Sunday, July 14, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

Temperatures have dropped a little, and we have had some scattered clouds the past couple days, but still no sight of any rain. If this keeps up much longer I’m sure people will start calling it a drought. The humidity remains high and there has been little breeze so things remain muggy and midgey. We have managed to take supper outside on our little patch of lawn the past few evenings and fortunately the bugs seem to come out about the time we’re done.

First thing Friday morning we got the new crosscut mucked out of the accumulated debris from the previous day’s collecting, and Dave installed a support under the large threatening rock. After making the area reasonably safe for us to muck about again, Dave and Joe continued timbering the main face after the last blast. Once most of the timber was in place, Dave drilled a hole into the ceiling to see if the fluorite layer, which had been over our heads earlier in the season was still there. There is still some alteration showing high up on the east side of the main face, but when drilling he found only unaltered limestone, suggesting that this zone is pinching down on us. At least we won’t be tempted to repeat the experience of trying to collect over our heads from a scaffold.

The newly discovered flats at the head of the crosscut continued to be productive, and Cal, Ian and I took turns collecting through much of the day. The area is still small enough that only one person can collect at a time. The fluorite occurs in several discontinuous layers, all fairly close to the floor of the alcove. As a result, one must work sitting, kneeling, or lying what is invariably an uncomfortable position. Being a bunch of old farts, no one seems to be able to do this for more than about 45 minutes at a time, so we’ve developed a rotating schedule where one person digs, another mucks and the third gets to stretch and allow blood circulation to return to his extremities.

The quality of the fluorite does seem to be improving as we dig away from the vein and the watercourse. While most of what we are finding will still be destined for wholesale flats, by the end of the day we had also recovered several large plated of crystals that had good luster and little damage. The mud in the flats is also giving up hundreds (if not thousands) of crystals and fragments. We try to pick up as many as we can during the digging, but I think if someone had the patience, you could go through the pocket muck several times and still not get them all. As it was, we filled four one-gallon (about 4 liters each) plastic bags with crystals by day’s end.

Yesterday Cal and Kerith were off to a once a month farmer’s market over in Cumbria, to the west of us. After a leisurely morning of doing some laundry and paying some bills, Ian and I went back to the mine for a few more hours of fun in the mud. After making an attempt to clear out some of the accumulated muck from the face of the crosscut, we managed to collect some more good specimens, including two large fluorite and galena-covered plates, which are featured in today’s photo. We also managed to get a number of nice, miniature sized specimens of fluorite twins on galena from a seam in the floor of the alcove. Being at (or below) the floor level, the excavation would immediately fill with muck and water, so I was never able to get an idea of how extensive it was. Something to look into on Monday before we have Dave do a small blast to move the tunnel forward and install more timbering.

We have some local collectors coming for a visit today, so we will be spending a couple hours back at the mine. Cal, now free of shopping duty says he’ll be coming in with us, so perhaps he’ll get his turn at the pocket zone today.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith



A few small bits from the new Northeast Crosscut.

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