Geology Department gets 535-million-year-old rock

Yolanda Torres

The geology department has recently added a new rock to its collection. A big, old rock.

“Rocky,” a rock believed to be from southern Oklahoma, is approximately 535 million years old.

“I can only imagine what that rock has seen. If only it had eyes,” said Bill McGregor, geology senior.

It has moved around from place to place and while the exact timeline isn’t known, Jonathan Price, assistant geology professor, said the rock is believed to have started its move sometime around the 1950’s when it was brought to sit at the White’s Auto Supply Warehouse. Once the business was gone, the rock and others surrounding it came to the forefront.

Since then, the geology department has had a rough time getting the rock on campus. Combating weather and paperwork was only half the battle. Apparently over one night, the rock was accidentally removed from the parking lot and taken to the dump where it was later found after lots of digging and rain to wash away everything on top of it.

“It was gone,” McGregor said. “I almost had a heart attack.”

The geology department faculty didn’t lose hope. They really wanted that rock.

“I thought it would be neat to have one of those on campus because they’re stunning and I work on those rocks for my research,” Price said

Price goes on to explain that it is special for this rock to be on campus because, if all of the suspicions are correct, the rock comes from a part of the Wichita mountains that is now owned partly by Fort Sill and the rest owned by the Wichita Wildlife Refuge.

What’s so great about having a rock of this magnitude on campus now is not only because it’s rare but also because of the sheer size of it.

“We have lots of nice, fist-sized rocks in our collection but you lose some of the sense of scale. You lose some sense of its surroundings, the environment it comes from. A bigger piece like that gives you a better sense of how you might encounter it in the Wichita Mountains,” Price said.

It helps in identification and a lot of students forget that we aren’t just looking at the specimens here.

“The rock helps shows people that you can look at it both bigger and smaller. We can go smaller like in mineralogy and just look at it in thin sections and we can also see it as a piece from an outcrop and actually go to the Wichita mountains and make sense of the structure of it,” said Kari Bickhard, geoscience senior.

There are hopes that this new addition will also get more people interested in geoscience classes.

“We have a stunning mineral collection and it also helps to have nice pieces of rock to look at, too. I think students see that and maybe think, ‘Well I’d like to learn a little bit more about this, why does this look different from this, and why is this rock so distinct?’ So I think it’s a bit of advertising, but more importantly it will give people something to connect to and start asking questions about. Then they can say ‘I know something about the world around me because I know these rocks in my hand’,” Price said.

The future of the rock isn’t definite. While Price said he would like to acquire other specimens and create a rock garden like some other programs have, he’s happy to at least have “Rocky.”

“If I had a dream for where the rock was going it should be part of a bigger collection. Time will tell if other people are interested in that direction,” Price said.

Until then, the geology department is just happy to have the rock on campus for a few years, if not another 535 million.