“Tripping” in Namibia

November 24, 2017

The word “tripping” can have two meanings:  a tour or journey, or an unintentional slip, blunder or happening.  On this occasion both senses of the word applied. Malcolm and his friends covered a lot of ground and saw a wide variety of things when in Namibia, but not without incident.

To start off with, by the time Australian Graham landed in Cape Town, he had lost his passport, which necessitated a return to Johannesburg and the Australian Consulate for a new one. He then flew from JHB to Windhoek to await the others. Henri and Malcolm set off as planned with Lennard and Nils (the Scandinavians), and Glen from America. Malcolm hadn’t even reached Van Rynsdorp before his Landy overheated and blew a cylinder head. This necessitated a 3 day stay in the area for repairs after Henri had towed both Malcolm’s Land Rover and passengers, and his own trailer to the nearest town. Henri went on to Rosh Pinah with Lennard, Glen and Nils. On the Wednesday, Philip and Claire came up from Cape Town, found Malcolm and escorted him over a couple of days to Windhoek to join the others. In the meantime Henri had lost his spare trailer tyre on the Orange River road to Rosh Pinah due to rough travelling, but a following bakkie collected and returned it to him and repairs were done in town whilst visiting Gisela Hinder. Some interesting fluorescent minerals were found here.

Once in Windhoek, Malcolm re-joined all the travelers, and he visited the large Onganja copper nugget that our club helped donate to the Namibian Dept. of Mines and Minerals Museum on behalf of FOSAGAMS and the Windisch family. It is smartly displayed on a white marble base, with an inscription describing where it came from. 

Tsumeb was the next stop, with a quick visit to the old mine headgear, but with no luck visiting the old mine dumps themselves. A happy diversion was to an African Music School in the town. Lennard is a music teacher and supports this organization, and he had brought with him a trumpet and trombone to donate to their teaching facilities. The centre has developed to the extent that they are now able to repair and service the musical instruments belonging to the nearby Namibian army base. An art department is a further part of this centre. The visitors were well entertained both with music and an art exhibition. They camped on a wonderful 6000 hectare farm belonging to Alet, a lady associated with this music centre, and made themselves useful inflating tyres on an old tractor, cooking supper and other activities. They gave Alet a blue chalcedony necklace as a thank you gift. She was apparently very reluctant to have them leave.

From there, visits to Abenab, Berg Aukas, and Kombat took place by some or all, with several night time outings spent with UV lamps in search of glowing specimens – tricky at times when what you want to pick up is some way up a hill and you can’t see where you are going! Kombat is going to be mined again, with water in the flooded parts being pumped out and sold to NamWater. Namibia is also suffering a bad drought. Unfortunately minimal mottramite was found on the dumps.

Then followed the long drive to Kamanjab. On the way, Claire was unexpectedly kissed in the face by a local giant male giraffe, with a very long tongue, who decided to put his head through her vehicle’s open window after fancying her. Being rejected, he then tried his luck with a passing bus load of tourists. In Kaokoland, Marius’s dioptase mine was explored and several hair-raising expeditions undertaken up very steep hills into the bush in search of other deposits. On the return journey via Palmwag Henri’s trailer broke a spring and bent its axle, due to the terrible corrugations. Luckily he was the leader and his passengers and most of the trailer’s pilferable contents could be transferred to the vehicles which were following him. Henri was left behind to wait, and ultimately a passing truck generously loaded the broken trailer onto its back and took it through to Xhorikas. After another stop for considerable repairs, it was back on the road for all to Uis, past the tin mine, and on to Goboboseb to see Ras Greef and his stones. Apparently he had a goodly collection in the yard around his house and the trippers needed to go no further than that. A new cutting for mining has been made on the hillside but no specimens from that were seen. From Tafelkop the next destination was Swakopmund, to see Mike Tygerson at Desert Gems, and from there it was back to Windhoek for permits, and the long journey home which thankfully was without further incident.

This has been a long story so far but with nothing much about minerals! The prime object of the trip was to find fluorescent minerals, and Glenn and Graham had brought large rechargeable UV lamps with them. Surprisingly they had no trouble from the airlines or customs on arrival. The UV lamps look rather like small bombs.

 Malcolm now has one too which he brought to shine on some of the minerals they found. Here they are:


Hyalite opal on a sheet of small unidentified white cubic blocks              Barite with unidentified fluorescence

Lennard bought a plate of this material about 200 x 300mm

                     Barite                                               Hyalite opal on quartz

                   Calcite                            Fluorite

Two minerals that fluoresce the most are calcite and barite, but what is not generally known is that the same mineral from a different mine can fluoresce a different colour or even not at all, depending on what particular impurities activate under short or long wave light.

Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength from 10 to 400 nanometres, and is invisible to our eyes. On the whole, more minerals fluoresce under short wave. Short wave lamps are more expensive to buy and are more dangerous to use as their light can cause damage to skin and eyes. Care must be taken when operating them. Longwave UV light also causes certain minerals to fluoresce, occasionally better than short wave, but on the whole LW is not as effective.

