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Guest flintgreasewood

It's been over a month since my last update on the goings on at Cobb Prospect.  Since then we've gone from record cold to nearly record heat in the interior.  The blueberries love it!  Alethea and I have begun tree felling and log peeling in preparation for the cabin we will begin building later in the summer.  We have a pretty good trail system from the highway down to Cobb except for the last 1/4 mile which follows an old moose trail along the edge of the valley...pretty darn rough.  At the diggins' things look a bit more respectable as far as a camp goes.  That's what happens when you get a woman on the property.  I got my hydraulic system set up for hoisting but came to find out the old PL2 hoist motor is nearly a basket case...trying to get it operational is ongoing.  In the interim Doug brought over the steam equipment and we got the rest of the shaft ice out pronto.  Pumping water sure beats hoisting it, and besides my battery charger operated winch was refusing to hoist buckets of ice from 37' down.  Today I just installed a heavy duty converter that is supposed to handle the high current draw continuously.  I'll know tomorrow if it works like designed.  More and more unwashed gravel from the first miners efforts is being uncovered daily and we are running it through the Eureka Gold Thief trommel regularly.  Water is becoming an issue with the snow melt long gone and these high heat days sucking the seeps dry.  I decided to build the dam I had been planning to retain what little water was flowing in the creek.  I took my lead from the beaver and began piling mud and sticks in the narrow gap.  Most of the mud and soggy vegetation came from the area immediately upstream of the dam.  The forming pond became deeper and the dam grew higher.  It looks like it's going to work if we ever get more stream flow.  I do believe now that more is evaporating than is entering the little reservoir.  May we have some rain, PLEASE!   

  We thought we had hit bed rock at about 42' but found out that we had only hit the top of the frozen mud that had sluffed off and run into the shaft over the past 100 years.  So now we are ready to finish out the last of the shaft work with the jack hammer...steam thawed muck is near impossible to hoist out.   I'd like to say that we'll be on bed rock by July 1, but I now know better than to make foolish predictions.  My motto so far this season is:  if it can break down, if WILL! Back again soon.

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Guest flintgreasewood

Chris,

   We were down only to about 20' when I shut 'er down for the winter.  One bright spot in the operation is the converter is working like a charm...was able to hoist a few buckets of the remaining ice while tinkering with the system and it did its thing without a hitch.  Had to work on my ladder, repair the bucket and switch out one of the ropes I use for the dumping operation.  Oh, and one more item to add to the list of broken down equipment...the pump that supplies water for the trommel...think the seal is bad.

   To work down in the shaft I don my heavy duty rain suit up top which, in near 90 degree heat, feels like a sauna.  Just a few feet down the ladder the 28 degree cold hits with a pleasant shock.  I prefer the cold to the heat so it feels great.  With everything working as it should, tomorrow may well be a 3 foot cleanout.  For now it's time to drop down to the Turtle Club for a cold one.  Later.

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Guest flintgreasewood

Well, another week has ended.  Sure glad the heat went with it.  Got a lot of smoke in the valley, but I can handle that ok.  Got my pump running again...just an air leak in the suction hose...but little good it does when the pond is too low to pump from.   So slucing operations have been suspended indefinitely.  Down in the shaft I discovered we weren't on a thick clay layer after all.  Looks like just a large chunk of muck sluffed off and was imbedded in the ice.  Doug's steam bar couldn't get through it so we thought it was the bottom of the ice.  So till we get more water to make steam, I'm back to jack hammering and hoistiing ice.  With Alethea up top to assist in dumping the buckets, the hoisting operation is running very smoothly.  I think we'll wheel barrow the ice over to the wash pond...better than letting it melt in the moss.

Tomorrow, Sunday, our local mining community will be remembering a good friend who was just entering the mining game when God called his number...Al McQuade...died of cancer two weeks ago.  We will miss him.

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Do you have any information on how deep the bedrock might be? 50 feet? 80? 100?

 

Tough to imagine Alaska as too dry. Seems like on my visits, including the cruise my wife and I took, it always seemed to be raining at least a little.

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Guest flintgreasewood

Chris,

    Our shaft on Babe Creek is around 56'.  Sam Skidmore drilled to bed rock at 80' 1/3 mile downstream from Cobb back when these were his claims.  A friend who has researched the area extensively thinks we'll bottom out at 50'.  Looks like it will be at least 46.

