Friday, June 5, 2009

Greetings from Weardale.

Well, for once the punters in the pub were correct, the weather has gone to hell. Yesterday the clouds rolled in and by late afternoon it was getting drippy. This morning it is cold and rainy. If it can go from sunny and warm (24C/75F) to this (8C/46F) in two days, it could only be summer in Northern England. Dave tells me that there were reports of sleet over the top on the road from Alston this morning. The conditions yesterday were just perfect for midges, and they were out in force at the quarry. I can only hope that it is too cold for the little buggers today.

Byronís brother Greg spent 20 years in the Navy doing construction before recently retiring from it, and Byron has already announced that he has many projects to do around the mine requiring such skills. Iím not sure if this is what Greg was anticipating when he decided to come for a visit, but Byron started in with him first thing, yesterday. The first project was to construct a proper landing at the base of the stairs from the mine landing. For years we have put up with a decrepit little metal stepping stool-like thing to make the last few steps down. The thing is rather slippery when wet (the usual condition in these parts) and can be real dodgy when one is carrying a load of rocks down from the mine. With Byron supervising and Greg at the hammer and saw, they had a good bit of the new structure constructed before end of day. Given the constant cloud of midges hovering about, I was impressed. Todayís photo is of the construction crew at work.

I spent much of the morning on the phone placing orders for various supplies and shopping for needed bits at a couple DIYs in the area. I had planned on spending some time cleaning specimens at the mine, but when I finally got there early afternoon, I found the midges unbearable and quickly retreated underground. Dave had been busy constructing a timber framework along the east side of the main tunnel at the face, which should allow us to continue collecting safely in the region of last yearís Jewel Box pocket. There are still seams of fluorite showing along the tunnel wall in this area and hope is high that we will be able to collect some more good pieces once the ceiling in this area is secure.

While Dave finished the timbering and dropped some large and inappropriately placed rocks from the ceiling, I managed to get some digging done at the head of the tunnel, in the area of the Blue Bell Pocket. Unlike the Jewel Box, which is a couple fairly continuous seams of fluorite, the Blue Bell is a large pocket area that has collapsed on its self and is now a jumble of mud, rock, and fluorite. We have recovered some very good specimens from this area, but unfortunately, many have a fair bit of damage from the collapse. I had focused my attention on a large fluorite-covered plate, perhaps 30 cm across, which was showing in the face. By the end of the day I had managed to excavate it sufficiently to lift it out, only to find that the fluorite covering the underside was heavily damaged in several spots. After cutting up with the chain saw weíll get some decent smaller pieces out of it, but they will likely end up in wholesale flats. This sort of thing is really what happens 99 out of 100 times when collecting, and teaches one how rare the really good specimens really are.

Back up dale we all forgot the mud and midges over a pint at the Blue Bell before getting a quick dinner on at the cottage and turning in. This morning Byron and I managed to get the second light fixture installed properly in the kitchen with only one blown fuse. Byron and Greg are now off to the mine to finish their construction, while I am watching the rain from the window of our cottage and waiting for the delivery of our first order of blue bins and bubble wrap. The trouble with ordering supplies that need delivery is that someone must hang around the cottage and wait for a delivery van that has been promised to arrive sometime between 9 and 5. Hopefully, Iíll get to the mine to do some more collecting today.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron

The new extention of our stairs, under construction.

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