Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Yesterday's weather turned out a bit odd - it was hot, hazy, and very humid - rather like a summer day somewhere in the eastern U.S. Usually a warm day is very pleasant when emerging cold and wet from a few hours of collecting in the mine. The humidity and lack of breeze yesterday made it feel rather stifling. This morning it is cloudy, cool, and very windy. Obviously something is changing to the west of us.

Yesterday was again a full day at the mine. Met up with our visitor Lloyd here at the cottage and headed off down the dale. Lloyd has been coming to visit for several seasons now, and is getting quite handy around the mine by now. We could use a few more friends who think moving rock and mud in a dark dank tunnel constitutes a holiday. Byron headed out first thing to replenish our supply of red diesel fuel for the compressor. Red diesel is a small concession to the farmers around here and is meant for off-road use. As such, it is not taxed and thus much cheaper. We have always gotten our supply from Watson's garage in Wolsingham, but recently they have been focusing more on auto sales and Byron arrived to find them in the process of removing their fuel pumps. John, the manager promised to set us up with another source, but in the mean time we have no fuel.

After returning from his fruitless fuel foray, Byron and I spent a bit of time barring out a large rock from the main face that had a nice large green fluorite crystal tucked in a cavity at its base. The rock behaved as one would wish and rolled over as it came loose, landing crystal-side up. Byron then applied the chainsaw to get the portion of interest. Not a stunner, but a potentially interesting specimen, and the fluorite crystal is quite large by our standards. Afterwards, Dave set to mucking out the rubble and drilled the face in anticipation of moving forward on the main tunnel, Byron set to poking about, and I returned to my ever-increasing muck pile at the head of the Northeast Cross Cut.

The large rocks that have been tormenting me the past two days were, sadly, still where I left them the day before, so I set once again to trying to dig around them. In the process I managed to uncover another, previously unrecognized patch of large green crystals, almost directly over my head. After uncovering the patch, it occurred to me that they were on the bottom face of a rather sizeable rock, lodged in the ceiling of the cavity, about four feet above the floor. If I were somehow able to get the rock loose I would have to let it drop, as it was far too large for anyone to catch. After contemplating the situation, I decided the only course of action was to put a roll of bubble wrap under the think, let it drop, and hope for the best. Easier said than done, of course. The large rock, though it would wiggle nicely, seemed to be held firmly in place by a keystone on the backside, near the face. To work it out would mean having to sit directly underneath the large rock of interest. Not the best situation, to say the least! Somehow, with Lloyd's help I was able to eventually bar the thing loose. It hit the bubble wrap as planned, did a bounce and flipped over. Good luck twice in one day! It now awaits Byron's attention with the chainsaw. There appears to be some spots on the face where the crystals have come off in our tenacious mud, but a couple of patches of nice, large, gemmy crystals remain. Hopefully we will be able to trim a few nice specimens out of it.

Today's photo is of the face at the NE Cross Cut. The fluorite seam I have been pursuing can be seen toward the upper right of the photo, and one of the large recalcitrant rocks directly below it. The rock I ended up with is the lighter colored wedge-shaped bit at top center. In the photo the underside face is still completely covered in mud, giving little hint as to what is really there.

After quitting for the day we went to the Mill Race to meet up with Bill and Diana Dameron, collector friends who had just arrived from Oregon. They were in that never-never land of jetlag after having been up for more than a day and crossing eight time zones, but managed to stay coherent through dinner. They will be spending a few days here in Weardale before going down south to Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

Today I plan on giving my rock-moving muscles a bit of a rest and will be sawing and sorting specimens here in the garage. There is an opening of a new sparbox exhibit up at Killhope this afternoon that I hope to attend. Jonina, unfortunately, needs to make another trip to Kendal for more permit issues, and Byron will, of course, spend the day at the mine with Dave.

Until tomorrow….


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

More rocks and mud.

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