Fred Haynes Retired, collecting minerals and stamps, growing flowers and vegetables, and when the spirit moves, toying with technology Sun, 01 Jan 2023 16:01:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Sea of Garnet Sand Thu, 11 Mar 2021 23:28:34 +0000 Continue reading A Sea of Garnet Sand ]]> In early 2020, I was comfortably sitting in my man cave planning a September trip to collect beach sands along the coastline of southern New England.  While cruising along the shoreline using Google Maps satellite images I spotted a bright red patch of beach near Madison, Connecticut.  Zooming in, there seemed no doubt.  The beach sand there is red.  Could the dominant mineral in that patch of beach be garnet?  If it is, this could be a highlight stop along the trip.

Google Satellite image of the Connecticut shoreline: The yellow arrows point to the red section of the beach “discovered” on Google imagery. Is this all garnet? The red circle on the second photo is where I acquired my sample.

I ended up collecting 45 new sand samples on that one-week trip.  Some were from inland locations along rivers, but most were coastal beach locations in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.  All of the samples I obtained have found a fond place in my sand collection, but the red sand from along the north shore of Long Island Sound in Madison, Connecticut was a highlight of the trip.  Indeed, it was garnet.

So where did all this garnet come from?  Well, for starters, garnet is the state mineral of Connecticut.  Much of the bedrock in the state, in fact, much of New England, consists of medium- and high-grade metamorphic rocks produced by three separate mountain building events (orogenies) during the Paleozoic Era.  Volcanic arcs (like modern-day Japan) and the sedimentary rocks in adjacent basins were plastered against the existing North American continent and accreted to it.

During each orogeny, sedimentary rocks (dominated by shale) were buried deeply, intruded by magmas, and overlain by volcanic lava flows.  Mountain ranges were formed and the buried rocks underwent metamorphism.  Many were converted to mica-rich schists. With plenty of iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), and aluminum (Al) to go with the ubiquitous presence of silica (Si), garnets were a common product of this regional metamorphism.

After hundreds of millions of years of erosion these once-buried rocks are now exposed and those garnets are being released into streams and rivers and carried to the sea.  Garnets are hard, so they survive the relentless forces of weathering.  They are also denser than the most common hard mineral in beach sand, quartz.  It is this property that permits them to be concentrated on beaches such as Madison.

Onshore wave action is strong and relentless and carries all sand grains onto the beach.  The retreating water has less energy and carries the lighter quartz grains back towards the ocean.  Repeated tidal action, assisted by coastal morphology and longshore currents allows for the denser mineral grains like garnet, and often magnetite, to accumulate in the swash zone left behind as each tide retreats.

Of course, deposits left behind during a normal tidal sequence are moved by the next tidal advance and heavy mineral layers are not typically preserved.  But storms generate higher tides and heavier grains can accumulate in protected regions above the normal tide level.  Such must be the case along this section of beach in Madison.

Madison beach, as observed from Seaview Ave., was as red as it appeared on Google Maps. This picture was taken in the direction of the orange arrow on the satellite photo.
And it was still red when I walked out to observe it directly. I found myself kneeling in a literal sea of garnet sand when I reached the site near the red dot in the satellite image on the preceding page.

Once home it was time to look closely at my newly acquired garnet sand.  There appear to be two different garnets in the sand.  I have not submitted them for chemical analysis, but I suspect that the pinker grains that dominate the sand are almandine, (Fe3Al2Si8O22), which is the most abundant garnet mineral in the metamorphic terrain in southern New England.  The darker grains may tend towards pyrope (Mg3Al2Si8O22).  Almandine and pyrope form a solid solution series and many of the grains may contain both Fe and Mg in the dodecahedral cation site in the garnet lattice.

Some of the other dark grains in this sand are magnetite, but not all of them.  Pyroxene and amphiboles and even tourmaline may be present.  There should also be staurolite in these sands, another hard, dense metamorphic mineral found in the New England schists.  Perhaps the yellowish honey-colored grains are staurolite?  There is no response to long-wave UV fluorescence, but that, by itself, does not exclude zircon.

Garnet-rich sand from Madison, CT.     FOV is about 6 mm across.                 Photo by Leo Kenney

The tidal action had not only concentrated garnet, but had also generated a remarkably well-sorted, medium-grained sand with well-rounded grains.  When 50ml of the sand was submitted to grain size analysis via sieving, 77% of the grains accumulated in the medium-grained sieve (grains between 0.25mm and 0.5mm in diameter).  The second-largest component was fine-grained sand (16.4%).  There was virtually no silt and the minor course sand grains were mostly quartz.

