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How Cool is This

A fellow member of the Rochester Philatelic Association likes to stimulate her Facebook friends by placing a theme word or phrase onto her Facebook Timeline each day and having her friends post philatelic responses.  Well, one day in late January her theme was simply “my town”.

I decided to seek out postmarks from the many locations I have lived.  Naturally, I started with my hometown of East Longmeadow, MA.  I opened Google Image Search and simply typed:  “East Longmeadow postmark”.  I was rewarded with a page of image snippets some of which actually met my intended search criteria.  About two rows down in the middle of the screen I saw this excellent and legible postmark atop the five cent 1964 John F. Kennedy stamp.  I hit enter.

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Reeder Creek: Fossil Hunting Meets History

Article was published in the February 2017 WCGMC Newsletter

Sometimes it is fun to just explore for fossils or minerals by visiting an unknown location, perhaps one with potentially appropriate geology, but not a site with documented fossils or minerals.  One may not find much, but occasionally one stumbles onto something completely unexpected and equally interesting.  In the fall of 2015 Stephen Mayer and I had such an experience when we decided to investigate the geology along Reeder Creek in Varick, NY.

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Plumalina Plumaria

Leave it to the field trip leader of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club, Bill Chapman, to find something new!  Well, not exactly new, but certainly unusual.  Plumalina plumaria were first described by Hall (1878).  Yes, they look like feathers, and one might want to classify them as ferns or plants of some sort, but the latest understanding of these rather rare fossils is that they were hydroids (Muscente and Allmon, 2013).  Hydroids are a class of small predators that are related to jellyfish.  Dominated by soft-body parts hydroids are not well preserved in the fossil record causing extinct species to often be labeled Incertae Sedis in many fossil lists.  Incertae Sedis are extinct organisms with unknown or uncertain relation to known phyla.

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The Wollastonite Group of Minerals

Published in the February 2017 WCGMC Newsletter

OK, I know, most of us have heard of the mineral wollastonite and many of us have collected it at the Valentine Mine in Harrisville, or at Rose Road in Pitcairn or Cascade Slide in the Adirondacks. You may even know that 100% of North America’s mined wollastonite comes from two quarries in New York, the aforementioned Valentine Mine and the Lewis Mine near Willsboro.  If you voted in the election of 2013, you may remember Proposition #5 in which the operators of the Lewis Mine sought to trade 1500 acres of their property for 200 acres in Adirondack Park immediately adjacent to the quarries west wall.

But did you know that wollastonite is just one triclinic silicate mineral within what is known as the Wollastonite Group?   These minerals are all single chain silicate minerals in which every third silicate tetrahedral is “twisted”.  Calcium cations connect parallel chains in wollastonite leading the chemical formula CaSiO3.  The lesser known members of this mineral group employ different elements as noted in the accompanying table.

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Rocks with Faces

Rock hounds are always looking for new places to dig.  Sometimes it is hard to find them.  But we could tinker with that theme a bit and start “looking for new things in old places”.   There is a museum in Chichibu, Japan, two hours from Tokyo that houses over 1700 rocks, all of which resemble human faces.  They call the museum Chinsekikan (which means museum of curious rocks).  Apparently, the owners have been accumulating the odd collection for over 50 years with the lone requirement that Mother Nature was the only artist (Strategy, 2016).

Rock Display at Chinsekikan                    from Strategy, 2016

Rock Display at Chinsekikan from Strategy, 2016

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Larimar

At one of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s  December workshops (and we had two!), Robert Webster arrived with some beautiful larimar to cut, grind and polish.  After his successful work he posted pictures of several of his creations to our club’s Facebook Group page.

Raw, cut larimar (left) and some polished pieces.  All prepped at the WCGMC workshop in December. Specimen and photos by Robert Webster, extracted from his post to the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club  Facebook group site.

Raw, cut larimar (left) and some polished pieces. All prepped at the WCGMC workshop in December. Specimen and photos by Robert Webster, extracted from his post to the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club Facebook group site.

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Classifying Geologists and Rockhounds

Column written for the WCGMC Newsletter, January 2017

Everyone likes to classify things: by shape, by color, by cost, by size.  You name something to sort by, and someone is busy classifying with it.  So, it should be no surprise that geologists get classified.  And perhaps the first way they get labeled is as either a soft rock geologist or a hard rock geologist.  No, it has nothing to do with the character of their head (although some might disagree) and it has nothing to do with their taste in music.  Rather it relates to the type of rocks they study.

