Thursday, 30 August 2012

What to do with a rock collection?

I am in the process of moving into a new house at the moment but because I have developed a bit of a collection of rocks in the last few years I have developed some peculiar problems. These are the dilemma of whether something that looks boring and would not be of any use to anyone else should be kept? What do you do with the garden once it has become overloaded with broken pieces of rock? How do you transport large quantities of rock without overloading boxes and earning the ire of removalists and friends?

I have a special collection of important rocks that I have labelled and wish to use further in future such as producing thin-sections or undertaking geochemical analysis. But there is so much that is just, well, miscellaneous. Rocks from overseas that look interesting but I can’t remember where they are from, or rocks from around Australia illustrating some salient point (that I can’t remember either), or just some vaguely pretty cobble picked up from a beach. Do I hold on to them hoping to remember what they were important for or just throw them out?... and how do you dispose of rocks anyway?

Some other problems arise with some broken up bits of metal ores, the minerals that make them up can soluble and when this is the case they can be toxic to plants. Speaking of toxic, how do I transport my samples of chrysotile (asbestos)? I’ve got a great piece with a ‘fibrous vein’ of chrysotile through other green serpentine minerals, it would be a shame to triple wrap it in plastic and notify the local council landfill that I intend to dispose of it. If it were not asbestos I’d put it on a shelf for display since it looks so cool.

Oh well, back to packing. I’ll figure it out somehow.


  1. Rod I also have a rock collection but am lucky that I dont have to move.
    In the 1970's at my local Public School we used to have a rock collection that included a large piece of serpentine with 'fibrous' chrysotile throughout ( I guess it came from Baryugil), our class spent lots of time rubbing and playing with that rock!
    There was also a piece of 'asbestos' in a sculpture of local rocks in Grafton's Market Sq, I recently noticed it was been painted with thick white paint.

    1. I've not noticed the sculpture in Market Square... I'll have to have a look next time I'm there.

      The rock you played with at school sounds like the rock I have... well, actually, I can't seem to find it. There is actually outcrops of serpentinite along the Clarence Way south of Baryulgil which if you look carefully though sometimes contains chrysotile.

      Speaking about Baryulgil, the next post I'm doing is from up that way.

  2. Speaking of sculpture, Rod do you remember the "Voisey wall" that is outside the earth science building? It was probably outside geography when you were there. It was a depiction of the New England Orogen in cross-section with every strata and pluton represented by actual rock collected from the field. Voisey was a greatly respected lecturer and geologist at UNE from 1939-1965 before moving to Macquarie University 1966-1971. The geography department was demolished a few years ago but the Voisey wall was saved and relocated to the entrance of the new earth science building mainly thanks to the now departed Rowen Webb. I will have to get a photo and send it to you, as we both owe a lot to Alan Heywood Voisey.

    1. Hi Dylan,

      I do vaguely recall a textured feature wall along the entrance to the Geography and Planning buildings near the Union Arcade. Is this the one... and also were the new Geology building is? I look forward to seeing a picture of the wall. Dr John Paterson arrived at UNE at a good time to get a new building for his school/department!

      As far as geologists go I would like to do a series on those that have contributed so much to our regions geology. Voisey would be foremost on the list of those. It is interesting that his observations were almost entirely made before Plate Tectonics was yet known about and geochemistry was limited. yet so much he published has stood the test of time.