Outfitted to Explore Afield or Afoot

Just got the Mariners 1986 Catalogue from Riggins, Ida. Everything you need for geological and exploration trips, with a beautiful photograph on the cover of what looks to be a sample of gold against a blue background. There's a quick index to "the more popular items"--sample bags, magnifiers, hand tools, leather goods, compasses, altimeters, distance measurers, cap lamps (really, cap lamps?)--but I have to go through the whole thing, page by page, all 184 pages of it.

Sample bags made of every kind of fabric, bags for heavy rocks, wet rocks, sand--here's "a solution to hole plug problems," a Tiger Paw Hole Plug. I think that's what we all need for our problems that won't go away, a Tiger Paw Hole Plug.

Flagging tape--brilliant, colorfast, rainproof, non-toxic, highly visible, in red, orange, yellow, blue and white. Not a bad idea for calling attention to certain points we want to make.

Oh, here's something: notebooks for writing in the rain for mining transit, cross section, level field work--boy, could I have used one of those in Ireland--"the special paper is designed to shed water as well as accept the writing of field notes in wet or humid weather."

Little folding magnifiers you itch to hold in your hand; stereonet plotters printed on transparent vinyl that look as though they hold the whole world; you can order the Equal Area Schmidt Net or the Equal Angle Wulff Net. Mapping scales that open out like little Japanese fans of white plastic. They used to be made of celluloid that got yellower and yellower, lying in your father's drawer, until they curled at the end, got brittle and broke.

Rock picks with that determined sturdy pointed end and short flat hammer on the other end. Mine is still on the basement stairs, ready for instant use, and shares with me the glory of running all over the Bear River shale in the Wyoming mountains years ago where it and I found a trilobite cast in pre-Cambrian rock. I slid down the 45-degree mountain side to show it to our University of Michigan leader professor, who said I must have made a mistake; it could only have come out of the Cambrian. And how victorious, 30 years later, to happenstancely come across a Caltech notice saying trilobites had recently been found in pre-Cambrian in Scotland and later in South America and then the United States.

Crack hammer, carbine-tipped chisels, machetes, pick-to-shovel converters--that's handy!--acid bottle holders, field cases, holsters for all these things of that thick heavy russet cowhide that looks as though it will last 200 years and does. Belts with non-magnetic buckles; I never thought of that, of course belt buckles would throw the magnet off. Ten models of beautiful, beautiful transits; I still have my father's mahogany-cased one.

Compasses, barometers, altimeters, pedometers, clinometers, levels, fluorescent spray paint--fluorescent spray paint! Ye gods, how horrible, why can't they use those flag things? Red vests for carrying rocks, pocket filters for drinking water--"even turbid water laden with silt and algae"--in remote areas. Splitters and sieves, lightsticks that work apparently like those silly green and yellow things sold at parades, giving light in "office, vehicle, mine or camp," and a Welsh miner's lamp "patterned after the Clany and Davy safety lamps" of polished brass that would sell for twice the price in an antique store. Dental picks for very fine crevices, blowpipes, streak plates, tweezers, charcoal blocks, those neat little porcelain evaporating dishes with a pouring lip--you'd like to put a dozen on your table right now--microscopes, ultraviolet lamps, mineral kits labeled and numbered (that's cheating), wall charts (156 fossils at a glance) and oh, the books: "Economic Deposits and Their Tectonic Setting"; "Geology of the Porphyry Copper Deposits"; "Kimberlites, Diatremes and Diamonds: Their Geology."

Oh that summer in college when I almost decided to pick at rocks instead of a typewriter--maybe I made a mistake.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World