Saturday, 23 May 2015

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group - AMARG

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), often called The Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft and missile storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona.

AMARG takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world.

AMARG was established in 1946 as the 4105th Army Air Force Unit to house B-29 and C-47 aircraft. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was chosen because of Tucson's low humidity, infrequent rainfall, alkaline soil and high altitude of 2,550 feet, reducing rust and corrosion.

The hard soil makes it possible to move aircraft around without having to pave the storage areas.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Sapphires of Didy, Madagascar

Didy is a town in Madagascar. It belongs to the district of Ambatondrazaka, which is a part of Alaotra-Mangoro Region. In late 2011 a new deposit of gem quality sapphire was found there.

The island is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 81 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank.
The deposit is 25 kilometers south-east of Didy. Reaching the mine takes two days of hard walking from Didy, the closest place reachable by bush taxi. Even getting to Didi is tough. It’s 300 kilometres from the capital, and less than a third of that distance is on paved roads.

The last 10 hours of the trek is through rain forest, climbing precipitous hills on barely perceptive boggy paths.
After falling a tree, locals found transparent blue gemstones. By June 2012 sapphires began sporadically arriving at the capital Antananarivo, brought there by gold miners.

The stones are of exceptional quality. Vivid in color, beautiful clarity and size, the Didy discovery could be the most important recent ruby and sapphire discovery in the world. The rubies and sapphires found there do not need to be heat treated.
Within days, hundreds of tents and huts rose in the forest. An unbridled rush happened over the next 3 months before the Malagasy authorities sent a force to expel the miners as the discovery happened to be in one of Madagascar’s newest national parks, Makira Natural Park, an area dedicated to conservation.

Sapphires present an irresistible lure of quick riches for impoverished locals, who say they don't have to dig more than three metres (10 feet) to find large stones. Madagascar is rich with mineral deposits, but its people remain some of the poorest on earth.
As many as 10,000 miners and precious stone traders from around the world are reported to have raced to the eastern region to extract the stones and ship them overseas. As well as digging up the forest floor, they cut down trees for firewood and shelter in the hitherto untouched wilderness and hunted resident animals, particularly lemurs, for bushmeat.

Despite the mining being illegal on protected land, the Malagasy government was unable to control the masses. Along with the Ministry of Environment, they are looking to restore the damage once the mining is finished.
The Malagasy government has banned foreigners from the area but cannot control it. Armed gangs are the rule of law and unreported crime is common.

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Ethiopian Welo Opals

Opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica; its water content may range from 3 to 21% by weight, but is usually between 6 and 10%. It is classified as a mineraloid, unlike the other crystalline forms of silica, which are classed as minerals.

The first published report of gem opal from Ethiopia appeared in the 1994, with the discovery of precious opal in the Menz Gishe District, North Shewa Province. The opal, found mostly in the form of nodules, is of volcanic origin and is found predominantly within weathered layers of rhyolite. In 2008, a new opal deposit was found near the town of Wegel Tena, in Ethiopia's Wollo Province. The Wollo Province opal was different from the previous Ethiopian opal finds in that it more closely resembled the sedimentary opals of Australia and Brazil, with a light background and often vivid play-of-color. Wollo Province opal, more commonly referred to as "Welo" or "Wello" opal became the dominant Ethiopian opal in the gem trade.
These opals are found in a round nodular form within a 3 meter thick layer of welded volcanic ash. Only about 1% of these nodules contain colour. The colours are very striking with red being common and blue quite rare which is the opposite to Australian opals. It has some magnificent patterns and brilliant colours and is called Ethiopian fire opal.
A newly discovered Ethiopian opal was found in Gondar which was at first called desert opal but it is from a plateau in the highlands. The main field which is creating a lot of excitement now is from a field called Welo. It is found in a plateau 2500 to 3299 meters. Only the locals are allowed to mine this field. They work the horizontal level of steep mountains. Opals from these fields are known as Ethiopian opal from wello.
Ethiopia Is considered one of the oldest inhabited human areas on the planet. The Awash Valley has one of the most complete preserved Australopithecine fossils around 3.2 million years old.