July 1, 2001
Good Morning. This Sunday morning begins in much the same way as yesterday - scattered high clouds and scattered bits of fog hanging on the high moors. The breeze was a bit stiff for most of the day yesterday, but for the moment things are relatively still.
Spent yesterday morning helping Jonina with specimens in the garage. We are truly at saturation point with respect to specimen processing. The garage door table is completely covered with material in various stages of processing, and all the plastic tubs used to transport specimens from the mine are still full of material that has yet to be unwrapped. I know what I'm going to be doing for the next few weeks. Jonina obliged me by water-gunning the few specimens I had collected from the Solstice Pocket on Friday. If this pocket develops into anything like the size of what we've ncountered the past two summers, I think we'll do okay this summer. The fluorite crystals, though mostly small so far are almost uniformly flawless. Add to this the fact that there is virtually no iron staining, which makes cleaning much easier. The only real problem so far is that many of the crystals are loosely attached to the matrix, and like to jump off.
Jonina had started separating out flat material for Stan, and had flats running up the stairs in the garage. After a quick inspection to make sure everyone agreed with her evaluation of the material, she sent the material into the cottage with Bill for wrapping and boxing. A small dent was made in a large backlog.
After a bit of cleaning, I got out of Jonina's way and joined Byron at the mine. The blasts from the day before appeared to have had the desired effect and there were now large piles of rubble at the face of the eastern tunnel and the entrance to the Black Sheep Pocket. Byron was busying himself mucking out the pocket entrance and looking for specimens. The floor of the pocket has now been lowered to the level of the main tunnel for a ways in, and one can actually walk into the pocket now - though some crouching is still required. Looking around inside the pocket, I was amazed to see how much fluorite is still left in the ceiling despite all the collecting we've done there. Several nice large fluorite-covered plates are still within easy reach, though the saw will be necessary to remove them.
I spent some time working on the Solstice Pocket while Byron poked around in the Black Sheep. The opening to the pocket is between two of the steel arch supports, which are tied together with a cross bar. The cross bar is, of course, right across the pocket opening, making access a bit of a pain. My hard hat got a good workout while crawling in and out. The fluorite in the pocket appears largely confined to the roof, and in the center is covering numerous large chunks of limestone matrix, which are imbedded in the most sticky, tenacious clay imaginable. The only way to collect is to lie on your side in the pocket and hose the clay out from between the rocks. Needless to say, after a few hours of this, one gets completely soaked and muddy despite being suited up in our rain gear. Today's picture postcard is of the pocket before serious pillaging has occurred.
We have a group of the Killhope Museum volunteers coming for a mine tour tomorrow evening, and Jonina wants to leave the Solstice pocket exposed for them to see. Despite the fact that these folks are mining history enthusiasts, very few have ever actually been in a working mine, so this is a good opportunity for them to see what is sadly becoming a rare sight in these parts. With this in mind, I left much of the exposed fluorite in place and picked around the edges. I still managed to fill two tubs with specimens. Byron had done the same by mid-afternoon, and came to the realization that we were out of empty tubs. Working in water like that gets you chilled quite quickly, so it seemed a good time to knock off for the day.
After a quick stop at the Golden Lion with Byron, I went to meet up with Bob and Mary Coates, who have a rental cottage in Daddry Shield I wanted to look into for my return trip in August with Joan. Bob is evidently a retired geologist and was quite interested in what we are doing here. The cottage itself is an old mine building and is situated next to the entrance to the lowest level of the Greenlaws mine. Bob said he had gone exploring and found it in good condition for quite a ways. Mary didn't seem quite so enthusiastic, saying something about too many spiders for her liking. Quite nice folks, and a nice cottage as well.
Got back up to Little Allercleugh and found the troops assembled at the door waiting for me. We had discussed going out to dinner earlier in the day and evidently everyone was getting rather hungry. Despite their impatience I insisted on changing out of my wet muddy clothes, but soon we were headed off to the Kings Head in Allendale. The place can get pretty crowded on weekend evenings, but we found an empty table and once everyone got some food and beer in them (or in Bill's case cider) the world seemed a much nicer place. Made a stop at the Allenheads Inn on the way back and found they had Taylor's Landlord on. Marvelous beer, and a fitting end to a productive day.
Today being Sunday, is an official goof-off day, and no firm plans have been made yet. I'll probably unwrap and clean some of the specimens I collected yesterday, and report on the findings.
Stay tuned for more…
Jesse and the Crew
The Solstice Pocket.