    We're relatively dry here in the interior, though the rainly season will begin in late July.  We did get a little shower today but not enough to bring the creek up.  We need a good soaking for a day to have enough water to run the plant.

    I hoisted only 5 buckets and spent the remainder of the time working on the shaft ladder, the up/down control switch and the winch cable itself.  The 5 sections of aluminum ladder are wired together with common iron workers' tie wire, and when I need to do some adjustments I have to hang on to the last rungs of the upper section while I disconnect  the lower section  Then with some fancy foot work I lower the lower section around my boots [i know it's hard to visualize...you just have to be there to see it] till it's in the correct position, then I rewire it hanging on with my arm and my hands lashing the wire, first to one side so I can stand carefully on the lower ladder section and then the other  Needless to say, my wife won't watch from the top of the shaft.  I have a "self rescue" device I can connect to the harness I wear and to a climbing rope hanging beside the ladder but it slides unassisted only on the up climb, not the down [it grabs the rope at the slightest down pull]. So I'm not wearing it like I should when doing ladder adjustments. I do think I will begin to use it regularly and slide the "Rescucender" down with my hand. So, to be more assured of returning in one piece tomorrow evening to write  more on the forum, I'll be more safety conscious.

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Guest flintgreasewood

The hoist winch isn't real fast to begin with.  It started running even slower and then it quit altogether.  I checked the drum switch, a cheap plastic job, to see if it was the problem.  It was.  Several times the winch line got bound on the spool and raised the amperage so high that some of the plastic melted and caused one of the contacts to get misaligned.  I had another switch and pulled some parts off it to repair the damaged one.  It worked fine for a short while but them the winch quit running again.  This time I suspected the winch to be the problem and upon testing, found that to be the case.  I removed it from the head frame, stripped the wire rope from the spool and disassembled it.  At first glance nothing appeared wrong but on further inspection I discovered 7 of the 8 magnets that line the outer can had come unglued and were moved out of their normal position.  Not only that but one of the magnets broke  in two pieces.  When I went to repair the damage I found that each side of the break was a North pole and the pieces did not want to be put together.  I put super glue on one side and it took about all my strength to push the two halves together and hold them without moving for over a minute.  It held!  Now I had to clean all the magnets and glue them back place with JB Quick weld.  I finally got it all back together and put the power to it.  It worked.  More tomorrow.

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50+' of overburden :( bummer. Crawling around in the bowels a the earth is indeed a quick way to die and no more for me,don't need the money and pushed my luck underground waaaaaaaaaaaay toooooooo many times . Law of averages will come and get ya. Lotza luck,ya'all be safe now and tons a au 2 u 2 -John :D

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Guest flintgreasewood

It was a good day today.  The little winch is slow but steady and I hoisted like clockwork...maybe 20 trips.  Did have one misshap at the end of the day.  One of the lifting eyes pulled loose from the bucket about 30' above me and the entire load came raining down on me as well as the bucket. Fortunately, I have a heavy rope on a pulley attached to the bottom of the bucket, so I was able slow down its fall before it reached bottom.  Also I was protected from falling ice and muck by a plywood shelf. Understandably the episode scared the daylights out of my wife.  Needless to say, my repairs to the bucket were far more substantial than the original setup.

Maybe I should go back to refinishing furniture.

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Guest flintgreasewood

Thanks, Joe

  I'm a real fan of early miners and are fascinated by their equipment, methods and skills, so it's fun to emulate them and keep the mining simple [with a few modern conveniences].  Almost daily I am blown away by the tenacity, work ethic and vision of those guys who went after the gold a hundred years ago.  I couldn't stand with them in their ranks but I am honored to be considered of like spirit. 

   Today we passed the 50' mark and still no bottom in sight.  When I get weary of jack hammering ice and frozen muck in my cramped little shaft and hoisting bucket after bucket I just think of the guys before me who put down that shaft in the winter using fires to thaw the overburden and ultimately the gravel.

My partner just discovered another prospect shaft about 200 yards from where Cobb shaft.  First pan from its dump pile was barren but we'll be checking it out more thoroughly later in the summer.  And equipment nightmares continue with the loss of my trash pump engine.  Fortunately I have another engine that's just waiting for a chance to do some work.