This article was published in the 2021 Summer/Fall Issue of the Sand Paper, the newsletter of the International Sand Collectors Society (ISCS).

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Sand from a Swamp Mon, 28 Dec 2020 01:18:36 +0000 Continue reading Sand from a Swamp ]]> In September, I met Leo Kenney at Plum Island in Massachusetts and later at his home northwest of Boston.  And yes, we traded sands.  One that I came home with intrigued me.  It was labeled Floyd’s Island, Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia.  From all appearances, it was fine-medium-grained quartz-rich sand, much like one you might find on an ocean beach.  But this one was from a swamp.  I needed to know more.

First, I asked Leo how he came upon the sample and what he could tell me.  It is nice to know not only the geology of samples, but a bit of human history of their collection.  Leo responded with this:

“I had visited the Okefenokee each April for about 15 years in the 70s and 80s. Always with other people as we greeted spring in the southland, looked for herps, and enjoyed nature.  I’ve been to Floyd’s Island many times.  The island is best reached by watercraft from Francis Marion State Park at the southern end of the swamp.  After a 20-year lapse a couple of people that were on the earlier trips as college-agers took me back in 2006 to reunite with the swamp.  By 2006, I was in my second year of sand collecting but had no idea what  I  was doing with sand except I wanted to take pictures of it.  The Okefenokee sand is a basic fine-grained white quartz.

 I actually collected two samples from Floyd’s Island. One I dug from below the surface duff and vegetation. The other I took from the water.  They are very similar.  You have the sample that was recovered from below the water at the edge of the island.  It is nice to see that my collecting has generated some interest. ”

Okefenokee Swamp: not exactly the ideal location for obtaining a quartz sand sample? Photo by Leo Kenney

This was a perfect start, but now I just had to know.  How did all that quartz sand end up being in islands in one of the largest inland fresh-water swamps in the southeastern United States?  The Okefenokee swamp is known for large accumulations of peat and cypress tree forests, and as Leo has told me, for its native reptiles. It is not, however, known for quartz sand.

I started with Google Maps.  Indeed, Floyd’s Island is smack in the middle of the Okenfenokee National Wildlife Refuge.  The coordinates Leo had provided plotted on the western margin of the island (see figure to the right).  The satellite image of the island even shows the white sand substrate between the small trees on the island.  But why is it now in a swamp setting and how did they get there?

A bit more surfing on the internet and I found what I was looking for: a comprehensive paper on the geology of the swamp.  Davis (1996) mapped the arcuate sand bodies (now islands within the Okefenokee Refuge) and determined they were paleo-river bars or levees within an abandoned river channel.  Back during the Pliocene Epoch (5 to 2 million years ago, the Suwanee River flowed east through the region and large crescent sand bodies formed as part of a large delta system.  The river system migrated across the delta and new bars were established.  Floyd’s island seems to be the northern-most such sand body currently exposed.

Sometime less than 1 million years ago, but longer than 400,000 years ago, a large coastal dune system was built along the eastern Atlantic coast.  Located about 25 miles inland and now called Trail Ridge,  this ridge blocked the Suwanee River from exiting to the Atlantic Ocean.  The river diverted and now winds southwest into the Gulf of Mexico.  With this change, the region just west of Trail Ridge was stranded and evolved into the Okefenokee swamp.  As sea level fell during a series of glacial advances the sand bars of the ancient river became islands in a freshwater swamp.

The geometry of paleo river bars within the northern half of Okenfenokee Swamp. Note the location of Floyd’s Island in the center of the swamp. To the east, Trail Ridge caused the river channel to be abandoned and stranded the sand bodies in a developing swamp.                                                                                                                                                      Modified from Davis, 1996, Figure 10.
Floyd’s island is a bit more than 1 mile long.   Both Imagines are from Google Earth.

Of course, I also wanted to look at the sand in a bit of detail.  Leo Kenney has helped again providing me an excellent photograph.

Sand from Floyd’s Island, Okefenokee Swamp, southeast Georgia. The sand is fine-grained and well-sorted. There are subangular grains, but most appear sub-rounded. A few grains are frosted, but most are clear. The few black grains are not magnetic.

It is worth noting that elsewhere in the southeast Pliocene and Pleistocene sand units contain lenses with sufficient heavy mineral concentrations to be economically mined.  Rutile, ilmenite, zircon, staurolite, leucoxene, and other heavy minerals can be recovered from selective sand units.  Several of these mines are located within the sand horizons that make up Trail Ridge.  However, my sand sample from Floyd’s Island is practically devoid of these minerals and the satellite image on the preceding page suggests that the processes concentrating heavy minerals in the ridge may not have occurred in the river deltas.

