A Michigan man discovered a new type of rock using a black light to help him search for the distinctive glowing rocks along the beaches of Lake Superior. Erik Rintamaki was searching for rocks on a beach in Michigan last summer when he made the discovery. Sitting amongst the thousands of pebbles that covered the Lake Superior beach, he saw a glowing rock. The gem and mineral dealer often goes rock hunting, but on this particular night in June, he found a rock like no other he had seen before, a florescent orb that he later named Yooperlite.
Comparable to lava glowing through cracks in the earth, a glowing light seeped through the lines in the small rock. Rintamaki knew this couldn't be the only rock like this out there, but he couldn't find any information about the glowing rocks online. He knows several people in the gem and mineral field, but everyone he asked had no idea what these mysterious rocks were.
He went back to the beach night after night, carrying the black light that helped illuminate the glowing rocks. He couldn't believe how many of the rocks that are on the beaches there. He started collecting the Yooperlites by the bagful and sold them online. Michigan State University messaged Rinktamaki with some interest in buying some of the rocks to study further. So, Michigan State, along with the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, researched the Yooperlites for months. The Universities determined that Rintamaki had indeed, discovered a new type of rock. He says that other people may have spotted the rocks before, but he was the first person to get the Yooperlites verified.
Michigan State gave the glowing rocks a scientific name of Syenite Clasts Containing Fluorescent Sodalite. The name that Rintamaki gave the rocks Yooperlites comes from the nickname Yoopers, which refers to the people who live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. When the discovery was verified and made public in May 2018, Rintamak's life changed as he knew it. He's had thousands of messages, so many that he can't get to them all. He now gives Yooperlite tours along the beaches of Lake Superior, and he's never had anyone not find the stones. He takes groups onto the beach out near dusk, and they use the black lights to search for the Yooperlites for about four hours.
Rintamak still sells the Yooperlites and buys a machine that can buff the stones into perfect, smooth orbs. When he's not out with a tour group, he often looks for the Yooperlites alone all night long. He works the night shift at a casino, so when he gets out of work at 2 a.m., he goes to the beach and searches for the rocks until the sun comes up.
Rintamaki's passion for the stones has made him somewhat of a local celebrity. He says that his tours are booked solid through 2019 and the videos of his rock hunting have also gone viral. The unique rocks are one of a kind.