July 4, 2001

Good Morning. Yesterday was as predicted weather-wise - sunny, warm, and breezeless. The only down side to weather like this is that the midges come out in force. There don't seem to be mosquitoes around here, but this is compensated for with these little flying buggers. Midges are small biting insects that swarm about in clouds on warm still days, feasting on anyone they can find. They can be particularly bad in the quarry. They don't seem to fancy me too much, but seem to love Jonina and Dave. After a swarm attacks, the victim can come away covered with small red welts and may look like they're coming down with the measles. Fortunately, these things don't seem to get inside and buzz in your ear at 3AM. This morning's weather is again warm and still. Beyond that I can't say much as we are currently bathed in a dense ground fog here at Little Allercleugh.Yesterday I was planning on making the powder run to Kendal with Jonina, but as we were about to head out the door, Lindsay called to let us know that the powder company had not yet confirmed the delivery. No sense in making a four-hour round trip unless we know it will be there. So, as a fallback plan, Bill and Jonina spent the day on a shopping run and processing specimens here at the cottage. Being down one water gun at the moment, I would have most likely been the way here so I went to the mine. Byron had to go into Wolsingham first thing to pick up the Peugeot, which was in the garage for a new starter, so I picked up Dave and Lofty and opened up the mine.

Soon back with the resurrected company vehicle, Byron decided that he needed to spend the day trimming the now numerous LARGE specimens that were accumulating around the mine. Dave and Lofty set at mucking out the copious amounts of rubble that blasting had left at the face of the western tunnel, and I had at collecting in the Solstice Pocket. Collecting in these pockets is a cold, cramped affair, and unless one remembers to come out of the pocket once in a while and stretch, you can feel like a cripple at the end of the day. With all that good-looking material staring back at me, it was easy to completely forget about time and stay in too long. Fortunately, Dave had periodic need of the water during the day, which forced me to take occasional breaks. Otherwise they might have had to carry me out of there at the end of the day.

Actually, it was fun to come out occasionally and watch Dave at work with the Eimco. This is a track mounted shovel car, which runs on compressed air. There are two control levers - one for back and forward, and one for up and down on the shovel bucket. You can also rotate the car by pushing sideways. Sounds simple to operate until you try (and I have). The thing lurches around and makes all sorts of loud snorting noises. There is no accelerator or gear box to vary the speed that it works at - all controls are simply on or off. A friend of mine who has no experience in mines, but wanted to visit just to see what it was all about described it as being like some sort of rampaging prehistoric animal when in action. Jonina calls it Robbie the Warthog. Dave, with over 25 years experience in local mines, can drive the thing like a sports car, and had a mountain of rubble cleared away in short order. Today's postcard is of Dave "behind the wheel".

There's currently a lot of galena exposed at the face of this tunnel, and some massive fluorite as well, but not very vuggy yet. We're planning on one more blast at the current heading (to the NE) before angling the tunnel back directly north. This should, in theory, put us dead on the vein again. But as in all things, you don't know for sure until you get there.

By mid afternoon I was making good headway at collecting the pocket, and was closing in on three big ones in the ceiling toward the back. The "pocket" is, so far, a jumble of rocks all wedged in together and surrounded by our famous Rogerley mud. The fluorite-covered rocks occur as a horizontal layer, and good specimens seem to be coming entirely from the "roof" of the pocket zone. Given the delicate nature of these fluorites, one has to patiently search for the "keystone", which when removed will allow you to pull out the ones around it without resorting to excess force (such as a large pry bar). About this time Byron came by and announced that he was out of action with the saw because a hydraulic line had burst. I was in need of returning my body to a normal position anyway, so I let him have a go at the pocket. In short order he had two of the three big ones out, and had discovered that the third was REALLY BIG. This one will take some careful work to get out. I set to wrapping the day's catch, and soon realized that it was going on 6pm, and time to get Dave and Lofty back home.

Stopped by the office (the Golden Lion) with Byron for a quick pint and then headed up the hill to the cottage. Jonina and Bill had been successful in their foraging, so we had Cumberland sausages for dinner. After dinner, Bill amused himself by playing with a small digital camera he had brought. He would set it up attached to Jonina's computer and capture a series of images of people doing what ever they were doing, and play them back as a sort of lurching movie. Not exactly great cinematography, but a fun toy to play with.

Today we will (hopefully) go to Kendal to get powder. While speaking with Lindsay yesterday, he mentioned that he had just acquired a number of blue fluorites from the Frizington area in west Cumbria. The color of these things is usually sky blue and they can be quite attractive. Whether any will be even remotely affordable remains to be seen. David Rennison is interested in some Frosterley marble, and I have to make arrangements to meet him at the quarry at some point as well. Bill's parents are arriving at the Darlington train station early afternoon, so he will be on tour guide duty from here on.

Stay tuned for more….


Jesse and the Crew

Dave with the Eimco.

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