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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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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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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.

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2800 Miles in 10 Days – North of Lake Superior

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Where should I start?  The 10 day August trip to Thunder Bay and back again was a blast.  We all returned with enough minerals and memories to last through the winter (or at least until our trip to the Adirondacks in September!).

But first and foremost:  Just as the 1959 stamp Issue in the header was a joint issue of the USA and Canada, this trip was a two country trip with WCGMC and the Niagara Peninsula Geological Society (NPGS) of St. Catharine’s, Ontario.  Those of us from WCGMC thank NPGS for allowing us to join them, and in particular to their field trip leader Ashley Pollock, who planned the itinerary and set up the many visits requiring permission and outside leadership.

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Collecting Thin Sections

People come in all sizes and so do collectible rocks and minerals.  There are collectors who prefer garden rocks, as big as they can carry (or even bigger).  These people will do this until their yards or patios are completely covered by rocks.  And then they start building piles.  You know who you are!  There are folks who like cabinet specimens of several inches.  You need space to display these also and typically quality cabinet specimen can deplete the wallet all too quickly.

Me, I prefer mineral specimens that are called miniatures, no longer than 2” in their longest dimension.  A few dozen can fit on a display shelf or in a drawer.   Of course there are thumbnail collectors who specialize in specimens that can fit into a one inch cube.    They even have neat little special boxes, called Perky boxes named after the collector/dealer that popularized the theme.  And then there are the micromounters.  These collectors can purchase much of their material less expensively and the number of available minerals seems endless, but then they require binocular microscopes and perhaps close-up camera lens to best view their prized possession.

But what about collecting minerals on thin section.  Is there a place for that?  OK, first off what is a thin section?  According to the bible of the internet, Wikipedia tells us that a thin section is a “laboratory preparation of a rock, mineral, soil, bone, or even metal for use with a polarizing microscope”.  Fine, but what is it?  Let me try: a thin section is a tiny sliver of rock, typically mounted/glued onto a microscope slide that permits light to pass through all the transparent mineral phases.  As it turns out if you mount a polished rock surface onto a glass microscope slide and grind/polish the surface down to 30 microns in thickness (that’s about 1/800th of an inch for the metrically challenged) then many minerals will display characteristic colors and properties upon the transmission of polarized light.  In this way minerals can be identified under the microscope.  Further-more their textures and how they are intergrown with each other can be used to interpret how the minerals grew and how a rock might have formed.

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No eggs, just rocks

July was a busy month for Bill Lesniak and his travelling rock and mineral kit stand.  If you have not seen his operation, Bill sets up at whatever event will allow him and, on the behalf of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club, offers free rock and mineral kits to youngsters.  They do have to earn them though.  They must cut out labels, display dexterity with glue sticks to apply them to the egg cartons he provides and then, with help, locate the 12 specimens (this summer:  6 rocks, 4 minerals and 2 fossils).  In the end they go home with something that looks like this:

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August Birthstone – Peridot

Published in the August WCGMC newsletter

Olivine is one the most common rock-forming silicate minerals on our glorious planet.  It is found in iron and magnesium rich igneous rocks, both extrusive rocks like basalt (think Hawaii) and intrusive equivalents like gabbro and deep mantle rocks called peridotite..  When it is found transparent and unfractured, olivine can be faceted into a brilliant green gemstone.  We call that gemstone peridot and it is the August birthstone.

Olivine Group minerals are nesosilicates, meaning that their mineral lattice consists of isolated silica tetrahedral that are connected by interstitial cations (most commonly iron and magnesium).  This leads to the formula (Mg, Fe)2SiO4.  End member Mg-bearing olivine is the mineral forsterite, while Fe-dominated olivine is the mineral fayalite.  The term chrysolite is sometimes used to label intermediate composition olivine.  Most olivine contains both magnesium and iron, but Mg-rich forsterite is more common than fayalite.

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Pierre de Coubertin – Olympic Founder

This summer was an Olympic Summer and I am sure many of you watched Michael Phelps or Simone Biles or others compete in Rio de Janeiro.   For those who collect topical postage stamps, an Olympic year also brings a plethora of new stamps.  Rochester Philatelic Association member Carl Miller is an Olympics stamps enthusiast, but his philatelic interest is a specialty within the overall theme of the event.  Carl collects Olympic themed stamps that commemorate and depict Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics.  pierre2 Continue reading