It is with joy that we begin a weekly post in honour of Meer Monday,, a celebration of the Meerschaum pipe. For this inaugural post I have chosen GONZO to lead us on our journey. A lifelong smoker, Hunter S Thompson is the perfect choice.
Meerschaum is opaque and off-white, grey or cream color, breaking with a conchoidal or fine earthy fracture, and occasionally fibrous in texture. Due to the fact it can be readily scratched with the finger nail, its hardness is ranked at about 2 on the Mohs Scale. The specific gravity varies from 0.988 to 1.279, but the porosity of the mineral may lead to error. Meerschaum is a hydrous magnesium silicate having the chemical formula Mg4Si6O15(OH)2·6H2O. Most of the meerschaum of commerce is obtained chiefly from the plain of Eskişehir in Turkey, between Istanbul and Ankara. It occurs there in irregular nodular masses, in alluvial deposits, which are extensively worked for its extraction. It is said that in this district there are 4000 shafts leading to horizontal galleries for extraction of the meerschaum. The principal workings are at Sepetçi Ocağı and Kemikçi Ocağı, about 20 miles southeast of Eskişehir. The mineral is associated with magnesite (magnesium carbonate), the primitive source of both minerals being a serpentine.
When first extracted, meerschaum is soft. However, it hardens on exposure to solar heat or when dried in a warm room. Meerschaum is also found, though less abundantly, in Greece, as at Thebes, and in the islands of Euboea and Samos. It occurs also in serpentine at Hrubschitz near Kromau in Moravia. Additionally, meerschaum is found to a limited extent at certain localities in France and Spain, and is known in Morocco. In the United States, it occurs in serpentine in Pennsylvania (as at Nottingham, Chester County) and in South Carolina and Utah.