July 6, 2001
Good Morning once again. I must finally be adjusting fully to the time change, as it is getting harder to get up and out of bed at some unusually early hour. If I don't give myself at least an hour before everyone else gets moving though, these reports would languish. More coffee, please. As previously, the morning is warm and still, and we are currently shrouded in dense ground fog here at Little Allercleugh. The breeze picked up a little yesterday cooling it off a touch, but otherwise, our summer continues unabated. Everyone here seems sure that we are in for a change in weather, though - perhaps if only because the weekend is approaching, and we all know that nature usually saves the worst weather for when we have the time off to enjoy it.
Yesterday I split my time between cleaning specimens and helping Byron collect in the mine. Bill and Jonina headed to the mine first thing to give Bill's parents and niece a tour, so I put our one remaining water gun to work, removing the mud coating from specimens. Jonina returned sometime after noon, and had our new Swiss gun, which has, as requested, been left down the road at the gate. Upon inspection we discovered that, while the unit came wired with a British plug, it was the ungrounded two prong sort that one normally finds on electrical appliances used in the bathroom. The UK has a 230 volt electrical standard - twice that in the US. As a result, all electrical devices have a three prong plug which has a fuse built into it for safety reasons. That is, except things like hair driers and electric shavers, which are used in the bathroom. For these devices a fused outlet is required because of the usual proximity of the user to water. For some reason, a different style plug is also required, and it is this type our gun came with. I can't imagine what application a high-pressure water gun would have in the average British bathroom, but the result is that we now either have to find an adaptor or re-wire the unit to a standard three-prong plug. If it's not one thing, it's another….
After a quick lunch, Jonina seemed anxious to get to cleaning specimens, so I let her have the working gun and decided to try doing some trimming with the rock saw. We put a heavy-duty concert blade on it this year, which slices through rock quite efficiently, though it vibrates quite a bit in the process requiring decidedly firm hand on the specimen during the process. The saw blade is also lubricated by a reservoir of water underneath it. To saw anything of size, the user must stand right in front of the unit and push the rock against the rotating blade. The result is that the user, along with trimming specimens, gets a shower. After sawing a specimen or two, the water becomes full of rock dust, which in our case is heavy in iron oxides, and imparts a rusty color to the water. After a round at the saw, the user usually looks like he or she has acquired an instant suntan. I had ask Jonina to bring me a rain suit from the mine, but with everything else going on, she forgot, so I improvised one by cutting head and arm holes in a large plastic trash bag. Not the height of fashion, but it helped - sort of. Fortunately there were no cameras around to document the occasion.
Headed off to the mine around 1430 and caught up with Byron who was busy collecting a pocket exposed at the face of the western tunnel by the last round of blasting. This one was a purple fluorite pocket, and though nearby, was a bit different than last year's. The fluorites in this one are on average smaller, less included (though not quite gemmy yet), and don't have the sugary quartz overgrowth. Much of the pocket had been broken up, though it looked like this was ancient, and not a result of the blasting. A couple of tubs of specimens were collected, and I recall seeing a few that might be good. Directly back from the face, in the left (western) wall is a small, tube-like vug, perhaps a foot and a half in diameter. The vug is lined with large clusters of completely undamaged purple fluorite cubes, which appear to have some luster as well. The problem is that the vug goes strait back into unaltered, unbroken rock. After discussing how to extract this one with Byron and Dave, we decided that it would require the chainsaw. The only problem is that the face of the tunnel is now too far away from the hydraulic power unit to get the saw to it. We discussed options like putting the hydraulic unit on the flat bed car and rolling it into the tunnel to get closer, but this would be time-consuming to say the least. I hope we can get this one out intact as the fluorite looks potentially quite good, and is different than anything we've gotten to date.
Dave and Lofty spent much of the day mucking the eastern tunnel, and had much of it cleared away by the time I arrived. Today's postcard is of the team in action. The mineralization still crosses the face, and seams of green fluorite were abundant, but are now fairly low to the floor of the tunnel. Pushing forward, we may have to lower the tunnel floor to stay level with the flats horizon, but this will cause drainage problems. If it's not one thing, it's another….
While Byron busied himself collecting the purple pocket, I wrapped a couple more tubs of material from the Solstice Pocket. The crystals are still small, but continue to be quite gemmy and sharp. The pocket opening has now been pushed back about 5-6 feet, and much fluorite is still showing. Hopefully, this one will extend out into the flats like the Black Sheep Pocket did. We'll find out shortly.
Today is Jonina's 40th birthday, so we all had a dinner party for her last night at the Mill Race, where Bill's folks are staying. After dinner, Mary brought out a cake with some candles. The cake had a whipped cream frosting and a dusting of chocolate on top. Jonina evidently wanted to make sure the candles went out on the first try and blew with all her might. The candles did, in deed go out as planned, but an unforeseen side effect was that she also blew chocolate bits all over the table. Everyone had a good laugh, and she got a mock scolding when Mary saw what had happened.
This morning I have an appointment to meet with David Rennison at 0930 at the mine. He is keen on getting some Frosterley stone (an attractive black limestone with white fossils of Paleozoic corals imbedded), which can be found in the quarry, so we will spend some time hunting around in the skree at the base of the quarry wall. Byron wants to make sure there are no more decent specimens to be collected at the face of the western tunnel before the next round of blasting, and after hunting for Frosterley stone, I would like to continue working at the Solstice Pocket. If Byron continues to find specimens at the face, this could pose a problem, as we will be fighting over use of the water hose. If it's not one thing, it's another….
Stay tuned for more….
Jesse and the Crew
Dave and Lofty dumping another load of rubble.