Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

Overall, the weather here the past few days has been better than average for this summer, and we have even seen a few outbreaks of sunshine. Yesterday around mid-day it clouded up and we got some serious rain, but fortunately, it did not last long enough to re-energize the quarry waterfalls. The midges, however, were out in force once again. This morning the breeze is up so hopefully the little buggers will get blown away for a bit.

Saturday Ian and I spent much of the day at the mine excavating around our latest find. The exposed fluorite-covered rock is now over a meter square and we have yet to find the back of it. Local collectors and mine enthusiasts Barry and Helen stopped by for a look, and Helen spent a bit of time taking photos. Her underground photo skills are definitely a cut above mine, so I hope soon to stop by their place with a memory stick and get copies of some of them. By mid-afternoon we had seriously undercut the rock, and decided that without installing some support around the thing to keep it from moving, things could get dangerous. We found one bit of timber that served to support the leading edge and called it quits until we could get Dave in to do a proper job.

Sunday was spent on a shopping trip to Hexham. Ian has been wearing a cotton jumper while working in the mine, and anyone who has ever worked in cold, wet conditions while wearing cotton will know how well (or not) it keeps you warm when it gets wet. I convinced him that he needed to stop by an outdoor supply store and get some skiing undershirts and a light fleece jacket. Yesterday at the mine so equipped, he seemed a much happier camper. That accomplished, we made a stop for groceries at the local Waitrose supermarket and took a scenic drive back through Allendale. While passing through Allendale Town, we decided that a pint in celebration of our successful shopping adventure was in order, so stopped in at the Golden Lion pub in the town square. Along with a pint of Landlord, we were treated to the sight of a fully restored mid 1950s vintage Bristol motorcar, which was parked in front of the pub. Ian was quite enamored and spent almost as much time admiring it as he did on his pint.

Dave was away yesterday, so we were not able to begin the next phase of the job at hand. In anticipation of having Dave re-timber the alcove where our prize now resides, we had Andrew muck it out and bring the floor down to a level where one can comfortably stand without sticking one’s helmet to the mud on the ceiling. Today’s photo, taken by Cal, is of Andrew inspecting our find. When Dave has the alcove secured, the current plan is to further undercut the rock so that we can get a padded pallet underneath it, then dislodge the rock onto the pallet. Afterwards, we hope to slide it down some timbers into our flatbed car and then out of the mine. That’s the current plan, at any rate. These things are subject to change without notice, however.

While Andrew was at that task, the rest of us had a pike around the face and tunnel outside the alcove. After the last shot, there is a good bit of alteration and much fluorite showing across much of the face. It looks like it should turn up a pocket at any time, but serious digging will need to wait until Dave has mucked it out and installed a new set of timbers. Poking about the tunnel wall, I found what is likely the inner edge of the pocket where our large rock resides. The fluorite seam is about 8 feet above the tunnel floor and in a difficult position to reach even on a ladder. Still, we managed to recover a fair number of crystals and a few wholesale specimens. The fluorite seam looks like it is developing inward toward the pocket, but it will probably be easier to attack it from inside the pocket once our large rock is removed.

Today we will begin the process of getting our prize out of the pocket. Hopefully, all will go well, and then we will be faced with the question of what to do with such a large specimen.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Andrew taking a break from mucking out the pocket.

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