Most people who visit Okefenokee Swamp do so to enjoy the scenic beauty of the nation’s largest “blackwater” river/swamp1, and perhaps look for birds and reptiles.  I’ll do that if I manage to work a trip to the region into my future plans, but I will also want to check out some of the swamp sand.  Perhaps it will all look like this sample from Floyd’s island, or perhaps some will contain heavy minerals that I can isolate and try to identify.


Davis, J.D., 1996. Evidence for Plio-Pleistocene polygenetic development of Okefenokee arcuate ridges, Southeastern Geology, v.36, no. 2, p. 47-64.

1 Blackwater rivers are slow-moving rivers characterized by swamp-like conditions and acidic waters.  They have distinct flora and fauna from typical fluvial systems.




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Peanut Wood Tue, 22 Dec 2020 02:10:16 +0000 Continue reading Peanut Wood ]]> The polished slabs that were raffled at the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club October workshop are called peanut wood, but they actually have nothing to do with peanuts.  Yes, they are petrified wood, so that part is correct, but the white-cream ovoid-shaped markings inside the wood have a rather unique origin. 

Peanut wood from Western Australia

The wood is generally from conifer trees that were carried by rivers into a shallow near-continental sea off of western Australia some 100-120 million years ago, arriving there as larger pieces of driftwood.  Nothing particularly unusual yet, but then things got interesting.  At that time, there was a marine clam in the Australian marine waters that liked to eat wood.  The clam larva would attach themselves to the driftwood and start munching.  As the clams grew they developed sharp valves that they could used to shave off shale pieces of wood, eventually excavating chambers inside the wood that, you guessed it, are shaped like peanuts.

But a water-saturated log with holes isn’t enough to generate an attractive hard rock like peanut wood.  A second biologically-driven event is needed.  Radiolarians are tiny planktonic organisms that secrete a siliceous shell.  These protozoan organisms were living in the seawater above the decaying logs.  In addition to delivering the logs to the delta region, the rivers delivered a constant supply of the nutrients that radiolarians require.  A perfect storm, you might say, for creating peanut wood. When the tiny protozoans died their siliceous shells accumulated as a white sediment known as radiolarian ooze.  Some of this entered the holes in the wood, filling them with a siliceous paste on the seafloor.

The final step towards generating the attractive lapidary stone is to bury the logs and convert them into petrified wood.  The presence of all the silica provided by the radiolaria helped to stabilize chalcedony and enable silicification of the remaining wood.  Uplift since the Cretaceous has brought the Cretaceous rocks hosting the petrified wood to the surface in the Kennedy Mts., which are now 100 miles inland in Western Australia.

There are modern equivalents to those Cretaceous wood-eating clams. They are universally hated by ship-builders as they will eat and destroy any wood that man places in sea water. They are often called shipworms as the long and slender body protected by the razor-sharp shell is worm-shaped.
In the Phillippines, modern shipworms are called tamilok and they are eaten as a delicacy, often raw and marinated in vinegar or lime juice.


King, H.M., Peanut Wood,

various Wikipedia sites:  Radiolarian, Tamilok, shipworms



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Ontario Center Paint Mill Fri, 20 Nov 2020 00:39:53 +0000 Continue reading Ontario Center Paint Mill ]]> I had driven by the sign in the title box dozens of times and often wondered what might be behind the cattails and railroad tracks in Ontario Center.  Motivated by the visit to the old Wolcott furnace last month and by the possibility of obtaining a hematite “sand” sample I decided to stop on my next excursion that took me through western Wayne County on Route 104. 

There is actually not much left to see.  Fighting through some briars the chimney stack from the factory can be reached and a few small piles of unprocessed hematite iron ore lay around the solitary chimney.  On the west side of the red brick structure, a protective window hides some ground hematite that apparently escaped being processed into paint.

Paint mill in Wayne County, New York: Across the railroad tracks north of Route 104 between Slocum Road and Ontario Center Road this chimney stack is all remains from a paint mill that operated for over three decades in the early part of the 20th century.

The C.K. Williams Company opened the mill in 1913.  Hematite ore was brought here from nearby locations such as the water-filled quarries that are now part of Casey Park.  Once at the plant, it was crushed, bagged, and sold as pigment by the sackful.  The ground hematite could be mixed with linseed oil to produce a very durable paint.  A bit of skim milk was often added as casein, an insoluble colloidal protein in milk, was discovered to be a quality bonding agent for the paint mixture (Shilling, 2002).

