It was officially spring and time to get out to collect fluorescent minerals. I had arranged to visit my friend Mark Cole and collect again at the Columbia Mine in Marion, Kentucky, but those plans changed. At the Tucson shows, Mark had met and invited Graham Fraser, a fluorescent mineral collector from Australia, to stop by and visit. Graham's flight arrived too late for us to drive to Marion, so our "Plan B" was to collect at two mines near Mark's home, the Wilder Prospect and the Vickers Mine. Mark had obtained permission to collect at both mines. After a long drive, I arrived at Mark's home at dusk.
Here is a little a little history about the mines. The Vickers Mine vein was discovered in 1890. The vein contained chiefly fluorite, barite, calcite, galena, and sphalerite, with as much as 17 ounces of silver per ton. Vickers was mined heavily in the mid 1930's but has not been worked since. Three trenches and one pit remain of the old workings, other much more extensive workings were filled in. In the future Mark may hunt for the other Vickers workings. Access to the mine is through an old cemetery, where the oldest tombstone we found was dated 1820. As for the Wilder Prospect, also known as the Dry Creek Prospect, it exploits a likely extension of the Vickers vein.
Since I arrived Friday night and Graham was not due to arrive until late Saturday afternoon, Saturday morning Mark, his dogs Minnie and Marshmallow, and I went to the Wilder Prospect. The road up to the prospect through Wilder Hollow was one of the most interesting country roads I have ridden over. The road begins as a very normal looking county/State maintained gravel road. Not long after a left turn and then as short straight stretch in front of a farm house, the road appears to end at the farm.
At this point, thinking my directions were wrong, I might have turned around and left. Mark said that this was a public road. He then turned to the right in from of the barn, drove past the barn and then forded a stream – Wilder Hollow Branch. I commented that fording a stream was not unusual for a country road in Tennessee or North Carolina, where I travel a lot. Mark replied that there were more fords on the road and that I might be interested in this road as we progressed. After several more simple fords, the stream that we had been fording became the roadbed for two long stretches, one more than 100 yards long (see photo above). The streambed was gravel and there were few rocks large enough to endanger the tires or undercarriage of the truck. At least three residences were on this road at one time, but apparently only one was currently occupied (webmaster note: none are presently occupied beyond the 1st residence). It might be a little dicey when/if it froze over in the winter. Through two cattle gates and after heading up hill away from the stream, we reached two farm ponds, made a u-turn and backed up.
The small former zinc mining prospect was right next to the road. We unloaded our gear. Having collected there previously, Mark started breaking rocks out of the intact vein that the prospect appeared to have originally exploited (see photo on the left below). I wanted to keep out of my friend's way and so I started digging/forcing exposed ore rock out of the ground, creating a cache of these mud-covered rocks for later cracking to expose fresh faces, and then lamping the fresh faces. The dogs and nearby cattle ignored us. At some point we mutually stopped processing rock and started lamping. Almost all of the heavy ore rock was shortwave fluorescent in shades of white with a tan or yellow hue and some blue hydrozincite. The calcite and fluorite are also fluorescent but less so in midwave and and even less in longwave. As for non-fluorescent minerals, there was a little galena but no obvious signs of sphalerite or any other primary zinc or manganese minerals. On the right is Mark's photo of hydrozincite on barite from Wilder Prospect. We soon had all we needed and headed home to cleanup and go to the airport to meet Graham.
The directions to the Vickers Mine are almost the same as for the Wilder Prospect. However, access is uphill and by foot. I would guess about half to three quarters of a mile directly through the woods with an altitude gain of 200-300 feet. There were 6 collectors (and the two dogs) on today's trip. That Sunday, three other Tennessee collectors - John Wayne Smith, Tom Kurras, and Fred Speyer joined Mark, Graham and me to collect at Vickers. John went up ahead of us to look for morel mushrooms, but found none. There are no paths and no markings on the way, so I doubt I would have found the mine on my own. Apparently, on the very first trip to locate the mine, Mark's sharp-eyed daughter, Valerie, spotted the first signs of the mine four workings. Mark and John had collected there a couple of other times. All of the dumps are covered in soil and dead leaves (see photo below). Tips of the ore rocks peaking through the soil and dead leaves are easily distinguished from the exposed limestone surface rocks some of which contain fossils.
Collecting at Vicker's Prospect - Graham F, Mark C. Fred S., John W. S., Tom K.
The ore rocks are quite similar to the rocks from Wilder and are from the same larger deposit as Wilder and the much more famous Elmwood Mine probably 30 miles away. Fred found some blue fluorescing fluorite, but I think that most of the rest of us found calcite, barite, and fluorite fluorescing shortwave in shades of white and tan. There was a little blue fluorescing hydrozincite and an unknown yellow fluorescing mineral, which likely is sphalerite (see Mark's photo of fluorite and "sphalerite" below). Fluorescence is best in shortwave, moderate in midwave and weaker in longwave.
It was great to get out to meet new friends and collect fluorescent minerals with them. It was an added bonus to talk with Graham about his collecting trips to the outback in Australia. He also shared the power point presentation he had prepared to give at the FMS meeting in Tucson, but which he could not give because of technical difficulties. Graham's collecting has produced some very interesting rocks. You should be seeing and hearing more about these new Australian fluorescent rocks in the near future, if you haven't heard about them already. I hope to get to Tennessee again to collect fluorescent rocks and visit with my new friends. Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef is on my "bucket list", so it is also possible, but less likely, that I might try to get to Australia to collect with Graham. It's something to dream about.
Webmaster's dog, Marshmallow, at Vickers in late spring. All the exposed rocks are the result of visits over the 2010/11 winter. Prior to that year they were buried under leaves and moss - simply not visible.
Don Y. w/ Minnie - Vicker's (springtime)
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