Spring Break, Missouri style….

For Spring Break this year our SEG chapter (Society of Economic Geologists) decided to go and take a look see at MVT deposits (Mississippi Valley Type) in the Lead District of Missouri (Misery).  We had several questions that we wanted to explore and look more into on this trip.

1. How do MVT type deposits compare to other types of mineralization that we have explored.

2. What is the general environment in the area of the mine actually like.

3. Is Missouri a Southern or a Northern state.

The third question had to do with one of the grad students insistence that Missouri is not part of the south, but was more of a northern state.

Our trip started well, we met up at the “turtle” (see glorified airport shuttle) van at 6AM on Monday and got out of town by 6:45.  It was a touch snowy and the roads were less than ideal, but we made good progress.  By the time we got to about Rochester the roads had completely cleared up and were hunky-dory the rest of the way.

 We had an interesting crew of individuals on the trip including Matt, we you can see where he spent most of the trip, riding shotgun…  Matt was also along with on the trip last year to Arizona, so he shows up in that group of pictures as well.
Kate and Aaron also came along,Kate was also with last year, but Aaron is a new victim.


 Nick, my undergrad TA partner-in-crime joined us as well, along with Gary, who was also on the Arizona trip last year,

 Pat, who is both my cousin like object, and also was long last year was one of our drivers this year.

To finish off the list we had Paul, whose middle name varied between C, B+, C-, Secondary Mineral, See Map, et al., and the the Grad TA for the class Nick and I are the Undergrads TAs for, Kris.

I should mention at this time, that BlogSpot occasionally has some formatting snafus, where it just seem to want you to just put a cursor some place and start typing.  I could produce this whole thing in InDesign, export to pdf, and have everything perfect, but the cross-browser compatibility, especially for mobile, would go to hell.  Deal with the ugly formatting.

After exiting Minnesota, the next thing you hit heading south is Iowa.  Everybody knows that the best thing to come out of Iowa is I-35, but be unfortunately were off the freeway for most of this trip.  We did get to see some interesting things….  For instance….

 The huge Chester water tower, I think  was actually trying to aim the camera at something else and it was  convenient distance to focus on.

 There was this cool looking train car with a snow plow on the front of it.

 Bridge over the river with some ice choked waters working its way through.

Our first evidence that we were heading towards the south, the first giant cross on the side of the road.

Remember, once you go down that road, there is no turning back.

Then we had our first oops of the trip.  Remember when I said that we hate the turtle vans?  Because these vans are horrifically uncomfortable, the seatbelts don’t work right, and they are basically flimsy-overpriced-airport shuttles.  They also have horrible visibility, you can not see where the corners of the bump-outs on the turtle top actually are.  Give me a 15 passenger van any day of the week, as long as it is a full ton, I can drive one of those things anywhere, something I have proved before.

Well, there was a planter in front of the hotel which necessitated taking a tight corner to make it from where the one set of rooms was, and the other set of rooms.  The poor turtle, with its horrific manoeuvrability  and wretched visibility took a header into the overhang at the motel….

 The damage to the hotel looked a lot worse than it was, they had a pretty stellar maintenance man who had this all fixed up before we left.

The forlorn turtle on the other hand, had a nice big crushed area in the top of the shell, and the tempered glass on the door ended up exploding, scattering glass all over the interior of the van.

We shoved a blanket into the space where the door glass used to be and went to bed, we had to be up very early the next morning to go on a mine visit.  Getting on the road at 6:45 the next morning we were off to the Westfork Facility of the Doe Run Company to go and look at an underground lead mine in a MVT deposit.

We got to the facility a little before 8 in the morning after a winding drive down foggy roads in a cold, and now slightly breezy van.  The facility was relatively small when you set it next to some of the iron facilities that we are used to looking at being from Northern Minnesota, but after a safety briefing and introduction to some of the geology of the region along with mine and regional history we were shuttled off to the big elevator and we were being sent underground.

The elevator was interesting, there was a big shaft where moist air was being expelled out of the ground (there is a ventilation system by which air is pumped down in some places, and expelled in others).  This gave the appearance in the cold morning of climbing into a vent in the ground, it was so foggy that you could not see the details of the elevator until you were almost into it.  The gate closed, the signal chain pulled the signal to drop the elevator and you started your decent.

There were no lights in the elevator, so once you were about 100 feet below the surface you were completely in the absence of light.  You cold not see your hand in front of your face, and it stayed this way for the entire 1/4 mile decent into the mine.

Once we were at the bottom the lights started to come back up and we walked out of the elevator into an area where there were rooms built into the sides of the mine for lunch rooms, maintenance shops, etc.   Over all it looked like we had stepped into the mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, 25 foot wide pillars of rock holding up the world above, with 25 foot wide, 30-100 foot high channels cut between them through the deposit.  In the walls you could see huge chunks of Galena reflecting out at you, just waiting to be removed if there were enough of them to make it responsible to go though the effort of pillar replacement and removal at a later date.

