Geology division of ABNC welcoming new members

  • —Greg Vine

  • Some of the mineral samples on display in the basement of the ABNC. Greg Vine

  • Joanie McPhee, of the ABNC’s Geology Division, leading a discussion on rock tumbling at Sunday’s open house. Greg Vine

  • CUTLINE 4316/17: Paul Kachinsky (in hat), coordinator of the Geology Division of the Athol Bird & Nature Club, discussing mineral finds from local mines and quarries. CUTLINE 4323/24: Some of the mineral samples on display in the basement of the ABNC. CUTLINE 4329/30: Joanie McPhee, of the ABNC’s Geology Division, leading a discussion on rock tumbling at Sunday’s open house. —Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 8/19/2019 9:50:18 PM

ATHOL – Despite Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory) Cooper’s disdain for the topic, the study of geology can definitely be an interesting pursuit. Have doubts? Try attending a session of the Geology Division of the Athol Bird and Nature Club. The group meets to discuss a variety of related topics every third Sunday of the month at 1 p.m. at the Millers River Environmental Center.

This past Sunday during an open house, division coordinator Paul Kachinsky led a session on geological samples taken from local mines and quarries. Several people actively participated in the discussion around a table populated by numerous examples of minerals from the region. Talc, magnetite, mica, pegmatite, and iron are just a few of the minerals that have been mined in the Athol-Orange area.

The discussion went beyond uses of the minerals to include the eons-long geological process which created them.

Kachinsky explained that the Geological Division of the ABNC was started about three years ago. He said there are currently about a half-dozen active members, with another 25 to 30 casual participants.

“We’re hoping,” said Kachinsky, “to set up a science store, working with the Athol Bird and Nature Club, but that will be coming later. We also want to set up and display our mineral collection. The goal is to set up some kind of educational center, so people can come here and learn about nature; not just rocks and minerals, but nature in general. We’re also hoping that people will eventually be able to come here and earn a few extra credits toward their education. We’re all working together.”

Also on Sunday, Joanie McPhee led a discussion of and demonstration on “rock tumbling.” No, rock tumbling is not the act of rolling rocks down an incline; it is the process used to smooth the exterior of mineral samples so they can be used to make jewelry, crafts, decorations, or simply for display. Samples are placed in a cylinder, along with a substance called “grit,” which is employed as an abrasive, and “tumbled.”

McPhee displayed some mineral samples – an inch or two in size – which she had tumbled over a period of seven days. Compared to samples of “raw” minerals, those that had been tumbled were substantially smoother.

She said the grit was developed by an assistant to Thomas Edison, who had attempted to create a “cheap and easy way to make diamonds.”

“It was a failed experiment. Instead of nice, clear diamonds that were worth a lot of money,” she said, “they got grit.”

So, by visiting the monthly meeting of the ABNC’s Geological Division, one can pick up a little historical/scientific trivia, along with a greater knowledge of the minerals to be found all around us, their uses, and their evolution. The next meeting will be held on Sept. 15.


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