Barrels of the paint were sold to farmers who found the paint affordable and easy to use.  Apparently, the paint resisted weathering better than other products available at the time and only one coat was required. It is not known how many Wayne County and surrounding area barns were painted with hematite red barn paint from this mill before it closed in 1948.

Collecting a small bit certainly permits one to understand why it works well in the production of red barn paint.  It is really really red and a small amount sure goes a long way to “painting” everything it touches.  When I got home it took more than the 20 recommended seconds to remove the red pigment from my hands.  The wash water from my clothes turned brick red almost instantly.

My sandwich bag sample of ground hematite. I used my silver scoop to collect it and painted it red while doing so. Technically this is not “sand”. It is clay or perhaps more accurately rock flour. But it is a very colorful addition to my collection and it comes from right here in Wayne County and with a unique and interesting history.


Schilling, D.A., 2002, The Great Iron Ore Odyssey, in The Crooked Lake Review, Summer, 2002



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Garnets in the Salmon River Wed, 07 Oct 2020 03:26:15 +0000 Continue reading Garnets in the Salmon River ]]> Article from November 2020 Wayne County Gem  and Mineral Club Newsletter

While Linda Schmidtgall liked the garnets weathering from a schist roadcut in Tolland, I believe I have had more fun playing with the garnet-bearing sand recovered from below the Comstock Covered Bridge in East Hampton, CT.   Both make great sand samples and both sourced their garnets from the Devonian Littleton schist, a mica- and garnet-rich metamorphic rock formed during the Acadian orogeny (mountain-building event) ~375-325 million years ago.  The Acadian event was the third of four orogenies along eastern North America that collectively created the Appalachian Mountains and surrounding terrains.

Here I am in my official WCGMC uniform digging out garnet-rich sand with a soup spoon from behind the larger rocks along the Salmon River. Can you see the spoonful of garnet-rich sand I am holding?

The material trapped between, behind, and under the larger rocks in the preceding picture is a very poorly sorted sand-gravel mixture with little to no silt or clay fraction.  The red garnets are easily visible in just about every spoonful of coarse sand scooped from these sediment traps.

Once home I decided to separate the poorly sorted sediment into five size fractions.  I wanted to see which fraction might have the most garnet.  Turns out the very coarse and coarse sand fractions were the winners.  There was only an occasional grain in the gravel component.  Interestingly, the garnet grains become progressively pinker as the grain size decreases.  Can you see the pink, almost transparent grains, in the fine sand to the far right?  I suspect this is merely an optical property.  From everything I can read the garnets in the Littleton schist are all almandine (Fe-Al) with less than 20% pyrope (Mg) component.

Five size samples from sand collected in the Salmon River in East Hampton, CT. The upper vials contain 20ml of each size fraction. The fine gravel is a macro photograph. The other four sand fractions are digital microphotographs presented at the same scale.

By the way, there are also staurolite grains (some with crystal faces) in the Salmon River sands.  They are not as common and harder to spot and identify than the garnet, but they are there.  Perhaps that can be the focus of another article.


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Utah sunstone Tue, 22 Sep 2020 03:03:12 +0000 Continue reading Utah sunstone ]]> This month I was working with “sand” that was actually too large to be technically called sand.   Rather the grains were granules, the finest size fraction of gravel.   I had obtained 200ml samples of four different gravels from Ed Tindell, a Texas collector, trading him gravels from northeast locations I had visited.   One of my new samples was from Sunstone Knoll in Millard County, Utah.  The gravel had accumulated in the alluvium shed from adjacent Sunstone Knoll.  Ed had size-sieved a large sample and the material he sent me was from the 1/16” to 1/8” (1.7-3.2mm) size range, bridging the upper limit of sand, but mostly fine gravel or granules (see chart at the end of the article).

There are three primary materials in the gravel.  The largest amount (over 60%) is andesite.  The volcanic vent that formed the small knoll erupted 1.6 million years ago leaving a vent of andesitic to basaltic lava which is gradually eroding.   Two other grains are present in appreciable amounts, a lighter colored grain that is altered breccia and a brilliant transparent grain, which is the sunstone for which the location is named.

