AMERICAN FEDERATION OF MINERALOGICAL SOCIETIES
Volume 56, Number 2
IN THIS ISSUE
from Dorothy and Robert Beachler, AFMS Co-chairs
You may have noticed the change in co-chair names, but there is no change in our objective to help more clubs gain national recognition by entering this program. For those new clubs or officers not aware of the All American Club awards, we are reprinting the introduction and instructions of the entry forms.
Established in 1967 by the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies and the seven regional federations, the All American Club Award is meant to:
Just as the award is focused on quality effort that enables members to grow and clubs to flourish, it is also focus on quality that the All American Club Award judges seek in evaluating applications for regional and national honors. Completeness of the report is important, and quality is valued over quantity.
This is not a competition of one club against others. This is an evaluation of quality based on a standard of excellence. Gold, Silver and Bronze awards are granted for achievement of points in the appropriate scoring range. Only the top regional and national awards are determined on a high point basis. To allow more equality, separate top awards will be given for large clubs (100 or more members), small clubs (up to 99 members) and organized junior divisions (5 or more members)."
Report Form Instructions
Each report is to be submitted as a single document limited to a maximum of 100 sheets (one- or two-sided) including text and graphics. A loose-leaf notebook is a suitable binder.
The document should have six section dividers numbered 1 through 6, with the report form in Section 1, and the supporting information for each of the report sections following the appropriate section divider. There are no restrictions on number of pages in any section. When filling out the report form, mark all appropriate blanks and enter numbers or other information where requested. Assemble requested supporting materials and lists following the appropriate section divider, and then insert photos or other graphics following the typed information. You will be completing the year's report in the early part of the following year. Remember that all requested information is for the prior year.
There have been no changes in the entry forms from last year. Last year's complete forms are available on page 2 or at <www.amfed.org/news/n2001_01.htm#entry> and these forms will be updated to show "2002" by the end of this year. Forms are also available from your regional chairman or from us by regular mail.
Because of the early June date of the AFMS convention, entries for 2002 must be received by us for national judging by March 31, 2003, and we suggest February 28 as the date for submission to your regional chairman. Entries may be submitted directly to us if you have no regional chairman.
Your AFMS and CFMS Chairmen:
South Central Federation
Rocky Mountain Federation
Northwest Federation - None
from Ron Carman, AFMS President
With the coming of cooler weather our thoughts may be less about field trips and more about indoor activities, although I wouldn't count out field trips altogether. I have been mineral collecting sometime during every month of the year, although I do tend to avoid the northern states in winter. It isn't easy to find rocks when everything is covered with snow. But winter shouldn't dampen our enthusiasm just because we can't go out and collect. Now is the time to look over one's collection and cull out pieces we don't want (don't throw them away; donate them to a club, school, or other worthy cause) or sort and clean the latest acquisitions... I could go on and on. The idea is that there are many indoor activities to keep us busy even when we can't go out collecting. Now might be a good time to start working on an exhibit for your next show, or to improve one you may already have. I have found that most club members are more than willing to help fellow members with exhibit cases, and you can't start too soon getting your case ready for the next show. You also have a little more time to relax when you know your case is prepared and you don't need to scramble like mad the last day before the show!
Other indoor activities many clubs have include swap sessions or auctions; I know my own club has these from time to time, and they can be combined with a picnic in nice weather or a potluck dinner indoors when the weather is not so nice. The most successful clubs have regular social events and they are great for bringing members together at times other than regular meetings. If your club is fortunate enough to have a clubhouse, you can hold the event there; otherwise you may want to check with your regular meeting facility or see if someone has a house or other place large enough to hold the group.
The weather here in Texas has been so wet lately that I have had to follow my own advice; every time I go outside I need my umbrella. However, I anticipate putting an exhibit into the next nearby show and it will be very nice to know I have it ready with new liner material and labels made so all I need to do is take it to the show and set it up. So when the weather isn't so nice I can work on my case and when it does turn nice again I can go field-tripping and hunt more specimens.
