Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Destroying Our Heritage: California Mining and Mineral Museum Raided

It makes me sick at heart...

A closeup of the Fricot Nugget
I just can't believe how low some people will go that they would destroy historical treasures that belong to all of us. I see the sickness in the wanton destruction of cliff dwellings and graves of our Native American ancestors by pothunters. I see it in the criminal who took a knife and killed an iconic Jeffrey Pine that once graced the summit of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. I see it in the destruction of entire forests by the sick action of arsonists. And now the sickness hits ever closer to home...
The 13.8 pound Fricot Nugget
We had one of the nicest mineral exhibits to be found anywhere, at the California Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It was a favorite stop during many of my field trips to the Mother Lode, and we just fought a long battle to prevent its closure by a financially strapped state government.
A large sample of benitoite (the state gemstone) and neptunite in matrix. These are found at a single locality in the Coast Ranges of California
On Friday, two thugs in black masks waving pick axes terrorized the museum volunteers, and broke into the exhibits, stealing numerous priceless gold and gem specimens. The stories on the theft mention a $2 million heist, but I do not know the origin of that number.

Benitoite, the California State gemstone
The robbery was nearly stymied by the security system, because when the thieves tried to hammer their way into the safe containing the Fricot Nugget (see the top two pictures), the system started to close the vault doors, almost trapping the thugs inside. I guess one of them wedged his body in the door and they escaped, taking what specimens they could grab. The area was flooded with law enforcement personnel in moments, but no arrests have been made yet. The Fricot Nugget was not taken (it was in a separate more heavily fortified vault).
Benitoite specimen
I have no inside information about what was taken, but I've been documenting the vault specimens for years on this blog. They include numerous beautiful crystalline gold samples as well as the more normal rounded nuggets.
Crystalline gold
What drives people to do such sick things? Yeah, greed, I know. I can't imagine how they could think they could sell these things in a pawnshop. These samples are famous enough that gold dealers  wouldn't touch them. Melting them down turns these samples from priceless to mere gold, and the actual poundage isn't that much: a few thousand dollars, maybe. All for a meth fix, I guess. Worthless human garbage.
More crystalline gold
I trust that the morons who did this thing would never read a blog like this, and I don't care. I just hope you brag to someone, that you try and sell these samples to a reputable dealer. Because I want to see your sorry worthless asses tossed in jail for a long time.
Isometric gold specimen
I am sorry if you never had a chance to see these beautiful specimens that graced the museum. I am sorry for the trauma suffered by the volunteers who were also victims in this crime. These people give of their time so the museum can stay open. I hope the stolen minerals can be returned to their rightful place so the experience of seeing these treasures can be shared by all.
Leaf gold from the now-closed Harvard Open Pit Mine
Here are a few examples of past blogs about the Fricot Nugget and other specimens at the Mineral Museum:
http://geotripper.blogspot.com/2010/07/other-california-ca-state-mineral.html, http://geotripper.blogspot.com/2008/03/beyond-dreams-of-avaricesierra-gold.html, http://geotripper.blogspot.com/2012/03/priceless-collection-of-minerals-to-see.html.

1 comment:

Kimberlie Theis said...

With your permission, I would like to borrow some of your photographs of this museum for my thesis....this is heartbreaking :(