Monday, July 23, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather for the past several days has been mostly overcast and drippy. The sun did, however, put in a brief appearance yesterday evening giving a fairly decent, if not totally glorious sunset, which is the subject of today’s photo. Despite all the gloom we fortunately have not had the torrential rains that have caused severe flooding in other parts of the country. The quarry, however, remains an absolute mud pit, and as Byron and I drove out on Sunday afternoon I noticed that the level of water in our pond is almost up to the road again.

Most of Friday was spent on cleaning things up around the mine. Cal and Kerith managed to get a good bit of our backlog of specimens wrapped and binned, while I spent some time packing down and washing various bits still laying about the mine. Dave got the opening to the current pocket in the West Cross Cut excavated and re-timbered in the morning, allowing Cal, Byron and me to work at digging out the pocket floor to allow better access. Cal and I took turns hauling out buckets of mud and debris, which will be washed, screened and sorted for single crystals. A bucket of this muck probably weighs around 25 kilos and after a few hours of this routine one’s back reminds us that this is something we are not use to doing. While all this was going on, Byron was, of course, up at the face of the pocket zone digging out large amounts of mud and the occasional specimen. Dave succeeded in getting the main face drilled and shot be the end of the day, so another cycle of mucking and timbering awaits us this week.

Saturday I spent some time running errands, but managed to get a flat of new material down to the crystal shop in Barnard Castle and sold a few nice pieces to the owner. Met up with Byron at the mine in the afternoon and had a look at the newly shot main face. The broken up cavity that Cal gave up on late last week appears to be continuing, and while still largely collapsed, is giving some interesting material. Byron showed me several large, twinned and partially gemmy fluorite crystals, all of which sadly had some damage from the collapse of the pocket in times long past. He has a couple bits that should make excellent cutting material, however. This sort of thing is quite a change for the main vein, as we’ve never recovered much in the way of gemmy or transparent fluorite from it, only the flats.

Sunday was a rather uneventful day. Feeling rather tired and unmotivated, I realized that I’ve been working almost nonstop here for almost a month now. Did manage to get up to Killhope with Cal and Kerith for a look at what restoration projects they’ve gotten done over winter, and stopped in Cowshill for a walk around the upper dale. Byron, being rather single minded in his pursuit of digging specimens went in to the mine again, and I met up with him in the afternoon. The zone in the main face continues to look promising and he had collected a couple tubs of material. There is a large rock showing that appears to have some gemmy crystals covering one face, and may be undamaged by the pocket collapse. Without proper timbering, the roof looks a bit too dodgy to be working under so extraction of this one will have to wait until Dave is finished cleaning up and securing the face.

Kerith has quickly become addicted to pub quiz, so after dinner we all adjourned next door to the Blue Bell for theirs. As expected, us foreigners were clueless to many of the questions relating to things like British television programs and sports, but we did manage to be the high scoring team in the “general topics” category, winning a Pound.

Today Cal and Kerith are making a shopping trip to the Costco at the huge Metro Centre shopping mall near Newcastle. I look at being in Weardale as a refuge or retreat from the overwhelming consumer-driven lifestyle back home, and rarely venture forth to places like this. Costco is very handy for stocking up on all sorts of needed items for the summer here, so I guess it’s a good thing they’re willing to do it. After I finish up with this composition, I’ll be heading to the mine to help process more specimens.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron, Cal & Kerith

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