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Nahant rocks: Inspired by curious grandchildren, four environmentalists study local geology

From left, Amy Klee, Barry Sidwell, Ellen Antrim, and Vi Patek the Nahant rock formations that are featured in the new S.W.I.M., Inc., book they helped create, "A Guide to Exploring the Rocks of Nahant and How to Become a Rock Detective." (Spenser Hasak)

NAHANT —  A book about rocks in Nahant, created by a local environmental organization, will hit the shelves at the library and Johnson Elementary School this week.

“The Rocks of Nahant and How to Become a Rock Detective,” was created by Nahant Safer Waters in Massachusetts, Inc., an organization focused on protecting the waters around Nahant from pollution by implementing environmental initiatives and educating the public.  

The idea came to director Vi Patek when she took a few of her six grandchildren, which fall between the ages of six months and 13 years, to the beach and they asked her what kind of rocks they had found.

People who visit Nahant’s beaches are often fascinated by the variety and beauty of the rocks, she said.

(Spenser Hasak)

Unable to identify the rocks, she tried to look them up on a guide, but was unsuccessful. In addition to the guide being too complex for the children to understand, the photographs were of the stones in their best possible condition, which isn’t always what the rock looks like on the beach.

Over the past two to three years, Patek and several other S.W.I.M. members worked with consulting geologist Barry Sidwell and editor Ellen Antrim to put together a book that will help people learn about how Nahant’s rocks were formed and explore the geological history and uniqueness of the rocks.  

“Our primary purpose is to help people understand the environment,” said Patek. “We consider this part of our mission.”

The book gives readers a glance at the three types of rocks and how they are formed, and a brief overview of the rock cycle, then gets into easy-to-read charts of the most common rocks found in Nahant, like Igneous rocks basalt and gabbro, metamorphic rocks quartzite and gneiss, and several sedimentary rocks, including diorite and granite.

A page is dedicated to each and includes descriptions in plain language.

Patek said it was designed so anyone, including children, could use the book as a reference.

All photographs were taken of rock samples from the town’s beaches by photographer Maria Peterson. Photographer Christopher Marks provided art for the covers.

The organization will donate a classroom set to the Johnson Elementary School for students to use when they take field trips, and two copies to the Nahant Public Library.

Additional copies can be purchased for $10 by emailing Patek at

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