Rocks and Lox in Norway


Despite experiencing the two "best collecting seasons ever" in '05 and '06, Team Greenland decided to give Ilimaussaq a year off in '07. A grand return is expected next summer. For this summer, we considered visiting another alkaline intrusion complex such as Mt. St. Hilaire or the Kipawa Complex in Canada, the Kola Peninsula in Russia, or Dara-i-Pioz in Tadjikistan. All things considered we chose the Langesundsfjord area in Norway, which has the advantages of being relatively fast and inexpensive to reach, and is accessible and civilized.

Knowing nothing more specifically about the minerals of Langesundsfjord than the list in Robbins' book, we looked to the internet for more data. There we found the published reseach papers of Alf Olav Larsen and of Dr. Wilfried Steffens. After contacting both by e-mail, we found them forthcoming and informative. The area in question is along the east coast of Langesundsfjord, which empties into Skagerrak from the northwest. It is a summer resort area of Norway, with plenty of beaches and boating. As Langesundsfjord is at approximately 60 degrees north latitude we knew to be prepared with our barbecue grill covers for day collecting and for short night collecting sessions. The area consists of a series of twenty or so working and numerous dormant monzonite (syenite) quarries dating back to the nineteenth century. The quarries mine larvikite, named after the nearest town, Larvik. Larvikite is a world famous ornamental stone used in buildings like the United Nations. Over 175 different minerals have been found at Langesundsfjord, and it is the type locality for 23 of these. Fluorescent minerals are found in the pegmatite veins in the larvikite. The list of fluorescents includes leucophanite and closely related meliphanite (Langesundsfjord is the type locality for both, being described in 1840 and 1852 respectively), feldspar, sodalite, rosenbuschite, helvite, genthelvite, gaidonnayite, apatite and zircon. The similarity of this list to the minerals found at Mt. St. Hilaire is obvious.

Our original plan was based on the fact that despite the variety of fluorescents available, collecting at Langesundsfjord has always been done without the benefit of UV lamps. This same situation has led to the amazing and continuing underestimation of Ilimaussaq as a fluorescent collecting paradise. Therefore the null hypothesis was that there would be an abundance of unappreciated fluorescent specimens available for those collecting with UV lamps. My own personal secret wish was that I would be able to add to my tugtupite stores, given that sodalite and beryllium minerals are both found at Langesundsfjord.

Mark Cole of MinerShop and I met at JFK for the flight to Oslo. We carried the hopes and expectations of the members of Team Greenland who were unable to get away. Some parting words: "when your trip proves to be worth a return..." (CLM), "major pieces of leucophanite exist, just typically not on this side of the pond" (ERV), "this is going to be the collecting trip to end all trips" (HY), and "I'm uncharacteristically speechless at the possibilities..." (DY). We rented a new VW Golf and drove one hundred miles or so to base camp, the By the Way Holms motel in Larvik (you don't say, Watson.) We met up with Alf Olav, the leading expert on the mineralogy of Langesundsfjord, who is an X-ray crystallographer, and is helping to identify some of our Ilimaussaq unknowns. The quarries that we targeted are active during the day but permit collecting after 4PM. Saga I is the famous abandoned quarry perched atop the working quarry called Sagasen. The other quarries we hit were Tuften, Arent, and Oestskogen. Most are accessible by short walks from the car.

a man mining for rocks


Since the pegmatite veins, which can run several meters wide, are commercially waste rock, the miners either quickly move aside or avoid the veins completely. Larvikite is cut out in blocks of approximately eight feet by five feet by three feet, weighing between three and four tons each. Our ideal routine was to scout out the quarries in the afternoon, collect under the grill covers until darkness around midnight, and night-collect until exhausted. We would return to the motel by 3 AM, nearly sunrise, and sleep late. This Draculesque pattern kept us closer to North American time. Mark collects with a Shortwave/Midwave/Longwave UV lamp while I use a SuperBright with a laptop battery pack weighing two pounds. Fortunately Mark can fix anything, as he did when my mercury vapor lamp died. I now have the first SuperBright 1 ½, with an 18 watt u-tube shielded by a Tums bottle sticking out one end. One unexpected disappointment was the bright lights left on in the quarries that prevented us from quickly scanning with our UV lamps.

a photo of the quarry in norway


Here's the rub: whenever a pegmatite vein is exposed by fresh cutting or blasting, the local mineralogist network is informed of the event. These fellows know the daylight appearance of all the fluorescent minerals quite well, and grab everything up almost immediately. This leaves relatively inferior material for the "dump" specimens. Left over fresh material must be chipped off four ton blocks of hard rock or from in situ veins, an almost impossible task. The result for late-comers would be analogous to a Franklin collection comprised of only Buckwheat specimens, with the "mine run" stuff being in the hands of the local collectors.

