Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Good morning from Weardale.

Arrived safely back at our second home on Sunday afternoon. Everyone says that the weather around here has been just miserable - lots of rain. The quarry has some large lakes in it such as those usually seen when we arrive in May, so I do not doubt the tales. Since arriving, however, the weather has been cool, mostly clear, and only the occasional passing rain shower.

I spent yesterday morning sorting through specimens to be left behind for the Munich show this fall. If we send from here we can at least avoid customs costs. Most of these will, of course, need some more cleaning as they will not go back to California for the full treatment, so I have some work ahead of me before we close down in early September. After looking through a goodly number of flats, it seems that we have a greater diversity of specimens this year, but a few real top end "killers". Cal is away in Scotland at the moment, and likely has any of these already squirreled away. The diversity comes from the fact that collecting this summer has not been concentrated in any single area as in past years, but in at least four separate pocket zones.

After putting aside a fair pile of candidate specimens, I took Joan shopping in Stanhope for dinner supplies. While walking down the High Street we did our usual browsing of the estate agent's window, looking for our "dream cottage". It's amazing to realize that since we've been at this project (1999) real estate values even in a backwater place such as Weardale appear to have nearly doubled. I think our dream cottage may have shrunk to a two bedroom terrace house.

After dropping Joan back at the Mine House, I headed in to see what has happened at the mine since June. As mentioned, Byron has been busy collecting in at least four spots around the mine. A quick summary:

The good old West Cross Cut still continues to produce. Of note is the northern extension, which has produced the first stalactites since the Black Sheep pocket several years ago. The area where the stalactites were found is on the north side of the second western tunnel, and was first encountered last August. At the time Byron collected a few interesting specimens, and thought the area was pinching out. While poking at it this summer, it opened up again and the mineralization still looks quite strong heading to the north.

The East Cross Cut, opposite the northern entrance of the West Cross Cut has continued to produce, but is no more generous than when I was working there in June. There is a nice seam of bright green fluorite extending more than 180 degrees across the working face. The seam is still tight and must be undercut to get specimens out, which makes for a lot of rock moved for each specimen had.

The Dipper extension off the eastern tunnel was quite dismal when I left in June. The zone, while highly mineralized was quite broken up, and was giving up only fragments. With some perseverance, Byron managed to extend it into a less fractured area and got some nice clusters of opaque but quite large green crystals. As of yesterday, it looks like this zone may be finished, however.

The new North East Crosscut has encountered one of the long tube-like cavities that we occasionally find along the vein. This one has a nice "rind" of bright silvery galena and is lined with fairly glassy clusters of purple fluorite crystals, some with a partial quartz coating. Though not nearly as large as the crystals that we got from the Weasel pocket some years back, these do not have the corroded white centers and may make attractive specimens after cleaning. I spent several hours digging mud out of the pocket, and the end is now well beyond my reach. Today's photo is of the pocket opening.

After closing down around 1800 I found a young Italian couple down at the gate with a local map and a copy of the Italian translation of the Rogerley article I wrote several years ago. With minimal English they managed to ask me where the mine was, and seemed pleased to have had the luck to pull off the road at the right turn-out. I (hopefully) communicated to them to meet us back at the gate today at 1030 for a quick look around. Unfortunately, Italian is one of the languages I am thoroughly deficient in.

Back at the cottage, Joan put on a marvelous feast, and after a few bottles of wine had been rendered useless everyone headed off to bed.

After the hopefully quick tour this morning, Joan and I will be going over to Kendal to visit with Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank. Will report back soon on life in these parts.


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Opening to the purple cavity in the Northeast Cross Cut.

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