Thursday, August 24, 2006

Greetings from Weardale.

The day dawns bright, clear, and a bit cool. As always, by late August there is a slight chill in the air here in the North Pennines, and one can tell that summer is on it's way out. The heather, however, is in glorious bloom, turning the upper moors bright purple. If it stays sunny through the weekend, perhaps I will get some good photos.

Tuesday I made a quick trip up to Edinburgh at the invitation of Brian Jackson of the National Museum of Scotland. Brian, along with being in the mineralogy department at the museum, is quite active in the local chapter of the Royal Gemological Society, and thought a slide show on the gem pegmatites of Southern California might go well at one of their meetings. Despite only a couple weeks notice, we had a large turnout with some folks traveling a fair distance for a weeknight affair. A large number of the questions after the presentation were about what we're doing in Weardale rather than about California tourmaline, so perhaps I'll be back next year to give another talk with a more local flavor. At least I'll have learned my way in and out of Edinburgh, which is no mean feat given that road signs seem virtually non-existent once one drives into the city. Part of the group then adjourned for some good curry and tandoori, after-which, Brian and I went in search of a pint Deuchar's IPA, one of Scotland's best beers. Up late, then up early the next day for the drive back to Weardale. The driving distance is only about 100 miles, but there are no motorways between here and there, so takes about 3 hours on small winding roads.

Back at the mine, Cal and Kerith were busy washing and wrapping specimens, while Byron wielded the saw, turning very large specimens into somewhat smaller ones. The current pocket in the West Cross Cut continues to give us specimens, often large blocks covered with untwined fluorite and galena octahedra over a white crystalline quartz layer. The color contrast between the bright green fluorite and white quartz should be quite attractive, when all are cleaned. Cal and Kerith are heading back to California on Saturday, so Cal was trying to squeeze in all the last minute collecting time he could, and between shifts at the washing table, he would be back in the pocket. Today's photo is of him watering the pocket in hopes of it growing yet more specimens. It's really amazing to think how productive this area of the mine has been since we first opened it up in August of 2001.

Today will be one of our final collecting days of the season, as we try to get all the specimens through a preliminary cleaning, dried, wrapped and binned up. I've set aside a small selection of pieces that are potential fodder for a preliminary offering on the website. I'll be making a final choice of specimens and box them up for mailing back to San Francisco in hopes of them being there about the time I get home. In the past, I've hand carried these things back, but with all the new security hoops to jump through at Heathrow, I'm not going to chance being told that they are potential weapons. Hopefully, I'll get some time to muck around inside the current pocket as well.

Stay tuned for more,


Watering the pocket in hopes that it will grow.

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