We actually had a thaw this week – 3 days above zero. It happens sometimes in this country.
Today we’re bracing for a weather change – cold and stormy. Thermometer has dropped
to 14 below zero. A wind out of the north is gusting to 60 and 80 kilometres per hour. Our driveway and access road are littered with debris from the trees – bare poplar branches and clusters of needles from spruce and jack pine. The wind, driving parallel to the ground, sometimes whips up curtains of snow that we call white-outs.
I interviewed an old-time prospector this morning. I’m seeking information on drilling holes in a surface outcrop by hand steel – by driving in rods with chisel
points using a single jack. A single jack is a small sledge. A scene in my novel (“The Beardmore Relics”) harks back to the 1920s. The prospector must put holes in a rock face, fill them with dynamite and caps and powder fuses, and blast a cavity.
No one today does this sort of thing. Not even the prospector I talked to this morning. I have asked advice from hard rock miners, but blasting underground is different altogether. I am googled out – yes, I got an enormous amount of information from the Internet, but only a fraction of it applied. I even bought a blaster’s manual.
Finally, after weeks of searching, a friend referred me to an old-timer who remembers how it was done. Not 90 years ago. More like 50 years ago. When prospectors still used the time-honoured techniques. So I trust his advice.
Ninety years ago – hell, fifty years ago – it was a hard way to make a living.