Before I go; I see from the newsletters I receive it seems as though there are many clubs doing just that. I read about all kinds of activities going on and regret that I can't go to all the shows and field trips. Some of them really sound great. Thanks for all the newsletters and keep up the good work!
This has been a fall of "Are we coming, or are we going?" Our trailer has never really been unloaded since we got home from Port Townsend! Whenever I can't find anything, "It's probably still in the trailer."
We have been very busy. Kitty and I spent 4 days at the Holland, MI show, handing out information for teachers on Friday, Kid's Day. Then on Saturday/Sunday MWF material as well as AFMS material was placed on the table. At the Holland show, as well as the Convention in Springfield, Illinois, there were lots and lots of kids...not only on Kid's Day, but both Saturday and Sunday. I feel that the presence of T-Rex or Sue generated a lot of interest at these two shows. While we were at the Springfield show, I was very happy and proud to see my wife installed as President of the Midwest.
This past weekend we spent 4 days at the Lansing show...again handing out material for the teachers. Several teachers were very happy to see the material. One remarked. "Boy, am I glad to see this. We'll be doing the Earth Science section the end of November." Again on Saturday/Sunday, MWF/AFMS material was placed on the table. A couple weekends ago, we spent time at the Fort Wayne, Indiana show, where they had a lot of interesting material on tables all around the room for kids to do. From the looks of the papers lying around, the kids especially liked to do the rock rubbings. If anyone is interested in copies of the material we hand out for teachers, I will be more than happy to send you a copy of the material...copies may be made. Most of it is available from the USGS and the BLM.
As I feel I will be very busy in the next couple of years, I have passed the State Director of Michigan job over to Ken Bendick. Ken was at the Lansing show, and was making a special point of going around and introducing himself. As a State Director, it is rather hard to visit ALL the clubs in your state. I found that by attending shows, swaps, meetings, etc., that you are able to contact members from several different clubs, especially at swaps. During a recent trip to the Ishpeming Swap in the Upper Peninsula, I was able to talk to 15-20 people. There are 26 clubs in Michigan, and I made contact with 15-20 different clubs, just at that one swap!
Shortly after Christmas, the Good Lord willing, and the crick don't rise (we have a 'crick' that runs through our backyard), and the snipers aren't out, we will be heading for the Southwest...our address while we are there will be 81 Palms RV Resort, 2800 W. Pine St. Deming, NM 88030...e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until then, stay safe, and have a blessed Christmas, Happy Hanukah and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. And if you are as lucky as I am, all the new friends you meet in this hobby be precious jewels.
Of course you are coming to the
That's the only way you will see
It's the national and state show, folks.
from Shirley Leeson, Historian
Last year I asked each of the living AFMS Past Presidents to send me a short resume of their life. Little did I know that we don't have any who are willing to tell us about themselves. The only message I got was from Dan Caudle. It was a great article about himself and his interests. You'll be able to see it in the AFMS Historical Scrapbooks that will be on display at the AFMS/CFMS show in Ventura in June, 2003.
Now, would the rest of you AFMS Past Presidents out there, please send me the following:
What club you were originally with, and the offices and chairs you held in your regional federation. Have you moved to another locality and are you still interested in the hobby? What led you in to the hobby? Did your family encourage you? Did you become interested in school? Was there someone who took you on a field trip? Did you see someone demonstrating at a gem show? What was your particular interest or expertise while you were involved in your federation. Have you continued to pursue your hobby? Are you still active in your federation, or at the AFMS level? If there is something I've left out, and you want to include it, please do so.
And for those Past Presidents who have gone on.... Could the regional federation or their club send me something about them? I can dig out information in some of the old regional and AFMS newsletters about these people, but the interesting things will have to come from family and/or friends who remember them...
