Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Purple Passion Mine

About a year ago we had the opportunity to tour and collect at the Purple Passion mine, formerly the Diamond Joe mine. Between 1901 and 1928 the mine produced silver, lead, gold, copper and molybdenum. These days it is operated as a mineral specimen mine. Particularly, fluorescent minerals such as willemite, fluorite, aragonite and calcite. Bill Gardner at Way Too Cool (http://www.fluorescents.com) was our guide as well as a virtual encyclopedia on the mine, the history and the relavant minerals.

The day began at the Monarch mine to the southeast of the Purple Passion mine. We had the opportunity to collect some nice specimens of malachite occurring in brush like sprays. To say that the rattlesnakes were particularly active that day would be an understatement. They were definitely out in force, and we were on a giant pile of rocks.

The next, and most anticipated, stop of the day was the Purple Passion mine itself. Bill and his assistant setup a generator, and ran UV lights into the mine. A few at a time, our group made its way into, and begrudgingly out of the mine, spending far to short a time in that wonderful tunnel. Admittedly, hours in the mine would probably feel insufficient. 

The tunnel itself looks quite ordinary under regular light. Careful inspection of the walls reveals a hint at the composition but not much more. The anticipation was intense.

Lights out... 

The moment the UV lamps burst into life, so did the tunnel. Surrounding us, the walls of the mine fluoresced in an astounding variety of colors and patterns. It was surreal. I half expected to see the White Rabbit dashing just out of sight. The itch to collect some of this for myself needed to be scratched. 

Our final stop of the day was an area near the mine where the material that is pulled out is piled, and where we would collect for the rest of the day. Bill quickly setup a lightproof(ish) tent and generators for the UV lights in the tent. While explaining the dangers of flipping rocks over in the dessert to the group, as if on cue, the example rock was occupied by a somewhat irate scorpion. As if to extend the humiliation suffered by said scorpion, it was later used as a demonstration of fluorescence in the insect kingdom. 

Collecting fluorescents here was easy going as we were picking from piles and piles of material. All of the material fluoresced to some extent, the challenge became choosing pieces with pleasing patterns and combinations of color. The UV tent made the inspection process easy, and provided a near constant chorus of "ooh's" and "ahh's". With Bill's help we all got pretty good at identifying the various minerals present in the material and collected some rather nice pieces. 

Near the end of the day I remembered another reason I wanted to visit this site, Wulfenite! Unfortunately, I had little time to start tracking that particular mineral down, and after a little promising exploration decided return another day. That's how the hobby gets its hooks into you. The possibility of finding something new or the chance you'll find a particularly amazing specimen. When it is all said and done, none of it matters much, at the very least we get to see some amazing places, meet some interesting people, and have some good times.

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