Thursday, August 13, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather has actually been sort-of nice here this week. Not much rain and yesterday it was actually sunny and warm at the mine for a few hours in the afternoon. This morning begins clear and cool, so perhaps weíll get another good day, but I understand that another bout of rain is due here by tomorrow. Just what we need Ė a good muddy send-off!

This week at the mine has mostly been a mad dash to get a bit more collecting in. Rather than take the time to fire a full round at the face, which would have required two or more days of drilling, mucking and timbering, we opted for the quick and dirty approach and had Dave break up some of the floor rock under the eastern margin of the currently exposed flats. The center of the current exposure at the face is rather brecciated and fairly easy to dig through by hand. The eastern margin, which has given us the best material, is underlain by some layers of fairly solid limestone, making hand digging more difficult.

Cal and Ian assembled another pallet to be shipped home while I helped Dave at the face. The job was done by early afternoon, and the collecting crew took over. Although there was a lot of fluorite showing, almost all of it was coming out in bits. Particularly frustrating was the freshly exposed section along the eastern margin. What had likely once been a nice plate of crystals on the roof of the seam crumbled into single crystals and bits as we excavated the zone. Late afternoon we hauled several buckets of pocket debris out and screened the contents on the landing. A lot of very nice gemmy single crystals turned up, but little else of note.

Back on Tuesday, things improved a bit, and by late afternoon we had recovered several nice roof plates from the area of interest. The ground remains highly fractured and broken up, and almost everything found will require some trimming to remove damaged bits, but at least they werenít all disintegrating into a pile of single crystals. At one point during the afternoon Cal uncovered a small plate that had what must be one of the largest gemmy twinned fluorite crystals we have ever recovered from the mine. Most crystals, if they exceed around 3 cm on edge become cloudy and opaque, and are often untwined. This one was at least 4 cm on edge and reasonably transparent. Given the nature of the zone, it has a few chips and scratches, but is still impressive for the mine. Todayís photo is of Cal at the washing screen with a couple new-found treasures.

Yesterday was our last full day of collecting for the season. First thing, Cal wrapped and packed all the recently accumulated specimens, and then all descended on the face once again. The going was wet and muddy, and Ian, who took the first turn, ended up getting quite wet, with little to show for the experience. Cal took over while Ian went out to warm up a bit, and after a bit of serious excavation turned up a seam lower down on the face that gave up several nice plates along with the usual numerous single crystals.

After a brief lunch break to enjoy at least a little of the nice weather, Cal returned to washing and packing, while Ian and I headed back for one last go at the face. About this time Helen showed up, equipped with a new camera and spent some time taking photos of the fun. We had accumulated a fair pile of tubs and buckets around the face, so I got the loco, loaded it up with our findings and drove them out to the landing for a quick washing. Cal joined up and we took turns washing mud and picking crystals off the screen. Not much later Ian emerged with yet another very nice roof plate, which he had recovered from the eastern edge of the flats. This evidently got Calís interest and he went in to investigate. Sure enough, there was more fluorite exposed at the back of our excavation, but as he was standing outside the cavity examining it a large portion of the wall came down on itís own, letting us know that we had undercut it about as far as we could. One nice bit dropped with the rock fall, and he was able to get it, but otherwise, collecting was officially over for the season.

Today we will finish packing the remaining specimens and assemble the final pallet. As we always do at seasonís end, Dave will collapse the face, which will leave it buried behind a large pile of rock for the winter. Ship-out of the assembled pallets is scheduled for tomorrow, as is pick-up of the compressor. After that, everyone heads off for a bit of vacation. Cal and Kerith will be off to explore some of Scotland. Ian and I will linger here for a few days then are off to London where Iíll meet up with Joan, take in a music festival in Oxfordshire, and spend a few days in Cardiff visiting with Ian and his wife Di.

Until next time,


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

Cal finds a few last minute treasures.

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