Montana Agate

In August 2014 I took a ride on a Road King (Harley Davidson) around Flathead Lake, Montana.  See prior post on the whole motorcycle trip! I intended to visit all the rock shops that I had found on the web in the Flathead region. The route was Whitefish to Columbia Falls, south on Rte 206 to Kalispell, on to Polson and then back to Whitefish.  What I found along the way is listed here for rock hounds and others who might be interested in purchasing finished or unfinished Montana Agate.

Montana Agate

Montana Agate (from the Wiki site)

Montana agate is also called moss agate, because of the black moss-like inclusions, which are oxides of manganese or iron, usually on a milky white quartz background.  It is a form of chalcedony.  It is formed from volcanic rocks and abundantly found in the riverbeds of the Yellowstone river and it’s tributaries.

MT Agate skin_5833

Montana Agate – outside skin of the rock

MT Agate after_5839

Montana Agate (see above) cut in half.

1. Junction Rock Shop (just east of Columbia Falls).  Some really nice finished slices of Montana Agate and lots of other pieces including fossilized dinosaur bones.  Not much unfinished rock in the shop.  The owner helped me out and I bought a very nice piece: black moss in a clear to white slice with no cracks.  It is a small shop with limited selection but great customer service.

2. Montana Within Rock Shop LLC.   Sandra Dahl and her husband collect rough Montana Agate in large quantities.  This is a great place if you are looking for rough rock to cut yourself.  They collect their rocks along the Yellowstone River, which is quite far away.  They know what they are doing!  They are difficult to find as they run their shop from their home, south of Columbia Falls.  Call because you will need directions!

3. Kehoe’s Agate Shop in Big Fish MT.  Well advertized and easy to find, this shop has mostly finished rock slices.  Nice selections.

4. Meneralholics LLC, on Melita Island Rd, near Polson MT, on the south end of Flathead Lake.  Definitely call before you visit them (Velvet Philips-Sullivan).  They are hard to find.  They do mostly B to B whole sale.  They have loads of rocks in large mounds in their back yard!   I bought as much as I could carry.

5. The Treasure Outpost in Whitefish.  This is a small rock shop (in the basement of another shop) in downtown Whitefish.  They have mostly finished pieces and very few pieces of Montana Agate.  Helpful staff. Caters to tourists rather than hard core rock hounds.

6. Rocks and Things.. Metaphysical, in Whitefish. Small shop with mostly finished pieces, some rough rock.  No Montana Agate.  Nice owner who also runs a Yoga Studio next door.  As I could not find what I was looking for, she gifted me a piece of rough rock quartz. Thanks  :-)

Canadian Rockies on a Road King

We were greated at the airport of Missoula, MT, by a 10 foot taxidermed Grizzly bear.   “That can’t be real” exclaimed Maria, but a local resident corrected her “Oh yes, that is real”!  Thus started a 10 day trip on a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle from Missoula to Jasper (Alberta) and back.

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

G Bear close up_5615

Close up of Grizzly (from 1/2 mile away)

West Glacier was our first destination, located at the entrance of Glacier National Park and at the west end of Going-to-the-Sun-Road.  The next day we slowly ascended this windy road to the high point: Logan Pass.  From there we hiked up the mountain towards Hidden Lake, only to be stopped 1/2 a mile from our destination by park rangers.  The lake was off limits to visitors because of a family of Grizzly bears that were fishing in the lake.  Even from 1/2 mile away we could see them without binoculars!  En route we were greeted by several mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), the symbol of Glacier National Park.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

On our way to Waterton Lake (Alberta) we passed a striking block of rock: Chief’s Mountain. It is a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet Indian tribe.  We had stopped in awe to take pictures when  a thunderstorm chased us away and we sped towards Canada!

Route 22 in Alberta hugs the eastern limits of the

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Canadian Rockies, mostly huge tracts of farmland. In Longviews we stopped at the Rustic Artisan – Longviews Coffee House.  Superb snacks and coffee seemed a little out of place in this farming village with only 90 inhabitants. The coffee house was owned and run by a young Moroccan who had recently emigrated with his family to Alberta!

Kevin Kennedy never returned...

Kevin Kennedy never returned…

Soon we were surrounded by mountains in the Kananaskis Range on our way to Banff.  We stopped for a short hike in to the mountains along a well traveled trail and in spite of ubiquitous warning signs, like the one shown here about a hiker called Kevin Kennedy “who departed the trail head for a day hike on the Highwood Pass route…and never returned that evening”.  That was in 2011!

The highlight in Banff was definitely dinner at The Bison which serves local meats, cheeses and fish.

Plain of 6 Glaciers

Plain of 6 Glaciers

The next day we hiked the “Plain of the 6 Glaciers” from Lake Louise.  This famous trail lived up to our expectations, and more.  Several hours from the base of the trail there is a “Teahouse” nestled in the trees.  They serve local food and drinks on site and the staff live there through the entire summer as there is no access other than a 2-3 h hike up the hill!    A day later, we hiked up Johnston Canyon past the falls to the “Tea Pots”.  These are sandy ponds bubbling with volcanic gases, sulfuric gases I guess, because of the yellow residues.

