Archive for October, 2012


New Course! Environmental Geology 230.

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This course provides insights into geological forces that causes environmental changes influencing man’s activities. Emphasis is placed on natural hazards and disasters caused by geological forces. Upon completion students should be able to relate major hazards and disasters to the geological forces responsible for their occurrences. ( Prerequisites GEL 120) 4 Credits

Space is limited. For more information, contact Alvin Coleman course instructor



Science Spooktacular

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Unleash Your Inner Mad Scientist!

Cape Fear Museum wants to UNfrighten you this season as we uncover the science behind the creepy and mysterious at Science Spooktacular! Create concoctions that bubble, glow, or even smoke in the Mad Lab and discover the secrets of magic in the Little Shop of Physics. Explore skeletons, spiders, bats, and more! It’s not spooky, it’s science! Come join members of the Science Department for a early Halloween party at the Cape Fear Museum of History on October 20th from 6-10 pm. The Science Club along with faculty from Geology, Biology, and Physics will  be on hand to Unleash Your Inner Mad Scientist!

*Appropriate for all ages.










Bring a pick and chisel to the exam and hammer away at any sample of

rock in the room.  If there are no samples, hammer on the chalk-board and

calmly explain to the professor the you MUST do this in order to

understand slate…



Bring a quartz crystal and pretend it’s your pet.  Ask the x-al exam

questions and every now and then loudly exclaim, “YES! I think you’re




Use flint to try to set your exam on fire.  If there is no flint in

the room, bring your own.



Loudly exclaim after each question, “WOW! THAT’S NEAT!”



Pretend to discover gold on a sample in the room that has pyrite on

it.  Run out of the room screaming loudly that you’ve found gold and how

rich you’re going to be so you don’t have to take this (colorful

adjective) test.  Then come back into the room and say, “HA! I fooled ALL

of you!”



Sing “Plaster Caster” by Kiss as you pulverize a chunk of gypsum.



Yell loudly, “Oppressed geology undergrads of the world -




Bring a Brunton Compass and inform everyone around you that this

ISN’T the orientation the room was in the last time you were there.  Then

tell them that it is a vicious plot of the geology department to use

techtonic forces to move all to rooms on campus so that everyone will

sucumb to their devious plans to rule the Earth…etc…etc…



Bring a stuffed animal that looks really bizarre.  Mid-way through

the exam, walk up to the front like you’re in show-n-tell and tell the

class in a cute 5 year old voice about your buddy, “Isogyer.”



Bring a soft black rock (carbonates, coal, …etc…etc…)

and write the entire exam with it.



Lay on the floor while doing the exam.  When the professor asks what

the heck are you doing, just tell the prof that you’re getting closer to

mother Earth so that you’ll do better.



For a palentology exam, bring bones and beat on the table you are

sitting at while singing “Roll the Bones” by Rush.



For an Environmental Studies class walk into the room with an NRA

shirt and begin to inform everybody that they’re a bunch of

envronmentalist wackos.



Use a petrographic microscope to look at the exam.



Bring pulverized sulfur, be creative.



Come to the exam late and before you sit down at a desk strike it

with a pick.  Carefully listen to the tone and pretend it isn’t right.

Don’t sit down until you’ve tried this with every empty desk at least 3

times each.  After you finally find a place to sit, get up every fifteen

minutes and do it all over again and find another place to sit.



When you get the exam, give it back to the professor and tell him to

save the trees.



Pull out a decent sized chunk of gypsum and begin to gnaw on it.

Explain that it makes for a great aphrodisiac.



Hide small farm animals in specimine drawers.



If the test involves topographic maps, put Garfield stickers all over

it…If it’s a map of Michigan, put an Elvis stamp on Kalamazoo.



Comment on how sexy the professor would look with a pick hanging from

their belt.



Run into the room screaming, “OH NO!  IT’S THE GLACIERS!  THEY’RE




Bring a calculator to an essay exam.  Pretend to use it often.



Do an imitation of soil creep.  Be sure to include sound effects.



Pretend to be blind and act like the only way you can see is by

looking through biotite flakes.



Act as though one of the crystals in the room is sucking the life

force out of you.  Just like superman and kryptonite.



Become a lithophagic organism.


Native American Artifact Collection

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Cape Fear Community College  has the largest collection of Native American artifacts within the region, and it is growing larger with new donations every week. Our staff and work study students are busy cataloging and numbering all of the some eight thousand items in our collection. Once cataloged, the collection will be a great resource not only for CFCC students and faculty, but will become a searchable data base for all interested in the early inhabitants of North Carolina.

