Saturday, July 5, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

The past couple of days have been cool, overcast, and rather windy here in the North Pennines. The winds have been strong enough to occasionally whip the trees around a good bit, and driving into the quarry yesterday we found the track in covered with bits that had been trimmed off of our trees there. By yesterday afternoon it finally got around to raining a bit, though largely just some sprinkles and mist. Last night I woke up to the sound of some serious rain sometime around 0430. It is now around 0830 and we are back to the overcast and wind, which has already dried things out a bit.

Dave has been off the past two days. The entire family has been home this week and I suspect that between family, his caretaker job at the local school, and us, he hasn’t been getting enough time in his shed getting his bike ready for the upcoming race in Chimay, Belgium. With him away, Cal, Ian and I staged a major assault on the pocket zone in the east flats. After the last blast at the face it was obvious that we had finally encountered the edge of the flats as the entire right hand side of the face was highly altered to a rich gossan with bits of galena scattered about.

Armed with our usual assortment of bars, hammers, chisels and water we took turns at the altered zone at the face and were soon back into the fluorite. It was obvious that we were at the edge of the flats as most of the specimens had relatively small fluorite crystals, but they were very bright and gemmy, and will be quite attractive when cleaned up. Sometime mid-afternoon I found myself sitting in last summer’s hand-dig crosscut trying to determine just how far off we were at the face, and watched as Ian poked a bar through the mud at the head of the tunnel.

There were some seriously large rocks remaining between him and me but at least we finally had a connection. We had obviously come in a bit below the main fluorite layer in the flats, which will require moving a bunch of these large rocks to get proper access, but on the bright side, working up hill from the main face makes drainage and mucking much easier – at least until we fill the face with mud and rock from our digging. By day’s end everyone was seriously cold, wet and muddy but we had managed to get a number of tubs of decent specimens. Today’s photo is of Cal using a long bar to peel some specimens off the roof of our new collecting area.

Yesterday morning Cal left for the mine a little early to get the previous day’s specimens scrubbed and put out to dry. By the time Ian and I arrived he had many of them spread out on the worktables between our storage containers. With the threatening rain, we decided to hustle them all into one of the containers in hopes that they might dry a bit, and then headed up to the mine to continue our excavations at the face.

Much of the day was spent like the previous one, taking turns digging our connecting tunnel and washing at mud. I fortunately remembered to bring along a pair of what are known as “pond gloves” which are long enough to pull up over the sleeves of my waterproof coat, and largely avoided having muddy water flow down the inside of my sleeves much of the day. The gloves are rather clumsy, and it is virtually impossible pick up small bits while wearing them, but it sure is nice not to get completely cold and wet during the process.

Working from both the main face and the head of last summer’s crosscut, we managed to move at least one large rock out of the way and gain access – albeit so far limited – to the main fluorite layer form both directions. Toward the end of the day, with Cal straining to reach the layer from the face of the cross cut and Ian and I spraying water and barring out rocks from below, we were able to collect a few really nice specimens, along with the usual amount of wholesale material. It’s a good start, but we still need to move a good bit of rock in order to get proper access to the main fluorite layer.

Today Ian and I will be traveling down to London where we will meet up with Joan and his wife Di for a short break from our labors. A couple days in London, then off to Poland for the Lwovek Slaski Crystal Days and Tom and Asia’s (Siprifer Minerals) wedding. Should be fun provided I can say “no” to the copious amounts of vodka that I am sure will be on offer. I understand that there is an historic brewery located in the town, which I suspect will provide reasonable refreshment for those of us with a lesser capacity for such things.

In the past, Cal seems to have had the habit of turning up the best material when I’ve been away from the mine, so hopefully our luck will hold. We’ll be back on July 15, so until then,

Cheers, Jesse, Cal & Kerith

Stand back - that big one in the roof looks loose!.

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