You can reach me at:
from Jim Brace-Thompson
This is my first column as AFMS Junior Activities Chair, and I'd like to begin by acknowledging a debt we owe to outgoing Junior Chairs Bob and Kathy Miller. Bob and Kathy have done a superb job reinventing and revitalizing the Future Rockhounds of America (FRA) program, which currently has some two dozen affiliated youth groups in clubs across the country. May I be even half as successful in building on this base. Thank you, Bob and Kathy!
What FRA shares with groups like the Boys and Girls Scouts or 4H are enthusiastic adult leaders and role models. But there's one big thing that distinguishes these other youth programs from our own: Boys and Girl Scouts and the 4H offer kids tangible rewards on an on-going basis in the form of merit badges, pins, and ribbons for accomplishing a specific set of guided activities. We offer pebble pup trophies for displays at our annual show, but no rewards on an ongoing basis throughout the year.
My guiding philosophy has two underpinnings. First, we learn by doing. Book knowledge is great, but reading 1,001 books won't create a cab. You've got to roll up your sleeves, slice up a rock, and watch your thumbnails disappear as you shape and grind that first special gem! Second, we are motivated by goals that are attainable, especially if we're given a clear roadmap toward reaching those goals.
It's with all these thoughts in mind that I'm setting as my personal goal the establishment of an AFMS/FRA rewards program modeled after merit badges. Within the pages of this column over the course of the coming year, I'll describe a different activity or cluster of activities that children could do either on their own or at a club meeting or workshop and the badge or pin they might earn as a result. For instance, one might be a Mineral Identification award that would involve building one's own mineral ID kit (with a copper penny, steel nail, streak plate, glass, etc.) and then demonstrating how to use it to identify several common minerals. Another award might be a Lapidary Arts badge or pin that requires planning and crafting a cab, wirewrapped necklace, soapstone sculpture, etc.
I'll also welcome new ideas from readers and feedback on my own ideas as we go along. By year's end, I hope that we might have laid the groundwork for perhaps a half dozen merit badges or pins that I could present to the AFMS for discussion and a vote. I believe that such a system of merit badges or pins will accomplish two things at the same time: 1) give junior leaders at local clubs a variety of proven, organized activities that could fill a year, and 2) provide motivation for pebble pups and junior members to work toward earning a tangible reward and learning a satisfying skill while - as always - having fun!
from George Loud
Paleontological Resources Preservation Act (S2727; HR 2974)
The Senate bill, with amendment, was favorably reported out of the Committee on Energy and National Resources on October 8, 2002 and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar as Calendar No. 655. As I write this column, the Senate and House are both recessed and are scheduled to return November 12th for about one week in a so-called "lame duck" session. At the close of that "lame duck" session, the 107th Congress will be history. My contact in the office of Virginia Senator George Allen advised me that it is unlikely, but possible, that the bill will actually come up for vote.
On the House side, HR 2974 is still in committee, i.e., the "House Committee on Resources". Although it appears that the legislation will not become law in the 107th Congress, please contact your Senators to state your position. I expect the legislation to be reintroduced into the next session of Congress.
Last May two rockhound buddies were collecting agatized coral in the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area (WMA) known as the "Coral Lands" or "Western Slough" area in Jefferson County, Florida. They were arrested by an officer of the Fresh Water and Game Commission locally referred to as a "game warden." The rockhounds spent 10 hours in a cold jail cell before being released on bond. This particular WMA is described as having Indian burial mounds within its boundaries and a number of "preserved sites" where the presence of artifacts has been noted. The site of the rockhound dig was neither in an Indian burial mound nor in a "preserved site." The only posted prohibition against collecting covered only Indian artifacts. The rockhounds were charged with violation of the Florida State Criminal Code, specifically " Criminal Mischief," a misdemeanor. The Public Defender's Office in Jefferson County, Florida advised me in telephone conversation that they knew of no Florida statute or agency rule governing the removal of rocks and minerals from state lands for recreational purposes. Further, I was told that the rockhounds would have a good defense if the case were to be tried because of lack of notice and to doubts as to whether or not the digging of a hole and the removing of rocks amounted to what would be regarded as "criminal mischief." However, the charges were eventually dropped and the matter never went to trial. At present, I know of no statute, agency rule, legal precedent or even stated policy covering collecting of agatized coral or other rocks and minerals on Florida state land. However, we do know that the aforementioned arresting officer is still plying his trade in the Aucilla WMA area and can be expected to treat other collectors he might encounter in the manner described above. Accordingly, unless we can obtain a favorable policy decision from the Florida state agency having jurisdiction over the land, rockhounds should avoid the area.
