My only “sand” sample of kaolinite, shown in the title box above, is gray. It is from a kaolin quarry in Gordon, Georgia and came to me courtesy of a mail trade with the Georgia Mineralogy Society. The kaolinite in central Georgia is Late Cretaceous in age (~70 million years old) and is sedimentary in origin, derived from the weathering of igneous rocks. This region across Georgia may be better known to fossil collectors seeking terrestrial mammal bones and teeth from the overlying Eocene Formations (Rhinehart, et. al. 2019).
It has now been almost a year since I started actively collecting and trading sand. I collected somewhere near 100 different sands last summer and fall during mineral trips or on day outings around western New York. And during the winter I have traded some of those for others. I think my total count exceeded 750 earlier this month when trade packages arrived from Maryland and California.
With that backdrop, imagine my surprise last January when my wife dug out three peanut butter jars from the corner of the garage labeled “Monahans Sandhills, 1995”. They were full of tan quartz-dominated sand! She had collected the quartz-rich sand when we had lived in Midland, Texas, some 50 miles to the east. She had earmarked them for our three sons and pretty much forgotten them (the sands, not our sons!).
The global pandemic has all of us re-thinking our daily lives. I had to cancel (or at best postpone) a May trip to collect sands from New England beaches. With my time at home, I chose to walk about my neighborhood. While doing this I was always alert to opportunities to collect sand. They would certainly not be as exotic as Cape Cod or the creeks in the Berkshires of western MA, but perhaps they could still be interesting.
One location I wanted to sample was in a small town park close to my home which contained a nice half-mile trail through the woods. My home sits atop glacial lake sediments (or dunes created when the glacial lake emptied). I have dug for fine sand there (Sand Times, vol 1 #1, pg. 2). The surface geology map of western NY suggests this park might be outside the lake boundaries. Might the sand there be different? Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
This winter I have been an active sand trader, acquiring sand from around the world in exchange for some I collected on our club trips last summer. I could fill a book with stories and pictures of these sands and their locations. However, for now, I have selected one location and two sands to highlight. But first, a little history and a bit of geology.
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.
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.
Did you ever wonder how many grains of sand were on a beach? Or perhaps the simpler question of how many grains of sand fit into a 20 ml collecting vial like the one in the cover photo? I imagine you probably have not, but I did.
The Wayne Country Gem and Mineral Club has moved into the sand business! Well, I guess you could say we’ve come to the realization that sand grains are minerals and since we collect minerals, well, perhaps we should collect sands. I guess I fell for the “sport” and then for the documentation part, a new newsletter. Below is the opening article introducing the newsletter and our mission. And here is a link to the full newsletter (WCGMC Sand Times Vol. 1, no. 1)
This is the inaugural issue of a newsletter published by the Sand Section of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club. In 2019, one of us, Jim Rienhardt, introduced the club to a new aspect of “mineral” collector by sharing a collection of sands and talking about the hobby. A few members took interest and decided to give the hobby a try. The other of us, Fred Haynes, fell for the challenge of collecting and understanding sands hook, line and sinker.
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).
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.