November 10th and the 17th are Native American Artifact Identification Day at the CFCC library. The public is invited to bring in any items geology related  for identification.


Washington Monument

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What does the Washington Monument have to do with the gems of North Carolina?

Answer: More than anyone realizes. Attached to its top is a 5-lb. pyramid of solid aluminum made from Carolina rubies and sapphires.

That unusual fact was unknown to the historians of this region until it was discovered by the author while reviewing some metallurgical literature about the construction of the Washington Monument.

It was a well reported event in the metals world when the Monument was finally topped off in 1885 because the government decided to do it with a specially created apex cap made from aluminum. The ceremony marked the culmination of thirtyseven years of hard work – with time out for the Civil War – so that whole nation was excited about the event. But more so the metallurgists of that period because it marked the first time the unique properties of this newly discovered metal, aluminum, were being brought to the public’s attention. It was much lighter than steel yet surprisingly strong, possessed excellent corrosion resistance and was a very good conductor of electricity.

What better way to crown the top of American’s special monument to one of its greatest presidents? Choose a metal that would last forever, was a precious as silver (silver and aluminum cost the same in the late 1800′s), could be cast into the shape of a pyramid, polished to a high luster, engraved for posterity, and, perhaps more important, being a metal, it could protect the main structure of the Monument against lightning damage.

The only problem was that aluminum at that time was very difficult to produce and, therefore, very expensive. It was definitely not the familiar household metal it is today. The aluminum industry giants, ALCOA and Reynolds, were unheard of before the turn of the century.

To put the value of this metal into perspective at the time of its installation in 1884, it helps to know that its selling price was $1.00 per ounce and at that time a workman erecting the Monument had to labor for almost three months – eighty days – in order to earn enough just to pay for this little 5-lb. piece of metal sitting on its pinnacle. The cost of one ounce of aluminum, one dollar, was not only the same as an ounce of silver but it was equivalent to a full day’s wages.

One reason aluminum was so costly was because it was absolutely essential to use the highest purity aluminum oxide available which happened to be corundum, the best source of aluminum oxide known at the time. Bauxite, the ore used today in the far less costly Electrolytic Reduction Process, was not pure enough.

This is where Carolina’s unique mineral resource enters the scene. The purest corundum is in crystalline form and the best crystals were being mined commercially in the gravels, stream beds, mountain sides and soils of the Carolinas; mostly in the Cowee River Valley of Macon County, North Carolina.

Crystals of corundum are more familiar to us as sapphires and rubies. Rubies are the red ones. Any other color is called sapphire. They are the same gemstones tourists and rockhounds have been seeking at Carolina gem mines every summer for years. The famous Appalachian Star Ruby found only a few years ago by Jarvis Messer, a native of this area, is a superb example of what is still being discovered in these mountains.

Next to diamond in hardness, corundum crystals at that time were being used primarily for manufacture into “jewels” for watches and other instruments requiring precision, wear-resistant bearings. Some were fine enough to be fashioned into jewelry which was why New York City’s famous jeweler, Tiffanys, operated some of the deposits. Some were crushed and used as coatings on “emery” paper. And some were used as the “ore” for smelting that new metal, aluminum, which possessed the special properties the builders of the Washington Monument found so attractive. And to whom cost was not an issue. This, after all, was a government funded project.

To turn corundum into metallic aluminum, the crushed mineral first had to be converted chemically into aluminum chloride and then reduced with metallic sodium to form salt and metallic aluminum. Known as the Sodium Reduction Process, it was the main, reason why aluminum production was so costly. The primary reducing agent, metallic sodium, was in itself expensive, but because it was also extremely reactive – bursting into flame on exposure to air – the process was very difficult and dangerous.

The actual smelting of the corundum ore and fabrication of the aluminum apex pyramid was done by a noted metallurgist of the time, William Frishmuth, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at a foundry now preserved as a landmark in metallurgical history.

In late 1884, Tiffanys got into the act again, perhaps because their management provided some of the crushed gem ore from the mines they were operating in the Carolina gem fields at the time. They arranged to borrow the polished aluminum pyramid from Mr. Frishmuth for display on the floor of their Fifth Avenue store. It was literally placed on the floor” where it could serve as a publicity gimmick for the benefit of thousands of New Yorkers who delighted in being able to later say, “I stepped over the top of the Washington Monument?” Keep in mind at the time this was to be the world’s tallest manmade structure. Even today it remains the tallest free-standing masonry structure in the world.


