Friday, August 12, 2011

Greetings from Weardale,

The weather for the past few days has been remarkably boring – cold, rain and more rain. The sun did come out for a bit Tuesday afternoon, but I do not think it has been seen since. The quarry has turned into an absolute mud pit, and as a result, the hire car will need a thorough washing before returning to London late next week. The one thing that does benefit from all this water is the wildflowers in the quarry, which are currently blooming in quite a profusion. We have a particularly good crop of teasels (so named because they were once used for teasing wool before spinning) this year, and a rather photogenic one is featured in today’s photo.

Collecting this week has been a rather start and stop affair. After shooting both the main face and the area beneath the current pocket zone we were able to undercut the pocket and collect for a couple days. Much of Tuesday was spent barring out the now fractured rock under the pocket so we could get access to specimens embedded in the seam of pocket mud. As has been the case with this pocket so far, almost all the specimens of any consequence have been quite large, and have required significant care to remove without damaging any of the fluorite. The best fluorite is always found on the roof of the cavity, which means that it faces down in the pocket and can easily be damaged if the large rock it is attached to decides to drop unexpectedly. Often, when we have been digging in this pocket we have only recovered a single specimen per day of collecting, and this is what happened on Tuesday. After clearing a lot of broken rock to give access to the pocket one must then slowly wash out the mud and pick out embedded rocks around the piece until it is loose enough to lift out. By the end of the day we had recovered another giant, perhaps 60-70 cm across, which was covered with nice gemmy twinned crystals. Everyone went home happy that day.

Wednesday was somewhat less successful. Much of the day was spent moving mud and rock again, but what turned up was mostly a lot of loose crystals and broken bits. We did recover three pieces in the 10-15 cm size range, one of which was a rather nice specimen, while the other two were, unfortunately, somewhat less so. By the end of the day it was obvious that another blast would be needed to further break up the rock under the pocket zone, so collecting came to a stop. Examining the newly cleared and timbered face, we found a patch of green fluorite on the west side of it. So far, digging has only turned up bits of fluorite and nothing that would qualify as a specimen. This patch of fluorite is, however, on the same side as, about 4-5 meters further along the tunnel from the currently productive pocket, suggesting (at least to the wildly optimistic) that the pocket zone continues northward. One can hope…

The one real treat we all had on Wednesday was a chance to see Neil Fairless’s collection of local specimens. Neil runs a fitting and supply business here in the dale and is the source of much of our needed supplies and bits for about the mine. During the late 1960s and early 1970s he worked at the now closed Cambokeels mine, and was one of the few miners who took an interest in collecting specimens. I had heard from him about this collection for many years but until recently he had it packed away in boxes. It is finally out on some shelving at the back of his shop. It was great to see what amounts to a snapshot of a particularly productive, and now long past period of mining here in the dale, and hear some stories from someone who was there.

Being unable to do much collecting yesterday, it was a day of general chores while waiting for the next shot. My chores mostly consisted of things like making phone calls to our shipper to confirm our arrangements for getting the fluorite back home, and working on paperwork and record-keeping for various aspects of the mine. At least it kept me out of the rain for a few hours. Dave drilled the floor of the pocket zone again, so we are hoping to shoot it again this afternoon, which will allow us to resume collecting over the weekend.

Today begins much as it has all week – overcast and cool. At least it’s not raining. Yet.

Cheers,

Jesse & Crew



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