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How Scintillating!

Content image: How Scintillating!

Searching for radioactive minerals is a piece of cake compared to metal detecting. If you get a signal, you’ve got a target. None of this business of uncovering nails or shotgun casings, or the end of your steel-toed boot.

Still, using a mid-century model scintillometer like the Precision Instrument Model 11B has its own challenges. It’s a heavy brute. And I’m taller than your average mineral collector. Hunting for hot rocks requires long sessions of fighting gravity – holding the unit at arm’s length as I scan the outcrop, or bent over at the waist, searching the ground.

Fortunately, Reiner and I have found a workable solution. We both prospect an area until we find signals. Then he digs and I screen the “muck” pile, one handful at a time. It’s my kind of mineral collecting! He does the hard labour and I sit and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

As you can imagine, even an easy job like sitting on your butt will become tiresome after a while. One time, when we were at the Kemp Prospect near Bancroft, Ontario, I was taking a break from collecting. Reiner continued to hunt for hot signals. He moved away from our work station and I dozed in the shade.

My nap was interrupted by his “Woo-hoo!”

“What?!” I called out.

Moments later he came scrambling up the slope, breathless with excitement. “LOOK AT THIS!” he said. It was one of the largest thorite specimens ever to be found at this site, possibly one the largest on the planet.

The specimen in the photo above was collected during the summer of 2010. We believe that this crystal is one of the largest for the species. According to the Handbook of Mineralogy, the largest was 8 cm. This one measures 12 x 11 x 7 cm.

The crystal is about 60% complete and weighs approximately 1.8 kg. Also present are elongated greyish laths of uranothorite - a variety of thorite with a higher percentage of uranium. Diopside is scattered here and there on the surface of the piece. 

This piece currently resides in a private collection in Ontario.

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