The seven fluorescent colours that can be found are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and white. 

But that was not all….

All great leaders err from time to time, even our great esteemed Mr. Malcolm Jackson. Most hope that there are no witnesses, or friends disposed to sharing information; this was his greatest err……

Having had numerous and costly mishaps from the very start, we found ourselves ready to move to our next location after spending the previous day recovering, and repairing our “rolled trailer”. Prudence suggested that the vehicle with the “jimmied” trailer proceed on ahead of us, so if it failed again, we would be able to assist.

The vehicles were repacked, Malcolm had two of our overseas guests with him, and I had the other two, having transferred them from the “faulty trailer vehicle”. The fit was tight, as my vehicle had not been set up for two extra passengers and their kit, but “she” accommodated us as always, and we were ready to move…….no more problems…….plain sailing… trailer goes first… Malcolm and I refuel, and dawdle up behind the trailer and nurse the convoy into Swakopmund. Simple….no problems.

While re-fuelling, our esteemed Aussie, Graham, (traveling now in Malcolm’s Landy) decided that an ice-cream would be a great comfort and wandered into the small shop at the filling station. Malcolm, true to his nature, was by now very concerned about Henri and the trailer heading down the road ahead of us……..and as soon as his tank was filled, his motherly instincts took over…and he desperately needed to catch Henri so that he could hold his hand along the way - that’s the Mr. Jackson we all know.

Owning a Land Cruiser, my re-fuelling took a little longer….we watched as Malcolm barreled down the road after Henri, Landy fully loaded, going like a racing hound chasing a rabbit….probably reaching nearly 70 km/hr. It was a dusty, hot and badly corrugated road, but fortunately the graders had been out working, which smoothed the road but led to considerable dust.

While paying for my fuel I recognised a familiar face, with his ice-cream, standing in the courtyard looking a bit perplexed, no Landy….  The discussion started:  “Graham, I think they left you behind, you’d better jump in, and we’ll catch Malcolm”. “No need” says Graham, “they’ll notice me missing and return for me shortly…I’m sure”.

A while later, fuel tank filled, bill paid and Graham’s ice-cream finished….and, no Malcolm…. we loaded Graham (nearly 80 years old) unceremoniously into the middle of the back seat, no foot space left so his knees were around his ears, and we went in hot pursuit of fearless leader Jackson. We got around the graders, got passed the busses and trucks on the way, risking life and limb with every overtaking (but normal for Namibia), and we start closing on Mr. Jackson. Graham is still flabbergasted that they have not even noticed that he is missing yet…nearly 40 minutes since leaving the petrol station. Graham, with his Aussie sense of humour, was already considering “payback”…..

Malcolm was pushing to stay in front of the Cruiser, not knowing that His passenger was in My car. The Cruiser/Landy thing was a foregone conclusion……we pulled up alongside of them and their expressions were priceless…

Thundering down the dirt road, plumes of dust being thrown up everywhere, with nothing left in the Landy by way of speed…Malcolm defeatedly waves us past. We edge up parallel and Malcolm gives us a forlorn sideways glance, Glen in the passenger seat of the Landy is a thousand miles away, and Graham waves to them.

The forlorn stare turned to a bulging eye gawk, like a cartoon character…..Malcolm’s head snapped around to speak to Glen…….ejecting Glen out of his daydream, Glen leans forward and has his bulgy eyed gawk…not believing Malcolm…. then snaps his head towards the back seat, not even believing his own eyes, to check whether Graham was in his supposed seat. Both conceding that it was actually Graham in the Cruiser, they pull over and we transfer the lost passenger back to his rightful seat. No discussion or social event took place as the busses were bearing down on us from a distance and we did not want to be behind them again…….and we set off for Swarkop.

Previously in the trip Graham had greatly appreciated a comment of mine:  “there are only two man--made things that you can see from up in space, firstly, the Great Wall of China, secondly, the gap between a Land Rover’s doors!”

This I believe is where the motivation for his revenge on his travel companions was born………..

After Malcolm and his Landy had taken back their abandoned passenger, Graham spent the next two hours explaining to Malcolm and Glen, how he had “fallen out of the Landy as Malcolm had overtaken the grader, with Graham shouting for help as he fell onto the road, tumbling in the dirt, only to see the Landy door slam shut again and Malcolm driving off into the distance. He had waved and shouted at them but Malcolm blissfully continued on his way, totally unaware that he was now missing one passenger. How lucky Graham was that I had noticed him on the side of the road and picked him up, and Claire had doctored his injuries on the way to catching up with Malcolm. (The said injuries were garnished on the previous day on the mine dumps). Malcolm and Glen were so taken aback by the occurrence of finding their fellow passenger and colleague pass them in another car (!!), that they failed to pick up the deception. Fuelled further by their guilt of missing Graham in the car, they even admitted to having had conversations with him, while all the time he was actually in my car. For the whole of the rest of the trip to Swakop, Graham milked his revenge on Malcolm and Glen.

