Saturday, August 15, 2009

Greetings from Weardale,

Cloudy and still yesterday, seemingly a perfect day for midges, but surprisingly few seemed to be out and about. A light rain started around 5 pm and continues this morning.

Yesterday at the mine Dave was away, so was strictly a collecting day for Byron, Cal and me. Cal and I set to the back of the Rat Hole and with the help of Eric and Joy’s son Andrew had the results of the previous days blast mucked out by around noon. Then the fun began. The shot had gone off perfectly and had broken both the floor and the ceiling to the front of the cavity we had exposed earlier in the week. Taking turns with the hammers, chisels and pry-bars, we soon had specimens flowing from the pocket and by end of day had recovered about a dozen significant pieces along with several tubs of smaller bits.

Fluorite specimens from the cavity, which I now call “The Rat Tail” because of it’s location at the back end of the Rat Hole, are typical of what we have gotten from the zone in the past couple years, being clusters of large, mostly untwined crystals overgrowing a layer of quartz on ironstone matrix. Many are coming out with a partial coating of calcite or aragonite, but the crystals appear to be quite lustrous and gemmy. A number of large mounds were recovered as well as several that show some of the white quartz in between the fluorite. Most will take some cleaning back home to look their best, but I think some really nice specimens should come of it. Today’s photo is of the pocket as it looked after mucking was completed.

Byron spent much of the day at the main face, chasing the exposure of fluorite and alteration to somewhat less success than we had in the West Cross Cut. There is currently a band of alteration up to around a meter thick showing on the west side of the tunnel and extending halfway across the face. Within this band are several discrete layers of fluorite, which seem to come and go, occasionally opening into a pocket. Unfortunately, the whole area seems to be rather fractured and broken up, and most specimens are coming out damaged or in bits. This is particularly heartbreaking as some of the fluorite is quite gemmy and lustrous and a number of large gemmy crystals over 3 cm have been found. Sadly, all destined for gem rough because of damage to edges and corners. When I went up to check on Byron late in the afternoon, he had recovered a couple large, intact roof plates that were covered with small gemmy crystals reminiscent of what we got from the Solstice Pocket back in 2001. When trimmed up these will be quite attractive.

Back up dale everyone took quick showers to wash to pocket mud out of our hair and off our faces, and then met up with Lloyd, Sandra, Barry and Helen at the Blue Bell. There was a darts tournament on that evening, so we all retreated up to the Langdon Beck Hotel for supper and a few more pints before the pointed projectiles started flying in earnest.

This morning I will be picking Joan up at the Newcastle airport, and Cal and Byron will, undoubtedly, be returning to the mine for more fun in the mud.

Until next time,

Jesse & Crew

The Rat Tail Pocket

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