Crowfoot glacier

Crowfoot glacier

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Bow Falls and  Num-Ti-Jah Lodge in the woods

Japanese tourist taking in the view.  Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Japanese tourist taking in the view. Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Columbia icefield.

Columbia icefield.

There followed a sensational ride, some 200 miles from Banff to Jasper, with views of massive mountains and glaciers.  It starts north of Lake Louise with Mount Hector and Hector Glacier, Crowfoot glacier, Bow Lake, Simpsons Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, and Mount Thompson and Bow glacier (Wapta Icefield).  The picture shows Bow glacier and Bow falls.  Check out the story of Jimmy Simpson and the history of the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge! The road descends to the crossing of the river Sakatchewan and then climbs again to  Sunwapta Pass.  Along the way: the Athabasca Glacier, Mount Columbia (the highest peak in Canada), Columbia icefield, Dome glacier, Stuttfield glacier, etc.  While Banff had reminded me of a fashionable Swiss winter resort, rolling into Jasper is more like riding in to a western frontier town.  I stayed in a cabin along the Athabasca river.  It was cold.  There was even an icy hailstorm.  The next day I encountered Woodland Caribou (only a few hundred in the vicinity of Jasper).  I also took a worthwhile hike up Parker Ridge from where you have a great view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.  There followed a long ride south to Radium Springs in British Columbia.

saskatchewan glacier_5740

Saskatchewan Glacier viewed from the top of Parker Ridge (a 1-2 hour hike from the highway).

The next morning I encountered 6 Big Horn Sheep resting on the road side just by the motel, apparently not fazed in the least by traffic or humans taking photographs.

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

There were more interesting stops along the way.  Canal Flats, is the site of an abandoned  canal that linked Columbia Lake to the Kootenay river, and is now a bird wildlife haven.

My last day was spent exploring the rock shops in the Flathead Lake region of Montana.   Montana Agate is their specialty. I’ll create a separate blog post for this topic!

Our ride!

Our ride!

Spring Travels

The trip started off as usual: an annual visit to Doha (Qatar) where I teach a course in medicine, see my prior blog posts. It has become routine. A five star hotel, this time “The Four Seasons”, excellent food including the local fish “hamour”, a visit to the souk to buy curry, fresh from Sri Lanka, and to buy a few gem stones: spinel and hot pink topaz, both quite expensive.

A few days later I was in Lucinges, a small French village just across the border from Geneva Switzerland. There is a great little hotel/restaurant in Lucinges “Le Bonheur dans le Pres”, which translates literally to ‘happiness in the fields’! It is run by Ludyvine & Cyril. The hotel is an old stone farmhouse in the midst of hay fields.   Their food and wines are exquisite. There is just one menu offered with several courses and the matching wine is served freely. Cyril is the chef. He has many years of experience as the cook in a high quality Indian restaurant in Geneva.   I gave him some of the curry from Doha! From Lucinges I visited family & old friends in Geneva and in Neuchatel.

Next was Zurich, where I stayed with my brother and sister. There was a visit to an excellent exhibit of German and French expressionist painters at the Kunsthalle. Also, a walk through the old town and a look at a highly controversial “piece of art”, an old crane on the Limmat river in center town! Finally I hiked up the mountain Rigi with my brother, amidst unexpected snowy and icy conditions. On a nice day the view from Rigi can be exceptional:

roland auf rigi

Roland reaching summit of Rigi (photo courtesy of Zhu Sunny, Shanghai)

Then came a few days with another brother in Edinburgh, Scotland. He had just bought a huge 150 year old house: 19 rooms he estimated, and 14 chimneys. It had never had central heating and each room seemed to have a fireplace! They were undertaking a huge renovation project.  The house was a “manse”, a house occupied by a minister of a Presbyterian church in earlier times.

Old Scottish Manse

Old Scottish Manse

Finally there was a visit to a cousin’s daughter near York: Nicky Milner. She is a professor of archeology and an internationally known specialist on the Mesolithic period (stone age around 9000 BC). She and her colleagues have unearthed an entire settlement along an ancient lake. The place is called Star Carr. I was treated to a visit of this “dig”, quite an experience.

Star Carr Archeological Site

Star Carr Archeological Site

Lastly, there was a visit to a hospital in Oxford where a friend is being treated. As an MD with some knowledge of the specific problem, I was impressed. Top of the line medical treatments and all covered by the British National Health Service.  How civilized.

