Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bob Eberle's Baltimore County Digs

During the years since family and career responsibilities replaced his rockhounding agenda, Bob Eberle’s reputation for field collecting prowess has become almost legendary in Maryland mineralogical circles. At the Baltimore Mineral Society's March 18, 2009, meeting, Bob brought in some of his top-shelf finds and shared the stories behind them.

Many were from sites that Bob discovered himself. At some, the opportunity to collect was temporary. His "Harbor Tunnel Digs," for instance, was a former dump consisting largely of dirt, oyster shells, and gravel that had been excavated during the 1960’s construction of Baltimore’s Harbor Tunnel. The debris was later hauled away and dumped on land now covered by a sprawling commercial complex near where Nursery Road meets the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Amidst it all, Bob extracted some of his finest treasures. They included the magnificent 2 inch by 2 ½ inch almandine garnet at left; a pencil sized apatite crystal extending from a book of mica; and a sheet of mica bearing a flattened schorl tourmaline crystal next to an unflattened almandine garnet crystal in golf club/golf ball configuration.

Another temporary locality from the early 1980’s was a former Owings Mills hillside that was dug up and leveled to make way for the mall and rapid transit stop there today. The primary pickings here were beautifully faceted almandine garnets occurring in a "greenish talc-like schist." Some of these pieces have since found their way to collections around the world. In addition to the garnets, Bob, along with fellow Maryland field collectors Bob Meny and Larry Krause, located and painstakingly dislodged from a large quartz boulder what could be the finest kyanite ever collected in Maryland. The kyanite was a one time find.

No less impressive was the goethite from Oregon Ridge in Baltimore County. One summer afternoon, as his wife and kids enjoyed the public beach and swimming hole that for many decades has occupied this former iron mine site, Bob slipped away to the facility’s storm drains. The area appreared promising enough to inspire return trip at a later date. On that visit, after investing a couple of fruitless hours, he began digging out of boredom at an unpromising looking rock that was jutting from the soil. The more he dug, the larger and more resistant to removal the rock proved to be. Bob's persistence resulted in the specimen pictured at right.

Among his other finds were the drusy quartz stalagmites tipped with opal pictured at left. That specimen is from a long since built over construction site near the intersection of Route I-70 and Johnnycake Road. Another unlikely score was from a feeder stream to Loch Raven Reservoir. From it, Bob extracted a rock whose quartz surface had been smoothed down by nature to leave behind a remarkably unweathered curved schorl tourmaline crystal.

Not far from Loch Raven is Hunt Valley Mall. One of its entrance roads intersects York Road near Valley View Farms. From amidst the limestone excavated to construct this road, Bob collected pyrite. While pyrite is hardly uncommon in Maryland, a solid eight pound chunk like Bob found is presumably unheard of in these parts. Later on, from the ranks of boulders remaining today piled up near a restaurant where the road ends, he brought in and showed us a large diopside crystal that fluoresced a beautiful sky blue.

The most exciting story was saved for last. It happed along the north side of Washington Boulevard near I-695 where former embankments once yielded iridescent siderite and petrified wood was easy to find in the sand pits. Before givning way to sprawl a couple of decades ago, Bob found a dinosaur bone in the sand pits. He contacted the Smithsonian about it. Upon seeing a picture, they were interested. When Bob requested an appraisal, the Smithsonian refrained, citing the potential for disputes with the taxman. So after he donated the fossil, the Smithsonian expressed appreciation by presenting him with a custom made replica of the dinosaur bone and arranging a VIP tour of the Museum of Natural History for the entire Eberle family.

The kids are getting older now, and Bob gives every indication that his interest in collecting minerals is rejuvenating. If so, that he'll stumble upon new and undiscovered localities is pretty much a foregone conclusion. Hopefully, after enjoying first grabs, he'll be willing to share them.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to get in touch with Bob Eberle for some help at Cromwell Valley Park. Does anyone know how I can contact him? Thanks. Justine Schaeffer