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Henry M. Robert

Taurida as a museum of unique minerals

Richness of the peninsula’s depth is demonstrated for the Crimean residents
27 March, 2013 - 17:53

The recent exhibit of Crimean minerals in the Simferopol-based Central Taurida Museum has drawn hundreds of visitors. Peter Pallas wrote in his time that “Taurida peninsula is a most excellent country on earth in terms of physical geography and mineralogy.” According to Doctor of Geology and Mineralogy Yurii Polkanov, who has dedicated many years of his life to prospecting and exploration at the Crimean Institute of Mineral Resources of the Academy of Science of USSR, later Ukraine, 200 known minerals can be found in the Crimea. Most of them were discovered back in Soviet time on the peninsula and are mostly typical Crimean minerals that cannot be found anywhere else: sakiit, kerschenite, alushtite, etc.

It is known that Ivan Aivazovsky often prepared his amazing paints with unique colors with the help of minerals he found in Feodosia vicinity. On the other hand, far beyond the Crimea stories are told about numerous semiprecious stones that can be found on the shore in Koktebel bay. For example, Konstantin Paustovsky wrote: “I took a handful of stones on the shore, poured them from one palm to another and almost always found several chalcedonies, sards, rock crystals, and green stones covered with many-colored stratified rings.”

It is no surprise that one of the Koktebel bays in the vicinity of Karadag, an extinct volcano whose activity led to appearance of various mineral compounds, is called Serdolykova (Cornelian).

The well-known Crimean doctor, writer, and local historian Serhii Yelpatievsky wrote that there are “famous Koktebel stones, which cannot be found anywhere else. They must have absorbed all colors of Karadag rocks, the colors of the sun, the sky, and the sea, all the tints of Koktebel colors. They are white as the snow and black as the night, light blue, green, blue, and lilac, like the sea, the sky, and the mountains sometimes, rosy and red like Karadag at sunset, and bright gold like the burning sun of Koktebel. Agates and chalcedonies, sards, and jasper of all colors, and pieces of stringed marble, faceted and polished by the sea. At first a newcomer only has an eye on the stones, later he bit by bit starts digging the sand, and later the search of stones turns into sport, passion, quiet craziness which becomes epidemic-like. And when there is a storm in the sea, which is unfortunately so rare in summer Koktebel, and during the night the sea throws from its depths on the shore whole hillocks of stones, the Koktebel guests become raving lunatics. That is when real excitement begins.”

Unfortunately, this “kind of sport” is getting rarer among the visitors of Koktebel. As a result of intensive extraction of sand from the sea not far from Feodosia and Koktebel in the 1950s, the sea, instead of throwing portions of unique stones, started to “eat” the shore, in order to cure the wounds caused by the extraction of sea sand on the seabed.

Scientific exploration of the Crimean minerals, according to Polkanov, started in the late 18th century. Famous naturalists Karl Haubitz and Peter Pallas stood at its origins. Over 700 publications and research works have been dedicated to the Crimean minerals over the years of research. The Crimea, Polkanov underlines, is a unique museum of minerals. Quartz is most widely spread among them. In some concealed places such kind of quartzite as rock crystal is especially plentiful, but such kinds as amethyst and citrine are very rare, and it is a big luck to find them. Such stones as opal, flint, jasper are typical of the Crimea, the crystal variety of quartz as chalcedony is also widely spread. One can also find there famous varieties of chalcedony, rosy-red sard, blue sapphire, apple-green chrysoprase, lamellar agate, and green heliotrope covered with red spots.

By Mykola SEMENA, The Day, Simferopol. Photos by the author
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