Thursday, August 19, 2010
After some fairly miserable weather last week, things have been a bit sunnier lately. Yesterday morning we had some dark heavy clouds and I thought we were in for more rain, but they cleared by early afternoon, giving us one of those wonderful lingering northern sunsets. This morning it is clear and breezy. There is that slight chill to the air that says that the brief northern summer is on it’s way out. The heather should be in full bloom on the moors, though I have not had a chance to see much of it yet. Hopefully there will be some time for that before we all depart for the season on Saturday.
Last Sunday we held Byron’s send-off gathering at the Blue Bell, and Scott laid in a supply of Byron’s favorite local beer for the occasion. Many of our local friends, some coming from a good distance showed up and a good afternoon was had by all. Cal took some photos, which I will try to get from him and post to the website.
The last few days at the mine have been spent harvesting the remains of the Rat Hole area of the West Cross Cut, washing and packing the results, and constructing our pallets for shipping. Pickup is scheduled for this morning, but past events with our local shipper have rarely gone as planned, so I will not believe this has happened until it actually does.
On Monday Cal was away on other local business, so Dave, Ian and I spent the day scaling the roof and timbering the West Cross Cut in anticipation of one final shot to break out the remaining portion of the wall at the mouth of the Rat Hole area. We first discovered the zone of flats we call the West Cross Cut during the summer of 2001 and have been collecting there ever since. The area has been the most productive part of the mine to date, but earlier this summer we discovered that the far end of the Rat Tail pocket was literally just a few feet from the outside quarry wall. In order to prevent this breaking through we have been removing fluorite-containing portions of the walls surrounding the Rat Hole pocket, and back-filling the area. Monday’s shot removed the last portion of the former pocket wall and gave us several more decent-quality plates of fluorite.
Right at the mouth of the former pocket Cal discovered another small tube-like pocket that dives into the floor. On Tuesday, after clearing some rocks dropped by the previous day’s shot we spent several hours burrowing through thick mud and retrieved several more decent pieces. Unfortunately, as the cavity dives below the floor of the current tunnel, it quickly fills with water and debris, so much of the collecting was done by feel. By the end of the day the far end of the cavity had receded to the limits of anyone’s reach, so if anything remains, collecting it will have to wait until we have time to lower the tunnel floor a bit. Today’s photo is of Cal enthusiastically digging in the mud.
Yesterday was spent on some final sawing of large specimens, washing and packing the harvest, and constructing the final pallet for shipment home. We also had a final group of visitors, who I kept entertained while Cal, with Joe’s help, shifted the final load of bins to the sawmill yard where we keep the pallets. To use up the last of our powder, Dave drilled and shot the main face at the end of the day, and will be mucking it out this morning. This year we have pushed over 80 feet of new tunnel but have yet to find any indication of a new section of flats. This will be our last chance for the season. In 2007 the last shot of the season got us into the Jewel Box pocket and gave us the best specimens to yet come from the mine, so one never knows what will happen.
This morning we were scheduled for a pickup of our shipment at 0800, so Cal left early to meet the driver at the sawmill. It is now 0845 and no one has shown up yet. A phone call to our shipping agent has revealed that he does not show up for work until 0900, so we are all waiting around at the moment. This suggests, however, that this year will likely be similar to others and that things are not going according to the arrangements we made with our shipper.
Cal and crew
Cal goes after one last pocket of the season.