Fulgurites

When lightning strikes the earth’s surface and melts the materials it contacts, the remains are collectively known as fulgurites.  Their classification has generally been limited to forms that include self-descriptive titles such as ground or soil fulgurites, sand fulgurites, rock fulgurites, and clay fulgurites (Galliot 1980; Petty 1936).  All of these classes of fulgurites form at or below the surface of the ground. 

High intensity lightning strikes sometimes produce a superficial pool of molten material and explosively disperse it on the surface of the ground.  These exogenic fulgurites are little known because they are either rare or unrecognized.  In 2004, Mohling published the first documentation of exogenic fulgurites produced from a lightning strike.  This new class of fulgurites was described as liquefied materials resulting from a powerful lightning strike that were thrown into the atmosphere above the lightning’s point of impact and solidified in the air.  This unusual occurrence is located in the Elko Hills of northeastern Nevada just south of the town of Elko.  In August, 2008, a lightning strike in the city of Oswego, New York, produced significant numbers of exogenic fulgurites.  It is fulgurites from this 2008 strike that we offer for sale.  These fulgurites are discussed in a Rocks & Minerals article.

On Saturday, 9 August 2008 Jeffrey Shallit approached me at the East Coast Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show in West Springfield, Massachusetts, with an offer to sell fulgurites he, his sons and nephew had dug from a lightning strike site in Oswego, New York, the day before.  The strike had occurred seven days prior at 1 P.M. on 2 August two short blocks from his nephew’s home on a residential side street in downtown Oswego.  He had a handful of specimens, several of which I recognized as being exogenic in nature.  After reviewing the several boxes of specimens he had at his car, I purchased the entire lot, excluding several he wished to keep as souvenirs. 

I visited the location for the first time on 25 August 2008 (see fig. 1 for map).  Upon arriving at 6 A.M., I determined that the site was well preserved even though it was in the green space between the sidewalk and street in a busy residential area.  There had been a recent rain, and the areas where soil was exposed showed additional fulgurite fragments not collected by previous visitors.

That day, I took pictures, made measurements and collected soil samples from the strike site.  In addition, I removed an additional 20 gallons of soil, which contained about 15 kilograms of ground fulgurites.  Finally, I filled in the excavation with garden soil brought specifically for the purpose, and reseeded it with grass.

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Geologic Desire. Est. 1994, on-line, 1996