Arenophilia

I have a confession to make.  I have become an arenophile.  Fortunately, it is not illegal (unless trespassing while doing it or if you are in Sardinia), and it should not be harmful to my health.  I would say it is generally not contagious, but I did catch it this past spring when Jim Rienhardt introduced us to the hobby in the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club November 2018 newsletter and later at the March meeting.  I did not realize I was hooked until this summer.  While collecting minerals on club trips to Maine and in Michigan, I looked for sands to collect and proceeded to fill quart freezer bags at a few dozen locations along lakes, rivers, and even from glacial deposits.  You see an “arenophile” is a lover of sand.  The word is derived from the Latin “arena” (sand) and the Greek ”phil” (love).

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July 20th, 1969

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.

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Hamlin State Beach .. and garnet sand

Last March, Jim Rienhardt brought his collection of some 270 sands to the WCGMC meeting and told us about arenophiles (sand collectors) (Reinhardt, 2018).  Jim repeated his presentation at the Rochester Academy of Science later that month.  At that meeting RAS member Paul Dudley brought along some sand he had collected from Hamlin State Beach some 50 years ago.  Paul’s sand was red and dominated by garnet, but full of other heavy minerals.  He told us that the sand had been collected during a college field trip late in the spring when Lake Ontario first started to recede from winter highs.

I parked that in my memory and on my calendar and on July 8th set out to find some “garnet” sand for myself.  I was not disappointed.  The first stop I made was at Area #5 at the west end of Hamlin State Beach.  The Lake level seemed to have dropped, perhaps a foot from its highest erosional cut.  And in the bank left when the lake level was highest was a 2-3 cm thick band of black and red sand.  I sampled and took pictures and moved to other areas of the park.

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Barrus Farm Pegmatite

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

WCGMC makes Garnets

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. 

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Cincinnati for Fossils

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.

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An Elemental Celebration

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”.

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Glacial Erratics

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.

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Spring Collecting

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.

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Kentucky Fossils

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

Fluorescent sodalite in Great Lake States

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.

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Morrisonite

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.

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How do you spell ZnS?

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!

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Porphyroblasts

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.

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Collecting In-Between: Sand

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.

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