July 8, 2001

Good Morning. Our summer toned itself down a bit yesterday, Clouds came in and things were a bit cooler. Looked like it was going to rain most of the day, but didn't. The humidity is still very high, giving the air a "heavy" feeling. This morning, we are once again fog-bound here at Little Allercleugh, so one must take it on faith that the rest of the world is still out there. As I just went through my incoming e-mails and had to delete the daily ration of spam, including such interesting items as internet gambling sites, debt consolidation offers, and "hot teenage babes are waiting for you, click here" ads, I shall assume that things are as ever.

Yesterday was spent at the mine doing odds and ends with Byron. First order of business was to saw up some of the BIG specimens, which have been accumulating around the mine. I believe yesterday's photo showed some of these from the Solstice Pocket. The limestone matrix of these specimens must be completely replaced by silica, as the saw makes very slow progress through it. After a couple of hours at the chainsaw, they are much smaller now, though in a few cases, by no means small even after surgery. The largest rock, which must have originally weighed a couple hundred pounds yielded a very nice plate, about 2 foot square, which is largely covered with gemmy fluorite twins. Sadly, we've found these large specimens difficult to sell, and I'm afraid that this one may become even smaller before we're done with it. Today's postcard is of Byron and this specimen after a successful operation.

After a quick lunch break, Byron decided he needed a break from the saw, so we set to washing down the face of the eastern tunnel, which had been mucked out the day before. The area proved to be somewhat of a tease - there is fluorite showing all across the face, but several hours of hosing and poking about only turned up a few interesting things. A lot of what was the "Dragon's Tooth" pocket still remains in one part of the face. This is the pocket that yielded some large opaque green cubes with gemmy corners a few weeks ago. Most of the stuff we found yesterday was aesthetically challenged, to say the least.

A couple of interesting and unusual things were found, though. High up on the left side of the face, well above the zone of green fluorite we found a small cavity filled with small gemmy purple fluorite twins, scattered about a quartz-coated matrix. The fluorite crystals are small, perhaps only up to 5 mm, but quite sharp and gemmy. I've never seen purples from the flats before, only the vein. Nearby we found an area that was throwing out a few bicolor crystals - green with a fairly strong purple core. Not too many, and nothing spectacular, but maybe it will develop. Another small "pocket" near the floor yielded a bunch of small "flakes" of silica matrix which were coated with scatterings of small, sharp, green fluorite twins on both sides. I think there will be some nice miniatures and thumbnails in this stuff when cleaned. It will be interesting to see what developed in this area.

One of the problems facing us at the moment is that there are too many collecting sites going on in the mine at once. Fluorite is showing at the faces of both tunnels, and Byron has to check each one out and collect anything worthwhile between blasts, otherwise Dave and Lofty will get held up. This means that the Solstice Pocket, which in my estimation has the potential to produce the best material we've seen yet, is only getting part-time attention. And then there's all the material still remaining in the Black Sheep Pocket. Quite a change from the first year when we had one pocket and two people wanting to collect.

Knocked off about 1700 and stopped by the office for a pint of Black Sheep. Jeffery was asking how we were doing this summer, so I brought in one of our "bonnie bits" - a ridge shaped specimen, about 2 feet long, which is covered with gemmy twins. Everyone "ooed and aahhed" over it, and I guess got a bit of an idea what we're doing here besides getting muddy. Had dinner with Byron at the Allenheads Inn, which seems to be prospering under a new owner. It was quite a full house and the fellow and his wife were quite busy scurrying about. With the overall drop in visitors to the area this year, it's good to see someone apparently doing well.

Today we are expecting a visit from Lindsay and Patricia sometime around noon. I think they are coming over to Weardale to pursue a lead on some specimens. Afterwards, I would like to pay a visit to Killhope, where they have just opened a spar box exhibition. It may be Sunday, but lots to do.

Stay tuned for more….


Jesse and the Crew

Byron with the fruits of his labor.

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