It’s quiet. Too quiet. Even the sound of the water falling from the roof of the cave has fallen silent. The air is thick, as if it were composed of a million eyes watching your every move, silently waiting for you to make a mistake and join them for eternity. You press on, knowing that your prize is worth the risk. For in this cave lies the most savage of the grey rocks. You are on a quest for magnetite….
There. That was to establish the mood. Now, magnetite is a pretty cool rock. It’s not all flashy and glitzy like your feldspars or your quartzite because it’s secure with who it is. Before we hunt this magnificent mineral, let’s list what we know about it.
1) It’s very heavy. Even for a rock.
2) It may be magnetic. Seems like it aught to be with a name like magnetite.
3) It is a fantastic shade of grey. Sometimes. Most of the time.
4) Iron is involved somehow.
5) Probably shouldn’t be used for culinary purposes.
Alright, admittedly that’s not very much. This is a mineral that I haven’t dealt with much in the past. So in our time of need and loss, let’s consult a very important book. A book that has lessons on every page and can lead us to a better life. A book in which answers are given to those who seek them. I speak, of course, of THE 22ND EDITION OF THE MANUAL OF MINERAL SCIENCE
This book probably has information presented in an understandable fashion. I have a good feeling about this…Let’s see….Magnetite….page 389...here we are….
Uh oh! Numbers! Numbers and charts! This isn’t about magnetite at all! It’s about numbers and stuff! ROCKS DON’T HAVE NUMBERS IN THEM! I mean, what is this??
Really? This is a real thing? At last, I know all about the Ulvospinel-Magnetite series. I can sleep a happy man. Bah. This isn’t geology! It’s some form of Learn-ology, and I’ll have none of it! Let’s find out about this dull grey wonder by ourselves!
First off, let’s have a look at the mineral in question…..
There. Now we can see it for ourselves. Now I’m going to get serious here for a second and list some of Magnetite’s vital stats…
1) It has a metallic luster (Shiny grey!)
2) It is harder than chalk, but softer than glass
3) It is approximately 72.4% iron. So people mine it for iron. Iron to make cars and stuff.
4) It is why “Iron County” got the name “Iron County”. Again, cus of the iron. And because it’s a county. I’m not going to help you out anymore with this one.
5) It is uncomfortably heavy.
6) Its name comes from a fable told by Pliny ascribes its name to a shepherd named Magnes, who first discovered the mineral on Mount Ida by noting that the nails of his shoes and the iron ferrule (?) on his staff adhered to the ground. Neat!
7) I don’t know who Pliny is, but he tells a mean fable.
7) It is very magnetic. Let’s test it out….
Magnetism confirmed! The Indian magnet never lies (cus it’s governed by the laws of physics)
Alright. Now, you are all probably chomping at the bit (which is made of iron) to get your hands on some of this fantastic stuff yourself, and I can’t say I blame you. But as with all things worth having, it’s not easy to obtain. You need a quick wit, and steady hand and probably some other stuff. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be properly prepared when going rock hounding (serious part). I have been very thirsty (for water) before and it sucks because you need water to live. So let’s list off things that you will need….
A trusty hammer for rock-hounding.
A trusty water bottle for water-holding.
A map showing you where you are going
*Scanner not working. Sorry. No map for you.
A GPS probably doesn’t hurt either. I hear they run off satellites….MADE OF IRON! And probably other things. Sciencey things, like carbonate polymers and cell phones. I dunno. This isn’t about satellites.
Alright, let’s go Magnetite hunting!
Don’t ever do what I just did in that last picture.
Sadly, the act of harvesting Magnetite probably holds very little allure to folks who aren’t interested in hefty grey rocks. So, in the interest of showmanship, I had decided to spruce things up a little bit. From here on out the role of Magnetite will instead be portrayed by a terrifying creature of my own invention. Here we go!
Ah! The prey has been spotted! At first glance, it may look a lot like an ordinary rock. And depending on how into geology you are, that may be correct.
Magnetite’s first instinct is to run (or rust). You have to be fast, as they are fantastic at hiding in tall weeds and in rock gardens. This one has tried to hid in the mailbox…
The secret is to tire it out, make it run from you for a while. It takes a lot of energy to move such a heavy mass around! Let’s chase it around a little bit! But don’t get too close!
Look, our prey is headed inside! Let’s round it up!
Oooo, it’s tired from the chase….shhhhhhh….look, it’s taken a moment to try to catch its breath on the couch. Sorry little guy, it’s time to get the lead (iron) out!
Now, while it may run at first, Magnetite will turn and fight if you corner it or spill its Fresca. This is where you have to be quick, or you may end up with a nasty bruise on your foot. Lookout! THIS ONE’S A JUMPER!!!
Go for the torso! It’s the only weak spot!
There. Phew. That little guy did not come quietly. Now to turn him in to the local metal interest and make a nice industrial chain, or perhaps some sort of fancy stand for holding a lamp. There’s no end to the potential! Just don’t leave it in the rain cus it’ll rust.
And that is magnetite. Like I said, I took certain liberties with some of the data, but there‘s some true stuff in there too. Mostly in the first part of this post. Magnetite is the only naturally magnetic rock (I think) which means that it’s done more with its life than I have. This particular piece formed when superheated water became saturated with iron and rushed to the surface where the iron slowly leaked out of the water and formed this nifty crystal. “WHAT??” you bellow. “IRON HAS A CRYSTAL FORM”??? Yup, you’re looking at it. A lot of meteorites take this form as they melt in the atmosphere and re-harden upon re-entry, which is re-ally cool to me. So I hope we have all learned something today. Next up, limestone! Or maybe something else. I dunno.