Friday, July 13, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

Our Northern weather this week has, for the most part, been overcast, windy and cool. Surprisingly little rain has come out of it, however. This morning the pattern seems to be holding, so perhaps this will be our summer this year.

The current pocket has continued to produce at an almost alarming rate. On Wednesday Byron was digging them out quicker than I could remove and wrap them, and finished out the day with a very large (40-50 kg?) plate, with crystals apparently on both sides. Dave and I got it muscled out of the pocket, but no farther. Maybe today we will get it outside for a good cleaning and inspection.

The character of what we are finding has changed quite a bit from last year’s material. The current specimens consist mostly of large, intergrown plates and mounds of untwinned crystals, sometimes up to around 4 cm on edge. Most are somewhat cloudy but many have very gemmy corners to the cube. Daylight fluorescence is intense, rendering the crystals a deep blue-green in daylight. The few best we have found so far also have one or two completely transparent and well-formed twinned fluorites perched on the previously formed untwinned ones. When cleaned and trimmed these will be really nice. We’ve only found a few so far, but can hope for more. Unlike last year, quartz is rare and galena almost totally absent.

The pocket has become a narrow tube, curving to the south, back toward the mine entrance. The walls, floor and ceiling are somewhat irregular and have been coated with fluorite. The center has been filled with truly massive amounts of dense sticky clay, which makes for slow and messy collecting. With the pocket forming a tight and narrow tube we are at least no longer in danger of the roof collapsing on us. It is now, however, a long crawl through a rather confined space to reach the face. At least it slopes upward so the copious amounts of water we must spray at the clay coated fluorite drains out rather than creating a small lake for Byron to sit in. Due to the confined space, anyone using water in there will quickly become coated with bits of mud from the back spray. This can be doubly a nuisance if, like most of us old farts, you need to wear glasses to see the details of what is in front of you. In recognition of our new working environment, I’ve dubbed this place “The Rat Hole”. Drop by for a visit and you’ll understand why.

At the end of the day on Wednesday, Dave shot the main face. Byron gave it an inspection yesterday and says it is very heavily mineralized with massive fluorite, galena and ironstone, with a few small cavities showing. Looks like there will be a day of mucking in store for us soon. Byron spent most of the day yesterday back in the Rat Hole, but says that things are tightening up again, and production wasn’t to the previous day’s level. This is a good thing as we need to get caught up on dealing with what he has pulled out already.

Dave and I spent the day on a trip to Kendal to pick up some light gauge rail that was in Lindsay and Mick’s old yard. The rail was in 18-20 foot lengths, making it obvious that the little Peugot wasn’t going to do the job. We were able to barrow both a proper van and a portable steel cutter from Neil Fairless, with the intention of cutting the rail lengths in half so we could more easily transport them back and haul them up to the mine. What sounds like a pretty straight forward job, of course, never is. The pull cord on the starter for the saw was frayed and had to be replaced, and the one incident of real rain we’ve had this week occurred while we were cutting and loading the rail out in the open. Never the less, we had our new (old) rail back to the mine by end of day.

Today Byron and I will be working to clear out the log jam of specimens laying about the mine. Today’s photo is of the pocket lined with specimens requiring attention. Dave will be off as he has a bike race coming up and is obsessing over a new engine he’s put in his baby.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron


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