Chipping away for treasure
Super Digg benefited Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Photos by John Church Rock hounds searching through the Mine Run Dump for specimens.
Browsing the tables at the museum garage sale.
The fluorescent outcropping is illuminated by UV lights.
Thomas Hauck, property manager of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum modeling a restored mining hat lamp. The bright acetylene flame is produced by water dripping onto carbide chips inside the body of the lamp. Hauck said the lamp was preferred by older miners as they could light dynamite fuses and their cigarettes with the open flame.
“We had 281 people for the Super Digg alone and another 200 for general admission. It was a banner day.”
— Bill Kroth, President and CEO of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum
OGDENSBURG — The clinking of hammers on rocks echoed around the Sterling Hill Mining Museum pits Saturday as 281 rock hounds chipped away at the rock piles in search of fluorescent mineral specimens for their collections.
Less physically inclined collectors browsed the museum garage sale tables for specimens.
Rock hounds from as far away as Boston, Illinois and Virginia joined other collectors for the Super Digg in the open pit area of the museum property. It resembled the old penitentiary stereotype as people used sledge hammers to break big rocks into small rocks. They only difference was these rock hounds were toiling by choice not by judicial decree.
Collectors hauled buckets of specimens to the scales and paid $1.50 a pound for their prizes.
The garage sale was an opportunity for the museum to share their extra specimens with collectors and raise operating funds.
“We may have bought a collection and there was a whole bunch of what we wanted and we didn’t need the rest,” said Robert Hauck, museum staff member. “When you buy a collection from someone you don’t necessarily need it all for museum displays or for museum workshops. Some of it is extra so you sell it off.”
The museum has held the sale for the last 10 years.
Special tours of the upper property included the conveyor belt system and bins where crushed ore was stored before being hauled away by train to Pennsylvania for processing.
The newly opened Trotter Tunnel was part of the lower mine tour. After dark the fluorescent wall in the pit was illuminated by powerful UV lights.
“It is 9 p.m. and it is still going strong,” said Bill Kroth, President and CEO of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. “We lit up our outcrop of glowing minerals and people are still digging like crazy. They’ll dig until 11 p.m.”
Collectors worked under the glow of their own portable UV lamps as they made a last search of the pit area.
Kroth and museum staff members planned to be there until after midnight.
He said it makes a long day, but “it is a good feeling when the funds come in to keep us going. That is what it is all about.”
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