Measuring Specific Gravity

This note was published in the the Sept. 2017 WCGMC Newsletter

How do you try to identify an unknown mineral?  If you are like most folks you start with color, which can help, but can also mislead.  Trace elements and other types of inclusions can alter the color or many minerals.  Does it have crystal faces?  Maybe, but often not.  Can you see a cleavage direction?  Can you even distinguish crystal faces from cleavage?  Calcite has rhombohedral cleavage, galena is cubic, but then fluorite is a cubic crystal with octahedral cleavage.  That isn’t even fair.  Luster helps with metallic minerals.  Hardness can be helpful, but no one wants to scratch a prize find.

What about density, or more accurately specific gravity (sg).  If it is magnetite or galena you can tell it is dense when you pick it up, but what about other minerals with specific gravity closer to the common minerals? Or heavy minerals that are not magnetic? Is there a method to easily measure specific gravity?

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Rutter Pluton, French River, Ontario

For the second consecutive year, members of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club joined with the Niagara Peninsula Geological Society for a several day trip to mineral sites in Ontario.  We thank Ashley Pollock for organizing the trip and I thank Ashley for writing this short summary of one of the sites we visited and allowing me to publish it in the September, 2017 WCGMC newsletter and also this this blog. 

It rained and then it stopped and then it rained again as we drove north to start our week long summer collecting trip.  But when we met our Wayne County Club friends at our first collecting stop along the French River south of Sudbury, the clouds had parted and the week of fun began.

The Rutter Pluton is a nepheline-syenite intrusion within/ straddling the border of the Grenville Front Tectonic Zone (GFTZ) of the Grenville Province.  The 10 km long, 2 km wide igneous body is dated at 975 million years.  Like much of the Precambrian terrain in Ontario, the igneous rocks have been metamorphosed to a gneissic texture.  Mineralogically, the pluton consists of nepheline, albite (plagioclase feldspar), potassium-feldspar, and biotite mica.  Quartz is absent.

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Calcite-Vein Dikes in Tory Hill, Ontario

The annual test of aging bones and muscles that we call the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club quest for really old Ontario rocks was in July this year.   The event lasted  five days for several and eight days for four of us who continued on to Cobalt, Ontario.  I am happy to report that all of us survived, and we have the pictures, stones, bruises, and mosquito bites to prove we were there.  The whirlwind trip included collecting beryl and rose quartz in two pegmatites, a day in Eganville for apatite and biotite, a quarry stop for fossils, Princess Mine for sodalite,  Schickler Mine for fluorite, Desmont Mine for mosquitoes, and Essonville Line roadcut for fluoro-richterite.  Four of us carried on to Cobalt, grabbing some garnets along the way and finding one very nice silver-laced boulder at a mine dump in Cobalt.

The highlight of the trip had to be the day we spent with Canadian collector George Thompson on his mineral claims off Gibson Road in Tory Hill.  We all thank him for sharing his calcite vein-dikes with us and allowing us to carry home memories of a fine day in the field.  Oh, we took home some minerals also.  And thus this note focuses on George’s property and the fifth day of our adventure. Continue reading

Haley Quarry, Douglas, Ontario

Generally, when Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club packs up the buckets, hammers, passports and bug repellent to head north of the border we are after minerals in the Precambrian rocks of the Grenville Geological Province.  But recently we have been able to make an annual stop in younger rocks to collect fossils in Ordovician limestones in the Eganville area of eastern Ontario.  Specifically we visit the Haley Quarry in Douglas, Ontario and search the Upper Ordovician Verulam and Lindsey Formations of the Ottawa Group.  We did so again this year on Wednesday July 19th.

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Unakite

In late June, Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club visited  St. Lawrence County. One stop on the  three day field trip was at the Valentine Mine in Harrisville where the quarry/mine operators, Gouverneur Talc Co., graciously permitted us our annual visit.  Naturally all were drawn to the bright blue calcite and the brilliantly white wollastonite (the site’s economic resource), but there is another interesting rock to be collected there.  Bright orange and green unakite can also be found.

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Music Review: Nuggets and High Grade

A music review ?  Well, if you are a rockhound (and you probably are if you stumbled to my blog), and you like music (who doesn’t) then this might be just for you.  With song titles like “The Crystals that I’ve Known”, “Agate Lickers”, “Gold is Where you Find it”, “The Mineral Dealer”, and Damn the Glaciers” how could you possibly not be interested in a music CD entitled “Nuggets and High Grade”?

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Basalt Porphyry “Flowerstone”

The door prizes at the June meeting of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club consisted of a bucket of miscellaneous unpolished slabs from the club collection.  Linda Schmidtgall had scoured the club collection and accumulated a wide variety of colorful and unique pieces.  She set them in water for folks to make their selection.  When my number was called I picked out a unique volcanic rock slab.  It was an end cut, which meant one surface was raw.

