googleed3ca5fea536c11e.html South African Mineral Specimens

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A Mineral specimen blog by which we want to share our mineral outings as well as our experiences in the Western Cape mountains.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Beautiful Time of the Year

About three weeks ago Pierre and I drove out to a farm, quite some distance outside of our home town, Ceres.  This year Spring came quite late, but in full splendor.   It was a beautiful, sunny day, and sheer bliss to be outside, drinking in the quietness of our tranquil surroundings.

Colorful and lovely
Intertwined petals 
This color combination in flowers is not so common.

Although we found only a few crystals, we had a most enjoyable day, and even had the privilege of seeing a Blue Crane dance with outstretched wings.  Unfortunately, by the time I had our camera ready, the dance was over!  They were quite some distance from us, so I had to zoom in the camera to photograph them.  The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird, and is currently on the list of vulnerable species.  Until several years ago, it featured on South Africa's 5c coin.  For that reason I often referred to these birds (especially when speaking to my children) as 'the 5-cent birds'.

The Blue Crane is South Africa's national bird.

While looking for possible crystal deposits, Pierre came across a snake, which was lying motionless on the hard ground.  It was so well camouflaged, he could easily have stepped on it!  It was a horned adder.  Fortunately for us, the soil was very hard, because these snakes often wiggle themselves down in loose, sandy ground, until they're just beneath the surface and virtually unseen, where they can lie waiting for their prey!  Pierre pinned it down with a stick, then took hold of it behind its neck to have a closer look (when he was younger, he often caught snakes as a hobby).  I was quite a distance away, so he called to me to bring the camera.  It moved its head around quite a bit - the exposed fangs moving very close to Pierre's fingers - too close for comfort!  So he put the snake down again, and restrained it with the stick until I got there, and we could take some photographs.  After a successful photo session, he released it into the field again.

Pierre pinned down the snake with a stick.
The horned adder at a safe distance.
... posing for a photograph, head twisted back towards its tail, showing its red tongue.

Many flowers grow in seemingly barren ground.
Close-by, there is lush growth.

Lovely, sunny color.

We found some crystals, and a few pockets that were nicely encased in large rocks, so we only photographed them, and did not attempt to remove any of these.  They were prettier there, in their pockets, than what they'd be as single, removed crystals.  

Some crystals looked better, just left in their pocket.

I found a small pocket with crystals that I thought were part of a cluster, but as I gently worked the soil loose around them, I saw that they were all double terminated crystals.  Although they were a good size, and with bits of manganese coating, they weren't very clear, but will still look good once we've cleaned them properly.  

A beetle is getting away from my mining spot, the one that yielded ...
... a few double terminated crystals, yet uncleaned.

Beautiful flowers grow in seemingly barren soil.
Floral beauty

Succulents growing among bits of quartz rock.

A beetle looking for a bite to eat ...

We got to a pocket where Pierre uncovered a lovely cluster with fairly big crystals, located about 30 cm beneath the ground surface.  In total we spent several hours trying to loosen it, but found it impossible.  We gently cleaned away all the (very hard!) soil, but eventually realized that they were set on solid rock, too big for us to get out.  So I guess one can say that this cluster was a big one that 'got away'.  At least we have a photograph of it, one we took before we realized that we couldn't remove it.

Pierre at the pocket that yielded a cluster on solid rock.
The cluster that 'got away' ...

We came across several strange, reddish plants, many of them growing where there didn't seem to be any plant growth possible.  They appear to be some type of succulent and some of them have seeds/flowers that remind me of toenails protruding from an octopus's tentacles ...  Some grew on dry, flat soil among other plants, others grew on hard, rocky ground, and some protruded out from rocky, vertical overhangs.  South Africa has the largest variety of indigenous wild flowers in the world, and we're privileged to see so many of them in our part of the country.

Unusual plant ...
Many grow on hard, rocky ground.
Octopus's protruding toenails?
Some grow from vertical overhangs.

We enjoyed the splendor of all the wild flowers, and there were some patches that had us wonder where to tread, because of their abundance.  Although our main aim of the outing had been to find crystals, which this time was not very rewarding, we had a full, lovely day!

Flowers in abundance!

I hope that you enjoyed our outing with us!


Friday, June 8, 2012

My Recent Crystal Collecting Trip up the Mountains.

A few weeks ago I started making plans to visit a remote place up in the Western Cape mountains, where I had discovered an amazing source of fine quartz crystals years ago.  Due to the steep ascend, careful planning had to be done as one can only carry so much up the mountains:  tools, ropes, sleeping gear, food etc..  Finally, on Monday morning 28/05/12,  I left, driving the 80 km or so to the farm, with the kind permission of the farmer.  Once at the farm, I drove up to the mountain as close as my little Toyota car would allow, and then hiked up a gorge for about 10 km to a convenient place which would serve as my home base. 