The Cape Fear Arch

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Definition: freak |frēk| noun

a very unusual and unexpected event or situation

Definition: geological |ˌjēəˈläjikəl| adjective,

the science that deals with the earth’s physical structure and substance, its history, and the processes that act on it.

Cape Fear Arch – The Geological Freak

The Cape Fear Arch is a geological uplift of sand and limestone. It started rising 35-45 million years ago and it’s still coming up, a centimeter or two per year. The sand and limestone deposits have led to a unique diversity of plants and animals. Plants such as the Venus flytrap are endemic to this region, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.

Another way to say geological freak is to say geological aberration.

Definition: aberration |ˌabəˈrā sh ən| noun a characteristic that is a departure from what is normal, usual, or expected.

In other words, something VERY SPECIAL.

Lots of pushing and shoving going on

The arch acts like a wedge pushing aside sediments that are deposited on top of it. The arch is tectonic, and that means seismic (see definitions below). Charleston, is in a “hinge zone” of the arch. This is the point where its push tends to meet the shove of other features underground. Upthrust of land from the ocean rather than from river sediments cause the Arch to be home to dry, sand-based soils that harbor dozens of plants and animals found in few, if any, other places. These are called endemic species because they are native to a

particular geographic area. This is what makes them freakish or special.


Some like it Wet

Everything on Earth lives in a biome. A biome is an area of land with special climate, soil, plants, and animals. A wetland is one kind of biome. The wetland biome contains special plants and animals that, over time, have grown together to help each other live in that particular environment.

A wetland biome is an area of land where soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally. Water found in wetlands can be saltwater, freshwater, or brackish (semi-salty). Wetlands have a large number of plant and animal species living with them. For this reason, they are considered “biologically diverse of diverse”.

Wetland Types:

Swamp - A Wetland where trees and shrubs grow on land that is flooded

throughout most of the year.

Bottomland - Wetlands along streams and rivers that experience both wet and

dry periods during the year. Bottomlands or Lowlands are often


Marsh - Marshes are the wet areas filled with a variety of grasses and rushes.

They can be found in both freshwater areas and in the saltwater areas

near our coast.

Pocosin - Pocosins are wet areas with evergreen trees and shrubs growing on

peat or sandy soils. Peat is a spongy-feeling material made up of

rotting plants. The word pocosin comes from the Algonquin Indian

word meaning “swamp on a hill.”

Wetland plants and animals can’t live in a place that is all wet, such as a pond, or all dry, such as a meadow. The water and soil mixture has to be just right for a wetland to be a good home for wetland species (plant and animal types). Wetland species have some special adaptations. For example, some wetland birds’ beaks are just the right length to dig for bugs and worms that live in the mud under shallow water

More Reasons Why Cape Fear Arch is Special

22 endemic species of plants

19 endemic species of animals

100% of the world’s native Venus flytraps

© 2009 by the Cape Fear Arch Conservation Collaboration

Copies can be made for educational purposes only

Developed and Produced by the  Cape Fear Arch

Conservation Collaboration


Gem of the Day #4

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Malachite is a very popular mineral with its intense green color and beautiful banded masses. The banded specimens are formed by massive, botryoidal, reniform, and especially stalactitic Malachite that are dense intergrowths of tiny, fibrous needles. Dense banded specimens are often sliced and polished to bring out their beautiful coloring. The bands may consist of concentric rings with interesting patterns; such specimens are highly sought after. These concentric banded specimens are most commonly from African sources. Polished, banded Malachite has been carved into ornaments and worn as jewelry for thousands of years, and in some ancient civilizations it was thought to be a protection from evil if worn as jewelry.

Malachite is generally found together with blue Azurite, and sometimes the two may occur admixed or banded together, forming what is commonly known in the gem and mineral trade as “Azure-Malachite“. Malachite may also replace Azurite crystals, retaining the original Azurite shape but chemically altering it.


Venus Fly Trap Spokesperson Passes On

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Stanley Rehder, affectionately called “The Flytrap Man,” passed away early Monday morning at Davis Health Care Center in Wilmington.  He was 90 years old.

Rehder was best known over the years as the owner of Will Rehder Florist, a company started by his family in 1872.Rehder had a deep love for the venus flytrap and became a national spokesperson for the carnivorous plants, even appearing on NBC’s Today Show. Well into his 80s, Stanley Rehder cruised around Wilmington, NC in a Jeep with the personalized license plate “FLYTRAP.” For many in the Cape Fear area, Rehder was “The Flytrap Man,” a jovial spokesman and advocate for the region’s carnivorous plants.

