Sunday, June 6, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

For the past several days the weather here has been about as good as it gets in these parts, sunny, warm, and just a bit of a breeze. Still little evidence of the usual clouds of midges that come out in weather like this, and I can only think that the fact that it has been pretty dry here for the past month is keeping the population down. I’m sure the farmers are needing more rain for the hay crop, but personally, I won’t complain about anything that keeps the midges down! This morning it is overcast and perfectly still, no hint of a breeze. The forecast calls for “light rain or showers” over the next few days, but nothing approaching the torrential rains we have had here the past few summers.

Byron and Greg spent much of Thursday and Friday digging in the two alcoves in the crushed zone at the head of the tunnel. The front section where Byron has been spending his time is particularly chewed up, and while we now have a lot of relatively large single twin crystals, few decent plates or matrix pieces have been coming out. The exceptions to this are a couple very large, fluorite-covered rocks that he has pulled out of the roof of the zone. The area back from the face where Greg has been working has tightened up and the only fluorite showing is on some very large boulders making up the roof of the area. On Thursday Byron shoved a roll of bubble-wrap under the largest and barred it out. The rock did a nice flip and came to rest fluorite-side up in the middle of the cavity. The rock is quite large, perhaps about a meter across and likely weighs over 150 kg. When cut up, it should yield some good specimens, but first, we will need to somehow get it out of the mine. There are at least two more like it still in place, but the roof is looking quite dodgy and we will need to put in some supports before we do any more digging. Today’s photo is of Byron and the rock.

On Friday, Byron was back at the cavity closest the face, and with the aid of the windy pick was finally able to remove the large fluorite-coated rock that had been slowly emerging over the course of the week’s digging. Though not quite as large as the previous day’s specimen, this one is also too heavy to carry out of the mine. The track to the face is currently covered with muck that Brian has been shoveling out of our two crosscuts, but with Dave back tomorrow, we should be able to get it cleaned up. Then we can bring the loco up to the face and drive the large rocks out to the landing. Toward the end of the day Byron uncovered a muddy cleft at the back of the cavity that yielded several specimens, a couple of which look as if they will trim out some good specimens. The best was a large fluorite-covered mound, about 20 cm across. There are several spots on it where the fluorite has been completely crushed, but remarkably, one side containing a lovely 3 cm gem twin had survived largely intact. It will be a delicate operation with a trim saw, but hopefully we can get a real nice specimen out of this one.

My time the past few days has largely been devoted to washing, wrapping, and binning the accumulating specimens. We are currently up to eight packed bins with more material awaiting attention. I’ve also accumulated a fair collection of decent specimens – mostly from the Rat Tail pocket – here at the cottage where I’ve been cleaning then in hopes of sending some back home in time to have at the San Francisco Fine Mineral Show in July.

Yesterday was a designated goof-off day, and we went up to Hadrian’s Wall to visit both the Housesteads and Vindolanda Roman archeological sites. Finished the day with a visit to our friends and former landlords Jeremy and Phillippa. They have an old farmhouse that is situated well up from the valley floor in the upper dale. The views are wonderful and they have done quite a nice job of renovating the place over they past 10 years. The site is rather remote, however, and it seems that they were snowed in for several weeks over winter, and had to hike out for supplies. Phillippa said they had plenty of fuel for heating and lots of potatoes stored in before the snows hit, so no one was about to freeze or starve. She did say, however, that at one point she ran out of gin and was faced with hiking a couple miles into the village here to get more. I guess this is how life goes at the edge of civilization, English-style.

More soon,


Jesse & Crew

The big one that didn't get away.

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