Saturday, August 19, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

God, I love jetlag!!! Stay up for 36 hours, change 8 time zones, fall dead asleep for six hours, and wake up in a complete panic because your brain can't remember where you are or what you're doing. I'm glad I figured it out by the time I opened the door to my bedroom, because a wrong turn would have would have sent me down a very steep, dark and narrow staircase instead of to the loo. All just a part of the exciting life of an itinerant mine owner, I guess.

Back here in Weardale for the final shift of another year digging for fluorite. As you may recall, things were a bit muddled when I turned the chore over to Cal and Kerith about a month ago. Well, all the permitting fell into place, and things have been moving along quite nicely at the mine since then. Flew into Heathrow from San Francisco yesterday, drove the four hours required to get from there to this wonderfully remote part of England, and stopped by the mine to see how things were going. I had planned on just saying hello and then heading off to our cottage in St. John's Chapel for a nap, but a very actively producing pocket pre-empted my attention. Seems that the West Cross Cut, despite all earlier appearances, is not played out. The area I have dubbed the "Dodgy Bugger Pocket" because of the exciting nature of the roof in this area was only showing a few good bits on some very large roof rocks when I left last month. However, thanks to the wonders of modern chemistry, along with the local constabulary who have given us the permission to blow up some rocks, it has now opened up into a large side cavity on the southern margin of the West Cross Cut zone, and is giving us a lot of new material.

When I arrived, I found Kerith busy washing some of the recent take, Cal and Byron sawing up some of the larger bits, and local collectors Helen and Barry getting themselves happily covered in mud, collecting in the pocket. Sometime around mid afternoon Cal decided that he couldn't stand not being part of the action, and took a turn in the pocket. What came out almost immediately was a large quartz-covered plate studded on both sides with fluorite. Though amazing, we have found that virtually no one will buy these large things from us, so after a bit of posing for today's photo, it was promptly cut up into smaller bits by Byron and his chainsaw. There's an even bigger one partially exposed in the back of the pocket. I'm not sure how we're going to deal with it, as the thing likely weighs a couple hundred pounds.

The fluorite from this area, though generally not highly gemmy and glassy, is a very bright green and much of it is sitting on a layer of finely crystalline white quartz, which looks like it will clean up quite nicely. In the past, we've gotten the occasional specimen of this sort, and when cleaned, the contrast between the fluorite and quartz is quite striking. Hopefully, we now have a good supply of it.

After dinner back at the cottage, Byron and I wandered over to the Golden Lion for a bit of Saturday night people-watching. Robin, the landlord, had a couple mates there with a rock & roll band so the place was jumping. About 11 PM I finally hit the wall, but the place was still packed.

Today, Cal and Kerith are planning a major shopping run to the nearest supermarket, which is about a 45-minute drive down to Barnard Castle. Byron and I will likely head back to the mine and enjoy another mud bath.

Stay tuned for more,


Byron with chain saw.

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