Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Geology-palooza! Ozokerite? Colton? You bet!

Everyone likes geology. I think we have established that. The ranks of this blog have swollen from a few dedicated followers to the literal squadron of eager minds that now call this electronic geologic Mecca (EGM) home. Oh how my loins swell with pride! As a treat, let’s put aside our daily concerns. Stop worrying about how your steel interests are performing! Put aside your concerns about your staff of disgruntled butlers! Now is time for geology! Also I’m going to mix in some ghost town stuff. I am full of surprises like that.

Wax is nothing new. We all have seen candles in action at Halloween or at low-quality restaurants that put candles on the table to try to spruce the place up. Some of us find significant deposits growing from various nooks and crannies of our bodies. Wax is one of those things that I’m glad to have around, but I have never really thought about where it comes from. Bees make wax I think. Also honey. But they also sting you if you throw rocks at them. Bees are a bit of a conundrum.

So there we are. Living in a waxy world but never knowing from where this miracle material comes from! I suspect that most people go to their graves never having the question of where wax comes from answered to any level of satisfaction. These people then go on to become crotchety old ghosts, unable to rest as long as the mystery of wax eludes them. Well, there will be no such fate for us!

Now, before I get your hopes up, I have to tell you that I have no idea where the majority of wax comes from. Perhaps an enlightened reader can fill us in so we don’t become crotchety ghosts. But I do know where a very small portion of wax comes from. What if I were to tell you that some wax comes from the earth? I’m not talking about bees that have chosen to live underground. I’m talking about wax that comes straight out of geology’s kitchen. What’s more, what if I told you that there is only one place in the U.S. where commercially useful amounts of this waxy wonder comes from? Have I blown your minds? Well, that’s just the beginning. Strap yourselves in, because the tale of Ozokerite is a bumpy ride.

Our story actually begins with the little town of Colton, Utah. Not much to look at nowadays, Colton was once a pretty important place. Well, not really. I’m just saying that to pander to the powerful Colton lobby. Colton was a dump then and it is a dump now. Actually it isn’t much of anything now, but none of this is important. In 1883, a little outfit named the Rio Grande Railroad Company was building a railroad from the top of Spanish Fork Canyon to Price, Utah. For those of you who aren’t from around Utah, this is what we are looking at.

I can't read that map either. Ah well. Price is a land rich with coal, (among other, less pleasant things), and this railroad was built in order to haul the good stuff up out of Price and over to Provo where those jerks could use it for whatever they wanted. As an interesting note, Provo would later produce several girls who wouldn’t date me.

Anyway, railroads, like children, are noisy, frustrating, steam-powered creatures that require constant help and often smell bad. In order to get the trains up the canyon, several stopping points were needed to re-streamify the engines as well as to perform various other railroad-related things. I imagine that prostitutes were somehow worked into the equation. One of these stopping points ended up being the town of Colton. Originally named Pleasant Valley Junction (which is a far better name for a town than other names we have seen. Eat it Sulferdale), Colton served as an important stop for the trains. I imagine that the scene looked something like this….

In 1897 the town’s name was changed to Colton after Willaim F. Colton, a railroad dude who helped develop the place. With all that great, steamy action taking place the town soon blew up. A school, a couple of large hotels, a full-fledged business district and all the other wonders that the late 1800’s had to offer showed up. Even Batman got in on the action! Look! I have managed to acquire a rare photograph of him fighting some sort of turn of the century villain (The Coal-Miser, The Immigrant, Lord Consumption, President Garfield, etc. )

Nah, that’s a picture I got at Comic Con last year. Heehee! Look! Batman’s cape is stuck on a fence! Man I love Comic Con. But all this prosperity was a pathetic, puke-worthy display compared to the glory the town was soon to enjoy.

To quote Wikipedia, Ozokerite is a naturally-occurring odoriferous mineral wax or paraffin. While that may be an apt description, I find that it lacks the passion that is owed to such an unusual material. I prefer my own description of Ozokerite is a naturally-occurring odoriferous mineral wax of paraffin that is totally tits. So, what does this magical substance look like? Take a deep breath, because the answer may blow your mind….

