1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Green with Envy and Wavellite

Bowing to much pressure applied lovingly by the persistent Walk2Write, S.A.M. has finally decided to do another rock post. In a previous story about quartz crystals, I referenced the beautiful and mineral-rich area surrounding Hot Springs, Arkansas. Undoubtedly, quartz wins top prize for most pick-and-hammer toting rock hounds headed to this region. But many other treasures there await discovery, including wavellite, a beautiful mineral that is relatively unknown outside the realm of avid rock collectors.
The photos in this post were snatched off the Web. In other words, all the specimens I once had somehow vanished over the past 30 years, and these lovely pictures are a virtual reminder of the once tangible evidence of my labors. (Photos in this post courtesy of R. Weller/Cochise College.)
First, let’s get all the technical stuff out of the way. Wavellite is most commonly found in shades of green, but can also be yellow or black. Wavellite has a hardness of only about 4 on the Moh’s scale and chemically looks like this - Al3(PO4)2(OH)3·5H2O. The finely acicular, radiating crystals reminds most people of a starburst design. Sometimes, wavellite is mined for the extraction of phosphorous. Wavellite is a secondary mineral of aluminous low-grade metamorphic rocks, in phosphate and limonitic deposits. Okay, enough technical stuff.

My wavellite collecting trip occurred sometime back in the mid-1970’s. I remember my Dad and another collecting enthusiast, Richard Eldridge tromping up and down a heavily wooded area on a steep hillside. This site details a couple of the premier collecting areas – I think we must have been at the Avant location. Chunks of wavellite eroded from the outcrops near the top of the ridge, so we pretended to be mountain goats and dug in our heels while picking at the ground and uncovering our specimens. It must have been fall, because I remember a covering of brown, slippery leaves on the hillside. My first intent was to collect a few nice pieces and go back to the car for a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips. I stuffed my pockets full and then started filling my canvas bag – the big and tall kind Navy guys and gals take overseas. I kept finding better and better specimens and just couldn’t take time out for my snack break. The bag eventually filled to the top with wavellite and felt like a lead weight tied to my shoulder. There was room for one more rock, so I took a couple steps and reached out, and…..snap! The shoulder strap broke, sending the bag tumbling down the slope with all the contents quickly dispersing into the cover of the leaves. I made an immediate grab for the bag, obviously way too late, but the motion upset my precarious perch. I overcompensated to keep from falling forward, fell on my backside, and started sliding down the hill, legs spread wide! A well-placed tree, just before a vertical drop, abruptly stopped my descent. My pride, among other things, had been hurt, and all that remained of my hard work were my pockets full of sharp rocks poking me in the legs.

Actually, I did go back up the hill and collect a few more specimens, but the memory of the painful slide persuaded me to keep my load light this time. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with collecting beautiful mineral specimens, and I hope to go back to the area again to acquire some tangible specimens for my collection. Something inside of me that day long ago couldn’t be satisfied, and it didn’t stop with just that day – from time to time, I still struggle with the same attitude of discontent. I readily recognize the struggle now and choose my steps more carefully!


  1. I guess I'm not a dedicated rock hound because I wouldn't travel hundreds of miles to search for rocks. We seem to have only one type of rock in my area--limestone. Not pretty but occasionally I see fossils embedded which are interesting.

  2. Ha, well written and I enjoyed the whole story. I tell you though you are a bigger person than me. If I had fallen like that I would've said forget about the rocks and limped my way back home. Good job on persevering. And I think it nice you and W2W share the blog. Makes it very interesting getting two folks perspectives.

  3. I actually have a piece of this here... somewhere...

    remember during the late 80's when everyone was carrying on about the healing powers of chrystals? Well, people would get into it, and immediatly buy rocks for all their friends... I was working in a bar, and it seems every weekend I cam home with specimens, and somewhere in the back of a closet I have a small jewelry box full of rocks which I kept because 1) people I considered my friends gave them to me, and 2) some of them were mighty cool looking. There was one of these, and I knew the name wavelite, but nothing else about it...