Although the Venus Flytrap has captivated people across the world, the plants actually grow in an incredibly small geographic area. In the wild, they are found in a 700-mile region along the coast of North and South Carolina. Within this area, the plants are further limited to living in humid, wet and sunny bogs and wetland areas. Because Venus Flytraps are so scarce, some early botanists doubted their existence, despite all the stories spread about a flesh-eating plant.

The Name Game

So, how did the plant end up with the intriguing name of Venus Flytrap? It’s not too hard to imagine how ‘Flytrap’ might relate to its insect-catching abilities, but ‘Venus’ is less clear-cut. According to the International Carnivorous Plant Society, the origin of the name is quite lurid. The Venus Flytrap was first studied in the 17th and 18th centuries, when societal mores were a bit more puritanical than they are today, and were somewhat obsessed by human urges and sins. Women in particular were often portrayed as temptresses, greedy for power. The botanists of this time apparently found a parallel between the trap of the plant — capturing and digesting insects — and certain aspects of female anatomy and behavior. Thus, the story goes that they named the plant after Venus, the pagan goddess of love and money.


Fun Facts

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Where was the first gold deposit in Canada located?

Madoc, Ontario. The Madoc area of Ontario had the first gold mine in Canada, but there was so little gold that the mine was

never very large, and gold in the Madoc area ‘ran-out’ before 1900.

What is the sulphide deposit sub-type found at Thompson Manitoba?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

komatiitic volcanic flows. Magmatic nickel-copper deposits are only found within these four deposit sub-types. Komatiitic volcanic flows is not a common sub-type in the world.

In the Thompson, Manitoba mining district, what metals are mined?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

nickel, copper . The Thompson district of northern Manitoba is well known for its vast quantities of nickel and copper, and it is one of the largest deposit of its kind in the world.

What is the metal assemblage found at the deposit from question 6?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

Cu-Co-Ag-Au. This is a common mineral-metal assemblage, with copper being the most abundant metal.

What is the name of the largest Besshi-type volcanogenic massive sulphide in the world, located in northwestern British Columbia?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

Windy Craggy . This deposit, the largest of its kind in the world at 300 Million tonnes of metals, was prematurely shutdown in 1995 because of environmental concerns. Many of the environmental problems discerned by the environmentalist groups could have in fact been solved, and thus there should be mines in this region today. However, there never will be, because the region (and deposit) is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What are the main metals found in Mississippi Valley Type deposits?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

Lead and zinc. These two metals are the two main metals found in any Mississippi Valley Type deposit. They are what define the deposits themselves.

What type of deposit is the Polaris deposit, Northwest Territories?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

Mississippi Valley Type. This mine is now shutdown (a fairly short time ago), but played an important role in Canada’s yearly production of zinc and lead.

Are the nickel-copper ores of Sudbury primarily hosted within the Sudbury offset dikes? Yes or no?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

Yes . Contrary to common belief, the ores of the Sudbury are not located in the Sudbury Igneous Complex, rather they are located in the offset dikes, which rim the rocks of the Sudbury Igneous Complex. Most of the Sudbury mines are located in these offset dikes, with a few being located in the Sudbury Igneous Complex itself.

What type of deposit is the Kidd Creek deposit, near Timmins Ontario?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

volcanogenic massive sulphide. The Kidd Creek deposit also plays a very important role in Canada’s yearly copper, zinc, and lead production. It is considered a Giant deposit, and the shafts of the mine run very deep into the ground.

What type of deposit is the Hemlo deposit, near Wawa Ontario?

Canadian Mineral Deposit Geology

manto type, lode gold deposit. The Hemlo deposit is one of the richest and most well-known gold deposits in Canada, and the mines at Hemlo play a very important role in Canada’s yearly gold production.

What was the mineral smithsonite named after?

Interesting Mineral Facts

founder of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonite was named after John Smithson, an Englishman who donated funding for the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution.


Future Geologists

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During the day Dr. Rocks teaches the wonders of geology to college students. But come night fall the Crystal Cathedral is filled with the sounds of  younger  geologists.   Dr Rocks and his trusted assistant Daniel Five Toes spent last evening aiding a troop of scouts earn their badge in geology.

If your class or group would like to schedule a visit from Dr. Rocks, please contact us at or call 910-431-1162