Eldredgeops vs. Phacops

My fledging knowledge of fossils grew this month when University of Rochester Fossil Technician Gerry Kloc introduced me to Eldredgeops and his book on Trilobites of New York.

For over 150 years the common Devonian trilobite of New York and other North American locations had been referred to as Phacops rana, after the description and identification of Phacops latifrons  in Europe.  The literature, museums, and individual collections carry the name.  As it turns out, this North American trilobite is not a Phacops genus, but rather an Eldredgeops. Although this has been known in the paleontology world for two decades, many specimens continue to be misnamed.

A most thorough and readable note on the distinction between the two genus can be found on the Fossil Forum website (www.fossilforum.com).  The discussion, dated June 8, 2014, is called Phacops Vs Eldredgeops and is found in the General Discussion Forum of the website.  The author is Gerry Kloc, a Rochester paleontologist who has studied trilobites extensively.  Gerry has identified numerous subtle, but definitive, differences in the cephalons between the European Phacops rana and the so called North American variety.  He concludes that the Middle Devonian New York species is actually an Eldredgeops and proposes it be given the full name Eldredgeops rana.  If you have one, it is time to update your label.

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Canada Revisited

Article I wrote for WCGMC News in Oct., 2014

Four of us (Linda Schmidtgall, Bill Chapman, Ken St. John, Fred Haynes) decided one summer trip to eastern Ontario was simply not enough and we returned for 4 days in early September.  The highlight was a return to the Miller Property in Eganville, but we managed to squeeze three other sites into the trip, including a pair of lesser known sites in the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce 2013 collecting book.

We started with a visit to the well known Beryl Pit in Quadeville.  Fred had visited with the Rochester Club in July and since that time the owners (Dave and Renee Paterson) had excavated a significant amount of material in the floor of the pegmatite quarry and piled it outside the quarry. This made for easy pickings for beryl, quartz, tourmaline (var. schorl), cleavlandite, albite, perthite, fluorite, and euxenite. We later learned that we may have taken more than our limit on that last one.  Keep reading to learn why!

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Fine, NY for skarn minerals

Article I wrote as “Site of the Month” in WCGMC News, Oct., 2014

         Fine Minerals or Minerals in Fine, NY?

This will be a short report on a small occurrence.   And, perhaps this will be even longer than it truly deserves.  But we cannot expect gem tourmaline, perfect fluorites, or complete trilobites at all our favorite haunts.

Nestled in a depression just off the intersection of Rte. 3 and Rte 58 in Fine, NY is an interesting occurrence of very coarse grained pyroxene (presumably diposide, but possibly augite) and potassium feldspar.  There is associated calcite suggesting that the mineralization may have a skarn origin, but the outcrop exposures don’t appear to permit an unequivocal geologic explanation for the very coarse grained open space filling mineralization.

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Titanite is Everywhere

Article I wrote for Oct., 2014 WCGMC News

Who knows the most significant event of 1982?   Could it be:

  • The Epcot Center opens in Orlando, Florida
  • Britian overcomes Argentina in the Falklands.
  • Chariots of Fire wins Oscar for Best Picture.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagery) makes its medical debut.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.  The most significant event in 1982 was when the International Commission on Mineral and Mineral Names (CNMMN) adopted the name titanite and discredited the mineral name sphene. Unlike those other events, the impact was immediate and worldwide. OK, maybe a few of you missed the event, but now you know.

WCGMC flirted with titanite collecting all summer.  Perhaps not as infamous as the cry “It must be an amphibole”, but “ooh, it’s another titanite” was commonly heard in the field this summer.

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Devonian Fossils of NY – A Book review

Field Guide to the Devonian Fossils of New York by Karl A. Wilson (Paleontological Research Institute, 2014):  This compact (6” by 9”) spiral bound fieldbook is a update to the1994 PRI publication by David Linsley.  After introductory sections on general Devonian stratigraphy and geology and a section of fossil collecting methods, the book systematically introduces Devonian fossils.  Sections on sponges, corals, bryozoa, brachiopods, mollusks, anthropods, trilobites, echinoderms, and more follow with diagrammatic plates offset by descriptive pages detailing the fossils.  By limiting the species to those found in New York, you are much more likely to identify your finds with this book than with a more inclusive book.  The PRI price is $18 and the book can be obtained online with a modest additional shipping charge.  Mine arrived in 3 days !

book fossil

WCGMC Picnic

Over 30 club members enjoyed an afternoon of fun together at Glenn and Eva Jane Weiler’s home in Wolcott.  Mineral collecting stories and other tall tales were swapped and many minerals had to be cleared from the tables to allow for the pot luck dinner to proceed.  Thanks to Dave Millis a number of mineral craft activities were available for those interested; wire screens were constructed, rock saws were in action, geodes were opened, and mineral raffles were held.  “Barrel” rides were available for folks of all ages.

