July 7, 2001
Good morning. The weather, though still summer-like has taken a decidedly "East Coast" turn - the humidity has risen quite a bit. In fact, at some point last night I recall hearing the rumbling of thunder in the distance. We actually had some rain late yesterday afternoon, but it stayed warm and the result was like being in a wimpy sauna. Our ground fog is back again, so I suspect we're in for more of the same today.
Bill and Jonina wanted to put a dent in the backlog of uncleaned specimens piling up in the garage before leaving for their romantic weekend get-away, so I spent the yesterday at the mine. Our other Chinese water gun had arrived from the States courtesy of Paul and Lisa, so I suspect there was quite a shoot-out in the garage. Met David Rennison at the mine gate at 0930 and gave him a tour around the place. We stockpiled some chunks of Frosterley stone that he will come back for, and headed into the mine. He hadn't seen the place in a while, and was amazed at the changes. With fluorite specimens showing in at least four places currently I could tell he was getting quite excited. About the time he had to run off to begin his daily errands, the rest of the crew showed up, including Bill's mother and niece who wanted to poke around the mine a bit. Byron set them to wrapping some specimens he had left lying about the mine, and had at finishing the purple pocket exposed at the western face.
Dave and Lofty spent much of the day at the east face, mucking out after the last blast and installing another set of timbers. Dave seems to feel that the ground we are currently in will require almost constant timbering as we go. We are, unfortunately, quite close to the top of the Great Limestone, and if the ceiling of the tunnel ever collapses up into the loose shale beds above it, we will likely have no choice but to abandon the tunnel. This will mean a big timber bill this summer, but a necessary precaution. I'm sure Alistair will be happy of the business.
By around lunch time, Byron had decided he had collected most anything of worth from the current exposure in the west face, and took a break to empty the water out of his boot. The strata in this area dips gently to the north, and our tunnels have gotten far enough in that direction that we now have a drainage problem at the face. With all the water required to wash away our famous pocket mud while collecting, he had created a deep enough lake at the face and accidentally filled his boot while sitting at the pocket. I hope the area drains on its own accord. I guess we'll find out today.
After lunch we shifted back to the Solstice pocket, and by quitting time we had several more large boulders covered with gemmy fluorites, and several buckets of smaller ones. The pocket seems to keep going, but hasn't yet opened up like the Black Sheep. The fluorite is confined to a relatively thin horizon across the face, and almost all specimens so far have been loose in the mud rather than attached to pocket walls. Extracting them doesn't require the saw, but takes a great deal of patience to avoid damage. All the good pieces seem to occur facing downward, and were likely on the roof of the pocket before it broke up. Anything we have found facing upward has had small, pale colored crystals in comparison. There appears to be very little galena in this area. Today's postcard is of some of the big ones awaiting butchering with the chainsaw.
After finishing up for the day, we drove back up the Dale to drop Dave and Lofty off, and make our daily stop at the "office". Dave, who's other job is as a janitor/care-taker/handy-man at the school in St. John's Chapel had been approached by the head master about having one of the visiting Americans present the awards for the school's science fair next week, so guess who got ask. On the off chance that he was still around, we drove over to the school and found him at a small barbeque that was in progress. Had a nice chat, and it seems that the science fair is some sort of a regional competition, and the school had taken a couple of silver awards. These things were formerly presented by someone on the science faculty at Newcastle University and made the affair somewhat of a big deal for the students, but for some reason this was no longer done. He thought it might be nice if one of the visiting American "celebrities" would make the presentations and give a short talk about the importance of science education. I just hope they don't expect anything too long or profound.
Finally made it to the Golden Lion and met up with Byron. I was hardly into the first pint when Dave came in. Being a family man, he usually heads home after a day at the mine, but evidently his wife Sandra had taken the kids to some sort of a magic show and he had the evening off. It was good to be able to relax and have a long talk with him.
Today being Saturday is not quite a regular workday, but we are planning on going into the mine and sawing up some of the accumulated LARGE specimens. If this gets done early enough, I'm sure Byron will be back at the pocket again, as well.
Stay tuned for more…
Jesse and the Crew
Dave and Lofty dumping another load of rubble.