The next morning was bright with sunshine. Dew dripped from the morning grass. The world looked peaceful and happy, unaware of the destruction that happened at the Matthews’ house only one day before. Emma and Brody headed to see Mr. M after asking their parents’ permission to help put the display back together. Walking across the street, Emma wondered aloud what adventure awaited them and the Blue John Fluorite.
“I tried to research the fluorite online last night but every website said that the Blue John Fluorite was almost completely mined out in the 1700’s, just as Mr. M told us,” Brody answered.
“How did Mr. M get a sample of something that is almost gone? His sample was over five inches long.”
“You could never find such a large sample right now,” Brody said as they reached the side door to the workroom. He hoped Mr. M would tell them where to go because they sure did not have time to fly three thousand miles across the ocean to Castleton, Derbyshire, England and back before dinner. Where would they find a new piece in West Virginia?
Emma’s knock was swiftly answered as Mr. M waved them inside. Aspen followed closely on his heels; her fluffy white fur looked like a cotton ball surrounding her body.
“I’m glad you’re here,” said Mr. M, leading them to the workroom.
“I have a treat for Aspen,” said Emma.” Can I give it to her?”
“Sure,” said Mrs. M, appearing in the doorway.
Emma pulled a six-inch rawhide bone from the pocket of her purple crop pants and handed it to the sitting Samoyed. “That’s a neat collar,” she commented as Aspen scampered away with her treat. A round, gold amulet hung from her pink fabric collar.
“I found that amulet on a field trip and decided to turn it into Aspen’s collar,” said Mr. M. “In fact, that was when I found the first sample that started my entire collection.”
Brody’s curiosity was growing every minute. Where did the Blue John Fluorite and all of the other samples come from? How did Mr. M find that amulet? Aspen came back to the workroom from her snack and Brody inspected her collar closely. The gold on the amulet was etched and faded with age. The hole in the center did not match any shape he had seen before, except for weird geometry figures from math class. The hole was shaped like a rectangle but with points on both ends, rather than flat sides.
“Does something fit in the amulet?” Brody asked.
“Something.” Mr. M had been rummaging through a huge mahogany storage cabinet with drawers and shelves from the floor to the ceiling. This cabinet had the least damage from the break-in, so Mr. M had loaded it with most of his remaining tools. He shut the last drawer then spun on his heels, plopping his finds on the wooden worktable. “Tools!” Mr. M smiled so wide his yellowed teeth showed.
“Wow,” Emma and Brody exclaimed in unison.
“I have a geologist’s belt and tools for each of you.” He handed Brody and Emma the belts and explained how to fasten them around their waists. Mr. M held up each tool, one at a time, telling them the name and proper use. He also showed them the best way to store their tools in the belts so they would not fall out and become lost. There were loops, clips, and pouches for each item.
“Rock hammer,” he said. “This has two ends: one dull, one sharp. This will help you break the rock and mineral samples.” Emma and Brody slid their hammers through leather loops on their belts.
“Brunton compass.” Mr. M took one of the compasses out of its brown leather case and showed Emma and Brody how to open the special instrument.
“You can use this to find a lot of information about a rock formation. This time though, you will only need it to tell you direction. This needle on the top will spin to tell you if you are heading north, south, east, west or something in between. Don’t pay any attention to the two levels inside the compass, you won’t need them yet.” They placed the compasses back in their cases then slid the case loops through the belts.
Next, Mr. M handed them each a hand lens. The rounded, metal magnifying lens swiveled out of a teardrop-shaped cover. A brown leather lace was strung through the end near the swivel point. “You can wear this hand lens around your neck when you are looking at the rocks and keep it in the belt pouch when you don’t need it.” The kids slid the hand lenses into their metal covers and put them into the belt pouches.
Mr. M then handed Brody and Emma each a small black tile and a small white tile. They both had confused looks on their faces as they spun the two-inch square tiles in their hands. The little tiles were smooth but not shiny.
Brody tried to think of a use for these little tiles. “Okay, I give up,” he said.
“What are they?” Emma asked.
Mr. M smiled and removed some mineral samples from a nearby cabinet. “I’ll show you. These tiles are called streak plates. They help you identify the name of a mineral. When you rub a mineral across the plate, part of the sample turns to powder. Sometimes the powder color is the same as the mineral color and sometimes it’s different. The powder color is called the streak. I gave you one white streak plate to use for dark minerals and one black streak plate to use for light colored minerals.” Mr. M picked up a mineral sample that was a light, whitish-green color. He rubbed the sample back and forth on the black streak plate.