Fine gravel (granules) from Sunstone Knoll in Utah

The sunstone grains are highly reflective and glitter under sunlight or bright light.  The clear, pale yellow mineral is labradorite (a calcium-rich form of plagioclase) that forms in cavities in the lava.  Larger pieces can be obtained by splitting open the andesite (a bit like Herkimer hunting I guess).  However, the flats surrounding Sunstone Knoll are littered with small glittering grains that have been eroded from the central feature.  The granules Ed sent me contain about 15% labradorite (sunstone).  As the individual grains get smaller they appear clearer with less yellow color, but the clear grains sure sparkle under any form of light.

2-3mm grains of sunstone: picture taken under subdued sunlight

Ed Tindell administers a Facebook page called “Gravel Sorting Adventures”.  He likes to sort large amounts of gravel from locations with diverse mineral and rock types, separate the grains, and then count/weigh the individual components.  Of course, this gets harder as the size fraction you select gets smaller.  It seems gravel is more amenable to this hobby than sand.  Right now I think I prefer to leave the sand or gravel I sample intact, but the idea does have some appeal.

Ed’s sorting tray: A large tray with lots of divisions, tweezers, perhaps a magnifying glass, a whole lot of patience (and time), and some knowledge of the grains you are sorting are all that is needed to get started. It helps to have a sample with lots of interesting grains, granules, or pebbles.                                                              picture is from Ed Tindell’s FB Group page


Introduction to Geology, Chapter 9 – Sedimentary Rocks and Processes, a free online textbook of geology

Tindell, E., 2019, Frozen Beer, select Gravel Sorting_Rev8.ppt from the this list on Gravel Sorting Adventures

Wentworth, C. K., 1922, A Scale of Grade and Class Terms for Clastic Sediments, The Journal of Geology, volume 30, no. 5, p. 377-392.

Wilkerson, C. M., The Rockhounder:  Sunstones at Sunstone Knoll, Millard County

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A Lecture Review: Ancient Rivers Tue, 08 Sep 2020 03:38:09 +0000 Continue reading A Lecture Review: Ancient Rivers ]]> I have featured book reviews multiple times on my blog, and even had one music review.  Given the unusual circumstances of a stay at home pandemic, it only seems reasonable to offer a Lecture Review.  I stumbled on this one circuitously through a Facebook Group of which I am a member,

Nick Zenter is a Professor of Geology at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA.  He has produced a number of online lectures, both for his students and for the general public and it seems many of them are readily available to all who wish to learn a bit of geology.  I’ve watched a couple so far and will likely watch more.

The lecture I am choosing to feature is one on the river systems of the northwest, notably the Columbia, Snake, Salmon, and Yakima Rivers.  The picture at the top is a link to the lecture, or try:

The story Professor Zenter tells, and then supports with data, describes the forces of tectonics, basalt lava flows and eventually glaciation on the location of these 4 rivers over the past 20 million years.  But the real reason I am featuring this lecture and potentially his other presentations, is Nick’s unique style.

Nick Zenter clearly enjoys geology and teaching and he is very good at both.  His passion is contagious as you watch him mix the technologies of the past (a good old fashioned chalkboard) with the modern technology of today.  He combines simplicity in concept with scientific rigor as he enthusiastically engages his audience.  The river rocks which help tell his story are called spuds (well, some are sourced in Idaho) and you almost feel that you are in the room with him as he narrates his story.  You will learn how water gaps and wind gaps and basalt-filled valleys help unravel the last 20 million years of an active geologic past in the northwest.

Towards the end of the presentation, you will see short vignettes of Nick in the field as he further explains the evidence for the significant changes in the paths of rivers.  In the photograph just below and on the right, Nick is literally in the Yakima River holding up the dark colored rocks that tell us where the river is sourced.  On the left, he is standing 1000’ above the current Columbia River holding up quartzite “yellow spuds”, sourced in extreme northern Idaho.  The location high above the current river tells us where the river once flowed before tectonic uplift forced it elsewhere.

Apparently, I am not the only one who enjoyed Nick’s lectures.  In 2015 Nick received the prestigious James Shea Award, a national award recognizing exceptional delivery of Earth Science to the general public.  He claims to be on a crusade to bring the drama of Northwest geology to life for everyone – not just the academics and die-hard rock hounds.

The people of central Washington are fortunate to have him around and the rest of us can watch from afar.  If you have an hour and want to learn about the recent geologic history (last 20 million years) of the northwest, I think you will find the experience both entertaining and educational.

 You can find all of Nick’s online offerings at his webpage:  Some are hour-long lectures like the one I review here, but others as short as 5 minutes are listed on his site.  Both of the lectures I have watched and enjoyed are in the “Downtown Geology Lecture Series”.

