June 3, 2000

Greetings from the Great Wet North. It rained yesterday. All day. "So what do you want?", I tell myself. "One doesn't come to England for the weather." Unless you're barking mad (to use a local expression), and perhaps we qualify.

I spent yesterday at the mine with Jim and Byron, while Jonina spent the day at Little Allercleugh transforming the garage (or the "out building" in Britspeak) into our cleaning lab, and doing the accounting. The former looks in order, and if there are questions about the latter, I trust we will hear from Lisa in short order. We should be under way with mineral cleaning as soon as the chemical order comes in next Tuesday. No one is yet sure how we are going to process some of the monsters Jim and Byron have extracted from the Grouse Butt Hole over the last week, but we'll sort it out. Unlike the greens from the BSP which are fluorite on matrix, these are fluorite on earlier generations of fluorite (with some layers of sugary quartz thrown in for fun), and are quite difficult to trim without causing the specimen to disintegrate.

On the way to the mine, I stopped by the Durham Dales Center to pick us a fax Lisa sent to the Rowe's office. After chatting with Jeremy for a couple of minutes, I stuck my head into Gemcraft to say hello, and was informed that several folks had been by already inquiring when we would have new material. The fellow's response was something like "well, you have to give them a chance to dig it, don't you?"

Arriving at the mine, I found Jim and Byron up to their butts (literally) in the GBH. Several dozen more specimens ranging up to "monster" size had come out, and Jim was busy with the hose washing out the cavity. All of a sudden he wriggled himself backwards out of the pocket quicker than I thought possible, and I saw a large hunk of mud drop from the ceiling. A large section of the east wall of the cavity was - evidently - being held in place only by the mud, and was starting to move as he washed it. Tells you something about the adhesive properties of Rogerley mud. I wonder if we could market the stuff, we sure have enough of it. After a bit of poking and hosing from outside the opening, a large boulder plopped onto the cavity floor. The cavity slopes upward at this point in it's excavation, and we were hoping that with enough washing and poking the boulder would slide out, or at least wedge itself in the opening so we could break it up without fear of flattening certain body parts. There it stays. We'll likely have to take a long bar to it today, or widen the opening to the hole with the chain saw. Or both. Byron says that it looks like we've just scratched the surface in this area, so we could have a repeat of last summer's experience with the purples. Some nice specimens in the bunch so far, and I am seeing a good number of those small gemmy purple twins on the surfaces, but overall, not "killer" material. After cleaning it should be quite salable, and as Lindsay says, "keeps diesel in the compressor and food on the table".

Broke for lunch, and huddled in the container to stay dry - if not warm. I've been picking up a selection of pasties from the bakery in Stanhope for lunch each day as I pass through town. I've become quite fond of them, but, for the most part, they've not been a big hit with Byron and Jim. Perhaps the experience of eating lunch in a cold muddy tool shed isn't the same without that spam-like stuff Byron and Otto lived on last year. What can you say, they're miners after all. Jim in particular is taking his time getting adjusted to a "cool" climate - or maybe he's just more vocal about it. I reassured him that the afternoon's scheduled activity of breaking into the cemented up BSP would warm him right up.

Byron put the new short bar onto the saw, which will give more maneuverability in tight places. He figured he would be able to slice through the concrete wall near the top, where it should be relatively thin. No such luck. We had to make one foot square cuts into the face of the edifice and break the blocks out with wedges, and then do it a second time on the new face before breaking through. The WPA would have been proud of this construct. We dubbed it "The Great Wall of Byron", and I told him that we weren't letting him near any cement again unless we want a permanent structure. Jim crawled into the pocket, and after a minute of silence we could hear things like "wow! why did you leave all this stuff behind???", to which Byron replied, "now you see why we cemented the thing up". Finished up the day by taking a few measurements and adjourned to the Golden Lion to look at the mine map and plot strategy.

Had dinner at Steve's in Rookhope. The place was busy, and Steve was rushing about muttering about people knocking on the door wanting dinner 10 minutes before he even opened. I suspect that he's the type who will find something to complain no matter what happens, but at least he was smiling. One thing I did notice though, is that the locals in Rookhope are much less likely to strike up a conversation with visiting folks like us than the people we meet in the valley pubs. Pointy heads and six fingers...The crew wants to go back tonight for his special "Texas BBQ Ribs" evening. My stomach isn't so sure of this, however.

Back to the mine today to check out the drilling equipment, and drain the back of the tunnel. It's amazing what a day of sawing and spraying will do to the level of our tunnel lake. It is, of course, raining again, but Jim, being the almost eternal optimist reassures me that it will be warmer underground.


Jesse, Jim, Byron, and the now awake Jonina.

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