It’s a black rock-looking thing! Geology loves to make things look like other things. But it certainly feels different than most other rocks. For one thing it is way waxier than most rocks. Like WAY more waxier. This can be attributed to Ozokerite being made of wax. Plus, as Wikipedia told us in its rather uneventful summation of the stuff, it smells bad. Well, not bad. Just really waxy. It smells like if Silly Putty and a really old person had a baby. Look, here’s a piece of Ozokerite in a fancy suit!

And here’s a piece that's down on his luck.

Anyway, if you are any sort of internet geologist, you have to be curious as to how the term Ozokerite came to be. Well, that’s a good question. One that can easily be answered right now. By me. Ozokerite means “Stench wax” in greekish. This is an unfortunate name, but it’s about the best you can hope for when you are a chunk of stenchy-wax. or Courtney Love. Just to break up the text, I'm going to post a picture of another sketch I got at Comic Con

That picture works as a great transition, as Ozokerite's origins are as magical as that of any superhero. First, a large reservoir of oil forms underground as dinosaurs and trees and stuff all return to nature in the beautiful dance of life. Then the oil escapes from its earthy prison through various little cracks and crannies in the rock until it either reaches the surface or just sorta evaporates where it is. If the oil fails to reach the surface and just sits there in the crack, then it will eventually turn into something else. What it turns into isn’t any of our concern, what does matter to us is that as the oil dissolves, it leaves behind wax. Stench wax, to be exact. This exciting and arousing journey has happened in very few places in the world, and only in one place in the U.S. Right next to a little town named Colton, Utah. Eh? Eh? Why, that’s the same town we were talking about above!

In 1904, an outlaw named C.L. “Gunplay” Maxwell decided to stop murdering people and stealing things to look for some honest work. He came to Colton with the intent of being a mine guard for one of the nearby coal mines (and probably to do a little murdering and stealing), but ended up finding something unusual in the hills above town. It was some sort of stench wax! Soon Ol’ Gunplay and his lawyer set up the Utah Ozokerite Company and went to town on the stuff. Within a few months, they had advanced their mine 70 feet. This mine, in fact…

In March of 1905, a mill was built, and hoist and pumps were put in to lift folks out of the stench wax hole. This mill, in fact…

Yes, it was a good time to be in the stench wax business. Interestingly enough, the one guy who didn’t agree with this statement was Gunplay. He just couldn’t shake the murdering bug, and in 1909 he had a rather clich├ęd pistol duel with the sheriff of Price. Turns out the sheriff was faster.

But Colton was loving the Ozokerite boom, even if Mr. Gunplay was pushing up daisies in the arguably one of the uglier cities in Utah. Turns out you can use the stuff for all sorts of neat old-fashioned things! You need a new phonograph record? You need some Ozokerite. Need waterproof matches, wax paper, boot polish, wedding cake figurines, varnish or fireproofing for your life preservers? You need some sweet, sweet Ozokerite. Say you are the operator of an organized religion, and you are tired of being surrounded by droopy candles. You know that the Lord can’t be pleased with your lack of proper, upright candles. So you buy some Colton-brand Ozokerite candles, which due to their slightly higher hydrogen content won’t droop under day to day use! Now just to sit back and watch the converts roll in!

And so things went. Then in 1940 diesel trains made the town of Colton obsolete, as the railroads no longer needed to be constantly fixing their engines. At least they still had that Ozokerite industry, right? Well, geology is a funny thing. Actually it’s not. It’s about as far from funny as you can get. But it is a fickle thing. Just as the community had to rely on Ozokerite for life, someone else went and ruined everything by inventing plastic. Long story short, by 1950 the town was gone. Now it just sorta looks like this.

It’s out there somewhere. I couldn’t find anything remaining from it. Well, except for this thing.

That is up there still. They moved it from the townsite to next to the freeway when the town died. Now it sits there waiting for whatever it is that gas stations wait for.

That’s a disappointing way to end a post though. Here’s another sketch from Comic Con. Neat!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Abandoned Mine Friday! - The Hidden Treasure!

Ah, what better way to run out the rest of the week than with a glimpse back at some old mine. As fledging internet geolgists it is important that you see the places where your prey (rocks) like to hide, mate, sit, lounge and otherwise await your discovery.

