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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