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This is amazing stuff. I can't think of anything that would induce me to climb down into your shaft and jackhammer away at the bottom, with no idea when I would hit bedrock, or if there will be any gold there worth the effort. I have spent the last month wandering around with my metal detector in old mine workings, and even if I find no gold I get a nice hike, lots of nice vistas, and plenty of fresh air.

I tell people about how the tough and optimistic the old-timers were sinking shafts to bedrock. You really are a tough hombre as few people these days would be willing to go to that kind of effort, me included. I am really rooting for you to find a pile of gold at the bottom of that hole!

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Guest flintgreasewood

Well, Steve, when I think of you donning a dry suit  and chopping ice so you can get in the creek to dredge, I feel like a piker.  So back at ya.  But thanks for the kudos and the encouragement.  My wife, who often helps top side with the bucket dumps, wonders how I can go down every day into that little, deep hole and work away for a couple of hours before coming back up.  Often I'll work for 8 hours down there.  I do have my ipod to keep me company while I watch the bucket move slowly up and down.  Right now it takes about 7 minutes round trip.  I do have to tend to the descent in one place where the bucket likes to hang up on the ladder.  I just jiggle the dump ropes a bit and it frees up to continue on down.  I also have to watch how the two dump ropes wind and unwind and keep things from getting tangled.  I like the jack hammering as it is rigorous work and helps warm me up, not to mention that it brings me just that much closer to the bottom.  I typically break up the ice to a depth of about 10" in half of the shaft which is a little wider at one end [3' x 3'], the other half being about 2' x 3'.  It takes 3 to 4 bucket loads to remove what I've broken up.  I'll do two cuts on an end before shifting to the other end.  Keeping the shaft plumb is important and I have to resist following the ice down as the old timers must have grown weary of their task and let the sides gradually creep in. So I do some chiseling of virgin frozen muck as well as ice. Of course the muck thaws and gives off its typical unpleasant odor, but I'm pretty used to it and it doesn't bother me.  My wife hates the smell but tolerates me when I come up for a break and sit near her in my muck covered rain gear.  I know the bottom has to be somewhere close to where I am now at 54'.  A third of a  mile downstream bed rock was hit in a drill hole at 80'.  The other day I began uncovering a cut pole with no bark on it.  It angled down toward one of the end walls and looked  like it was going to penetrate the wall which would mean that would be the top of the drift.  I kept uncovering more and having to remove pieces of it as I went since it was right in the middle of the shaft and was impossible to work around. Finally it was exposed at the wall but that's where it ended.  How it got where it did is a cunundrum and if anyone has an idea, please let me know.  I'm still convinced I'm pretty darn close to the top of the drift which means I'll have another 6 feet of ice after that before bed rock.  And as far as not knowing if there is any gold at the bottom, there's no doubt that there is.  We've washed 6-8 yards of gravel the old timers didn't clean up and there's a good amount in it.  They most likely washed to good stuff and left the rest.  Historical records of  mines down stream indicate large amounts of coarse gold and we're right near the source.  Once we get the ice all cleared out of the shaft and drifts we'll begin using steam to thaw the gravel. Doug has the steam gear all ready to go.  He's building a boiler and tool shack.  I've got the gin pole up and guy wires in place and will soon run the high wire over the shaft as soon as we are ready to shift to the hydraulic self dumping system.  I finally got the hydraulic hoist repaired and working, so we're just about ready for some serious hoisting [ I'll be in the drift and not the shaft when that happens.].   Hopefully, I'll  have some good news to share by the end of next week.

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Chris,

   We're still removing the ice so the only gravel we have to wash right now is the pay the old timers left for us on the dump pile.  Of course they took the good stuff but what they left behind is pretty darned good...some pans have over 50 good colors.  John, I expect we'll find pounds eventually, but for now ounces will do just fine.

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I come to this forum daily just to follow this thread. Amazing fortitude man and nuttn' but respect,even ifn' I figure your a mite touched n ' the head as 1 mistake and OUCH. Ounces add up to pounds and I hope ya find many-John

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Kurt...

    Is this shaft you are opening up an old prospect shaft or was it actually an old drift?

I expect you are seeing indications that it was a drift.

  We'll keep our fingers crossed that when you hit bottom the whole drift room isn't

filled with ice!