Other than certain areas the mine was not lit, and being that we were underground and surrounded by lead, there was no radio communication.  On the walls there were messages written in spray paint.  This symbol meant the wall had been checked for stability, if it had another mark meant that it had then been double checked by another crew.  The routes had names, one of the most interesting was C3PO, where there was some very pretty samples of chalcopyrite to be had.

These are not the best pictures, but the camera spent most of its time safely in the bag.

You can see the shiny bits of Galena reflecting out of the rock.  The area where these photos were taken was not the best place for looking at samples, we later drove elsewhere where I was able to grab some nice samples which will show up in yet another blog.

After finishing our tour we went to lunch with the Bobs, talking more about the mining industry in Missouri and the general social and outdoor environment of the region.  Missouri is a very pretty place, I personally like hiking, which is something that I could certainly do a lot of in this region.

We were still running with our blanket door at this point.  It was functional, but I would not recommend it for anywhere that is not reasonably warm, which necessitated that we would have to replace the door covering with something.  We also were looking at some of the weather forecasts for our return trip to Minnesota, many of which involved snow storms that were threatening to become issues for our way home.

We got back to the hotel and some of the guys started forking on sorting samples out in the sun of the Missouri afternoon.  Some of us also went and took a quick tour of Fort Davidson which was across the street.

 There were a couple of big cannon sitting in the field across the street from the hotel next to what I presume were the earthworks from Fort Davidson.

 It was obvious that if we had another civil war today, things may not work out the same way.

We happened to get back from the tour in time to make a walk through the museum for Fort Davidson.  I even found a possible shirt-tail relative while looking at the display.

We also started to see evidence for our argument as to whether Missouri was a Northern state or a Southern state.  This first building we saw on our way back from the mine.  The next, which was really a clincher, we saw the next morning.

Ok, there are very simple reasons I would not recommend blowing off fireworks while barefoot.  Darwin seems to have used many of these reasons when he explained the survival of the fittest.


But when we saw a Confederate flag on a pole held up by a discarded toilet in the end of some guys driveway (he also had a series of free-running dogs out), that really clinched the deal for us, we were officially in the South.

Pat seemed to really like the Devil’s Honeycomb, found it rather comfortable to relax on.

 We also stopped at several road cuts to look at the sediments, this area had some very nice what looked like drop stones in the sediments.

I even used my hammer for scale.

 As we were driving along the highway we suddenly saw this enormous facility on the side of the highway.  We decided to go and take a peek, at first it looked like it was closed, but as it turns out they were “open”, we even got a tour.

 There were some of the original narrow gauge rail units in the process of restoration.

 This drill rig looked like it may have even been usable with the replacement of some of the rubber.

One nice big ore car looked like it was ready to go.

 They may need to replace a few windows.

 Once we got into the museum we got to see some of the old machinery that was used deep underground, including this electric shovel.

 These were the carts that were used by the mine geologists along with the bosses.  The story was that these made so much noise as they ran along the tracks that the employees knew when to stop screwing around.

 This is a particularly large ac-dc converter.

And the one mineral that we were informed we had to look for, hemimorphite….

 Our next destination was the Great Unconformity.  As it turns out, Mike Loves Rhonda as well.

 Here Nick tries to hold up almost a billion years of unconformity….

 As turns out the Golden Eagles were not circling us.

I had to take a picture of this stick, just because it caught my eye.

The next destination was the Silver Mines area.  Specifically the Einstein mine.

 Here Matt was looking at something.

 Ethan, Kate, and Aaron were playing catch up.

The map showed the trail going over the dam.  It seemed that this was not going to happen.

The old mine was protected by this old man.  I think he has been there for a while, and will continue to be there for a while more.

The next day we went and visited Elephant Rocks.  Normally large chunks of granite don’t hold a lot of interest for me, but these were kind of cool.

 The Elephant Rocks were these large, rounded granite boulders that were all sitting on this prominence.

 Some of them looked like they were friends.

 I tried my best to hold this one up.

 Pat leisurely held it up with one hand.

 Ethan  went positively Sisyphus style on it.

 Matt just gave up and waited to be crushed.

 There was also some very, very old graffiti on the rocks.

 Some of it looked very much in the style of gravestone writing.

 Not all of the rocks were as neatly separated.

 Nick decided to take a picture of me taking a picture.

Kris dropped something, if I remember right it was a pencil.

 We even got Gary to toss the Frisbee around.

 Kris looked a lot better throwing the Frisbee though.

 Pat just watched.

 Kris had all the skillz.

 More graffiti.

It was everywhere, there was no mention of Rhonda though.

The next destination was Johnsons shut-ins and the big scar.  The big scar was the result of a dam failure that tore all of the surface material off of the hillside exposing cambrian era structures.

 The water was clear and cold.

 The little toads didn’t seem to mind.

 There was some really interesting sedimentary structures exposed.

 The dam is still there, although now it has been repaired.

 You can see the scar easily on the landscape.

 There was even some pyrolucite on some of the rocks.

Also, we had some big spiders.

It was now time to go home, we duct taped up the hole in the turtle roof, and started home.

I got one parting shot of the turtle in the lug nuts of a passing semi as we were driving down the highway.   Have I told you how much I like my new camera?

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