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CCE Outdoor Education Day

I’d like to thank Julie Daniels for providing my name to the Seneca County 4-H Cornell Cooperative Extension for their Outdoor Education Field Day.  When they called a couple months ago, it was with some trepidation that I accepted visiting with over 300 sixth graders rotating through ten 18 minute sessions at Sampson State Park on May 17th. The big yellow buses rolled in about 9:30 and by 9:48 AM the rotations began:  five sessions in sequence, a 30 minute lunch period, and then five more sessions.  Incredibly, the whole thing went like clockwork. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Orthosilicates

What do you call chemical compounds that are comprised of isolated silica tetrahedron: that is, where the tetrahedrons do not share any corner oxygens with other tetrahedron, but rather are connected by cations in various configurations?  Why, orthosilicates, of course.  Olivine, garnets, zircon, staurolite, and topaz are orthosilicates, to name a few.  So is titanite, one of our favorite Bancroft, Ontario minerals.

When Dr. Robert Lauf arrived at the Rochester Mineralogy Symposium in April he was carting several boxes of his newly minted book entitled “Collector’s Guide to the Silicates: Orthosilicates”.  After his Friday morning talk on the topic, the line to obtain signed copies was predictably long.  I got there early to secure mine, but I do believe Robert was prepared and everyone who desired a signed copy at the symposium was rewarded. Continue reading

Blastoids in Wax, Kentucky

Published in the June, 2017 WCGMC Newsletter

In late April, six members of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club joined a Buffalo Geological Society fossil collecting trip to the Cincinnati area led by Jerry Bastedo.  We visited several productive sites, but I thought I would direct this month’s site of the month to the southernmost collecting spot we visited.  Most of the trip focused on quarries and roadcuts that expose Ordovician and Silurian strata in the Cincinnati Arch.  However, on Saturday, we climbed all the way up to the Mississippian by driving several hours south to a modest roadcut in Wax, Kentucky where we collected blastoids in the Glen Dean Formation.

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Penfield Quarry

For one Saturday morning in May, The Dolomite Group opens its Penfield Quarry (746 Whalen Rd.) to collectors.  This year that Saturday was May 6th. They asked that folks arrive before 7:00 AM to sign in, receive an official welcome, and attend a brief safety meeting.  Immediately after, everyone descended to a level in the quarry that has been set aside for collecting (see photo on page 1).  Hard hats (or bicycle helmets for kids) are required as is eye protection.  No open toed shoes/sandals are allowed.  The collecting period was from 7 AM until noon.

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One Stamp or Two?

On August 21, the sun will disappear for more than 2 minutes across a wide swath of the nation and the USPS is not missing out on the action.  A month prior to the eclipse and aligned with the summer solstice, a single Forever stamp will be issued to commemorate the event.  The first day of issue will be in Laramie, Wyoming on June 20th.

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Black Tourmaline of Pierrepont, NY

Another wonderful book on a classic New York State mineral location is available.   Many of us have ventured to the Bower Powers Farm in Pierrepont to collect black tourmaline.  We have driven Post Road to the washed out bridge over Leonard Brook, hiked along the brook to the tourmaline laden pits, and collected what we could carry.  But did you ever want to know more about the rich history of the location, the multiple collecting sites, the varied geology, or the complete mineralogy of this classic site?

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Cypripedium Orchids on Stamps

As many of my friends know, I collect stamps as well as minerals and I enjoy thematic, or so called topical stamp collecting.  Naturally, my career in geology and my interest in minerals draws me to topics related to those categories.  But I also enjoy hearing how others merge their interests with other topics with the joy of philately.

To most of us they are lady slippers or simply orchids.  But to Paul Brach they are called Cypripedium orchids.  A specific genus or orchids of which there are 58 species, each with their own color, petal shape, stamen, and sepal design.  At the March 9th meeting of the Rochester Philatelic Association, Paul described all the features of these gorgeous flowers using the multitude of world-wide stamps that have been issued featuring Cypripedium orchids.  In addition to demonstrating his knowledge of these colorful orchids, Paul showed us his photographic prowess at capturing them on film.

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Bryozoa

Fossil collectors will travel hours and brave cold temperatures and rain for a chance to collect trilobites.  Heck, we will settle for trilobite parts.  Most of us will pick up a complete brachiopod and even try to identify it by Genus.  Check our garages and you will find hundreds, no thousands, of solitary rugose corals such as Heliophyllum halli and probably almost as many colonial tabulates such as Favosites or Pleurodictyum corals.  We’ll jump for a gastropod and drool when a orthonic (straight-backed) cephalopod pops out in outcrop or shows himself (herself?) in a stone on the beach.  And need I say more than Eurypterid to get you excited?   BUT, who among us loves Bryozoans enough to even take a branching colony or a fan-like species home.  And if you do take one home does it end up identified and in your collection?  My guess is it does not. Perhaps I can change that.

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Gotthard Base Tunnel

My favorite rock hound club (Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club) loves to dig and we are always looking for new places to dig and new tools to use while digging.  But there are some folks in Switzerland that we must acknowledge have done a little more digging than us while deploying more sophisticated and larger tools.  In fact, they have been digging on the same project for 17 years.  And in June of 2016 they completed their mission.  All they had done was dig a 57 km (35 mile) railway tunnel through the Alps in south-central Switzerland: the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

All told this massive project removed 28 million tons of igneous and metamorphic rock (dominantly gneiss). That is enough rock to build a rectangular regular pyramid that is 5200’ high.  Think about that! At its deepest points the Alps tower more than 2000m (6500’) above the tunnel floor.

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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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