Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

We have had remarkably little rain the past few days, and there have even been a few outbreaks of sunshine. Highly unusual this summer. The real news, weather-wise, has been the strong winds blowing through here for the past two days. I am really surprised that I didnít see any trees down as a result, but the upside is that the quarry is now drying out nicely. The wind seems to have died down a little bit this morning, but I can still see bits of cloud racing past at a good clip.

Saturday found us back at the mine for an assault on the pocket Ian has started to uncover in the face the day before. As with most pockets we have been finding in the face, this one was fairly high up requiring us to work from a ladder. After a bit of digging rock and washing mud it became obvious that we had found yet another large fluorite-covered rock. After the last experience, we were really hoping for a pocket that would allow us to just pluck hand-sized specimens from the mud, but such was not to be. By mid-day much of the thing had been exposed, and while much smaller than the previous one, it was obvious that it was far too large for us to get it down from its perch above our heads in one piece. It was also far less attractive, overall, than the last one, so we decided to break it up in place. After much hammering and prying, Cal managed to develop a fracture in the thing and we were able to get the first half out. It was still to large for anyone to lift down, so we had to slide it down an improvised timber ramp. Upon close inspection, we found an incipient fracture in the matrix just underneath the fluorite layer, which allowed us peel off much of what was on the face of the rock in one piece. Though heavily damaged by pocket collapse in some spots, when trimmed we should get a nice plate reminiscent of some of the best we got from the Blue Bell Pocket three years ago. That accomplished, we headed back up dale to clean up and dry off, as no one had the endurance to go through the process twice in one day in order to get the second half. Todayís photo is of the plate as it came out.

Sunday was largely a day of sloth and indolence as no one had the energy for much else. Jolyon Ralph and his new wife Katya showed up for a visit mid-day so we made a brief trip to the mine to show off our recent find and allow some more photo taking. Robert, Jurgen and Eddie went out with Helen to visit some other local collecting spots, and everyone rendezvoused late afternoon for some beers at the Blue Bell.

Monday was a busy day with quite a host of visitors to the mine. Jolyon was interested in getting more photos of the large piece for a Mindat report on the find, so we wheeled it back out of the mine for him. Cal has some friends from the US visiting so spent a bit of time showing them around. Dave, Joe and Andrew spent much of the day mucking and timbering the cross-cut, and in the process dropped a very large rock from the ceiling, which required a bit of hammering to render it small enough to muck out. By end of day, the area was secure enough for us to go back in today and start collecting again.

The rest of us took turns at the pocket in the face, and in short order Ian had the second half of the rock out and on the ground. It too, required a timber ramp to slide it down, and will need to be hauled out and cut up with the chain saw. That done, the afternoon was spent excavating the remainder of the pocket, which proved a frustrating experience. Much of it had collapsed, meaning that practically everything was damaged to some extent. Some wholesale-quality specimens came out, along with a lot of single crystals. Some were large and very gemmy. If we can find another pocket that hasnít collapsed, hopes are high for some good things.

Stay tuned for moreÖ


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith


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