Geology group a local gem

  • Athol native Paul Kachinsky stands next to a collection of geological specimens, many of which he donated, at the Millers River Environmental Center, 100 Main St. Kachinsky leads the Geology Division of the Athol Bird and Nature Club. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Part of the Athol Fault line can be seen on this ledge located east of South Athol Road on Route 2. —Contributed by Chris Coyle

Staff Writer
Published: 7/11/2019 9:50:15 PM

ATHOL – Paul Kachinsky has always been fascinated with rocks. It started when he was 5 or 6 years old while examining a rock in his neighbor’s yard, curious about the reason for its coloring. During World War II, he lived next door to the Athol Department of Public Works which had a stone crusher. He and his friends would make foxholes out of the large rocks set aside to be crushed. Through the years he was a “mineral hunter.”

Kachinsky, now a Winchendon resident, became a self-taught student of geology. “By the time I graduated from high school in 1955, I must have spent $500 in maps and geology books. I read everything,” he said. He has been approached by people to identify items. One time he informed a woman whose father’s collection included a 3 1/2-inch, long tapered spear, that the item dated back to the pre-Clovis culture, once considered to be the first inhabitants of the Americas.

He wrote a book tailored for younger readers called “Minerals, Reality or Legend Encompassing the Athol Region” which is available at the Athol Public Library and Athol High School. Chris Coyle is helping to revise and update the book.

In 2016, the Geology Division subgroup was formed out of the Athol Bird and Nature Club, led by Kachinsky. He has several ideas to attract more visitors to the Millers River Environmental Center at 100 Main St. where the group meets the third Sunday each month. One of the first projects was to re-label specimens already on site. He donated 500 specimens from his own collection and would like to add items “that are part of our life,” manmade minerals such as “the scum that builds up in pipes,” glass, cement and cinder blocks. “We’re trying to move forward little by little,” he said.

On display are items by township, such as soapstone from Tully and Petersham, and light green emerald from Royalston that can be cut and polished. Coyle, the “scribe” of the Geology Division, said Royalston has “the best source of blue beryl.” The Athol Bird and Nature Club logo with the hexagon outline symbolizes the beryl crystal which was prevalent in Royalston in the mid-19th century.

Two mines in Royalston contain the beryl mineral, one, which Kachinsky said is “extremely light green, lighter than the color of a coke bottle,” and the other has pegmatite, a rock with a darker green beryl. A gravel pit near Silver Lake where the ball field is now once had jasperied quartz.

Kachinsky said about 15 years ago someone showed him a picture of a rock resembling an animal shape which piqued his interest in the Native American’s use of rocks. “I am just dumbfounded at all the material that is out in the woods that the Native American people made,” he said, describing a “season rock” that depicted 21 seasons using shadows and sticks.

Kachinsky would like to open a small store at the MREC that could include fire starting kits, books and educational nature DVDs.

He is also gathering material for a DVD on the Athol Fault which can be seen on Route 2, east of South Athol Road near the overpass. The crack in the natural fault runs for 10 miles up into the southern section of Royalston and occurred more than 200 million years ago. The fault zone runs directly through Athol’s downtown residential and business areas. The path was tracked in the early 1950s by Dr. Donald E. Eschman who became head of the geology department at the University of Michigan. Eschman traced the fault northward from behind the Adventist Church off South Athol Road. It ran through a ledge cut of the Route 2 bypass off Bachelder Road, along Ice House Brook between Sanders Street and Harvard Avenue to the Millers River near South Main Street, up Tully Brook, and is exposed in the Tully Dam spillway in West Royalston.

Kachinsky said aftershocks from the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Ridgecrest, California, the region’s strongest in 20 years, would not reach New England.

There are two faults in the area, running north/south, (the Athol Fault), which “rattles the town every 22 years,” Kachinsky said. He doesn’t feel that predictions for a big earthquake in this region in 50 years or so with a five magnitude will happen, and believes the Athol Fault occurred in the Atlantic Ocean. “We’ve had three quakes with epicenter in the South Athol Area and one quake in the Quabbin Reservoir in the middle branch of the Swift River.” He said all rivers follow the faults.

Within the North Quabbin region are countless geological wonders to be observed and discovered, Kachinsky said. “There’s just so much here that people don’t know about.”

Finding a local connection can stir new or more interest in geology, by showing specimen gem stones, by explaining how Silver Lake is a geographical kettle, or talking about the 10-inch potholes in the Millers River, he said. “Geology can be applied to a lot of things. I’ve used geology in industry, washing, cutting and polishing lenses for Foster Grant.”

The Geology Division will host the ABNC’s Sunday Open House (which takes place every Sunday in July and August) on July 21 . At 2 p.m. Chris Coyle will present a program on the construction and use of the famous Hoosac Tunnel in western Massachusetts. Hailed as a 19th century engineering marvel and still used today, the project faced challenges and tragedy while opening up the state to the west and producing new technology.

During the Aug. 18 ABNC Sunday Open House, Joan McPhee will present a rock tumbling demonstration at 2 p.m. From 1 to 3 p.m. the Geology Division will hold its monthly meeting.

To join the Geology group or for more information, visit https://atholbirdclub.org/, or call 978-248-9491. The MREC is also open to visitors by appointment. Call Dave Small at 978-413-1772 or email Dave@atholbirdclub.org.


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