The failure of Adirondack Uranium and Mineral Corporation in early 1957 dominated the news cycle, but there was still activity in a half-dozen Lewis County sites where prospectors were searching for uranium.
In May of that year, there was also related news on the eastern edge of the Adirondacks. After an aerial survey detected radioactivity along Route 22 between Ticonderoga and Whitehall, a mining company obtained options to explore the farms of John DeLorme and Earl Shattuck to verify the readings and determine if suitable quantities of ore were present. They weren’t. » Continue Reading.
Everyone knows that acing an algebra exam won’t help your grade in anthropology, history or theatre class. The same logic applies to water.
A coliform test can tell if your well is impacted by septic leakage or manure runoff, but it won’t tell you if residues from agricultural chemicals or spilled gas or oil are getting in your water. Those are very different kinds of tests. » Continue Reading.
In late summer 1955, after two months of surveying and studying uranium deposits in Saratoga County, Robert Zullo and his partners, George McDonnell and Lewis Lavery, saw their claims publicly dismissed in print by a business rival, who told the Leader-Herald there were “no major deposits of uranium in the Sacandaga region.” Geologist John Bird of Schenectady had been hired by a Wyoming uranium-mining company to survey the area, and after thirty days, he had found uraninite only in “ridiculously small” quantities. » Continue Reading.
Under the newly formed Mohawk Mining Company (MMC), the trio of George McDonnell, Lewis Lavery, and Robert Zullo had high hopes of successfully developing uranium deposits they discovered near Batchellerville in Saratoga County. Plans were made for radiometric surveys of the sites, and they began pumping water from two feldspar quarries to examine the deeper rock for additional specimens. Tests were also planned on old piles of mine tailings that caused Geiger counters to react. » Continue Reading.
Many magazines, including Life (“The Uranium Rush”) and Popular Mechanics (“The ’49 Uranium Rush”) featured stories on the phenomenon that was sweeping the country. The coincidence of timing — the 100th anniversary of the 1849 California gold rush — made for enticing newspaper headlines as well. » Continue Reading.
A brown, irregularly shaped hunk of fossilized dinosaur dung is circulating around the stone-floored rock shop.
The middle-school students, surrounded by shelves full of amethyst, pyrite, quartz crystals, and cracked open geodes, let their hands roam over the hunk and then pass it along. They don’t know that the mystery rock they’re scrutinizing is a chunk of prehistoric waste. Greg Beckler, owner of Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, will tell them eventually.
This game of pass the poop continues in a semi-circle as Beckler encourages the kids to really explore the fossil. Dip their fingers into its cracks and seams. Give the poop a deep, full inhale. » Continue Reading.
When I’m hiking, I like to watch for rock basins, sometimes as small as cupped hands, that appear along summits and ridgelines. These are “thin places.” When filled with water, these tiny quivering pools offer both an ephemeral now and a deep plunge into time. » Continue Reading.
Among the unusual landmarks in the Adirondacks is a massive roadside boulder in central St. Lawrence County, just three tenths of a mile west of the South Colton post office. Widely known as Sunday Rock, it is part of the legend and lore of the northwestern Adirondacks. My first visit to South Colton came several decades ago during a long road trip aimed at scouting out new places to hike and canoe. I was led there by a passage in a book titled, “Rocks and Routes of the North Country, New York,” by Dr. Bradford B. VanDiver, Professor of Geology at SUNY Potsdam when the book was released in 1976. (His story was featured in this space a few weeks ago.) » Continue Reading.
The colorful name Devil’s Kitchen has been used in numerous book titles, restaurant names, and for hiking destinations in at least seven states. Close to home in upstate New York, we have a Catskill version, described here as “quite possibly the most hellacious [bicycle] climb in New York State.” The same area, with cliffs, numerous waterfalls, and slippery slopes, has seen many hiker deaths as well.
But there’s another Devil’s Kitchen farther north, located about midway on Route 9 between Chestertown and Warrensburg. Despite lacking the cliffs and stunning landscapes featured at other identically named places, deaths have occurred at the Adirondack site—which today exists in name only. » Continue Reading.
