Yesterday Ashton had gone crystal hunting with Finley who is the care taker of our sabbatical home (Harmony House), Junior, Jay, and John—three Jamaican friends. I had stayed back to help build a house for Miss Faith and her six children.
They all live in Harmons, a remote village in the mountains, rich in the bauxite needed to quench America’s thirst for aluminum. Mining this natural resource without environmental regard has exposed calcite crystals covering boulders at the huge holes in the ground (some 80 foot in depth)
For family day my parents planned to join us too. My dad, Rusty, being a “retired” mineralogist was excited beyond explanation; whereas my mom saw the beauty of geologic studies for our home schooling.
I ran down the hallway and met the excavation crew at the front gate. Junior, our guide, started off into the bush. We all followed along the well-worn paths, passing clumps of houses made of tin and cement. Outside one home was a group of Jamaican children adorned with dreadlocks and smiles. They questioned Junior in Pautwa (the native creole) about where we were going. Junior replied that we were crystal hunting. A few of them joined our procession including a new friend named Antony.
The weather was beautiful with puffy cumulus clouds in the sky and a warm wind blowing through our hair and in our faces. Soon a complex system of hills, valleys, ditches, and ponds came into view. “It is the quickest way,” Junior chortled, so we obediently followed.
Within minutes, I felt like a mountain goat scrabbling across the switches. Ashton was in his glory, not only is he an avid tree climber back home but he loves to climb rocks as well. His new friend Antony was just as much of a daredevil as he is. They challenged one another to do handsprings down the ravines and jump off the highest peaks. My mom was having difficulty and I could sense she would have preferred the safer route. Likewise, my dad shared in her discontent until he looked down and spotted his first cluster of calcite crystals. Junior yelled, “Come now, this is nothing to compare to what is coming!”
As we progressed, I learned about the calcite crystals (CaCO2) from my mom. Evidently Jamaica, a Greater Antille, had volcanic origin, but was covered by an ocean laying down millions of now compacted sea shells. Calcite had grown out of the solution of dissolved calcium carbonate. Commonly found world-wide, this soft mineral is known as a “3” on Moh’s hardness scale. They are classified in the trigonal crystal system.
Once again my dad wanted to stop and get more treasure protruding out of boulders surrounded by the red bauxite refuse. Ashton and Junior ran ahead bringing him back a sample of ecstasy. He dropped his most recent collection and quickly journeyed onward.
What we saw was incredible, piles upon piles of calcite, the size of your wrist displaying perfect rhombohedra cleavage and sparkling vitreously in the hot sun. Junior requested my hammer and showered the ground with finger-thick, diamond-like crystals. Pumped with adrenaline, my dad lifted a sixty pound boulder. Then he would drop to the ground and pick through the crystal as if nothing had happened. This hulk-like activity continued until a huge pile of calcite heaped in front of us.
My mom and I gazed in amazement. Then I saw the concern on her face, knowing of my dad’s severe inflammation in his shoulder area.
“Are you ok, Rusty?” she inquired. “Oh yes, I have always wanted to do this with the boys, but I never had the time or had access crystals like this to share with them.”
What a glorious day in Jamaica; I learned a ton of geologic facts and a new respect for my father and his love of mineral hunting.