Saturday, July 4, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

Temperatures have dropped a bit since our scorcher on Wednesday, and yesterday we had a very nice, if still humid summer day here, topping out at around 26C. The humidity, along with a lack of strong breeze has created perfect conditions for the midges, which have made the evening sunset watch a bit of a misery for any prospective photographers. I did manage to bag a couple good shots last night without appreciable loss of blood, however. Last night, the schizophrenic nature of the weather here in the North Pennines showed up in full force with a thunder and lightning storm. As I sit here this morning composing the latest report and finishing my coffee, the rain is still pissing down. At least the power didnít go down over night, as often happens when we get these sort of things.

Back at the mine Thursday morning, the first order of business was dealing with the large rock that Cal had brought down at the face. The plan was to have Dave drill several holes in it, and then we would split it up with feather and wedge sets. As Dave got out the drill, I went out to retrieve my camera in order to document the procedure. Upon returning I found that the rock had promptly broken up under the vibration of the drill, and everyone was gathering up the pieces and washing the mud off in search of fluorite. We did get a number of fairly nice specimens out of it, but not a photographic record of the event.

After gathering up the pieces and driving them out of the mine on the loco, Dave and Joe got back to cleaning up the siding and laying a new length of rail. Cal got out the chain saw to deal with the sudden influx of large specimens, Ian set at collecting at the face again, and I took Ianís friend Ray back to Durham to catch his train home. While all this was going on, the Speedy service van showed up, and our regular service tech, a surfer dude from over along the Yorkshire coast, gave the thing a thorough going over. As I suspected, the problem was largely related to the recent high temperatures, which was causing a sensor to periodically shut the thing down.

Back at the mine around 1430 I found Cal accumulating a collecting of sawed specimens on the landing, and Ian accumulating more tubs full of potential specimens at the face. I spent a while working with Ian, and upon emerging from the mine with some of our take found Cal taking apart the chain saw. This is never a good sign. Evidently the bar and chain has seized up, but fortunately the culprit was only a small bit of rock in the sprocket. Still, getting the unit reassembled can be a time-consuming chore. Fortunately, with an old, somewhat stretched out chain it went back easier than trying to put a new one on.

By this time, we had decided that the collecting face was getting undercut to the point of becoming dangerous, and called a halt to further collecting until Dave could secure it for us. After hauling down the dayís take and setting it to soak, we closed up and headed up dale for a couple pints at the Blue Bell, followed by feasting on the second of the monster trout we got from Billy McGuire a couple weeks ago. It was good.

Yesterday morning I was occupied with an audit at our magazine, so Ian and I did not get to the mine until around 1130. Upon arriving I found that Cal had been busy wrapping and binning specimens, and that we now have enough full bins to assemble a second pallet for shipment home. This, thankfully, puts us well ahead of where we were this time last year!

Going up into the mine, I spent some time gathering up tools and remaining specimens from around the face in anticipation of the next blast. Dave and Joe were getting ready to muck out the mess we had left after several days of collecting when the loco decided to jump track around one of the tight turns just back from the face. Not wanting to do something halfway, the loco had managed to get all four wheels off, which took Dave and Joe a bit of time to remedy. The thing is rather heavy, after all.

Taking advantage of the delay, I started to pick more crystals and fluorite bits from the mud and rock around the pocket zone. Given their current abundance, it is impossible to get them all, but I figured this would be a few less going over the side onto the dump. While examining the mud, I noticed a couple sections of the fluorite seam that looked like they would easily come away. The problem was that they were over a meter back, under the very dodgy looking pocket zone roof rock. After finding a bar long enough to make the reach I easily levered the two pieces out, and got the mud washed off. One piece was a very nice fluorite plate with minimal damage, but the other turned out to be what is perhaps the best specimen we have yet recovered this year. A photo is below. About this time Dave came rumbling back with the Eimco and loco, so I had to get out of the way. It will be a couple days before we are able to get back, but I think everyone is already feeling the anticipation.

Dave and Joe spent the afternoon on the face while the rest of us washed specimens and hauled them back into the storage container. Today at the mine Dave and Joe will continue finishing up at the face, while the rest of us will assemble our second pallet of blue bins and then look for something else useful to do.

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Just one more specimen...

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