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... The well known female agate-collector Hettie Feith-WelIs discovered this collecting site after picking up some yellow and black agates from a slip on Mount Somers Station which is located near the township of Mount Somers in Canterbury.  There are several different agate collecting localities on Mt Somers Station. The agates from each locality are quite different from each other.  However, agates from a different locality on the farm can be found out of place in another locality through alluvial action from past glaciation, river movement, farming and even depositing from moa bird crops.

The agates found at the Hetties slip dig are typically black or dark skinned and are coloured with a mix of yellows, browns, pinks and white in the interior. Banded or picture agates are most commonly found, while well fortified specimens are very rare. A vast majority of the nodules found at this site are less than 100mm in diameter; however, on vary rare occasions agates nodules of over 300mm in size have been found.

Collecting agates at Hetties slip invariably meant removing a layer overburden before digging into the seam that contained agate nodules. However, if one was prepared to put a good days digging in you would probably be well rewarded.  Unfortunately in the last few years the original collecting area has become difficult to access due to a build-up of scrub. A newer dig site on the slip was also becoming difficult to work due to the dangers associated with the depth of over burden that needed to be removed before reaching the agate bearing layer. Recently a pine plantation has been planted over the newer collecting site meaning that this site is no longer able to be collected from.  However, the area around Hetties slip is still worth a look over. Furthermore there are a number of other sites containing agates, jasper and petrified wood on Mount Somers station that are within walking distance of Hetties slip that are still work a looking over.

As Mount Somers Station is a working farm and private property it is essential that one gains permission to access this area. If you haven’t collected in the area before this can most easily be arranged by contacting one of the clubs that regularly collect at this site (e.g. the Canterbury Lapidary and Mineral Club ). 

written by Scott Hardwick, Christchurch