Saturday, August 23, 2008

Greetings from Weardale,

The weather out this morning is sunny and cool, very fall-like, which is not far off here in the North. For the past few days it has been fairly cloudy with the occasional rain shower, but nothing like the heavy rains of earlier in the week. As a result, the lake in the quarry has receded to the point that we can now drive into the mine again. Our waterfall, though reduced in volume continues to flow.

Next week we are closing the mine for the season and the past two days have been spent largely with last minute details, except Byron, who continues to collect at the face up to the bitter end. For my part, I’ve alternating between washing and wrapping specimens for shipment, and manning the chainsaw in an effort to reduce the size and weight of many of the things Byron is turning up.

The productive area at the face has completely changed character from what we were seeing earlier in the summer. The coherent seem of fluorite that was giving us nice large plates with the occasional large gem twinned crystal has been replaced by a large area of broken and jumbled rock and mud with fluorite specimens scattered about in an almost random fashion. Obviously, a large collapsed pocket, and much of the material coming out is damaged in some way, if not totally crushed. Amazingly, a few very good specimens are being found as well in this mess. The character of the specimens has changed as well. We are no longer finding the large transparent twins, but plates of smaller fluorite crystals of a more uniform size, somewhat similar to the best that came from the West Cross Cut a few years back. Fortunately, these plates of crystals are highly lustrous and almost totally transparent, and when cleaned are quite attractive.

For the person wielding the chainsaw, the down side of the new material is that the matrix is totally silicified, making sawing a very slow process. Added to this is the fact that the chain currently on the saw has seen a good bit of use during the summer and has worn to the point that the bar will bind up if one tries to make a deep cut. The solution to this is to hold the specimen over the saw and rotate it on the chain, cutting from the outside inward all around it. This isn’t generally a problem for small pieces, but we’ve a couple that weigh in the range of 10-20 kilograms. Handling these is truly a chore, but we soldier on.

Dave and Joe have been working at various jobs around the mine. Along with continuing to muck out the recently show West Cross Cut, they spent part of the day yesterday pulling up and storing about the mine our recent purchase of rail as well as some more timber. Today’s photo is of Byron manning the winch while Dave pulls the cable, which is threaded through a pulley at the mine entrance and then down the dump and attached to anything to be pulled up.

This weekend is a bank holiday here, and will be a combination of last minute chores and socializing. This morning I will concentrate on wrapping and packing some final specimens, and Byron has gone into the mine to finish sawing up some good specimens. This afternoon we’re away for Kendal to have dinner with Lindsay and Patricia, then back on Sunday for the same with our former landlords Bob and Mary. At the moment, the weather looks quite nice for a change.

Until next time,

Jesse, Joan, and Byron



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