Petersen Mountain Commercial Dig Report #3
May 30th thru June 10th, 2008

     Jon Johnson generously invited me to work with him once again on his 2008 Petersen sampling project.  This project was two-fold.  First a 51,000-pound excavator was used to sample in and extend the pits along the southernmost edge of the summit.  This year, there were no big pockets over 2 feet across that were discovered. Though the crystal pockets were smaller, average void size was about 4 x 6 x 8 inches, the specimens that were produced exhibited a rare combination of deeper-purple-violet amethyst with above-average gemminess.  Very few elongate "first generation" smokey quartz crystals were seen, which is needed for prime scepter formation.  The wall on the eastern portion of the pit, showed signs that a generally NW-SE trending pocket zone of these crystals does occur along a contact zone of the hard white granite and the cherty orange granite.  The later generation amethyst heads, ranging in size from 1 to 6 inches across, tended to occur mostly to the western portion of the pit, in the orange granite.  This amethyst generation only rarely came in contact with the smokey generation quartz, to produce fine amethyst scepters.  The two most notable specimens of this occurrence, from this year's dig, was an exceptional 4.5-inch-tall amethyst scepter on matrix, and a fine 6.5 inch amethyst scepter, both reconstructed, with both pockets being found within 20 feet of the first-generation smokey quartz zone.

     The second part of the project was to use a medium-sized backhoe to reclaim and fill in the extensive trench work along the western side of the "Monolith" granite boulder outcrop.  About 1,500 cubic yards of muck, mostly from the excavator/sampling project, was used for this filling purpose. This was done to lower the attractive nuisance factor due to high-graders.  During this time, Jon and I operated the backhoe.  While mucking, Jon made a very fortunate sighting and discovered a fabulous 800-carat piece of nearly flawless, deeply colored amethyst gem rough. Once cut, this may well become North America's largest fine faceted amethyst thus far discovered!  After transporting hundreds of loads of muck with the backhoe myself, I spotted a 5-pound gemmy amethyst head that ended up being one of the top-five pieces from this year's project.  As part of the on-going reclamation efforts, in accordance with BLM requirements, this year's work was an unqualified success.  Another task, which helped to keep the mine site clean, was to remove the old derelict dozer that had been on site for years.       

Enjoy the Adventure!!!

30 May, I was a bit late getting up the mine.  But, it was no disaster as the excavator was also late being delivered.  Just a few minutes before getting to our dirt-road turnoff, I came up behind the excavator!  Good thing!  The driver missed the turn and then pulled off the road a half mile later.  I serendipitously pulled over right behind him and helped show the way back to where Jon was waiting!  

Once we got to the right spot, the excavator was unloaded.  It was then that our trip up to the top of the mountain really began-

Up, up and away!

2 June, This is the beginning of the extension work on the South pit, working back north.  Jon would work the walls with the big excavator, while John
Cornish and I would check for pockets.  In addition, I also operated the backhoe in a concerted effort to keep the active pits mucked out-

The upper pit areas, to the north of South pit, are in need of some serious muckin'!!!
Forging a road around the backside of the dumps, I began the process of transporting thousands of cubic yards of mine muck to our designated reclamation area on the west side of the "Monolith" rock outcrop.

I DIG heavy equipment!

The job of pushing and loading the muck north continues-

As the day's shadows grew long, on my 967th load, this
BIG PURPLE AMETHYST head rolls out of the pile!!!


Though there was a little bit of damage on it, this was still a special find for muck!

What a beauty!

4 June, with about 12 operating hours in the bag, the upper pit is starting to get clean

Where once over a million pounds of muck sat, now
there is none!

Now it's time to start another pit and work back south to the South pit-

After a good round with the excavator in the South pit, it
is DEFINITELY time to do some mega-mucking!

Here I am in the backhoe ready to take it on!

Of course there were literally TONS of mega-sized boulders, some so big that I couldn't even move them with the backhoe!  The meter+ boulder in the left pic is, of course, not one of those. This one only weighed a mere 3,000 or so pounds!    :)

4 June, looking east, back at the camp site-

5 June, The Petersen Taj Mahal!

With 5-star camping services...
And 5-star BBQ!

When the crystals let themselves be found,
we would then clean and

sort them by quality before securely wrapping them up for the trip off the mountain-

Being I spent much of my time in the backhoe mucking, I was only able to get these few pocket pix. But I didn't miss out too much, as we just couldn't seem to hit any really photogenic pockets this year.

Here's Jon looking at a
nice smokey pocket
Though it didn't have any scepters or amethyst, one of the smokeys
was about 9 inches long!

Here's Jon's old dozer just a moment before being taken down the hill to be scrapped-
And off it goes!

And then.... My camera batteries died...
Alas, I would not be able to get any more pix of the dig.  So, I tried to make up for this by posting a few extra pix of the final take!

12 June, We still managed to cover 2, 6-foot tables,
and a lot of good amethyst, as well!

There's that 9 inch smokey, next to many nice scepters and amethyst crystals!

It was nice to find just as many amethyst crystals as we did smokeys!  Sometimes, in the past, this ratio has been as high at 10 smokeys or more, to every 1 amethyst.

There is real beautiful purple under all that hard crust!

Here's a whole bunch of smokeys averaging about 3 to 6 inches long

Most of these crystals showed amethyst, with some nice, smaller amethyst scepters!

Some of the best from our dig!

Oh, that's right,
I did promise an amethyst scepter on matrix!  

The stories goes-  After working on the backhoe mucking for several hours one day, I was told that we had hit a decent pocket, in the other pit, that was showing a nice amethyst head!  A couple of pix were shot of this in-situ amethyst crystal and then it was extracted.  Afterwards, I got in the pocket and immediate saw a 2x2x2 inch, medium purple amethyst head pointing at me.  I collected it and noticed that the base showed the stump of a smokey stem, about 3/4-inch wide and 1/2-inch tall, with a sharp contact point, indicating that I should definitely keep an eye out for more of this stem, as I continued to collect the pocket.  A few minutes later, I found the stem!  This made a beautiful amethyst scepter about 4-1/2 inches long!  On a hunch, I brought back all of the wall plates from the pocket.  On this next-to-nothing, nondescript piece of iron-stained granite, there was a small blemish of quartz.  Amazingly, the stem locked right back on for a 100% sure fit!!!  This is it!  I have spent almost 20 years trying to find a good amethyst scepter on matrix from Petersen with my own hands!  Of course, it was a team-effort to find it and we all are very proud!!   Jon rightfully claimed this as his First Pick from the dig and he's going to send it off to Collector's Edge to be prepped!  I am sure that Jon is going to keep this piece for a very long time!

Here Ed Christiansen and Jon Johnson check out our best amethyst head, an amazing 5-pound gemmy crystal worthy of any museum in the world!

The specimen above was a piece that Jon found in the muck- A double-terminated smokey with an amethyst scepter on one end!  
Here's the piece I found while mucking.  It was one of the top-five picks from the dig!

The pick winds down-

Here are some of Jon's awesome picks!

And my best of the 2 flats of good material I got from my share!  In all, this was a great year for amethyst, and I hope that Jon will invite me again next year!  

Thanks JON!!!


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