Mary Anning

I am a member of the Rochester Academy of Science Fossil Section.  In last month’s newsletter (called the Fossiletter), Michael Greiner wrote a wonderful biographic note on Mary Anning touching aspects of her professional accomplishments and her personal life.   Mary was an early 19th century paleontologist in England who is credited with discovering and describing several Cretaceous marine reptiles including Plesiosaurus and Ichthyosaurus.  I enjoyed learning about her fascinating contributions to paleontology.

After reading the full article I wondered if Mary Anning had ever been commemorated on a postage stamp.  Yes, I collect postage stamps with a thematic specialty of geology on stamps.  This includes minerals, fossils, dinosaurs, volcanoes, and yes, famous geologists.  I was not aware of any Mary Anning stamps, but I did know where to look for them.  And I found a few.

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Golf Course Sand

It is mid-April and I should be planning field trips, perhaps even taking my first of the season.  But like everyone else I am planted at home, watching the first responders and others attempting to defeat this virus.  But what else have I been doing?  Well, first off, the yard and all the rock gardens may look as good as they ever have by the time it is warm enough for growth to begin.  And I have been taking walks, lots of walks: short walks, intermediate walks, and long walks.  I am wearing my walking shoes out.  I know every nook and cranny of my neighborhood.

On one of those long walks in late March, I was thinking about the New England beach trip for sand collecting that I was not going to be able to undertake.  And I happened to be walking along the edge of Oak Hill Golf Course in my home town of Pittsford, NY.  I saw sand, lots of sand.  Of course, I know that golf course sand is not local, nor is it 100% natural.  Nevertheless, I did wonder what it looked like and where it might come from.

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It Was Meant To Be

I should have known.  It was only a matter of time before I would return to my roots and become a sand collector again.  It goes back to December of 1976.  I was a senior at Lehigh University with one semester left before earning a B.S. in Geology.  I wanted to do a Senior Research project during my final semester.  Having just completed a course in Sedimentology, Professor Bobb Carson suggested I study the heavy minerals present in beach sand.  Perhaps I could compare the composition of heavy minerals present in the tidal zone with those high in the dunes.  Perhaps aeolian sands would have a different heavy mineral content than those in the tidal zone.  Why not, I thought.  It could be fun.

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Herkimer sand

On April 1st, Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club was planning to open its 2020 field season with a visit to Ace of Diamonds in Middleville, NY.  The coronavirus has intervened with our plans and this annual rite of passage is not possible this year, but we can spend time enjoying the Herkimers we have collected on past trips.

For most folks these are small- or modest-sized crystals collected from the piles of rock the owners have hauled from their active, off-limits, mining area behind the hill.  And I certainly spend time digging and breaking large rocks in search of centimeter or inch-sized diamonds.  But, when the club visited last October, just before the site went into its annual hibernation, I did something a bit different.

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Blue Sand from California

Sand comes in virtually all colors, however, as my collection grew this past year, I was not adding much blue to my collection.  In fact, I really did not have a blue sand until a very unique and interesting sand appeared in the trade box that Bill Beiriger sent me in January.  It was inauspiciously labeled as fine, blue-gray sand from a location 12 miles east of Livermore, California.  The GPS coordinates Bill provided placed the site closer to Tracy, California and in the Diablo Mountain foothills.

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Bowling Ball Beach

Given the travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus , it is not possible to do much field planning yet this year, but that does not mean we cannot take some virtual trips.  For starters,  I found an interesting beach with some neat geology.  Bowling Ball Beach is in northern California and there are huge concretions scattered along the Pacific Ocean shoreline.  They call them bowling balls, but they look more like small moons to me.   I decided to learn more about them.

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Rain Forest Jasper

Each month at the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club Saturday club workshop our President (who doubles as our Collection Curator) brings along something from the club collection to raffle off to all who attend the workshop.  This month she arrived with a superb spread of unpolished slabs of Rain Forest Jasper, a very specific form of jasper from the Mt. Hay volcanic field in central Queensland, Australia.

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Bumpus Brook Sand

It seems many sand collections focus on ocean beaches.  This is understandable.  The settings provide gorgeous destinations and the sands can be wonderfully textured.  I like beach sands, but don’t want to short-change river sands in my collection.  Unlike beaches, where provenance is hard, or even impossible, to define, river sands offer an interesting opportunity as their provenance can be determined.  Naturally, this is not easy if your sample comes from the Mississippi River delta but consider the other extreme, a sand sample from a mountain stream.

Last July, I traversed the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire on a return trip from Maine.  Just off Route 2 north of the Presidential Range is a short, 3 mile (5 kilometers) drainage between two ridges on the steep north slope of Mt. Madison.  It is called Bumpus Brook and a small bridge along Pinkham B Road allows access.  Much of the creek’s sediment load is larger than sand size with cobbles and small boulders strewn along the flowing stream.  But, at bends on both sides of the bridge, there are sand bars that can be sampled.

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Charoite

Who likes purple minerals? It seems just about everyone likes purple minerals and there will be a few choice ones at the Wayne Country Gem and Mineral Club auction on February 14th.   Yes, the auction this year is on Valentine’s Day.  Someone is going to go home with a brilliant amethyst piece, but you will have to come to the auction to see how purple it is and whether it is from Brazil or Uruguay.  There might also be lepidolite or bismuth or fluorite or other purple goodies.

But this note is going to focus on another purple favorite.  Almost every month someone arrives at the workshop with a small slice of purple charoite.  The color captures the eye first, but the mesmerizing swirling pattern of the bands of charoite is irresistible if not a bit hypnotic.

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My Backyard Sand

About 12,000 years ago, pro-glacial Lake Iroquois occupied all of the current Lake Ontario and extended significantly south and east into New York.  The glacial ice was retreating but had not yet melted far enough north to expose the St. Lawrence Seaway, forcing the significantly larger Lake Iroquois to drain east through the Mohawk Valley and then south along the Hudson River.  All of Rochester, NY was beneath this lake.

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