Monday, August 16, 2010

Collecting at Manham Dumps with Pat Haynes

The second week of of August this year found me, as it did last year, in Massachusetts, spending one day busting rocks on the Manham dumps at Loudville and the next enjoying the East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show at West Springfield. The stories relating to each of these two days differ from one year to the next, however, especially where Loudville was concerned. Last year the Manham dumps at Loudville rated two separate posts at Mineral Bliss, which were prompted by a taste of beginners luck bordering on the miraculous.

Auspicious beyond luck this year was an opportunity to comb them with a field collector as accomplished they get, namely Pat Haynes. He has to his credit the discovery of eight new minerals and hopes soon to add number nine to the list. With most of his experience having beem in the Western U.S. and often underground, I was interested in how he would approach a locality such as Manham. Though Pat had brought along a 2001 edition of Rocks and Minerals featuring a map that showed where the dumps were, he made a special point of first knocking on a few doors. Although everyone we spoke with was pleasant and friendly, the only directions we received landed us all but lost in the woods. So we hiked back to the car and headed to where I'd parked last year at a pull-off uphill from the bridge on Loudville Road from which a short trail leads to the dumps. With my right hip awaiting replacement in a week, and no loupe, I'd hobbled the hundred yards down to the stream and crawled about the pebbles on the near side for less than an hour. Two of the half dozen I brought home to smash up because they were vuggy, ended up revealing wulfenite, pyromorphite, linarite, and cerussite under the scope.

The vast majority of the Manham Mine dumps are on the other side of the stream, their presence somewhat obscured at first by lush summer woodlands and the contour of the land. It is public land, and collectors are welcomed. Much of the rock cosists of galena bearing quartz that's often crystalized and blessed with numerous vugs occasionally revealing cerussite and anglesite crystals when viewed through the loupe. A few rocks show a bit of earthy light greenish brown weathered pyromorphite (not to be confused with lichen) on their surfaces. Broken open, small amounts of more colorful pyromorphite sometimes occur. When in vugs, the pyromorphite is likely to have formed needle-like crystals as shown in the photomicrograph at left. Wulfenite, linarite, malachite, and chalcopyrite sometimes accompany it. Collecting at the Manham dumps is all about breaking open the different rocks and looking at them through the loupe. I suspect that any dumps that could lie beyond the posted collecting boundaries noted on signs attached to trees are much the same and no more prolific. Though the number of rocks we each broke up and examined was probably about the same, Pat found most of best ones. Chalk that up to to his well trained eye pitted against my red-green colorblindedness.

When we were done, Pat left with two flats , while for the second year in a row, I departed with six rocks in my pocket. Pat chose to keep those that were particularly rich in galena as potential giveaways for students, Boy Scouts, or kids at shows. Were I to bring home that much material on a regular basis, it could end up taking over my house. If I knew where to find enough kids or whomever else to take them, I'd lug home more.

Being but a 20 minute drive from West Springfield, it amazed me how the day before the show, we had these dumps to ourselves. A collector named Dan from Texas, who had driven over from his summer home in Maine showed up for a while, arriving and leaving with only his hammer. He expressed more interest in exploring the area than looking for micro-minerals. Having mentioned that smithsonite was one of his favorite minerals, he joined us for a couple minutes to check out a splash of sphalerite Pat had uncovered in a piece of quartz. I would observe the next day at the show, which will be covered in the next Mineral Bliss post that Dan wasn't kidding us about his interest in smithsonite.

I am truly grateful for localities like this, where people are free to collect without having to pay fees and can collect interesting minerals. Signs attached to trees announce the kind of rules---no explosives, no commercial collecting, use hand tools and have fun---that the collectors who visit obviously respect. One rule states: "If collected samples are displayed or publicized, we want attribution to the New England Forestry Foundation." You've got it, and thanks again.

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