It was July 20, 1969. I was 14 years old and visiting/camping at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho with my parents. When we entered the Visitor’s Center a crowd was gathered around a small black and white television set that had been set up on top of the ranger’s desk. The exhibit area across the hall was virtually empty. Everyone was watching two Americans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) conducting experiments and picking up rocks on the moon. The image was blurry on the 14” screen and I was too far away to see much of it, but my thoughts from the day remain intact asthe 50th anniversary of that day approaches.
The Barrus Farm pegmatite outside the small hamlet of Lithia, MA has become a regular stop on Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s western New England field trip each of the past three years. It is not a large site and the pegmatite there has never been quarried, but it does hold a special place in the world of gemology. It is the type locality for goshenite, which is white beryl. Yale University mineralogist Charles Sheppard identified the Barrus Farm white beryl in 1884 and named it after the town of Goshen about 3 miles east of the location. Continue reading
We do a lot of different things at WCGMC meetings and on workshop Saturdays. I don’t often document these activities to my blog as I don’t think they would generally interest folks outside the club. But at the June meeting this year we did something a little different and I decided my newsletter note for the July newsletter served to be placed here. You see we made garnets …. well, sort of.
The Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club offered two awards at this year’s annual GemFest in Canandaigua on June 1-2. We held a contest for “guessing” the number of stones in a large glass jar and we also asked all attendees to vote for their favorite exhibit. It was just two more ways visitors to GemFest could get directly involved in the festivities.
Yes, this is a bit of a repeat article. But I changed it a bit for publication in a stamp newsletter rather than a mineral newsletter and have decided to post again. It is my blog, so I can do that !! You, however, do not need to read it again, or at all.
For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of attending the Cornell Extension of Seneca County Outdoor Field day in mid-May. I enjoy explaining the science of geology, the role of geologists, and a bit about the three major rock groups and the rock cycle to 6th graders from schools throughout the county.
Several WCGMC fossil enthusiasts joined the Buffalo Geological Society’s annual fossil trip to the Cincinnati area in late April. We thank Jerry Bastedo for organizing yet another fine outing into the Ordovician rocks surrounding the Cincinnati Arch. All told we visited 11 roadcuts in three states during our 4 days in the area. And we found fossils at all of them! Down there they say that if there is rock exposed in a roadcut there will be fossils. From my experiences to date, I firmly believe this statement.
We collected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the common Ordovician brachiopods and horn corals that seem to be ubiquitous and I added to my collection of Solenapora from the site in Flemingsburg, Kentucky (see April 2019 newsletter), but I’d like to focus on two locations and special finds that folks made at other Kentucky sites.
Published in May 2018 Wayne County Gem and Mineral Newsletter
Contrary to what you may have thought in high school, the Periodic Table of the Elements was not created to torture high school chemistry students. The idea was simple at first. Aristotle considered a four element table way back in 330 BCE. He identified earth, air, fire and water as the four elemental building blocks. But others since have not been satisfied with his simple approach, and the list grew and with that came complexity.
By the 1700s some 30 elements had been isolated and described and that grew to over 60 by the middle of the 19th century. And it was in the middle of the 19th century that several chemists and inventors working independently began to recognize patterns in those elements and began to organize them into lists and tables. A Russian chemist named Dmitri Mendeleev had the foresight to recognize that the known elements should be organized on their atomic weight and he also set the elements into a two-dimensional grid based on common properties. But it was his observations that the chart needed gaps for elements that had yet to be discovered that set him apart from others. For this insight, Mendeleev is credited as the “father of the Periodic Table”.
Almost anywhere we wander in New York, we are apt to encounter glacial erratics, rocks that were transported to their current locations by the great sheets of ice that covered the state as recently as 10,000 years ago. Typically we just step over, or walk around, these aberrant rocks. That is, unless we trip on them, in which case we curse their existence before we move on. Farmers detest them too, but will use them to build stone walls or cobblestone barns. Once in a while we might notice something interesting in them and stop to smack them with our hammers or mauls. Typically they resist such actions, providing us a reason to detest them even more.
But there are some really famous glacial erratic boulders in the world. Some are famous for their size, others for their location. Perhaps you have a favorite one? I’ve selected a few to highlight.
