Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

Yesterday the weather cooled off a good bit and the wind came up out of the west. A wind from the west often brings rain with it but although things clouded up a bit no rain appeared. Things look pretty much the same out the front window this morning. A strong breeze is pretty good at drying out things here, and as we left the quarry yesterday afternoon the remaining mud puddles had grown significantly smaller in just a few hours. Perhaps today we won’t have to go swimming at all to get in to the mine.

Yesterday morning I made the last round of phone calls and should have everything we need to get started on its way. The compressor is scheduled for delivery at the mine this morning and hopefully the hire company will send the same driver as in previous years, who knows where the quarry entrance is.

At the mine, Dave was busy cleaning and timbering an area that had been shot at the end of the season last year, and Byron was, as expected, poking at the face. The back pf the pocket has receded to the point that it is, for the most part, out of reach to even Byron, and some blasting and timbering needs to be done before we can do any more serious collecting in the area. As we’re not quite ready to do this yet without the compressor, Byron managed to scrape out enough of the pocket floor to allow him to crawl within reach of the face, albeit in a rather awkward and uncomfortable position. By the time I arrived he had managed to accumulate a small pile of specimens, though nothing of any particular quality.

After a while he needed to get out and readjust his body to a normal position, so I took a turn at the face. The required position to gain access was laying on ones left side with a foot wedged against the closest upright timber to keep one from sliding out of the pocket into the tunnel. Not only does this quickly induce a leg cramp, but means that almost every time you go to spray down the face with water to get a good look at what is present underneath the mud coating, some of the muddy water flows down the left sleeve of your raincoat. What was really frustrating, however, was that the face seemed to be nothing but a jumble of mud, broken rock, and numerous broken fragments of gemmy, bright green fluorite. It looks as if the roof layer of the zone, which has given us some very nice specimens in the past, is continuing, but I only managed to undercut it enough to get out a single plate that on inspection proved to have not a single intact crystal on it.

After about an hour and a half of this I let Byron back in, with only a few bits of what will likely amount to gem rough to show for all the mud and rock I had excavated. Collecting is, of course, what Byron is here to do and by late in the afternoon he had managed to get out two fairly sizeable roof plates. The first appeared to have a fairly sizeable crystal on it when first exposed, but it quickly fell off as Byron washed the mud out from under it. With the second one we had a bit more luck. It came out with a nice penetration twin over an inch (2.5 cm) on edge perched on one corner, and will hopefully trim up nicely. Today’s photo is of the specimen enjoying the late afternoon sun after an initial bath.

By this time it was getting fairly late in the day, and it was obvious that several large rocks in the pocket roof need to be stabilized or removed before anything else can be done there. Back up the dale we had a couple pints at the Blue Bell and caught the latest news from the proprietors, Scott and Joy, who are trying to build a second home on Curacao, in the Dutch Antilles. Evidently the “manana” syndrome is not confined to Mexico, and they are having difficulties getting contractors to show up for work to complete the project. Things are moving along, none-the-less, and they hope to have their home in the tropics habitable soon. After that, a quick dinner was put together at the cottage and everyone crashed out early.

This morning Byron is off to the mine early to, hopefully, meet the compressor delivery driver, so I will be picking up Dave at the appointed time of 10 AM. The mine is becoming choked with piles of specimens that need attention, so I will likely spend my day picking up after Byron and hauling down tubs of stuff for cleaning and wrapping. If I can motivate Byron to get the chainsaw running, maybe we’ll get some of the big plates trimmed up.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

Fresh out of the mud.

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