Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has turned decidedly cool and rainy here, which is quite a contrast to the hot spell we had during July. It's been pretty cloudy, with occasional rain since my arrival, but this morning dawns quite clear. There's been virtually no wind to dry things out, however, so the quarry has become quite a mud bath. To compound the matter, there were a bunch of off-road enthusiasts in the quarry over weekend, who succeeded in tearing up the roads quite well.

Sunday, while cal and Kerith were off to Barnard Castle to do some quality shopping, Byron and I were at the mine. Seems that the specimen floodgates have opened up for us. In the space of about five hours we managed to recover about a dozen or so large fluorite-covered plates, four wrapped plastic tubs of smaller specimens, and one incredibly huge rock, which has one side covered with fluorite in quite convoluted and topographical forms. Byron got this one excavated from the back of the pocket, and I managed to get it onto a couple of boards and slid out of the pocket. The thing must weigh at least 100 kg, and when all the mud was washed off, was quite impressive. I'm not sure how we're going to get it out of there. It really doesn't look like it will lend itself to being cut up into smaller pieces, either. If anyone out there wants a truly amazing and truly large specimen, featured in today's photo, we'll give you a real deal if you'll come and get it.

Yesterday we had the full crew at the mine. Dave and Byron managed to get most of the mine mucked out after the last round of blasting, and Cal spent a good bit of time in the pocket going through mud for small specimens and single crystals. He had stopped at the DIY (hardware store to us foreigners) in Stanhope on the way in to see about getting a small screen to use for sorting through pocket mud. After a bit of arm-waving and trying to describe just what he wanted, the shop-keeper says "oh, what you'll be wanting are some riddles." What he got were a couple nice little screens in round frames, perfect for the job at hand. No one we've asked has ever heard of these things being called riddles before, though.

I spent the better part of the day washing specimens, while Kerith sorted and packed them for shipment. This is a good way to get a look at what has been produced, and as always, the vast majority of what comes out will be destined for wholesale flats (if not back onto the mine dump). I was able to set aside a small collection of nicer things, however, that I hope to bring back for an initial website update.

Back up the dale around 6 PM, we made the rounds at the two pubs in St. John's Chapel. The Golden Lion has always been the better one for beers, but Cal is primarily a wine drinker, and the offerings at the Blue Bell are superior in that respect. In fairness to all, we had to visit both, of course. Dinner at the cottage, and a nice evening outside in the small courtyard adjoining our cottage. It was the sort of evening that would normally have lured hoards of midges from their hiding places, being still and pleasant. Not a gnat to be had, however. Byron says that the recent hot spell has cooked the little buggers.

Today, I am scheduled to go up to Edinburgh and give a talk on the gem pegmatites of Southern California for a group of folks in the Royal Gemological Society. Before coming over, I was contacted by one of the curators at the National Museum of Scotland, whom I had met in Tucson, about doing this. I haven't been able to get hold of him since arriving here to reconfirm, so I hope I'm not just in for a driving trip to Edinburgh and back today.

Stay tuned for more,


A modest sized specimen.

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