Saturday, July 21, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

As one expects, the weather here in the North Pennines has been rather changeable over the past few days. A bit of sun in the morning to get one’s hopes up, then clouds roll in threatening rain for much of the day, then a clearing late in the afternoon. During the past week we had several nights of heavy rain, but it held off during the daytime, for the most part. Yesterday’s overcast spell was practically windless, so the quarry was a swarm of midges, perhaps the worst we’ve had yet. The overnight rain failed to materialize last night and this morning dawns sunny, nearly cloudless and with a good breeze to blow all the little buggers away.

The big news of the past few days is that we have gotten our large fluorite-covered rock out of the pocket, and out of the mine. I haven’t been able to get the bathroom scale under the thing yet, but estimate that the thing weighs somewhere around 300 kg – far to heavy for us to just pick up and carry away. Dave’s engineering and management of the extraction was absolutely brilliant, and at the end of the day we slid the upside down rock cradled on a padded pallet out of the pocket and onto the top of the loco. A flurry of phone calls in the evening got Mike Rumsey from the Natural History Museum in London booked onto a train to Durham the next morning to see what we have.

Thursday morning, the first order of business was to get the thing off the loco and flipped over. To accomplish this, we drove the loco out onto the landing and constructed another wooden ramp to slide it onto our small flatbed car. After that, it was simply a matter of muscle power to flip it, and at that point we had plenty of willing hands. After a quick flurry of photographs, I left for the Durham train station to pick up Mike. Upon returning about an hour and a half later, we found the rock had been cleaned of any remaining mud, which of course, prompted a second round of picture-taking by all involved. That accomplished, Ian, Jurgen, and Robert headed back into the pocket to continue scraping out mud in search of additional specimens. By end of day several more decent, but much smaller pieces had emerged.

Jurgen’s friend Eddie seems to be an independent sort, and elected to spend much of his time in the old Black Sheep pocket trying to collect some of the remaining bits. The rock in this area is totally silicified and about as hard as anything I can imagine. This is why we have left so much in place there – it’s impossible to collect without totally destroying it, or expending expensive saw blades to cut it out. Still, after several hours of thumping on hard rock, he came away with a few decent looking bits. I have no idea how many others didn’t survive the process.

By yesterday morning collecting in the cross-cut had pretty much exceeded the limits of everyone’s reach, so after finishing the timbering at the main face, Dave and Joe drilled the floor of the cross-cut for another light blast. The exposed rock at the main face is now highly mineralized, with brecciated ironstone mixed with bits of green fluorite covering a good portion. After giving over the cross-cut to Dave, Ian and Cal started exploring the new exposures at the face while I took Mike to the Durham train station for his trip back to London. On returning I found that they had exposed a new cavity in the upper right corner of the face. As with much of what we have found in the face lately, this one will have to be collected from a ladder, which will offer the person doing the work the full-on water and mud in the face and down the sleeves experience. The first exposure of the pocket was offering up just broken bits of fluorite for the most part, but today we’ll find out if anything develops.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Our prize with the mud washed off.

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