“Wow!” exclaimed Emma. “White.”
“That’s right,” stated Mr. M. “This is talc. It is a very soft mineral, and when you rub it on a streak plate, its powder is the same as the color of the mineral.”
Next, Mr. M handed them each a gray, heavy mineral. “This is hematite. What color do you think the streak will be?” he asked.
“Gray,” said Brody.
“No, I think this is a trick question,” said Emma. “I bet it’s black.”
Mr. M smiled and winked at Mrs. M. “Rub it on the white streak plate,” he instructed. “Rub hard, too. You won’t hurt it.”
Emma and Brody rubbed their hematite samples across the streak plates. As they did so, a dark cherry, red powder emerged. Emma and Brody stared at the streak color. “Wow,” they whispered quietly.
“I know,” Mr. M whispered back.
“That is so cool!” yelled Brody. They all started to laugh.
“It is really cool,” said Mr. M. “The streak color can be very helpful when you are trying to identify a mineral because many of them can look alike. One thing I should tell you is that some minerals do not have a streak color. Geologists will say that it has no streak or a colorless streak. In reality, these minerals are harder than the streak plate, so when you rub them, the mineral will not turn into a powder, but it may actually scratch the streak plate.”
“Will the Blue John Fluorite scratch the streak plate?” asked Brody.
“No,” stated Mr. M. “The Blue John Fluorite is a four on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Minerals that won’t streak are usually a seven or higher.”
“What is the Mohs Hardness Scale?” asked Emma.
“Fredrick Mohs was a famous geologist. He came up with a list of ten minerals, each with a different hardness. Talc is the softest. It’s a one on the scale. See how you can scratch it with your fingernail?” He scratched the talc. Emma and Brody did the same, and pieces of the mineral flaked off onto their nails and hands.
“The Blue John Fluorite is a four, so it’s harder than the talc and your fingernail, but it isn’t as hard as this hematite,” said Mr. M. “Here, this book has a list of the hardness scale plus some things that aren’t rocks that have a known hardness.” Mr. M handed them each a bright orange book. The kids flipped through the beginning pages of the book, which had information about rocks and minerals. The following pages were all blank.
“The paper feels weird,” stated Emma.
“Why are so many blank pages?” asked Brody.
“They are my special field books,” said Mr. M. “I developed these to use when I go rock hunting. These books have research and helpful information, plus blank pages to write notes and draw pictures.” Mr. M handed Emma and Brody permanent markers and ball point pens. “The pages feel weird because they have a waterproof coating, so use these,” he stated.
Emma and Brody stuffed the markers and books into the pouches on their belts.
“I put pictures of the Blue John Fluorite in the books for you,” said Mr. M. “The best specimens are in the nodules. They are like balls of fluorite inside the rock. The nodules usually show the banding of the fluorite really well.” He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “You’re ready to go. I can’t think of anything else that will help you.”
“To get the Blue John Fluorite?” Brody asked excitedly.
Emma grinned and hopped up and down. Brody was replaying in his head the research he had completed the night before on the Blue John Fluorite. Images of website pictures and information flew through his mind. Colors and places. Rocks and caverns.
In a few moments, they all headed out the side door of the Matthews’ home. Emma and Brody walked on either side of Mr. M. Mrs. M and Aspen trailed slightly behind. The young dog pranced around the group. She was a very obedient Samoyed, or Sammie, as Mrs. M called her. Aspen did not use a leash, but stuck close to the group, trotting in time with the rest of them.
The five walked for almost twenty minutes through the woods behind the Matthews’ home. Brody questioned Mr. M about the Blue John Fluorite. Why did his research show that the Blue John Fluorite was mostly mined out in the 1700’s if they can still find a sample today? Where in West Virginia were they going to find a sample that only formed in England? Instead of answering his questions, Mr. M told Emma and Brody the story of how the Blue John Fluorite formed.
“The Blue John Fluorite is one of the rarest forms of a common mineral. Its name comes from the French words ‘Bleu Jaune’ which translates into English as ‘Blue-yellow.’ The mineral is located in a hillside near a large mountain called Mam Tor, which is just outside of the town of Castleton,” said Mr. M. He opened a long tube he was carrying and removed a street map that showed the area near the Blue John Cavern. Mrs. M, Emma, and Brody held the map open as he pointed to a solid green area that showed the grassy hills of Derbyshire. Nestled in the rolling hills were the town of Castleton and an historic castle called Peveril. “The fluorite is found in two caves to the west. One cave is named Treak Cliff, and the other is called Blue John. Inside the caves, the fluorite runs in veins that are as thick as your fist. The fluorite always has bands of colors such as blue and purple or white and yellow.”