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Lake Superior Agates – A Book Review

Some of us have been discussing a long trip to the Lake Superior region next summer, Thunder Bay amethyst, Keweenaw Peninsula copper and more, Petoskey stones, and, of course all those Lake Superior agates.  If you like agates, or want to see what we might be able to collect there, I can recommend the following book by Dan and Bob Lynch and published by Adventure Publications in 2011.  It lists for $19.95 online, but I found mine at Barnes and Noble.

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Deep Run, Lake Canandaigua

NOTE ADDED OCTOBER 4, 2017:  The property in Deep Run has changed ownership and the new owner is NOT allowing collecting or trespassing.  The fossil-rich beds described in this note can no longer be visited.    WCGMC will not schedule any more trips to Deep Run.  

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Article I wrote for “Site of the Month”, WCGMC News, Sept. 2014

Devonian Fossils at Deep Run

Most residents of western New York carry on their daily business without any knowledge that they live in a region with some of the richest and most diverse fossil collecting in the United States.  Those of us in the WCGMC are lucky to know how blessed with are with our collecting opportunities.  But do we know the series of geologic events that led to this unique opportunity?

There are other fossil-bearing stratigraphic units in New York, but here we discuss the prolific Middle Devonian Ludlowville Formation within the Hamilton Group.  About 385MY ago an inland shallow sea occupied much of western New York and both the sea and the benthic bottom literally teamed with marine life.  Corals (both rugose and tabulate), brachiopods, gastropods, crinoids, and, of course, those highly sought after trilobites thrived communally in the shallow seas behind the continental mass to the west and inboard of the Catskill Delta and Acadian Mountains to the east. 

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WCGMC Field Season

July has just ended and the field collecting season is about half over. Can you count the number of collecting trips the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club has conducted or attended so far in 2014? Hint: you will need your toes.  If you visit our webpage (wcgmc.org) and link to the calendar page you can count them. In the first seven months of 2014 (and we did not start until late March) our club has taken part in 15 digs!  We did not plan every one of them:  the Penn-Dixie Expert Dig, the Penfield Open House, and the Sterling Hills Super Dig were outside functions.

Five of these digs involved overnight stays.  Two, including the recent 5 day adventure to the self-proclaimed “Mineral collecting capital of Canada” around Bancroft, Ontario, involved camping.  We’ve been to St. Lawrence County 3 times. We’ve been to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  We’ve collected fossils in seven counties in New York and two in Pennsylvania.  We’ve explored the Precambrian in the Adirondacks and in Ontario, the Devonian and Silurian in western New York, and the Carboniferous in Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Ilion Gorge, NY

Cold Water Travertine at Ilion

Some 30 years ago, Herkimer County decided that the annual flooding and requisite road repair on Jerusalem Road (Co. Rd 16) south of Ilion was not worth the cost and effort and a one mile section of the road was permanently closed.  In the 30 years hence, the road has been washed out repeatedly and is now a mere paved path in the woods.  In fact, there is not much left of the old road (note the asphalt along the right side of the cover photo).

About half way along this section of road there is a series of springs which exit the shale that is exposed in the gully.  At this point fractures in the shale have been partially filled and coated with travertine (a form of calcite).  Varying in color from yellow to orange to various shades of brown this material has become a favorite of local collectors.  Our club has generally scheduled an annual trip to this location.  This year nine of us visited on June 24th and were not disappointed.

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Bancroft, Ontario 2014

Article I wrote for August, 2014 WCGMC News

Amphiboles, Apatites, and a Whole Lot More

Wonderful weather and a glorious suite of minerals greeted the eleven WCGMC members who spent 5 days and 4 July nights camping and collecting in the Bancroft, Ontario area.

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The group did not let moss grown under their collecting feet.  After setting up camp on Monday afternoon, it was off to the Graphite Road outcrop north of town for tremolite and biotite and our first set of mosquito bites.  As a small and readily accessible roadcut listed in the 2013 Bancroft Chamber of Commerce collecting site book, this site is heavily visited, but we still found it worthy of an hour or two of dedicated digging and collecting and quite a few pounds of tremolite and biotite went back to the campsite for cleaning and packing.  Back at the campsite we enjoyed Eva Jane’s chicken casserole and dreamed of the huge apatites and titanites to come.

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NY State Mineral?

Most of you likely know that the Eurypterid (a Silurian-age sea scorpion) holds official status as the state fossil of New York.  But did you know that our esteemed government bodies in Albany are busy working on the monumental task of assigning an official state mineral?  Bet it will not take you much time to decide what mineral they are considering.