A Puzzle About Bones

Just after New Year (Jan 2014) we went for a walk in Shadmoor Park and ended up on Ditch Plains Beach.  That is where I found two vertebrae still stuck together by ligaments.  They were larger than human vertebrae, measuring 3-4 inches in the largest diameter.  A quick phone call to my biologist friend, Marguerite W, confirmed that these were mammalian bones and not from a large fish, like a shark.  Fish vertebral bodies (called the centrum) would be biconcave, as shown here. These were not.  Then, I had a phone call with a friend, Annie Sessler. She is a well known artist out here who makes beautiful fish prints!  Her husband Jim, is a Montauk fisherman.   ‘Some kind of whale’ or marine mammal was their opinion. Now I was really intrigued!photo[6] photo[5]Then I got this rare book from the Cornell Vet School library called “Whales of the World” by Spencer Wilkie Tinker (1988).  It describes in detail all 77 species of living whales on this planet and also a bunch of extinct species based on fossil records.
It was a stroke of luck that we could identify the vertebrae (which were stuck together) as C7, T1.  That’s the last cervical and the first thoracic vertebrae.  The thoracic vertebrae have an articular joint surface for a rib on either side.  All mammals have 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  Giraffe’s have very long ones.  Some animals have very short ones.  And sometimes the cervical vertebrae are fused together!  However, C7 in our case was not fused to either of its neighboring vertebrae, T1 or C6. The “common dolphin”  has fused C1-7, according to “Whales of the World”.   Therefore we did not think that these were vertebrae from the common dolphin.  In the same book, there is a photograph on page 39 of a side view of a cervical spine of the common dolphin.  To my astonishment T1 looked just like the T1 vertebra that we found!  So, we were thinking of a close relative of the common dolphin.

The size of the vertebrae we found suggested an animal slightly larger than a human (approx 75-200 kg).   Using this as a guide, I then focused on 8 species listed in the whale book, that live in the North Western Atlantic, at our latitude 40 N .   I googled which of these species had recently been spotted in the waters around Long Island. The list was now really short:

  • bottlenose dolphin
  • common dolphin (unlikely because of the fused C spine)

In particular, there were lots of sightings and on-line reports about bottlenose dolphins around Long Island.

Apparently there has been an epidemic due to a type of measles virus and it has killed hundreds of bottlenose dolphins in our waters (in the Long Island sound and around Montauk).   This species has apparently been migrating northwards as witnessed by the larger numbers spotted since about  2007.
Here are some links which I found interesting:

800px-Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178

Having been introduced to this species by their bones, I noted that these are in fact very interesting animals!  Bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror!  They can use sponges as tools and transmit cultural knowledge across generations. Their considerable intelligence has driven interaction with humans.  I am now an official dolphin fan!

Happy New Year!

maidstonejewelry:

My kind of New Year “greeting card”

Originally posted on Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches:

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

~~~

View original

How to set Beach Glass

Glass is fragile. You drop it and it breaks, you drill it and it breaks, you hammer a metal setting around it and it breaks, you force it in to a bezel and it breaks…   No wonder that some of us would rather not work with glass!  There are however some techniques that are used extensively.  Here is a discussion of these techniques. I am sure the list is not exhaustive.

Wire wrapping techniques

Glue Glass Pendant

Blue Glass Pendant

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

These are really common.  They are easy.  You don’t need to work the glass itself.  Note that wire techniques are not specially good for rings or for jewelry that is likely to get banged around.  Some of these techniques are a bit flimsy and the piece of glass can come out of the setting.  There are numerous different wire wrapping techniques. I refer you to just one website.  There are also YouTube videos.  Just google “wirewrap beach glass”.  The “Blue Glass Pendant” shown here, was wrapped by myself with a homemade technique using fine silver wire, which is nice and soft.  The earrings were wrapped by an unknown artist in Cusco, Peru.

Wire solder technique

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

You can use thick wire that is not easily formed or wrapped.  I like to use gauge 18 Sterling silver. The idea is to create a “basket” with prongs, place the glass in the basket, and bend the prongs around the glass to hold it in place.  I have attached an example.  Here the prongs are the same in the front and the back so that is does not matter if the pendant flips over, as the front and the back look identical.

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

A variation of this technique allows for a smaller stone (blue sapphire in this case) to be set on one of the prongs!

Bezel setting

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

This is more serious.  You will have to cut your silver, solder it together and form a bezel that is shaped after the irregular piece of glass that you want to frame.  It has become my favorite method because the bezel protects the piece of sea glass.  If you shape the base of the bezel, you can accommodate a rounded piece of glass, such as a piece from the neck of a bottle.  Here are a few examples.

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Drilling the Glass

If you really want to make a hole in your sea glass, you can do so.  Drill with a diamond bit, under cool water, carefully and slowly!  I found out the hard way: it is easy to crack your piece of glass.

One can insert a silver grommet in the drilled hole for added stability, as shown in the last picture. But you will have to tap the grommet with a hammer to close it.  That is tricky and can crack your piece of glass too! Best to use very soft and thin metal tubing for this purpose.  Have fun.

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Beach Art

I spent the summer on different beaches: the Pacific coast of Northern California, the Maggia river in Switzerland and our home beaches of East Hampton.  Everywhere there is art on display.  Not by famous artists but by common people that pick up stuff from the beach and put it together to make a “work of art”.  It is playful.  It also is testament to the beauty of nature.  Often not much is needed to beautify the scene.  Other times the objects are small (a pebble), or common (litter), or unnoticed (drift wood) and the artist wants to draw attention to their unique beauty.   Here are some specimens I found.

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA)  Art?  Why not?

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA) Art? Why not?