Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather here has continued to cycle between sunny and warm, and cloudy and wet. Fortunately, it remained the former through yesterday afternoon so we actually got some specimens washed and dried in the same day. This morning dawns bright and fairly clear, so maybe we’re in for another day of it. You never know what the weather will be here until it happens, however. Today’s photo is a graphic example of just how quickly it can change in the North Pennines.

The past two days at the mine have been focused, at least for me, on processing the already collected material that is currently covering almost every available flat surface about the mine. Given the amount of material Byron has pulled out of The Rat Hole during the past two weeks, this task is truly analogous to eating the elephant one bite at a time. Fortunately, I’ve managed a few bites in the past few days, but only a few. As soon as I get the specimens on the drying table wrapped and binned, it just fills up again with more. Quite a change from this time last year, when I was wondering if we were ever going to get anything collected.

Byron, of course, has spent most of the time collecting. Monday he spent almost the entire day in The Rat Hole, though production of specimens has slowed and he thinks the pocket may be pinching down. This, however, is the third time this season that it has done something like this, only to open up again once a few obstinate rocks were removed. It will take some more digging to know for sure if we’ve reached the end of this one. Having spent most of the day cleaning specimens, I came up to the mine late afternoon and had a brief wallow in the pocket mud myself. About the time Byron was hollering at me that it was time to lock up and go home I managed to get a nice large fluorite-covered mound loose from the back of the pocket. A gratifying way to end the day, but unfortunately we’ve got far too many large mounds already this season. The buying public doesn’t seem to like these things so we are usually forced to carve them up into smaller bits for sale. I guess I shouldn’t complain, however. We could be digging nothing but mud.

Yesterday, Byron took a break from the usual mud hole and did some exploratory poking about in a cross cut up near the main face. This area is incredibly mineralized with the limestone having been totally replaced by ironstone, which is shot through with stringers of galena and massive blue-green fluorite. It will occasionally pocket, but these so far have been small and very hard to collect because the surrounding rock is not fractured and very tough. By the end of the day he had managed to collect several bags of shiny galena fragments. The folks at the local crystal shop Gemcraft have ask for some of this stuff, and while not of any great value it may pay for another tank of petrol in the Peugot (something not totally inconsequential with the high price of the stuff here in the UK). He also managed to collect a few very interesting fluorite specimens out of one of the small pockets. The crystals were opaque, purple, and untwinned. They were also flattened and tabular, rather like some of the old things from the Boltsburn and Blackdene mines, and associated with quartz and small nail head calcite crystals.

Jeremy and Phillippa’s son Peter is putting in a few weeks working for us, in order to earn some money for an upcoming school cricket team trip to the Caribbean. Dave tells me that the first job that was often given to young lads in the mines here was as a trammer – someone responsible for getting the ore and muck wagons out of the mine. In keeping with tradition, Peter spent his first day helping Dave muck the recently shot main face, and push the cars out onto the dump. In between such tasks, I’ve had him washing and drying specimens. After a few weeks of this, I’m sure he’ll appreciate a trip to the tropics all the more!

Today will likely be more of the same at the mine. Hauling tubs of specimens down from the mine, washing them, drying them wrapping them in bubble plastic, and binning them. A few more bites taken. Byron wants to wash and examine the now mucked out main face, and if little of interest turns up Dave will begin drilling for the next round. I haven’t heard from Cal and Kerith, but they are due back from Scotland any day now, so there may soon be some more bodies to be pressed into service processing material.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

The North Pennines weather forcast.

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