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Lake Ontario Stones

At the November meeting of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club there was general bemoaning that the field season seemed over.  That was until two members suggested that we visit the Lake Ontario shoreline on Sunday for one last outing.  And so we did.  In fact ten of us spent several hours walking the rocky coastline at a couple of our favorite haunts.   It was our 22nd club field trip of the year, and probably our last.

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Classifying Geologists (and Rock Hounds)

Everyone likes to classify things: by shape, by color, by cost, by size.  You name something to sort by, and someone is busy classifying with it.  So, it should be no surprise that geologists get classified.  And perhaps the first way they get labeled is as either a soft rock geologist or a hard rock geologist.  No, it has nothing to do with the character of their head (although some might disagree) and it has nothing to do with their taste in music.  Rather it relates to the type of rocks they study.

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December Birthstone: Zircon, Tanzanite, and Turquoise

December is a month when many things are overdone.  Stores are open 26 hours per day, sales offer discounts on discounts (or so they claim), foods have more calories and portions are larger, etc.  With all these other excesses, I suppose it should then be no surprise that December would outdo all other months by having three official birthstones.  Zircon, turquoise, and tanzanite are all recognized birthstones for the final month of the year.  I guess we had better get started.

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Napoleon Quarry, Indiana

In mid-September, Bill Lesniak and I ventured a couple states west and south on a Buffalo Geological Society four-day fossil trip led by Jerry Bastedo.  Our first quarry stop on a pleasant sunny Friday morning was in southeast Indiana at the Napoleon Quarry in Ripley County.  It was a great site, but for me it might have been all that much better had I done a little research before the trip.  But better late than never and here is what I have since learned.

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Seavey Road Quarry

Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s September Adirondack field trip was another great success.  Seven spots in 4 days with the Saturday AM visit to Benson Mines in Star Lake attracting the most collectors.   33 folks convened and enjoyed a morning collecting in the dumps of the open-pit iron mine just outside town.  Five of the other sites visited were repeats for the club (Rose Road, Benson Mines, Talcville, Valentine Mine, Fine roadcut, and Moose River).  However, we had never been to the Seavey Road marble quarry north of Gouverneur.  Thanks to Ken St. John, who had visited earlier with a small group of fluorescent mineral collectors, and to quarry owner Kevin Dibble, we were able to spend three hours in the large, and very white, quarry.  As a new site for us, the Seavey Road location deserves a review.

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October birthstone – Opal

October is another month with two official birthstones.  If you are partial to wondrously terminated hard crystalline faceted gemstones, perhaps tourmaline would be your preferred choice.  But, if you like the rainbow play of colors offered by opal, then stones cut to display the remarkable lustrous character of precious opal may touch your fancy.  Since I’ve already written about tourmaline, let’s focus on opal in this birthstone review.

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Mushrooms on Stamps

Rochester Philatelic Association club member Paul Brach likes mushrooms.  If you are roaming a Monroe County Park you might spot Paul and his camera searching the forests and meadows for the biggest, the best, or the rarest fungi to photograph.  Like many of us with a “second” hobby, Paul augments his field and scientific interest in mushrooms by collecting them on stamps.  Paul shared his love of mushrooms with RPA members at our March 10th meeting.

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Blind Trilobites

I have trouble finding one lone whole trilobite when I go out collecting in the Devonian of New York.   And then along comes this note from central Poland where researcher Blazej Blazejowski reports that the eyeless trilobite Trimerocephalus chopini can be found preserved in trains with head to tail (or in trilobite lingo with cephalon to pygidium).  He infers that the queues actually represent migratory chains as the ancient arthropods marched across the seafloor, perhaps in an unsuccessful effort to escape near and present danger.

Wouldn’t it be neat to find a queue of arthropods after splitting some Hamilton Group shales?  Or maybe there was no reason for New York trilobites to migrate?  Perhaps life was just too good to move?

Blazejowski, B., et. al., 2016 Ancient animal migration:  a case study of eyeless dimorphic Devonian trilobites from Poland, Palaeontology, V. 59, p. 743-751.