July 13, 2001

Good morning. This morning things are gray and overcast outside, but the wind appears to have died down for the moment. Yesterday the rain was only intermittent, and the constant wind dried things out fairly quickly. When using the water guns in our garage, the wind can be more annoying than the rain, as it quickly evaporates water from your hands and chills you quickly.

Yesterday morning I spent some time sorting and wrapping specimens to be carried back with me. Given the selection one is confronted with after the mine has been in operation for a month and a half, one must be judicious least one's bags end up weighing a ton. I got around the problem to a small degree by mailing of a parcel from the post office in Stanhope. I always enjoy filling out customs forms when mailing specimens internationally. When it asks for the parcel contents, I always list "rocks". The postal clerks can never understand why someone would want to pay good money to mail such things. Who knows what the customs droids think.

Bill and Jonina spent another day in the garage cleaning and sorting specimens. I think with the two of them working, they are just about keeping up with deliveries from the mine. Unfortunately, Bill is going home on Saturday, but Jonina will be getting two teenage "apprentices" in a few weeks. Should keep things interesting around here….

Headed off to the mine around at 1400 to meet up with a collector friend of David Rennison's whom I had promised a tour of the mine. He was just getting off a stint of night shifts at work, and overslept a bit, but soon showed up with underground gear in hand. Took a brief tour underground, and I could tell that in all his collecting experiences here in Weardale, he had never seen so much fluorite exposed in one place. It is easy to forget the magnitude of what we've done here when compared to what even the most ardent individual collector can accomplish. But I guess that's what can happen when you throw a lot of money at something.

I let him collect for a bit at the east face, and went in search of Byron who had been collecting in the Solstice pocket. Found him busy at work in the pocket, and surrounded by more specimens. He showed off one - a fair sized rock with a covering on one side of some of the largest and gemmiest fluorite crystals I have seen from the pocket yet. He handed me out a few smaller ones and I took them outside to have a better look. Byron wandered out a couple minutes later and calmly announced that the roof of the pocket had collapsed. Fortunately, he had been able to scoot out of the way before anything came down. About that time Bill and Jonina showed up with the powder order, and we all wandered back in to have a look. Sure enough, there was a pile of rubble burying all the specimens Byron had collected - with the exception of the few I had just carried out.

After musing about the situation for a bit, Byron started mucking out the mess, looking for specimens. One particularly large rock was in the middle, and appeared to have landed on top on the really nice one Byron had shown me. Oh well. There was no room to work around the rock, so Byron set up a block and tackle and we pulled the rock out. Amazingly, the specimen had survived the ordeal almost unharmed. Lucky day for all concerned. Byron then took to hosing off ceiling to bring down a few more loose looking rocks and stabilize the area. We will have another good look at the area today, before anyone goes back into the pocket. Figures that the best material we have found so far should come from a difficult place to work. We have never had ceiling problems in the flats before, but never found material like this either.

Dave and Lofty had drilled both the east and west faces in preparation for blasting. After consulting with Byron, they decided to blast the west face, and leave the east for today. More timber was consumed making kickers which, when installed, would hopefully keep the timber sets from being blown out during the blast. After loading the holes, we wrapped up all available specimens and carried the day's take on of the mine. The blast went off as planned, and everyone headed home for the day.

We all headed up to Allendale for dinner at the King's Head. Normally, the food is fairly good there, but we must have hit it on an off night, as no one's meal seemed quite right. Oh well, at least they have a good beer selection.

Today I will busy myself with packing, and the last round of chores before returning to California tomorrow. As a result, this will be my last report until returning in late August for the final shift of the summer. Cal and Kerith are supposed to arrive in Weardale tomorrow, and along with Jonina, will carry on with the daily reports. For my final postcard, attached is a photo of a stalk of wild orchids that are currently blooming in the quarry.

Stay tuned for more….


Jesse and the Crew

A cluster of the small wild orchids that bloom in the quarry during mid-summer.

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