Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

Sunday afternoon heavy clouds moved in and by evening it was raining. The rain continued through Monday and Tuesday, with only a few breaks. With temperatures at daily highs of around 10-12C (50-54F) it has been far from summer-like here. Adding to the general ambiance, the air has been quite still, so when the rain let up, the midges were out in force. This morning the rain has stopped and I see occasional outbreaks of sunshine. Still fairly cold, but the wind is up, so maybe the quarry will begin to dry out a bit.

Monday at the mine Dave was away for a medical appointment, so the rest of us concentrated on collecting at the face. Try as we might, the large threatening rock perched above the fluorite seam refused to come loose, so we satisfied ourselves with wedging a support stick under it and had at the face. Despite appearances when we left off on Saturday, the area under the rock gave up only a few wholesale-quality pieces and a bunch of loose crystals and bits, so everyone’s attention soon shifted to the eastern wall of the tunnel.

As we have pushed the tunnel forward over the past month, we have left a bit of the eastern margin of the flats along the tunnel wall. The seams looked thin and tight, but without anything promising at the face, spending some time digging at them seemed a reasonable option. Near the face, I uncovered a small clay-filled bulge in the seam that gave up a number of pieces, but as it pinched down to the back of the pocket the wall rock became quite solid, making it difficult to get specimens out without completely destroying them in the process.

Further back, Ian and Cal were having a bit more success, and had managed to fill several of our plastic tubs with specimens. When they took a lunch break, I spent a little time digging in the area and managed to excavate some rock from over what appeared to be a large roof plate. When they returned from lunch I turned to back over to them, and soon Ian was lifting the plate out of its bed of mud. These roof plates are usually fractured into a number of pieces, but this one, surprisingly, remained intact. What came out was perhaps the best specimen we’ve recovered this summer. Not quite as large as the one we got two years ago, but impressive none-the-less. Today’s photo features the specimen after having had a quick wash to remove some of the mud. Back up dale, it was the annual “Christmas in July” evening at the Blue Bell, so everyone adjourned for the festivities, which included, among other things, a brass band playing traditional carols.

Back at the mine yesterday, we spent a bit more time digging at the seams along the tunnel wall, but turned up little more. Cal soon decided that, despite the rain, it was time to go down and start scrubbing the previous day’s specimens, and after a bit more scratching about, Ian and I followed, leaving Dave and Joe to try and break up the large rock in the face and reinforce the timbering in anticipation of another blast.

Down at the washing tables, life was a true joy. The rain ceased for a while, but as soon as that happened a cloud of midges descended on all present. There were so many about that taking shelter in our storage container for lunch offered little relief. Fortunately, the rain resumed mid afternoon and drove them away. Unfortunately, the rain also guaranteed that there was no chance that our washed specimens would dry any time soon, so we hauled them into the packing container in hopes that they will loose a little moisture before we need to wrap them. After having around six weeks at sea in transit, a bin of wet specimens develops a distinct odor when opened.

Dave managed to beat the large rock into a bunch of bits, so this morning we will spend a little more time at the face hunting the elusive specimen. Should we turn up little, we will then turn it back over to him to start another round of drilling.

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Another little bit.

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