Now, mines aren't for everyone. And luckily, if you are one of the many who feel that entering an unstable man-made cavern held up by rotting 100+ year old rotting timbers is a bad idea, you don't need to fear. Rocks can be found on the surface just as easily as they can be found at depth. It's just that the rocks won't be quite as fresh as if you go down to the bowels of the earth and hunt them yourself. It's like picking ears of corn at the supermarket. You can get satisfactory corn from the top of the pile, make a satisfactory meal for your family, and get sent to a satisfactory nursing home when the time comes. Or, you can rifle through the piles of corn until you find the BEST ears at the bottom of the pile, and then go home and make some sort of crazy, french-sounding meal for your wife and then get it on.

And so, in an attempt to nurse you all into the rock hunting preditors that you can be, let's try to acclimate ourselves to the world of the underneath. A land where minerals grow like carrots, and carrots grow like regular carrots. Now, the first rule of mine club is that you don't ever go into a mine. This may seem to be a bit contradictory to a 1st time reader, but as gnarled, hairy veterans of this blog we know that geology is nothing but one contradiction after another. Mines are very dangerous. They collapse, they have holes, they probably contain wolfmen, and sometimes people go in and never come back out. I don't know what happens to them. It's like this one time where I went into the wrong theater after using the bathroom at the movies. Plus I think it may be illegal.

That being said, sometimes old mines are kinda cool. You shouldn't go in them, but if you do, make sure you have all the proper permission. Also tell someone where you are going to they know where to find your body. Ha! No, that's just a little mine humor there (but seriously, make sure someone knows where to find your body). If you manage to clear all the red tape and get into a mine, then brace yourself for a world unlike anything you have ever seen. Cus it's really dark.

The mine for today is the Hidden Treasure Mine. If you read the proceeding post about Jacob City (as I assume you have), then you already know where this mine is located. It was discovered in 1865 or so (I haven't actually read the proceeding post) and for years it was a huge producer in the area. Here's a picture of it, just in case you are too lazy to scroll down a few inches to the previous post.

The ore coming out of the mine was largely a silver-bearing galena, as well as a soon to be covered mineral named sphalerite. The mine followed thick veins of the stuff to a depth of 2,500 feet where it met up with other mines down in Ophir. Mining ended at some point in the 1960's, and the mine sat idle until 1989, when a boy scout got lost in there. They found him, but decided that the mine needed to be sealed up for all time. And so it was...

Now, this is a problem. We can't get into sealed mines! There's all this damn concrete in the way! Taking samples of concrete is an unfulfilling way to spend an afternoon, so we will need to find another way in. Lucky for you, I have connections to an "underground organization". (GREATEST JOKE YOU HAVE EVER READ!) Look, here's another way!

Learning to negotiate rusty ladders is an essential part of your training, and I recommend the following procedure....

After having completed steps 1 through 3, place the ladder up against a tree and climb it a few times. Try to get used to the feeling of uncertainty that such an activity invokes. Embrace it like a feral lover!
Down we go! Further and further into the dark abyss that is the bosom of the earth!

The main workings of the mine took place along an inclined shaft (that's what she said) that was used to carry the ore carts to the surface. Well, there's not a lot left of the ore carts or the tracks, but we can still walk down the incline!

Look out!

Here's a good place to stop and learn about one of the many dangers that lurk in the bleak universe of the underground. A cave in. Cave-ins are a cowardly foe, choosing to ambush the unwary internet geologist instead of putting up a fair fight. You can avoid them by looking for the signs that a cave-in is present or nearby. Do you see fresh feces? Unless they are in your pants, this is not a sign of a cave-in. Do you see a large pile of rotten timbers and blocks of rocks? This is a trusty sign that a cave-in is possibly waiting for you ahead and you should practice extreme caution.

Why, look here! It's one of the friendly residents of the mine!

This boiler once held the sweet sweet energy that kept this mine moving. At least I think it did. It may have also once held lunchboxes for all I know. Leave me alone. What's important is that it is not actively trying to kill us.

And if you needed further proof that not everything in the mine has crushing you in its plans, here's another frequent visitor to the area.

That is a rusted bucket. Forgotten by its owners, now it sits and holds nothing but the echos of a forgotten age. Also moss.
Now, not everything you meet down here is going to be some inanimate object that we have arbitrarily decided to give life to. No, there's plenty of the good ol' fashioned REAL living things down here. Look! Some sort of crazy white mildew growing on the beams!

