Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

This morning dawns cool and cloudy. Looking up the dale there is some light fog or mist, which may be a bit of rain. It is dry here at the cottage, for the moment. Yesterday began fairly clear and sunny but high clouds moved in fairly quickly signaling another weather system from the west. This one doesn't seem quite as wet as the last, at least not yet.

Yesterday was a bank holiday here, but a usual day at the mine for us. Every spring bank holiday our landlord opens up the quarry to a local motorcycle group for what they call "trials". What this involves is a bunch of dirt bike riders racing around a designated obstacle course, trying to make good time without having to put a foot onto the ground in the process. The course usually does not come very near the mine but we always get someone who is interested in what we are doing there. I would have thought that by now everyone in the dale would have heard of the daft Americans and their mine, but evidently, not so. While driving into the quarry one of the organizers of the bike event, afraid that I was some sort of tourist, ask what I was doing. After giving a brief explanation of our business, he immediately wanted to have a look, so I got him fitted out with a light, hardhat and Wellies. Though unfamiliar with mining (unusual for someone in these parts), he seemed quite fascinated by what we were doing.

After the impromptu tour was finished I headed toward my digging spot of the past week and found that Dave had already mucked the heading out for me and we were ready to start scaling rock away from the face. I spend several hours washing mud, baring rock, and creating a new muck pile to replace the one recently removed. Unfortunately, the fluorite veins I have been chasing proved not yet willing to blossom into their full glory. I think I got two bits that may qualify as real mineral specimens. The color and daylight fluorescence of the fluorite from this area in quite intense so if it ever decides to do something, we should have some nice material.

Byron had initially wanted to do some sawing, but got sidetracked by the area of raised flats along the northwest spur tunnel where he has been collecting in past days. This spot has been producing a steady stream of specimens, which unfortunately, have uniformly small crystals. Hope springs eternal, and evidently he was not yet ready to give up on it. After digging for several hours he had accumulated a couple tubs of specimens but had also excavated a cavity that is now verging on the clay-filled fracture zone that appears to be following the main vein in this area of the mine. What this means in practical terms is that there were now exposed a lot of large rocks held in place only by clay. As we have to use water during collecting, this was supplying a very good lubricant, allowing these large, uninteresting rocks to come loose of their own volition. After the arrival of a couple large, unannounced guests, Byron decided to call a retreat and let anything further come down unattended. Today's photo is of Byron at his collecting station, before the retreat.

About this time, I had decided to do some inspecting of the West Cross Cut and came to the conclusion that for the moment, this is perhaps still our best collecting option. After conferencing with Byron and Dave, it was decided that we should muck the place out, get the saw in and cut up several very large, fluorite-covered rocks that have come down, and get better access to the face. There is one face, along the north side that has a large covering of fluorite, some of which might make very good specimens. The problem is that the rock here is very hard and unfractured, thus no way to easily remove the specimens. To get at them we will likely have to drill some holes into the rock behind the fluorite and use feather and wedge to split it up.

After finishing up for the day, Byron and I made a brief stop at the Golden Lion where we found the landlord somewhat worse for wear after his night of rock and roll at the pub. He said everyone had a great time and he had made enough over the weekend to pay the bills, so all was well. The local Irishman Michael (who everyone, of course, calls Paddy) was in attendance, and kept everyone entertained with a combination of philosophical musings and mild verbal abuse. Good bit'a crack as they say here.

Well, the rain just arrived and it's time to get myself through the morning cleanup routine. Byron's heading off for the mine, and I am lounging around the cottage waiting for Dave to call for a ride in. He had some business to take care of this morning and not sure when he'll be done. Tuesday is shopping day for Jonina so she will soon be off, list in hand.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Byron with the good stuff.

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