First page of the fulgurite archive.

Hold Lightning in Your Hand? Yup.

Posted by Rusty LaGrange on August 4, 2015 (Comments Closed)as , ,

Some tall tales come out of the Old West, and here at Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post, I could fabricate ones that would leave you scratchin’ your head.

Just wanted you to know that what you read here has been carefully researched and I try not to hornswoggle you or flat out lie to you. I want the Old West to be entertaining, as it should be, but also educational.

Here’s a case in point:

Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post with fulgurite

Specimen of large fulgurite with branches

If you come across a strange looking black stick protruding out of the ground, and it looks covered with bumpy, black sand crystals, you may have a fulgurite. Fulgurite (Latin for lightning) is a term for a lightning-formed, fused, rock structure. When lightning hits the ground and the silica content, as in a sand dune, is high enough to be fused by the high heat temperatures of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit, then a tube of fused sand is formed. The walls of the fulgurite might be as thin as one-thirtieth of an inch but can reach as many as 30 feet into the ground. The denser ones found have been as large as three or four inches in circumference. Most are much smaller and brittle.

Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post with sand dune lightning

Raw fulgurite dug from sand dune

Go ahead and ask at your local museum or a rock hound enthusiast to see if they ever found one. Then ask them how they found it.



What makes collecting fulgurites so odd is that as the shifting sands tend to uncover whatever is beneath, you could find yourself walking through a forest of lightning, frozen in time to be found and studied.

Old West Stagecoach and trading Post with fragile glass tube

Fragile tube of glass is fulgurite example

So, next time you play on a sand dune, watch out for gnarly black sticks with weird formations of blackened sand. If the interior is black, smooth glass — you have yourself a fulgurite.

Rusty LaGrange

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