Thursday, June 10, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Yesterday began with what looked like the threat of a storm, but the wind soon blew the overcast away and it turned out to be a nice sunny, if windy day. This morning the clouds are back but the wind has died down. The official prediction for today is "partially cloudy with a chance of showers" - a rather catch-all phrase for summer weather in these parts.

Yesterday I spent the morning with the rock saw and water gun here in the cottage garage. We are starting to accumulate a fair pile of specimens and I wanted to see if any of the better-looking ones would live up to their potential after a bit of cleaning and trimming. The first issue, however, was getting the saw to work. David Rennison has been kind enough to loan us his saw for the summer, and it is a much nicer and easier unit to use than the one we own. The one problem it seems to have is that when started about one time in four it will blow the in-line fuse. All electrical plug heads here in the UK are fused and the fuse is invariably 13 amps. The only thing I can figure is that the motor on the saw must draw almost exactly 13 amps when it starts. Last year we got around the problem by replacing the fuse with some fuse wire rated at 20 amps. When I started up the saw to trim my first specimen of the day, it worked just fine, and I assumed the fuse wire was still in place. Well, we all know what happens when we make such assumptions. The second time I tried to start it nothing happened. I opened up the plug head and, sure enough, we were back to a 13 amp fuse. After a while of rummaging through our supplies from last year I managed to find a replacement, and got the saw running again. This time I didn't turn it off until I was finished with all the pieces I wanted to trim.

After a couple hours of muddy water spraying all over the place I had a fair number of trimmed and cleaned pieces, which on close inspection sadly failed to live up to expectations. Missing crystal here, cloudy center in a major crystal there, the occasional fracture in the matrix running directly under the best crystals on the specimen. I did manage to get a couple good pieces, however, one of which is featured in today's photo.

In the afternoon I went up to Killhope for the official opening of their new sparbox exhibit. Mostly a social event with a mercifully short speech from a local politician. Had a chance to talk with Brian Young of the British Geological Survey about all sorts of pointy-headed intellectual mineral stuff over coffee and scones afterwards.

Met up with Lloyd, Byron and the Damerons around 6 pm at the Golden Lion and exchanged stories for the day. Bill and Diana had taken some nice walks around Stanhope and Alston, Lloyd had been on an underground collecting adventure and showed off some of his finds, which included some attractive shiny black sphalerite on quartz. Not to be outdone, Byron went out to his car and came back with a rather large cluster of twinned green fluorites on an ironstone matrix that came out of a new area he had been working during the day. Though many of the crystals showed white centers that will undoubtedly look far worse when the piece dries out, this new area definitely shows some potential. Back at the cottage, I got a quick dinner on for everyone but Lloyd, who claimed to have a very important date with a hot bath back at the Allenheads Inn.

Today I will be back at the mine as this will be one of my last chances to get wet and muddy before returning home this coming weekend. After all the work getting that large rock out of the ceiling, I want to have the joy of seeing it cut up. It will also be interesting to see where Byron was working yesterday. Jonina has to make another, and hopefully last final trip over the Constabulary in Penrith to take care of permit issues.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

More bonnie bits.

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