“Because of its beauty,” he said rolling the map and placing it back into the cylinder, “the Blue John Fluorite was largely mined and used to make jewelry, statues, and vases.” Soon they were standing in front of a thick, woven mass of vines that looked like a door covering. “This is where you’ll find the Blue John Fluorite,” said Mr. M.
Emma raised her eyebrows. “Really?” She glanced at Brody with wide eyes and a smirk. He knew what she meant. There certainly did not appear to be any rock outcrops here in the forest.
“I’ve given you everything you need,” stated Mr. M. “Come back with two or three big samples.”
“You’re not coming to help us?” asked Brody.
“No. I’m much too old,” said Mr. M.
Mrs. M stepped toward Emma and held out her hands. “Emma, take these.” She placed two heavy crystals into Emma’s hands.
“Quartz,” said Emma. “Perfect crystals, too!”
“Put one in your belt pouch.” Emma did as Mrs. M instructed. “Bring the other and come with me.” Brody wondered how quartz crystals meant that they would find the Blue John Fluorite.
“You too,” said Mrs. M, waving at Brody. The foursome walked up to the mat of vines. Aspen disappeared around the edge of the mat and led the way, while they all followed behind like an obedient line of ducklings. As they rounded the corner, Emma and Brody stopped in their tracks, staring at the magnificent sight ahead. A huge cave entrance was standing against a rock cliff. The entrance was ten feet tall and over eight feet wide. The rock walls surrounding the cave were a weird mix of granites, gneisses, sandstones, shale, and basalt that were twisted like rigatoni. This odd combination didn’t usually occur in nature. These rocks represented sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous classes. Caves were often made of sedimentary limestone rocks that were super high in calcite content, which easily dissolved into massive open areas. Something was obviously weird about this cave, thought Brody.
The rock wall seemed to come out of a mountain, hidden so deep in the forest that no one could see it from the surrounding area. The vine mat hid the cave entrance completely, and unless you knew the exact spot to get around the mat, you would walk directly by and never know it existed. The entrance to the cave was not dull like most caves Brody had seen in pictures. A mass of large, medium, and small perfectly formed, clear quartz crystal points outlined the immediate opening to the cave like a diamond band. Inside, long stalagmites and stalactites joined the floor and ceiling of the cave. The remaining interior wall space was decorated with massive crystal shapes, some taller than the kids.
“Wow,” was all Emma and Brody could manage to say as they wandered through the cave entrance, touching the quartz crystals.
“It’s like we’re standing inside a weird geode. How did you find this?” Brody turned toward Mr. M. So many questions were flying through his mind. What is this place? How did all of these rock types get all mixed up outside the cave? Is every quartz crystal inside exactly perfect? “How did you find this?” he repeated.
Mr. M chuckled. “That’s a story for another day.” He gave Brody a wink.
“Is the Blue John Fluorite inside this cave,” asked Emma.
“In a way, but no, actually,” said Mrs. M.
“What?” said Emma.
“To get where you need to be, use the first quartz crystal I gave you,” said Mrs. M. “Use the second one later.”
“Huh?” Emma looked at the large quartz crystal in her hand and then gazed around the cave walls at the other perfect crystals. Brody’s eyes also searched the cave walls until he spied a small opening with a worn gold plate embedded into the cave just above his head. The center of the plate had a hole shaped like the quartz crystal, a long rectangle with points on the ends.
“There,” said Brody, pointing to the opening. Emma held the quartz crystal up and slid it into the hole. The crystal snapped in place, like a magnet finding its mate.
The clear quartz on the walls came alive with a rainbow of colors. Brilliant shades of red, blue, pink, yellow, green, teal, and purple ignited the cave. Emma and Brody felt a slight vibration as a low humming rose in the void from the back to the front. Mr. and Mrs. M slowly backed out of the entrance and stood among the vine thicket. The hum became louder as the colors seemed to come out of the crystals. Suddenly, a swirl of colored lights enveloped Emma and Brody in the cave. Brody felt a tremendous pull on his body as the lights swirled faster and the hum became louder.
“What’s happening?” screamed Emma.
“I don’t know,” Brody yelled over the deafening hum. The vibration grew stronger as a swirling wind surrounded them. Suddenly, Brody felt weightless.
Brody could barely see Mr. and Mrs. M through the swooshing tornado of light. Mr. M checked Aspen’s collar, then shooed her into the cave. The loud, swirling light scooped up Emma, Brody and Aspen like dust in a storm. In an instant, the three were gone.
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