from Bonnie Glismann
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Rock and Gem Club nominee for the ACROY is Donald Kelly. Don had been a rockhound for 20 years before joining our club in 1975. He has served as President, Vice President and on any committee where needed, taught gems and minerals to the local school, conducted workshops for the boy Scouts, held and taught cabochon making and silver smithing in his lapidary shop, and welcomed our club as well as neighboring clubs to the annual picnic in his home. To the young children he is "Mr. Rock-O-Doodle." As he explains to them, you doodle with pen and paper, I doodle with rocks. His little rock people are on display at the MS Welcome Center in Franklin Creek, MS. For many years every October he entered four display cases of his work in the Pascagoula Public Library. Don has been the "Let's Go" on field trips with the gusto of a 16-year-old. Because of failing health, the work shop is closed for now. However, with the help of God, the shop will be opened with the same enthusiasm that he has shown in the past.
Larry Cohen is the 2003 nominee for AFMS Club Rockhound of the Year from the Brooklyn Mineralogical Society. In the past, Larry would never miss a field trip or a show. He contributed time at each meeting to read the minutes and to distribute information about the evening's talk. He brought in specimens for both our club raffle and the EFMLS raffle. Larry has been the distributer of the club's award winning bulletin and printed each envelope by hand. Time has caught up to Larry, and by his 83rd birthday, he finds it difficult to walk and take care of his invalid wife and infirm sons. Yet he still manages to attend each meeting and act as corresponding secretary. My hat goes off to this fine gentlemen who has promoted the study of mineralogy like no other.
Nominated by Michael Kessler
We hereby nominate Tony Wilner of the Gem, Lapidary and Mineral Society of Washington, DC for the AFMS Club Rockhound of the Year Award for his generous giving of his time, energies and knowledge toward the spreading of the lapidary arts. Tony is a rockhound all would like to have as a member of the club. He is a director and member of the executive committee. He also serves as the showcase chairman at the annual gem show and assists with setup and breakdown. He gives unstintingly of his time to teach the lapidary arts to novices and intermediates. He refurbishes old lapidary equipment and sells it to lapidaries for little or no profit. This allows the beginner to obtain quality equipment at a low cost. Tony is also willing to share his knowledge by presenting programs as diverse as art deco jewelry and how to make rock spheres. Not only is Tony an active member in GLMS-DC, he is also an active member of the Patuxant Lapidary Guild and is often found repairing equipment in their workshop and giving guidance to those that need help.
Nominated by Mary Bateman
The Richmond Gem and Mineral Society is very pleased to nominate Vice-President Jim Doran for AFMS Club Rockhound of the Year for 2002. Jim's time spent supporting the club and his devotion to making it better, are an inspiration to everyone in the club. This nomination is one small way to point out his hard work, and our appreciation. Not only is Jim a Vice-President, but he also has the two biggest jobs in the club: Programs and Field Trips. Jim has filled both of these roles for the past two years, and has done GREAT in both of them. Jim also never shirks taking on additional roles. Whenever we can't get someone else to work on something, Jim steps up to the task. We are truly lucky to have him.
