June 7, 2001
Good Morning. Yesterday things got back to normal – it rained all day. No torrential downpours mind you, but just a steady drizzle all day. The mud index got pushed up to a 5, but this morning things are clear and breezy, so it will probably go down again.
Jonina has a cold and wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I spent a good portion of the day cleaning specimens in the garage. The process is fairly routine by now, but time consuming nonetheless, and on a day like yesterday, quite chilling. Specimens are wrapped in newspaper at the mine and transported back to the cottage in plastic tubs. We have quite an assortment of different sizes, shapes, and colors of tubs by now, as any given shop around here is likely to only stock a few at a time. Our collection has been acquired over time from many different sources, and probably represents a good cross section of plastic tubs currently available in the UK. This information will, of course, only be of interest to you if you are considering starting a plastic tub collection yourself. If so, we are available for hire as consultants, and for a modest fee can help assure that your collection will be of the highest quality.
Once at the cottage, specimens are unwrapped and laid out on our garage door work table. A quick sort is done, and those pieces falling into the “Yuck” category are loaded back into plastic bins for disposal down a partially collapsed mine shaft nearby. The rest are then subjected to a water gunning to remove the first layer of mud, which will give us a better idea of the quality of the specimen. Using the water gun up here is quite a treat – the wind is usually fairly brisk causing the user to become fairly wet in short order, despite protective clothing. After this, specimens go into a sodium dithionite bath which helps remove iron staining – something that pervades most freshly mined Rogerley fluorites. Sodium dithionite is a relatively safe chemical to use, but contains reduced sulphur, with its attendant odor. Average quality specimens go into a crock pot for a “cooking”, but specimens that have gemmy crystals go into a cold bath so as to eliminate the possibility of thermal shock to the crystals. The cold bath takes longer, but is safer.
After the dithionite bath, specimens are water gunned again, and then put into the sonic bath to dislodge any remaining crud. The sonic bath has a heater element, and this step provides the user with an opportunity to warm his/her hands. After sonication, the specimens are allowed to dry for another inspection. Some come out relatively clean, some are consigned to another dithionite bath, and the real offenders will go into dilute phosphoric acid, which will remove calcite overgrowths and any remaining iron stain. Any unusually large chunks are then sawn to proper size, and everything is wrapped up again and boxed for shipment back. Visitors such as myself will usually stuff as many as possible into our luggage for transport back. This often results in an impromptu lesson in specimen mineralogy to US customs officials, but that’s another story.
By early afternoon, Jonina decided to dose herself with cold medication and headed for bed. I continued cleaning specimens for a while, then headed to the mine to see how things were going. Dave and Lofty were continuing to re-timber sections of the west tunnel. Evidently our compressed air chainsaw which is used for cutting mine timber crapped out during the day. Dave took a time out to perform surgery on the thing, and had it running again in short order. Byron had succeeded in removing a very large boulder, which had been lying toward the center of last year’s pocket. Upon turning it over, he realized that underneath the thick mud coating, there were some really nice fluorite crystals. Out came the chainsaw and we had our chance at surgery for the day. After all was over, we had one large plate, and another even larger plate. Both are a quartz druze with scattered fluorite and galena crystals. At the base of each are clusters of large, gemmy, lustrous fluorites. These will require much cleaning and trimming to realize their full potential, but should be REAL NICE. Today’s picture postcard is a photo of the smaller of the two.
Fixed dinner for the crew – pasta with sautéed chicken and veggies. Just as it hit the table, Kirsty and James knocked on the door. Jonina was planning on looking them up as we knew they were living in West Blackdede. They look quite well, and are planning to get married soon. Jonina got their address and phone number.
On today’s agenda is more specimen cleaning, and perhaps a visit to the mine later. Jonina had to make a return trip to Barclays in hope that we can get some money today, as Dave and Lofty will need to be paid tomorrow.
Stay tuned for more…
Jesse and the Crew
The one that didn't get away.