September 2, 2002

Good Morning All:

The past couple of days have been just glorious here in Weardale - sunny, clear, and cool. It was as if, on cue, autumn arrived on September 1. Today looks to be a repeat of yesterday. Small consolation for those in Southern California who inform me that temperatures are currently exceeding 100F. You're all welcome back here.

The past few days have been tour days at the mine for me. On Saturday Carl Francis (Harvard Mineralogical Museum) and Tony Kampf (Los Angeles Natural History Museum) drove down from Edinburgh for a day visit. I had arranged to meet them at the Mill Race around noon, but they were a little late. Seems that neither had ever driven in the UK before, so the process took a little longer than expected. While waiting I got into a conversation with a local fellow who was a music fan, and got the rundown on local festivals and such. Seems he had spent the evening before with a few mates going through old vinyl and a bottle of Irish. As is wont to happen in these situations, 3AM occurred much sooner than expected, and he had come into the pub for his "recovery pint".

Tony and Carl finally arrived and Carl, being the conservative New Englander ask for coffee. Tony on the other hand, had been behind the wheel for their journey and went strait for a pint. After a lunch of the requisite Whitby Cod, we headed to the mine where Byron was busy sawing up the various big bits that are scattered about the mine. After getting everyone suited up and posing numerous times for Tony's camera, I turned the two loose to collect in the West Cross Cut. After about an hour they re-emerged and Carl had somehow managed to remain much cleaner than Tony. I washed up their few discoveries and let them wrap up. After posing for another round of photos - see attached - we headed up the dale to the Mine House where they had a brief look at specimens before beginning the journey back to Edinburgh. Tony kindly allowed Carl to drive on the return trip, but I'm not sure Carl fully appreciated the privilege.

Jonina was busy scurrying about in house-cleaning mode, and after a bit of that I dragged her out to take a walk down to St. John's Chapel, where the village show was on. Unfortunately, there were no livestock shows as there is still a quarantine on animals if herds are mixed. We stopped into the Golden Lion to say hello to everyone, and had a good chat with both Isabel and Ken, who is now an expectant father. The place was unusually quite for a show weekend when we arrived, but quickly filled up with the evening's revelers. Seems the Britiany Spears look is the thing these days for the teen-age girls, and there were numerous Britiany look-alikes about, including a mother-daughter team. Saturday night at the Lion!

Sunday morning Mark Wrigley stopped by with his father to pick out a few more specimens for his web-based business, and I then headed to the mine for what is hopefully the last round of tours. Had a collector from East Anglia in the area with his wife for the Killhope show, along with a return visit by the fellow and two sons who came by the cottage a few days previously. Everyone got suited up and after a brief tour I let them collect for a bit. Everyone came away with a few bits, and seemed to have a good time getting covered in mud. I was particularly glad to see the two boys get into it, as it is quite difficult for kids to find places to collect these days. Headed back to the cottage where the fellow and his boys purchased yet another lot of specimens, and headed off to explore the mining areas in Derbyshire. What would life be like if we all had fathers like that?

In the two hours we were at the mine Byron managed to get two more large, fluorite-covered plates out of the Dipper pocket. This area has produced some really nice specimens but is becoming a rather narrow, deep little rat hole. Perhaps I'll spend some time trying to open it up today.

After the tour groups departed, we declared a goof-off day for the remainder, and headed up the dale to Killhope and caught the end of the mineral show. Had a good chat with the Hackers, the Lands, Peter Briscoe, Ian and Pam Forbes, and numerous others. After the presentations were given we hopped back in the car and drove up to Allendale. I wanted to get some photos of the old Blackett Level adit, which is near the center of town. The Blackett Level is a tunnel that was constructed between around 1850 - 1900 with the purpose of draining water from all the mines in East Allendale. The tunnel was intended to extend all the way to Allenheads but only got as far as the St. Peters Mine in Spartylea before the lead market crashed and the mines closed. Still an impressive distance!

After getting some photos we all adjourned to the King's Head pub in the town square for a few pints and dinner. I could see Jonina slowly relax and sink lower in her seat as a few pints passed her way. It's a good thing.

Today will be another mine day for Byron and I, and Jonina will continue getting specimens cleaned and boxed with the crew here at the cottage. On the final stretch here this week.


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Museum curators on the job...

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