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2017 FMS Midwest Chapter Annual Meeting

by Chris Clemens

The Midwest Chapter of the Fluorescent Mineral Society (FMS) held its first annual meeting at the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, Kentucky, on Saturday, September 16th. This location was chosen because of its central position within the vast geographic region of the Midwest Chapter; and it’s location in the heart of the historic Illinois-Kentucky fluorspar district provided field collecting opportunities for fluorescent minerals in the Cave-In-Rock area of Southern Illinois. The event attracted about 25 attendees that provided excellent representation from within the Midwest region. Our northernmost attendee was Gary Cleary, who drove down from Michigan, while Niki Lee Hurst from Alabama and her two nieces from Florida took the honors for our most southerly representatives. Rhett Peterson, Nick Brown and their wives came out from Kansas, the most western location. Our easternmost travelers were Lee McIlvaine from the Philadelphia area and Howie Green from Long Island, New York. For the first meeting of our chapter, the turnout was excellent.

Attendees of the first FMS Midwest Chapter Annual Meeting. Sitting/kneeling (L to R): Nathan Schattke, Niki Lee Hurst, Jaci Brown, Nick Brown, Rhett Peterson, John Smith, Howie Green, Chris Clemens. Second row, standing: Shannon Miller, Belinda Miller, Ed Mayercik, Patricia Peterson, Mark Cole. Back row: Lauren Wysocki, Ed Wysocki, Gary Cleary, Doug Liniger, David Sorrells, Janyce Sorrells, Abby Evans, Doug Bank, Susan Bank, Lee McIlvaine. Photo by Tina Walker.

The unofficial kick-off to the weekend’s events began with an impromptu Friday evening collecting trip out to the Annabel Lee mine, in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois. Howie Green, Lee McIllvaine and I headed out at sunset for the Annabel Lee, one of the last major fluorspar mines to operate in the Cave-In-Rock mining district. The Annabel Lee was operated by the Ozark-Mahoning Company, and its run lasted from 1984 to 1995. All that remains today is the conspicuous mine headframe, a few buildings, and lucky for us, the tailings piles.

The road leading to the Annabel Lee mine. The mine headframe, seen looming above the treetops, is the only headframe structure remaining intact in the historic Cave-In-Rock mining district. Photo by Chris Clemens.

Darkness fell shortly after we arrived, and we quickly figured out that the majority of the rocks at the Annabel Lee fluoresce most brightly under long wave UV, so the three of us did the majority of our prospecting using our trusty Convoy high-output LW UV flashlights. After nearly 3 hours of collecting, we all found excellent fluorescent specimens. The more notable pieces included bright white fluorescent calcite in combination with orange fluorescing sphalerite and blue fluorite. Some very nice combo specimens containing red fluorescent calcite and blue fluorite were also found.

View of the Annabel Lee tailings pile. Collectible material extends far back into the trees seen in the background. Photo by Chris Clemens.

Howie Green stands near the base of the Annabel Lee’s towering headframe at sunset. As you can see, Howie is very protective of his finds. Photo by Chris Clemens.

The following gallery shows some of our better finds from the Annabel Lee mine on Friday night.

Click on the above images for photo captions.

The next morning, the main event started at the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum with a member meet and greet over coffee and donuts, and a fluorescent mineral rock swap. Mark Cole set up a spectacular display of fluorescent Greenland rocks, and Doug Liniger showed off his impressive traveling educational display of fluorescent minerals as part of the Chapter’s educational outreach program. Rhett Peterson and Nick Brown were on hand to demo their new line of UV lamps from their start-up company Engenious Designs.

Mark Cole shows off some beautiful examples of fluorescent Minerals from Greenland. Mark is the creator of the Nature's Rainbows webite. Photo by Doug Bank.

Next on the agenda was a tour of the museum, guided by Ed Clement, son of museum namesake Ben E. Clement. Ben E. Clement was a successful fluorspar (fluorite) miner who operated several mines in the hills of Crittenden County, Kentucky from the early 1920s through the 1950s. In addition to realizing the economic importance of the mineral fluorite, Clement also developed a passionate interest and appreciation for finely crystallized mineral specimens and became an avid collector and dealer.

Ed Clement gives our group a tour of the Museum. This area features a reproduction of Ed Clement’s mining office, and contains various historic mining artifacts and documents. Photo by Doug Bank.