I know it is not yet April as I write this and that I need to be patient. There will be plenty of collecting opportunities in the coming months. Spring is here and with it the snow is just about gone and the collecting season is about to begin in earnest. WCGMC will visit Ace of Diamonds on March 30th and I’ve been out hunting fossils once already.
But I was impatient earlier this week and decided to venture to western Connecticut to follow up on a couple of leads I had uncovered over the winter by searching geologic literature and old maps. I hoped I could find places the club could return to later in the year. I was after kyanite and staurolite or whatever other neat metamorphic minerals I might happen upon, maybe a four-pound garnet? Anyway, one day last week I packed up the chisels, the hammers and the gloves, loaded the backseat with snacks and chocolate and pointed my aging Honda Accord towards the east.
Yes, we are going all the way to Kentucky for a fossil location, specifically to a long, but fairly non-descript roadcut on State Route 11 in Flemingsburg. The site is on my radar because at least four members of WCGMC plan to collect at the site in late April. We will be doing so on a 4-day, 7-site trip led by Jerry Bastedo and the Buffalo Geological Society. But it is also a site WCGMC visited last Labor Day on its week long trip to Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. Continue reading
Rob Webster arrived at the WCGMC February workshop with 11 pounds of colorful rock he had recently acquired and slabbed. He had purchased it online, where it had been identified as “kaleidoscope jasper” (or agate) from Utah. It did not, however, appear to be jasper and Rob said it had cut really easily. So, I took a picture and went home to investigate.
Perhaps you have heard of the latest collecting craze in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? Beach collectors who have generally restricted their collecting to agates, amygdaloidal basalt, and perhaps an occasional greenstone are now returning to the beach after dark with a long wave UV light source. They are finding beach rocks that are bright yellow when subjected to a 365 nanometer long wave light source. Apparently there are some beaches where these stones are relatively common.
All who attended the January workshop of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club acquired a nice unpolished slab of morrisonite jasper from the club collection. Most present at the event struggled to identify the “best” piece remaining when their raffle number was drawn. It was all so colorful and each piece was unique. I went home with my piece and decided to learn a bit more about my newest acquisition.
Our favorite minerals come in many forms and colors and it is fun to collect the variety that is available. But did you ever stop to think how many different spellings there are for your favorite mineral in all the world’s languages? One way to get started on such an investigation is through worldwide postage stamps. Here is an example using the important sulfide mineral from which most of the world’s zinc is resourced. There are certainly more languages than represented by these stamps from 12 countries and ten languages, but they do cover the world!
Do you need an idea for a gift for that favorite mineral collector on your shopping list? Or perhaps you are like me, and you are looking to buy yourself a nice present? In either case, I may have the perfect book idea for you. How about “A Collector’s Guide to the Balmat District”?
Porphyroblast: I’ve always thought that was such a neat word, maybe even interesting enough for a story. Say it out loud three times (“pore-fur-o-blast, pore-fur-o-blast, pore-fur-o-blast”). Now don’t you want to learn more, perhaps even own a few?
Porphyroblasts are those large recrystallized minerals that grow in the groundmass of a metamorphic rock, most typically in schists and gneisses. In New York State, we immediately think of the bright red almandine-pyrope garnets in the gneissic rocks in the Gore Mountain area, but the truth is the metamorphic schists and gneisses throughout New York and New England often contain garnet porphyroblasts. Unfortunately a lot of New York’s garnets are hosted in high-grade metamorphic gneiss and they don’t display crystal faces when the rocks are broken. Nevertheless they are large, colorful and fun to collect.
Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club member Jim Rienhardt collects sand. In the November WCGMC Newsletter he tells us how and why. I thank him for letting me republish the article here.
by Jim Rienhardt:
Rock to sand to rock: Rock collectors collect on both ends. So do I, but I also collect from the middle – the sand. And, I am not alone. There are many, many people who collect sand and have tens of thousands of samples. But why, isn’t sand uninteresting? The same may be said by someone who doesn’t understand collecting rocks.
In the late 19th century, building technology and urban development led to taller multistory buildings. Office and apartment buildings grew vertically. Naturally this led to new opportunities for creativity and invention and the Post Office Department was looking for improved methods to collect and move the mail from these buildings.
The idea of creating mail chutes to optimize the collection of outgoing mail from the taller buildings sounds like a simple innovative solution that should have occurred as soon as tall buildings were built. But it took until 1883 for the mail chute to be invented and the first installation was right here in Rochester, New York.