Nominated by Carl Miller
The Gem & Mineral Society of Syracuse (NY) nominates Harry & Irene Perkins as its 2002 AFMS Club Rockhounds of the Year. These two life members of our club not only frequently gone to local schools with the rockhound message but they have presented numerous programs for the club. Some of many jobs they have done through the years include judging the annual lapidary competition and teaching lapidary skills to members. Harry has also been show chair and club president. They are published authors, most recently in Rock & Gem. One memorable featured item was the beautiful jade golf putter crafted by the Perkins, which made the exhibit rounds of many shows in NY and the Northeast. Their sense of humor and love of people has them wintering in St. Augustine, Florida, where they enthusiastically share their skills with fellow snowbirds in the campgrounds.
Nominated by the club membership
On a recent collecting trip of the Southeastern Massachusetts Mineral Club, the subject of nominating Ed Norton as the 2002 AFMS Club Rockhound of the Year received unanimous approval from everyone there. Even before he and his wife became members of the club, nominator Randy Kincaid was entertained and educated by Ed's presentation about his recent specimen collecting trip to Arizona and New Mexico. At the close of his presentation Ed went out of his way to welcome them to the club, and they decided that night that they wanted to belong to the club. Since that evening, they have been constantly reminded of Ed's enthusiasm, experience, commitment and knowledge. Ed has recently stepped down after 2 terms as president to allow others the opportunity, but he still remains active in all aspects of the club.
Nominated by Randy Kincaid
Does your club have a person or couple that you would like to recognize for 2003? If so, send a brief (50 words) write-up along with the name of the person(s) and club to your regional ACROY chair and we'll publish it here in the AFMS Newsletter.
Section 1 - Club Information (No points awarded)
Section 2 - Service to Members & Guests (30 points possible)
Section 3 - Publications and Publicity (15 points possible)
Section 4 - Support for the Federation (Regional and American) and other clubs (20 points possible)
Section 5 - Community Relations (15 points possible)
Section 6 - Government Agency and Legislative Relations (10 points possible)
Section 7 - Overall Format & Presentation of Submission (10 points possible)
Scoring and Awards
from Wendell C. Mohr
No Gem Stamps Yet!!! Help by sending your request to the USPS. If you sent before, do it again, please! We urge all who read this report to actively support the project.
Excerpts from a publication of the United States Postal Service: Almost all subjects chosen to appear on U.S. stamps and postal stationery are suggested by the public. On behalf of the Postmaster General, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), 15 members (as of 2/02), is tasked with evaluating the merits of all stamp proposals. Approximately 25 new subjects for commemorative stamps are recommended each year.
Stamp proposals are to be submitted in writing to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. All proposals are reviewed by the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee regardless of how they are submitted, i.e., stamped cards, letters or petitions. Ideas for stamp subjects that meet the CSAC criteria may be addressed to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Room 5670, Washington, D.C. 20260-2437.
Proponents are not advised if a subject has been approved for issuance until a general announcement is made to the public. Our competition is stiff, with about 50,000 proposals per year. Having heard no announcement, our efforts will continue, to try to secure stamps depicting Gemstones. Despite the Postal services other problems with anthrax and finances this year, we have continued to publicize our efforts. We have made forms available at conventions, symposiums, and G & M shows to make it easy for people to petition the USPS.
Future activity will include trying to get museums, universities, and colleges with gem and mineral collections to help our stand. If 50,000 AFMS members will write it will help our case. Do your part, please!
from Kitty Starbuck, Club Publications Committee
...and once again, we are being pinched for time! I hope all of you BEAC's are preparing your entries for the Regional contests, and will be able to send them to the judges shortly after the first of the year.
The deadline for the Regional BEAC's to send their entries on to the AFMS judges is MARCH 15th. The deadline for the AFMS judges to mails their entries on to me is APRIL 15th.
Remember, send only the top three winners in each category to the American Judges. The last couple years, AFMS judges have received as many as five (5) entries from the Regional BEAC's. Please do not send more than three (3).