    Anyway, just thought I'd mention it...

  4. This is a beautiful rock! Great story, SAM! Hey, I missed your simply MUST come 'round more often to show and tell us some great things regarding rocks! Glad that tree stopped your fall, BTW!!!

  5. Marnie, all we have is lots of sand here in Florida. Pretty boring for a rock hound. I'm not sure where you are in N. Illinois, but somewhere up there is the world-famous Mazon Creek fossil site - huge fern fossils and trees.

    Tina, W2W has to twist my arm to get me to write on the blog. I guess I have a lazy streak when it comes to writing. I like telling the stories, so I'm glad she eventually motivates me!

    Claude, sounds like you are destined to have a rock collection. I was saddened to hear about the fate of your ammanoid! I never really bought in to all the crystal healing power stuff, but did sell many quartz crystals to those faithful.

    Julie, thanks for the encouragement. Wavellite is a neat mineral, and access to collecting sites is practically gone. Hopefully, W2W and I can make a trip back to Ark. sometime soon, and find a few specimens before it's too late. I will do my best to contribute more often to W2W's site. She said that this latest story was new to her, but I could swear that I told her about it before. We need to have a new and mutual story we can post about!

  6. great story. yes, life is full of how much is enough, and often it is painful when we go to far.

  7. Nice to see you posting again. I enjoyed this and almost felt that slide down the bank..I bet that did hurt!!! Also thank you for the information. I asked my Mother what happened to my childhood rock collection but she didn't know. Kind of sad...Michelle

  8. Man, I can't wait to use the following information, gleaned from your post, when I want to make a statement about something so obvious:

    Well, is wavellite a secondary mineral of aluminous low-grade metamorphic rocks, in phosphate and limonitic deposits?

  9. Wayne, I find some lessons I have to learn over and over. Your students are likely much more apt to learn something the first time!

    Michelle, I sometimes miss my old collection, too. But, I look forward to finding new rocks on new adventures.

    WS, the economic value of wavellite is hardly worth mentioning - its primary use is to be pretty and set on the collector's shelf. Another Arkansas rock, bauxite, is brown with spots that look like chickenpox and is downright unattractive. But, Bauxite is an extremely important economic rock and the main ore of aluminum. Go figure.

  10. Harrowing incident to say the least I bet, eh Mr. S.A.M.? Your slide reminded me of one I took many years ago while camping up on "Spider Ridge," one of Tucker Holler's two ridge banks that run alongside a short stretch of the Green River. It wasn't rock collecting that almost caused me to go flying off into the wild blue yonder that hot summer day - it was a mean and mad horde of yellow jackets!

    I hope you get to acquire more of those gorgeous rocks, but a word or tow of caution before your next trip: be on the lookout for ground nesting yellow jackets, and always make time for "a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips!" (An added word of caution about sugary drinks in the wild - bees will want some too!)

  11. A good lesson to learn, though you learned it rather painfully. This is a beautiful mineral, one I've never heard of before. In my short time of rock collecting in my younger days, most of my "collecting" was done in stores selling small chunks of minerals:)

  12. This is a fantastic post !! I really loved the first photo as in that stone i can see the God is trust who looks like monkey and it is shaped in that manner only..Great.Great and great..Unseen Rajasthan

  13. TC, I had a run-in with those ground nesting yellow jackets while mowing one day. They were extremely aggressive and a few followed me into the house (as they were stinging). Later, I was told the mower hum attracted them so I guess when walking in the woods, you had better be quiet!

    Rose, good things come in small packages or small chunks, as the saying goes. Some mineral enthusiasts collect only tiny specimens called thumbnails. Most of the time these little specimens are perfectfy formed crystals and are kept in small square plastic boxes with a magnifier lids.

    I hadn't seen the monkey image in the rock until you pointed it out. My wife and I often see faces in outcropping rocks (while hiking in Southern Illinois) but finding a face in a hand-sized specimen is fun too!