The specimens and inheritance passed on to his children provided the foundation for the establishment of the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum. As Ed took us through the various rooms and exhibits, it was great to hear his personal insight on his father and the collection. The museum showcases thousands of spectacular fluorite and other mineral specimens, collected mostly from the surrounding Illinois-Kentucky fluorspar district. Many specimens are displayed in very unique ways, such as the beautifully backlit specimens of colored and zoned fluorite in the translucent room, and the jaw-dropping spectacular display pieces in the WOW room. You will not likely find a larger assemblage of world class fluorite than is on display at the Clement museum. The grand finale of the tour was a visit to the fluorescent room, which showcases an entire wall of brilliant, world-class fluorescent specimens set in front of grandstand seating. The majority of the fluorescent pieces are from Franklin, New Jersey, and include impressively large and bright specimens, with some of the largest esperites that I’ve seen. Some bright local material from the nearby Columbia mine and other locations is also featured in the display.

The impressive fluorescent mineral display at the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum. Click on the individual images for a larger view and captions.

The museum tour was followed by a brief chapter business meeting. The first item on the agenda was a discussion with Ed Clement, and museum manager Tina Walker, on ways to strengthen the collaborative relationship between the museum and the Midwest Chapter. The museum needs help and expertise in many areas pertaining to fluorescent minerals, and we have the talent to provide it.

With master of ceremonies Chris Clemens at left, Ed Clement discusses ideas for collaboration between the Museum and the Midwest Chapter. Photo by Abby Evans.

Doug Liniger graciously volunteered to serve as liaison between the Midwest Chapter and the museum, and we look forward to his reports and requests for assistance with museum projects. Speaking of Doug Liniger, he was also officially introduced to the chapter as the newly-appointed Education Outreach Coordinator, and gave us a summary of his efforts to provide educational presentations on fluorescent minerals to schoolchildren. Doug is to be commended for his efforts! Doug Bank then gave us an update on his progress toward contacting the Field Museum in Chicago with an offer to upgrade their failing fluorescent mineral exhibit. Doug has been persistent, and we hope that the museum will be receptive to his offer.

Doug Liniger talks to the group about his new role as Education Outreach Coordinator and his traveling school display. Photo by Chris Clemens.

After a brief discussion on how the members would like to see the Midwest Chapter move forward, we took a break for lunch. Just before the pizza was served, Mark Cole delivered on his promise to hand out a piece of fluorescent Greenland sodalite to each meeting attendee. He came prepared with a box full of specimens, mostly sodalite, but a few high-end ringers were also thrown in. He had each person blindly reach into the box and grab their complementary specimen. Mark stocked the box with some great stuff, and everyone was happy with their pick. I ended up with a lovely piece of green sodalite that shows a spectacular bright orange response under LW UV. Thanks Mark! It happened to be Mark’s birthday on Saturday, so we celebrated by eating birthday cake after the sodalite giveaway.

Happy birthday Mark Cole! Howie brought this cake, equipped with pink glow sticks. Photo by Howie Green.

After lunch, we were treated to a presentation by FMS Vice President, Howie Green, on Field Collecting Fluorescent Minerals in Greenland. Howie did a great job of both entertaining and educating the audience, and we were lucky to have two of the collectors featured in Howie’s talk present with us at the meeting- Mark Cole and Lee McIlvaine. Mark Cole’s sodalite giveaway and display of fluorescent Greenlandic minerals complemented Howie’s talk wonderfully.

Howie Green treats the group to an outstanding presentation on collecting fluorescent minerals in Greenland. Photo by Doug Bank.

After Howie’s talk wrapped up, it was time to pack up and head out on our field collecting trip to the Minerva No. 1 mine in Cave-In-Rock. David Sorrells and his wife Janyce led the group across the Ohio River on the ferry boat while Howie, Lee and I stayed behind a little longer to clean up at the museum. By the time we finally made it across the river, we found ourselves in the midst of the annual Cave-In-Rock Frontier Days parade. The minor delay that the parade caused us in getting through town was more than offset by Howie’s chance meeting of parade celebrity, Kathleen Robinson- Miss Fluorspar!

Howie meets Miss Fluorspar, Kathleen Robinson, during the Cave-In-Rock Frontier Days Parade. Note the nice fluorspar specimen Kathleen is holding. Photo by Lee McIlvaine.

By the time the rest of us made it to the Minerva No. 1, the lead group had already put in more than an hour of collecting time, and the sun was beginning to sink low in the western sky. Before dark, David Sorrells took a group of us over to the home of Gary Griffith in the neighboring town of Elizabethtown. Gary, his father Guy, and son Walter, operate the only remaining working fluorite mine in the Cave-In-Rock area, and they mine strictly for specimens. This side trip was a great idea of David’s, as Gary and family had a tremendous selection of beautiful fluorite specimens for sale at very reasonable prices. The cost ranged from $5 for small pieces, up to $1000 for very large museum-quality display specimens. As dusk fell, our group combed Gary’s material with our Convoy flashlights and found many excellent fluorescent pieces. Gary and company did well on account of our group that evening, and we all agreed that a trip to Gary’s would have to become a permanent recurring activity on the annual meeting schedule!