   Many moons ago I helped a dear old friend clean out a shaft down into an old

drift. It was solid ice like yours going down, but when we hit bottom the ice had

actually only flowed a short ways into the main room before it plugged the main

shaft and started backing up the water. Boy was I glad to see that !!

 

I've hoisted an awful lot of buckets cranking the old windlass.

 

Good luck when you hit bottom :) !

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John, I'm glad you are enjoying our adventures.  It's only going to get more interesting.  Dick, it is an old prospect shaft but seeing as much gravel as they hoisted, there are going to be drifts and maybe even a room.  How deep was the shaft you helped clean out?  There is the possibility that the gravel is much thicker than 6' and if that's the case the drifts may be short.  We're actually hoping for that as most of the gravel we've washed from all areas around the shaft has gold.  Would be sweet to have gold from top to bottom.

Today Alethea and I finished digging a drain on three sides of the shaft to determine from where we are getting seepage below the cribbing. We took the trenches down to where the muck was still frozen and in the area of seep we put in gravel covered with moss and then muck fill on top.  What we've determined is that most of the water entering the shaft is from thawing muck right near the shaft and the only solution for that is to keep the shaft as insulated as possible from the heat above ground.  We also disassembled the "A" frame and ice chute so from now on we'll be either pumping or hoisting using the high line.  First we have to get the almost 4' of water that has accumulated at the bottom.  Our big submersible won't pump over 39' so I went with a 4" well pump, but when I got it positioned on the bottom and put the juice to it, it wouldn't pump out of the shaft.  It's supposed to be capable of a 150' head.  I'll be taking the pump back to the drilling company I bought it from and see what he can tell me.  I've decided to use the new electric hoist we acquired to bring up 5 gallon buckets of water.  It'll take about 3 minutes per trip instead of the 8+ minutes with the little winch.  Golly, that's going to be a lot of trips!

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Kurt...

  The shaft was 35' if I remember correctly. The drifted-out room at the bottom was about 300 sq.ft.  The gravel couldn't have payed very well because they only took what they had to.

No standing up ..... the room was maybe 4' high.

 

 Yeah, the water is a big problem in summer. I never used a pump on any of mine, so can't help you there. I just hoisted 5 gallon buckets. The one time I tried to finish a prospect hole in

the summer, every morning I had to bail over 20 buckets of water out. That got old so I now stick to winter sinking only!

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Went into town this morning to pick up a different water end for the submersible and while on my way realized that I was trying to operate a 220 V motor on 110...duhhh!  Back at the shaft I switched to the regular well pump wire I had just purchased [was using heavy 10ga 3 wire power cord], added the correct 220 plug and sent the works back down the hole.  Still nothing!  Hauled it all up again and set the pump in a barrel of water.  Nothing!  So I decided to disconnect the hose from the top of the pump while running.  It immediately began to pump, so I reattached the hose and it pumped just like it should.  Not sure what to think of that.  I'll do the same thing down in the shaft but that just ain't normal.  It's like there's an air lock at the top of the pump that must be bled off for the water to flow.  Any ideas?  I'll be calling my friendly pump service guy tomorrow morning.  Also looks like we won't be steaming for a week as Doug will be out in the bush and he hasn't got me up to speed on his steaming apparatus.  I have another oil burner that I'll use to make hot water so while he's gone I can thaw some of the ice with hot water.  My burner is going to be set up to run waste oil, which I have been collecting at the waste transfer stations, so it may take me a bit of time to get it running properly.  Doug has already supplied me with a 55 gal drum with legs on the side so it hits horizontal with a large hole cut to accommodate a half barrel filled with water. The burner sets in a door on the end of the horizontal drum.  A small sump pump will pump the water down the shaft to a spray nozzle.  Not a lot of excitement in that sort of operation but sure a lot less drudgery.  I can handle that.

