Monday, November 26, 2007
The weather this morning here in San Francisco is sunny and cool, around 60F/15C. Last week in Weardale it was pretty cold, wet and generally miserable, at least for collecting. This didn't necessarialy stop us, however, as the crew decended on our cottage in St. John's Chapel for the week to finish where we left off last August in the Jewel Box pocket.
Toward the end of last August this pocket, first opened in late July started to give some truely remarkable specimens. Unfortunately it was also time to close down for the summer and return home. After cleaning and trimming the few good pieces we had recovered, speculation immediately began as to what may be left in the pocket - aside from lots of sticky mud. Not being ones to dither about too much when something good may be at hand, we decided that a return trip to do a "smash and grab" (figuratively speaking) on what, if anything remaining in the pocket would be in order. The only time that everyone could get away from other committments was the week of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., so off we went, dodgy weather and holiday feasts not withstanding.
Cal, Kerith and Byron arrived on Saturday, and Joan and I on Sunday. Upon arriving in the dale early afternoon, I noticed that the gate to the mine was unlocked and rightly assumed that the rest of the crew was already at it. Cal and Byron were gathered at the face jockying for position in order to dig something out, while Kerith was, perhaps sensibly, seated in the rental car trying to stay warm. I noticed that no one was even suited up in proper mine gear and was told that they had only planned on coming in to the mine to get it opened and the water plumbed in, but couldn't resist starting to dig. As a result, both Cal and Byron were thoroughly wet and muddy, but after looking at what was coming out I could see why they hadn't taken the time to get properly dressed for the occassion. Santa had surely arrived early this year!
Given the configuration of the pocket there was hardly room for one person to collect, let alone three, so over the next few days we took turns digging at the back of the pocket. By Wednesday the far collecting face had pinched down and receeded to the point that it will be necessary to do some blasting and timbering in order to get at it and see what, if anything remains. As usual, the roof is pretty dodgy and it was agreed by all that work was finished until the area can be properly secured. On the bright side, in four days we dug several dozen specimens that are undoubtedly some of the best we have yet recovered from the mine. Worth a bit of hypothermia, I guess. The area of the pocket has the look of a new zone of flats that we may be into, so everyone is looking forward to next summer's mining. In the mean time, we now have our hands full of specimens to clean and prepare for the upcoming Tucson show. To cap the week and celebrate our fortunes Joan and Kerith cooked up a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.
The one sad piece of news from the dale is that Denis and Mary Walker have sold their lease on the Mill Race Hotel and moved on. The new owners have remodeled the place into more of an upscale restaurant. The food, on first visit was of high quality and will be a good addition to the cuisine-starved dale. The famous and well loved Whitby Cod is, however, now a thing of the past.
Cheers, Jesse & Joan, Cal & Kerith and Byron