Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Off-Season

From left to right: Muscovite from  Rangi, Tanzania, Tangerine Quartz from Minas Gerais; Vivianite from near Potosi, Bolivia; Spinel from Jensen Quarry, Riverside, California, Rutile from Graves Mtn., GA.

These are five of the six "stones" cited by The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian as metaphysical catalysts for "inspiration."  The last time inspiration was necessary  for Mineral Bliss to come up with a topic, we resorted to a post about the dichotomy between what the good stones book preaches and  the various earth sciences that mineralogy embraces.

 Late June through July  isn't mineral season. Heat and high vegetation get in the way of field collecting; academia is mostly in recess; and as the operator of a mineral store on eBay, I can attest that business has slowed down considerably.  Thanks to air conditioning, the onset of these canicular days  heralds tackling the paperwork so oft neglected when the weather outside is more to my liking.  It's a time to deal with photography and writing, if not through blogging, at least to shoot minerals and write up their descriptions for listings in the store, not to mention edit those riddled with typos and catachresis ?  Or just as important: cataloging my mineral collection. 

The importance of cataloging one's mineral collection would otherwise be great topic for a blog post right now. Doing so was my New Year's resolution for 2012.   Deciding to use Excel software and perusing a DVD to explain how Excel  works is as far as it's gotten. Time is running short. A week with family at the beach in July is committed, and after that how much fun it would be to drive cross country and back checking out mineral localities along the way.

For now, at least, I think I'll go into Excel, enter the five rocks shown in our title picture, and see where it goes from there.

By August, minerals will be back into season. The East Coast Gem and Fossil Show in West Springfield, Massachussetts will happen August 10-12. After that, the ad in Rocks and Minerals heralding the Dallas Mineral Collecting Symposium on August 25  reads the event will be killer. Come September, mineral season will be in high gear and will stay there til once again it's summer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feldspar Mining in Maryland

Pictured above at the long abandoned Tunnel Feldspar Mine in Howard County, are Maryland Park Service Supervisor for Patapsco Valley State Park Michael Burditt and Jeff Nagy. The latter's work continues regarding an updated revision of the 1980 Maryland Geological Survey publication Minerals of the Washtington, D.C. Area. Nagy located the Tunnel Mine by first researching literature written in the 1920's at the Maryland Geological Survey. Later, he reached the site after assuming that what today is a driveway appeared as "Tunnel Road" on a 70 year old map. The 1940 Natural History Society of Maryland publication Minerals of Maryland by Ostrander and Price also mentions the Tunnel Mine.  Noted is  how the adit "cuts into pegmatite rich in white potash feldspar." Located less than a mile into Howard County beyond Marriottsville, it is on land that the State of Maryland leases to active present farming interests. 

The adit leads into a water-filled tunnel about 150 yards to the left as one heads up the driveway. Nagy does not know how far back it leads. Minerals of Maryland reports the occurrence of "white cleavage microcline, microcline crystals, a little mucscovite, biotite, and black tourmaline" at the mine.  In the mica schist close by, were reported kyanite, staurolite, garnets, limonite psueudomorph after pyrite, and quartz crystals." Nagy has also perused literature from the U.S. Geological Survey citing  the Tunnel Mine as a locality for beryl. But today, vegetation has long covered any dumps that may once have been, and the face of the cliffs near and surrounding the adit show little to attract collectors. 

Interestingly, the available literature (unless we have missed something) shows the Tunnel Mine as Maryland's only feldspar mine.  Less than a mile away, however, about hundred yards upstream from Marriottsville along the Carroll County bank of the Patapsco, is an adit leading into what obviously  was another feldspar mine. The Maryland DNR Trail Guide has even mapped this  adit as a cave. Water has not invaded it. Nagy ventured  inside  in 2010 with Maryland collector Fred Parker and a reporter from NPR  to broadcast a story about the mine's existence. Nagy recalls the opening reaching back approximately 300 navigable feet. 

Based on  personal visits to both localities, as well as input from Jeff Nagy and Fred Parker, the likelihood of finding collectible minerals at either locality is slim at best. Regardless, laws prohibiting collecting  in the Patapsco Valley State Park are rigidly enforced. Breaking them entails  theft of State property.  Access to see the Tunnel Mine would require permission  from the active farmers who rent the land as well as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  The adit along the banks of the Patapsco near Marriottsville Road, however, is accessible to the curious, all the more so during seasons when the surrounding vegetation is minimal.