Researching Dr. Bradford VanDiver’s life and telling his full story isn’t possible in this brief format, but if you read last week’s account, you’re at least privy to the amazing and varied highlights. There remains one stunning and frightening event that he failed to mention during published interviews about various achievements and key moments in his past.
While plumbing for details that might have occurred prior to his professional career, I encountered reference to VanDiver’s participation with the National Speleological Society in exploring several new caves in the Howe’s Cavern area of Schoharie County in 1948. Some of the underground sites there involved drops of more than 100 feet, for which the spelunkers’ group called upon Brad VanDiver and his close friend, Ernest Ackerly, to handle the rigging of ropes, ladders, and other safety equipment. They also joined in the exploration of new passages. » Continue Reading.
Bradford B. VanDiver, president of the ADK Laurentian Chapter four decades ago, had a deep impact on my life, which is not surprising because he was a lifetime teacher. But the truth is, I never met him — at least not in person. His passion for many pursuits was first revealed to me through the pages of one of several books he authored. What I discovered was a native New Yorker and eventual North Country transplant who was truly a Renaissance Man.
At a young age, innate curiosity across many fields of science drove my quest to know more about animals, plants, rocks, and “bugs” that were routinely encountered on all sorts of outdoor expeditions. When VanDiver’s book, Rocks and Routes of the North Country, New York (1976) was released in 1976, I immediately obtained an autographed copy, which still resides on my desk to this very day. He presented a wealth of knowledge supported by scientific terms, but written for the layman as a practical guide to discovery. The book accompanied me on hundreds of hours of exploration across the Adirondacks, and in part led me to write my own first book.
But VanDiver was much more than a professional rock hound — professional as in a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Washington. He also taught at universities in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and for a year in Munich, Germany, during a sabbatical from Potsdam State, where he spent 24 years as professor of geology. » Continue Reading.
The geology of the Adirondacks is the focus of the latest volume of the Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies.
Published by The Adirondack Research Consortium and Union’s Kelly Adirondack Center, the journal includes articles on the history of geological studies, mining, fracture and fault systems and soils, among other topics.
The papers summarize historical and current work, calling upon the accumulated studies of geoscientists who have worked in the Adirondacks over two centuries. » Continue Reading.
To enter the cave, we donned hard hats and descended a vertical drop with the aid of a rope. We crawled on our knees and bellies through a wet, narrow passageway, emerging into a large underground chamber that contained a small lake. By the light of our headlamps, we could make out interesting cave formations ― icicle-like stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling and stalagmites growing up from the floor. In the cool, damp darkness, we heard the slow dripping of water. Our underground adventure left us covered with mud ― our skin and clothes were caked with it. » Continue Reading.
In peaceful streams, aquatic macroinvertebrates such as crayfish, stoneflies, and caddisflies travel over and under submerged rocks, foraging for other invertebrates, leaves, and algae. When rain falls, their world turns upside down. At first only the surface is disturbed, but before long, runoff reaches the stream and increases its flow many fold. Silt and sand blast every exposed rock surface. At peak flow, boulders are propelled downstream by powerful currents.
How do small creatures survive such crushing chaos? They hunker down. Water-filled nooks and crannies extend deep below streambeds and far beyond river banks. These deep interstices provide a safe haven even while turbulent water pulverizes the riverbed, comparable to a storm cellar in a tornado. » Continue Reading.
Under the big maple tree above the northwest corner of our barn at Mateskared a large rock holds a mixed history for me. It’s a rounded-off triangular solid. As kids my three siblings and I slid down it, putting the seats of pants at risk. A rounded pocket two-thirds down its topmost, steepeer slope transformed the rock as stone throne. Part of my memory of this rock is photographic – and false. I recalled a snapshot of my father Howard Zahniser and me on the rock about 1950. I wear a beanie cap. But later finding the photo, I discovered we are on a different rock, farther uphill, now hidden in recovering pasture. » Continue Reading.
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