It was July 20, 1969. I was 14 years old and visiting/camping at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho with my parents. When we entered the Visitor’s Center a crowd was gathered around a small black and white television set that had been set up on top of the ranger’s desk. The exhibit area across the hall was virtually empty. Everyone was watching two Americans (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin) conducting experiments and picking up rocks on the moon. The image was blurry on the 14” screen and I was too far away to see much of it, but my thoughts from the day remain intact as the 50th anniversary of that day approaches.
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.
Have you ever heard of flint knapping? Do you know there is an active group of flint knappers in western New York and they hold their annual Stone Tool Craftsman Show every August? In 2018, the event is August 24-26 in Letchworth State Park, itself a geological wonder worth visiting. For three days members of the Genesee Valley Flint Knappers Association display their wares and share advice on knapping at the Highbanks Recreation Area in the park.
Visitors to the Stone Tool Craftsman Show can see flint knapping demonstrations and learn about a variety of other skills that helped prehistoric cultures survive. In addition to learning about the making of arrowheads, spears, and stone knives, the group holds several athletic competitions involving stone throwing weapons.
Rock hounds are always looking for new places to dig. Sometimes it is hard to find them. But we could tinker with that theme a bit and start “looking for new things in old places”. There is a museum in Chichibu, Japan, two hours from Tokyo that houses over 1700 rocks, all of which resemble human faces. They call the museum Chinsekikan (which means museum of curious rocks). Apparently, the owners have been accumulating the odd collection for over 50 years with the lone requirement that Mother Nature was the only artist (Strategy, 2016).
This summer was active and fun, but I found two events particularly encouraging this summer, in that they involved youngsters. In one case, an extremely motivated group of young fossil collectors, and in the second case, a surprisingly large number of youngsters on a night hunt for fluorescent material.
This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium at the Rochester Radisson Motel and Conference Center. It was the 41st annual such event, but it was my first! What a fine way to welcome spring weather and add encouragement and motivation for an active collecting season. Imagine well over 200 mineral enthusiasts converging for three days to share mineral stories, discuss technical learnings, sell/buy minerals, and otherwise just enjoy the company of others in the hobby.