Friday, May 28, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

The weather has turned sunny again, but is rather cool and breezy. We've been here almost a week now with no significant rain. I think that qualifies as a drought in these parts! The pond in the quarry just west of the mine still has water, though, so I assume this is a recent condition. The slightly marsh-like area around this pond is where most of our wild orchids bloom. These usually start poking up in early June so I'm keeping watch on the area. Today's photo is a portrait of the mine on a sunny day.

Yesterday was Byron's first full day of collecting at the mine. I had some accounting work to do for the money-making business back home so was tied to the computer until early afternoon, but Byron headed off to the mine first thing. When I got there around 1400 I found he had been working at a spot towards the head of the mine along the dead-end spur we drove two years ago. This tunnel diverges to the west from the main vein-following one, and we were hoping to hit flats again in this area. What we found was unaltered limestone, so we backed up and set off northward along the vein again last year. Toward the end of the season last year this tunnel encountered a fracture zone sub-parallel to the vein that we've been playing tag with off and on since we first began this project. Around the same time, while poking around, Byron discovered a mineralized zone toward the ceiling of the now-abandoned west- trending tunnel. This zone is about two meters higher relative to the tunnel than the flats we have been following along the main tunnel to the south, and speculation is now that we may have a small vertical offset along this fracture causing us to actually tunnel under them in this area. Byron is determined to find out and with his excavating talent, I'm sure we will know soon enough. The zone so far looks quite similar to what we saw in the West Cross Cut - what we call "plum pudding" with blocks of fluorite- covered ironstone suspended in our famous tenacious mud. Unfortunately, the fluorite crystals uncovered here to date have been uniformly small, but the specimens have good form and hope is that we are just on the edge of the mineralized zone. Guess we'll find out soon.

I spent the afternoon moving rock and chasing a couple seams of bright green fluorite that never gave me anything more than crumbled bits. Looking at our mine map, I figure this area should be about 10 feet (about 3 meters) southwest of the Solstice-Birthday pocket area we worked through in 2001. If so, it may open up and give is something. All we have to do, of course, is move a bunch of rock and mud to find out. Being out of practice from a winter of sitting in front of a computer, my arms and shoulders this morning are somewhat the worse for wear after moving a pitifully small pile of the stuff. But as someone once said to me, you eat the elephant one bite at a time. I've never really wanted to eat an elephant but I understand the concept. Unfortunately, being underground I can't tell just how big this one will be. But then, that's part of the glamour and adventure of specimen mining, n'est pas?

Jonina seems to have had a frustrating day of telephone tag with the compressor rental company. In years past we rented from a small local company where one dealt with the same folks each time. This company, however, was recently consumed by a large national firm who are focused on large equipment hire, not small time folk like us. After several phone conversations with several people she finally got a commitment from them to deliver us a compressor today. Cell phone reception is spotty up here in upper Weardale and nonexistent while working in the garage here, so she had to baby-sit the phone in the cottage all day waiting for return calls. As a result, she didn't get much else done other than updating the address book on her computer. On the bright side, that means that everyone should be getting the e-mail reports she has promised to write after I return to California.

This morning I will be at the computer again finishing up the monthly invoices to be sent back home. Afterwards I hope to get back to the mine to take another bite. Byron will, of course, be heading off as soon as he finishes his morning ablutions. The compressor is rumored to be headed our way this morning so someone will have to sit at the gate to meet the driver who will, with any luck, find where he is suppose to go and not be too late.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

A sunny day at the mine.

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