as they go, with little production and lots of broken equipment for much of the time. Fortunately, it seems that the mine got a bit more generous with us at the last minute, and we should have a good, if not overwhelming supply of new material to offer when Tucson comes around next February.

Forward in all directions,

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

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