Monday, August 12, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

For the past few days the weather here has been what the local forecast calls “unsettled’” meaning that during the course of the day one can expect sun, rain, and most things in between. That is exactly what we have this morning. When I got up around 0630 it was bright and sunny outside. By the time I had the coffee made and sat down to check e-mails it was pissing down rain. Now, around 0730, the sun is back out. Hope the rest of the day won’t be as unsettled as the weather, but we’ll know more soon.

Friday was definitely an unsettled day at the mine. The Northeast Crosscut was in need of mucking out once again, so as that was proceeding Cal and I spent a bit of the morning wrapping and packing specimens for shipment home. We are working on our 5th pallet, so are now well ahead of last season’s take from the mine.

During the morning Dave got started on modifying the set of rail points that have been parked to one side on the landing, in hopes of installing them at the head of the main tunnel. This will allow him to create a siding where he can park a second tub for use when mucking out the face after each blast, making the process more efficient. His plan was to drill and bolt some new steel sleepers (aka “ties”) across the bottom of the rail assembly and then lay it in at the face. Unfortunately, the “high speed” steel drill bits he had purchased weren’t quite up to the task and kept breaking or going blunt. Cal and I even made a run to the tool supplier for more in hopes of getting the job done, but no such luck. Dave finally decided to use our acetylene torch to cut the final holes, only to find the oxygen bottle was empty. As a result, the rail project came to a halt as he took off to the gas supplier in Bishop Auckland with the empty tank.

After lunch, Cal got into the now partially cleared crosscut and managed to uncover a small seam of fluorite heading northward at the eastern margin of the broken up area that had frustrated us earlier in the week. By day’s end we had recovered several decent specimens from this small pocket, which helped save the day from being a complete disaster.

Saturday morning Ian and I were off early to the Newcastle airport to pick up Kristina Bode. Kristina is daughter of Rainer Bode, who publishes the German mineral collecting journal “Mineralien-Welt,” and is here on assignment to report on recent happenings at the mine. After a brief stop for some grocery shopping in Hexham on the way back, the three of us went in to the mine for a few hours. The cavity that was discovered on Friday appeared to be continuing, though was quite narrow and tight. This gave Kristina an opportunity to witness a typical Rogerley mud wrestling match as we spent most of the time hammering, baring, and washing at the rock and mud while trying to expose another roof plate that was coming to light at the back of the cavity. By the time we quit for the afternoon, Ian and I were pretty muddy and wet but had exposed a good portion of what was looking to be a fairly large specimen.

Cal and Kerith spent much of the day in Alnwick visiting the castle, gardens and one of the country’s largest second-hand bookstores. In the late afternoon we all rendezvoused back at the cottage and met up with local collectors Barry and Helen for a dinner and a few pints at Langdon Beck.

Yesterday Ian and I took Kristina back to the mine for a few hours in hopes of actually getting the partially exposed fluorite plate out of the pocket. It proved to be a greater fight than I had anticipated, but after much washing, beating on rock, and swearing, it finally came out. I’m pretty sure that by this point Ian had had his fill of our cramped muddy pocket zone, but for our trouble we now had a rock, somewhere around 20 x 25 inches (50 x 63 cm) in size, which was covered with gemmy, lustrous, dark green fluorite crystals. After washing the mud off it, it appeared to have almost no damage. Out on the landing, everyone engaged in a round of photo-taking, and washing the mud off of our mine clothes.

There remains some fluorite showing at the head of the cavity but it is now well out of reach, and to get anything further we will likely need to break up the floor with some explosive in order to get better access. As this is our last week here I am not sure if this will happen this summer, but if not, our find of yesterday leaves us finishing on a high note for the season. Today’s photo is of Kristina posing with our latest find.

Today at the mine Dave will (at least in theory) be back at modifying the rail points and getting them installed. Joe is away for the rest of the summer on a trip to Croatia with some friends, so I suspect that I will now be his stand-in. There is still a bit of fluorite showing in the southern portion of the crosscut, so I suspect others will be investigating that.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Kristina with our latest find.

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