June 6, 2001
Good Morning. Yesterday was yet another clear and sunny day in Weardale, if a bit cool. High clouds began to move in later in the day suggesting a change is in store, and this morning looks more cloudy and ominous than it has for a while. Oh well, it’s wet and muddy underground anyway.
Yesterday was a productive day at the mine. We had some of our timber order delivered to the mine from Alistair’s mill, so Dave and Lofty could begin replacing some of the older supports and cribbing in the western tunnel. Some of the timber used as cribbing was so old and rotten that you could crush it with your hand, and for safety’s sake needed replacing. Despite the fact that this wood didn’t seem like it could support anything, as soon as Dave began to remove it, a large block in the wall began to move. We discussed just letting it come down, but decided not to as we didn’t know what might be following after it. Dave had the thing blocked and supported in no time, and got on with re-timbering the section of the tunnel. Sure is nice to have someone around who has 25 years experience doing this sort of thing.
Byron spent most of the day doing what he likes best – collecting. The brecciated zone at the face of the east tunnel continues to produce. There appears to be a crudely shaped lens of fluorite, which dives eastward from last year’s pocket area. The specimens coming out of this zone are generally not big (with a few exceptions), but the fluorite crystals tend to be more lustrous and are lacking the white cores we were seeing in a lot of the material from the first two years. I think this zone is worth exploring further, and hopefully, I can keep Byron headed in this direction.
By afternoon, Byron had created a large muck pile next to him and was sitting in a small crater that was filling with water, which would occasionally drain into his boot. The area definitely needs to be mucked out today, if we can keep Byron away from the face long enough. The muck is full of thousands of crystals and bits of green fluorite, and we have tried to pick the larger ones out as we go. There are still many more to be had, so the muck will be dumped on the landing for later screening. Byron tells me that in pervious years, Kerith has taken the job of screening the muck for crystals. I think this year she will have what we call “job security” when she and Cal arrive in July. After almost a week of collecting, the zone has excavated the point that there is a serious overhang. The rock looks stable for the moment, but as soon as the blasting permits come through, we will have to bring the roof down here a bit.
After taking an afternoon break to dewater his boots, I convinced Byron to hook up the chainsaw. There was a LARGE rock lying on the muck pile at the face, which had a decent sized cavity in it – perhaps 20 cm across. The cavity was lined with druzy quartz, a few galena octahedra, and a scattering of small fluorites. In the middle was a large, glassy twinned fluorite crystal perhaps 3 cm across. The perfect first victim for the saw this year. Byron had it carved out in short order, and then proceeded to trim up a bunch of other large specimens we have pulled out over the last week. All in all, it was a very productive day, with seven tubs of muddy, newspaper-wrapped specimens brought back to the cottage.
Stopped off for a quick pint at the Golden Lion on the way home, and got into a discussion with Jeffery on how life is changing in the Dale. As there is little work locally, most folks who aren’t retired or farming are now commuting for work to places like Darlington or even Newcastle on a daily basis. This means that folks are tending to do their shopping, banking, etc. outside the Dale, and local businesses are feeling the effect. Change happens, and there’s not much anyone can do about it, and Weardale is definitely in transition.
Got back to the cottage and found Jonina coming down with a cold. Said she had overdosed on tea and honey, and was going to bed. Don’t call her “Froggy” unless you want a look that could kill. Fixed a quick dinner of Cumberland sausages, sautéed green beans with garlic, and Byron’s famous “Everything Salad”. Afterwards, Byron and I braved the cold for a few minutes and watched the full moon rise over the Dale before turning in.
With Jonina feeling under the weather, I think I’ll spend at least part of the day here cleaning specimens. Both David Rennison and Gemcraft has expressed interest in specimens, and I would like to have some to bring back with me to the US, and photograph for the website. It will be good to get the production line moving here.
Everyone’s up – time to make some toast and more coffee. Today’s picture postcard is of Dave describing the one that got away to Byron.
Stay tuned for more…
Jesse and the Crew
"I tell you Byron, the crystals were this bloody big, you would not have believed it!."