I heard some disturbing news recently, that bulletins, articles, etc., that have to many critiques on them, that only the score sheet has been sent to the editor...none of the critiques. These critiques are the main reason we have a contest...to help the editors produce a better newsletter. If these criticisms are not sent back to them, they will continue to do their newsletter the same old way, and probably never win any trophies because they do not know how to improve their bulletin. So it is very important to send the critiques back along with the score sheet. An example...an author would have taken first place this year...why didn't he/she? It was a great article, but no references were given. I talked with that author recently, explaining that to him/her , (yes, it was on his score sheet). and you can bet that his/her next entry will have references.
The AFMS Convention and the Editor's Breakfast is going to be a month and a half earlier than it was in 2002. Port Townsend was July 20...in 2003 at Ventura it will be June 8. Please be on time with your submissions to your Regional BEAC chair and to the AFMS judges. The Regional judges will have two (2) months to judge their material. The AFMS judges will only have a month and a half (1-1/2), so you can see why it is critical that you have the material to them on time, or sooner.
Once I receive all the entries, there is a lot of work to be done. This year there were 128 entries. This is what happens, once I receive them. All the score sheets have to be checked; copies made of all the score sheets (front and back where all the comments are) have to be made; copies of both the original and advanced articles have to be made; copies of all the junior and adult poetry have to be made; copies of both the 'Under 12' and '12-17' junior articles have to be made. Then all of these need to be put in the "Winning Articles Booklet" (75 pages). Cerfiticates for all the 128 entries have to be made; badges for all the top three winners have to be ordered; name plates for the trophies have to be ordered; after these are received, the trophies for the top three in eleven categories have to be assembled; 110+ postcards notifying editors that they have placed in the top 10 have to be made, addressed and mailed...all of this has to be done from April 15th to May 31.
So, BEAC's start your engines, and let's get going!
by Brenda Hankins and Jo Matter Burchard
Imagine the jubilation of the members of the Corps of Discovery reaching the Columbia River and knowing that the Pacific Ocean could not be much further! Every member of the Expedition leaned into their work; those with paddles swung them with unparalleled vigor. The AFMS Lewis and Clark Committee members are also busy "paddling the last miles" and working hard to complete the brief traveler's guide to the rocks, minerals, and fossils along the Lewis and Clark Trail. As with the Corps, there are still a few dangers that must be faced, but our spirits are high. And we still need you. It is not too late for you to take your turn at the oars. If you know something about geology and would be interested in writing a segment or reviewing content, please contact Brenda Hankins immediately at <MissAgate@aol.com> or 601-854-6085.
There are two other areas where we also need your help. Our goal was to make the Lewis and Clark Project a total "service project." We had hoped that we would be able to place our "free" information next to the material developed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the states and cities, educational organizations, and many other sources. Somehow, "service" just seemed in keeping with the spirit of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies and with the L & C Trail. To date, we have not found adequate funding sources for the project. If you have any leads or resources, please contact Izzie Burns immediately at <email@example.com> or 626-288-2896.
And one more difficult issue: what do we call the document? What do you think? We originally thought about "Under the Feet of Lewis and Clark." Other ideas include "Rockhounding with Lewis and Clark" and "Lewis and Clark Were Rockhounds." Remember that the primary readers will not be rockhounds, but those who are interested in Lewis and Clark and slightly curious about the geology of the Trail. Submit your idea for titles to <MissAgate@aol.com> immediately.
When paddling the last miles, are all those sore muscles and blisters worth it? Of course! It will be particularly "worth it" to AFMS and all the Regional and local organizations because links will be provided in the material identifying how people can learn more about our hobby, and, hopefully, many will want to become contributing members in our local clubs. And even if no one affiliates with any of our organizations as a result of this publication, it will be "worth it" for tourists and for rockhounds as they read information such as that presented below, written by one of our committee members, Jo Matter Burchard, Peninsula Gem & Geology, Los Altos, CA, California Federation of Mineralogical Societies. Even though this is in draft form, it will let you know how well the L & C Committee members are paddling the last miles. We would be happy to receive any suggestions you have regarding our work.