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It's beginning to get a bit exciting down at Cobb prospect.  For a while we were stuck at 54' with water pumping problems, but got that taken care of a couple of days ago.  After trying unsuccessfully at getting three different submersible well pumps to work...still don't know why and neither do the pros who have been working with me, I gave up with that tack and went to a dual lift system...one submersible sump  pumping up to a suspended 1/2 of a 55 gal. drum containing another sump to pump the remainder of the way to the surface.  It's a bit slow and requires coordinating the stopping and starting of both pumps as their output is different.  But at least it gets the job done.  Now we're back to steaming and the first thing was to determine how far we had to go to bed rock.  Doug was up top running the steamer while I was down below working the 11' long steam point.  It took about 45 min. to thaw down to where I heard the ping of steel on solid rock...67'.  I then set the point down 6' and let it cook for several hours, changing position of the point from time to time and at the end of the day about all I had unthawed was a 3'x2'x3' block of ice to knock down to water level.  I lowered my jack hammer from up top and climbed back down the long ladder for the umteenth time that day.  I had a very precarious situation to deal with at the bottom.  Two thirds of the shaft was mostly thawed with sculpted columns of ice protruding from the muddy water.  My little movable aluminum ladder was dangling with one leg on solid ice and the other on partially thawed and the top leaning at a 45 degree angle against the shaft ladder over the abyss.  With a bit of trepidation I straddled the hole, one foot on the ice shelf and one across to the shaft ladder and maneuvered the aluminum ladder into the hole.  It found good footing and I felt somewhat confident in my position to begin jack hammering the ice shelf.  Bit by bit the iceberg crumbled into the water below filliing up the hole as it reduced in height.  I took down over 3' of the ledge before I was able to stand on the ice filled hole surrounding the ladder.  Now all was in place to resume steaming the next day.  Well, that day was today.  One important discovery I made the previous day was a small layer of gravel sandwiched in the muck.  I scraped off some and held it as a hard fought for prize.  GRAVEL!!...not ice, not muck,  but GRAVEL.  And what's more, it was at the 55' level. That meant we have more than 13 feet of gold bearing pay to steam and jack hammer through [including some bed rock]  Granted the upper 11' is going to contain much less gold than that last 2+ feet but from what we found on top of the dump just about all the gravel showed gold to some extent. 

    Today I spent the first hour in Steaming 101 class.  Though I had a pretty good idea of the SOP for the steam generator, Doug wanted me to have everything down pat so I could run the operation.  I took good notes and did a trial run before he left at mid day.  Then I was on my own, steaming and pumping out the shaft.

There are a number of critical operations that must be tended to so one can't get too distracted with other tasks, but you do learn quickly to keep your eyes and ears on gauges and sounds and liquid levels while working on small projects...like building another ladder.  On one occasion I pulled up the steam point to reposition it.  Steam immediately fills the space so you have to go by feel as to where to place the point.  I did that and soon the tip had penetrated deep enough to stop the exiting of steam into the shaft.  The point was going down rapidly and at about 2 feet there was a roar of escaping steam like I had not yet experienced.  Being stil a bit unfamiliar with this whole steaming thing, I was sure there was something wrong with the plant up top and maybe something was about to blow. I jammed the point back into the water and  climbed up that ladder in record time only to find everything was perfectly normal.  My heart was pounding and my knees were shaking as I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was actually a good lesson in emergency response.    I did have one bit of beginners' luck at the end of the day.  I was down in the shaft tending to the steam point knowing that I had good pressure in the steam hose, plenty of water and diesel...everything was humming along nicely.  I finished below and climbed the ladder once again and as I poked my head out of the hole my eye immediately went to the steam pressure gauge.  Normally at 40 to 45 lb. it was reading over 60.  Something was not right.  I immediately shut off the burner and watched the pressure go down.  When it was low enough I opened the steam drain valve.  Nothing came out.  No steam, no water, and the pump was still running.  I should have at least had water flowing through the coil. I looked at the sight glass on the water supply drum and could not see water.  But that doesn't mean the drum is empty and I don't think it was, but something else was amiss.  I opened the bleed on the water pump and nothing came out.  With gravity feed to the pump I should have had water entering the pump and exiting out the bleed.  So one by one I opened the caps that cover the 6 valves in the pump.  There was the rub...junk stuck in the valves.  It couldn't pump with vegetative matter fouling the valves.  I was very fortunate I came out of the hole when I did.   A few seconds later and I would have had a red hot steam coil, which would have blown the pressure relief valve at the very least. So with little fanfare, I finished the shutdown proceedure, making sure the water pump was operational once again, covered the shaft, and called Alethea on the walkie talkie to let her know I'd be home for dinner in 20 minutes.   In sum the past two days have been good ones with renewed hope about the future of Cobb prospect.

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