This material may or may not actively be trying to kill you. It's hard to tell with mildew. I mean, it's not attacking you, but it may be filling your lungs with mind altering spores. In the end, I think that's one of the better ways to go.

Look, we've reached our stop! Here we are at Carbide Junction!

As a bit of a fun fact for all of us, Carbide is a form of ultra hard steel that you can put on the end of your drill bits to help them get through the tough rocks. Ah, edufunual! Anyway, from here we can explore one of the many terrifying tunnels that branch off from our only way home. Now would be a good time to remember the blog motto: SPEED STRENGTH AGILITY! Go ahead and say that over and over a couple of times to work up some bravery. You pansy.

Let's walk along and see what we can see....

Hmmm...lots of pictures of tunnels. As I've said before, mines love tunnels. Tunnels are the liver of the mine. Ore carts are the knees, and rusted buckets are the kidneys. Don't feel bad if you didn't know this. You'll catch on soon. Why look! It's a message from the past!

This would be a message that would by and large be good to obey, but I suspect that we are ok in passing just this once. If you are ever in a mine and find a good bunch of dynamite, go ahead and leave it there. Dynamite is the liver of the mine. Look at this!!!

This is called a Stope. You really want to make sure no one ever finds your body? Just fall in one of these fellas. It's where the miners just went nuts on the ore body and dug out a huge cavern! Sometimes the ore doesn't follow straight lines, and you have to chase it a little bit. This results in huge open areas that are hard to photograph. Cave-ins like to live in here, so let's be on our way.

We've seen only a fraction of the wonders that a mine can hold, but if you remember we had to walk down a fairly steep inclined shaft to get here. The problem is that we must now climb back out. Gravity is the liver of a mine. Here it is sadly going to be working against us. Pulling us down....down.....down into the bleak dispair of the ever cooling crust of this miserable planet. So unload everything cool from your backpacks that you have collected, because this is going to be a right old pain in the butt to get out of. Go ahead and forget a bunch of stuff too. Anything to lighten your load.

*1 hour straight of swear words*

Don't be afraid to swear in a mine. First off, no one can hear you except for the large number of mythical creatures who call this place home, such as the Tommy Knocker...

Or, my version....

My version just looks like a mischevious WWI British General. So let's go with the top version.
Also there is the the mold, who is already going to town on your nervous system. Second, the more air you get out of your lungs, the less you have to carry back up the shaft with you.

And so we are out. I didn't take any pictures of the leaving part because I was too busy trying to keep the air out of my lungs through the afore-mentioned technique. I think we have all learned that the underworld is not such a bad place. We also learned that sometimes you can work really REALLY hard and not get a single mineral. Geology can be like that sometimes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ghost Town Tuesday!!! - Jacob City!

Ahhh, Jacob City. This is gonna be a treat for everyone.

A few months back we had the supreme pleasure of taking a look at the (sorta) ghost town of Ophir, and I think it is safe to say that none of us have ever had that much fun before. Well, get ready to dry clean your pants, because here we go again.

I bring up Ophir because this next ghostly little haunt is located in Dry Canyon, just one canyon to the north of the town of Ophir. You’ll remember that the town of Mercur was just one canyon to the south of Ophir, so it would seem that these miserable little hills were once home to a whole wad of people who got to wake up in the morning and realize that they lived either in a narrow, flood-prone drainage or up on the side of a dim, craggy cliff. On some level I envy them. On a much large level they disgust me. Here’s a map of where we are talking about.

That's too small to read, but such is life. The humble little hamlet of Jacob City is the craggy cliff variety of ghost town. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why it was settled, what with it being surrounded by rich mining districts. But just in case you are having a hard time keeping up I will give you a hint. The sweet, sweet song of the mining siren.

The story of Jacob City begins with the discovery of valuable earth-goods in the area. Around the same time that Ophir and Mercur were starting to take off, someone clever individual (who I am guessing was named Jacob) decided to look at nearby canyons for even more good mining spots. A likely scenario is that around 1865 a group of solders who had been sent to the region to watch over the mormons got the fever. You see, many of these solders had been bitten by and were nursing the swollen, pulsating tick that is gold fever. On one of their little excursions they met up with some Native Amercians who showed them a place where they got the metal for their bullets. That same year several claims were made on the site and so our story begins. Well, continues. The beginning is at the top of this paragraph.

Of all the mines operating out of the canyon the largest producer was the Hidden Treasure Mine.

