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July 2007 History's Gem

While looking through the museum’s archives to select this month’s history gem, I came across a draft of an article written by the museum founder, Axel Niemi. I’m not sure if and when he ever published this article, but I thought it worthy of sharing.


Beach Rocks

Grand Marais to Whitefish Point are gravelly for the most part. The glacial rocks leave the harder agates and other quartz minerals to be picked by the lucky hunter. There are a number of gravel pits scattered throughout the U.P., but the chances of finding anything of importance in these pits are slim. The author found only one large green jasper moss agate (1 pound), which was identical to a specimen found by a conservation worker on the high banks of the Sucker River. However, rockhounds will have better luck combing the beaches.

Many visitors examine the Gitche Gumee Mineral Museum collection every year and are amazed at the multiple varieties of agate, jasper, and other gem minerals that have come from the local beaches. That the collection was found within a few minutes walk to a couple hour drive from the museum seems unbelievable. To those rockhounds who understand the difficulty encountered in hunting these all but camouflaged mineral gemstones, it is apparent that a great deal of time is required to find these priceless rarities. Those who are willing to put in the time, though, are often rewarded.

The biggest reason beginners are not successful in finding glacial agates is the fact that they give up too easily. Since the agates have become worn to the point that they are rather indistinguishable from other translucent non-gem rocks and opaque stones, the problem of spotting a choice agate is readily understood. To add further to the confusion, until the rockhound becomes accustomed to spotting agate characteristics, it is easy for your focus to be diverted by a host of variously colored pretty jaspers, cherts, and granite pebbles that are thrown into the jumble. Even the experienced agate hunter must avoid being inflicted by “the pretty rock syndrome.”

Another reason why agates are hard to spot is that many are covered with dozens of tiny powdery fractures that may hide the true nature of the interior beauty. If you were more than a billion years old having to contend with the waves and ice of Lake Superior, as well as its predecessor lakes and oceans, you would have a few fractures, too. Thus to be successful it is important that you keep your focus, spend the hours required, and concentrate on looking for the agate characteristics. With such a variety of rocks on the beach, coupled with the need to look through or among millions of other glacial-worn stones, the task to spot the elusive agate is a challenge in itself.

History's Gems Archives

May 2007
(The Telescope Story)

June 2007
(The Story of the Grand Marais "Meteor")

July 2007
(Hints on Hunting Glacial Agate Article)

August 2007
(Lake Superior Origin from 1957)

Fall 2007
(Tourist Information from the 1920s)

December 2007
(Lake Superior Editorial)

January 2008
(Grand Marais Tourist Signpost)

February 2008
(Unusual Wedding Invitation)

March 2008
(1915 Rules for Teachers)

April 2008
(Cedar Stump article from 1962)

May 2008
(Old Postcards)

June 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal Proposal-Part 1)

Summer 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 2)

Summer 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 3)

October 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal Proposal-Part 4)

November 2008
(Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Proposal-Part 5)

December 2008
(Agate Leaflet from 1927)

January 2009
(Old Postcards)

February 2009
(Snowstorm Article from 1988)

March 2009
(Lake Superior Agate Poem)

Spring 2009
(History of M77)

July 2009
(Axel Niemi Photo)

August 2009
(Ship Travel on Lake Superior)

September 2009
(Hints on Hunting and Finding Agates)

Fall 2009
(Hints on Hunting and Finding Agates Part 2)

February 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 1)

February 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 2)

April/May 2010
(The Story of Grand Marais Part 3)

June 2010
(Box of Rocks Gets Diploma)

July 2010
(Shipwrecks at Agate Beach)

August/September 2010
(1958 Detroit News Article about Axel Niemi)

Fall 2010
(Reprint from the Douglas Houghton Expedition)

Winter 2011
(Old Postcards and Pictures)

Spring 2011
(1905 Grand Marais Article)

September 2011
(Michigan Log Marks)

March 2012
(John Keating)

January 2012
(Axel Remembered)

March 2012
(John Keating)

June 2012
(The Shark: Post 1)

September 2012
(The Shark: Post 2)

March 2013
(The Shark: Post 3)

August 2013
(All That Glitters. . .)

November 2013
(Excerpts from The Grand Marais Herald)

April 2014
(Souvenir View Book of Sault Ste. Marie)

September 2014
(Michigan Beach Stones)

February 2015
(Michiganís Mystic Dunes)

June 2015
(Vintage Grand Marais Photos)

November 2015
(Gitchee Agomowin)

June 2016
(Grand Marais Poems)

March 2017
(Logging Era Photos)

July 2017
(Jonas Hill Letters)

December 2017
(Seagull (Lost) Island, Grand Marais Bay)



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Gitche Gumee Museum.
E21739 Brazel Street
Grand Marais, Michigan 49839


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