Sunday, July 29, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

First, the weather. The winds for much of the past several weeks have been coming from the south, bringing with them the heavy rain-producing clouds that have kept the quarry a mud pit. A few days ago the winds shifted to the west, cooling things down a bit and bringing through a broken pattern of clouds that occasionally rain on us, and occasionally let the sun through. The wind is doing a good job of drying things out and as of yesterday there were only a few slip and slide spots left along the track into the mine. It also tends to keep the midges at bay, which is not a bad thing.

After getting the front face secured on Thursday, Byron’s attention quickly shifted from the Rat Hole to the large fluorite-covered rock that had been exposed after the last blast. The rock was sitting in what appears to be a large mud-filled cavity, more typical of what we’ve seen in the flats (such as the West Cross Cut) than on the main vein. Much of the pocket ceiling has collapsed into the mud, and much of the fluorite we’ve recovered from it is pretty well crushed and fragmented. This is a shame, as the color and luster of the few good specimens that have come out is excellent. One of these is the subject of today’s photo. By mid-afternoon we had gotten the large rock out and onto the flat bed cart so Byron could push it outside and saw it up. More digging revealed several crushed layers of fluorite, along with one that had remarkably remained intact and yielded a number of potentially nice plates.

Friday Dave was off for his weekend bike race, and Cal and Kerith were away for a pottery and crafts show in Penrith. Byron and I spent a little time collecting at the face and then took on the task of sawing up the large rock, along with many other bits that had accumulated about the mine. By the end of the day we succeeded in turning a bunch of large bits into many more small bits, which are now in the process of being cleaned of their mud and packed into bins.

Saturday the four of us were back at the mine. I spent much of the day washing the accumulated piles from the previous few days collecting, while Byron and Cal worked at the face. Unfortunately, the area around the new pocket, which Cal calls the Thousand Pace Pocket (it is a thousand paces from the portal) is very broken up and unstable, with at least two very large rocks that appear to be held in place by nothing more than mud. We could possibly bring them down but would then run the risk of destabilizing the roof. The pocket appears to be heading off to the east and it is exciting to think that we may have finally found another section of flats, but working here is going to be difficult. By mid-afternoon Byron and Cal had decided that working in the area was too dangerous and called a halt until Dave can do some more timbering.

Today dawns breezy and sunny. Cal and Byron are off to the mine again, but will hopefully leave the main face alone. There is still material to be had in the Rat Hole, but I think after four weeks of collecting there Byron is looking for a change. Joan is arriving at Newcastle airport a little after noon, so after completing the morning’s essay I’ll be pulling out the maps to remind myself how to get there.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron, Cal & Kerith

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