Sunday, August 9, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

I think we had summer here yesterday – it was warm (around 20C/68F) and sunny for most of the day, and not a hint of rain. Summer, however, seems a fleeting commodity here this year, and the clouds and rain moved back in over night. There is always hope that this will change soon as well, but given that our neighbors Roger and Fiona are staging a barbeque this afternoon, the odds are not good.

First thing Friday morning, Dave and Joe got the new length of rail laid to the face, and then installed some final timbering to support the roof lagging. With the changing of the guard at the face, I hauled back the water line, and we bid fair well to Joe, who is heading back down south to Exeter to begin the chore of apartment hunting in advance of the next term at university.

The zone of alteration exposed by the last blast appears to be getting larger, and once again extends across the face and around on the east side. Unfortunately, it is also highly brecciated, and almost everything is completely broken up. An afternoon’s worth of digging yielded literally hundreds of single crystals and fragments of green fluorite, but very few decent specimens. Trying to pick hundreds of little bits out of the mud at the face while wearing gloves is an exercise in frustration, so we have taken to simply scooping all the mud and crystal-containing pocket debris into buckets and taking it outside to wash and screen. By end of day, Cal had filled at least two gallon-sized plastic bags with fluorite bits, and there didn’t appear to be any end to this at the face. Out of all this, a few decent small things did emerge, and today’s photo is of a nice crystal cluster.

Yesterday the three of us were back at it, and the first several hours of collecting were pretty much an instant replay of the previous afternoon. Lots of rock and mud dislodged from the face, lots of pocket debris hauled out and screened for bits, and almost nothing that one would call a decent specimen. Cal was obviously getting frustrated and decided to take a lunch break and enjoy our rare outbreak of sunshine. Ian and I were not quite ready to give up, and decided to start digging toward the eastern margin of the pocket zone, which has been the source of our best specimens this summer. And once again, we were not disappointed. After about an hour of more fluorite bits mixed in with the mud and rock, we started to find a few crystals still adhering to the rock. By mid-afternoon we had recovered about a dozen matrix plates of fluorite, which were now scattered along the timbering back from the face. Most showed varying degrees of damage from a rough treatment somewhere in the dark geological past, but four of them turned out to be really nice once the mud was removed.

Cal had been spending the time washing and screening the morning’s buckets of pocket debris, but seeing this lured him back underground. Our digging had, of course, left a sizeable overhang of the pocket roof, so the first chore was to bring as much down as possible to keep the place somewhat safe. While Cal pulled down loose rock and mud with a long bar, I washed the debris and we both scrambled for the bits that emerged. After some more washing, it looked likely that the zone that gave us the good bits is continuing to the northeast. By this point it was getting late in the day, and we were soon due at a dinner out with Dave and Sandra, so we locked up for the day, leaving the thought of more riches to play on our minds overnight.

Today, being Sunday, everyone is moving a little slower, and taking a bit longer with their coffee. I have my laundry in the washer and will soon tackle the bills and bookkeeping. Ian has the first Arsenal game of the regular season to watch this afternoon, and Cal will be giving a mine tour to some visiting friends from California. Afterwards, come rain or shine, it will be barbeque time. If it comes to it, this wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a barbeque underneath brollies here in Weardale.

Heading into our final week for the season, so it is now a dash to the finish line.

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

One small bit that survived the geological blender.

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