Thursday, August 13, 2009

Greetings from Weardale,

Yesterday remained cool and breezy all day, with patches of clouds racing through the dale from the west. Little rain actually came our way and the breeze went a long way to drying out the quarry. This morning dawns cool and clear, with a definite feel of fall.

Yesterday at the mine Dave and Joe spent the day mucking and timbering the main face, and by day’s end it was ready for Byron to begin exploring what the newly exposed alteration zone has to offer us. The patch of ironstone and fluorite has continued to widen with each blast at the face, but we have yet to find out whether the zone will produce decent specimens for us.

Byron spent much of the day constructing a pallet to hold some large blocks of Frosterley Marble (actually a fossilifferous black limestone) that he has collected from about the quarry. In the past he has sent home some of the material to make cabochons and other lapidary items over winter. This year, I think he is trying to gather a lifetime supply of the stuff, and day’s end he has loaded up around a ton if it.

Cal has turned up some nice specimens from the back of the Rat Hole in recent days, and the two of us spent some time hammering on wall rock and trying to gain better access to some fluorite-lined cavities at the back of the zone. Sometime around mid-afternoon we had removed enough rock and washed out enough mud to realize that the back of the cavity we were working at opens up again and continues for at least another meter. From our working position lying in the rock and mud on the floor of the tunnel we could now see a bright green fluorite-lined cavity with at least two large fluorite knobs attached to a large plate of crystals on the roof of the cavity. All this is currently out of reach, under an overhanging mass of large and fractured blocks of limestone. Today’s photo shows the current situation in graphic detail. The first order of business today will be to have Dave secure the area with some timbering and then drop the dodgy part of the ceiling. Hopefully we will regain access to the cavity by tomorrow, though there will likely be some shifting of heavy rocks to be done in the meantime. If we can recover the roof of the cavity intact, it should make a nice finish to a rather uneven collecting season.

Today we are expecting delivery of a couple compressed air reservoir tanks for use at the mine. After 11 years of tunneling at the mine we are now working a considerable distance from the quarry where we park the compressor. The distance results in a considerable drop in power along the airline and also results in the accumulation of a lot of water in the line. Hopefully installing the reservoir tanks along the line inside the mine will alleviate both problems next year.

Dave has his last bike meet for the season this weekend so will be away on Friday. Joan arrives from San Francisco on Saturday, and Sunday sees the arrival of Jolyon Ralph (Mindat), Maria Alferova (Fersman Museum, Moscow) and Brian Jackson (National Museum of Scotland) for a visit. Good friend Lloyd Llewellyn and wife Sandra are also threatening a visit so I suspect that another gathering of the Old Farts will be happening shortly.

Until next time,

Jesse & Crew

Another dodgy roof problem.

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