Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The heat wave plaguing much of the UK has continued over the past weekend, particularly in the south of the country. It has cooled down a little bit here in the North Pennines, however, and though still rather humid, seems much more pleasant to yours truly. There has been only slight breeze much of the time, though, which allows the bugs to come out in force each evening around sunset. This morning we have heavy clouds, which have so far produced some thunder and the first rain Iíve seen in over a month. With the lack of rain, fields are starting to turn brown, and while Iím use to this in California, itís quite strange to see it in England. Hopefully, weíll get enough rain to help.

The new section of flats we have discovered at the head of the Northeast Cross continues to produce for us. When we first encountered them early in July, the fluorite, though good color, was fairly etched. As hoped, however, the quality has steadily improved as we have tunneled away from the watercourse that we encountered along the vein, and over the past several days we have found some of the best specimens we have gotten since working the Jewel Box and Blue Bell pockets in 2008.

With Dave away at his motorbike race in Belgium, Ian, Cal and I have been taking turns at collecting in the pocket zone, and have succeeded in digging a fairly narrow, tube-like tunnel about 20 feet long following the fluorite seam northward from the head of the crosscut. For the past few days it has been fairly difficult to really collect as one is forced to crawl in and lie in mud and water and try to dislodge rock from the face while having little room to actually move about. Each day for several days now everyone has agreed that we will need to back up and widen the tunnel before more collecting can be done, but each day someone managed to remove enough muck and rock to get at the face again. The quality of the specimens coming out is so much better than what we have gotten the past few years that no one wants to stop collecting for the day or two it would take to open the tunnel up. With Dave back today, I think we will finally take a break and turn it over to him for some proper mine engineering.

Friday Cal and Kerith were away so Ian and I spent the day taking turns between collecting and mucking out resulting debris. By the end of the day we were both thoroughly soaked and covered with mud, but had recovered a number of nice specimens and several tubs of what will likely go into wholesale flats. I also finally found a pair of wellies that fit and do not leak. Cal and Kerith had intended to go to a book fair that was being held in a small village near Harrogate in North Yorkshire. Evidently, because of a road accident it took them two and a half hours to get there only to find a note on the door of the place where it was to be held saying that for some reason the event was canceled. Iím sure that went down well, particularly given the day of collecting he was missing.

As we had been in to the mine for over two weeks straight, Ian and I decided to give ourselves a rest on Saturday and went up to Hexham to do some grocery shopping. Cal, perhaps given his experience the day before, wanted to go into the mine. When we left in the morning he said he was only planning to get out our newly resurrected saw and cut up some of the large bits that accumulating about the mine. As one would expect, the lure of the pocket zone proved too much to resist, and after done with the sawing he spent a couple hours widening the tunnel and getting out some more specimens.

Sunday we had a tour group at the mine, so all were back in around 1100. After showing them around and letting those interested do a bit of collecting on the tip, we were back at the crosscut for a couple hours. There was still a strong seam of fluorite showing, and much of a few hours was spent trying to expose it. Ian and I managed to get one piece of what was developing into a large plate out before calling it a day around 1500.

Yesterday morning Cal and I spent a bit of time backing shipping bins in order to make way for specimens that would be emerging from the washing process. We also had a few visitors who were interested in buying a few pieces, so while we were dealing with them, Ian headed back into the now rather cramped and narrow pocket zone. I was thinking that it would take much of the day to expose and extract the large plate we had started on the day before, but about the time everyone had concluded their business and we headed up the stairs, Ian came wandering out, covered in mud, with a large plate of fluorite in hand. As Cal washed it off it slowly became evident that the thing was almost completely undamaged, and may be one of the best specimens we have yet found in the mine. Todayís photo is of the specimen (17 inches/43 cm across) after having the mud removed. By dayís end another, slightly smaller plate had also been recovered.

Last night was the annual ďChristmas in JulyĒ party at the Blue Bell, so most were up late with the festivities (except Cal who had to be up early today to exchange his rental car in Newcastle). I think Santa also visited the mine on his way to St Johnís Chapel for the event.

Stay tuned for moreÖ

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith




Good Morning,

Monday started off cool, overcast and a bit drizzly and without a whisper of a breeze. Should have been perfect midge weather but none showed up at the quarry. Temperatures by late afternoon had risen to nearly 25C or 78F and the sun made an appearance and we had a superb evening of moderate temperatures and light breezes.

Once we all got to the mine and opened up the quarry and were getting suited we had a few visitors. They were in for a treat. Ian left while Jesse and I chatted with our visitors and showed them some of the fine specimens that were coming out. I went up to the landing to check on Ian's progress in the mine. We had left a large plate hanging for the past several days and had mentally prepared ourselves for a full day's work to get it out.

When I arrived Ian was washing off this large plate. Today's picture. It is 17"x13" and is absolutely perfect and without damage. A truly spiffy specimen, we invited our visitors up to look at this as it is a rare treat to see a really good specimen just as it emerges from the mud and muck of a pocket.

Once our visitors left, Jesse and I packed a few blue bins worth of specimens since we had to make way for the host of specimens sitting in tubs being washed. Much of our afternoon was spent lowering the floor of the Bluebirds Pocket and Jesse and Ian produced perhaps a tub of specimens plus a really heavy gallon bag of single crystals. Later, I got in and removed the plate behind the above pictures one, while not as perfect it will yield three superb specimens.

For us this was Christmas, perhaps the best day of collecting since Jewel Box Pocket. To make it even better the Blue Bell pub was celebrating Xmas in July. Quite an event in St. John's and more people in attendance than you could fit inside the pub. Many dressed up for the occasion. Today's second picture shows Fiona dressed as Mrs. Claus, her husband Roger, arrived around 10:p.m. on his motorized tricycle dressed as Santa. Next to Fiona is pub mistress Joy.

Cheers from the Far North, Cal & Kerith, Jesse & Ian



Another one from the Northeast Crosscut.

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