Yes, on April 28th,  2014 the New York State Senate passed legislation that could officially assign the “Herkimer diamond” as the official state mineral.   The legislation was sponsored by Senator James Seward of Oneonta, who proclaimed that doubly terminated clear Herkimer diamonds were “formed almost 500 million years ago and deserve to be properly recognized across New York.”  Senator Butler’s website goes on to say that Herkimer diamonds are “known around the world as some of the clearest quartz mineral specimens found to date.”

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #2)

Article I wrote for the June-July, 2014 WCGMC News

SELLECK ROAD, POWERS FARM

On June 21-22, the WCGMC returned to St. Lawrence County for more mineral fun.   Green growth now obscured the rocks a bit and mosquitoes and black flies greeted the 19 club members who arrived at Selleck Road in Pierrepont on Saturday morning.   The two day trip would also include the Powers Farm and two sites where Pierrepont ZCA zinc ore has been stockpiled for road use (or perhaps for collectors?).

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #1)

Article I wrote for Jun-July WCGMC News

BENSON MINES,   ROSE ROAD

Twenty-three WCGMC members converged on Star Lake, NY on the morning of Saturday May 31st for a visit to Benson Mines.  We found lots of sillimanite, some fresh, some altered a pretty light green, lots and lots of magnetite including small crystalline surfaces along with massive ore, and huge muscovite books.  Jerry Curcio explored ahead a bit at the north end of the property and found an orange calcite boulder that contained large green crystals that appeared to be sillimanite.    We later confirmed that identification with Marian Lupulescu.  For more on Benson Mines see his paper in the Rocks and Minerals February, 2014 issue or go back to our Feb. 2014 newsletter where it was highlighted as the Site of the Month.

benson sillimaniteGreen sillimanite offset in orange feldspar, a very pretty combination. 

In mid-afternoon it was on to Fine, NY for a quick stop at the skarn outcrop just off the parking area at the intersection of highways 3 and Highway 58.  Steve Chamberlain has proclaimed the coarse grained pyroxene (diopside?) and feldspars from this location to be “aesthetically challenged”, but that did not prevent us from scavenging a few for our gardens or collections.  Etched and dull, these large dark green pyroxenes and their long and varied cleavage surfaces may not end up in too many mineral display cases, but they can look nice in a garden or on a patio wall.

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Spring Creek in Alden, NY

June, 2016 update on Land Ownership:  

WCGMC has been informed by the new owner of the property off Route 20 in Alden that the Spring Creek area where we have enjoyed collecting pyritized fossils for a long time is now off limits to collecting. The new owner has informed us that in the future he will treat “fossil collectors as trespassers”.  Given the new owner’s wishes, as of June, 2016 WCGMC is not planning any future trips to this area and the site should be considered closed to collecting. 

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Minerals and Fossils Together

Many of us have a special passion for collecting aesthetic and/or unusual minerals, while others prefer the varied forms and diverse variety offered by the early-mid Paleozoic fossil collecting that can be done in western New York.  There is one site that can please both groups of collectors.   Along Spring Creek in Alden, NY, the rich and diverse Devonian fossil assemblage we have all come to know and love is locally fully pyritized. Opening the fissile shale surface not only reveals a 380 MY old fossil, but a shiny mineral specimen as well.  The prize is a pyritized fossil.  Cephalopods, brachiopods, and ammonites are the most common, but two species of trilobites have also been found completely replaced by the iron sulfide mineral pyrite.

Just north of US Route 20 as it passes through the small town of Alden, NY, Spring Creek has carved itself deeply into the Middle Devonian Ledyard Shale Member of the Ludlowville Formation.  Known for decades, the site is readily available to all with two legs, a hammer, a backpack (or even large pockets), and the willingness to perhaps get a little wet and mostly certainly muddy.  A short hike along well beaten trails leads to the creek which can be accessed at several sites.  Fourteen of us can be seen at one of those sites in the cover photo above.

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Ontario for Minerals

A small, but hardy group of five Rochester Academy of Science mineral enthusiasts spent their Memorial Day weekend collecting minerals and mosquito bites in the Bancroft District of Ontario, the self-proclaimed mineral capital of Canada.  Dick and Jeanne Phillips, Mario and Debbie Errico, and me made the 5 hour trip around Lake Ontario to Wilberforce and Bancroft for a whirlwind 3 days of rockhounding in the famous district.  Dick led the group to 8 separate sites, including a night dig with black lights at the CN rock pile right in Bancroft.

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Newark Library Display

The Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club displayed some New York mineral and fossils that its members had collected in the Newark Library in May.  Included were specimens from 21 sites, a location map showing the sites, and a bit of geology about a number of them.  The display was moved to GemFest 2014 in early June.

Rochester Mineralogical Symposium (RMS)

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.

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