Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/729

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

It is of paramount importance that the field-geologist should go to his work as lightly equipped as possible. His accoutrements should be sufficient for their purpose, and eminently portable. You may judge of the portability which may be secured when I tell you that I have on my person at this moment all the instruments necessary for carrying on a geological survey, even in the detailed manner adopted in the Geological Survey of this country. You observe, therefore, that a fully-equipped field-geologist need not betray his occupation by any visible implement. The want of such tokens of his craft often greatly perplexes rustic observers, to whom his movements are a fruitful source of speculation. I shall divest myself of my accoutrements one by one as I have occasion to refer to them, and describe their uses.

The hammer is the chief instrument of the field-geologist. He ought at first to use it constantly, and seldom trust himself to name a rock until he has broken a fragment from it and compared the fresh with the weathered surface. Most rocks yield so much to the action of the weather as to acquire a decomposed, crumbling crust, by which the true color, texture, and composition of the rock itself, may be entirely concealed. Two rocks, of which the outer crusts are similar, may differ greatly from each other in essential characters. Again, two rocks may assume a very different aspect externally, and yet may show an identity of composition on a freshly-fractured internal surface. The hammer, therefore, is required to detach this outer deceptive crust. If heavy enough to do this it is sufficient for your purpose; any additional weight is unnecessary and burdensome. A hammer, of which the head weighs one pound or a few ounces more is quite massive enough for all the ordinary requirements of the field-geologist. When he proceeds to collect specimens he needs a hammer of two or three pounds, or even more, in weight, and a small, light chipping-hammer to trim the specimens and reduce them in bulk without running a too frequent risk of shattering them to pieces.

Hardly any two geologists agree as to the best shape of hammer; much evidently depending upon the individual style in which each observer wields his tool. This (Fig. 1.) is the form which, after long experience, we have found in the Geological Survey to be on the whole the best. A hammer formed after this pattern combines, as you observe, the uses both of a hammer and a chisel. With the broad, heavy, or square end, you can break off a fragment large enough to show the internal grain of a rock. With the thin, wedge-shaped, or chisel-like end, you can split open shales, sandstones, schists, and other fissile rocks. This cutting or splitting edge should be at a right angle to the axis of the shaft. If placed upright or in the same line with the shaft, much of its efficiency is lost, especially in wedging off plates of shale or other fissile rocks.

A hammer shaped as I recommend serves at times for other than