Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has gotten a good bit warmer in the past few days, actually reaching 20C or so during afternoons. The winds have died down but the humidity remains high, though we have only had occasional bits if rain. The humidity (and accompanying insects) can make working outside for any length of time a bit of a bother, but the warmer temperatures are sure nice after spending hours collecting in a cold wet mine.

Saturday we had a number of visitors at the mine, including a group from the Northern Mines Research Society, and Ian and Chester from the Greenlaws group. Cal started the day as tour guide, giving those interested in venturing underground a tour and short history of the mine. After getting through with the tours, he turned the group loose to collect on the mine dumps and joined Ian, Chester and me at the face for a day of some serious collecting.

The mineralization currently exposed at the face is the strongest we have seen in a few years, with multiple bands of green fluorite interlayered with bands of ironstone showing all across the face and around to the east wall of the tunnel. Unfortunately, many of the layers are thin and somewhat broken up, producing a lot of single crystals and broken bits of fluorite, and fewer matrix specimens than we would like. Despite this, we were able to fill seven plastic tubs with specimens and gathered a couple plastic bags of bits and crystals by day’s end. The area to the east side of the face where I spent much of the day digging and washing mud opened up a bit late in the day and we were able to get three very nice plates of fluorite from the roof of the pocket zone, which ended the day nicely. Today’s photo is of this section of the face, showing the mineralization. The layer of fluorite that is giving us the nice roof plates can be seen at the back of the cavity, just to the right of the support timber.

Dave and Joe spent the day preparing the siding we started last summer for another blast. The siding is on the west side of the main vein and just past the Penny’s Pocket zone we were working a few years back. The roof of the tunnel in this area has been fairly dodgy, with some large, loose rocks in the ceiling. This requires a lot of timbering to secure, but Dave would like to move the drift forward a bit to have room to park muck tubs and to move one of our compressed air tanks forward. In order to (hopefully) avoid any disasters Dave wants to shoot the face in two stages, and spent the latter part of the day drilling the lower part of it for firing on Monday.

Sunday was, as is customary, the day for chores such as shopping. Everyone piled into the car and made the trip to Hexham for a visit to both the Waitrose and Tesco markets, where we restocked our supplies of wine, sausages, and other essentials. Afterwards we made a quick stop at an antiques shop in the nearby town of Corbridge, which specializes in Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau era furniture. I found a lovely Arts and Crafts sideboard with stylized tulip stained glass doors on the upper cabinet, and lots of nice brass fittings. Sadly, it wouldn’t fit into one of our blue shipping bins for the trip home.

Yesterday back at the mine I started the day with an early trip to visit our magazine in anticipation of Dave firing the first shot at the face. Cal went in early and when I arrived, found him busy collecting at the face. I soon joined him while Dave and Joe finished the timbering and drilling in our siding. Dave wanted to fire the shot around 1330 Cal and I got out the chain saw to trim up some of the larger recently collected bits outside on the landing. That finished, we then went down and started scrubbing the specimens from Saturday, which had been soaking in their detergent bath.

Cal quickly tired of this chore and decided that the air in the mine was likely clear enough to get back in and continue collecting. Despite being a cold, wet and muddy task, it is what passes for fun on this job, after all. I finished up the scrubbing and set the morning’s take to soak, and rejoined Cal at the face late in the afternoon. As has been the case, most of what he had found was either single crystals or wholesale material, but had also pulled out two rather nice specimens from a previously unproductive layer lower down on the face.

Today we will need to spend some time wrapping and binning specimens in order to keep the tables in our container from becoming totally impacted with specimens, and will likely have enough bins to assemble our second pallet very soon. Once this is done, I’m sure all will be back scratching at the face for more bits. Ian arrives back from his sojourn to the Ste Marie aux Mines mineral show in France this afternoon, so I will be away a bit early to pick him up at the Durham train station.

Forward in all directions!


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

The mineralized zone at the face.

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