I arrived at my destination at about midday, rested for an hour or so and repacked my rucksack with only the bare essentials.  Once again, I started up a steep slope to a cave which would serve as my second home base.  After a very strenuous climb, I reached the cave and, after making myself at home, climbed down a treacherous, very steep ravine, through very dense ferns and shrubs, to fetch some drinking water.  I made a welcome fire and after having a meal, sat for hours, just staring at the flames.  What a difficult day it had been!

My view from the cave.

Legs full of scratches.

Lovely coals to keep the cold away.

Tuesday started out a beautiful morning.  I had breakfast and prepared myself for the climb to the crystal destination.  An hour or so later, I reached the place that I had come for.  It was a cliff with many small to larger pockets of crystals, as well as a few small caves, which I am certain, have many crystal plates inside.  Most of these small caves can only be reached by a very experienced mountaineer (which, by the way, I am not).  A few years ago I removed a fairly large pocket at the foot of the cliff and I hoped to find a few more specimens there.  I did find some more, but not nearly as much as I had hoped for.  Not far away from this, now empty, pocket, I found the remains of a leopard kill, in this case, a rock rabbit.  

From there I walked about 30 m to a small cave (accessible and just big enough to sit in) and started removing a heap of rock rabbit dung, rotten vegetation and soil at the bottom of the small cave.  Suddenly I found a loose crystal, then another and another ... and then the first plate of crystals.  Before long, I had far more than I could carry and there still appeared to be many more.  I wrapped what I intended to carry down, with the largest plate about 20 cm long. Due to the steep decline, I only took about 7 kg of crystals and as it was getting late, I started off back to the cave. 

The trip down was very difficult and rather dangerous.  One slip, and you could lose far more than crystals.  I reached the cave just before dark, and after unpacking, made a fire and had supper.  Once again, I sat in front of the fire for a good while and thanked my heavenly Father for protecting me and allowing me to remove such beautiful treasures of nature.  That night I slept much better than the previous night.

A small cluster of quartz crystals, fresh from the earth.

A pocket of crystals - one of many - beyond my reach.

Nearly at the bottom!

Wednesday morning was yet another beautiful day, with a few clouds that disappeared later on in the day.  Then I had a problem.  To walk down a very steep slope with about 25 kg of weight, was nothing to look forward to, especially not if there were sections of loose rocks to negotiate. Everything progressed fine and after a difficult, but successful walk, I reached the home base.  

I washed in a river that flowed close by, and had something to eat and rested for a while.  About 10 minutes away (an easy walk) was yet another crystal deposit beneath a small cliff, where we have found many lovely crystal specimens over a number of years.  It wasn't long before I reached this familiar and welcome site.  I spent the rest of the day working through a heap of loose rocks and found many single crystals and two nice small clusters.   Back at home base, I once again made a fire and after having had supper, enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee.  I sat next to the fire until the coals had all turned to ashes, then climbed into my sleeping bag for a very welcome and much needed sleep.

Thursday would be my last day of digging and I planned to take it easy and take what I could get.  It ended up being a really successful day.  I discovered a small, but high quality, pocket of small plates of quartz crystals, as well as another small pocket of well formed single crystals, all loose.  I thoroughly enjoyed removing these lovely treasures and took what I could carry and left the rest for next time.  Back at the camp, I sorted my baggage out and placed all the wrapped crystals (some 12 kg), tools and other things that I would not need again, in my rucksack and carried it halfway down the gorge.  I did this because I feared that the weight would be too much for me the next day.  The total weight of my bag was about 42 kg.  When I arrived back at camp, I made supper and this time I sat next to the fire till the last heat of the coals were gone. It had been a good day and would be the last night's sleep. 

A stunning large cluster waiting to be removed.

A few loose crystals with two of them partially cleaned.

A partially cleaned specimen
Cleaned Cluster

Cleaned Cluster (same as above)
A partially cleaned specimen

Cleaned  Specimen (same as above)

A few of the single crystals, cleaned.

The next day I rose early and hiked down to where I had left the rest of my crystals, tools etc..  After loading it into my rucksack, I walked down, carrying 42 kg on my back.  I must say, I was very pleased to see my car in the distance and even more so upon reaching it!  Not too long afterwards, I was home safely, with Riana waiting for me with a nice, home cooked meal. 

