Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

Over the past weekend there were wide spread thunder and lightning storms throughout much of the region. Fortunately, the worst of it seems to have missed up here in Weardale, but reportedly there were some serious flash floods in Newcastle on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, after completing another round of sawing to reduce the matrix of our big rock, we took our visiting German friend Jurgen Tron for a driving tour through Rookhopeburn and Allendale. On the way over the top from Rookhope to Allenheads we saw accumulations of heavy hail that looked like small snow drifts. Glad we didn’t get caught out in that downpour, as the hire car would likely have taken a beating! Fortunately, the weather over the past two days has been more pleasant, with some serious outbreaks of sunshine and temperatures up to around 21C/70F. About as good as one can expect here in the North Pennines.

Monday was a fairly slow day for Cal, Ian and me at the mine. Nothing collectable was showing in either the crosscut or the face, so we had Dave and Joe set to another round of drilling in both spots in hopes of turning up something new. In the mean time, Cal and I ferried 16 more blue bins over to a storage shed at the timber mill and constructed another pallet to be shipped home. We now have three full pallets ready to go and a start on the fourth. If we can collect enough in the next week and a half to fill another pallet, this will give us a very good take this year.

After finishing with the pallet, I headed back to the cottage with the idea of putting together a web page for our big specimen. There has been a lot of chatter on the internet about it on various sites, including Mindat and Facebook, so I figured that we needed a page on the company website with the “official” story. These good ideas always seem to take longer to realize than one would initially think, but allowing for a pub and supper break, I had a first draft done by around midnight.

It seems to have become the custom lately to give names to major mineral specimens, and a number of people have been asking for one. Many folks seem to choose rather grandiose titles that include things such as “princess” of “emperor,” which all here seemed to feel were a bit pretentious. In the end, Joan found references to a local legend known as the “Weardale Giants.” Some friends back home may think this sounds like a baseball team, but is actually the story of three giant blacksmiths who supposedly inhabited the area “once upon a time.” As a result, the big rock is now officially named “The Weardale Giant” and you all can read the story on our website.

Yesterday morning Ian and I headed off to Bishop Auckland in search of a tool hire store to rent an angle grinder for use in further thinning the backside of The Giant. After a bit of confusion caused by the fact that there now appears to be a new roundabout on the road near the store (and not on our obviously now outdated map) we picked up the item and headed back to the mine and began a new round of slicing and dicing. After a few hours of this, the backside of the specimen was looking much more uniform, and both Ian and I were thoroughly coated in a fine limestone dust. Glad I remembered to pick up a filter mask with the grinder, but my hair felt like it had been set in cement!

While we were at it, Ian’s collector friend Emmanuel showed up for a visit and amused himself by taking photos of the dusty mess. Emmanuel is French, but lived in England for a number of years before getting transferred on his job to Germany. He obviously gets around a bit.

After deciding that we had finished sawing and grinding at the large rock for the time being, everyone adjourned to the crosscut where Cal had been trying his luck after Monday’s blast. Working on the south side, opposite from where we have been digging the past few weeks, Cal was finally beginning to see signs of fluorite after a couple hours of simply moving rock. As we watched, offered opinions, and occasionally got into the act by actually helping, a couple large roof plates slowly emerged from the mud. About the time we were wrestling out the second (and larger) one, Dave announced that it was quitting time. Not being ones to leave a job unfinished, we managed to get the rock out of the mud, and despite my hands being underneath, it landed in Cal’s lap. The thing likely weighed at least 40 to 50 kilos, and by the pained look on Cal’s face, I knew that I had better lift it quickly. Fortunately, the shape of the thing was such that I could get a good hand-hold on the corners and I was able to walk it out of the crosscut and into the main tunnel, where is was promptly dropped. Emmanuel decided he was up to carrying the thing out to the mine entrance, where it was left. This morning we will wash the mud off of it and find out if it was worth the bother. Today’s photo is of a smaller bit that we plucked out of the mud next to the large bit. While we are finding lots of large specimens in this area, decent small things are fairly rare.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith,

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