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A Tribute to Marion Wheaton Sun, 06 Sep 2020 03:17:59 +0000 Continue reading A Tribute to Marion Wheaton ]]>

Marion Wheaton, WCGMC co-founder along with her late husband Jim, passed away last month at the age of 89.  She is survived by her daughters Nancy and Diane, her sister Barbara, her brother Paul, many nieces and nephews, and by a host of WCGMC rockhound friends.

In addition to being a co-founder of our club, Marion served as Editor of this newsletter for many years.  Marion and Jim volunteered many hours displaying and educating young and old all around Wayne County and beyond with their mineral collection and Mastodon bones.  Her daughter Diane tells us that Marion was buried with a Herkimer diamond, her Wayne County Gem & Mineral Club pin, and a beautiful pink rhodochrosite brooch necklace she always wore. 

Her full obituary can be read here.

As a tribute to Marion, I am inserting into my blog an article Marion helped write for the July, 2008 WCGMC newsletter.  It is the story of the Pirrello Mastodon discovery that led to the formation of the Wayne County Gem, and Mineral Club.  Pat Chapman helped Marion chronicle the events of 1973 that directly led to the creation of our club a year later.  

In the spring of 1973, George Fisk of Marion, NY was cleaning a drainage ditch on the celery farm of John Pirrello in the Town of Arcadia, Wayne County, just a few miles north of Newark, NY.  He noted the large bones as he dug, but thought them possibly to be from a very large horse.  He did not reveal his find to anyone until the last week of August 1973 when he was refueling.  My husband Jim was also refueling his tanks.  They both worked for Claude J. Nevlezer, Inc., and George agreed to show Jim the bones.

Jim told George that the bones must be from a huge animal many years ago and that he could take them to the Lakeshore Gem Club meeting as John Lenhard of Hannibal, NY could identify them for George.  George took Jim to the spot where he had seen the bones in April 1973.  They found many bones on the ground and picked them up.  Jim took the bones to the Gem Club meeting and John Lenhard identified them as from a MASTODON.

George was NOT interested in the bone find, so the following evening, Sept. 10th, Jim and I went to see John Pirrello, the landowner, to tell him what the bones were.  Jim asked permission to dig for more bones.  Mr. Pirrello told him to go ahead and he could have whatever bones he found.  Jim and I and our daughter Diane went to the site on Sept. 11th taking a photographer, Les Buell, of East Williamson, NY with them.  Les is a member of the Wayne County Historical Society.  He had previously viewed the bones at the Wheaton home.  He phoned Marjory Allen, county historian at the Wayne County Museum in Lyons, NY to tell her about the find.  She asked if he would take photos of “an actual Mastodon dig in Wayne County” as it would be a first-ever done. He took many photos.

Jim Wheaton found 12 rib bones, [one being the largest rib found at that time of a Mastodon].  He also found a huge rear ankle bone and toe bones that State Scientists [who were brought to the site to do excavating] first thought were from a Mammoth. When  Mr.  Pirrello phoned the  NY  State  Museum about the bones Jim was asked to stop digging, as the state has its own way to dig bones.  When Dr. Edgar Reilly, Zoologist from the State Museum came to view the bones found by the Wheatons, he noted how large they were and so well preserved.  Immediately a major dig for more bones and soil testing was planned. A zoologist, biologist, archaeologist, paleontologist, and workers came from the State Museum.  October 2nd to 4th soil samples were taken. Carbon-14 tests were done afterward on the bones and soil.  A coring preparer was brought in for soil samples.

A bulldozer from NYS DOT was brought in to take off the upper layer of muck. It became mired in the marl [limy clay] layer. On Oct.23rd, 1973 with the bones exposed, scientists came to work for two weeks on a major dig.  Four cervical neck bones were found nested together, 4 ribs & fragments of others, a thoracic spine vertebrae, and fragments of others.  I went to the site every day to watch.  On Oct. 27th, several days of rain commenced and the dig ended.

Reilly revealed details on the Pirrello Mastodon. Carbon-14 tests told that the mastodon died 10,340 years ago, plus or minus 170 years, in the year 8,390 B.C.  He was equivalent in age to a man in his late 40’s. and was probably 10 ½ feet to 11 feet tall.  One left rib was broken, possibly fighting with others in the herd.  He likely suffered severe pain before his death.  Maybe a “loner” who had left the herd?  Perhaps in the spring he fell thru the ice of glacial Lake Dawson & drowned.  Dr. Reilly said other bones not found may have drifted in the area.