Twenty Days from Fort Mandan to the Yellowstone On April 7, 1805, Lewis & Clark prepared to leave Fort Mandan, which was just north and west of what is now Bismarck, North Dakota. The keelboat and crew that had brought them up the Missouri returned to St. Louis with specimens and information that would dramatically advance science and politics, even if the rest of the group never returned.
The remaining 33 members of the expedition would continue on as the "permanent party," traveling in two pirogues and six canoes. Leaving Fort Mandan meant the expedition would be entering territory unmapped and unknown by American citizens. In Lewis's words, they would penetrate "a country at least 2000 miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden."1
The Missouri they would follow cut across the western end of the great flat rolling plains that lay in the middle of America. In fact, the geographic center of the North American continent lies just north of Fort Mandan, southeast of present day Rugby. Just to the east, the plains, annually laden with heavy snow, gave rise to three of the great rivers of the world, the Saint Louis which drained into the Great Lakes, the Red River of the North which drained into Hudson's Bay, and the Mississippi which drained into the Gulf of Mexico. The Missouri, of which Lewis and Clark were to become masters, was as great as these three, draining an area larger than that drained by the Mississippi.
On April 8th, they set out. The river, with its load of sediment, was busy cutting the route it takes today through this huge flood plain; its banks of mud, gravel, and sands caving frequently to hazard the boats. The wind as well was a hazard, as it whipped up strong waves blowing across the reach of the river. The banks were low enough, however, and the land level enough for walkers to parallel the river trip, the party often splitting and meeting again.
By the 9th of April, the men were able to approach low cliffs of yellow sand and clays in which they traced many horizontal narrow strata of "carbonated wood", as Lewis characterized it. To him it had the appearance of "pitcoal". The hills themselves seemed to have been broken and on fire, but they had still more of the "indifferent" coal in seams, from 1 inch to 5 feet thick, at various heights from river level to 80 feet above the river.2
Coal is formed by decomposition and destructive distillation, in an environment without oxygen, of thick layers of plant matter that are first covered with new yearly growth, and then buried under flood carried sediments or windblown volcanic ash, and repeatedly inundated by seas of fresh or seawater. Pressure and temperature change the organic remains overtime, driving off water and any volatile compounds. The percentage of carbon left in the remaining material increases over time, until eventually the coal consists mainly of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, with only traces of sulfur, aluminum, zirconium, and other elements. The time it took to produce most of the earth's coal is between 1 and 400 million years.3
Coal occurs in layered deposits, called seams. Coal that formed in swamps covered by seawater has high sulfur content though coal created in freshwater conditions is characterized by low sulfur content. Different burial times and levels of heat and pressure produce four grades of coal, from peat to anthracite. The lower grades of coal found in this area by Lewis and Clark were only 40 million years old and relatively underformed.3
Peat is not considered a true form of coal. It forms from shallow accumulations of organic material in swampy lowlands, is usually brown, crumbles easily in the hand, and is only hundreds to thousands of years old. Root, stem and branch features are clearly visible. Peat has a low variable carbon content and much volatile material. If burned dry, it will produce a lot of smoke. Lignite, the lowest grade of true coal, is also brown in color and contains many visible plant structures. Although more solid and heavier than peat, it still crumbles in the hand. It forms with shallow sediments over peat providing heat and pressure to dry and compact the peat. Lignite contains about 25% carbon. Lignite coal is common in the surface formation found here, now known as the Sentinel Butte formation. There is not much sulfur in it, only enough to recognize sulfur dioxide when it burns. The burnt sienna or umber color the travelers keep recording may have been the color of the sandstone.3
1 The Definitive Journals of Lewis & Clark From Fort Mandan to Three Forks, v. 4, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, London, pp. 1-80.
2 Geological Highway Map of the Northern Great Plains Region, North Dakota Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, compiled by The American Association of Petroleum Geologist, A.P.Bennison, P.A. Chenoweth, consultants. AAPG, Tulsa, OK.
3 Steve Voynick, "Coal As A Collectible", Rock & Gem, October 1996.
Last Revised on
October 17, 2011