Saturday, April 18, 2009

Classic D.C. Collecting Guide Awaits Update

For several years, Jeff Nagy’s preferred mineralogical activity has been to visit as many mineral collecting sites as possible that are a reasonably short drive from his home in Damascus, Maryland, or his office, which is in Washington, DC. For such pursuits, his Bible has been the book Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area, authored in 1980 by Lawrence Bernstein and published by the Maryland Geological Survey.

The book is a great source of information, covering the area's pertinent geology and in particular just about every mineral occurrence ever reported therein. The localities range from well known to quite vague (ie "Cubic pseudomorphs of limonite after pyrite are abundant in the soil around Glenelg.")

Over the last two years, it’s fair to say that Nagy has lived and breathed The Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area. Guided by the book’s content as well as additional information from sources listed in its bibliography, he's visited over 100 pertinent localities. His experiences have led him to the following three conclusions: Many localities mentioned in the book have completely disappeared; new ones have been discovered; construction renders many localities to be transitory; and recent thinking has changed regarding some of the geology related to different rock deposits.

In short, Nagy has determined that The Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area is due for an updated revision, and he is on a mission to make that happen. Thus far, he’s rewritten more than 70 pages, begun work on the photography (which will be in color this time), and enlisted the cooperation of the book’s original author, Lawrence Bernstein, to edit his work. Nagy hopes that the State of Maryland will provide funding to publish their final version. If not, he’s got alternative sources in mind and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of self-publishing. Interestingly, the original work bears no copyright.

The quest has led Nagy not only to collecting sites that haven’t been visited in years, but to new ones he's discovered. Eminent Maryland field collector Fred Parker has often accompanied him in many instances and has proven to be a valuable collaborator. Some of the most intriguing spots have been in or near Patapsco State Park in the vicinity of Ellicott City. Of particular interest is a galena deposit that Nagy and Parker "stumbled upon" by accident. In addition to galena they also encountered micro crystals of cerussite and anglesite as well as the first pyromorphite ever to be reported in Maryland. Stay tuned to Mineral Bliss for an upcoming post featuring photographs and more information about this find.

Nagy’s research has also led to a credible report that many years ago, a quartz crystal twenty inches long, seven inches across, and weighing forty pounds, was collected not far from Ellicott City. No quartz crystal anywhere near this size had otherwise ever been known to occur in Maryland. Thus far, Nagy has tracked down the descendants of the person who collected it and has been in touch with the museum in Minnesota to which his collection was willed. Convinced this crystal is in existence and probably in someone’s possession, his efforts to track it down continue.

Of tremendous significance to Nagy’s work is the logic that similar geological relationships and deposits are likely to produce similar minerals. Quite often, sought after conditions become accessible in the course of construction work where new collecting sites are uncovered. When it's houses or other buildings going up, the opportunities to collect are temporary. Spoils from other construction related localities, roadcuts for instance, occasionally remain accessible.

Of all the territory included in The Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area, Northern Virginia was once the most prolific. For Nagy, it’s proven to be the most disappointing area "Everything’s been built over," he laments.

There’s plenty more to cover. The most recent dig was in the vicinity the old Patapsco Copper Mine in Carroll County, Maryland. Shortly before that, after obtaining special permission, he was able to access and explore the Liberty Copper mine dumps in Frederick County, Maryland. Only a few days ago, he got hold of some old maps that he believes will lead him to a long forgotten lead prospect in Frederick County. He figures "another year or two " before his new The Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area is ready for publication, and the serious quest for a publisher has yet to commence.

1 comment:

  1. I realy enjoyed Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area when I was younger and would love to see an update.