A few of the Pirrello Mastodon bones on display at the Syracuse Gem Show in July of 1974: the bones were later on display at the NYSM in Albany, where they reside today. (Photo by Marion Wheaton)


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Collecting a River Thu, 27 Aug 2020 22:18:50 +0000 Continue reading Collecting a River ]]> The Genesee River ends in my hometown of Rochester, New York completing a 160-mile journey from Potter County, PA.   During its course,  the river falls some 2250’.  Several notable waterfalls mark its journey north.

If you read my blog, you might know that I have become an arenophile, or more simply, a sand collector.  In that endeavor, I have started to collect sand along the path of the Genesee River as it crosses across mostly rural farmlands and suburban communities.  Rochester is the only major city graced by its presence.  The surficial geology is mostly glacial deposits (moraines, outwash, etc.) of highly variable composition, but the river also cuts into Paleozoic sedimentary rock below that is Pennsylvanian to Ordovician in age, a rock record of about 140 million years.   The major waterfalls mark resistant limestone and dolostone units; intervening shale units less resistant to erosion generate gentler topography.

The northern half of the Genesee River is in western New York. On the right is fine-grained quartz-rich sand from near Portageville, NY, the southern of the two red dots on the map to the left. The field of view is 4mm from top to bottom.

I started my collecting this August with two samples near Portageville, NY, or about the middle of the river’s journey (red markers on the map).  The southern of the two samples was fine sand resting in depressions on Upper Devonian bedrock exposed along the river’s edge.  This sand was fine-grained and well-sorted.  It was dominated by quartz, but there were several small garnets as well.

The second sample was less than 2 miles downstream, but below all three major waterfalls within Letchworth State Park, or 380’ lower relative to sea level.  This sand, from a large sand bar alongside a major bend in the river, was coarser than the stranded sand above the falls and clearly reflected the varied source rock within the river’s drainage area.  There was lots of quartz, but also dolostone fragments and some mafic mineral grains.  There were even a few garnet grains that must have been sourced from glacial deposits the river had eroded.

Site of second sand sample: looking downstream (north) along the Genesee River.
Sand from the second site is medium-grained. Some quartz grains are subrounded, others are more angular. A few appear to be frosted. There is a significant variety of other minerals present also. Note the pink transparent garnet grain in the upper center. Some, but not all, of the black opaque grains are magnetite. The field of view is about 5mm across.

When time permits I hope to visit the headwaters of the Genesee River in Pennsylvania and other locations along its course.  The river has also changed course over its history, most notably near Rochester and in response to the retreating glaciers some 10,000 years ago.  This provides additional sand sampling opportunities.  But that is a story for another day.

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Arenophilately Fri, 14 Aug 2020 02:49:48 +0000 Continue reading Arenophilately ]]> I wrote this article for the Spring 2020 issue of Philagems, the newsletter of an International Group of stamp collectors with an interest in “Gems. Minerals, and Jewelry on Stamps.”  

I have a confession to make.  I have become an arenophile.  Fortunately, in many places it is not illegal (unless trespassing while doing it), and it should not be harmful to my health.  I would say it is generally not contagious, but I did catch it a year ago when introduced to the hobby at a local rock club meeting.  I did not realize I was hooked until the summer of 2019.  While collecting minerals on trips in Maine and Michigan, I kept my eyes open for sands to collect and proceeded to fill quart freezer bags at a few dozen locations along lakes, rivers, and 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).

But this is a philatelic newsletter, what does this have to do with stamps, and more specifically minerals on stamps?  Well, sand is nothing more than a pile of mineral grains, and there are certainly many worldwide postage stamps depicting sand.  The most popular thematic stamps depicting sand are, of course, beaches, like several of those depicted in the header.  But there are also river sands, land sand, and wind-blown sand dunes such as those on this South-West Africa (now Namibia) stamp, also in the header.  Why not collect and display sands from various beaches next to stamps showing these beaches?  And why not call it arenophilately?  Would this not be a reasonable offshoot of a group specializing in minerals on stamps?  There are actually some very unique and beautiful minerals hidden in the sands of the world. 

How about this for starters?  I recently acquired sand from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, specifically from the beach in front of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  This beach and the famous lighthouse were featured on a 1972 set of four 2 cent United States stamps.

