Thursday, August 26, 2004

Greetings from Weardale.

Believe it or not, it didn't rain yesterday - at least anywhere I was in the dale. The cloud cover was thick and gray most of the day, but the breeze was up and by the end of the day the track into the quarry was actually beginning to dry out. Once again, the overcast moved out by late afternoon and gave a nice sunset. It was so clear last night that around 2230 one could see the bright band of the Milky Way arching overhead. Something not seen very often back home in San Francisco. This morning the clouds have returned, but it doesn't look like rain quite yet. There is a slight chill, however, that here in the north says that summer (or what we had of it) is on the way out.

Yesterday Jonina and Sarah spent a full day working in the garage processing specimens, and I spent the morning here at the cottage cleaning and packing specimens for shipment to Germany. By mid-afternoon I had finished with what I had at the cottage, so took another load of specimens to the quarry for a cleaning bath. Most of the fluorite we recover needs varying amounts of cleaning, mostly to remove iron-oxide stain, before being presented to the buying public. Back home we have the luxury of a full lab setup for doing this. Here, however, we make due with a couple plastic tubs in the quarry.

After setting my batch of specimens to soak, I went up to the mine and helped Byron poke at a mud seam he had found in the Northeast Crosscut. We found lots of mud and broken rock, but little in the way of what could be called mineral specimens. After giving up there, Byron went to inspect recent exposures at the main face and discovered a vein of calcite that was actually vuggy. Calcite veins are not uncommon in the mine, but in the past have always been massive. What we found, though nothing like the wonderful calcites from west Cumbria, were some plates and radiating clusters of white to cream colored crystals with trigonal terminations. Not stunningly good material, but an interesting end to an otherwise frustrating day of collecting.

Back at the cottage, I put on dinner again for the crew. I'm getting fairly good at improvising something based on what is available in the fridge, and last night it was sautéed chicken breast with mushrooms, onions and bacon, in a mustard sauce. No one complained, so it must have worked. As we get closer to closedown, however, the options become more limited as we try to use up our food supplies. I wonder how popular plain rice will be.

Today, Jonina and Sarah will be processing more specimens here at the cottage, I will continue trying to clean my batch for shipment, Byron will continue poking about in the mine, and Dave will be laying some track. We have almost used up all the rail we pulled out of the old Greenlaws adit last summer, so are looking at another salvage operation next year.

Today's photo is of Dave and his helper Johnny dumping a load of muck over the side of the landing.

Until tomorrow…


Jesse, Byron and Jonina

Rearranging piles of rock.

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