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Gems, waterfowl in Golden Gate Park.

Gems, waterfowl in Golden Gate Park

Precious stones, gold, and specimens of rare ore made the gem and mineral hall one of the most popular exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, right from the academy's 1916 opening.

In 1960, modernization covered the hall's elegant windows and masked its classical beauty. Now, after a year's closure, the hall has reopened--its early elegance restored, its arched multipaned windows revealed, more specimens displayed.

More than a thousand of the academy's 15,000-item collection are on view. You can see a 465-pound amethyst geode, an awesome chunk of quartz, and four smooth jade boulders--as well as a 13-pound crystalline mass of gold from the Mother Lode (on loan from the state's gem and mineral collection).

The gem section is dazzling and informative; one display shows how stones are faceted, another challenges you to choose the real McCoys from among a dazzling array of synthetic, treated, and real blue gems. You'll see stones that change color under different types of light. And you'll see organic coral, ivory, pearls, and more. Displays explain properties of minerals-- magnetism, density, and hardness as well as luster, translucence, and color (azurite, for example, is always a distinctive azure blue, while a mineral such as beryl may be blue, green, pink, or yellow).

Also new: wildlife and wetlands of the Pacific Flyway

This month, bird migration peaks along much of the Pacific Flyway--that highway through the Western sky between the coast and the Continental Divide. An estimated 15 million ducks, geese, and swans will join millions of other birds journeying from as far north as the Alaskan tundra to as far south as Costa Rica.

Photographer Tupper Ansel Blake has documented the birds, landscapes, and wildlife of the flyway in an impressively thorough manner; through April, his photographs are on display in an exhibit titled "Tracks in the Sky: Wildlife and Wetlands of the Pacific Flyway.' It's in the Hohfeld Gallery.

Blake spent five years traveling the length of the flyway and capturing images of its bays, deltas, sloughs, potholes, and ponds--and the life they support. This show hopes to increase public appreciation of wetlands as well as awareness that they continue to vanish (in California alone, more than three-quarters of an original 4 million wetland acres have been developed, diked, or otherwise lost).

Culled from the 20,000 photographs in Blake's collection, about a hundred (some mural-size) will be exhibited: a bald eagle soaring over its marine prey in Tule Lake, a shaggy woodland bison standing in a lush Canadian meadow, a wedge of snowy swans filling the sky. Rounding out the exhibit are artifacts relating to early cultures along the route--a 2,000-year-old duck decoy made of tule reeds, a 19th-century egret plume hat, and more.

The academy, open 10 to 5 daily, is on the Music Concourse. Admission is $3, $1.50 seniors and ages 12 through 17, 75 cents ages 6 through 11.

Photo: Massive gypsum formation is a highlight of newly reopened hall; rock's fishtail-like fins form when two crystals grow together

Photo: Placing Pacific Flyway exhibit artifacts, designer and photographer confer
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Title Annotation:San Francisco
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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