The sand is a typical fine-grained quartz-rich Atlantic Ocean sand.  The grains are sub-rounded and the sand is well sorted.  But if you look carefully, you can see a garnet grain (yellow arrow in the lower-left).  Some of the quartz is very clear while other grains are iron-stained.  Incidentally, the same Cape Hatteras lighthouse was featured in the US lighthouse stamp series in 1990, but I digress into another topical group with that comment.

The beaches of the Caribbean are favorite vacation sites and many of them have also been featured on postage stamps.  I have not visited any of these sites since becoming afflicted with arenophilia, but there are several Facebook Groups comprised of arenophiles who trade sands through the mail.  Within the US this is typically done using the small USPS boxes to send 20-30 ml packets of sand to fellow arenophiles.  I’ve done this several times this fall and have acquired many worldwide sands in exchange for sands I have collected on trips this past year.  Included among the sands I have acquired are several that I can link to postage stamps.

Almost 50 years ago, in 1970, Bahamas featured Paradise Beach as one of a set of four stamps featuring tourism in the Atlantic Ocean island nation.  My sand sample, obtained in a trade, is from Cabbage Beach, less than 1000m east of the beach that is depicted on the stamp.  OK, most of the grains are shell fragments and not weathered mineral grains, but they are calcite.  Fortunately, Paradise Island and its highly visited beaches were spared the worst when hurricane Dorian made landfall and stalled over Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Playa Hermosa on the Pacific Ocean in Costa Rica was featured on a stamp issued in 1995.  The beach is a famed surfing beach with black sand from the basalt that dominates the mountain provenance region.  My sand sample from a recent trade also contains white shell fragments and a bit of quartz.  The field of view is 5mm across.  I am not sure why the stamp seems to suggest a red beach.

I live near Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY and spent last summer and fall collecting beach sands along each of the Great Lakes.  As luck would have it, the high water levels in Lake Ontario exposed and re-distributed heavy sand horizons, spreading garnet and magnetite-rich sand across the beach when the water level dropped.  The red sand is very attractive in the field and it is a popular trade sand for other arenophiles.  I have not yet found garnet-rich sand on a postage stamp, but I continue to look.  But, the Great Lakes are indeed interesting and there is at least one with an equally interesting stamp.

The $24.70 Sleeping Bear Dunes stamp issued in 2018 is the highest denomination stamp that the US had issued up to that time.   Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore is just south of similar dunes that I visited and sampled this summer along the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan.  Sands in beaches and sand dunes along the Great Lakes are typically more diverse in their mineralogy than many ocean beaches.  In this medium-grained sand from near Charlevoix, Michigan you can see several darker grains.  Some are garnet, others are magnetite.  Some of the quartz grains are frosted, evidence of the abrasive environment during aeolian transport.

I’d love to acquire sand from the beaches depicted from Estonia (Eesti) or from onshore dunes like those highlighted on the stamps from Botswana and Lithuania (Lietuva). And, there are many more.

There are also historic and sometimes infamous beaches around the world.  Beaches where historic battles were fought or where invading armies made landings.  Many of these battles and beaches have been featured on stamps. I have just traded for sands from four of the famous beaches along Normandy in France, sands from Gold Beach, Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and Juno Beach.  The sands are actually rather ordinary, they are fine-grained sands with good sorting of quartz grains with a shell component.  But the historical significance of these beaches is far from ordinary.

By definition, sand is inorganic, granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles ranging in diameter from 0.06 mm (fine sand) to 2.0 mm (coarse).   But, arenophiles often expand that designation to include colorful clays or silts smaller than 0.06mm in size or gravels or even cobbles, the terms used to define granular material a bit larger than 2.0 mm.  Extending this definition allows for collecting from stony beaches from places like the basalt beaches surrounding Iceland.  My son visited Iceland this winter and brought home a small bit of basaltic beach sand from just outside Snæfellsjökull National Park.  The volcanic rocks from the park had been featured on a stamp way back in 1970.

The glass vial of basalt holds 20ml, the amount I collect.  The 2” by 3” resealable bags are often used when trading.  In the United States, about 20 of these bags can be carefully packed and shipped in the Flat Rate USPS shipping box for $8.30.  It costs more to trade to Europe or elsewhere, however, much more exotic sands are possible in exchange.

If I graduate from simply being a sand collector to actually scientifically studying the sands I obtain, then I will no longer only be an arenophile.  I will also be a psammologist.  I kid you not.  Look it up!

Note:  The microphotographs in this note were captured with a simple and inexpensive zOrb digital microscope.  They are not high quality, but I capture at least one for every sand I collect or acquire by trade.  Collectively, they demonstrate what all arenophiles know: that no two sands are alike!   

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