We began our collecting at Tuften, our farthest walk from the car. A fresh vein had just been exposed. Tremendously beautiful clear natrolite clusters with crystals up to an inch long and ¼ inch in diameter were abundant, but non-fluorescent. Clear yellow calcite, fluorescing an ethereal peach color in SW, was on the same feldspar matrix accompanied by well-formed non-fluorescent analcime crystals.

a panoramic view of quarry in norway


We spent each night at Sagasen. Dark green sodalite in feldspar matrix was massive and abundant, although hackmanite was rare. The sodalite fluoresces orange under shortwave and longwave UV light, and the feldspar fluoresces red under shortwave UV only. Unfortunately, though colorful, the emitted light is not bright. Leucophanite chips on matrix, fluorescing incredibly beautiful lavender shortwave and midwave, can be found. I worked hard on a huge block, finally chipping off a decent piece of leucophanite surrounded by sodalite, feldspar and bright yellow-orange fluorescing zircon; four fluorescent colors though too small for display. My best find was off the same block. The matrix is five inches cubed, with two brightly fluorescent leucophanite areas, 2.5 inches by 1.5 inch each. On the same faces are orange fluroescent sodalite with hackmanite fluorescing green under shortwave, bright orange fluorescing zircon, and a very interesting area of unidentified bright blood red fluorescence under midwave UV only.

a leucophanite specimen

Of course the best examples of the most prized fluorescent, leucophanite, are found in the garage of Alf Olav Larsen, who has collected diligently at LSF for decades. I brought along a fifteen piece Franklin collection to trade, and received several spectacularly fluorescing pieces of leucophanite, to go along with one world-class matrix piece that had been already been given to me via Mark. The leucophanite has a glassy luster, and is a translucent pale green color in natural light. The leucophanite on this chunk is 3 inches by 2.5 inches by 1 inch. This rock was my initial inspiration to go to LSF.

The next day was spent walking around Larvik, eating ice cream and admiring the landscape. The expected temperature was in the low sixties, but for our stay each day approached ninety degrees (F not C). This heat was conducive to both aforementioned activities, but was intolerable for the local population and for tourists sitting under barbecue grill covers in quarries. We met Alf Olav for dinner in Brevik, a very old and upscale coastal town. Local spots of interest are an ice cream factory, Diplom-Is, and an underground limestone quarry stretching two kilometers under the fjord. The entrance to the town is marked by a huge piece of calcite-under-glass from this quarry. We spent the rest of the evening lamping rocks in Alf-Olav's garage, which was and educational and enjoyable experience. Alf-Olav lives in the hillside town of Stathelle. His home overlooks the fjord and captures a view of the Tuften quarry in the distance across the fjord We capped off the day with a midnight session at Oestskogen, where we managed to find a decent amount of meliphanite. Meliphanite is named for its daylight honey color, and fluoresces a shade darker than leucophanite lavender under midwave UV only.



The next day Wilfried arrived. He is a physician living in Germany, and he took the auto ferry from Denmark. He has been to LSF for collecting more than a dozen times. We spent some hours finding spotty leucophanite and sodalite in the historic Saga I quarry. Next we went to Arent where zircon was reportedly found the previous week. In fact, zircon was abundant, but as loose crystals in mud-filled vugs in the pegmatite veins. I later found impressive zircon samples in an abandoned quarry at the foot of Tuften. We were guided there by an enthusiastic fellow, Thor Sorlie, who is just starting to get interested in fluorescents. The zircon are in the form of abundant transparent root beer color crystals, and fluoresce brightly yellow-orange SW on a red fluorescing feldspar matrix. I find this combo very attractive.

zircon under shortwave and midwave uv light


We spent Saturday boating to the islands just off the coast of a marina town, Helgeroa, with Wilfried and his friend Svein Berge. These islands were originally explored for thorium. I found small leucophanite chips, typically fluorescing fluorite, and rosenbuschite. One of these islands is the type locality for rosenbuschite (1887), seen in sprays of violet needles embedded in huge boulders, and fluorescing yellow under shortwave. I did manage to extract some characteristic samples, albeit too small for display. Wilfried scouted the bottom of the fjord while snorkeling, and discovered barnacle-coated rosenbuschite. The adventure highlight of the day was being towed back to port after our outboard motor conked. One thirty dollar pizza later (salaries in Norway are excellent, but prices can be exorbitant also), and we called it a trip. Our last act in Norway was to polish off a lunch of the best lox that I've ever tasted.

Our flight back to the states was uneventful except for two aborted take-offs half way down the runway at Keflavik airport in Iceland.

So, the null hypothesis was rejected! The trip to LSF was fun, scenic and interesting. I enjoyed meeting our new collecting buddies. But there are no "overlooked" fluorescent minerals. The local collectors are too good. Finding fluorescents suitable for display is a matter of being experienced enough to see them in sunlight, a skill that I know I've mastered for Ilimaussaq fluorescents after five trips there. But most of all, timing is the essential aspect. If you're not present within a few hours of breaking into a pegmatite vein, its sloppy seconds!

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