Once in Swakop we all disembarked and gathered to discuss the occurrence of Malcolm leaving Graham at the petrol station. Malcolm came eagerly to me and thanked me so much for picking Graham up from the side of the road, but seeing the confused look on my face and very embarrassed face of Mr. Jackson, Graham stepped forward and explained “how he had fallen out of the vehicle” to great roars of laughter and Malcolm’s further embarrassment. To add fuel to Malcolm’s embarrassment, we then told him what had actually happened, which added insult to his already existing injury, and the cherry on top was that Graham had conned so much sympathy out of Malcolm and Glen, that by the time they arrived at Swakop, I think they were both considering giving up their houses to him as compensation for their actions. There were considerable tears of laughter, for a long time, even to the extent that passers-by gave us many a sharp sideways glance.

This is how we find stones in the desert. PH

Rhodonite Sphere



November 24, 2017


“Eye of the Storm” a faceting design created by Robert W. Strickland on 12th September 2017, in honour of those who suffered loss in the Caribbean hurricanes of 2017.

This design was first published in the United States Faceters’ Guild newsletter of September 2017.

When photographed directly into the centre of the culet, all the crown facets go dark, and the only light is in the “eye”, but viewed from other angles, the stone ...

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September 23, 2017

Duncan Miller

A polariscope consists essentially of two polaroid filters, or a source of plane polarised light and one polaroid filter. The source of polarised light can be a white computer screen or even the sky, viewed at 90 degrees to the Sun. For the filter, or analyser, you can use a sheet of polaroid, or a lens from a cheap pair of 3D movie spectacles.

Let’s start with a white computer flat screen. Even an older cell phone screen without a plastic cover produces plane polarised ligh...

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9th September, 2017. The Jan Coetzee Quartz Crystal Reunion

September 23, 2017

About ten intrepid Jan Coetzee crystals made it to the reunion, with two of 50 kg-plus guys sending their apologies due to being overweight, along with a couple more whose owner couldn’t provide transport on the day. One rare and seldom seen fluorite (also from the same crystal pocket) came, and was much admired. Malcolm Jackson gave a short presentation about the mine and its location, along with photos taken by him and Jo of the Jan Coetzee mine dumps in recent years and the remains of th...

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August 24, 2017

Duncan Miller

During the 1974/75 university holidays I was fortunate to work for Sid Pieters in Windhoek for several months. It was a wonderful experience, including seeing some of the most famous mineral specimens then coming out of Tsumeb, but also to encounter some very special gem materials. Through Sid Pieters’s generosity I returned home to Cape Town with a few small fragments of jeremejevite from the original Namibian occurrence at Cape Cross and some pieces of cuprite from Onganja t...

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Curling Stones

August 24, 2017

Lesley Andrews gave a most interesting talk on Scottish curling stones. I thought curling was a Scottish winter game played by village yokels. I was wrong! It has had Winter Olympic status since 1998. The game consists of two teams of four players each, with eight stones between them, and the idea is to slide the stone, which turns, hence the name curling, towards a target called a button. Rather like a game of bowls on ice. The origin of the game goes back into obscurity, but the oldest know...

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July 24, 2017

Duncan Miller

Inclusions in gemstones often are seen as just a nuisance by faceters, who find themselves urged to buy only ‘clean’ rough. I suppose it is a matter of taste, but inclusions that do not detract from the visual appearance of a gemstone can aid in proving its authenticity. And some inclusions definitely enhance the value and appearance of certain gems. A visible ‘horse tail’ inclusion of asbestos fibres in Russian demantoid is perhaps the most famous example of desirable ...

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June 27, 2017

Duncan Miller

Synthetics are a wonderful source of relatively inexpensive faceting rough, in a wide array of colours, some of them not available at all in natural stones. On the whole, synthetic gem rough is predictable in its behaviour and also enables the cutter to explore quirky cuts in larger sizes than would be affordable in natural rough. And increasingly jewellers are setting well-cut synthetics in precious metal jewellery. So dive in, and enjoy yourself.

The most commonly available ...

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New Barite Occurrence at Rosh Pinah Mine – Namibia

May 23, 2017

Transparent to whitish barite mineralization was found in an orogenic late phase leached fault zone. It seems that some of the barites are pseudomorphs replaced by snow white baritocalcite. This replacement supposedly took place at an even later phase when calcium-rich fluids migrated through the formation. This theory is supported by the occurrence of floater quartz crystals in a pocket where, on the one side, the quartz aggregates display the luster of ‘bergkristall’ and are coated on t...

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The History behind the Mike Lurie Collection

May 23, 2017

The Lurie family lived in Bulawayo, Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, from 1951 to 1966. During this time Robert’s late father, Mike, worked as a manufacturer’s representative. His job took him by car all over Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Every now and again Mike would stop his car in the middle of the bush to take a break from the difficult, long distance driving. He would often notice something shining, or an agat...

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