This was one of the sites located by the tick-infested solders in 1865, and by 1870 several of the claims had met up and consolidated into one huge, mega-mine. This isn’t to say that this was the only mine in the area. Also located up Dry Canyon are the Chicago, Sacramento, Keasarge, Utah Queen, Wandering Jew, Queen of the Hills and probably others, all of whom did just fine at pulling various minable goods from the bowels of Lady Earth.

As mining got fired up, there came a need for a variety of “services” that miners frequently seek. Ophir is located just 2 miles away, but you had to climb all over these stupid hills to get there so it ended up taking all day, and by that point most miners were no longer in the mood for either whiskey or ladies of the evening (not vampires). So a closer location was needed. And so, like a majestic Elm, the town of Jacob City rose from the earth, its trunk representing the mining industry, its roots representing the incredible work ethic of the people, and its leaves representing cheap floozies.

As was said above, Jacob City is located at the top of Dry Canyon and was consequently very isolated from other communities. As a result, the city needed its own school, stores and such. And by 1876 it had all of these and more. Houses clung to the sides of the canyon like the larvae of some great foreign moth. A large hotel was built in a flattened out area of the canyon wall. This hotel….

At its peak, the place boasted a population of 200 to 300 people. So it was never a huge place, but you could probably find enough people to fill out the rosters of a couple baseball teams. I don’t know why that’s how I’m describing this. I don’t even know why I’m still writing this sentence. Go away.

So, now we have reached the point where everything looks good for the thriving little town, and now I face the difficult duty of walking us down the path to ghost-townmanship. Getting the ore out of the mines wasn’t difficult, as it seemed like there was an endless amount of the stuff down there. But getting the ore out of the town and to a smelter WAS difficult. And ore is useless to someone if they can’t get it to some sort of place that can do something useful with it. For a while, the ore was carried down the canyon by carts. This totally sucked because it was hard to do. So then someone built a majestic tramway to carry the goods over the ground and down to the mouth of the canyon. This was a much more impressive transportation system, but it was really slow so it kinda sucked too. Finally someone figured out something great. A guy named Matt Gisborn owned the Mono Mine, a quant little producer located a good half-mile south of Jacob City spent a ton of money and finally built a good road out of the canyon. You guys ready for a picture of a road? Here it is!

This road has been improved over the years, and can now accommodate all but the most pathetic of vehicles, such as the Nissan Cube. Anyway, this Gisborn guy charged the crud out of the other mines to use his road, and in the process made a bunch of money, so everyone wins. Except for you and me. If you are reading this blog then you have most certainly not won. And I write the stupid thing, so there are very few who would consider me a winner.

Anyway, self-depreciating humor aside, the Mono Mine ended up being the place to be. You didn’t have to climb all the way up to Jacob City, and you had a great mine right there that could give you all the lung-disease you could hope for. And so, the town of Gisborn was created around that mine and soon challenged Jacob City for the title of “Lousiest City Stuck Up In A Canyon”. The Mono Mine pinched out in 1879, but by then the town of Gisborn had all but taken over all the prostitute action in Dry Canyon.

I don’t have any pictures of Gisborn. Sorry.

The large scale mining kinda puttered out by 1885, but the city of Gisborn stuck around until about 1929 when folks officially threw in the towel.

So ended the town of Jacob City and its eternal enemy, Gisborn. Today the site looks very much like this…

Here’s a picture of an ore bin that use to ring with the sounds of industry. It would have been located just above the main portion of Jacob City…

The hotel was once the main attraction up the canyon. It hung on up until the 1980’s, when it finally gave way and fells down. Some folks feel that it was destroyed in when the mines in the area were reclaimed and careless workers plowed it down. Others say that nature is a vengeful force, and finally managed to destroy the works of man. I don’t know the truth, but here’s what it looks like now…

A large pile of rubble. Neat!

So if you go to Jacob City, prepare for some level of disappointment. Unless you like pictures of foundations, then the place probably isn’t for you. The road leading up to the place takes you a little close to the edge of an impressive drop, one that has certainly claimed a few victims in the past. So do be safe.

Now, like I said, the Hidden Treasure Mine has been closed off to the public for quite a while now. But wouldn’t it be something if your brave author found a way into it? Hmmm…now wouldn’t that be something…..