All in all it had been a tiring, bruising, but very fulfilling trip.  I am grateful to my heavenly Father.  The quietness of unspoiled nature, with the only sounds being that of running water, birds and rock rabbits, is very, very rewarding on its own.  Add to that a few crystals and last, but not least, a gratitude towards God for the privilege of being able to enjoy all that.

When I do get the chance to clean some specimens, I shall add a few more photos.  Some specimens clean easily, whilst others may have to soak for weeks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry.  I hope that you enjoyed the journey with me.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Walking the Mountains around Ceres


We often go walking in the mountains, since we find it very destressing and enjoyable.  Also, it helps to keep us fit!  We are fortunate to have permission from several farmers in our area (Ceres) to walk their farms and mountains and look for crystals.  This is a privilege we cherish! 

We often walk rocky terrain in the mountains

More rocky terrain

Pierre, overlooking a deep gully ...

... and finding our way in the mountains

Miniature rockery

Tiny cave with small plants

A mountain dweller we saw from a distance ...

... and one from up close

Hematite stained quartz seam in a big rock

A while ago Pierre discovered a small pocket of crystals in a cavity in the rocks, and I had the privilege to help empty (most!) of it.  The opening was very small, which made it rather uncomfortable.  After removing a few small pieces, it looked like the end of the road, but I continued searching nonetheless.  It was too dark to see inside the pocket, so I used a head lamp.  Eventually I saw the shining facet of another specimen.  Getting this specimen out, required lots of patience, especially since it was quite cold that day!  After a while the front section with big crystal (the only part I could see, and which was hanging upside down) was already quite loose, but something at the back of the cavity wouldn't let go.  With my left hand I tried to protect the main crystal’s termination from damage, while I worked with my right hand.  After struggling for more than an hour (using a thin, but solid little stick to brush away soil right at the back of the long, narrow cavity), I finally managed to free it, only to find the flat section of matrix that I hadn't even been aware of!

This pocket yielded ...

... this lovely specimen! (SWCC 003)

We recently found a small pocket which yielded a few very small pieces of FADEN QUARTZ, and as far as we know, it is the first time any fadens have been found in our area – well, we haven’t heard or read of any other!  We have no idea as to how many more there are, because we took out the few that we could see.  We do hope that we’ll find more pockets of those in the future!

I have the privilege of emptying the pocket of fadens.

However, in the pocket that yielded the small faden crystals, we also found (right at the back of the pocket, slightly to the side - when we thought there was nothing more left!) an absolutely beautiful group, with a very prominent faden line.  It was totally engulfed in moist, dark brown soil.  Its base was stuck on a rock, but Pierre eventually managed to (carefully and prayerfully) chisel it free.  It’s so much different to the other small crystals, that we think it may very well be a once-off specimen!  The group rests on a matrix made up of many tiny quartz crystals, and it is a miracle that it did not break when we took it out! Below are photographs of it as and where we found it, followed by a photograph of the cleaned specimen.

The pocket in which we found the faden quartz crystals

Specimen SWCC 005, where it's stuck on a solid rock ... last it's free!

SWCC 005, after it has been cleaned!

In another place (like a miniature cave) we also found two lovely clusters (SWCC 001 and SWCC 004 on our Western Cape Page).  SWCC 001 has one small (but prominently placed) crystal with a very distinct faden line.  Here are photographs of the small cavity in which we found it (and its surroundings), and just as we got it out, followed by the photograph of after we had cleaned it.  This is followed by SWCC 004.

Rocks and shrubs in the mountains, just above the pocket (below)...

... which yielded ...

... this lovely cluster (above and below), SWCC 001

... and SWCC 004

About three weeks ago we went crystal hunting again, and found a small pocket where it was very wet.  The water kept oozing from the pocket and its surroundings, and I soon realized that it was very difficult to feel for crystals in the soggy patch with gloves on, so I took them off.  A few times I felt the sharp edges cut me, but it didn't bother me much.  I was enjoying finding the crystals, and that was exciting.  By the time we had to leave, I was rather muddy, and only realized how many cuts and grazes my hands had, after we got home and I had cleaned up.  They were quite sore for several days!   But it was worth it – I got, among others, a lovely cluster, SWCC 010.

Nice and muddy, like in childhood days

The perils of mining crystals without gloves ...

... but worth my while, finding the above specimen, SWCC 010

... in this very wet pocket

We enjoy the mountain scenery and all the beautiful plants, especially now that the winter is over.

Some plants thrive in moisture ...

... whilst others need very little water

Interesting sandstone formations

Rock overhang silhouetted against the blue sky

Thank you for taking the time to read this contribution.  I hope that you can visualize the joy and peace we experience when walking the mountains in search for crystals, and enjoying God’s creation all around us.