Gary (L) and Guy (R) Griffith at home on their fluorite farm. Photo courtesy of the Harrisburg Register.

We got back to the Minerva just as darkness was falling. It was a clear, moonless night, with the temperatures in the 70s, perfect for collecting. Everyone unholstered their Convoy torches and collecting gear, and started searching for fluorescent mineral treasures.

The road to the Minerva No. 1 mine is well marked. Photo by Chris Clemens.

As the sun sets on the Minerva No. 1 mine, the collecting action begins! Click on the above images for larger views and photo captions.

When I first fired up my field lamp and aimed it at the ground under darkness, the sight was beautiful, with shards of fluorescent blues, purples, reds and oranges everywhere! I think Rhett Peterson summed it up best by saying “after it got dark the ground became a star field!” As was the case at the Annabel Lee the night before, the majority of the fluorescent minerals present at the Minerva were most reactive under long wave UV. This made night collecting very easy, eliminating the need to haul around a bulky short wave lamp and battery pack. All that was required was a Convoy LW flashlight with a fully-charged battery.

After it got dark at the Minerva No. 1, the ground literally glowed under the light of our Convoy flashlights. Photo by Doug Bank.

It was easy to scan the ground while walking with the Convoy and find numerous smaller fluorescent specimens that could be hand-picked. Much of this material consisted of bright blue fluorescent pieces of fluorite, some containing contrasting red or pink veins of calcite, and others with bright white fluorescent hydrocarbon inclusions. There was no shortage of bright multicolored fluorescent calcite and barite either, commonly found glowing cream/white, orange, red and pink. In a half hour or less, any collector could easily find a bucket full of smaller fluorescent treasures. Nice quality larger (fist-sized and up) rocks could also be found, but they were most prevalent along the edges of berms, embedded in the hardpan, or along the edge of the woods and the streambed, and required a little more work to extract. Although fluorescent, many of the larger pieces only gave hints on their weathered surfaces at what might lie inside, and required breaking with hammers to reveal bright multicolored fluorescence on freshly exposed surfaces. As always, the best specimens were those that presented a multicolored response due to an assemblage of various fluorescent mineral components in a single piece of rock. In fact, the mineralogy of many of the nicer specimens appeared to be quite complex, with rocks containing a mix of various minerals and fluorescent activators; the mineralogical equivalent of rocky road ice cream.

Some representative finds from the Minerva No. 1, seen under UV. Click on the above images for larger views and photo captions.

Historically, the Minerva No. 1 mine exploited the largest bedding replacement orebody in the United States, and operated from the early 1940s until 1996. It changed ownership several times and was a producer of both fluorspar and zinc. Today, little remains of the Minerva other than its tailings.

The collecting activity lasted well into the night. I headed out around 10:30, and the only other person remaining was Abby Evans from Nashville, Tennessee. By the end of the evening, many buckets of beautiful fluorescent minerals had been collected, and everybody left with some prize specimens. For me personally, it was great to collect with such a wonderful group of people! At the same time, it was also a thrill to be able to visit and collect at two of the most historic fluorite mines in the US.

Additional specimens collected at the Minerva No. 1, seen under UV. Click on the above images for larger views and photo captions.

Thanks to everyone who attended the event and helped to make it the tremendous success that it was! We had a great turnout for our inaugural meeting, and it was fantastic to get so many people together face to face, that have gotten to know each other via the FMS Facebook group and through the FMS. I also want to send out a special thanks to those that helped organize and run this event- Howie Green for pushing me to organize this extravaganza and for presenting a fantastic talk on field collecting in Greenland. Mark Cole for providing complementary samples of fluorescent Greenland sodalite, for displaying examples of world-class fluorescent Greenlandic minerals, and for giving us a reason to eat birthday cake. David and Janyce Sorrells for helping with the meeting logistics and leading our field collecting trip out to the Minerva No. 1 mine. And to Ed Clement and Tina Walker at the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum for hosting this event. It was great meeting and collecting with everybody, and I very much look forward to doing this again next year!

Note: An earlier version of this article was originally published in the January - February 2018 issue (v. 48, #1) of UV Waves, the bi-monthly newsletter of the Fluorescent Mineral Society.

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